Chapter Three : The Boy Who Struggled
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The frail girl with lustrous waist length black hair studies the two men in front of her in the tidy office. Her… his situation seems so surreal. He remembers the dreams he experienced vividly. He doesn’t honestly think he could forget them, even as swept up in events as he has been. He doesn’t focus on them as he otherwise would have, but now, listening to the two men banter lightly, he can’t resist having thoughts of the accident, flashbacks that paralyze him momentarily much like a deer in headlights. He thinks about the interior of the family car, which he had rarely ever had a chance to ride in, and thus the opportunity to do so had distracted him more than it should have perhaps.

Once again, he relives the experience of the accident. His will has little to do with it. The car had been a somewhat older model and it had folded upon impact in a way that newer models perhaps would not have. The result had been a skewing of the frame that had rendered the doors unopenable with normal human strength... Not that any of the family in the car had the strength or ability to escape the burning vehicle. The hood had exploded and the inside of the car had quickly turned into a hellish inferno. Madoka didn’t know the exact mechanisms of how cars worked, but he had been unable to open the rear doors and he didn’t know if the front doors were openable because between himself and their questionable opportunity for freedom were the broken and bloodied bodies of his parents.

Tears leak from the corners of the frail girl’s eyes as she stares straight ahead and the two men in the room seem suddenly very aware that the girl’s mind is a million miles away as she sits there, weakly clutching the arms of the wheelchair she was tucked into. The two men leap to their feet, rushing to the girl, putting their hands on her pale skin as she stares, tears streaming from her eyes. She suddenly screams, and the men look at each other helplessly.

“Madoka! Madoka! Are you alright?” Saito snaps his fingers in front of her face. One moment she was smiling, and suddenly she went into this episode. 

“PTSD.” Dr. Yoshi grunts, his eyes full of pity and worry. However, there is a great awkwardness about him as though he has no idea how to express his concern. It is as though there is a wall between him and the rest of the world and he simply has no concept of how to tear it down. Saito understands his senpai. He’d been focused solely on his career, and had never been a social man, but he was brilliant despite all that.

The two men feel as helpless as the frail girl agonizing before them. Their staring at one another is interrupted by the door of the office opening. Kozuke steps into the room, pleasant and professional smile on his face as always, and he opens his mouth as though to speak. However, at a glance he immediately takes note of the situation and bounds forward, turning the girl’s face towards him with his hands. “Sugar!” he calls out. Sugar screams again, wailing. Her eyes try to roll up into her head, fluttering. Her pulse is erratic and out of control; Kozuke feels it through her luminescent skin.

Madoka slammed his fists against the car door desperately, crying, screaming. “Mother, father, oh God, help me! I don’t want to die! Please save me... someone!” The heat of the fire was burning, blistering him, and the pain was agonizing. His ability to see and hear were greatly diminished. His ears rung and he heard everything as though through a layer of water, and he felt so weak. His head felt stuffed with cotton that had been ignited.

“SUGAR!!!” came an urgent and familiar voice from a distance, sounding as liquid and distorted as every other noise, but Madoka clung to that voice somehow as though to an anchor line. The car door suddenly wrenched open and sunlight shone through it gloriously. 

That hadn’t happened before… always he had died, frightened and in pain... alone… certain that he had been burned alive.

The worried butler lifts the frail girl into his arms and cuddles her desperately to him. Three concerned faces look at one another and the tortured expression of the frail girl, locked in a rictus of intense despair and agony. Kozuke holds the girl tightly, stroking her face reassuringly.

“Wake up, Sugar… everything will be alright. You will see. Open your eyes, please…” Kozuke murmurs, his voice surprisingly impassioned, and suddenly, miraculously, the girl’s face relaxes and she takes a deep wrenching breath. Her eyes open blearily. From her eyes issue a stream of hot tears, but after but a moment she looks up at the face of the gentleman holding her and smiles weakly, attempting to be brave.

