Sweet Romance Angel
Angels and a Talking Cat
Momoiro Ichigo gawked at the cat-like stuffed toy. She watched as the little furry white animal walk on its hind legs, its long tail wiggling with each movement. A golden bell tied with a red ribbon was on its neck and it was wearing red blouse-like garments. The toy stared at her with a stern expression, crossed its arms and addressed the other guy with a nod.
"So this is her, Eros?" said the cat in an unmistakable female voice, staring at Ichigo from head to foot. If this was an ordinary person, Ichigo would have said something rude, but she was too busy being confused to utter a word. "Physically, she's passable I guess, but we could have a better one."
"P-passable?" stuttered Ichigo. "Passable for what?" She looked at the cat to Eros and back to the cat. "W-who are you people? More than that, what are you people?"
"Not to mention a bit slow," added the cat, looking disappointed. "Oh well, beggars can't be choosers, I guess."
"Beggars?" For some reason, Ichigo felt insulted. She looked at Eros and said, "I'm sure you could explain why the stuffed cat could walk and talk on its own."
Eros looked blank. "Aine could do that naturally."
"I…" Ichigo's mind felt like being torn apart by a very noisy paper shredder. Her head was full of impossible stuff, but an idea came to her. "I'm dreaming, aren't I?"
"I hate to burst your bubble, but you're not." The cat Aine looked bored as she spoke. "It's amusing to see you stutter and muddle your brain like crazy, but I'm afraid we don't have enough time." She stared at Ichigo with a very serious expression. "Momoiro Ichigo-chan, I want you to listen to what I have to say."
"This isn't real…" murmured Ichigo, pinching her cheek. "Ow, that hurts!"
"For crying out loud, stop being stupid and sit!" barked Aine. Ichigo was shocked to be yelled at and promptly sat on the ground without another sound.
"Good…" said Aine with a nod. "Now, listen! My name is Aine, a servant of the Goddess of Love. I was sent here together with Eros, an Angel of Love, to fulfill a mission."
"Sent…?" said Ichigo, still shaking but trying to be calm. "Are you aliens or something?"
"We're Angels, not aliens!" Aine shook her head. "I never understood how humans survived in this world; your intelligence is quite lacking."
"Hey! That's not a nice thing to say!" Ichigo frowned, crossing her arms.
"I don't care about being nice," said Aine, raising a paw and looking arrogant. "I'm just saying the truth." Ichigo decided right there and then that she didn't like the cat very much, alien or not alien.
"Now, now, Aine," said Eros with a smile for the cat. "Let's be polite."
"Wait…" said Ichigo, looking at Eros. "You said you wanted to recruit me to be an Angel. But the cat said you're an Angel… And you also mentioned something about collecting Jewels…"
"We're finally getting somewhere," said Aine. "But since your puny human intelligence can't piece everything quickly, I'd better elaborate." Ichigo flashed the cat an annoyed look but Aine ignored her.
"An Angel is a divine being," explained Aine. "As your myths and religions would tell, Angels are guardians of the world and they protect humans. However, the 'real' Angels are actually human beings."
Ichigo gave the cat a confused look. "What do you mean 'real' Angels? Does that mean there are fake ones as well?"
Aine looked irritated. "If you don't interrupt, maybe you'll know what I mean."
Ichigo's blood boiled. This talking cat-thing was very annoying, she was tempted to grab the toy and strangle it.
Eros seemed to have guessed her intentions as he hurriedly answered her question. "Angels are powerless in the human world," explained Eros. "We could disguise ourselves or change something into another thing, but we can't alter the Fates of humans."
"Precisely," added Aine. "To fully affect a human's Fate, an Angel needs the support of a human. In reality, the 'Angels' recorded in human legends are actually human beings who had the help of the Angels. Using the term 'Angel' on these humans is historically and logically wrong, but the term stuck, I guess."
