Chapter Fourteen : The Girl Who Learned The Truth
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Madoka and Aoi stand together in their costumes, waiting for customers to start finding their way into the room. Aoi stands behind Madoka, hands on her waist. A few people blush when they look their way, but otherwise they talk excitedly about the festival. There is no set goal for the number of customers to have, although obviously, having more customers would be the clearest indicator of their success.

Madoka looks back over her shoulder at Aoi and Aoi winks at her. “You look lovely in that maid costume. So beautiful,” she murmurs, reaching up to touch a lock of Madoka’s hair which was styled up elegantly by Kanna when she helped Madoka into her costume. Aoi’s hair is tied back into a high ponytail, the fullness of her hair giving it great body, even though the length of it isn’t particularly impressive.

“You too.” Madoka blushes. “Kanna didn’t have to make your costume that sexy. I don’t want anyone else to look at you like I do,” she whispers as she turns around to face Aoi.

Aoi leans forward and their lips almost but not quite brush each other. “Okay… enough of that, you shameless yuri girls!” Kanna places an arm between them, blushing. “It’s adorable, but it isn’t proper! Save that for when you’re…”

“Oh, like we get to spend so much time with each other out of school.” Aoi rolls her eyes. “Last weekend was an exception to the rule.”

“It doesn’t have to be.” Kanna smiles. “Why don’t we do the sleepover thing again? I suppose you two will want to spend time together alone pretty soon,” she teases.

Ehhh?” Aoi blushes and laughs, glancing at Madoka, who also turns red. “I think so… but not yet. I mean…”

“Why? It’s not like you can get her pregnant.” Kanna rolls her eyes.

“I don’t know why. I don’t…” Aoi trails off again.

“I do.” Madoka blushes, looking into Aoi’s eyes and Aoi turns even more red.

“Um… well… then,” Aoi murmurs, breathlessly.

Kanna giggles. “Way too cute. Seriously though… try to keep it a little more private, ne?” she chuckles.

Madoka hesitates and blushes. “Um… what do you think of coming over sometime soon for a sleepover at my place?” Madoka asks hesitantly. “Tonight maybe? I’d have to clear it with Kozy and… and father… but maybe it would be fun?”

Kanna giggles and Aoi blushes. “I’d love to!” Aoi exclaims.

“Are you inviting me too? I’m afraid of ending up being a third wheel, but I have to see your place. If you have a butler you must have a palace or something, Princess-chan,” Kanna teases.

“Of course I’m inviting you too, Kanna, if you don’t mind coming.” Madoka grins at Kanna. “Kozy told me we have a swimming pool too, though I haven’t ever been able to use it, yet. I might be able to now with all the walking therapy I’m getting in lately.” Madoka bounces a little.

“Ooooh… you had me at swimming pool,” Kanna crows. Aoi rolls her eyes and smiles.

“We’d love to come. We’ll clear it with our parents when it looks like the festival is wrapping up for the day.” Aoi grins, and Kanna nods eagerly.

They wait for another half hour, chatting idly, but it becomes clear that no customer is coming yet. Eiji walks over to them. He wears his maid costume with a corset and a blonde wig. The corset makes him look much more feminine, giving him a suggestion of an hourglass figure. His walk is awkward and completely unfeminine however. He even wears a smattering of make-up, making his eyes appear larger, and his face seeming to be more femininely contoured. It wasn’t a bad job at all. He looked like a lankier and more muscled Kanna, minus her twin-tails.

“Kanna, you’re a sadist,” he grouches, scratching at his side as though it itches under the corset.

Kanna giggles. “You look so amazing though.” She blushes.

Eiji grunts sourly. “I don’t think I can stand three days of this,” he complains. “But more importantly, it’s going to be really boring if we don’t start getting customers in here.”

Ippei steps into the classroom at that point, and looks at Eiji. He grins widely and snorts, seeming to have difficulty maintaining his usual stoicism. Eiji glares at him. “You just say a word about this, Ippei. I dareyou.”