“I… I am… alright, Kozuke-san… thank you,” she murmurs, closing her eyes tiredly now and seeming to relax.

The men study the girl and breathe sighs of relief, visibly relaxing a little themselves.

“I think for now our Princess should rest, Master. Are you certain that we can go forward with her physical therapy so soon?” Kozuke asks Master Yoshi, looking for all the world like a concerned mother hen.

Saito collapses back down on his chair, shaking his head and steadying himself. Yoshi straightens his coat and nods, looking at Kozuke. “Ah, yes… well… some complications were anticipated… we might have to factor in therapy as well as physical therapy. This is…” He frowns and nods. “Saito. I have the physical therapy regimen covered, but I’ll need a discreet and talented therapist. Do you think you can handle that without mucking it up?” he asks Saito. Saito nods, glancing at the girl.

“Yes, of course, Senpai. I already have someone in mind for the job. I suppose this should not be a surprise, but… are you sure you should put the strain of physical therapy on her as well as psychiatric therapy?” he asks. The girl seems to him as though if she is pushed very far she might shatter like thin porcelain.

“Yes. The sooner the girl can overcome these issues, the better. Yes, it’s little risky, but it seems that Kozuke has a surprising calming effect on the girl. No, it’s not surprising at that, I suppose. I think we can move forward.” He nods with a smile, seeming reassured. Is he relieved he has not had to forge that close bond with the girl himself? That wasn’t what he had sought when he’d decided to adopt this child, was it?

“As you say, Senpai,” Saito says, skeptically.

“May I put Madoka to bed, master?” Kozuke asks. Yoshi nods and gestures. “Give her an IV feeding tonight if she doesn’t wake up, otherwise I think it would be a good idea to get her reacquainted with bathing and simple exercises as soon as possible. You know the regimen. Start it tonight if she awakens, otherwise in the morning. For now, put her on simple fluids to keep her hydrated.” Yoshi seats himself behind his desk, seeming thoughtful, and Kozuke exits the room, carrying the girl swiftly away.

“I suppose I had best be on my way as well, then, Senpai. I’ll see how quickly I can have your therapist out here. I expect money is not a concern?” Saito asks as he stands.

“Of course not. Money is no object where my daughter is concerned,” Yoshi replies stiffly and stands again himself. He acts with the pride of a father who deeply loves his child in these matters at least, but in matters of the heart...

“Oh, you need not see me out, Senpai. I know the way.” Saito bows and smiles, and excuses himself quickly, leaving the room. When he gently and politely closes the door to the office behind him, he studies the swiftly retreating back of Kozuke across the foyer. He is tempted to call out to him to satisfy some questions he has on his mind, but he intuitively realizes that Kozuke wouldn’t appreciate that at the moment.

He’s formed a very real bond with the girl… the boy. She would naturally come first. Saito shakes his head, pulling out his pocket album once more and studying the picture of the boy prior to all this mess. It’s shocking. He can, with close scrutiny, see the features are those of the same person, but he never would have connected the dots if he wasn’t personally involved with this matter almost from day one. 

He wonders if the change is more than skin deep. Surely his senpai hasn’t gone so far as to make all the necessary changes, has he? Just how much of a woman… a girl can a boy become due to the skillful and highly unorthodox techniques of his senpai? Saito remembers the gruesome figure of the child that was rescued from the wreckage of that car. His identity had certainly been a mystery for quite some time.

He sighs, his face troubled, as he sees his way out of the mansion foyer. He walks down the walkway towards his vehicle, mentally considering the list of things that his troublesome senpai now required of him.

Some time later, Madoka awakens again, stretching and yawning. The weakness and frailty of his body brings reality crashing in viciously and he chews his lip, his eyes moistening again. This time the room is empty. The sun hasn’t gone down yet and there are still a few hours left in the day. He suppresses the tears and finally attempts sitting up, struggling with it. Between attempts, he idly notes that another IV tube is connected to the feed line in his wrist. 

