Hisako steps off the bus with a sigh of relief. It is a walk of several blocks up a narrow street from the stop to her family’s home. She trudges up the street, taking in the scenery lit by the afternoon sun. In the distance ahead, she can make out where residences end and fields start. There are a lot of such fields lining the mountain range, which itself is such a gradual rise that the mountains don’t figure in especially prominently, though Mount Tsukuba itself is a different story.
Hisako steps up to the gate of her family’s traditional home and pushes it open, smiling at the garden. Ai is taking excellent care of it. She has fond memories of her childhood spent here. It was and is a wonderful place to grow up. She thinks fondly of her niece, smiling. A part of her regrets leaving such things behind; however, everyone has to grow up someday, and that involves moving on with your life, letting it take you to new places, and experiencing new things.
It is hard for her to think such thoughts, however. In her heart, she is still a little childish. Otherwise why else had she pushed Master Yoshi so far? In her defense, she was so angry at the time that she couldn’t help herself. Combined with her seeming need to tease the crusty old man, it had just led to her doing something she now regrets, a little bit. She pauses, hand on the door, thinking back to Madoka’s anguished little face. There is no help for it. You can’t get spilled milk back into the bottle.
She slides open the door and enters, closing it behind her. She slips her feet out of her heels, which quite frankly have been killing her feet for hours now. With a sigh of relief, she wiggles her toes into her slippers. She takes her shoes with her when she slides the door further into the home open.
“Who is it?” Ai calls from the kitchen. “Hisako?”
“It’s me, onee-chan!” Hisako smiles, closing the door behind her. She walks down the hall a little and enters the kitchen. Ai stands at the kitchen counter, slicing vegetables for dinner. The strong spices emanating from a pot on the stove draws her attention momentarily. The strong scent of the beginnings of a particularly spicy batch of mapo tofu make her mouth water a little.
“Mom’s old recipe!” she laughs. Ai smiles at her.
“Yes. Have you made it lately?” Ai asks her sister, as she puts water on for tea.
“No. Unfortunately. I know the recipe but my ex-employer didn’t much care for spicy food.” Hisako chuckles. “Now that I’m not working there anymore, I think I will go out of my way to cook a lot of spicy food.” She leans against the counter and smiles.
“Good. Spicy food is good for the digestion, Mother always said.” Ai smiles. “So did it go well?”
Midoriyama grins broadly. “As a matter of fact, it went wonderfully!”
Kozuke sighs as he clicks through a job posting website on his small laptop. He has considered putting an ad in the paper, but that didn’t work very well the last time the master asked him to hire help. At that time he had learned that, unfortunately, more and more of everything is being done via the internet.
On the bright side, he’ll have a moment to sit and think while he works on submitting this job posting. He has much more work to do, however. He wonders absentmindedly whether or not Madoka enjoyed her lunch.
“I know I’m not an excellent chef, but I hope my feelings were properly conveyed,” he mutters to himself as he begins to type into the field that asks him to state the job description. He speaks as he works his way through it.
“Live-in Maid or Servant Wanted -- Looking for a level-headed and capable worker who can cook. Must be polite and respectful. Preferably male,” He frowns and pauses. That might come off a little on the sexist side. He knows that the master will certainly prefer a male employee, but what are the odds that a man might answer the job posting and have a higher ability in cooking than he himself does? It doesn’t seem likely, though it certainly isn’t impossible. He knows how bad he is.
“Preferably male, although we will not discriminate based on gender…” he frowns again. He doesn’t really have to mention race does he? Non-Japanese workers aren’t especially common in the area. He doesn’t have anything against a potential candidate from another race or nationality, though a working understanding of the Japanese language would be… well… perhaps it would not be required but how else would they properly communicate? The odds are really truly remote that it would even be an issue, so he continues. “Based on gender, race, creed, or nationality. Must be authorized to work in Japan, Must have a working command of the Japanese language.” He smiles to himself and starts a new line.