"So…" Ichigo looked at Eros. "When you said you want to recruit me to become an Angel, you meant you want me to alter Fates with your power…"
Aine nodded. "It is very fortunate that you're keeping up."
"But why would a person's Fate need to be changed?"
"A good and very reasonable question." Aine clicked her paw and something appeared above her. The air became fogged until Ichigo could see a picture on it. She saw a scene playing out on a circular hole hovering in space, as if watching at a floating television screen. "A human's Fate is towards the accomplishment of his Dreams. Being a movie star, getting top scores on an exam, acquiring a home for a family - name it."
On the screen, Ichigo saw a man working hard on a desk. He seemed to be an employee inside a furnished office.
"Throughout his time, humans will work hard towards his Dreams," continued Aine. "But sometimes he gets lost in the path or something happens that will make him lose hope…" In the screen, Ichigo watched as the man was scolded by his boss. She saw as an inky black shadow began to creep out and surround his form.
"What…" said an astonished Ichigo. "What is that?"
"The sign of a person's Fate going off course," said Aine sadly. "When a human falls into despair and loses all hope, his Fate becomes dark, as you see. The shadow will slowly consume his heart and he will become an empty body without a purpose, spreading nothing but remorse and regrets in this world."
Ichigo saw the same man cowering on an alleyway with rags for clothes. His eyes were glazed over, like he didn't even know what was happening around him anymore.
"Our mission is to stop that from happening," said Eros with a serious expression in his eyes. Ichigo gazed at how cool he looked and blushed. "We need to help the humans return to the track towards their Fate, but only other human beings could do that."
"Therefore, it is imperative to recruit Angels," concluded Aine. "And that's why we're here, to ask for your support in this endeavor."
"M-me?" After hearing everything from Aine and Eros, Ichigo felt like her thin, frail shoulders were about to carry a very heavy burden. "But I'm just an ordinary high school student... How could I help change people's Fates?"
"You are chosen for a purpose," said Eros, reaching out towards her hand. Ichigo's face reddened as the guy pressed her hand softly. "You have a Gift, Ichigo-chan. With this Gift, you will be able to change people's hearts."
Eros' kind eyes bored into Ichigo and she felt guilty and tired. She bowed her head as all sorts of things revolved around her mind. She wanted to help them but…
"I'm sorry!" yelled Ichigo, standing up and pulling her hand out of Eros' grasp. "I'm sorry, but I think you're asking the wrong person!"
"Ichigo-chan, you're the only-" started Eros.
"I'm sorry!" screamed Ichigo before she suddenly turned and ran. Eros and Aine watched as she ran through the woods, fading from sight after a few seconds.
"I'll ran after her and convince her," said Eros.
"Don't," ordered Aine.
"You'll only make things worse," Aine told him. "Let her be. Humans have very little emotional span, so breaking the news to her like this had overwhelmed her. We need to give her a little space."
Eros smiled. "You might seem rude, but you actually care, don't you?"
"N-not necessarily," said Aine, turning her back on the guy. As she did, she noticed something on the ground. "Is that…?"
Aine moved towards the thing sprawled on the ground. It was a small pink plastic bag which seemed to be holding some cookies. As she stared at it, a golden glow vibrated from the bag.
"This is…" whispered Aine with a bewildered expression.
Ichigo's legs were burning with pain but she didn't dare stop. She kept on running as she darted out of the woods, into the park and back to the river plain that will lead back to her house. All the things she learned from Aine and Eros kept on filling on her mind, so she tried to focus on the pain to ignore it.
Soon, the pain was so unbearable that she was forced to stop to avoid collapsing. She sat on a nearby bench and panted heavily, as sweat trickled from her face and all over her body.
