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Rising Dictator

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"Table for two. Bring us the menu, please."

"Right this way, sir!"

"I'll have a hot cup of white tea, no sugar, please."

"Coming right up, ma'am!"

"Miss, I'd like a refill!"

"Of course, sir! In a moment!"

"It sure is busy today, isn't it?" an exasperated voice commented from behind the young waitress who was scurrying all over the restaurant café. The waitress looked over to her coworker and shrugged. True, it was pretty crowded today, but to the salmon-haired waitress it seemed like every other work day to her. Her name is Natsume Dragneel, and she's been working in the 8island restaurant café for two months now with her friend, the aforementioned coworker, Greta Fullbuster.

"Yeah, any clue why? I'm pretty sure this has nothing to do with publicity, we're famous enough as is. Everything has been just unusual lately," Natsume replied with a frown on her face. Immediately she wiped it off and plastered on her award-winning smile before hurrying over to deal with her customers' wishes.

"Wish I knew," mumbled Greta with a sigh. She motioned over to Luca, her silent blonde coworker who had the usual dull look in his eyes, to take over her shift since it was time for her lunch break.

She stepped into the kitchen and sat at an empty table in the corner. The famous and humble white-haired chef Mircea (meer-cha) placed a plate in front of Greta. She looked up at him and smiled as thanks before reaching over and grabbing one of the sandwiches. Greta's dark blue eyes landed on the abandoned newspaper from across the table. She grabbed it and began skimming the front page.

'Hmm... there's nothing unusual listed anywhere,'' Greta thought, disgruntled. 'But why do I feel like something's missing?'

Giving up, Greta dropped the newspaper back on the table and finished her sandwiches before returning to work. She took over Natsume's shift to allow the girl to take a short break and dusted off her apron before picking up her notepad and pencil. She made her way over to the newly-arrived customers waiting at the front door, a rather large group of individuals who looked like kittens that entered a kennel of dogs. Even stranger was their clothes. Were they actors or something that just stopped by from the theatre in their costumes? Or were they cosplayers coming from an event or something? And why for Caesar's sake is that guy shirtless? Where's his dignity? Greta watched them with a strange look on her face for a few seconds before snapping out of her daze and smiling at them as if nothing was wrong and everything was normal.

"Welcome to 8island! Do you have a reservation?" she asked the group. The strange customers glanced at each other before a blonde-haired girl around Greta's height stepped up with a hesitant smile on her face.

"No, but we would like a table for... well, I'm not sure of how many we have," she replied bashfully. Greta noticed her warm chocolate brown eyes gazing at her strangely, but Greta didn't dwell on it. She had work to do after all.

"That's alright, we have plenty of room at the back over there," Greta assured, pointing at the back left corner of the room where there was a large array of empty tables ready to be used. "I'm sure you all can fit. Follow me."

Greta led the rather large group to the tables and began pushing many tables together, lining them up so that there was more room for them. However, she realized she had a little dilemma: although she had enough tables, she did not have enough space to make it into one whole line. With a sigh, she began pushing together another group of tables right next to the first line. And then she did it again for a third line, after cleaning up several tables that were left behind by satisfied customers. After she was done, she stepped back and admired her work before motioning for the group to sit down at the three long lines of tables. They all settled down and a very smug Greta pushed an extra table to the third line when she realized she only missed arranging for another four people rather than a much larger number. She distractedly noted how her original estimation of the group only taking up a corner of the restaurant was wrong and the long lines of tables took up half the restaurant.

Shrugging it off, Greta faced the blonde-haired girl and smiled at her. "I'll be returning with your menus shortly. Please make yourselves comfortable." And with that Greta bustled off to the counter, sharing a look with the now-returning Natsume, who had paused in her tracks when she noticed the blatantly large group that occupied half the restaurant. Deciding to help her co-worker, Natsume picked up a set of menus and handed them over to Greta before picking up another and following Greta to the tables. Unlike Greta, Natsume pointedly ignored the overall bizarre appearance that the group made and did not let herself get distracted by the weapons or peculiar clothing that the group carried.

