Chapter Thirty-Three:

It was a cold early October day and the Café was packed. Everyone was rushing around, trying to fill orders as fast as they could, even Mint.

Ichigo looked up from her hostess' stand and smiled.

"Massaya! Homare!" She said, happy to see her friends. "Table for two?"

"Three, actually," Homare said with a smile. "My brother will be joining us, but is running late."

Ichigo nodded.

"Well, follow me and someone will be with you as soon as possible," Ichigo said.

"Take your time," Massaya said. "It looks like you're very busy today."

"We are," Ichigo said with a groan. "And to make everything worse, Pudding and Kish haven't been feeling too well these last few days. Ryou and Keiichiro won't let them anywhere near food or customers, so they're holed up in the back. They were working on inventory, but neither of them can do it consistently, both because they find it boring and because they are sick."

"I thought Ikisatashi-Kun looked a little green this morning at school," Homare said with a frown as she took her seat. "I hope they get better soon."

"So do we," Ichigo said as she laid out the menus. She grinned again. "I've got to get back to my station. Someone will be here to take your order soon."

Ichigo went back to her podium and found Lettuce there, waiting to take her shift at the hostess station. A patron asked Ichigo about the status of their food and Ichigo went back into the kitchen to see.

She was barely in the kitchen when she was bombarded by a wide-eyed Mint.

"Ichigo! Who's that boy sitting with Massaya and Homare?" Mint asked, grabbing Ichigo's shoulders.

Ichigo looked out the small window and smiled as she saw a tall boy with jet-black hair, soft brown eyes and lightly tanned skin who was laughing at something one of his companions said.

"Oh, that's Shinji Otsu, Homare's older brother. He's in third year at our school and is captain of the varsity soccer team." Ichigo said. "Why?"

"I'm… just curious," Mint squeaked, her cheeks turning red.

Ichigo grinned.

"No way," Ichigo said. "You think he's cute, don't you?"

"Can't deny that he is so handsome," Mint moaned. She grabbed Ichigo's shoulders again and shook her slightly. "How do I get him to notice me?"

Ichigo looked at the schedule on the wall.

"Well, it looks like they are in your serving area for today," Ichigo said. "Why don't you go up and subtly flirt with him?"

"Subtle, right," Mint said, taking a deep breath. She yanked out her pen and pad of paper. "Wish me luck!"

Ichigo peered out the window, standing on her toes, watching as Mint went up to the table with all the dancer's grace she possessed and flashed a beautiful smile at Shinji.

"What are you doing?" Rozū asked, floating up to look out the window as well.

"Watching Mint," Ichigo said, smiling as she saw Shinji return Mint's smile.

"Is she flirting with that guy?" Zakuro asked as she joined the other two girls.

"What guy?" Tart asked as he entered the room with an empty tray.

"The guy at the table with Massaya and Homare," Rirī said as she finished filling up her tray. "She practically passed out when she first saw him. Got that star-struck look in her eye, too."

"Yep, she's crushing hard," Rin said as she quickly decorated a treat on a plate before putting the finished treat on Rirī's tray.

Mint entered the room a moment later, a large smile on her face.

"How did it go?" Lettuce asked.

"Pretty well, I think. Massaya and Homare introduced me to him, so he at least knows my name now," Mint said. She handed Rin the order and sat down. "He's so sweet, so dreamy."

"So ask him out," Rin said, quickly dishing out more orders.

"I can't ask him out!" Mint said, shocked. "Girls just… don't do that. The guy has to ask the girl out. Especially when that guy is a year and a half older than the girl."

"Try to have a conversation with him, and become friends," Ichigo suggested. "He seems to like you too, judging by that smile he was flashing at you."

"Okay, I can do that," Mint said. She grabbed a tray full of drinks. "Let me go bring these out."

The wait-staff got back to work and quickly served the other customers. Rin filled Kish and Pudding in on what was going on when they emerged from the copious pantry.

A few minutes later, having served their customers and taken orders, the group was hounded up in the kitchen, waiting for Rin and Keiichiro to finish making the sweets. Mint gladly took a tray full of sweets out for the table that her crush sat at.

Her teammates slipped out of the door of the kitchen, wanting to see how this next exchange went.

Mint held herself up proudly and elegantly as she waltzed across the room, briefly looking down at the tray to confirm that the order was correct. Unfortunately, she looked down the same moment Shinji stood up and began walking away from the table, looking over his shoulder briefly to say something to his sister.