He ignores that and looks around the room again, studying all the cute accents that surrounded him. With determination he finds that he’s finally able to sit up at least, if not manipulate his legs over the edge of the bed and truly sit. He decides to compromise with himself and struggles somewhat to his knees returning to his study of the room. There are lacy curtain-like things all over the place. On the bed, the walls, and especially the windows. It lends an almost spiritual air to the room in its soft girlishness.

The pink wallpaper is a light pastel color, and now that he has time to study it further, he sees there are teddy bears and other cute chibi creatures patterned across it. The boy… the girl feels an odd appreciation for the cuteness of it. His eyes move to large wardrobe. It is a work of art in a rich hardwood, and closed at the moment. Thus, his eyes slide onward to the desk and mirror. It’s the sort of desk that probably every girl wishes she had if she doesn’t. There is a lighted mirror attached to it, powered off at the moment of course, large enough that he can actually see some of his reflection within from even this distance. 

It’s the first time he’s seen himself since waking up, although he can’t see well from this distance. The figure is small and definitely frail looking. It has long black hair and very white skin. From this distance, he thinks that it looks kind of creepy, actually. The way his hair is all messy gives him an appearance disturbingly reminiscent of Sadako*. He wraps his arms around himself, shivering and looking away as the door opens.

“Ah, Sugar! I am pleased to see you awake again!” Kozuke smiles brightly as he steps over to the bed. “Are you cold?” he inquires, noting quickly that her arms are tightly wrapped around herself.

She looks up at him and smiles, shaking her head. “No, Kozuke-san… I’m alright.” 

She sets her arms back down at her sides and Kozuke nods, smiling. “That’s very good to hear.”

He studies her for a moment then. “Since you seem to be feeling a little better, Sugar, how would a warm bath appeal to you?” he asks her.

“Oh, that sounds wonderful, Kozuke! I feel awful… dirty, that is.” The girl sniffs her arm and smiles wryly. “I smell sweaty,” she says with a sour expression.

Kozuke laughs. “You appear to be keeping your balance well enough. You haven’t had much of an opportunity to study yourself. While I draw your bath, why don’t I set you in your desk chair momentarily? There are brushes and such if you should care to make any adjustments to your hair,” he says solicitously. He moves to lift the girl into his arms, and the girl leans forward, assisting him.

“I… I’m afraid, Kozuke…” she murmurs as he sweeps her upwards into his arms once again with shocking ease. He carries her effortlessly towards the desk and chair.

“Afraid? Of what? Oh… yes… you poor child…” he says softly, stroking her hair and face. “I know… I have heard stories of what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can do to someone,” he says simply, and after a moment’s hesitation, sets her down gently into the chair in front of the desk.

The girl blushes and frowns a little awkwardly at him for a moment but she seems to dismiss whatever thought that has come to mind. “Oh… yes… that… I don’t want to think about that, Kozuke-san…” She looks down. “I… I’m afraid of many things I guess...” She glances at the mirror and away quickly.

“I think I understand,” Kozuke says, not really understanding at all, or at least thinking that he did. “The world is a frightening place… and you have seen some of the worst of it. It would be easy to think the world holds nothing but troubles, but I assure you, Sugar, that your life from now on will be like a dream.” He smiles reassuringly.

“Wh-what if it is a dream… Kozuke-san… what if I’m… dead… and this is some kind of strange dream?” the girl asks, her tone plaintive.

Kozuke smiles, laughing slightly. “Oh dear one… this is not a dream. I can assure you of that. In fact, you do have some difficulties ahead of you. I must be honest… but a lot of those things I… your father, I mean..." he pauses and continues. "A lot of these things are things that we can keep you safe from. I guarantee that things will be better for you. You will have a wonderful life.” He places his hand on her wrist and kneels. “I swear this to you,” he murmurs.

Madoka blushes, shocked by the gesture and then warmed by both his words and actions, as always, it seems. “Kozuke-san… Kozy… it’s not that… I saw myself and I looked like a ghoul… a ghost… a monster… I’m hideous.” The girl places her face in her hands and hides it.

