Chapter Eleven : The Depth of Their Feelings
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Aoi’s mouth presses down on hers suddenly and the shock stiffens Madoka. She has lost hope that she will ever find a girl that might be interested in her in this way. It has hurt her, thinking that perhaps it is her fate to end up the wife of a nice boy. She has been halfway resigned to that possibility, not imagining that her new friend would ever reciprocate the feelings that she has tried to quash. The sudden passion of Aoi’s kiss causes her brain to melt down.

She stiffens at first and feels tears pour from her eyes and her mind blanks as she reciprocates, arms wrapping around Aoi. Aoi herself seems startled at first but does not stop kissing, and as the two kiss, the mood heats up instead of cooling down. Aoi tentatively quests out with her tongue and Madoka instinctively reciprocates, caressing hers against Aoi’s gently, passionately. Gentle holding turns to heavy petting as the two heat up and Madoka feels an intense heat building in her lower abs and spreading out from that point. A heat that she is unfamiliar with, but which drives her on.

Hands quest gently over each other’s soft bodies and fingers grip the fabric of each other’s clothes. Aoi’s tongue plumbs Madoka’s mouth deeply and Madoka accepts the penetration wholeheartedly, welcoming it and wanting more of it. Madoka tugs her friend’s shirt up slightly. As she does, the door slides open and Kanna’s gasp shatters the intense moment like thin porcelain under a hammer. Aoi’s eyes widen and her already blushing cheeks blush an even deeper shade of crimson. She throws herself backwards and the friends stare at each other uncertainly, panting.

Kanna gapes, blushing redly herself as she looks around then quickly hurries in, closing the door behind her.

“What is this??? What did I just see?” she asks, her expression turning slightly lewd. “Oh my! Aoi-chi… Madoka-chi… I didn’t know you leaned that way.” Her expression is kittenish and teasing.

“I… I don’t… Kanna… it wasn’t what it…” Aoi protested and then looked at Madoka, chewing her lip in consternation.

Madoka is frozen solid with shock as she stares at Kanna. Even her tears have stopped. Kanna starts laughing and kicking her feet. “Oh, this is too good,” she squees. “If it isn’t what it looks like, what is it, Aoi-chi? Careful… you don’t wanna hurt Madoka-chi’s feelings.” She grins.

“N… no… I… I… I... “ Aoi claps her hands to her burning cheeks, looking around in desperation. “I need to go!” she gasps, jumping to her feet and rushing to slide open her bedroom door and slam it shut behind her.

Kanna watches her go with an amused expression and then she turns her attention to Madoka, wrapping her arms around her knees as she sits on a cushion at the small table where she had sat before she had left the room previously. She is now wearing a nightie as cute as any of the ones that Madoka herself had been provided with, in pink of course. Kanna seems to like the color pink a lot.

Madoka stares at her and suddenly seems to thaw. “I… I…” she gasps in much the same way that Aoi has already done, trailing off.

“Well, I actually expected it a little from you, Madoka-chi. Believe it or not. It was just a guess though. You respond to the boys, but you also look at the girls a little. I was reasonably sure that you were into both.” She giggles. “Just so you know, I don’t exactly swing that way myself.” She grins.

“What amazes me is that Aoi-chi does. I never read that in her, not in all the time we’ve spent together. She never looked twice at me and honestly, no offense intended, I think I have you beat slightly in the cuteness department. Very slightly.” She smiles at Madoka holding up her fingers to show the very small amount she means metaphorically. “Again, no offense, but you’re weird, Madoka-chi… you act strangely. No one else seems to get that except for maybe Aoi-chi. We haven’t had a moment to talk, just you and I, until now. If you don’t mind, I’d like to ask why you seem like you don’t fit in perfectly. It’s like you’re just learning these things we take for granted for the first time in your life,” she points out.