The two collided.

The Tokyo Defenders cringed as the desserts on the plates flew up into the air and landed on both Mint and Shinji, the former currently laying on top of the latter. Everything in the room stopped and everyone stared at the two.

Mint's cheeks burned scarlet and she kept opening and closing her mouth like a fish, unable to get any words out.

"Gomen-nasai," Mint forced out in a whisper, her voice shaky. Shinji smiled up at her apologetically.

"It's my fault, I'm so sorry," He said.

Mint was shaking as she carefully crawled off Shinji. She looked down at her filthy uniform, covered with all sorts of deserts and a multitude of stains. She brushed back her bangs to find icing covering her hair as well.

Embarrassed tears came to her eyes and threatened to spill. They nearly did when, to her horror, she saw dark blue feathers littering the ground, and felt something tickle her legs. Fortunately, her tail feathers were just shorter than the skirt of her waitress uniform.

But the feathers were the straw that broke the camel's back. She felt like she wanted to die right then and there. She tried to stand up, but slipped on a broken dish and started to fall again. Shinji, who had managed to stand up without problems, caught her.

"Are you alright?" Shinji asked, concerned, his arms still around her waist. Mint felt her heart race, praying that he did not move his hand up to find that her wings were folded awkwardly against her back, straining the fabric of her dress. But fear was not the only thing that made her heart race. Even with fruit, whipped topping and cake in his hair and on his face and clothes, Shinji was very handsome.

Mint nodded, not trusting her voice and afraid that if she opened her mouth she was going to break down. This was the most humiliating moment of her entire life. She wished that she could go off into a corner and cry. Or melt into the floor so that someone—most likely Ichigo—could just mop her away along with the rest of the mess.

Gently, Shinji ran a finger over Mint's cheek, wiping off some of chocolate syrup that covered her fair skin. He stuck his finger in his mouth.

"Very sweet," He said to her. "Must have something to do with just being in close contact with you."

Mint stood there shaking. Tears did finally spill from her eyes and she quickly extracted herself from Shinji's grip and ran away towards the locker room.

Shinji stood there, watching her run. His shoulder's drooped slightly and his smile dropped into a sad frown.

"So…" Pudding said softly. "Not Mint Onee-Chan's finest hour."

"No, no it's not," Zakuro agreed with a sigh.

An hour later, all the customers had gone, though Shinji stayed longer in order to apologize for the mess and offered to clean it up.

"It's alright," Ichigo said with a compassionate smile as she, Pie and Rirī started to clean the floor, focusing on quickly getting rid of the feathers before awkward questions were raised. "This is what we get paid for. Not the first time this has happened either."

"Then can you tell Mint that I am sorry?" Shinji asked. "And please don't let her get into trouble with your boss. It was all my fault, I wasn't looking where I was going."

"Mint will not be in trouble with Ryou," Pie assured him. "And we will pass along your apology."

Shinji nodded, but seemed depressed. Reluctantly, he left with his sister and her boyfriend.

Lettuce closed and locked the door after the last customers left.

"Where is Mint?" She asked as she turned around to face her coworkers.

"She's locked herself in the storage closet and refuses to come out," Rozū said. She lowered her voice to whisper. "I think she's crying."

"What should we do?" Rirī asked, leaning on her broom.

"I think Mint's going to be in need of some girl time," Zakuro said. She looked at Pie, Tart and Kish. "Can you finish cleaning up in here?"

"I think we can handle it," Tart said with a grin.

"Pudding will help out here as much as she can," Pudding said with a soft smile. "But Pudding's not feeling well, na no da."

"I'll help too!" Rozū immediately volunteered. "I don't want to be around when you start talking about boys." She said the last word with a look of disgust on her face.

Rin laughed and ruffled her little sister's hair.

"Don't worry, the day will come very soon where you don't find boys to be gross," Rin assured her.

Rozū looked out of the corner of her eyes towards her brothers.

"You sure?" She asked in a whisper, looking doubtful.

"I'm sure," Rin said as she went to join the other girls in the hall.

Ichigo knocked on the door.

"Mint! Come on, Mint, open up! You've been in here for over an hour!" She called.

"Leave me alone!" Mint called back with a sob.

"Mint, I've brought you some water. You're going to get dehydrated." Lettuce said.

"Let me wilt and die, then!" Mint yelled. "I am never ever showing my face again!"

Zakuro gently rapped the door with her knuckle.