For someone who supposedly used to be a boy, Sugar certainly is concerned about her appearance, Kozuke notes affectionately.

“Sugar… I don’t know what you saw, but you couldn’t be more wrong. You are truly the loveliest young lady I have ever had the privilege to set my eyes upon or serve. Please, uncover your eyes, and look at yourself. What I said before, I meant. You will see,” he murmurs. Madoka hears a clicking noise and a little light streams in between her fingers.

The girl hesitates and then slowly moves her hands away and down, peeking up at the mirror, glancing at first and then finally really looking. She touches her cheeks, her eyes widening, shock and wonder in her expression, and possibly… attraction?

Madoka lowers his hands slowly to his lap. He really does trust Kozuke. There is something sweet and nurturing about the man. He obviously grayed early, and Madoka wonders what it was that had happened to him that had caused that. As he considers it, his thoughts flee from his mind. He spies his reflection again in the corner of his eye, and what he sees draws his full attention. He turns and really looks at himself, and he is struck by how different he is. All over. It isn’t just the face, but everything he can see in the mirror is different from what he expected.

He studies the fine features of his face in detail and touches his cheeks gently, gingerly, feeling everything perfectly. That is his face and it is excruciatingly lovely. His hair is long and mostly straight except for where it’s mussed from sleeping and freaking out. His eyebrows are delicate. His nose is somewhat smaller, his lips more full, his chin more defined. And he… can’t possibly see the face reflected back at him as male. That face is the face of a girl. One that he would have loved to date. His… her heart starts beating quickly and she blushes redly.

Kozuke reaches forward, opens a drawer, and shows her a set of brushes and combs. All very high quality. He starts the process of brushing out her lovely hair and then gently hands the brush to her, wrapping her fingers around it and smiling reassuringly.

“I will be back shortly, Sugar. There are many scented bath salts. Once you’re immersed, I’ll have you choose one. I hope you don’t mind a man scrubbing your back. I assure you that I’ve dutifully done so many times before and I will serve you properly and respectfully as always,” he murmurs.

Madoka blushes in response but nods and smiles. “I understand. Thank you Kozy. I trust you.”

Madoka can tell… those words gratify Kozuke. Madoka returns to studying herself, gently running the brush through her hair, and is amazed at how silky soft it feels as it runs through her fingers. As she moves, she senses things about herself that she can only wonder at. It’s true that she doesn’t feel anything like she used to, now that she thinks about it. There are differences in her body's balance. The breasts standing on her chest for instance, that she is trying desperately not to look too closely at, and has been trying not to think about are actually pretty generous. On an impulse, now that Kozy is gone for the moment, she touches one and is shocked at the sensitivity of it. She feels it all over, and, shockingly it feels… well, she doesn’t know what a breast is supposed to feel like… but it feels elastic, springy, soft, yet firm. How would she know if there is was something weird about her? It doesn’t look or feel weird.

Madoka stops, blushing, suddenly embarrassed about exploring herself a little right there. She is interested and yet… it’s her body, isn’t it? Is it weird that she’s a little bit excited looking at herself and touching herself? Maybe doing it in front of a mirror adds something extra to the experience. She resumes brushing out her hair, and it looks neat and somewhat glossy when Kozuke returns to her with a smile.

“Your bath is ready for you, Sugar. Ah, perhaps you would prefer Mistress, or Hime?” he asks, a twinkle in his eye as he sees her expression. 

Madoka shakes her head in response. “My name is Madoka, but I’m fine with Sugar if it’s you, Kozy,” she murmurs.

Kozuke smiles and sweeps the girl up into his arms and holds her. “As you wish, Sugar. Ah… I note that you have picked up the troubling nickname Midoriyama-san has applied to me.” His expression is wry.

“I guess I have.” Madoka laughs after being swept up into his arms. What an experience it is to be handled in that way. “It’s just… you really are cozy you know.” She smiles, seeming embarrassed. “If you don’t like it…”

“Not at all. If it’s you, I’m fine with Kozy. As you wish.” He winks at the girl.