There’s a sudden flash and a classmate wearing her witch’s costume, looking like Akko from Little Witch Academia, thanks to Kanna’s well concealed otaku tendencies, grins after obviously having taken a picture of Eiji in his full crossdressed glory She laughs aloud. “This is going in the school paper.” She grins, looking kittenish.

“Don’t you dare!” Eiji complains and runs after her. The girl laughs and leads the awkward and obviously uncomfortable boy on a merry chase around the cafe tables.

“I came because no orders have been passed to us yet. Are we reallydoing that poorly?” Ippei asks, expression serious now.

Aoi nods. “Yeah. There hasn’t been anyone in here yet.” She frowns.

“Maybe we need to try something a little more drastic. Let’s print out more fliers and have some people stand at the gate and pass them out. That should work if we put our best feet forward. Will you and Madoka go?” he asks.

“Of course, shadow-pres.” Aoi grins. “Maybe stupid-pres should come too.” She chuckles.

“I’m not sure if he’d be considered a ‘best foot’,” Ippei chuckles. “He is a curiosity, though. That might work as well. Plus it might give you two time to patch things up if they need patching,” he suggests.

“I’ll print some fliers up. Just wait.” He exits the room, and Madoka and Aoi look at each other with little smiles. Kanna put the most effort into their costumes and so they look the best. Aoi wears her Momotaro costume with its peach headband tied around her head. She looks like a cross between a miko and a samurai warrior with that skirt and her boken hanging from her left hip from a loosely tied belt that Kanna included for the purpose. She wears heeled clogs and white knee stockings stitched with red thread in places to complement the red of the costume. There is an opening in the top showing off her modest bust. Somehow the costume has been designed to enhance and frame it.

Madoka blushes, catching herself staring at Aoi’s breasts more than once. Aoi blushes when she notices, but she doesn’t say anything to discourage her looking. Besides, she has more than enough eye candy to enjoy, herself. Kanna employed the same techniques to frame and enhance Madoka’s bust. We look like high school idol cosplayers, Madoka thinks.

Aoi smiles, a little embarrassed. “We should tell idiot-pres that he must come to the gate with us,” she says, and turns to walk over towards where Kanna and he stand together. Eiji looked bored. Madoka follows Aoi at a slightly faster clip than she previously had on their date together. She is becoming more adept at moving around, though her legs still hurt as much as ever. The master has been adjusting the walking brace once in a while, keeping things somewhat challenging for her. The muscles on her legs are becoming better defined slowly as the days pass.

“Idiot-pres. We need to do something to bring in some customers. Shadow-pres had the idea of standing at the gate, and passing out fliers,” Aoi tells him as she nears him, drawing his attention away from Kanna.

“Oh? Yeah, that sounds like a good idea. Ippei’s ideas are always good,” Eiji says, disinterested. “Go ahead and do it!” He turns back to Kanna, scratching his hip.

“You don’t get it, idiot. You’re coming with us.” Aoi grins at him.

“What? Whyever for?” He scowls at her, his full attention on her again.

“Because Ippei said to put our best feet forward in advertising. Madoka and I have the cute girl quota covered. We need a little flavor to bring in anyone else that won’t appeal to. I can’t think of anyone else in class that would be…” Aoi trails off, chuckling.

“That would be as flavorful.” Kanna winks, finishing Aoi’s phrase. “That’s an excellent idea. I’ve started worrying that all my hard work is going to go to waste. Do a good job, Eiji-kun.” She grins and pats him on his butt.

Eiji’s eyes widen and he blushes almost girlishly when she does that. “I call sexual harassment on that,” he says indignantly.

“Guilty.” Kanna sticks her tongue out slightly.

The three head through the hallway, each clutching a stack of fliers as they make their way to the special elevator for Madoka’s private use.

“Ugh… I still don’t understand why I have to subject myself to this,” Eiji complains, looking at the crowds around him and blushing as students who know him point and laugh. The way he walks is so un-girlish that he stands out really obviously. Madoka suppresses a giggle at his obvious discomfort, covering her mouth and soon they reach the elevator.

“See you downstairs, Madoka.” Aoi smiles.

