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Tokyo Mew Mew Replaced Chapter 04: Discovery

"Wh-" Natasha made a barely intelligible noise as she tried to formulate a coherent reaction to what she was seeing. The person in front of her was clearly Mikan, auburn hair and all. But the figure that was now stiffened (Natasha guessed they had noticed her entering) was quite definitely female.

Natasha just gaped as the person before her slowly turned, their arms crossed over their chest-which was already covered by what was probably a sports bra- and looked over her shoulder. An almost embarrassed set of wide eyes met her own, but before she could continue, Mikan grabbed and pulled on the draped close to what looked like her belongings and darted over to Natasha, hands swiftly covering Natasha's mouth.

"mmf!" Natasha cried in surprise, trying to pry Mikan's hands off.

"No, No shuuush!" the girl said, "Please, don't say anything okay? Just…just keep quiet and I'll explain." Mikan gently lifted her hands away and took Natasha's into her own to keep her from running away.

"Y-You're a girl!" Natasha stuttered, utterly bewildered.

Really, up till this point there had been no indication that Mikan was female. Since joining the school, it was a widely known fact- or at least had seemed as much- that Mikan Koushaku was a boy, and a very popular boy at that. On all the class rosters, she was referred to as male, and all the teachers and students alike treated her as such. She was even changing in the men's locker room, for god's sake. But Mikan was definitely not a boy. And Natasha did not know how to feel about this.

Instead, she looked questioningly at Mikan, who in turn was looking downwards nervously.

"Well? A-Aren't you g-"

"It's complicated."

"Like hell it is!"

"Sssssh! Someone outside will hear you…" Mikan now looked over Natasha, towards the shut door. Then she turned back.

"I'm really, really sorry. I…" she trailed off, not quite sure how to continue. "I can't explain right now. But please, I promise I will ok? Can you keep my secret? Please?" Mikan whispered pleadingly, holding Natasha's hands closer. The ginger still wasn't sure how to respond, but it looked like Mikan was almost to tears about her secret being found out.

"Okay," Natasha said nodding, "I promise."

The door of the boy's changing room opened.

Umeko, who had been sitting bored on the floor opposite, now sprang up and eagerly rushed towards the door before stopping abruptly at the sight before her.

Mikan came out first, fully dressed now as a boy, dragging a somewhat embarrassed looking Natasha behind them. Mikan gently pushed Natasha towards Umeko, who then turned around.

"I'm so, so sorry Koushaku-kun!" Natasha said half-heartedly, though Umeko didn't pick up on this.

"Please, don't do it again," replied Mikan in a stiff tone. Then she turned to Umeko. "I really don't appreciate people coming in while I'm changing. I deleted all the photos she got, so don't even bother looking for any."

Then, she abruptly left in a mock huff.

As soon as Mikan left, Umeko spun round to Natasha.

"You are the worst spy."

The girls arrived at the café barely in time for their shift. This, on their part was a big mistake, considering the floodgates were already open and the café was already filling up with eager customers, happy to overwork the waitresses in their glee of the Café Mew Mew grand re-opening. With barely enough time to change into their new outfits, the girls were soon swamped with work, seating new customers, taking orders back and forth and cleaning after inevitable spills. It was quite apparent that the Café was meant to have more than two waitresses- the sheer capacity for seating meant that the girls had to multitask and juggle duties between themselves.

And all the while, Ryou sat at a two person table in the corner of the café, casually sipping a coffee.

"That place is a total hell hole." Umeko said the next day after their classes had finished. "Natasha, do we really have to go back there? It's horrible Nat! Let's just ditch!"

"No way! It's our duty and I think we get paid," Natasha argued. However, neither was sure if any payment had been agreed on or not. "Besides, think about it- the other mew mew's must have been working there too! Can you imagine? All that time, they were right there at that café…"

The two girls chattered down the hall with the stream of students all heading towards the exit, That is, until Natasha felt a tugging on her arm. She turned around to see Rinzen shyly looking up at her.

"I…I thought we were meeting up today?" Rinzen said with a saddened expression.

"Oh…uh, sorry Rin, I totally forgot!" Natasha rubbed her head. "But you see we're busy again today. W-we got a job at this café and we have to go work there now."