You are chosen with a purpose…
No, she wasn't. Ichigo knew she couldn't help Eros and Aine, no matter how hard she tried. She talked big and might seem to be confident and dependable, but in reality she was just scared person who kept on doing things that she knew best. That was why she never excelled in sports and got higher grades, because she was afraid of trying things that she won't be good at…
With this Gift, you will be able to change people's hearts…
A person like her could never change people's hearts. Ichigo sighed as she covered her face with her hands. She was so useless. Without her talent in her sweets, she will probably be one of those people with empty lives…
The sound of a dribbling ball cut on her thoughts and made her face turn up. A few feet from where she sat stood a small basketball court. A guy was dribbling hard on the court and shooting balls from different positions. Ichigo watched as every ball thrown went inside the ring. At a closer look, the guy was very familiar…
"Tai-kun!" said Ichigo.
Natsuki Tai turned to face her and smiled. "Hey there, Ichigo. Didn't notice you were there."
"You're working hard," said Ichigo, noticing sweat pouring all over Tai's body. He was wearing his blue basketball jersey and holding a basketball.
"Yeah," replied Tai, moving towards her. He sat down beside her. "The tournament's coming up in a few days, so I don't have time to slack off."
"Really? Is it basketball season again?"
"That's right. And I promised the team that we're getting to the nationals this year."
"That's a tall order for you," teased Ichigo.
"Huh? Who do you think you're talking to, woman?" asked Tai with arched eyebrows. "Somebody as gifted as basketball as me is sure to lead their team to victory."
"Whatever you say," said Ichigo, her eyes shifting to the ground. "I know that if you put your mind into it, you can achieve whatever you want." Then she whispered, "Unlike me…"
"Of course," replied Tai. "That's what I've been telling you since morning. If you keep at it, I'm sure you'll find a boy who'll like flat-chested girls." He glanced at her for her response, but Ichigo kept on gazing at the ground. "Hey, you okay, Ichigo?"
Ichigo stood straight and smiled. "Me? I'm fine, I'm fine!"
Tai frowned and put both his hands on Ichigo's cheeks, forcing her head to turn to face him. He edged close to her face and said, "You sure? You don't look fine to me."
Ichigo blushed as Tai's face moved closer to inspect hers. "I'm alright, really!" she quickly said. "And can you please get your hands off my face?"
"Hmmm…" said Tai, moving closer to Ichigo's face, her cheeks getting as red as tomatoes. "Oh, I know! You missed your afternoon snacks, right? That's why your face is getting pale. Haha."
In a matter of a few seconds, Tai was pushed out of the bench and into the ground. "I did not!" yelled Ichigo. "And stop implying that all I do is eating!"
To Ichigo's surprise, Tai smiled as he sat up on the ground. "That's my Ichigo-chan! You don't mope around like a depressed damsel in distress. You move forward like a bulldozer, flattening everything in your path."
"I'm not sure if that's supposed to be a compliment…"
"It is," said Tai as he stood up. He put his hand on her head and ruffled her hair. "I don't know what's wrong, Ichigo, but you're the strongest person I've ever met. I'm sure you can get over whatever's troubling you."
"Thanks," said Ichigo with a slight blush.
"But if you're thinking about boy problems, I'm not sure if there's a solution to it."
"I don't have boy problems!" yelled Ichigo as Tai quickly moved away from her.
"Oh yeah, that's right," said Tai. "You really don't have 'boys' to begin with!"
"Arrrggggh, Tai, come back here!" Ichigo stood up and stomped her foot as Tai ran towards the basketball court.
"Sorry," said Tai with a not-so apologetic look. "I still have to practice. But cheer up, Ichigo-chan. You can always talk about your problems with me."
Despite herself and her anger towards Tai's relentless teasing, Ichigo smiled. "Thanks. And good luck on the tournament."
Tai gave her a thumbs-up. "No problem!"
It happened on a split-second, but Ichigo saw a dark aura glow on Tai. But when she blinked, everything was normal…
"I'm off!" said Tai, while Ichigo was frozen on spot. She stood there fixated as Tai began shooting balls on the court.