Madoka studies the bathroom somewhat distractedly as they enter it. The bathtub really does look so inviting. She takes in all the details of the room, but the only thing she has eyes for is that bathtub and how dreamy the steaming water looks. When the water touches her skin, she yelps a little at the heat of it on her cool skin, but Kozuke gradually lowers her, making sure that she is in a sitting position and stabilized. With the hot water slowly enveloping her body, Madoka can only gasp and sigh contentedly, and finally when she is fully immersed, she feels herself zone out.

“Sugar! Don’t fall asleep!” Kozuke chastises her, and his sharp tone brings her eyes back into focus. She blushes sheepishly. “If you start feeling faint, please let me know,” he murmurs.

Madoka enjoys that bath, truly completely relaxing as Kozuke scrubs her back. She selected a bath salt with a soothing lavender scent. The scent is all around her, causing her to zone out almost as much as previously, except she is careful to stay fully awake. She doesn’t think Kozuke would let her drown, but she doesn’t want to embarrass herself, or let him down. As she relaxes, a peculiar thing happens… something he has not done since Kindergarten, since it is considered extremely rude in a family home where everyone shares the same bathwater. She can’t help it, though. A stream of warmth ejects from between her legs that is at once more relaxing and more mortifying than anything else could be at that moment. She blushes and acts as though nothing happened, though Kozuke does note the sudden strange tension in the girl. Though he wonders at it, he doesn’t say anything, much to Madoka’s relief.

The bath is complete shortly after, and the dutiful butler pulls the girl gently out of the tub and wraps her in the fluffiest towels she has ever felt. She very nearly falls asleep right there. If it weren’t for the edge of embarrassment she struggles to hide, she might have.

Kozuke dutifully and yet tenderly dries the girl’s body, and then helps her get dressed in a set of clothes that he selects for her. There’s a lacy floral bra, matching panties, a cute skirt that accentuates her very feminine thighs, a blouse, and short socks to keep her feet warm. The girl is then placed snugly in her wheelchair seat and wheeled out of the room and to the foyer. From there she is taken into a different portion of the house that she has not seen before. She is taken to the dining room, where the master waits. It is a small dining room. Even though the house is opulent, a man like him has no use for a table that would seat more than six at best. It, like the rest of the furniture in the house, is Western in style. Madoka can comfortably sit in it in her wheelchair at it.

“My daughter. You look good,” Yoshi says with a smile. “Today is our first meal together, obviously. Nosey Saito wanted to join us, but he had more important things to do. Are you feeling better? I need you to try to stay in control of yourself. Episodes like earlier will put your life in danger. Even a young one like yourself could end up having a heart attack or a stroke. I’ve invested far too much in you to…” His words are broken off by the noisy entrance of a service cart, and the smiling face of the maid Midoriyama.

“Oh, aren’t you looking lovely this evening, Sugar?” she gushes, examining the girl while bringing the cart to a stop and starting to serve the meal. Madoka blushes in response to the unexpected compliment.

“Ah… hello, Midoriyama-san,” Madoka says, embarrassed by the compliments. 

“Oh, none of that… call me Hisako. Or even Onee-chan.” She grins at the awkward looking girl as she sets a bowl in front of her. “Actually, I think I would much prefer Onee-chan, so do please use that.” She winks.

“Oh? When did I adopt you as well, you shameless girl?” Yoshi harrumphs.

Midoriyama grins broadly at her master. “Shameless, Master? Why don’t I show you just how…” She grins, leaning down in front of Yoshi as she trails off suggestively. Yoshi looks away awkwardly. Kozuke swats the back of Midoriyama’s head, very gently, and she straightens, looking back at him challengingly. He returns her look blandly. Eventually she shrugs and winks at him as though to say she can’t help her nature, and finishes her dinner service.

