Mouikkai Musume, Chapter Two: The Man Who Hid Himself Away

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Editor: Trismegistus Shandy

.·:*:·.**.·:*¨¨*:·.** Chapter Two **.·:*¨¨*:·.**.·:*:·.
The Man Who Hid Himself Away
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Madoka blushes, flustered and a little annoyed as the butler wheels him… her he supposed he was now, reaching down surreptitiously to confirm once more what she had been told. She nearly faints when the tactile sensations the nerves in her fingertips transmit to her brain once again corroborates what Kozuke had told her.

Kozuke studiously looks away as he wheels her down the hallway at a measured pace. He couldn’t blame the girl… the boy for it. Finally, the girl speaks. "Tell me more about this... master of yours. Is he a total idiot?" Madoka murmurs, her question extremely blunt.

Kozuke hesitates and almost trips. A brief flash of what would have happened if he had, the girl’s wheelchair careening down the hall, crashing into the foyer, destroying everything in its path, makes him wince visibly as much as her comment does.

"Not at all! He's a very kind man. When we witnessed your car accident, he had me search the wreckage for survivors... and due to that, you're here, alive today," Kozuke firmly replies. "The master deserves your respect." Madoka however, already had that sad look in her eyes again, and he noticed she wasn't paying attention. Kozuke sighs and shakes his head, patting hers after a moment.

I need to be more careful about what I say around Sugar... of course reminding her of the car accident will make her think of her loss… Kozuke sighs mentally.

After a moment of thought, he pauses in the foyer of the mansion, looking down at his young charge. "Please cheer up, Sugar... the sun's bright and you're awake again. Everything will be alright," he murmurs, and finishes tousling her hair. At that, Madoka looks over her shoulder, looking perhaps a little less depressed.

"It's strange... when you say that... it cheers me up a little... I don't know why." she murmurs, turning to face forward again. Kozuke wheels the frail girl out the front door, tapping a button on the side and causing it to open electronically. The whole house had been prepared in this way for a long time during Sugar’s coma. The doctor had anticipated that its newest resident would not be fully ambulatory for a time.

He continues to wheel the girl down a ramp and along the side to an expansive garden. Madoka squints, shielding her eyes from the sunlight. Even though it was later in the afternoon, it was still far brighter than her eyes were prepared for, and yet the sun felt so good on her skin. It burned a little but it warmed her in a way that she welcomed from the bottom of her heart. As her eyes adjusted, she was able to take in the topiary, the flowers, the trees and statues in a Greek style. This master of Kozuke's had money to burn... or so it seemed. Her eyes open wide in awe.

Kozuke finally responds to Madoka’s observation. "Perhaps it's because I said things like that to you daily that you were lost in your coma. Wake up, Sugar. The sun’s bright and everything will be alright. I would not be surprised if you were able to hear me. I’m gratified that you could." Kozuke smiles. The girl frowns and nods in response.

"I think maybe I did hear you... There's…. your voice is comforting… like I’ve heard it all my life." she murmurs. The garden is pleasant. There are the aforementioned greek statues, or at least replicas of them, seemingly randomly placed here and there throughout the garden, although for the randomness of their placement the plants are placed to great effect. Several different types of grass, flowers, and trees, including many Sakura trees that are not now in bloom, but she can recognize them among the other trees and anticipate how beautiful they would be come April… whenever that was. The other trees stand tall and verdant, suggesting it was summer, so she supposes it will be a whole year before she can see them.

There is a little stream trickling merrily through the garden and stone walks and paths through it. A warm breeze blows through the grass and the locusts chirp loudly, while songbirds sing their trilling intermittent songs.

"The garden is really... nice," Madoka murmurs appreciatively, taking a deep breath, taking in the fresh summer scenery around her and letting herself zone out.

Kozuke smiles and nods in response. "Yes... it is... the master has a great love for plants and greenery. It's one of his few passions." Kozuke smiles.

