Beep! Beep! Beep! Bee-
You hit the snooze button on your alarm clock faster than you could even blink. You yawned tiredly and rolled over in bed, stretching.
"Arf!" barked Aja.
You sighed and opened your eyes to see your pet fox sitting next to your pillow. "Good morning, Aja-chan," you mumbled. You began to close your eyes again when something caught your eye. You frowned and sat up. "Aja, what's in your mouth? How many times do I have to tell you not to take my stuff?" you muttered. You held out your hand in front of her mouth. Hesitantly, she spit it out and into your hand. You looked down at it. It was a golden pendant with pink patterns. Something about it seemed oddly familiar, but why? You thought.
Then it hit you. You hastily looked at the alarm clock: 9:30am. You gasped. "Shit!" you cursed, shoving the covers back and scurrying out of bed. You were late for your first day of work at the café! Shirogane would kick your butt from here to unemployment! You raced to the bathroom and grabbed your clothes off the floor on the way. Aja watched in quiet confusion. Turning the facet on, you hurried into your jeans and pulled your shirt over your head. You grabbed your toothbrush and put it under the water, squeezed some toothpaste onto it, and put it into your mouth, then grabbed your brush and quickly ran it through your hair a few times, returning to your teeth when you were done. As you pulled on your shoes and spit in the sink, you took one last look at yourself in the mirror. You blinked and froze. A mark had appeared on your left collar bone. It was in the shape of a paw print and was light pink. It undoubtedly had not been there before. You touched it to see if it would make anything happen, but nothing.
"Ah! I don't have time for this!" you wailed, running out the bathroom door. You shoved your jacket on and ran to the door. "Bye Aja-chan, I'll see you tonight!" you called, and off you went before she could even look up.
As you scampered through the door of the café and into the change room, you brushed past Lettuce, who was sweeping the floors before the restaurant opened. "Amaya-chan, goo-"
SLAM! You shut the door to the change room behind you before she could finish her sentence. You rushed to your locker and began pulling your sweater off, whining in frustration when it caught on your head. You didn't even hear the door open as Lettuce came walking in.
"Amaya-chan, what's wrong?" she asked.
You finally pulled the sweater off and looked at her. She blinked back at you. She frowned. You stopped for a moment and thought. This was suspicious. You slowly pivoted toward the clock on the wall behind you. When you saw it, you fumed. 8:25am. Your eyes flamed with rage. "Grrr . . . . AJA-CHAN! THAT WAS SO NOT FUNNY!" you wailed. "Stupid fox, too smart for her own good . . ." you grumbled.
Lettuce looked at you in confusion. She clearly couldn't understand why you were so flustered – which made sense since you were so early. You sighed heavily. "Sorry. I have a pet fox at home and she's too smart for her own good . . . She must have changed the time on my alarm clock so I thought I was late."
She watched you struggle to get your uniform tied at the back and smiled. "Here, let me do that," she offered, taking the ribbons from your hands. You sighed. "Thanks," you muttered.
CREAAAAK! You swiveled at the sound, turning to see Shirogane walking through the front door. He wore a light leather jacket and had his nose deep in a bright red file full of important looking papers. You wondered what they were for. "Good morning, Shirogane-kun," Lettuce chirped cheerfully.
His head jerked upward in surprise, as if just realizing his surroundings. He turned his head toward you two and smiled at Lettuce. "Good morning. You're here early." He frowned at you and blinked curiously. You fumed. "What?" you snapped.
He smiled, snickering a little. "Nice hair," he said, walking off. You glanced toward the mirror and blushed. Your hair must have gotten messed up when you were pulling your sweater off. You hurriedly fixed it and whined. "That's embarrassing . . ."
As you fixed your hair, the door creaked again. You turned to see Mint walking in, followed shortly after by Zakuro, then Pudding, then a few minutes later by Ichigo. Eventually they all began setting to work on their morning duties. You fidgeted nervously, not knowing what to do. You hadn`t been given orders to do anything yet. You walked toward the room Shirogane had made way for, searching for a sign of him somewhere. "Um, Shirogane?" you called timidly. No one answered. You kept walking until you reached a staircase leading downward. You peered into it and shuddered. It was completely pitch black and after a few steps, you could see nothing. You definitely were not going down there. But what if that's where Shirogane went? you wondered.
You nervously paced, turning over what to do in your head. You looked around again, your back to the staircase. He did come this way, didn't he? Maybe he went a different way and I wasn't paying attention. I bet that's it! He couldn't be down there. Who goes into a dark scary basement without turning on the lights? you thought to yourself.