Madoka is struck by the strange dynamic between these three. Midoriyama seems to enjoy teasing Master Yoshi. Kozuke is like a loving but stern older brother to Midoriyama, quietly exerting a stabilizing effect on her. They are clearly not related, but they seem very family-like to Madoka. She studies the master. Perhaps he doesn’t realize it himself? Madoka looks down at the meal placed in front of her and sighs. It’s broth, of course. There is a little serving of rice on the side, which she is happy to see, but it isn’t anywhere close to being the mountain of Karaage that her mind tells her that she wants right now. Even so, she hesitates only a moment before quietly enjoying the meal.

“Tomorrow will be a big day for you, Madoka,” Master Yoshi says from across the table after the two eat quietly for a short while. “You will start physical therapy immediately. I expect you to put out maximum effort. It will take much effort to even bring you about to the point where simple actions we take for granted daily don’t completely exhaust you. Nosey Saito insists on your going back to school as soon as possible, and I suppose I must agree with him. You’ve been out of school for entirely too long for someone your age. You’ll regress into idiocy if I let you lay about here for the rest of your life.” He sniffs, taking a bite of his much more substantial looking meal. Madoka stares at it longingly for a moment before turning her attention back to her own meal.

“Yes, sir,” she responds. “I’ll do my best. I hate being weak like this,” she murmurs, showing a little fire. Even Master Yoshi has to nod approvingly, seeing it. 

“Not only that, but what happened earlier… your episode brought it to my attention that you will need other help as well. Starting as soon as possible and as needed from now until who knows when, a mental health specialist will work with you. I expect you to do your best there too. Your mind is perhaps even more important than your body.”

Madoka nods, feeling a little annoyed finally. No one ever wants to be told they need psychiatric help. “Yes, sir,” she says, perhaps a bit less agreeably. Master Yoshi notes the frustration in her tone, but doesn’t comment on it.

The rest of the meal is concluded without further incident.

The following day, Madoka’s physical therapy begins. Kozuke is in charge of it. They start by introducing spring tension contraptions attached to Madoka’s arms. She is made to sit in front of her mirror and brush her hair that way, or to do other simple tasks with her arms and hands. It is incredibly hard. After only ten strokes of a brush, her arm feels leaden and she has to switch hands. Kozuke gently encourages her, and for her part she shows fiery determination as she continues with her upper body therapy.

The therapy also focuses on leg and torso exercises. On a mat brought in expressly for the purpose, Madoka is laid down and held down while she lifts her legs. This is oh so much harder than even the arm exercises. She can only do five reps per leg. It hurts a lot, and tears stream from her eyes at times, but she struggles forward with it, multiple times a day. 

Physical training isn't all that she is expected to do. A day later, in between exercise sessions, she is helped to her desk and a pile of study material is put down in front of her by the stern but still caring butler. Madoka winces, but being as she had good grades before, this isn’t as much of a trial as the physical therapy.

“Master Yoshi still has some influence among his peers, but not even he can get you into a good high school without your having to take the entrance exam. He was able to arrange for a special testing with the local high school. With your past record, neither he nor I believe you should have any difficulty,” Kozuke murmurs as he sets a tray with a tea cup and a small mochi in front of the girl. He winks at her when she sees it, and she smiles warmly at him. Sweets aren’t exactly in her prescribed diet, but Kozuke doesn’t see the harm in a little sugary encouragement.

In another couple of days it is clear Madoka is making progress with her physical therapy. It tires her less to sit at her desk and read and write, though she still is unable to even consider walking, and still has to take breaks periodically. The addition of electrotherapy into the mix seems to help as well. Master Yoshi explains when he monitors one of her sessions that she isn’t as strong as she used to be, and likely won’t be any time soon due to the hormones in her system. He explains that estrogen encourages the building of body fat and has other effects he doesn’t really care to explain, whereas testosterone, which she now has a great deal less of in her system, is an aid in muscle development and growth. The bottom line is that it will take a little more time, but she will gain the necessary muscle to become independent. She just has to work hard for it.