“I’m not supposed to do this, but come on in. It’s a one time only special,” Madoka says as she opens the door with her keycard. She steps inside and leans against the near wall of the elevator, looking out at the two. “Come on in quickly. Hurry, hurry!” She giggles, beckoning them forward.

Aoi laughs, and after looking both ways for anyone watching them too closely, she darts into the elevator. Eiji follows her with a grateful expression, happy to leave the crowded hallways and enter the relative privacy of the elevator’s interior. The elevator, since it is large enough to accomodate a wheelchair and a person standing, is large enough for the three with a little extra room to spare. Madoka presses the button indicating ‘1F’ and the door closes.

“I always wanted to ride in this thing… not that elevators are all that special. It just seemed more special to me because it was your elevator.” Aoi smiles as she looks around.

The elevator jerks into motion, making their stomachs lurch, it starts squealing as it lowers itself towards the first floor. “An elevator is an elevator.” Eiji shrugs. “I appreciate being able to avoid at least a couple of people’s stares, though.” He smiles at Madoka.

Madoka nods at him. “I was fairly certain that you would appreciate that aspect of it.”

At that moment the elevator suddenly rocks wildly. With a peculiar shrieking sound from the shaft above, the elevator comes to a lurching stop. Madoka frowns and presses the first floor button. She grunts when it fails to respond.

“Oh crap…” Eiji blinks, looking around. “Does anyone have their cell phone on them?” He laughs nervously. They look at each other and shake their heads negatively. Due to wearing their costumes, none of them have any of their usual things with them.

“Oh that’s just great… was that an earthquake?” Aoi asks no one in particular. Madoka leans against the nearby wall, shaking her head. 

Wonderful… we’re stuck in the elevator with no way to call for help… and I wasn’t supposed to let anyone in with me.” Madoka sighs with dismay. They look around the elevator and Aoi spots a ‘call for assistance’ button. “Of course there would be a call for help button. This elevator was supposed to be for handicapped access.” She laughs delightedly as she presses the button, and the three settle down to wait afterwards. Finally, there’s a buzzing sound as a speaker activates.

“Office! There was a small earthquake a moment ago. Is the elevator jammed up?” a faculty member inquires, noting what line the call is coming from.

“Yes. We didn’t make it to the first floor.” Madoka blushes, taking responsibility for the situation.

“We? I understand that only one student, a…” The faculty member pauses for a moment as they check something on their end. “Hamada Madoka-kun... should be using it. The elevator is rated to safely convey multiple passengers, but for cost saving reasons you should have been informed that you are the only one permitted to use it.”

“I’m sorry. Since the festival is going on, I made a bad decision and let two people come with me so we wouldn’t be separated.” Madoka chews her lip. “I take full responsibility for my decision.”

Aoi puts a hand on Madoka’s shoulder and then hugs her from behind.

“Understood. Sit tight, I’ll see what I can do. We’re stretched thinly today.”

After that, the three settle down on the floor of the elevator to wait. Aoi helps Madoka down into a sitting position, and Madoka carefully covers herself so her skirt would not ride up. In sharp contrast, Eiji just sprawls, not realizing that the panties that Kanna apparently made him wear to go with everything else are on display. The bulge visible in them is both amusing and disturbing to the two girls when they notice it. Aoi notices it first, and, covering her face so Eiji won’t see her expression, she nods slightly Eiji’s way. Madoka doesn’t catch on right away, but blushes intensely when she does. Aoi giggles, visibly trying to hold her giggling in, and fails horribly. Eiji seems to catch on to why they are acting strangely and closes his legs, affecting a little modesty belatedly.

“Sorry about that,” he mumbles, breaking the awkward silence. “So… how did it happen… between you two?” He sighs.

Madoka blushes. “At a sleepover last week at Aoi-chan’s home.” She fidgets a little.

“So it is true. You girls really do sit around and practice making out all night,” Eiji exclaims.

Aoi struggles to draw her boken in the cramped elevator, but it’s too awkward to hit him with it conveniently so she scowls at him instead.

“That’s a hairbrained male statement if I ever heard one… not that I wouldn’t have expected that from you, idiot-pres.” Madoka blushes. She herself actually was pretty clueless beforehand and might have made such an assertion if she was still a boy like Eiji.