Kozuke wheels the girl forward after a time towards an area with a wooden gazebo. This too had been fitted with a ramp. The stoic butler wheels her up into the shade and parks the chair in the direction with the best view of the garden around and the forest trees beyond the property.

“Some sun is good for you, but too much at once will cause problems for you yet, I am told.” Kozuke pulls the brake handle on the wheelchair and turns to face the girl, going to one knee in front of her. Madoka is shocked to see there are tears in the man’s eyes. She looks into them, fascinated by this man. He seemed so gentle. The most gentle man she had ever met. She didn’t know how a stranger could care so much for her and yet she had the feeling that he really did somehow. He seemed to be on the point of saying something.

The moment is ended by the sudden appearance of another figure on the gazebo, it was a man visibly older than Kozuke. Madoka examined the man as he eyed Kozuke testily. He was short with graying originally dark hair. He wears a dark gray blazer buttoned once in the front and neatly ironed slacks. His posture is erect and his expression becomes somewhat exasperated.

“If you’re done bonding with her, Kozuke, I would like a moment with my daughter,” he says in a crotchety tone. Kozuke blinks and smiles slightly at Madoka, rising gracefully to his feet.

“Of course, Master Hamada,” Kozuke murmurs. “Madoka, I present you your adoptive father, Doctor Hamada Yoshi. The Plastique Professor. An unrivaled revolutionary in…” Kozuke speaks, his tone reverent and respect filled.

“Yes, yes… thank you Kozuke,” the older man chuckles, cutting Kozuke off his expression embarrassed. “I can toot my own horn quite well enough you know.” he looks at Madoka, his look of embarrassment fading into a look of admiration. Just like a man admiring his greatest masterpiece, Madoka thought.

The Master seats himself in a nearby chair in front of the girl and thinks for a moment.
“I wasn’t sure that you were ever going to wake up, girl. I thought about stuffing you, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.” he says.

The girl stares and then gasps, eyes wide at the man who suddenly barks a laugh. Madoka retreats as much as possible into her wheelchair seat. Kozuke reflexively puts a comforting hand on her arm. “Just kidding, girl.” The Master laughs, seeming amused. “You really did turn out amazingly though. The work of my life.” He pats himself on the back. “I see it even more now that you’re finally awake.”

“Are you some kind of crackpot, you old fart? Why would you do this to me?” Madoka responds angrily after a moment, recovering from her shock. Her fear exploded suddenly into helpless anger. She felt extremely weak and vulnerable right now. Any type of threat, even one from an old man like this was deadly serious to her. That fact just made her angrier. She had never felt this way before in her life!

The old man gapes for a long moment each insult seeming to hit the old man hard. After a moment he collects himself visibly and looks at the girl testily.

“A crackpot? Me? I’m a genius I’ll have you know! No one else could have done more with you than I did! Be a little grateful! If it wasn’t for me you would be renting yourself out as a monster at haunted houses every Halloween and making good money doing it!” retorts. “If you even were alive to begin with. Show a little gratitude.”

Madoka’s eyes widen and then harden, full of tears. “I would if you hadn’t stolen my manhood away from me, you old fool. What am I supposed to do now? My parents are dead and I’m mangled… What am I going to do? My life is over!!!” To everyone’s surprise, Madoka breaks down, crying loudly, in a way that even surprises Madoka. What’s wrong with me? Madoka wonders to herself. She couldn’t stop crying. Visions of the accident, visions that she’d relieved over and over in an endless cycle flash in front her eyes. She feels herself slipping away as she curls up into a ball in the wheelchair, seeming to lose touch with everything as the hurricane force of repressed emotions threaten to drown and suffocate her.

Suddenly she feels arms around her. Strong comforting arms. She shakes and sobs and after a while, finds that she can breathe again. Her eyes open blearily and she sees that it’s Kozuke, holding her tightly, comforting her. The Master sits across from her still, looking worried, and somewhat guilty maybe.
The supportive butler pats her back gently as she hiccups and recovers, breathing hard. He doesn’t say a word, but turns a chastising eye on the older man who stiffens and looks away guiltily.