Madoka’s mental therapy sessions began around this time as well. Social Saito arranged for a therapist (a woman of just twenty-four years, much to Master Yoshi’s consternation) to start paying visits to the secluded mansion. 

Miura Shizuka is a brilliant young therapist who comes highly recommended by Saito. Being a social worker, Saito comes into contact with many types of people he regards as his peers, and Shizuka has one of the strongest and most interesting characters of all of those people. Most importantly, she is quite talented and discreet. Of course, this is a legal requirement in the field, but over and beyond that he has found her to be a particularly exemplary specialist in her field.

Madoka first meets her in the mansion’s garden. Ahead of time, Kozuke took Madoka out to enjoy that morning on the garden's gazebo. When Shizuka pulls up to the mansion, they both see it, and Kozuke momentarily leaves the girl. He finally feels all right leaving her alone, for short periods at least, because she is making great progress and looking stronger, so he leaves her there sitting in her wheelchair. He walks quickly to greet the woman who steps out of her vehicle. Madoka can’t see her very clearly at this range, but she notes that the woman has blonde hair that glints in the morning light. That in and of itself is highly unusual to say the least. Madoka is fascinated by that hair and she watches her as she is escorted into the mansion by Kozuke. The woman glances her way several times, speaking with Kozuke lightly as she leaves Madoka’s field of view. Afterwards Madoka waits and enjoys the morning air.

The mansion is in the mountains some ways outside the Tokyo Metropolitan area. She recalls that they were headed through the area of Mount Tsukuba. She supposes she must still be in that area. She can’t see much beyond the garden except for the gates, the tall trees of the forest around the mansion's grounds, and a nearby mountaintop that’s more of a hilltop. There aren’t any huge mountain peaks to loom overhead… at least none that she can see.

The garden itself is warm. Cicadas chirrup noisily, and as before, birdsong comes from various places in the surrounding area. The creek burbles and chuckles its merry way through the well maintained garden. A squirrel bounds across the flowerbeds, looking for edible things. She’s never really seen one up close, so she’s mystified by how cute it is. Its little whiskers are twitching as it looks around here and there. It doesn’t seem to see her as a threat, however, so when she moves, it freezes a moment and looks at her, and then just as quickly goes on about its business, which delights Madoka.

Her thoughts are interrupted by the seemingly sudden approach of Kozuke and the blonde woman. The woman approaches the girl and smiles broadly.

“Oh my… you’re a real life Yamato Nadeshiko aren’t you?” she gushes, impulsively throwing her arms around the girl in a very un-Japanese manner. Madoka blushes and squirms a little, looking at Kozuke who laughs softly behind a raised hand.

“Sugar, this is your therapist, Mrs. Miura Shizuka-san,” he murmurs, introducing her politely. “This as you know is the young mistress.”

Shizuka pulls away, looking the girl over again, and whistles. “Uhm… Shizuka-san… your name is very…” Madoka hesitates in continuing her words not wishing to be considered rude.

“Oh, yes, I know. Everyone asks about it. I’m half-Japanese. Born and raised here. The other half is American. My father I’m told was a gaijin otaku,” she laughs. “I don’t want to go over my whole life story, but yes, that’s why I have blonde hair. and yes. it is natural.” She smiles, winking at Kozuke who coughs awkwardly in response.

“Would you mind stepping away, Kozuke-san?” she asks after a moment, seeming more businesslike suddenly, Kozuke blinks, looks at Madoka, and then nods. “Of course.” He bows and steps away, leaving the two ladies alone on the gazebo. Shizuka then pulls up a chair, seats herself and smiles at the girl.

“I had heard that you were in a pretty traumatic accident. You look so stunning I could never have imagined it. As your therapist I’m going to need to ask you to talk about it a little, if you think you can handle it. I heard that you have PTSD symptoms, so I would like you to go slowly, and say only what you’re comfortable with saying for now. We have a lot of time to get to know each other, so don’t force it. I get paid more that way." She whispers that last part jokingly. "On a serious note, I will sit here with you for as long as you need me to.” She smiles encouragingly.