“That’s not how it is, idiot,” Madoka protests. “At least I don’t think so. It’s not, right?” Madoka looks at Aoi and Aoi’s eyebrows raise a little.

“You really never went to a sleepover before, I guess.” Aoi laughs. 

Madoka shakes her head no. “No… I have never had female friends before.” She blushes.

Aoi grins and caresses Madoka’s face, and Madoka blushes, nuzzling her hand. “Now you have a girlfriend. Not quite the same thing.” She winks at Madoka.

“Yes… not the same at all,” Madoka says, her heart thumping suddenly. Aoi draws close and kisses Madoka again. The kiss is intense. Madoka finds herself lost in it much like the kiss they shared in Taito Station. Perhaps the relative privacy afforded by being stuck in the elevator with Madoka is making Aoi more daring.

The two are interrupted after a while by Eiji clearing his throat anxiously. “Ahmm… do you think you could do that another time?” he asks plaintively. Aoi and Madoka break the kiss regretfully, with sheepish expressions.

“Sorry, it was one of those moments,” Aoi explains, with a little giggle.

“Oh it’s fine… I understand.” Eiji looks away, holding his skirt down more firmly. Madoka intuits the reason without any trouble and looks at him sympathetically.

After about an hour of languishing, the elevator lowers, slowly, and the door slides open. The three in the elevator cheer, gathering their flyers and preparing to do what they can with what time they have left to resume their task of gathering people at the gate.

The one waiting for them outside is Ren-sensei. He looks at Madoka sternly. “I know I told you bringing people with you isn’t permitted.” He sighs and runs his fingers through his hair.

“Sakamoto-kocho is going to punish you. The terms of your punishment aren’t known to me yet, but expect them to be steep. He’s busy at the moment, so don’t expect anything much until Monday. Try to enjoy what you can, while you can,” he says, his expression regretful and sympathetic.

Aoi steps in front of Madoka. “Sorry, Sensei… it’s my fault. I coerced her,” Aoi tried, smiling. Ren-sensei smiles sadly in response.

“I know what you’re trying to do, but this was Madoka’s responsibility, and what happens will be on her shoulders, no matter what you say.” Ren-sensei sighs.

Madoka looks at him with a serious expression; her fear is plain in her eyes. “I understand, Sensei. I take full responsibility for my actions...” she murmurs, looking at Aoi with an affectionate expression for what she just tried to do for her. Ren-sensei nods to Madoka, seeming ill at ease. As he turns to go, he hesitates and looks back at Madoka.

“No matter what happens, Hamada Madoka, remember that you’re a beautiful, talented, and determined young woman. You’ve already been through more in your young life than anyone can reasonably expect to deal with. I’m on your side,” he murmurs.

Madoka looks at him with a surprised expression, wondering about this cryptic remark. “Thank you, Sensei,” she says, and offers a smile. He nods and smiles a little himself, then steps away from the elevator. “Oh… don’t use the elevator for a while. You’ll have to do your best with the stairs for a while. They need to finish fixing the motor, and it’s going to need replacement parts.” He waves his hand as he walks off, not looking back.

“Well that’s going to suck.” Eiji comments. “I’ll help you get back up the stairs when we’re done. It’s the least I can do for letting this happen.” He sighs with a wry expression.

The three head outside, through the school foyer with its shoe lockers amidst a large crowd. People walking by examine Aoi and Madoka’s costumes and a few people eye Eiji uncertainly. They begin handing out fliers at this point with smiles on their faces.

“Cosplay Cafe, on the second floor!” Aoi grins at someone. “You’ll have a peach of a time!” She winks at a man. She worked that line out in advance.

They walk through the crowds in the school grounds. The festival outside is in full swing. Food stands and booths are set up all around the courtyard surrounding the school statue. Many are positioned under the sakura trees that are not currently in bloom. The three stop near the gate and begin their duties. Despite Eiji’s hesitance earlier, his typical reckless foolishness kicks into full gear and he begins to engage newcomers.