Madoka gapes and blushes, floored by Kanna’s sudden perceptiveness. “I... “ she hesitates. “Um… you… you wouldn’t believe it. Trust me...” Madoka closes her eyes and hugs her legs up against her like Kanna does. She buries her face in her knees, however. Tears leak from her eyes and she sniffles, feeling a panic attack coming on. She hasn’t had one in a while, but this situation is just too much for her to handle. Her emotions are running so high with elation, disappointment, fear, and anxiety. She feels herself starting to hyperventilate as Kanna gently probes her for information.

“Try me. I have a pretty good imagination and an open mind. Are you some kind of super sheltered princess who only got let out of her cage recently? That would explain why you’re so awkward,” she says with a giggle.

Madoka looks at her, still breathing hard. She sees the way out in that moment. She can lie, she can encourage that belief that Kanna already holds. The words she is about to say die on her lips. She feels herself overwhelmed again as she felt several times before, most notably in the master’s study what seems to her now so long ago. She doesn’t want to lie to one of her only friends in the world. She doesn’t want to lie anymore at all to anyone. She needs to tell someone the impossible truth, but when she opens her mouth, nothing comes out. Her eyes glaze and start fluttering as she relives the nightmares of her accident once more.

Kanna rushes forward, realizing that something is wrong, and she wraps her arms around Madoka, hugging her.

“Oh wait… no… what’s going on?” she asks, at a loss as Madoka starts to wail unintelligably. She hugs her, not able to do anything else. She didn’t mean for it to be like this. All she wanted to do was poke a little gentle fun at her best friend’s new budding romance, as shocking as it had been for her to discover. Now this is happening and she has no idea of how to cope with the weird noises Madoka is making. What sort of princess is she? Madoka certainly doesn’t quite fit her idea of one any longer. Princesses stay calm under pressure. Or is she just putting the idea of one up on a pedestal? She can see the tears streaming from Madoka’s eyes as she cries.

“AOI-CHI!” she screams loudly. “AOI-CHI COME BACK!” she yells, desperately. Hopefully her friend hasn’t gotten far.

Aoi darts from the room in a panic, slamming the door behind her. She hesitates when she reaches the door to the back garden and hops from one foot to the other, indecisively. She does not want to see her parents right now. They will ask her questions she does not want to answer. They will ask her things that she herself doesn’t understand. Aoi pushes open the door and rushes outside into the garden. She runs instinctively to a place she knows very well. In a corner of the garden is a dense group of trees and bushes. There is a spot deep amongst the brush that is still hollowed out. It has been her private place, her secret fortress when she needs to escape, particularly when she was much younger. She needs that desperately at the moment.

She crawls inside the brush, barely fitting now. She hasn’t been in her special place in years now and she has grown since then. Once inside the brush, she sits and curls up, rocking a little. She doesn’t care if she gets her clothes dirty. That was never a concern for the younger Aoi, who loved to play here. She loved to get dirty and play with the boys, even getting rough with them. Being boyish had just been her way growing up. Eventually a day had come when she had started to blossom, and the differences between her and the neighborhood boys had become more and more pronounced to the point where they couldn’t be ignored. The boys grew stronger; she grew in strength too, of course, but only slightly.

To compensate, she had convinced her father and mother to let her take kendo lessons, having at that point been enamoured of samurai dramas and stories. She had decided that if she were able to become a master swordswoman, she could level the playing field with the boys and regain what she had lost. She didn’t want to be a boy, exactly, she was just always the most comfortable around them. She understood them more than she did girls her age. Girls liked cute and pretty things and she liked cool things like boys did. She didn’t reckon on what her natural female development would do to her, however. She continued to learn kendo, but as if something or someone wanted to prove how futile that was, she had her very first period while at kendo practice one day.