Madoka haltingly and then increasingly with greater ease talks about her feelings. It doesn’t take long for her to open up to Shizuka. Her friendly face and demeanor help her to relax, even though she looks like an outsider. That easy confident manner quickly wins over Madoka. Not in the same way that Kozy’s nurturing manner does, but in a more casually friendly way.

She talks about her dreams, treading carefully. Whenever she feels a surge of out-of-control emotion she stops, taking deep breaths as Shizuka instructs her. The woman even holds her when tears stream uncontrollably down her cheeks. By the time the session is done, the two have formed a curious bond with one another. Most of all, when Madoka finally mentions that she used to be a boy, Shizuka is astonished, seeming floored. 

She probes the girl gently for details, and the more she hears, Madoka can see that she is becoming visibly angry. In response, Madoka draws in on herself. Noting this reaction, Shizuka’s expression blanks and becomes more relaxed and supportive.

“I’m sorry, it’s not you. Don’t worry about it, Madoka,” She pauses a moment, noting that Kozuke is still hovering nearby. Not close enough to overhear or interfere, but close enough to betray the dear man’s feelings towards the girl… boy?... who sits placidly in the wheelchair next to her. She is happy to see such caring in him, and just seeing that caring brightens her mood a little, but she still needs to have a word with Master Yoshi, who has not said a thing about this to her before, nor had that idiot Saito.

She gestures towards Kozuke, who seemingly in relief walks back towards them. There was not a chance in the world that he would have missed a signal even if she had been subtle about it. This is a very fine man indeed. Idly she chews her lip, wondering if the man is available. Surely someone like him would be… she puts it out of her head. This is not the time to be thinking about such things.

“The session is done for today. I think Madoka will be just fine. She’ll need much support and plenty of additional sessions, but you have a strong young… girl here.” she pats Madoka and winks at her. Madoka smiles at her in response, seeming embarrassed by the compliment.

“I need to speak with your master.” She straightens and takes Madoka’s hand. “It’s been a pleasure to meet you. I’m looking forward to working with you in the future,” she says.

“Yes… please take care of me, Sensei,” Madoka replies, for all the world like a polite lady. Shizuka steps away and walks back towards the mansion. When she is far enough away and out of sight of the -- girl? -- her strides become more violent and purposeful. She storms into the mansion and then into Yoshi's office, her expression seething. She knows that this behavior and reaction are highly unprofessional of her, but she really doesn’t care about that at the moment. Yoshi seems understandably startled as she slaps her hands down on his desk forcefully and stares at him intently from the other side of the desk, her eyes seeming to bore holes through the old man.

“Are you INSANE? I can’t even conceive of the potential damage something like this could do to him!” she practically yells.

The cat was out of the bag, clearly.

An hour later, Kozuke escorts a mollified and puzzled-looking Shizuka from Master Yoshi’s office. Kozuke doesn’t know the extent of what went on in that office, but when he returned his young charge to her room to get her out of the growing summer heat in the garden, the scene he came upon wasn’t a pretty one. 

The Gods only knew how he managed to get the two to speak civilly to one another, let alone prevent Master Yoshi from firing this woman on the spot. After seeing how she had been able to reach Madoka earlier on the Gazebo, he knew he had to act. Somehow it all worked out. She not only seemed mollified at the end, but expressed an intense desire to continue working with Madoka, much to his relief, and if Master Yoshi had been stiff and angry, he had been willing to go along with that.

Things are looking good for Sugar. If things continue to go so well, she will take the entrance exam soon and attend High School. He is excited for her from the bottom of his heart.



Sadako* - Infamous Japanese horror film. You know it.
Yamato Nadeshiko* - Classic Japanese beauty. Exhibiting the aspects of Japanese beauty that best exemplifies what is perceived as femininity by the Japanese culture.