Author's Note: This'll be a shorter chapter, more of a brief intermission per se. The next one will be longer.
I do not own Puella Magi Madoka Magica nor any of the anime's Affiliates
The evening is crisp, but not cold; dim, but not dark. A thick, nighttime aroma unique to early winter envelops me and the Nodas as we lounge outside on four deck chairs, sipping from our respective cups of coffee. A bridge of stars just barely visible spans overhead in a wide arc as crickets sing flat lullabies in the background. We've lapsed into a comfortable bout of silence.
It is soon broken.
"Masao," Mr. Noda begins, and I tense in anticipation of whatever he plans to ask. It wouldn't be the first time he's embarrassed me. "Whaddya think of my daughter. Describe her in one word."
"Dad." Yori jokingly slaps his upper arm in protest, but it's weak, and I can tell by the bashful way she turns to look at me that the question isn't undesired. Mrs. Noda cradles her mug in two hands, peering over it as a smile grows on her half-illuminated face. Its pearl crescent resembles the moon. Her personality and demeanor are similar to mine; we get along well.
"Go ahead, Masao," she urges, firm yet polite.
Describe Yori in a single word? Capricious, hot-headed, rough, spontaneous, naive; equally graceful, well-meaning, loyal, sprightly, charming-
"Magical," I finally respond. She grins, shoots me a wink, and pushes her father for a second time.
"Ya happy now?"
Mr. Noda laughs from his belly, nodding through closed eyes. "Hah! Good answer!" Mrs. Noda takes a drink and chuckles at her husband's familiar tendency to overreact. It proves infectious as both Yori and I begin to giggle as well, only fueling Mr. Noda's mirth. Later on, as he drives me home, I thank him for dinner.
"She's had a crush on ya for the longest time," he divulges, less-than-subtly changing the subject, and I turn to look at him from the passenger's seat. It's surprising news, and not the kind it seems he shares lightly. There's a serious shade to his expression, foreign on such an upbeat man. "Just her luck ya'd feel the same."
"It's funny, I hadn't even noticed her for the longest time. Then I did, and it was if the colors I'd been seeing before were all muted. Meeting Yori shifted them into focus - if that makes any sense." Mr. Noda nods, I continue. "I know it's only been a month, but it feels like years. I kind of fell in love out of the blue, can you blame a guy? Your daughter is exceptional."
"She is, she is." Mr. Noda's stern composure is beginning to make me regret being that honest. The creases around his forehead loosen; that's better. "You'll be goin' ta Tokyo U, I'd think."
"I..." The inquiry catches me off guard, not a terribly difficult task as proven by the last few days. "I'll be submitting an application to Tokyo University, yes. Whether or not I'm accepted is another matter entirely."
We spend the remainder of the ride in silence.
The bathroom tiles, though neatly arranged, look distorted through Yori's tear-filled eyes. She clutches tight, knuckles white, at the edge of the sink. Next block will be starting soon, and if she doesn't compose herself before then it'll be another skipped class. On the ground by her shoe is a partially torn schedule sheet folded twice over - wrinkles like veins.
Yori delivers a half-hearted kick, sending it sliding to the nearest wall. She's wracked with sobs, her shoulders quaking and sore, so sore, from an agonizing hour of crying. Other girls come and go, usually opting to take a different lavatory instead of interrupting Yori; she doesn't bother to hide in a stall. The echoes' mockery will still find her there.
"What an idiot."
-the mean students jeer her directly.
"I feel so sorry for her."
-the kind ones patronize. The teachers give her unwanted special help. And then there's Masao. Masao, Masao. He who would offer a smile instead of criticism, an ear instead of a mouth. Masao.
Steeling herself, Yori checks her reflection in the mirror. Thin rivulets of mascara have dried into lines on her cheeks - her hair is messier than usual, or wanted. There's not an ounce of propriety about her, and it hurts imagining what Masao might think; not say, but think. She runs the tap and allows it to heat for a moment before applying the water to her chaotic face.
"Hello," a genderless voice speaks from behind her, falsetto enough to belong to a female but boyish in lilt. Aggravation takes hold of Yori - she restrains herself.
"I'm fine - don't want or need your pity, thanks."
"Oh, it's nothing like that. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Kyubey!"
Feeling uneasy and growing more so by the second, Yori turns around. She does not know what she expected to see, but it was definitely not a malformed cat-creature. Her breath catches in her throat as she stammers incoherently.
"Don't be alarmed, I'm friendly." The cat chirps, an enviably cheerful ring to its tone. Her feet in disagreement with the rest of her panicked body, Yori is frozen. She dares not blink, should the indeterminable animal in front of her show its true colors; that's what always happens in movies, you see - turn away for a minute and BAM!
"You look nervous."
"I'm not." Yori responds, almost before Kyubey finishes.
"Okay! That's great." They stare at eachother for a partially analytical, partially timid, all ridiculous moment before Kyubey shuffles his paws and puts it upon himself to carry the conversation. "I'm here to grant you any wish your heart desires."
Yori blinks, then deadpans, "Is that right."
Kyubey nods, his infernal, eternal smile ever-present. "Under one condition! You, Yori Noda, will be obligated to fight witches wherever you may find them as part of the deal. This is a duty you'll be sworn to for the rest of your life, as a magical girl!"
"They're the polar opposite of magical girls: corporeal despair. These monsters feed off of susceptible humans, hopping from place to place to sate their limitless gluttony!" Though the subject matter was becoming increasingly bleak, the curious cat's felicity was immune. The tilt of its snowball-white head belied the severity of its explanation.
"And I can wish for anything?"
Another nod. Yori clasps her hands together, mirroring Kyubey's delight.
"What do I have ta' do?"
His expression shifts imperceptibly.
"It's easy! Make a contract!"
Reviews are always welcome. ;)