“C-cosplay cafe…” Madoka says shyly as she offers a flier to a group of girls that look like they’re from one of the other high schools in Tsukuba. “O-on the second floor… P-please allow me to serve you, Mistresses.” She blushes redly and curtsies in an awkward and unintentionally moe way. Aoi insisted she say this while handing out fliers, and it is horribly embarrassing. She trusts Aoi’s opinion, so she has decided to screw up her courage and just do it.

She is rewarded and further embarrassed by their gushing. “What a cute maid!” one gushes.

“That dress is amazing! All of their costumes are amazing! This cafe must be high level!” another girl grins. “Where did you get that dress? It’s amazing!” she asks Madoka.

“Ah… um… one of our classmates is a really good costume designer.” Madoka blushes at the attention.

“I hope I can meet her. I’m super excited.” The girl bounces and her friends laugh at her as they continue on, a couple of them looking back at the three handing out fliers as they move on.

The groups of boys are even harder for Madoka to handle. Her stutter and blush get even worse when she has to approach a group of them.

“M-masters.” Madoka curtsies, blushing. “C-cosplay c-c-cafe…” She extends the flier, looking away, her heart beating rapidly due to her embarrassment.

“Wow! This school has some pretty cute girls!” The boy she’s holding the flier out to accepts it with a grin. “Why don’t you show me around your school, maid-chan.” He grins. “I could think of a few services a girl like you could do for me.”

Madoka looks up into his eyes, not liking the lewd expression on his face. “Um… I’m s-sorry, Masters. It’s m-my duty to h-hand out fliers. I c-can’t help you with that,” she says, becoming anxious.

“Don’t be like that. That isn’t how a maid should be. We’re not going to hurt you.” The boys grin and laugh together. “We’ll treat you real gentlemanly-like.”

“N-no thank you. I h-have other duties.” Madoka looks up at them, allowing herself to glare at them a little, her tone firming. The one she just handed a flier to crumples it casually and drops it on the ground, stomping on it for good measure. Madoka looks around, but isn’t able to see Aoi or Eiji in the milling crowds. They have become separated.

“Then I don’t think any of us will be checking out your crummy little cafe.” He looks annoyed now at Madoka. “If you apologize for being a terrible maid, we’ll forgive you and come to it.” He reaches out and grabs Madoka’s wrist. “That sounds like a good deal, doesn’t it?”

“N-no!” Madoka yanks her wrist back, but the hand on her wrist is clamped on pretty strongly. For the first time she realizes the strength difference between her and a boy, and she doesn’t like it. Fear overcomes her as she tries to pull herself out of his grip and his friends surround her, making it even harder for her to pull away.

“What are those things on your legs supposed to be, anyhow? Is that some type of weird fetish you’re playing to?” one of the boys snarks at her.

“Ah… n-no… I need them to walk,” she says, and curses herself for letting fear make her mouth start running carelessly.

“Oh really? Are you one of those paraplegic types? That’s interesting. If I strip these off of you, does that mean you won’t be able to run away?” He grins, possibly intending that as a joke, but Madoka’s eyes widen and she lets out a scream, unable to handle any more of this.

Suddenly two of the guys yell out in pain and scatter. Aoi becomes visible as they step away, and Madoka sees her wielding her boken with a fierce expression on her face. She really does look like Momotaro, standing there in her full costume. Her stack of fliers lies scattered on the ground behind her where she has deliberately dropped them.

“What are you supposed to be?” the guy holding Madoka’s wrist laughs. “That’s a really sexy costume. Why don’t you come show us around too? We’ll show you a good time, promise!” He grins.

“She hit us!” One of the boys who got hit rubs his back. “I think I want to press charges.”

Madoka tries to jerk her hand away from the boy’s grip, but finds to her frustration she is unable to do so.

“Hey, asshole. That’s not how you treat a beautiful girl like Madoka.” Eiji has appeared suddenly, still in his full maid costume. Madoka turns to look at him and gasps as he slams his stack of fliers down onto the head of the boy who is holding her wrist. He staggers under the blow and releases Madoka finally, backing off a few steps.

“I think it’s best if you leave our school.” Aoi glares at the group of boys. “You aren’t welcome at this festival.”