She had panicked, thinking that she had been struck by an attack that had hurt her inside, somehow. The instructor had taken her aside, determined the issue, and then arranged to send her home for that day, where her mother had explained it all to her. That had truly started her down the road to womanhood, forever separating her from the boys. Her mother had explained all about it. She had gone down that road, but it had been kicking and screaming, rather than a willing journey. In the end she had come to accept it thanks to Kanna. Kanna had taken an interest in her, the class tomboy. At first, Aoi wanted nothing to do with her. She was the girliest girl that ever girled. She was the epitome of what a young Japanese girl should be, and even at a young age her cuteness and presence had been almost idol-like. That was not her, it was not who and what she wanted to be.

Kanna had worn down her defenses and the two had become grudging if not fast friends. Kanna helped her to understand the parts of the equation that had been gibberish to her before; though she still wasn’t super girly herself, she had been able to embrace her own image of femininity, and that had been more than good enough for her friend. Neither of the two had been attracted to each other, physically. As much as Aoi admired her friend, she was not sexually attracted to her.

That is why Aoi is unable to comprehend how things have gone so very wrong with Madoka. Or so very right… a voice inside of her says, persistently. That kiss had been mindblowing. She hasn’t ever imagined what her first kiss will be like. That sort of musing is for cute girls who think of nothing but boys all day long. If Kanna hadn’t come in when she had, where would she be now? She is very certain that things would have escalated well beyond anything that could have been easily ignored or explained away. They already did. There is that inner voice again. You reciprocated… no, you started it. You wanted it. You wanted to explore that cute mouth. You needed to touch Madoka and-- She blushes redly, feeling faint suddenly as she cuts off that line of thought harshly.

“AOI-CHI!” Aoi sits up, shocked by Kanna’s loud and sudden yell. “AOI-CHI COME BACK!” The panic and desperation in her friend’s voice decides her course of action. She still feels angry and confused, but she pushes those emotions aside and squirms out of her hiding place and runs across the garden to the door, sliding it wide open. Her mother rushes up the hallway towards her room.

“What’s wrong, Aoi?” she asks, her expression worried.

“I… I don’t know… I’m checking now!” Aoi blushes and dashes into the room, unable to meet her mother’s gaze. Sorry, Mama… your daughter is strange.

She slides the door open with a bang and sees a look of relief cross Kanna’s expression for a moment when she sees Aoi, but her expression changes again to worry as she looks at Madoka laying in her arms.

“Aoi-chi… Madoka-chi… she’s… I don’t understand it,” she wails, hugging Madoka. Madoka’s eyes flutter, her skin is pale and she wails again. The sound of it chills Aoi. Her mother rushes in behind her and she stares in shock at the girl having an episode of some sort on her daughter’s floor.

“I… oh… I’ll call emergency!” she declares and rushes out. Aoi hesitates and then dashes forward, hugging Madoka.

“MADOKA! Stop this, you’re scaring Kanna… what’s wrong? Are you okay? Please…” She feels tears in her eyes as she caresses the girl’s face with her hand. Madoka’s eyes focus and she mumbles. Aoi gasps, noticing the reaction, and despite her desire to withdraw, she continues to gently stroke Madoka’s tear soaked face. “Shhh… shhh… it’s okay… just relax… I’m here… I get it. I know,” she says softly, hugging her. She understands instinctively at that moment that Madoka is experiencing something frightening, and it has reduced her to this. Kanna sobs and cries softly, seeming to do her best not to be too audible. She catches on pretty quickly to the reaction that Madoka has to Aoi’s touches and she leans back slightly, seeming to not want to counteract Aoi’s efforts by making things worse in some way. Aoi is grateful for that.

Madoka’s wails lessen into whimpers and then she closes her eyes and rubs her face against Aoi’s caressing hand, seeming to control herself. Kanna draws back at this moment with a soft sigh and a quivering lip.

“I’m so sorry, Aoi-chi. I didn’t want this to happen. Who could have known?” She wrings her hands as she speaks quietly. She doesn’t carry on, however, she just steps aside and puts her head in her hands, shaking it. Her twintails swing back and forth as she worries.

Aoi nods to her and looks at Madoka, wondering at how she was nuzzling her hand. Madoka’s nuzzling makes her feel strange again. She puts that out of her mind for the moment, and just hugs her friend.