Finally, Madoka breathes, feeling more relaxed. She feels even more exhausted than she had before but more in control of her emotions. Finally, she eyes the old man and the old man eyes her, both guardedly.

Finally, Madoka breaks the silence.

“I’m sorry, Doctor. I spoke rudely. I do owe you my life,” she murmurs, looking down and away slightly.

The old man studies her and relaxes a little, nodding. “That you do. I had no way of telling who you were beforehand. It was only half a year ago that I managed to track down your identity, and that took a bit of doing, you know,” he says, attempting to make his voice more gentle. “You look like you’re a bit too tired to hear all the story now, but I’ll be happy to tell you all about things when you are physically up for it.” The old man stands, running his fingers through his thinning hair a little awkwardly.

“Kozuke, please prepare her an IV as usual and I’ll take my meal in my study,” he says awkwardly and after eyeing her, walks away off of the gazebo, seemingly deep in thought.

“Yes, Master Hamada.” Kozuke murmurs.

“It seems it was too early for her yet… we’ll start mild physical therapy tomorrow, and…” Master Yoshi talks to himself as he paces back to the building, seeming very much lost in thought.

After a moment, Kozuke pats the girl’s frail shoulder. “Let’s get you inside, Sugar,” he murmurs softly and starts wheeling her down and towards the building as well.

“I... I thought I would get to eat tonight?” Madoka murmurs, feeling tired out. Why was she so weak? She’d never felt this exhausted before just from crying.

“The Master and I got ahead of ourselves a little bit, I think. We were both excited that you had awakened. I think the Master somehow expected your first meeting to go a little differently. It can’t be helped. You must get to know each other. Please keep in mind that the master is a little eccentric… he’s a little bit of a shut-in and can be a little awkward around people… but he has a big heart. He was a philanthropist, sometimes doing work pro-bono as they say. For free. He specializes in repairing the bodies of people who were damaged beyond the point of healing in accidents and incidents. His techniques are cutting edge and revolutionary… well beyond what modern medicine is said to be capable of. He has performed miracles that his colleagues were jealous of… but because his methods were unapproved, they took away his license, stating that he was conducting illegal human experimentation and testing. I suppose it was a case of the medical community not seeing ends as being more important than the means.”

By the time Kozuke had completed this story about the Master, Madoka realized that she had been returned to her lacy girly room. She looked around tiredly as her wheelchair was parked by the bed and Kozuke busied himself with lifting the girl easily into his arms and sitting her on the bed. She hadn’t realized they had come so far so quickly. She had been focused on his words and his soothing voice to the exclusion of all else.

“I will prepare you a nightgown, Sugar.” He smiles at her and she smiles back, her expression becoming wry when she sees the cute flowery nightgown that Kozuke had picked out for her. He notes her expression and laughs a little as he sets the gown down on the bed beside her after showing it to her and begins helping her out of the light clothing that he’d selected for her only a few hours previously.

“I apologize if the clothing offered offends you. The Master and I know little about feminine fashion so we ended up enlisting the maid Midoriyama for that, who you will meet soon I assure you. Her selections seemed quite apt,” he murmurs as he completes the process of undressing the girl, leaving panties in place as he slips the nightgown over her head, and then sets about helping her to get into bed.
“I’m assured by her that her choices are quite fashionable for young girls in Tokyo these days.”

“Kozuke…” the girl says sleepily as she looks up at the man tucking her in. “The Doctor said that he found out who I was last year… couldn’t he have fixed me in all that time?” she mumbles tiredly.

Kozuke sighs and shrugs. “Ah… fixing… doesn’t seem to be an appropriate term. In our eyes you are perfect the way you are. The Master’s greatest work, but far more than that I assure you. I’m not certain that he could even if you convinced him to try it. It is not a process one should undergo lightly, and was only really possible because you were ruined and comatose after the accident. A more apt question would be the one that you asked earlier. What will you do?” he asks her gently, smiling.