“Duties include, but are not limited to: Cooking, Cleaning and Serving. Must be well groomed, have good hygiene and manners. Being good with children is a plus.” Kozuke smiles, taking a moment to think again. In truth, he prefers another maid. The master is woefully unable to cope around women, but surely not every woman will have Midoriyama’s tendencies towards inappropriate teasing? Madoka needs a strong female role model. She seems to be doing well so far, but he is certain that there will be things that he will find himself at a loss to help her with. No… he needs to modify that last word. “Must.”
Madoka taps her pencil on her desk as the people around her discuss props and such for the cafe, gesturing to the various corners of the classroom, indicating their visions for the cafe.
“I think we should get vases and flowers and tablecloths, and maybe put some curtains up over the windows… some nice lacy curtains,” one girl with short cute hair suggests eagerly.
“Where are we going to get all that?” Eiji protests. “That seems a little too ambitious… especially the curtains,” he laughs.
“We can have Kanna make them.” The girl grins.
“Kanna has her hands full with the costumes,” Madoka says, quickly stepping in before her friend is burdened with yet another big job. “If you want lacy curtains you can have mine,” she says, and suppresses a grimace. Madoka thinks about her room. She has lacy curtains everywhere. Even where they aren’t needed! Had Midoriyama had something to do with how girly the room was? Madoka bites her lip. She can’t ask her that question anymore. Midoriyama had just walked out without looking back.
“That’s very generous of you, Hamada-san!” The girl from before grins with delight. “We’ll need... “ She turns to the windows, counting them.
“Wow… I think we’ll need ten… is that a problem?” she asks.
Madoka shakes her head and laughs ruefully. “No, I don’t think so. If it is, I’m sure I can get my hands on more of them.” She is fairly certain that she has this amount of lacy curtains, but if not, the Master is rich after all, and probably… hopefully won’t mind contributing to the school project. If worst comes to worst, she can probably work out something with Kozy.
“That settles things then.” Eiji says, his expression wry. “Just how lacy are these curtains?” he asks.
“The laciest, most girly things you’ve ever seen,” Madoka replies, her expression deadpan.
Kanna hums to herself as she sketches off in a quiet corner of the room. She’s taken down all the details of everyone’s costumes already. She will try to honor them as much as possible, but she has given everyone lists of items they will need to provide to create the costumes. Unlike her new friend, she does not have money to burn.
She finishes the details on a rough sketch of an oni costume; she has taken inspiration from Rei, a character in a popular classic old anime full of oni from outer space and other such oddities. It would be classic, though the stripes would be a little tricky. Plus it should be pretty popular with the ladies. She grins to herself, toying with one of her long blonde twintails idly as she thinks.
“That’s really all I can do with this one. How about Madoka and Eiji-kun’s?” Her grin turns a little wicked as she thinks about French maid costumes she has seen. Of course it simply has to be a little skimpy in the right places. That goes without saying. She is dying to see Madoka in something cute like this, and seeing Eiji in it will be a bonus. Like the cherry on a sundae. Kanna squeezes the notepad shaped like a sundae to her chest and squees, thinking about it.
Kanna calms down after a moment and starts quickly scribbling notes. A low bustier for Madoka with a skirt that goes to her thighs… well maybe a little lower. She does care about her friend’s comfort after all. Eiji on the other hand… she grins again. A higher cut at the bodice. Maybe a corset? Maybe she can design one in the dress itself… with laces. She nods to herself. Eiji is not fat at all, though a little extra pressure will give him more of the appearance of feminine hips. Her eyes gleam as she laughs. Several of the male students turn their heads to stare at her, their skin suddenly crawling.
Finally, Rin-sensei calls an end to the planning for the evening, and everyone sets about putting desks back in their appropriate places, while continuing to talk. When finished they gather up their bookbags and packs and shuffle out, most faces eager and excited as they talk while leaving. Aoi walks over to Madoka with a smile.
“Madoka-chan… I hope this isn’t too soon to ask this… and I know this is short notice for it… but Kanna and I were planning a sleepover this Friday night, and my parents have expressed an interest in meeting you. I was thinking… we were thinking, if you were okay with it, we’d like you to join us.” She smiles, seeming a little shy.