“Are you okay, Madoka-chan?” she asks softly.

Madoka takes a deep breath and nods. Suddenly Madoka feels hot as a stove to her and she knows her friend must be blushing incredibly. “I… I’m sorry, Aoi-chan… I really am… I… I have problems. I have a lot of them… I’m such a burden on everyone!” She trails off, sniffling.

“Oh…. it’s okay… don’t think about it… just relax… do you need to go to the hospital?” she asks her friend softly. Madoka gasps at that and shakes her head violently. “No… I don’t need a hospital. I just have these fits sometimes… it’s really rare. I don’t want to go to a hospital… it will be okay now,” she says, her tone pleading. Aoi hesitates and looks at Kanna.

“Go stop Mom… please, Kanna.” Kanna looks at her, and blinks, uncertainly, herself. She looks at Madoka, and then she nods, jumps up, and darts out the door.

They manage to cancel the emergency call, although Aoi’s mother insists that they call Madoka’s guardian. Not wanting to involve Master Yoshi, Madoka decides to use her cellphone to call Kozuke.

The phone rings and Kozuke picks it up immediately. “Sugar? Is everything going well?” he asks.

“Yes… no… Kozy…” Madoka trails off, crying a little. “I messed up, Kozy… I had another fit. They’ve been gone so long I thought I was in the clear, but something happened and it just triggered it…” Madoka cries. Aoi pats her back gently and Kanna hugs her again.

“Oh no…” Kozuke sighs. “I’ll be over immediately!”

“Ah… you don’t need to do that, Kozy… I think I’ll be okay… Aoi-chan’s mom wanted me to call someone and let them know. I’m really sorry about this,” she sniffles. “It was all going really well, too… I feel so awkward now.”

“It’s okay, Kozy,” Kanna says, putting on a tone approaching her usual good cheer. “We’ll take good care of her. I promise there won’t be any more problems,” she calls out. Aoi rolls her eyes and smiles. 

“Yeah… we’ll look after her for tonight… you get some sleep,” Aoi adds, grinning at Kanna who giggles in response.

The laughing of the two serves to soothe the worried butler’s worries. Kozuke grudgingly nods. “Alright. Tell them that I expect them to do a good job of it,” he says gruffly.

Madoka, infected by the sudden joviality, giggles as well. The heavy mood shatters then and the three hug each other tightly. Aoi’s mother watches from the door, her expression initially skeptical. Finally, she too smiles.

“I’ll bring some chocolate to you girls. Make sure you brush your teeth before you sleep.” She leaves and slides the door shut behind her.

“Thanks, Mom!” Aoi calls out with a smile as the three girls giggle. Kanna is the first to throw a pillow, then, her mischievousness triggered by the happier mood. Stunned at first by her audacity, the other two pause and then, seeing the smirk on Kanna’s face, they join in. The room fills with the sounds of laughing and shrieking. Kozuke listens to the fight escalate and, with a laugh, disconnects the phone call.

Around the same time, Sakamoto-kocho studies his computer screen, scrolling through a series of records. While checking them routinely earlier, he had noticed a glaring discrepancy that he thinks he can’t ignore. He has a few connections with Social Services and a couple of other government agencies. Saito isn’t talking now, but he knows that something is up. The exceptions that have been made in the case of Hamada Madoka, or should he say Fugui Madoka, have been highly suspicious in nature. The question now is, does he want to open this Pandora’s Box or does he want to leave it closed? He looks at the earlier transcripts and records of the boy named Fugui Madoka and thinks.

The rest of the night goes well. Madoka and Aoi are unable to forget their kiss and sometimes find themselves staring at each other, but Kanna is there to help keep things lively and relatively uncomplicated. They enjoy cups of hot tea and pieces of chocolate and talk long into the evening. Finally, Aoi’s mother knocks on the door to tell them to get settled down. She adds once again that they need to brush their teeth. The three girls smile wryly at one another and the two trudge out, leaving Madoka behind for a moment. Kanna returns shortly, with a cup of water and a basin, and Madoka uses it gratefully, to brush her teeth. When she is done, she looks at Kanna with a warm smile. “Thank you, Kanna-chan.”