She yawns and finally nods, grudgingly. Kozuke sits next to the girl and strokes her hair lightly as he had been wont to do when she was in a coma. He looks down at her, and his presence, Madoka is startled to find once again is reassuring. He was like a rock she could cling to in the midst of the chaotic river that was her life at the moment. It was only possible because this man didn’t look at her as a man would at a pretty girl or a woman even… not exactly.

“What will you do?” he repeats and smiles. “You will train hard, regain the ability to walk. You will learn and grow as you have done so far in your life. You will hopefully form relationships with the people in your life now who care about you. You will graduate, and chase your dreams like all young people do. Over? Your life has only begun, Sugar. You will see it.”

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"D-DAD!!!" Madoka screams pointing straight ahead. Time seems to slow. Instead of accelerating ahead, the driver had chosen to switch lanes and slow down. There was no time to stop or swerve. Madoka screams as he feels his body snap forward….

Madoka tosses and turns fitfully, sweat soaking her sheets as her dreams haunt her, repeating over and over again. She feels a gentle hand on her suddenly and slips finally into a deeper and more restful sleep.

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The next day Madoka awoke early; a shaft of sunlight was streaming through a nearby window and falls squarely upon her face. Her eyes flutter and after a moment of squirming in the soft sheets she opens them and sighs. She had somehow wrapped herself around a second pillow during the night. She doesn’t remember doing it, yet the cushiony warmth of the pillow feels good against her skin. The comforting contact keeps her from moving much for a little while, but finally she pushes the pillow aside and looks around the room. She still feels so weak as she struggles to sit up on her own. She was so frustrated that she started to cry a little as she forced herself up into a sitting position finally.

She wipes the streaming tears away as she studies the surrounding room. She knows that yesterday’s events weren’t a dream. No, they were reality, cold and harsh reality. She sobs a little, thinking about her parents again but after a bit she screws up her courage, clenching her teeth. A man didn’t cry no matter what happened to him. Well she wasn’t exactly a man… a boy any longer but there was no reason to be so weak. Because it had been so hard to merely sit up, she knew that there was little chance that she could hope to walk. Even so, she tried to maneuver her legs over the edge of the large bed she lay in. It was like a fluffy soft prison. She flailed, trying to get some type of leverage, eventually giving up.

Her eyes turn towards her wrist. The IV drip line was connected to the needle in her wrist again. They must have fed her through it last night after all when she had fallen asleep. As she reaches across with her free hand and fumbles the tube free, the door to the room opens with a click. A figure enters the room and closes the door behind it. Madoka tiredly rubs her eyes and focuses them realizing that this was the Master.

She remains quiet as he walks over to the bed and pulls up a nearby chair. He studies her quietly and after a moment Madoka grabs the pillow again, putting it between them like a shield. The man barks a laugh.

“Morning, child. I trust you’re feeling a little better today? Maybe a little hungry?” he asks. He pulls the pillow away, shockingly easily, and studies the girl, finally pulling her into a sitting position. It was clear she had been attempting to sit up.

After sitting up, Madoka’s stomach growls suddenly at the mention of food and she blushes a little, not saying anything in reply.

“You might not say so, but your body’s honest about it.” He studies her another moment. “I see you don’t feel much like talking to me. That suits me just fine. Just listen then, and afterward I’ll have Kozuke or Midoriyama send in a little broth.” He sits back and composes his thoughts for a moment, and then speaks.

“About one year ago there was a collision in the nearby roadway. The sound drew my attention. There’s not much around here but Onsen Resorts and such. I gather that your family was headed for one of those,” he says. He waits a moment for confirmation and Madoka nods finally.