Madoka gapes. This possibility was not on her list of things she has anticipated happening. Sleepovers are perhaps one of the most girly things in existence… at least from her perspective. She is being asked by Aoi-chan to sleep over at her house! Madoka stares at her dumbly and Aoi waves her hands in front of the confused girl’s face.
“Hello… Madoka-chan…” Aoi calls out to her. “Are you okay? I hope I didn’t misread things… I thought we were…” She trails off, looking embarrassed.
“No! Yes! I… oh…” Madoka blushes, embarrassed herself. “I don’t know if Kozy will allow me to do it… but we are friends,” Madoka rushes to reassure her friend.
Aoi smiles, the expression lighting up her face, and she bounces a little, and then blushes, self-consciously stopping her bouncing. That little bounce she has just done is so unlike the normal Aoi who seems to prefer to express herself with dignity. She is almost boyish like that, and truthfully that quality about her has drawn Madoka closer to her than Kanna. Kanna is the girliest girl she has ever known, but Aoi seems easier to understand.
“Well, then! Let’s ask him! He’s always here to pick you up every night, right?” Aoi smiles.
Madoka squirms a little, thinking about it. Will Kozy be okay with it? He is very protective of her. Madoka looks at her friend’s face again and decides that she does not want to disappoint Aoi. Not ever. “Yes. I’ll ask Kozy.” Madoka smiles.
Truthfully, the more she thinks about it, the more she is looking forward to being out of the mansion soon for a night. No cranky master to deal with!
Once again, the butler offers a ride home to Madoka’s two new friends, which they accept gratefully. The three ride in the back of the van as before. This time the boys have not walked them out, so it is just the three.
Kanna holds up her notepad as she shows the other two the various costume ideas that she had designed based on what her classmates had said they wanted to look like.
Madoka giggles at the Oni costume. When Kanna shows the rough sketch of the Momotaro costume she has in mind for Aoi, Aoi’s eyebrows raise.
“It’s a little skimpy, isn’t it?” she asks, blushing.
The outfit is not at all what Madoka would have expected. It resembles a Shrine Priestess’ robes. The bodice is cut to reveal some cleavage, and it has a skirt with thigh-high leggings. A long, complicated ribbon hangs from the hair of the sketched figure.
“It’s pretty though.” Madoka smiles, giggling, eager to see how Aoi would look in it. She blushes a little herself.
“I’m pleased you like it!” Kanna grins. “It was inspired by an anime based on Momotaro. Now for yours, Madoka-chi!” She grins and flips the page.
Madoka gapes at the drawing, and it’s Aoi’s turn to giggle. Kanna joins in, and it’s so contagious, Madoka can’t help joining in.
“It’s too sexy!!!” Madoka laughs.
Kozuke looks at the three girls through his rearview mirror and smiles warmly, though his eyebrow does raise slightly.
“Cold tofu? Really, Kozuke?” The master’s indignant tone makes Madoka cover her mouth and suppress giggles. “Are you even trying?” Master Yoshi glares at Kozuke.
Kozuke shrugs and smiles. “I have told you time and again, Master, that I don’t do cooking. If you like, I will prepare a more complex meal tomorrow night, although I do not guarantee the flavor. It is my policy to strive for simple dishes, but…” Kozuke trails off.
Master Yoshi waves his hand with a sigh, relenting surprisingly quickly. “Don’t bother. I remember the last time you tried to get fancy. I think we’ll just order out until the new help is hired.”
“By the way, Master, I submitted the ad this afternoon. With any luck, someone appropriate should answer it soon. Also, it’s Hiyayako,” Kozuke murmurs.
“Hiyayako?” Master Yoshi frowns.
“The tofu dish. I’ll grant you that it is cold tofu, but it just so happens to be a normal part of the dish. Notice the various herbs, ginger, and soy sauce. You are supposed to garnish it with them.” Kozuke smiles.
Madoka deposits a layer of herbs on top of her block of tofu, unable to suppress her little grin. She doesn’t care really what they end up eating as long as it isn’t too weird. She has never been a picky eater. It’s a nice bonus to see Master Yoshi’s reactions, however.
