It was a long drive to the centre, long enough for Ichigo to change her mind. But there she was, standing at the reception desk with Retasu. The receptionist didn't even look up to acknowledge two people requiring her service. "May I help you?"
Retasu smiled brightly, her face lighting up. "I have an appointment. 10:25?"
"Name?" The receptionist moved her hands to the keyboard, typing rhythmically. On the computer screen a list of appointments and their according times popped up, though many slots were blank due to a lack of volunteers.
The receptionist blew a bubble out of chewing gum before it retreated into her mouth again. She began to chew noticeably. "Pinkie?" She said, referring to Ichigo.
Ichigo's jaw dropped, her upper-lip twitching as though she was struggling to speak.
Retasu jumped in hastily, biting her lip. "S-She's my support."
"Excellent." The receptionist peered over her desk and pointed to a row of vacant seats, save for one which a scruffy old man occupied, induldged in the centre's complimentary magazines though he was most likely illiterate. "Take a seat. The nurse will be with you shortly."
Retasu and Ichigo took a seat.
Ichigo's eyes wandered to the notice board, where a poster on blood donation was pinned up. She read the statistic featured aloud. "Ninety-six per cent of us rely on the four per cent to donate blood."
Retasu chuckled lightly. "It's why I donate, because ninety-six per cent don't." She frowned. "Being a donor is a lot like Tokyo Mew Mew. Either way you're saving the world, and not everyone can be a superhero."
A woman in staff uniform passed through the waiting room with a syringe in her hand. It dripped blood recklessly, fresh from a vein.
Ichigo cringed. "Do I have to be here?" She squeaked, close to a shriek.
Retasu's brows furrowed. "But how will you overcome your fear of blood?"
"Midorikawa-san?" It was the nurse.
Ichigo exchanged glances with Retasu, who stood up shakily to identify herself. "Y-Yes, that's me."
The nurse's lips stretched out in a warm smile. "Thank you." She turned to Ichigo inquisitively. "Are you accompanying her?"
Ichigo bobbed her head once, knowing she could never forgive herself if she abandoned Retasu in her time of need. The nurse's smile grew wider at the news. She turned her back on them and started to lead the way, reassuring the catgirl it wasn't a gory process; donating blood.
Retasu's elbow clashed with Ichigo's rib. She nudged her, whispering: "Thanks, Ichigo-san."
The appreciation melted Ichigo's heart. She smiled, feeling less queasy about the situation than five seconds ago. They followed the nurse into a room much like the average doctor's office, except designed for a different purpose.
Retasu was asked politely to lie down on a stretcher. It was positioned beside a silver trolley consisting of an array of medical equipment. Ichigo chewed her bottom lip anxiously as she distinguished each one: Syringe. Cotton bud. Plaster. All were seemingly harmless apart from the former; that needle thing. Ichigo thought bitterly. It was her biggest threat yet. Apart from extraterrestials, of course.
The nurse was oblidged to question Retasu as a method of judgement. Though she was already approved of by doctors as a healthy teenager, such principles had to be applied in case the donor had acquired something new recently. Some questions proved as embarrassing, noted by Retasu's blush. "Are you aged between seventeen and sixty-six?"
"Proof of age? We'd check your database if you were a registered patient in the area." The nurse was handed a library card depicting a small passport-style photograph of Retasu and other details; her age and date of birth (DOB) being two of them. "You're eighteen next week."
"Are you pregnant or is there a chance you could be?"
"No!" The heat rose in Retasu's cheeks excruciatingly.
The nurse scratched her head, apologetic. "I'm sorry. Medical procedure." She extended a hand to the silver trolley and retrieved the syringe with two fingers. "Now I want you to breathe deeply if you're nervous."
Retasu reassured her, smiling weakly. "I'm fine."
"Good. Concentrate on the ceiling, or talk to your friend. She's here for you. And before you know it," The nurse rolled her patient's sleeve up, searching for an available vein to puncture. "Voila!"
The radiant glow Ichigo's face emitted faded as the catgirl watched the nurse aim her needle professionally. It was almost as though she were giving blood instead of Retasu, when, in fact, she had developed a phobia of blood and therefore feared the sight of it. It derived from her days as a Mew Mew. The anticipation alone was murder itself.
The nurse pushed the needle into a vein gently, penetrating the barrier of skin cells. She received a wince from the donor, which was a typical reaction for someone so vulnerable. Anybody who had spent time in a hospital would know that feeling naturally.
Retasu closed her eyes as a wave of light-headedness overwhelmed her. It was a guaranteed symptom during blood donation.
Blood rushed into the syringe like a tsunami.
Ichigo's eyes widened, and shut; for the pupils rolled into the back of her head instantly. Her body became limp as she collapsed, crossing into unconsciousness on the floor noisily. Ichigo had fainted.
Retasu rolled her eyes underneath her eyelids, scoffing. It was out of character for her, but her head was spinning like a spiral. She couldn't control what slipped passed her tongue. "This is the sixth time! Ugh."