The boy laughs aloud. “Wow… you’re blowing this whole thing out of proportion. Okay… we’ll go. We don’t want to hang out at a crappy little gay festival like this anyhow.” He spits on the nearby crumpled up and flattened flier, and eyes Eiji with derision. “Let the girly man play the hero.”

He looks at Madoka and Aoi. “Too bad, we could have had some fun.” He grins and the group of boys walk back towards the gate. An opening has long since formed in the crowd as people watch the commotion. As the boy passes by, Aoi’s boken flashes and his pants fall around his ankles, tripping him. He falls to the ground face first, his boxer clad rear sticking up into the air. Without missing a beat, Aoi strikes his backside with her boken, making him shriek like a little girl.

His friends turn and stare at him, and a couple try very hard to suppress their laughter.

He stands angrily, holding his pants up. “That was a mistake. Here I was about to leave peacefully and everything.” At this time however, other students of Tsukuba Shiritsu Seishun Gakuen gather around the gate around Aoi, glaring at the boy intimidatingly.

“What’s the problem here?” a guy scowls at the boy.

“That boy was trying to molest one of our students,” a girl chimes in. “I saw everything.”

“Screw off, we don’t need your kind at our festival,” another boy yells out at the boy desperately holding onto his pants. Summoning as much dignity as he is able to, he turns and shoots a glare at Aoi. “This isn’t over, bitch,” he threatens as he walks out the gate, holding his pants up. His friends grumble as they close around him.

When they’re gone, the crowd at the gate disperses and goes on about their business, a few people pausing to clap their hands on Eiji’s shoulders as they go. Madoka immediately crouches down to try to awkwardly help Aoi gather up her fliers, but is unable to do so in her walking frame.

“That’s okay, Madoka.” Aoi smiles as she handles it on her own. “More importantly, are you alright? He didn't hurt you, did he?” she asks Madoka, concern on her face as she looks up at Madoka through her lashes.

“No… I’m fine, Aoi-chan. You were amazing.” Madoka smiles and looks at Eiji who crouches to help Aoi, taking a little more noticable care to avoid flashing his panties at passersby. “You too, Eiji-kun. I’m glad I have good friends.”

Eiji blushes and laughs. “I didn’t do anything. You’re welcome, though.”

The two manage to gather up all of the fliers, plus the ones that Madoka herself dropped in the commotion, and they resume their handing out fliers for another hour or so. Aoi and Eiji stay close to Madoka, electing not to leave her alone this time, and Madoka is able to get to the point where she can greet people without stammering embarrassedly.

“Welcome, Masters! Please come to the Cosplay Cafe on the second floor! We would love to serve you!” She smiles. Aoi looks at her with a proud expression.

They return to the classroom after they finish handing out all of their fliers, and to their surprise, the classroom is full of customers, and there is a line extending out into the hall.

Kanna looks at the three and Madoka particularly. The whole class pauses while taking orders and serving, and for some reason everyone’s eyes fall on Madoka as her classmates study her.

Kanna walks over. “Good job. You’ve gotten so many people to come in. Everyone mentioned the cute girls at the gate holding out fliers.” She looks at Madoka and chews her lip, her voice faltering.

“Madoka… can you come with me to the nurse's office?” she asks softly, and then looks at Aoi. “You too. Something serious has happened.”

Aoi looks at Kanna, frowning. “Yeah, something serious just happened at the gate a while ago.”

“Huh? Oh… it’s not that. Whatever that was.” Kanna smiles a little anxiously. “Just come on, okay?” She tugs both of their hands and leads them out of the classroom as fast as possible, leading them down the hall towards the nurse's office.

When they arrive, they find no one in the room. Kanna slides the door closed behind her and leans against it to keep anyone else from coming in. She looks at them.

“What’s going on, Kanna?” Aoi asks, unable to hide her curiosity.

“This is pretty serious. It’s all over the school now. There’s no stopping it, and it makes so much sense it’s scary. I wanted to tell you both before you heard it from anyone else.” She takes a deep breath.

“Out with it!” Aoi rolls her eyes.