Kanna giggles, seeming to want to say something, thinks better of it, and then just says: “No problem. Aoi-chi will be back soon. I think it might be a good idea if I sleep between you two tonight. If you two don’t agree with me, that’s fine, I just want to help out.” She smiles uncertainly. “Plus I’m kind of a third wheel. If you two start cuddling, I won’t know what to do with myself.” She laughs. “Oh… poor stupid pres.” She shakes her head, actually grinning as she says this.

Madoka laughs, not understanding everything going on with that grin. “That might be a good idea,” she allows.

When Aoi returns, the two girls together help Madoka up, and they are able to get her into the bed. The three are small enough to lay together with Kanna in the middle.

“Mmmm… warm…” Kanna giggles. “But I think I’d rather be sandwiched between…” She trails off with a blush. Aoi snorts and swats Kanna. “Owie!” Kanna complains.

Madoka blushes, sort of getting the idea. She is shocked at her friend’s perverted comment. She is not one to judge, however, she knows. Kanna hasn’t been the most perverted of the three here tonight. Kanna isn’t the one who nearly lost control. Madoka shakes her head and sighs, sleepilly. Kanna snuggles between the two and the three giggle softly as they hug and drift off to sleep. Even though it is the beginning of Autumn, it is still hot enough that the three don’t need covers, particularly with pajamas and nightclothes on.

When they wake up in the morning, Aoi is already up and out of the room. Madoka rubs her eyes, looking around. She half-expects to see the lacy curtain-filled room she occupies in the mansion. Instead she sees Aoi’s room and blushes redly, remembering last night vividly. She hugs herself and next to her Kanna shifts, mumbling in her sleep. She wakes, her thick lashes fluttering a little. She yawns cutely and rubs her eyes and then looks at Madoka. 

“Morning, Madoka-chi.” She sits up and stretches, looking around. “Oh… Aoi-chi’s doing her morning sword exercises,” she comments. Madoka looks to where she has seen the wooden practice sword leaning against the wall nearby and notes that it is indeed missing.

She sits up as well, and mimics Kanna’s actions slightly, rubbing her tired eyes. “Oh, is that where she is? I wondered.” Madoka blushes. “I kind of want to watch her… do you think she would mind?” Madoka asks hesitantly.

Kanna rolls her eyes a little. “Yes… no… I don’t know. I don’t think she would have before last night. She still might not. Why don’t we ask her? The sooner she wraps it up, the sooner we can go shopping!” She bounces a little.

“Shopping?” Madoka asks, her eye arching slightly. “I didn’t hear anything about this.” She frowns.

“Saturday ritual, Madoka-chi. What did you think we would do? Just go home today? Today is Saturday! We’re going out to have a little more fun before we go home.” She smiles. “Unless you can’t?” she asks.

“No… I don’t think so… I mean… I think I should call Kozy again… but I don’t think he’ll mind. He might even drive us around,” Madoka points out with a smile.

“Hey… yes… he might!” Kanna bounces happily and then laughs. “That solves that problem, maybe! You call Kozy and I’ll run out and ask Aoi-chi if she’ll show off a little for you.” She winks at Madoka, and Madoka blushes, embarrassed and squirming slightly under her friend’s teasing gaze.

“Ehe… cute.” She taps her finger against Madoka’s nose, laughs in response to Madoka’s blush, stands, and exits the room. Madoka hesitates a moment before pulling her cellphone back out of her bag which was, thankfully, left nearby. She scrolls to her quick contacts and taps Kozy’s name.

This time it takes two rings, but the butler answers quickly enough. “Sugar? Are you ready to come home?” he asks her.