“I could have called an ambulance and they might have gotten here in time but I didn’t think that was likely. You were in a critical condition, about to die of third degree burns and blood loss among other things. I had Kozuke cut you free of the wreck, but unfortunately there wasn’t anything that could be done for your parents. They took most of the damage from the accident and I believe passed away quickly without too much suffering. You, on the other hand, were a different story. You had been trapped in the wreckage until Kozuke cut you free. It’s a miracle that you survived.” The man studies Madoka. Tears stood in her eyes but she didn’t show any signs of breaking down as she had yesterday. Good… she has some steel in her. Master Yoshi thinks to himself.

“Once you were stabilized I went about doing my best to repair the damage. I didn’t have much to go on, so I went with what was there. I’d never had anyone as severely damaged as you to work on, and when it’s like that it’s like… for lack of a better euphemism… carving wood. You start with something that has no features like an end of wood or a stick and with work bring the patterns you see in the wood out of it. I look at what I do in the same way an artist looks at what they do,” the Master says, not seeming to particularly care if Madoka is listening or not.

Madoka does indeed listen, taking in everything the man says, and yet still remains quiet. She was still feeling resentful and even fearful of this man who had changed her so much as she saw it. Without her permission, without her consent. Who was he to decide such things?

The Master seems to see the resentment in her face and shrugs. “I understand how you must feel. While I was working, the only thought I had was that I was saving the life of a poor girl whose options were suddenly cut short.” He studies her and shakes his head. “I only found out your identity later while you were healing from most of the work I had done.” The door to the room opens at this moment, and Kozuke enters, interrupting the Master’s words. He looks at the figure of Kozuke.

“Master. It seems Social Saito has paid you another unannounced visit.” He smiles a touch. Master Hamada looks at Kozuke incredulously, and then exasperatedly, sighing. “That nosy busybody... “ he grumbles and looks at Madoka. “It looks like our little talk will have to wait. I have to deal with that impudent Kohai of mine.” he stands up and then seems to consider something.

“Kozuke… I think we’ll have tea. Put my daughter in something lovely and wheel her into the study.” He smiles and Kozuke bows.

“Of course, Master.”

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“Social” Uchida Saito is a young man of medium height. He has dark hair cut short, friendly eyes and a way about him that says that he will poke his nose in your business whether you want it or not, out of curiosity or for whatever reason. He waits patiently in the foyer of the lovely well-kept mansion house of his senpai Doctor Hamada Yoshi. He is still amazed at how opulently ‘western’ the place is and in truth likes to make excuses to come visit just to take in the place. Saito is actually very proud of his Senpai and the relationship he has with him. It is true he had had his license revoked, but even so it is undeniable that his senpai is a true genius when it comes to aesthetics and beauty. These natural talents tie well into his chosen vocation, that of a plastic surgeon.

They hadn’t worked in the same field, rather their relationship had been formed when Yoshi had sought a way to help others around him. It might have been boredom or some other reason, Saito had no idea which was the case. Being a social worker, Saito had ended up working with the prestigious and eccentric genius somewhat regularly.

He had helped find cases of people, who had been burned horribly in fires, disfigured in accidents of all kinds, and in almost every case Yoshi had found ways to repair the damage beyond the expectations of what surgery should be able to accomplish. Furthermore, his work had been pro-bono or free in most cases. There had been times where he had charged people but an astonishing number of times he hadn’t, and when he had, the price had never been unaffordable. Still, he had managed to accrue a great deal of wealth despite having his license revoked in the last few years.

Saito blinks as his senpai taps him on the shoulder. He hasn’t been paying attention.
“I see you have your head in the clouds as usual, brat,” Yoshi grouches good naturedly. “To what do I owe this unexpected and unwanted invasion of my privacy?” he asks, eyebrow raised. Saito laughs, scratching his head. “Oh don’t be like that, Senpai. I don’t need a reason to want to visit my good friend do I?” he laughs.

Yoshi scowls suspiciously. “You’re up to something, brat,” he harrumphs. “If that’s your story, come along. Kozuke will bring tea shortly.” He starts walking towards his study and Saito follows with a wry expression. They don’t go far down the hallway, but Saito still examines details as they walk together. Yoshi has hung various art pieces in the hallways. Most them are abstract works, far more abstract than one would expect from someone in the profession that Yoshi was. He half expected to see one of his patients end up looking like a Picasso painting come to life, and yet he’d never failed to see anything but perfect symmetry to his work.