“There’s a rumor going around like wildfire in school today. Everyone is talking about it. It’s going from classroom to classroom and I think even the customers are going to hear about it. The rumor says that Madoka-chi used to be… a boy,” Kanna murmurs.

What?” Aoi stares at her incredulously and starts laughing out loud. “That’s ridiculous. Madoka is a little weird sometimes, but she’s the cutest girl I’ve seen next to you. There’s no way someone like her could ever have been a boy.” She giggles aloud, unable to restrain herself. “I’ve heard some really bad rumors before, but this one is one for the school history books.” She laughs aloud and wraps her arms around Madoka, hugging her.

Madoka just stares at Kanna, eyes wide, her heart beating rapidly. “N-no…” Madoka mumbles, feeling tears start leaking down from her eyes.

Kanna looks at her and nods to herself. “I knew it. You’re too weird. You didn’t know how to be a girl, really, until you met us,” she says softly. “This answers so much.”

Aoi stops laughing and glares at Kanna. “Don’t tell me you actually believe this stupidity?” she glares. “Don’t you dare insult my girlfriend, Kanna. I know you resent her for taking so much of my attention, but this is ridiculous.” Aoi flares up.

Kanna’s eyes widen at that. “Aoi-chi… no… that’s not why… I swear this is a real rumor. I just want to protect you two.” She starts crying, and Aoi chews her lip and pulls Kanna over, hugging her too.

“I don’t believe this. What type of sick twisted bastard would say such awful things about Madoka?” Aoi fumes.

“A-Aoi-chan… i-it’s true,” Madoka mumbles, shaking.

Aoi stiffens, and looks at Madoka with wide eyes. She draws back a little. “You’re kidding me!” she exclaims.

“No… I’m not. I… I wanted to tell you. That was the surgery I went through after my accident.” Madoka sniffles.

“Don’t pull away from me, Aoi-chan… I need you right now.” Madoka starts crying. All Aoi can do is stare at Madoka like she’s someone she doesn’t know.

“You lied to me!” she gasps. “You let me believe that I was in love with a girl. I accepted that I was weird… and I embraced that in myself, for you. How dare you!?” Aoi starts crying. All three girls cry for different reasons now.

“I didn’t lie.” Madoka sniffles, taking a step towards Aoi, haltingly. Aoi draws back. The look in her eyes breaks Madoka’s heart and she wraps her arms around herself, wailing. “It’s not my fault! I didn’t choose any of this for myself! It’s n-not…”

“I... “ Aoi hesitates, seeing Madoka’s distress. She turns away resolutely, however. “I can’t take this. Goodbye, Madoka.” She slams the door to the nurse's office open and barrels out into the hallway.

“N-no… Aoi… noooo!!!!” Madoka wails and tries to run after her, falling onto her face as the brace refuses to move in the way she wants it to. She collapses, curling into a ball, sobbing. “No… It’s not my fault… Aoi-chan…”

Kanna sees her on the floor and kneels by her side and wraps her arms around her.

“Sh… it’s okay… it’s not your fault,” she soothes Madoka, and Madoka suddenly starts twitching and spasming in her arms. Kanna stares at her, her eyes wide. She knows what this is even before she hears the despairing wail uttered from her friend’s mouth.

“I’m so sorry… this all went to…” Kanna bites off the bad word she was about to say in her moment of emotional despair.

Kanna ends up leaving Madoka behind on the floor on the nurse's office, twitching and spasming in her fit of PTSD as she runs for the classroom to get Madoka’s cellphone. She knows she can call Kozy if she gets her hands on that cellphone. It is all she can do for her friend. Her life would be a horrible mess now, and her efforts to spare her pain only resulted in making things worse.

Kanna rushes through the crowds and dashes into the classroom, running to the lockers in back and opening the one that Madoka uses. She grabs her whole bookbag and looks around. Everyone is going on about their business, but more than few students cast glances in her direction. Aoi is nowhere to be seen. She gets her own bag for good measure. Kanna sighs and runs out, fishing through Madoka’s bag for her cute little cellphone in its case. 