“Oh… no… I didn’t understand it, but it seems sleepovers are complicated things. We had a pillow fight and ate chocolate and had a long talk… and this morning we’re going to go shopping.” Madoka smiles, recounting the, theoretically, more normal sleepover items to Kozuke.

“That’s wonderful, Sugar! I’m so pleased to hear that your night was successful after all. We were very worried for you!” His tone is full of relief.

Madoka blinks. “We?”

“The master and I of course.” Kozuke chuckles.

“The master? You told him?” Madoka hisses, confused. Her tone is slightly accusatory.

“Why… yes, of course I did. He is your legal guardian. He needs to be notified of these sorts of things, don’t you agree?” Kozuke’s tone was stern.

“I… yes… I guess so, Kozy.” Madoka blushes. “I just thought it was our… secret,” she trails off.

“Something like that cannot remain a secret. When it concerns your health and personal well-being, it is your father’s business,” Kozuke chides her.

“You’re right… Kozy. I’m sorry,” Madoka apologizes. “Um… so Kanna and I were wondering if you’d be willing to drive us to a mall today, Kozy. Is that possible?” she asks.

Kozuke hesitates a moment, seeming to think it over. “Yes, I think it should be alright. I have little enough to do at the moment, particularly since you have been out of the house. It would be my pleasure to help you. What time shall I be there?” he asks.

“Um…” Madoka checks her phone’s clock. “It is 7:30 now... I don’t know… maybe 9:00?” she asks.

“Sure,” Kozuke replies. “I shall see you soon, then. Do you need anything else?” he enquires.

“No, I’m okay, Kozy.” Madoka smiles, seeing Kanna waiting at the door. “Thank you! See you at 9:00,” she says, and disconnects the line. She looks up at Kanna.

Kanna grins. “She’ll be in to help me take you outside soon. She’s gone to get your chair and is wheeling it around the garden. She seems eager to show off a little for you. When she gets here, we’ll take you out back and put you in it so you can sit while you watch her. Aoi’s mom is super good with sleepovers and timings of meals, so breakfast is probably nearly ready. If we’re quick, though, you should be able to see Aoi nerding it up with her sword.” She laughs.

“How is kendo nerdy?” Madoka asks with a raised eyebrow. “It’s really cool,” she protests.

“It’s old-fashioned.” Kanna shrugs. “I fill a seat in the club for Aoi-chi’s sake, but I’m more interested in cosplay.” Aoi’s face pops in behind Kanna and she glares at the blonde twin-tailed girl.

“Old-fashioned? It’s still relevant, Kanna.” Aoi frowns. When her eyes meet Madoka’s her cheeks flush and she looks away.

“When you usher in a new age of Samurai, let me know. I’ll make a killing selling cool modern kimono and loincloths. I’ll even throw in a sexy loincloth for you for free.” She grins.

Aoi blushes again and swats Kanna. “Owie,” she complains.

The two help Madoka out with slightly more ease than they have anticipated and they set her in her chair, just outside. The garden is beautiful in the morning sunlight, Madoka thinks. Aoi looks at Madoka, not meeting her eyes.

“I already completed my normal exercises, but since you’re interested, I’ll show you.” She smiles.

“First and most important is your posture.” She demonstrates, gesturing as she does, turning so the two girls can see the line of her back muscles. She straightens her back and pushes her shoulders back into a relaxed position, her chest slightly pushed out. Her bottom clenches and her feet separate. She rolls her shoulders.

And so does she… Madoka sighs inwardly, watching her friend with more than scholarly interest.

“See? The line of my back is straight, my butt muscles are supporting my lower back, my feet are relaxed and slightly apart. My posture is like an invisible line is hanging from the sky and supporting me.” She gestures upwards. Madoka blushes in response. This pose has, mostly, just served to draw her attention to nice places of Aoi’s body that are inappropriate to stare at. Up until now, she has been able to force her eyes away from such areas for the sake of politeness and conformity, but Aoi is candy for her eyes now, and it is hard to hide that fact.