They enter Yoshi’s study and Yoshi gestures absently to the chair that he usually had Saito sit in when he visited. Saito didn’t actually pay any attention, naturally taking the seat, and sitting back, crossing his legs. “You look well, Senpai,” he says with a smile.

Yoshi grunts and nods. “Well enough. I trust you are as well? Of course you are. You’re still a young brat aren’t you? Don’t they say something about fools never catching colds?” he gripes good naturedly.

Saito laughs. “Ah yes… they do say that, Senpai. Actually I did come here for an official reason,” he ventures.

“Don’t you think I couldn’t guess that? In fact, I did didn’t I?” Yoshi grumbles. “You’re going to bring up Madoka again, aren’t you?” He pokes a finger towards Saito who shrugs and smiles.

“Sort of,” Saito confesses. “I know that she’s in good hands, but we’re concerned that after a year we haven’t heard anything about her recovery, and…” Saito spreads his hands in a manner that indicates helplessness.

“Hah… that’s where you’re wrong!” Yoshi grins, seeming extremely self satisfied.

The two banter for a while and as they do Saito becomes increasingly suspicious of his Senpai. He had started dodging questions, without any real care to make decent arguments, and Saito was actually starting to become annoyed with his irascible Senpai when the door clicked open.
“Ah, the tea… and a treat, I expect.” Yoshi grins.

Saito frowns and looks awkwardly over his shoulder, he looks suddenly astounded as a wheelchair is pushed into the room. It isn’t the wheelchair itself but the contents of the wheelchair that astonished him. Seated in the chair daintily is an incredible beauty. Young, true, but one that he much appreciates all the same. He suspects he knows the identity of this mystery beauty and that astonishes him all the more. He’d seen the figure now and again during the healing process but after a certain point he had not been allowed to directly monitor her recovery or status. She looks like a fragile flower whose petals might blow away in a moments gust.

“Madoka… I presume…” he murmurs.

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After Yoshi left the room, Madoka had been helped out of her nightgown and into light pink dress that looked and felt way too poofy. Her hair had been brushed out carefully, and even lovingly by the affectionate butler while she sat, sighing, wondering why she had to go through this. Her stomach was growling, telling her that she was long overdue for some sort of meal. She began to fantasize about karaage and beef bowls and curry pork katsu. Those thoughts just made it worse. She clutched her stomach and whimpered a little.

Kozuke chuckles a little in response to her gesture. “Now, now, Sugar. I will be bringing tea soon… and we’ll get something into you, though it may not be quite as satisfying as you would like. Perhaps a cookie wouldn’t hurt.” he winks at her and magically produces said cookie. Madoka stares at it and laughs in delight, taking it eagerly. She felt like wolfing it down, but her inner voice tells her that doing so would make her extremely sick, so instead she nibbles at it, savoring the sweetness of it.

“Thank you, Kozuke…” she mumbles around the cookie, her eyes shining.

He puts his finger over his lips. “Quietly now. Finish and we’ll go to tea.” he resumes brushing out the girl’s long straight black hair as she happily munches the cookie down.

After a while when she had finished it, feeling surprisingly full after such a small amount, Kozuke lifts her once again effortlessly. She feels butterflies fluttering in her stomach as he does and sets her down in the nearby wheelchair gently. It isn’t long before they wheel out of the room, across the hallway and foyer and towards the study. Madoka examines everything curiously, somewhat nervously. The strange art hanging on the walls of the hallway and the statues. Now that she’d eaten something she feels somewhat more alert. The world around her feels a less ephemeral and a little more solid perhaps.

Kozuke wheels her into the Master’s study after opening the door with an audible click and rolls her over to the nearby coffee table the two men sit around. Madoka studies the newcomer who looks at her with astonishment in his eyes as well as with a slight flush in his cheeks.