"Did I…" whispered Ichigo. She remembered what Aine and Eros told her a while ago… About shadows overwhelming people who were working towards their dreams…
But when Ichigo looked up and saw Tai practicing hard, she shook her head. If there was a person who'd easily give up on his dreams, it wasn't his childhood friend. Someone as stubborn and confident as Tai won't lose to depression easily; she must have been imagining things.
Watching Tai work so hard on his own dreams had cheered up Ichigo. Although his way of cheering her up had been a double-edged sword for him, she was happy that he extended such an effort. Right there and then, Ichigo decided to move on and leave Eros' offer in the past.
She was pretty sure he'd already given up on her.
But when Ichigo arrived at home, Eros was standing beside the shop's entrance.
"Ichigo-chan!" he greeted, in a tone that felt as if they haven't met a while ago and that she didn't ran away from him.
"Eros-kun?!" Ichigo didn't know if she should be shocked or mad. "What are you doing here? And how did you know I live here?"
"An Angel has his contacts," replied Aine, who was sitting beside Eros' right foot. "Or more precisely, he has his powers."
"Shhhh!" scolded Ichigo. "Somebody might hear you talk!"
Aine did not look concerned. "Anyway, the offer still stands."
"I'm sorry, but I can't do it," said Ichigo.
"You won't even try doing it?" asked Eros with teary puppy eyes that melted Ichigo. She was even tempted to say yes immediately.
Ichigo forced herself not to look directly at his face; he was very dangerous for her fragile heart. "No means no," she said in a strained voice, staring only at Aine.
Aine sighed. "Fine."
"I said I don't want to d - eh? You're giving up already?"
"Of course," said Aine. "We can't do anything if you don't cooperate."
"But Aine-" started Eros.
"Shut up," Aine told Eros, who immediately obeyed like a child being scolded by his mother. "If Ichigo-chan doesn't want to do it, then we don't have a choice."
Ichigo sighed in relief. "Oh, thank you so much for understanding…"
"Oh, you misunderstand," said Aine with a wicked glint in her eyes. "If we can't convince you to cooperate, then we'll have to resort to extreme violent force."
"E-extreme vi-violent force?" stuttered Ichigo. She was ready to run away again, but Aine was much faster than her.
"Not this time!" said the cat, who clicked her paw. There was a poof sound as a rope appeared near Ichigo and bound her arms and legs.
"Wh-what are you doing?" demanded Ichigo. "Let me go - off, pfff, ummmm, hmmmm!" A slip of cloth also appeared and strapped around her mouth, effectively silencing her. She moved around and fell out of balance, but she floated in mid-air instead of hitting the ground. Her eyes widened as she saw her whole body hovering a few feet from the air.
"A-are you sure about this, Aine?" asked Eros, who looked guilty at the turn of events.
"I don't have any intention of chasing this girl around until she changes her mind," replied Aine. "We need to convince her in one powerful blow."
"I guess so…"
"Stop hesitating, Eros," said Aine. "And let's go."
"Alright," replied Eros. Ichigo's eyes widened as a pair of majestic white angel wings flapped open from behind Eros. Aine produced a smaller version behind her back and they both flew to the sky. The tied Ichigo followed behind them as she zoomed away like a bizarre human airplane.
"Mmmmmmrghhhhhhh!" Ichigo screamed on the cloth as her eyes grew wide. She shifted and tried moving her arms and legs. The ropes were so tight she couldn't move a single finger.
"Mmmmmghhhhh! Mmmmfffffhhhh!" She kept on yelling on the cloth but only muffled shouts came out.
Aine looked back at her. "If you promise you won't cause a ruckus, I'll let you speak."
Ichigo nodded sharply. Eros flew towards her and took off the cloth from the mouth. Ichigo gasped for air. She was ruffled, mad and scared, but she breathed in to calm herself down.
"Don't even think about screaming," Aine told her. "No one would hear you at this height."
Ichigo angrily stared at the stuffed cat. She wasn't so stupid to do something as silly like that. As if this whole flying thing wasn't silly to begin with. But when a flock of birds passed by her, she screamed so loudly that made Aine jump.