"Oh." Rinzen seemed to buy it, but then said brightly, "Then can I come too? Then we could all work together!!"

Natasha and Umeko looked at each other nervously.

"No Rin, it's sorta…an exclusive café. Only people who are asked to join can, yah know?" Umeko said apologetically, but her sentiment didn't quite reach Rinzen evidently as the small girl's face fell.

"Oh…" Rinzen looked downcast. "I…I guess I'll see you guys tomorrow then?"

"Yep, definitely tomorrow Rin!" Natasha tried to say cheerily, but this didn't seem to affect Rinzen. Umeko tugged for Natasha to go and the two waved goodbye to their friend and left.

The two girls walked out of the school and down the street towards their workplace. Again, the weather held up and above them they could see flocks of birds migrating.

"We really can't keep lying to her like this…" Natasha murmured as they walked along a canal.

"What're you talking about? We told her the truth." Umeko said nonchalantly.

"Oh, you know what I mean!" Natasha said, stopping. "It's really not right to keep avoiding her!" Natasha was quite upset now. She didn't really get why Umeko was acting so calmly about everything, and really wanted to include Rinzen. After all, the little girl had supported her as much as Umeko with the mew club, and would've loved to hear about their exploits, right? She felt guilty that she couldn't share this with her.

"Natasha," Umeko turned round, " You know we can't. We shouldn't get her involved in this stuff. But hey, we'll definitely hang out with her tomorrow, okay?"

Natasha sulkily nodded in agreement. "Okay…Thanks Ume."

She gave a weak smile and they continued on their way to the café. By the time they got there, they already found a line forming even though they were a little earlier then yesterday. So, again the duo got dressed and began serving. Thankfully their experience from yesterday paid off, and they got less orders wrong and tripped up a lot less, which meant it was an easier work day.

"Hey, I think we're getting better at this!" Natasha said cheerily, her gloominess from earlier being beat out by the barrage of orders she'd had in the last twenty minutes. Amazingly she'd actually managed to clear these up pretty quickly, and apparently so had Umeko with her half of the tables, as they now had a free moment to take a breather.

"Yeah but…I feel like things are about to get a little more hectic around here." Umeko said. Natasha looked at her quizzically, but Umeko just gestured towards the door. Natasha followed her gaze, and then saw someone come through the door.

Black pony tailed hair swishing angrily; the domineering figure of Aoi Kinomi marched towards the two girls, bringing with her an aura of wrath and discontent.

"Ohgod, Ume don't make this worse!" Natasha hissed in Umeko's ear, but her friend ignored her. Umeko strutted towards to meet Aoi and smirked at the student council rep.

"Well, well, well, Aoi, what brings you to our humble café?" Umeko said, punctuating her wry remark with a sarcastic curtsy. Natasha slapped her forehead.

"Why, you of course, Takeda." Aoi gave a fearsome smile to mirror Umeko's. The customers around her cringed; one even gave a faint squeal.

"Do you know how important middle school education is? After the softcore studies of elementary, students must embark on the new frontier of Middle School! There is no more weakness here. This is when we plan for our lives! This is the time that we pick our paths and when the good become great! This is Middle School!"

"No, this is Café Mew Mew, and you have no power here. Leave." Umeko said bluntly.

"This careless behaviour is exactly why I'm here," Aoi continued with her lecture. "As your council head, I must make sure that every student fully focuses on their studies- which you cannot do while working, of all things! It is utterly irresponsible for girls like you to take on such things now, especially since there will be plenty of time for such things later!"

"Oh please, shut up." Umeko was getting annoyed herself now. "Stop acting all high and mighty, and just get out if you-"

"Hey, Hey! C'mon guys, we should take this outside…" Natasha butt in, fearing that the two girls would break out into a full-fledged fight in the café if she didn't intervene. Grabbing Umeko by the arm and pushing Aoi, she guided the two outside and a bit away from the café.

"Ergh! Natasha, let go!" Umeko freed herself from Natasha's grasp and then quickly spun towards Aoi. "What are you even doing here? Do you really have nothing to do but lecture us?"

"Like I said, it's my du-"

And suddenly, Aoi was batted aside by the paw of an oversized mouse beast.

[end chapter]

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