“Madoka… I presume…” he murmurs after a moment. Madoka studies him and nods, finally bowing a little from her sitting position.

“Yes,” she says simply. She glances over at the master who she notes looks highly amused and self-satisfied. Her eyes narrow slightly. She finds she is unable to read the situation.

“I shall have Ms. Midoriyama bring the tea, sirs.” He bows to the master and the newcomer and exits the room quietly, leaving Madoka alone with them. She fidgets a little but steels herself as the newcomer examines her. Finally, he responds. “Ah, I apologize for my rudeness. I was not expecting this. I knew how profound my senpai’s work is but I didn’t…” He looks at Yoshi, who grins.

“My daughter, this young upstart brat is Uchida Saito. Your social worker. It’s due to him that I was able to track down your identity and gain legal custody of you.

Madoka stares at Saito now with growing resentment. “You’re his accomplice!” she accuses suddenly.

Saito’s jaw drops and he looks at the girl, perplexed. “Er… I guess you could say that… but I don’t understand what you mean by that…” he trails off uncertainty.

“She thinks I’ve kidnapped her or some such nonsense,” Yoshi says dismissively. “I assure you young lady that I have legal custodianship of you because there was not another soul in the world willing to care for you. It’s a hard world out there, and if you don’t have family you end up in social programs. You’re lucky. I could have sent you off to an orphanage. Instead of that, I wanted to make a family.” he grumbles.

“Now, now, Senpai… gently.” Saito waves his hands at Yoshi and laughs again. “I am your social worker. If you don’t fit in here, I do have the authority to remove you and take you somewhere else, but like he says, you don’t have very many options, and it would be extremely short sighted of you to reject what he has given you. Ahem. I understand, though, the difficulty you must be experiencing. I am aware that you were born as a young man. I actually wasn’t expecting this would be what our first meeting would be like.”

He produces a book and shows a picture of what Madoka looked like in her… his first year of middle school. The picture is of a boy with a passably handsome face. Not particularly masculine. He had developed somewhat slowly compared to his male friends, reaching a height of only 1.5 meters when many of his friends had reached 1.7 or higher. It had been frustrating. The facial features of the girl now are surprisingly close and yet different from what is depicted in the photo. Saito flips to another picture and Madoka nearly vomits. She guesses it is a picture of her laying in a bloody hospital bed. It is initially hard for her to determine that what she is looking at is human except for the clean slightly bloody hospital gown on the figure and something that looks vaguely like a face. It is bandaged pretty heavily.

Saito notes the expression of sickness in the face of the girl and quickly changes the picture once again, showing a still bandaged up figure but no blood on the bedding or the bandages.

“I have been following up with Senpai as often as possible, but one day when I finally, via a DNA test, determined your identity and started working with him to win your custody, during the process of winning legal custody of you, the old fox cut me off and I wasn’t able to see you again after that. He came up with some nonsense about contamination risks as an excuse at first and then finally it was just, you weren’t going anywhere so why bother?” he laughs ruefully. “The fact of the matter is I wasn’t aware that you had been or would be made to look this way.” He stares down Yoshi who looks away, seeming a little embarrassed.

“The work was done already,” Yoshi manages finally. “I couldn’t do anything about it, and I can’t do anything about it now. There wasn’t anything to work with,” he grouches. “She’s alive, she’s more beautiful than anyone has a right to be, I don’t see the problem.” he scowls. The door opens and a tray is wheeled in by a cheerful looking woman in a maid costume. The costume has a long skirt and looks stylishly cut, not that Madoka knows much about such things. The window in the front of her dress top exposes generous cleavage, yet not an improper amount. The woman has dark red hair in a braided updo that makes her look extremely classy. Madoka feels her heart flutter a little at seeing her.

“Master.” She curtsies elegantly to Yoshi. “Sai-kyo and Sugar.” She looks at the girl and smiles approvingly. She sets a tea service tray down on the coffee table and busies herself with pouring a cup of tea for Master Yoshi first.