She did, however, spare a glance at the odd cats.

Shaking her head to herself, she handed out the menus and left the group to get more menus. Once all the menus were passed out and the awkward atmosphere started to dissipate, the group finally began talking in hushed whispers, not that anyone noticed, considering all the noise made by all the other rowdy customers.

Greta took a hold of Natsume's forearm and dragged her behind the counter, far enough away from the group to prevent them from overhearing their conversation.

"Something's wrong. I don't what, and I know I sound like a lunatic, but my gut's telling me something is awfully weird about them," Greta hastily whispered to Natsume. Natsume peeked over Greta's shoulder to look at the group and nodded her head in agreement. Although she couldn't sense things like Greta did with her frighteningly accurate sixth sense, she trusted her friend.

Something was up, and whatever it was, that group had something to do with it.

 

 

Meanwhile, the group that settled down on the three long array of tables were rapidly whispering to one another. The blonde-haired girl, whose name was Lucy Heartfilia, kicked her best friend's knee from under the table, a salmon-haired boy named Natsu Dragneel.

"No Natsu, don't be ridiculous. That girl can in no way be related to Gray," she scolded him for his outrageous claim.

"You don't understand, that girl smells exactly like him! If I was blind, I would have assumed it was him based off the scent!" Natsu vehemently defended himself.

"Do I look like a girl to you, Birdbrain?" Gray sneered.

"No, but you sure smell like one, Ice Princess!" Natsu spat back.

Before the two could begin another one of their daily squabbles, a young girl with long blue hair pulled up into two side ponytails spoke up. "I actually agree with Natsu. My nose may not be as strong as his, but even I can catch the same scent as Gray from the girl," she said hesitantly. This caught the attention of the whole group.

"It's not just Gray's scent though. I'm pretty damn sure the pink one has the same whiff as Natsu," Sting commented, who was seated in the second line of tables.

"This is awfully strange though. Since when did 8island redesign?" Erza asked, frowning at the marble counter and tiled floors. The others shrugged and took in their surroundings. Last time they were here, there was wooden flooring, wooden tables, colorful tablecloth, and cat decorations all over the restaurant. Instead, they were facing marble counters, dark wooden tables with cushioned chairs, bleached white tablecloths, and a rather old-fashioned, down-to-earth atmosphere. There were no cat decorations, no extremely-revealing maid outfits, no perverted customers- even the two waitresses were dressed formally with long black dress pants, white blouses, and black aprons! 

"This just does not seem like Yajima's style. He loved his cat-styled restaurant. He loved having the waitresses dress up as cats. What could've caused the change?" Erza remarked doubtfully after a moment.

"Perhaps he sold the restaurant?" Romeo piped up. Macao shook his head. "No, Yajima loved working as a chef. He wouldn't just up and sell it out of the blue."

They quieted down when they spotted the two waitresses with Gray's and Natsu's scents approaching them.

"Are you ready for your orders?" The Gray-scented girl asked politely. She had her notepad and black pen out, ready to jot down anything and everything. The pink-haired girl beside her mimicked her coworker's pose with her own notepad and blue pen.

"Yes we're ready," Lucy affirmed, before giving her order and everyone else followed with their own. She was impressed by how pokerfaced the waitresses were from the rather overwhelming amount of orders popping up. Distracted Lucy couldn't help but wonder how they were going to pay for it all. This world was already so strange and vastly different from their own, would the currency be different too?

"Great, your meals will be ready in half an hour to an hour, so sit tight and enjoy yourselves until then," the Natsu look-alike girl said with a smile before dismissing herself and walking off to the kitchen, the dark-haired girl one step behind her.

"You gotta admit, they even look like Gray and Natsu," Cana offhandedly commented, and the others hummed in agreement.

"I kinda wish you were a girl Gray," Lyon smirked. "Cause she's pretty hot, and I wouldn't have minded growing up with you if you looked like that,"