Disclaimer: I do not own Tokyo Mew Mew

Chapter One: Antique

The shopkeeper didn't appear to notice when they cautiously stepped into the small shop.

The old looking woman behind the cashier desk had her head busily attached in a magazine, proving frankly that all her concentration was meanwhile focused there.

The two entered the shop inquisitively. They took their time marveling at the entire picture, draining in the scenery through their optic nerves. Their feet made soft tapping voices upon the filthy floor and they pondered about for a bit, admiring several worn-out objects in their paths. The air inside was so cool that it was almost too difficult to respire. It took a while before one of them finally spoke, in a measly whisper,

"So this was the old-fashioned shop you found, Ichigo?" Minto asked, stabbing at a piece of broken, forgotten wood below her foot.

"Yeah . . . I think they just opened it like a week ago," Ichigo said. "I didn't get the chance to skim through the first time I encountered it—so I figured I'd do it today. I wasn't expecting you to come though."

"Now that's just mean."

Ichigo shrugged, ignoring the sulking remark.

"I recalled finding something I liked. The main reason I wanted to come back here today was to look for it. Sadly, I only caught a short glimpse of the appearance," she explained, scanning the dusty shelves alertly.

"What did it look like?" Minto asked.

"I think it was a teacup wi--" she paused, striking her attention back at the vain Minto, now standing there, fixing her extended hair for the tenth time that day. Seeing this, she irately blew a sigh from her lips. It was useless talking detail when the listener herself wasn't the least paying any awareness. Her best friend, Minto, happened to obtain a pretty decent record for doing so. "Just help me look if you're not planning to do anything else!" she muttered.

With declaring that, the taller of the duet started searching vigorously by height and by length for the object in her mind's eye. She forced her orbs to run along with the extensive selves, attempting to distinguish the masked treasure. The number of objects for sale was utterly consuming. So much that in fact, she had no idea why the owner refused to rent a bigger store. Everything rested jammed so tightly against one another.

Scrambling around, she stumbled across various belongings which cost a fortune and hundreds more holding at least ten thousand yen on hostage.

She swallowed; a sure sign to signal her growing tension alongside the abnormal prices. Hopefully, what she was currently aiming for wasn't of such expense. She could never afford something so expensive with her scrawny allowances.

Her fingers eventually scraped across a cold, round, small object amid the big, bulky ones. Unfortunately, its sides were caught between two fat vases. She pulled back, in fear she might damage anything in addition. Holding her breath, she squeezed her eyes shut, deciding quickly she MUST be extra careful. Biting her teeth, she pushed one hand on the front of the spotted item. Eyes wide in nervousness, she started pulling.

Gradually, it inched forward . . . little by . . . little . . .

She got it out.

The moment the deed was accomplished, she allowed all air she imprisoned to flow. With relief in her lungs, she daintily fixed the vases she accidentally eased.

Thank god they hadn't crack during the sweaty procedure.

"Found it," she mumbled. She twirled the old thing around in her palm, admiring it. It wore faded paintings and marks on the borders and the color was a dirty, tanned brown. For the moment, she couldn't grasp whether the color was there because of the grime, or whether it was truly the original dye.

She inspected the old teacup in curiosity. For something so small and . . . well, old, it certainly was something else.

Minto, seeing her companion fully occupied, skittered closer.

"Is that it, Ichigo?" the young teenager inquired.

Ichigo nodded. Her expression didn't differ as she examined the odd looking toy. She glanced at the shop keeper a few yards from her direction before shoving a hand in her dress pocket.

"Hey, you're not REALLY going to buy that, are you, Ichigo?" Minto asked, detecting the keen, fumbling fingers. "I mean, hey, even I don't like it and I usually love antiques."

The scarlet headed girl squinted unthankfully. Yes, she was fully aware of her friend's wide anthology of ancient items. Minto often bought her "high class, oh, so wonderful" collection into conversation whenever possible, plus whenever anyone set foot into her house. Sometimes, the bragging settled at the painfully wrong time, and, that being the case, normally tended to turn events quite ugly. In those circumstances, Ichigo couldn't resist but grumble—loudly. This was one of them.

"Why is that?" she questioned dryly. "It's not any different from YOUR antiques, Minto."

"Why, of course it is!" Minto replied recklessly. "It's . . . old!"

Ichigo rolled her eyes daringly.

"It's traditional; it's supposed to be old," she retorted tiredly.

"Not that kind of old," Minto pointed. "I mean anyone who'd have the heart to collect these things would certainly look for the 'exquisite' type of old, not an "old" type of old. That item is technically "OLD"!"

"You're not making sense," Ichigo said, hardly registering her wealthy friend's fussy ways.

"Well . . . neither are you."

Ichigo moaned broadly. Minto always bought forth such indigestible topics. What was the difference between two kinds of olds anyway? Don't old just mean old?

I'll never get rich kids, she thought.

Ichigo shook her head, attempting to rid the confusing dilemma. She twisted the teacup around in her hands. The chilly, metal-like clay thudded weakly next to her pulse and she shuddered. She never had any idea soil could be so bitter.

"Just what is so good about that?" Minto asked, gesturing at the clunk of dried dirt. "That's what I'd like to understand."

Ichigo frowned. "I don't know . . . it just seems so . . . alluring . . ." she said dizzily.

"Alluring?" Minto raised an eyebrow.

"Yeah . . . I think it's . . . I think it's . . ." she halted, eyes playing with the single unit in her pale hands. ". . . Cool."

Minto scoffed. "Cool? It'll probably fall apart the instant you take that thing home. Look at it! There's no denying how weak and unstable it's turned out over time!"

Ichigo faced her reasoning friend to launch an expression of utter disbelief on hearing the scornful remark, revolving the strange looking container until it landed on its left side.

"Don't be silly," she said consciously. "It's ... her face took the mood of a neglecting polar bear once more. . . . Cool."

Minto sighed nonchalantly. "Very cool . . ." she said sarcastically before applying the last piece of her speech. ". . . Like an old piece of rotting wood that is!"

The navy haired girl then silently doubled over her knees and giggled a mean, cruel giggle. This action caused the retailer to shoot a lengthy sideways glance at the two suspiciously before turning her attention back to her waiting newspaper.

"Oh, shush, Minto, it's not that funny!"

"B-but, it is!" the crotched girl stammered in hardly audible squeaks.

"Quiet! You're going to get us in trouble!"

"I-I-it's hilarious! I can't believe you didn't enjoy my joke!" Minto exclaimed.

"Well, I'm going to pay for it!" Ichigo huffed, embarrassed by the loud, attention drawing laughter. Who could blame her? This would have made anyone develop an urge to leave.

She twitched uncomfortably as she strolled over to the counter, putting some cash beside the money counting machine.

With a click of money and coins, the exchange was done.

As the two exited the shop, one laughing uncouthly and one looking manifestly peeved, the small tea cup in Ichigo's bag had begun to shake. The block of material swung against the walls of the cardboard bag, as if begging for freedom. But the soft, tender, unnoticeable, trembling did little to activate the two occupied teens' attention.

Ichigo was feeling confident then. Her lips had curled up in a half moon and she felt strangely pleased. Word could not cease to describe how eager she was to take her just bought item home, and study it closely like an antiquarian.

She was one excited girl indeed.

Too bad she couldn't identify what was in it. Otherwise, she'd have returned it and got her money back without ado.

Because the article lurking clandestinely within was definitely hell—pure hell.