“Ah good to see you Midoriyama-san.” Saito grins appreciatively at the woman who smiles at him somewhat flirtatiously. She hands Master Yoshi the cup, framing her generous cleavage for her master as she does. He scowls, drawing back slightly as he accepts the cup, looking away.

“Midoriyama, please stop that nonsense this moment.” he scowls as she sips his tea. Hisako’s lips part in a teasing, laughing smile, and she straightens, turning to pour a cup for Madoka, winking at her. Madoka blinks and blushes a little, looking away embarrassedly.

“It’s nice to meet you, Sugar. It’s been a long time. We’ve taken such good care of you, especially Kozy-kun.” She laughs, offering her a cup. “Would you like some sugar, Sugar?” She laughs again at the slight pun.

“Uhm… no, thank you, Midoriyama-san…” Madoka manages, taking a sip of her own tea. She blinks and looks into the cup at the dark golden liquid. This is the best tea I have ever tasted! she thinks to herself, looking up at Midoriyama with wonder. Had this woman made the tea?

“What happened to Kozuke?” Yoshi complains loudly. “I’ve told him that I don’t like it when you serve tea to my guests, Midoriyama. You’re too improper!” he scowls, seeming to enjoy his tea despite his complaint.

Hisako curtsy’s again to the Master, smiling a little teasingly. “I’m sorry Master. Kozy-kun’s hands are tied. I heard that Sugar’s awake and I just had to come have a look. Please forgive me,” she smiles. “ And I heard that Sai-kyo was visiting.” she winks at Saito who loosens his collar slightly. She turns and prepares a last cup of tea while Yoshi grunts. She turns to Saito and offers him the last cup, providing a glimpse of her assets that she’d offered to Yoshi previously. “With two lumps of sugar as usual, right?” She grins, and Saito accepts the cup with a grateful little smile. “Yes, thank you very much.” he grins.

She straightens and curtsies again to Master Yoshi. “Would you like me to stay and continue pouring for you, Master?” she inquires. “No! Go get Kozy… Kozuke!” Yoshi scowls. She nods in assent and wheels the cart out with impish flair.

“That woman… I will fire her,” Yoshi growls, draining his cup and then lifting the tea kettle to serve himself another cup.

“You won’t, Senpai. Her cooking is too stellar.” Saito replies with the assurance of a man who had heard this statement many times before. Yoshi scowls and grunts.

Madoka looks back and forth between them, remaining quiet and sipping her tea. The master seems too bad natured to her. How could Kozuke… Kozy? Madoka smiled at that. He does seem very cozy doesn’t he? How can he say the Master is such a good man? Even so, it is very clear that Saito-san is very fond of him. Madoka thinks.

“Master…” Madoka begins finally. “Why…” She’s interrupted quickly, however, by the Master.

“No, no, call me Father,” he says, seeming to cheer up a little when she speaks. “I’m your legal adopted father so it’s only appropriate. I’m not your master. You’re not a maid or a servant or anything like that. Why, you’re free to go if you really want, but you’d be silly to. I have a lot to offer you. A fine education, a new lease on life.” He grins, taking another sip of his tea.

“R… really?” Madoka asks skeptically.

Saito looks at her and nods. “I did say that. But if you do, being as you’re a minor, you’ll likely be placed in a boarding school somewhere. It wouldn’t be horrible, but why turn Senpai down? All he wants is a child of his own. Between you and me, I don’t think he could catch a wife with that personality of his, so adoption really is his only option,” he says frankly to Madoka, though he does shoot a grin at his senpai indicating that he was poking fun at him.

Yoshi looks at him, seeming deeply offended. “Brat,” he harrumphs. “You’re a hundred years too young to talk like that about your senpai.”

Madoka finds herself smiling behind her teacup, laughing a little. The master before had seemed strange and disagreeable, but she now finds herself starting to accept the situation she is in. Maybe she does have a future after all.

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