"Why did I tell you about not screaming?" scolded Aine.
"Sorry, I was just surprised…" said Ichigo. Then she remembered something and said in an angry tone, "Ah, why should I be apologizing to you?! You kidnapped me!"
"Well, you left us with no choice," said Aine without a hint of guilt in her expression.
"I can't believe you guys are Angels…"
"Now," said Aine, as she hovered towards Ichigo's eye level. "I'm not going to bring you back down until you come with us."
"Hmph! Whatever you do, you're not going to convince me after this!"
Eros kneeled in mid-air. He gave her teary puppy eyes that shocked her. "Please, Ichigo-chan! Please come with us! Then maybe if you see what's happening, you might reconsider! Please give us a chance!"
Ichigo realized by then that she was weak to Eros' sad puppy eyes. She decided to take a mental note of it. But for now… "Fine, fine. I'll go see what you guys want me to see. But you'll leave me alone after that!"
Eros smiled so radiantly that Ichigo's doubts began melting. However, Aine was not amused. "Very well, if you really want that."
"Yes, I want that," said Ichigo, her doubts freezing up again. "Now, let's get this over with."
"Alright," said Aine. "Let's head for the kid with the darkening Fate." Eros nodded.
The movement was so quick and sudden that Ichigo screamed again. The three of them suddenly dived down. If the cloth in her mouth didn't reappear again, she would have screamed the whole way down.
Eros and Aine landed perfectly near a clump of trees. Ichigo however crashed face-first to the ground. She groaned as the rope that tied her and the cloth on her mouth disappeared with a puff of smoke. She mumbled and muttered as she stood up to see what was going on.
Angel and cat were staring at a lone small boy sitting on a bench. Ichigo discovered that she was back at the park where she met Aine with Eros. She looked at the child they were spying on and noticed that his whole body was outlined by a black shadow. It even intensified when the kid sighed heavily.
"Is that?" started Ichigo.
"The signs of a darkening Fate," said Eros in a serious tone. Ichigo had never seen him with such a determined look before. "We have to help him."
"Yes, we have to," agreed Aine. The stuffed cat looked up at Ichigo. "Go on. Do something about it."
"Me?" said Ichigo. "What should I do?"
"Find out the root of the problem, of course. Then we'll work with that."
Ichigo sighed. "Fine. But I'm not doing this because you told me so." Eros and Aine looked at her in surprise but she didn't notice. She stood up and headed for the boy's direction.
As Ichigo came closer, she had a clue as to what was troubling the boy. He was staring sadly at a group of kids playing in the park. Watching the boy stirred up a few memories of hers. She was sitting on a similar bench, looking up as other children played without her…
It didn't take long for Ichigo to reach the boy. At first, he didn't notice her. But when he did, he blushed and looked down on his feet.
Ichigo smiled at him. "Do you mind if I sit with you?"
The kid shook his head. Ichigo sat beside him in the bench, smiling continuously at the kid. Noticing that the boy was being too conscious, she decided to watch the children that were playing tag. The kids' laughter was refreshing in the afternoon sun. Now that Ichigo's attention was no longer on him, the boy relaxed and joined her in watching.
"Are they your friends?" asked Ichigo.
The boy was surprised at first. But he later replied with a timid "No."
Ichigo nodded. "But you wanted to be friends with them, right?"
To this, the boy nodded and looked up to her with teary eyes. "But I'm not good at talking…"
"You don't have to be good at it," Ichigo told him. "You just flash them a smile and ask to join the game with them. Everything will just follow."
"But I can't!" yelled the kid, his tiny hands curling into fists. As he did so, the aura around him grew darker. Ichigo was surprised at this. If this keeps up, she won't be able to help him. If there was just something that could put his mind at ease…
Ichigo felt someone touch her back. But when she turned to look, there was no one there. She was about to try and convince the kid again when she noticed it lying on the ground. She was puzzled - how did it get there?