Madoka liberally pours soy sauce over the tofu, and out of the corner of her eye she sees the master apply his own toppings.
“It’s still cold tofu, Kozuke. Please at least try to make an effort,” Master Yoshi grumps.
Later that night, when Kozuke tucks Madoka into bed after helping her take a nice relaxing bath, Madoka decides to ask Kozuke. She supposes that she should think about asking the master since technically he is her adoptive father, but she still does not feel close to the grumpy old man.
“Kozy… Aoi-chan has invited me to her house this Friday… for a sleepover.” She blushes and squirms a little. “I… I think I would like to go.”
Kozuke looks at her with an eyebrow raised for a moment and then smiles. “You never cease to surprise me, Sugar,” he laughs. “I think some in your situation would be far too embarrassed. Instead you charge fearlessly forward into the unknown.” He chuckles.
Madoka pouts at being laughed at, although his words are complimentary. “Does that mean I can go, Kozy?” she asks.
Kozuke grins broadly. “Of course you can, Sugar. You are not a prisoner here. I am certain that the master will agree. Will you need anything?” he asks.
Madoka smiles happily and then frowns a little. “I don’t know… don’t girls stay up all night giggling or something?” she asks.
“That would be the expected outcome. I have never attended a slumber party, so I could not tell you, Sugar,” Kozuke says with a serious expression.
“I wish Midoriyama were still here.” Madoka sighs and looks down. “I think she would be able to tell me what to do,” she mumbles.
Kozuke studies Madoka for a long moment and then sits down next to her on the bed and puts an arm around her, hugging her lightly. Madoka’s eyes widen slightly but she doesn’t say anything.
“Sugar… I know that you need someone like Midoriyama. I promise that I will do my best to find someone to replace her. I doubt that she will come back. That woman is stubborn and headstrong. I am very certain that she will be employed elsewhere very soon. I have Saito looking into the situation, but it may take a while for him to pull up any information for us. Can you be brave and keep charging forward for me?” He smiles at the girl.
Madoka nods and hugs the butler after a moment. “I think so,” she murmurs, falling silent. Then it occurs to her that she still has something else to ask the butler.
“Kozy… my class needs my curtains for the cafe,” she says.
“Oh? I don’t see any problem with that. The room will likely look very plain without them.” Kozuke smiles.
“I think I’m okay with that.” Madoka grins.
The next three days pass quickly. Kanna has started to design the costumes. They are a lot of work, so they take time. Madoka watches her, fascinated by her work although she sees no hint of Aoi’s, Eiji’s, or her own costume being made yet. When she asks, Kanna assures her that they are being worked on and will be muchhigher quality than the costumes she is putting together during homeroom and club periods.
The master continues to grump about his meals, but otherwise does not engage. He seems content to leave things the way they are at the moment, and Madoka herself is happy with that. They start ordering out a few days after eating the cold tofu, due to the master’s stubbornness. After that, the food is sometimes not as optimally heated as they would like, but it is usually satisfying.
Days pass and no one answers the ad, as far as Madoka can see. Madoka continues her leg exercises, and by Friday she is able to stand for longer periods. The cooking team leaves the class during homeroom. Ippei has arranged a deal with the Cooking Club to borrow their club equipment for the event.
The design of the cafe hasn’t really come together all that much, although a bunch of supplies sit in the corner of the classroom waiting for the day of the festival. The pile becomes ever larger as students find more of what is needed.
“The design of my house won’t really accomodate a wheelchair, but my father has said that he will help when needed, and we have a backdoor that is very close to my bedroom door.” Aoi smiles.
“It will probably be okay.” Madoka smiles. “I can stand for much longer periods, though I haven’t tried to walk yet,” she says.
Kozuke opens the van door, and Kanna hops out of the van, smiling at Kozuke who nods to her.
“It’s so cool having a butler.” She grins at Madoka.
Madoka laughs. “Kozy’s my friend.” She smiles.
Kozuke smiles at this and helps Madoka out of the van and into her chair. “Are you certain that you’ll be alright, Sugar?” he asks.