"Mint, Imouto, please let us in," Zakuro said.

"No!" Mint said. "I don't need others to watch me suffer in my shame!"

Rin sighed.

"Mint," She said loudly. "I didn't want to do this, but you leave us no choice."

Rin opened up a teleportation portal and stepped into it. Within seconds, the door was unlocked and opened from the inside by Rin.

Mint sat on a crate, still dressed in her stained uniform. Make-up ran down her cheeks from where she had been crying and she had taken her dirty hair out of her buns, the pins laying all over the floor, some looking like they had been thrown. Feathers littered the floor, but it seemed Mint's wings and tail had receded. Her brown eyes were red and swollen from crying and she was alternately hiccupping and sniffling.

"Oh, Mint," Zakuro said with a sigh as she sat down beside the teen and hugged her. Mint buried her face in Zakuro's apron, desperately trying to hide her face.

"Here," Lettuce said, putting the glass of water in Mint's hand. "Drink this. You'll feel better."

Mint took a sip, but otherwise stared at the glass in her hands.

"This is the worst day of my entire life," She said with a sniffle.

Ichigo sat across from her friend and placed her hand on the dancer's arm.

"Come on, it wasn't that bad. It's like a rite of passage to do something embarrassing in front of your crush, and I should know. I've done probably everything embarrassing ever when I was crushing on Massaya." Ichigo said cheerfully.

"Oh?" Mint asked, rubbing her eye with the back of her hand.

"Where do I begin?" Ichigo said with a chuckle. "Let's see, on our first date alone, I was late, I said that the weather was nice about ten times in the fifteen minute train ride, I tripped over a rock and he had to catch me, I fell asleep, I still don't know if I snored or not during that time. And yes, I still blame Ryou for all that." Ichigo looked Mint in the eye. "And do you know how many times my cat ears and tail popped out around him and I had to run away looking like a complete and utter idiot?"

Mint shook her head.

"Well, neither do I! I lost count after a few weeks because it happened so much," Ichigo said with a grin. "And he dated me anyways."

"Great pep talk and all, but may I point out that the two of you broke up?" Mint said with a small smile.

"Yeah, we did," Ichigo said with a laugh. "Which has just left the window open for me to look foolish in front of other guys."

"And like Ichigo said, it's pretty much the norm for something embarrassing to happen in front of cute guys," Rin said. "We all have our horror stories. When I was fourteen, I got my skirt stuck in a drawer and didn't realize it because I was talking with one of the cute guys in my class. He was called by some of his friends to join him and he invited me to come. I had only taken one step and my skirt tore. Thankfully, it was low enough on the skirt so that it wasn't as bad as it could have been, but I still went around for the rest of the day with a huge rip in the front of my skirt."

"I accidentally caused a small explosion in chemistry class because I was too distracted looking at the guy in front of me," Rirī admitted, blushing. "Kish doesn't let me forget about it, either. He dives under furniture every time I'm about to put something over fire."

Everyone turned expectantly to Lettuce to see if she would say anything.

Lettuce narrowed her eyes and raised an eyebrow.

"I'm sorry, I thought you were all there the day I gave Pie a black eye." She said dryly.

"And you know that's how he knew he was in love with you," Rin said, wrapping her arm around Lettuce.

They all laughed, including Lettuce.

"What about you, Zakuro? Have you ever humiliated yourself in front of a guy before?" Ichigo asked.

"Zakuro Onee-Sama is too cool to do that," Mint argued.

Zakuro chuckled.

"Actually, I have." Zakuro admitted. She looked around at each of them, a serious look in her eye. "What I say next does not leave this room." The girls all nodded. Zakuro took a deep breath before continuing. "So, about a year before I left my town to pursue my modeling career, there was this extremely handsome guy at my school and I admit I was crushing on him. Hard. So, one day I thought I would walk up to him and sit with him at lunch. Well, halfway through the cafeteria I tripped and ended up falling flat on my face in front of my entire class. Everyone laughed, including the guy I was crushing on." She shook her head with the memory. "But do you know why I am okay with it?"

"Why?" Mint asked.

"Because it showed me that he truly wasn't the right one for me. And today showed me that Shinji is right for you. He wasn't angry and was more worried about you than himself. Plus, he offered to clean the mess himself and was worried that you would get in trouble with Ryou for the accident. This guy really seems to like you, and you really like him. It isn't fair to either of you if you stay locked up in this closet for the rest of your life, now is it?"