Aoi looks at her and blushes, looking away. “Are you here to…” She was going to say ‘watch me’, Madoka thought. “Are you here to learn or not?” Aoi scowls, face still red.

“Yes… I am.” Madoka looks down, chastened.

“Good, then next is wearing the sword,” Aoi says, her tone businesslike. “You hold the sword like so… blade up in your left hand, unless you’re left handed. You must not raise the boken above your hip. Keep your arm straight. Keep your thumb off-center. If you should ever use a real sword, you don’t want to cut yourself.” Aoi smiles. Madoka nods, interested. It reflects in her face and her fading blush encourages Aoi to relax a little more, herself.

After several kendo lessons and breakfast, it was nearly 9:00. The three girls head out the front door to see Kozuke waiting just inside the front gate. Finding that they were able to do so with only a little more trouble than Aoi’s father himself would have had, the two girls escorted Madoka out. Kozuke gave them a small elegant bow and smiled, pleasantly.

“You seem to be well, ladies. Are you ready to leave?” he asks.

Madoka smiles and nods at him. “Yes, please, Kozy!” She waves her right hand, excitedly, as she wheels outside the house genkan behind the two girls.

The three approach the gate and Kozuke holds it open for them. They step out and go through the usual routine of Kozuke helping Madoka into the backseat of the van, before wheeling her chair to the back and loading it up. The two girls climb in afterwards. Kanna gestures to Madoka, flipping her fingers forward. Madoka blinks and nods, moving over to the side in acceptance. Kanna seats herself in the middle and Aoi on the other side of her.

Aoi blushes and frowns a little and looks at Kanna. “You don’t have to go to so much trouble, you know. I can handle the situation like an adult,” Aoi whispers.

“I know. Just keeping everything going smoothly.” Kanna smiles. “Greasing the wheels…” She trails off and breaks down into laughter. Madoka and Aoi look at each other behind Kanna, sighing. They make faces, grinning at each other.

They head into town and Kanna directs Kozuke to the mall she has in mind. The girls disembark when Kozuke parks the vehicle nearby. He turns towards them. “Did you girls want an escort inside the mall?” he asks.

Kanna and Aoi look at each other. Aoi grins and nods her head positively. Kanna shakes her head indicating she’d prefer it if Kozuke didn’t come along, and then shrugs. The two look then to Madoka, who looks back at them. For answer, she grins and nods, two thumbs up.

The four head into the mall with Kozuke pushing Madoka’s chair.

They begin the adventure of moving from store to store and checking out cute things. When one sees something that interests them, she points and the other two crowd in to look. Kozuke watches politely, not engaging, though he does smile. Madoka smiles back at him. They pick out several cute matching My Melody keychains. Aoi and Madoka hesitate; the cute character is not exactly their style, but at Kanna’s insistence they buy them together. She seems really happy afterwards, skipping and bouncing a little as they move on to clothing stores. “Friends, for-ever!” she says in a sing-songy voice.

They start by looking at cute tops that are very Tokyo fashionable. Kanna picks out several cute blouses. Aoi sticks to simpler blouses and tees. Madoka follows Aoi’s example, feeling that her casual, not too cutesy style better suits her. They move on to pants and skirts. Kanna chooses out a skirt in a gothic lolita style, and after only a moment or two’s hesitation, she snags the matching top as well. She tries to convince Madoka to try on something like it, but Madoka steadfastly refuses. Aoi picks a cute pair of jeans that seem like they will be very flattering on her. She blushes a little while doing so, and surreptitiously snatches a creamy blouse with a bit more decoration than the others she has chosen. It looks to Madoka as though it will go very well with the jeans she has chosen.

The girls move to the changing room and try on what they have picked out. Thankfully, there is a larger changing room, allowing Madoka’s wheelchair to pass inside, and affording it excess room. The three crowd into it and unconcerned, Kanna starts to undress. Aoi hesitates a moment and then seems to make up her mind, following her lead. Madoka blushes and forces herself to not stare at Aoi. Kanna, on the other hand, flashes Madoka on purpose in an effort to tease her. Madoka recognizes it as the way that she teased the two boys at karaoke the previous night. 