Madoka nods. “I think so. I want to test my limits. Plus I’ve never done a sleepover before.” She blushes.
“Never done one? At all?” Kanna asks, shocked. “What kind of a life have you had, Madoka-chi?”
“A very normal and dull one.” Madoka smiles, sticking out her tongue at Kanna.
Aoi climbs out of the van and stretches, smiling. “Well, why don’t we head inside?” she asks.
Aoi wheels her away and up to the gate of her house, where the three pause and wave to Kozuke. Kozuke hesitates and then smiles and waves himself. He gets into the van and pulls away as the three enter the gate.
Madoka looks around, interested, as she is wheeled into the garden. It isn’t the same as the garden at the master’s home, but it is still cozy and well tended. A bee buzzes past and alights on a nearby flower, causing Madoka to flinch and then laugh.
They wheel her to the front door, and wait as Aoi enters to tell her parents that they are here. After a few moments, the door opens and Kanna wheels her inside the Genkan.
“Wheel her over to that side. We’ll leave the chair here.” She indicates a place and Kanna wheels Madoka over to it.
“It’s kind of like her shoes, isn’t it?” Kanna laughs.
Madoka blushes and unzips her bag and pulls out a pair of fluffy slippers that Kozuke had bought her. They are fuzzy and pink. Perhaps not her first choice; she winces a little, but the girlier she looks, the better. She is still nervous that the two will somehow discover that she has not grown up as a girl.
She crosses her legs to pull off her shoes and replace them with the slippers. For a change she will actually need indoor shoes, since her wheelchair can’t enter the rest of the home. She feels oddly happy about that. She has hardly left the wheelchair for any reason, except for bathing and sleeping.
The door into the Genkan slides open and Aoi’s parents step into it. A vague smell in the air that has been making Madoka’s stomach growl ever since entering the home wafts towards her from the warm interior of the home. Aoi’s father nods when Madoka hurriedly and politely bows. Kanna giggles a little. Aoi’s mother smiles warmly.
“Please make yourself at home here,” she says encouragingly.
“Are you comfortable with me helping you enter our home?” Aoi’s father asks.
Madoka nods and smiles. “Of course. I’m sorry to be such a bother.” She blushes.
Aoi’s father waves his hand dismissively and looks at Aoi. “Where would you like to go? Your bedroom first?” he asks Aoi.
“Dinner is ready. We’re having hotpot,” Aoi’s mother says with a warm smile.
Aoi nods with a smile. “Oh, wonderful, Mother, Madoka-chan?” Aoi asks.
Madoka nods and smiles. “Yes, please… thank you.”
Aoi’s father lifts her up easily, though perhaps not quite as gently as Kozy always does, and carries the girl carefully out of the Genkan. Everyone follows as he carries her inside and down the hall to the left. He walks through the door into their dining area and sets her down gently on a zabuton, winking at her. Madoka blushes and looks at Aoi as she settles down to her right with a big smile. The table is already set. All that is missing is the food. Madoka’s stomach growls.
“I’ve never been in such a traditional house before,” Madoka admires, looking around as she sits on her knees. It feels good to sit on her knees for a change.
“It’s been in the family a long time,” Aoi’s father murmurs as he takes a seat in his usual position. Kanna seats herself to Madoka’s left.
“It really is something else.” Kanna laughs. “You don’t get the same feeling from hardwood floors in a 3DK.”
Aoi’s mother walks in after a few moments and sets down a large pot. Delicious smells emanate from it. “I haven’t had such tasty looking food in days,” Madoka says, feeling her stomach grumble.
Aoi’s mother blinks. “That’s very flattering! I thought that you… well, I was a little embarrassed, thinking that I might not be able to provide a meal that you would like,” she says, a touch uncertainly.
“Oh… I didn’t tell you, Mom. Their chef was fired recently.” Aoi chuckles.
Madoka nods. “Since she left, all I’ve had are simple and weird meals… or takeout.” She laughs. “It’s okay though… Kozy does his best, and it’s not like I’m entitled or anything.”
Aoi’s mother and father look at each other with surprised expressions.