"No," Mint said with a final sniff. She smiled slightly. "Thanks, everyone, for making me feel better."

"Anytime," Ichigo said as she and the rest of the girls hugged Mint.

Mint decided to go get a shower and put on a fresh outfit while the rest of the waitresses went to finish cleaning up.

They went out to the dining room to find Pudding asleep with her head on a table and Kish nowhere to be found. Pie was sitting on a chair, his head in his hands, with Tart and Rozū hovering around him, looking concerned.

"Are you alright?" Lettuce asked her boyfriend, coming up to run her fingers through his hair.

"He got dizzy and Tart made him sit down," Rozū explained, looking up at Lettuce. "He says his stomach hurts."

"I think I have caught whatever it is that Kish and Pudding have," Pie mumbled. Lettuce frowned and bent down to kiss his cheek.

"You do feel warm," She said, reaching her hand under Pie's bangs to feel his forehead. "I think you need to go to bed." Lettuce helped Pie to his feet. With Pie leaning on Lettuce for support, the two went upstairs.

"Where's Kish?" Ichigo asked Tart.

Tart shrugged.

"Not sure," Tart said. "He teleported out of the room with his hand over his mouth and his face looked really green."

Ichigo scowled.

"That's not good," She said. "I'll go find him. Tart, do you think you can take Pudding home?"

Tart nodded and carefully picked up the sleeping girl before teleporting away.

"Great, now Pudding, Kish and Pie are out of commission," Rin groaned.

"Just got to hope that Mylo doesn't decide to go all out crazy for the next week or so," Zakuro said grimly.

"This is Mylo we're talking about, right?" Rirī said, her eyebrow raised.

Sometime later, the girls finished cleaning up with help from Mint. The Mews decided to head for home and went out the back door, waving back at the Ikisatashi sisters.

Mint stopped at the bottom stair and Ichigo almost walked into her.

"Mint, what's wrong?" Ichigo asked, seeing Mint's wide eyes. Then Ichigo saw it and smiled.

Shinji, now clean and wearing fresh clothes, was standing beside the Café's fence. In his hand was a bouquet of roses.

"I'm willing to bet he's waiting for you," Zakuro whispered into Mint's ear. "Why don't you go talk to him?"

Mint nodded slowly and made her way across the grass.

Shinji turned and smiled at her as she approached.

"Konbanwa, Mint," Shinji said.

"Konbanwa, Shinji," Mint responded, keeping her clenched hands behind her.

"Uh, these are for you," Shinji said, holding out the bouquet. "To apologize for earlier."

"Arigato, they're beautiful," Mint said, taking the flowers with a shy smile. "And, it really wasn't your fault."

"Still," Shinji said, absently scratching the back of his neck. He took a deep breath and said, "I'd like to take you for dinner sometime. You're a sweet girl and I'd like to get to know you better."

"Are you asking me out?" Mint asked with surprise.

"Yeah," Shinji said, blushing slightly. "I am."

Mint smiled sweetly, while in her mind chibi Mew Mints danced around, cheering.

"I'd love to," Mint said.

They exchanged phone numbers and Mint gave Shinji her address.

"I'll pick you up Friday at six," Shinji said.

"Great, I'll see you then," Mint said. Shinji waved at her and walked away.

Mint wore a huge grin as she watched him leave. She didn't even notice that her friends had come up behind her.

Ichigo took one look at Mint's face and chuckled.

"Chibi Mew Mints?" She asked.

Mint threw her arm around Ichigo's shoulders, staring off into the sky. She waved her hand through the air as she said,

"Chibi Mew Mints. Everywhere, Chibi Mew Mints," She said with an almost delirious expression. Suddenly she frowned and looked at her friends.

"Seeing dancing chibis of yourself in battle form after getting asked out by a hot guy is not normal, is it?" Mint asked.

"For us it is," Lettuce said with a smile.

Mint smiled again, now mentally going through her closet to decide what to wear on Friday night…

So, which Japanese soccer player did I name Mint's new love interest after? Shinji Kagawa, a recent addition to my favorite club team, Manchester United! :D

So this is where we part ways for a while. I will garuntee a post on the 19th, but I can't promise anything before that. If I get a chance, I may post a chapter, but I'm doubtful that it will happen (and it wouldn't be a nice thing to do anyways because the next chapter has a cliff-hanger).

Anyways, I shall see you all later my peeps! Nya!