Madoka treats her teasing differently than she expects. She stares at her openly in a way that shows she’s not affected by it. Well, she is definitely affected, and is able to appreciate the cuteness of her friend’s body. Unlike with Aoi, she is able to ignore that attraction as she has been since finding herself in this situation and going back to school. Kanna pouts a little when she realizes her little teases are ineffective on Madoka. Finally, fed up with her joking, Aoi bops her on the head again. “Aiiiee... “ she complains. Madoka and Aoi laugh together and Kanna joins in, grinning.

Kanna and Madoka both complement Aoi when she tries on the pants she has chosen. Madoka notes, amusedly, that the cream blouse she noticed Aoi snag earlier isn’t anywhere to be seen at the moment. Madoka tries on a pair of jeans she has herself selected. Combined with a T-shirt, it makes her feel a little more like her old self as she examines at herself in the mirror. Well, she has to be honest with herself. She doesn’t look a thing like her old self, but in her off days she preferred to wear these sorts of clothes. The feel of them is like a welcome home to her, in a way. 

Even though she wears them differently. These accentuate her figure and are nearly as flattering as the cute things that Kozuke usually sets out for her to wear. Although she resolves herself to definitely purchase these, and to ask Kozuke if she can get more clothes like this in the future, she won’t admit that the clothes she has been wearing are starting to grow on her a little. Kanna has a quality of cuteness that makes even her want to compare herself and compete a little. Aoi studiously looks away from her after trying to force herself to look at Madoka normally. It seemed clear that she can’t. A blush quickly stains her cheeks.

I hope things go back to normal at least a little between us, Madoka thinks sadly. The tension makes it hard to be as natural together as usual. At least it is hard while they attempt to maintain a distance between them and deny what has happened. I wish she would kiss me again, she thinks. She blushes at that thought. Shouldn’t I want to kiss her? There is something inside her that says that that is not what she wants. She definitely wants Aoi to kiss her the way she had last night. She wonders if Aoi will ever do so again. The feeling makes her feel girlier than ever, even though it is also a girl that she has her heart set upon. She doesn’t understand how that makes any sense.

The girls finish up and check out their items. Kozuke stands politely off to the side until they leave the store, and then takes their bags for them while Aoi pushes Madoka.

Why can’t I stop thinking of her? Aoi chews her lip as she pushes Madoka’s chair. She looks at the delicate curve of her neck where it meets her shoulder. It is a neck that she wants to kiss, and that thought makes her flush again. Madoka’s soft and lovely lips. She feels herself wanting to look into her beautiful violet eyes. She admires that small and cute body. Why is it so hard to just shut it off, she asks herself. She has to admit that she looked at Madoka before the kiss, not really understanding her feelings towards her or even acknowledging them. What is she going to do with these feelings, now that she knows? It feels impossible to her. She feels deeply saddened. How long will they even be able to remain friends? The way she feels and the way Madoka herself seems to feel, it seems inevitable that they will either separate forever... Or… or what? She blushes. What do I want?

Everyone around her will judge her if she accepts these feelings openly. There is also an even better issue. She hasn’t ever looked at another girl the same way she looks at Madoka. These feelings seem to be meant only for one person. Isn’t that the way it is? Don’t people find their one true love? Do they really have to be attracted to anyone else before they notice that person? She finds herself trying to look at other girls in the mall on the way out, and there are plenty of other really cute and fashionable girls much like Kanna, and even some who are the soft and weak type like Madoka. Is that my type? I thought I liked samurai! She looks at those girls in particular, but still she finds herself unable to find them attractive in the same way that she finds Madoka. That scares her. Why does Madoka excite her so?

Sorry for the delay, everyone! I'm distracted at the moment! I promise I'll finish this all the way to the end. I'll submit it this Wednesday on schedule!