“Well, I hope you enjoy the taste as much as the look of it.” Aoi’s mother laughs, and starts to ladle out food.
“That was wonderful, as usual Mom,” Aoi enthuses.
“I haven’t had hotpot in a really long time… thank you!” Madoka says, looking happy and content after her meal.
“I was thinking that we could go into town and spend some time at the arcade. Is that okay, Mother, Father?” Aoi asks.
“Are you sure? Will you be able to manage with your friend?” her father asks, his expression dubious.
“I think so. Some buses can accommodate handicapped persons now, particularly with the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics coming up.” Aoi grins, looking at Madoka. “I know you aren’t paralyzed exactly, but I read up on it a little bit, because I wanted to understand it better,” she says.
Madoka blushes and smiles. “It’s temporary, they say, but thank you, Aoi… that’s really sweet of you.”
Aoi blushes and laughs, looking away. “When you have a friend in a wheelchair, it’s expected I would think,” she demurs.
“I still don’t know anything about it.” Kanna grins. “Aoi can tell me what I need to know.”
Aoi rolls her eyes and smiles.
After helping to clean up, the girls exit the house and head up the narrow street to the bus stop. While they stand there waiting, Aoi turns to Madoka.
“So is it just the crane games you like playing, Madoka?” she asks with a smile. “I myself like a good fighting game once in a while. I’m hoping to get a round or two of Dissidia in.” She grins.
“I like them all, really, though the crane games are my favorite.” Madoka smiles. “I’ll play that with you, Aoi-chan.” She has played Dissidia, though she isn’t especially good at the game.
“I like rhythm games,” Kanna comments. “Love Live and dancing games are my favorites. The arcade we’re going to still has some DDR.” She grins.
“Really? You don’t see those as often anymore.” Madoka smiles. “I can’t really do much there though… but I’ve played it and it was fun,” she enthuses.
“Right!? I love working up a sweat dancing. And the more crazy moves, the better.” Kanna laughs.
The three are interrupted by the bus pulling up the narrow street. It comes to a stop in front of them and the door opens. The bus driver looks at the three, eyeing Madoka for a moment. He stands, and walks out of the bus.
“This bus doesn’t have a ramp.” he says. Aoi looks at him, visibly bummed out. “But we can put your chair in the storage area and I can help you up into a seat.” He smiles. “If you’re going to board, let’s hurry. I have a schedule to keep.” He bows.
The driver first helps Madoka up. Finding that she is unable to walk far on her own, he scoops her up easily. Madoka blushes again, suppressing an urge to cover her face. How many times is she going to be picked up like some storybook damsel?
The man steps up into the bus, and the passenger in the closest seat takes one look at her, then stands and vacates the front row seat. The bus driver nods to the polite man and sets Madoka down into the seat. He quickly disembarks and sets about stowing her chair. Kanna sits down next to Madoka and Aoi stands in the aisle, grabbing a nearby pole to steady herself. Buses are frequently standing room only during certain times of the day.
The driver climbs into the driver’s seat and pulls forward with the accompanying loud rumble of the motor.
The ride is invigorating for Madoka. She watches the scenery of Tsukuba go by as the bus goes for several stops. It brings back memories of a time when she was more independant. Three stops later, Aoi presses the stop request button on the pole that she holds onto and at the next stop, Aoi walks to the bus driver, not far away and informs him that this is their stop. He nods and parks the bus and steps off to retrieve Madoka’s chair. In moments, Madoka is lifted and redeposited outside in it, and the three wave as the bus continues on its route.
Aoi wheels Madoka up the street and onto the walk. The three continue on for several blocks. Madoka is unable to stop smiling. When the reach the arcade, Madoka notices that it is a smaller arcade than she is used to. It’s not a Taito Station in any case.
“We have a lot of arcades here in Tsukuba, but this one is our favorite.” Aoi smiles. Kanna holds the door for her as she wheels Madoka inside. Madoka looks around. On the inside it isn’t necessarily smaller than a Taito Station. She sees that there is only one floor. Immediately to her right she sees photo booths, which are still popular despite the rise of cellphones and selfies. She sees banks of fighting games and racing games, and a whole bank of the claw games that she loves. She grins eagerly. Although this arcade doesn’t have the machine she had been working on for months in Tokyo, maybe she can get lucky?