Madoka’s possessions are all very girly and not at all boyish. Kanna doesn’t know the extent of how girly Madoka wants to be, but from what she has seen, she has made a strong effort to fit in, even though her possessions feel chosen for her instead of chosen by her. She wonders idly what her friend will choose if she ever makes those decisions herself. She knows that she intends to stand by her until she finds out, and beyond that, even.

Kanna rushes into the nurse's office. Madoka is drooling on the floor and a boy is there, crouched next to her, looking panicked. Kanna looks at him and smiles. “She’ll be fine. Don’t worry. I’m her friend,” Kanna murmurs.

The boy looks at her, eyes wide. He is only around twelve. “Is she really going to be okay?” he asks her.

“Yeah. You go on and have fun.” She winks at the boy. He nods doubtfully and leaves the nurse's office. Kanna feels glad that someone wandered into the room to be with Madoka while she had to go fetch her friend’s bag, even though she is likely too out of it to know that someone was with her. She opens up Madoka’s contact list and dials Kozy as she pulls Madoka’s head into her lap and starts gently stroking her hair. The phone picks up in two rings.

“Hello, Sugar. Are you having a fun time at the festival? Do you need me to pick you up a little earlier than expected?” Kozy inquires.

“Kozy,” Kanna murmurs, letting some of her panic into her voice. “Madoka isn’t doing well. She’s had another fit. Everything is ruined. Come and get her, please, we’re in the nurse’s office.”

“R-ruined? Surely… Well… I’m on my way. Just hold on,” he murmurs, his own tone a little panicked. The line disconnects and Kanna holds her friend, softly stroking her face.

“Shhhh… calm down, Madoka. You’ll be okay… just relax. I know Aoi-chi will come around. She’s a good girl and she loves you too much not to. I promise I’ll harangue her until she realizes just how stupid she’s being,” she murmurs softly.

Kozy arrives in record time. He dials Kanna again, and when she answers, he asks where he should go to pick Madoka up. Kanna gives him directions, while still holding Madoka. Her shaking has calmed, but she is out cold now, her face tear-stained and red, and her body sweat drenched.

In about five minutes, Kozuke darts into the nurse’s office, going to his knees beside Kanna. He looks at her. “Can you come with me? I need to take her home, but I’d like to know in full detail what happened,” he says.

Kanna nods hesitantly. At least she would get to see Madoka’s mansion. It is looking to her as though their planned sleepover isn’t going to be a thing for now.

The two of them leave the school, Kozy carrying Madoka-chi like a knight in shining armor. It makes her smile seeing how tender he is towards her. No, he is more like a father. A super kind and doting father. She pulls out her own cell phone and dials her mother as she walks alongside Kozy.

“Mamma…” she says when the line picks up. “I’m going to help a friend out tonight. I’ll be home, I promise,” she says.

Her mother keys in on the anxiety and stress in her daughter’s voice. “Is everything alright? Your voice is shaking, Kanna,” she asks, concerned.

“Yes. I’m okay. My friend isn’t doing well. I want to provide her a little support,” Kanna murmurs.

“Aoi is in trouble?” her mother presses.

“Yes… no… this isn’t Aoi. I’m going to have to chew her out a little bit later, I think. Is it okay, Mamma?” she asks.

“Yes… just let me know if you need anything, Kanna,” her mother replies, her tone gentle.

“Thanks, Mamma.” Kanna disconnects the call as they push their way through the crowd around the gate. She realizes that a lot of people have been staring at them as they’ve gone by. A tall dark butler like Kozy holding a cute little maid like Madoka-chi is probably an irresistible sight, Kanna thinks. They reach the van after a much longer walk than usual. The nearby parking is occupied by people who have come to enjoy the school festival. When they reach it, Kozuke opens the rear door and lets Kanna climb in first.

“Hold her for me, please,” Kozy asks her, his tone somewhat pleading.

“I will, Kozy. She’s my dear friend, you know,” Kanna murmurs as she helps Kozuke move Madoka into the backseat with her. Kanna wraps her arms around Madoka and gently resumes stroking the girl’s forehead as Kozy closes the door and walks around quickly to the driver’s side.