The boy was still stubbornly holding into his fists when Ichigo spoke gently. "Why don't you share this with them then?"
He looked up to her and he handed her a small bag of freshly baked madeleines. "But onee-chan…"
"I'm sure you'll feel better after you eat one," said Ichigo with a smile. "And I'm sure the kids over there will be pretty hungry after playing."
The boy still wasn't convinced. "But…"
"Go on!" said Ichigo. She held his hand and the two of them went to the playing kids. The children quickly stopped what they were doing once they saw them.
However, the boy was still trembling and did not utter a word. He looked up at Ichigo who gave him a nod and an encouraging smile. "Do you… want some…?" he mumbled softly.
The kids who were a group of four boys and two girls smiled at him. They came closer and surrounded them. Their eyes widened when they saw what was inside the bag. "Wow, cookies! Thank you so much!"
Their appreciation lifted the boy's spirits. Ichigo smiled, happy that he had taken his first step. Just then, a girl gave the boy one of the madeleines.
The boy looked up at Ichigo again. "Go on," she told him. "It will taste even better when you're eating with everyone."
When the boy took a bite of the madeleine was when things became strange. The sky and the earth and everything else suddenly became dark and gray and the kids froze in their place.
"Wh-what?" For Ichigo, it was as if time suddenly went still.
"Ichigo!" Ichigo looked ahead of her and saw Eros and Aine running towards her, their faces wide with terror, pointing at something behind her. "Look out!"
Ichigo turned and gasped. A dark shadow-like figure with red eyes was streaming out of the boy's black aura. She froze as the shadow's eyes glared at her and its arms moved to crush her with its claws. She closed her eyes in fear.
There was crashing noise as the shadow's claw hit the ground. But Ichigo felt nothing on her body. She opened up her eyes to see that Eros was carrying her. He saved her in the nick of time.
"That was close," said Eros.
"What…" mumbled Ichigo as she watched the shadow flail its arms around and crying an agonized sound. "What's happening?"
"That's a remnant of the negative emotions the boy had in his heart," explained Eros as he let Ichigo down. "You need to defeat it in order to fully change his Fate."
"What? You didn't say anything about this!"
"Well, we didn't think it progressed this far," Aine told her. Then, she looked at Eros and said, "It's time."
"Yes," said Eros with a nod.
"Are you sure about this?"
"She's the one."
Ichigo didn't like being left out of the conversation, especially if it concerned her. "What? What are you talking about?"
"Sorry about this, Ichigo-chan," said Eros with a shy look. Why was he apologizing? It wasn't like he did anything horrible to her. In fact, he had rescued-
Ichigo's train of thoughts was cut the moment their lips met. Eros had kissed her so suddenly, she wasn't even mentally prepared; her mind went blank. But as they kissed, a pair of golden angel wings spurted from Eros' back, shining brightly in the dreary atmosphere.
Eros pulled his lips back and looked at her with shining, kind eyes. "You're ready…" he said. Reflected in his irises, Ichigo saw that she had changed.
Her dull sailor-like school uniform had changed into a white blouse and pink skirt. The blouse had a pink ribbon in the center and the end of the sleeves was tied with pink laces. Her skirt was fluffy and a golden belt with a heart symbol was on her hip. She had white-and-pink boots that end up to her knee. On her hair was a clip in the form of a heart with wings. Finally, a pair of small white wings protruded from her back.
What… What was happening to her?
To be continued…
Author's Note: Ahoy there! This is Chapter 2 of Sweet Romance Angel. So in this chapter, we get to meet Eros and the sarcastic mascot Aine! And some things were explained, but there's more to it! For next chapter, Ichigo will fight to defeat the shadow. What? Didn't I tell you this was a Magical Girl series? No, I didn't? Oh, now you know!
Thank you so much for reading. Please share your thoughts through a review! ^_^