Aoi wheels Madoka over to a change machine. She notes gratefully that it is a rare machine that takes manaca cards and other types of magnetic payment. She fishes her phone out of the small bag that Kozuke had given her for this occasion. It is a small purse shaped like Totoro’s head. She smiles at it a moment before sliding her manaca card out of her cellphone card holder and swiping it over the magnetic reader. She presses some buttons on the screen and in moments 100 yen coins start pouring out into the bin. Madoka smiles at her friends.
“Go ahead and take some.” She smiles happily. The three distribute the coins, though Aoi protests a little, saying that it had been her idea for them to come to begin with and this should be her treat.
Madoka waves her protestations off with a grin. “Let’s have fun!”
The three are surprised when they run into Ippei and Eiji at the bank of rhythm games. None of the three had noticed the boys.
“Oh… Shadow Pres is at it again,” Kanna murmurs, pointing to the boy with now semi-fogged up glasses. He is currently racking up high points dancing on a DDR pad. Madoka gapes as Eiji steps over with a wry expression on his face.
“I can never beat his scores. I don’t know why I hang out with him. He doesn’t respect me at all.” He looks at Madoka and gapes a little. She is wearing casual clothes now, and this is the first time he has seen her in anything but the school uniform. Madoka blushes uncomfortably, feeling his eyes on her.
She is wearing a skirt and knee socks with a cute white long-sleeve shirt that Kozy selected. He packed several such cute outfits for her, including a cute nightie, and those slippers she wore earlier. She wears a set of cute heeled shoes. The shoes and the skirt are a pastel baby blue with white accents.
“You look great, Hamada-chan.” He grins at her. Kanna steps in, rescuing her.
“What, and I don’t?” she asks. She herself is wearing a pink dress. It is pink and white, and so frilly and girly that Madoka was shocked when she first saw her change into it at Aoi’s house. It suits her, though, with her long blonde twintails. In contrast, Aoi’s outfit is more like something she herself would prefer to wear. Aoi wears a set of blue jeans, a nice blouse top in a red color. Her hair is tied in the back in a loose ponytail. A pair of walking sneakers complete her utilitarian but still very cute look. Maybe it is Aoi that makes the look cute?
“Well, you do too, I guess,” Eiji says skeptically. “Change my costume and I’ll give you better compliments.” He grins.
“Not a chance.” Kanna smiles. “I don’t need your compliments, stupid pres.”
Ippei finishes his set, and steps off, wiping sweat from his forehead. He takes off his glasses and carefully clears the lenses with his shirt. Behind him the screen flashes, displaying a high score.
“Oh hi, Hamada-san,” he murmurs as he looks at the girls. “Tsukimi-san. Wada-san.” He nods to each of the girls.
“Hi, shadow pres.” Kanna grins. “Destroying everyone’s scores again I see.” She grins up at Ippei who shrugs and smiles.
“I guess so,” he replies shortly.
“I have an idea.” Eiji grins. “Since all five us are are here together, why don’t we rent one of the karaoke rooms in the back?” he suggests.
“Karaoke?” Madoka blinks and smiles. “They have karaoke here?”
“Yup.” Kanna smiles. “That’s another reason we like this arcade. They have a lot of options. That sounds like a great idea to me… what a strange thing for the stupid pres to have a good idea,” she teases.
“I wish you’d stop calling me that.” Eiji frowns. “But why don’t we go to the counter? I’ll rent the room.” He trots away towards the front desk and, after a short time, he heads back and gestures with a grin.
“Let’s go. I’m eager to hear Hamada-chan’s beautiful singing voice.” He grins at Madoka who gasps, suddenly realizing that karaoke means she probably will have to sing after all. She can beg off, but it will be rude if she does. Madoka resigns herself to her fate as Aoi wheels her to the rear of the arcade and the karaoke rooms.