"Amaya-san? You called for m-"
You screamed when you felt something on your arm. You clambered to fight off whatever was attacking you, ignoring your logical reasoning telling you it was Shirogane's voice you'd heard. As you struggled, you lost your balance on top of the stairs and began falling toward the floor, you felt yourself land on something supportive behind you. Eyes clamped shut, you swallowed nervously. Slowly, you opened your eyes and relaxed. There were two arms wrapped around you from behind, holding you up. You looked up. It was Shirogane!
You blushed and immediately extricated yourself from his arms. "S-s-sorry! I didn't see you there before so I thought you'd gone a different way! I'm sorry!" you wailed embarrassedly.
He shook his head. "It's all right. What'd you want to ask me?"
You thought for a moment. You'd forgotten . . . "Oh! I wanted to ask you what you wanted me to do. I don't really know my way around here yet . . ."
He pondered it for a few minutes. "Well . . . Akasaka could use some help in the kitchen? How well can you cook?" he asked.
You blinked. You weren't a fancy cook, but you cooked for yourself all the time. You'd never really made desserts though, aside from cookies, and even then you'd gotten help from Nadeshiko-san. "Um, I can cook some, I suppose . . ."
"Perfect," he said, without waiting another minute. He began walking back down the hall where you'd come from. "Follow me. I'll show you to the kitchen and you can get started. Akasaka will tell you what to do from there," he explained.
You followed, hugging yourself shakily. You could still feel his arms around you.
By the time the day was over, you felt like you`d run a marathon across the city. You had never worked so quickly and for such a long period of time on your feet. You were utterly exhausted. You slumped over the table, head resting in your folded arms with a heavy exhale. The others joined you and shared similar sighs, although they were far more accustomed to the constant activity. "Geez, I don't know how you guys do this every day," you muttered.
They grinned. Lettuce put a reassuring hand on your shoulder. "Don't worry, Amaya-san, you'll get used to it eventually. Just do your best, okay?" she said. You looked up at her and smiled. She made it sound much easier than it really was.
Mint leaned her cheek on her small fist and glanced toward you from the corner of her eye. "It's only your first day, so don't get tired so easily," she said sharply.
You blinked, taken aback by her tone. At first you were angry at her for being so rude, but you quickly cooled down. She had a point. You shouldn't have been complaining, especially when this was only a cover and the real work hadn't even begun yet. Ichigo scolded her for being so mean but you shook your head and smiled weakly. "You're right. I'm sorry," you murmured.
A heavy silence loomed over as you looked down at the table in front of you, your bangs slightly covering your face. The others exchanged awkward glances, Mint fidgeting as she considered apologizing for her rudeness.
Pudding quickly broke the silence. She stood from her chair, making everyone look up at her in confusion. She seemed to be staring at something that had caught her eye. As you followed her gaze out the front window, you saw a small figure getting closer and closer toward the café. You squinted to see closer before finally recognizing it. "Aja-chan?!" you cried.
You ran to the café doors and tore them open, dropping to your knees as the tiny fox ran into your arms. She whined, a high-pitched sound like a door on old hinges. The others quickly joined you.
"What's wrong, Amaya-chan?" Ichigo asked.
You shook your head. "I don't know, she's still panicking too much." You looked down at her. Since you were young, you'd been able to understand and speak to Aja but she was in too much shock to speak right now. However you did notice something in her mouth. Frowning, you held out your hand in front of her. She opened her jaw and into your palm fell your Mew Mew pendant. "Aja-chan?" you asked. "What happened?"
The fox looked up at you, her ears twitching frantically. 'A stranger,' she barked, 'tried to steal it.'
"A stranger na no da?" Pudding echoed.
"How do you know it was a stranger, Amaya-chan?" Ichigo asked.
You looked up at her. "Aja-chan told me," you explained.
Mint frowned in disbelief. "I didn't hear her say anything."
"Maybe Amaya-san can understand foxes like Ichigo-san can understand cats," Lettuce suggested.
Ichigo pondered the idea for a moment. "That would mean that Amaya-chan was infused with a fox when her dad tested the project on her. I suppose it makes sense then, if you can understand what she says," she mused.
"What was the description of the stranger?" Zakuro asked.
'Green hair and scary yellow eyes,' Aja whined, 'and big ears like an elf!'
"Sounds like Kisshu!" Ichigo cried after you translated.
You looked up at her. You were unaware of who Kisshu was, but it was obviously someone familiar to them. That meant it must have been someone who frequently caused problems for them. Which also meant it was inevitable that they would cross paths soon.
Sooner than you thought, it seemed.