Kyoko had done all she could for that moron with the knight complex. She’d gone out of her way to help Sayaka, had told her a story she’d never spoken to anyone else, even. But Sayaka was hurtling towards witchery, that was clear, and it was time for Kyoko to settle back and wait for the territory of Mitakihara to become hers. A plump new grief seed would be the side dish.
So she told herself.
She ended up in front of the Miki apartment the second day in a row anyway.
She brought a bag of roast chestnuts. She hurled a peeled one at Sayaka’s window, caught it on the rebound, and popped it into her mouth. Every few minutes, she repeated the process. Slowly the early morning breeze settled down and the sun grew warmer on her skin.
Long before half the chestnuts were gone, she grew impatient. Was Sayaka that deep a sleeper? It was a weekend, she ought to be there—but what if she hadn’t come home?
Kyoko hopped down from the wall before the stab of fear could chill her. Sauntering closer to the apartment building, she weighed several chestnuts in her palm, then hurled them upwards to clatter at the window.
“Hey! Sayaka!” she yelled. She felt skittish, was ready to flee if Sayaka’s parents made an appearance. There was no response, however.
For a moment, she wanted to wreck the whole apartment complex and extract Sayaka from the rubble. It was a mean and selfish thought. If only it were as easy to bring back the Sayaka who’d never known the despair of fighting witches…well, it would be nice to spend more time with that girl, too.
An apartment resident pushed her way out of the doors and glanced at Kyoko, but she ignored the woman. No Sayaka of any kind replied to her. She couldn’t have been that far gone—could she?
Fed up, Kyoko tried one more time. “I GAVE YOU A GODDAMN APPLE.”
There was a faint scraping noise from above. The window slid open, and Sayaka peered down. Her eyes were bleary, her hair disheveled, but she looked more annoyed than sick, Kyoko thought.
“What do you want? Another duel to the death? I’m trying to sleep here.”
“Hey, no need to get angry! I’m just checking on you. Making sure you’re eating breakfast, stuff like that. Getting enough vegetables or something.”
Sayaka gave an exaggerated frown, nothing unusual on anyone woken early.
“I just want to talk with you, okay?” Kyoko said.
“Didn’t we talk yesterday?”
“Yeah, but…that was the heavy stuff. This time we can talk about normal things.” The instant the words left her mouth, Kyoko felt stupid. Sayaka probably didn’t want to be reminded that she was a freak. But she couldn’t take it back. Might as well keep going. “Spending an ordinary day together might not be too bad, you know? Or, hey, you can go back to sleep if you want.”
Sayaka bowed her head so far forward she seemed in danger of falling out the window. Kyoko braced her legs in preparation to catch her.
“Give me another hour. I’ll see you in the park,” Sayaka said in a low voice. She gestured vaguely to her left, then withdrew. “’Night.”
The window slid closed before Kyoko could do more than open her mouth to reply. Hell, she’d probably make a fool of herself if she said anything else.
And I just told her I wanted to talk. What the hell am I doing? Biting down on another chestnut, she retrieved the fallen ones and went on her way, restless from an uneasy combination of frustration and hope.
At the park, Kyoko found Homura sitting on a bench with a novel on her lap. Kyoko scowled. There was no way this was an innocent day in the park for the other magical girl.
She pointed at Homura with a chestnut. “Have you been eavesdropping on me?”
Homura glanced up with a blank expression.
“Oh, right, of course you were eavesdropping on me. What was I thinking? Could you limit your stalking to that pink-haired girl?”
“Sayaka is her best friend. Her destruction could well draw Madoka in.”
“Then go bodyguard Madoka. And don’t leap to conclusions! Maybe Sayaka will get the hang of fighting witches.”
“That's not going to happen.”
“God, you’re depressing.”
Homura quietly closed her book. Kyoko’s hand was shaking, and to cover this she placed it on her hip. Her voice wasn’t shaking, she was pretty sure. “Well, leave her to me. I’ll keep her out of your hair.”
“Do you intend to start another fight?”
“No! I’m done with that.” Sure, she’d been hasty before, but now it was Homura who was circling the wounded. “Just…just get out of here.”
The other girl stood and walked past Kyoko. What if her destination was Sayaka’s place?
Homura looked over her shoulder. “What?”
“Since I’m keeping Sayaka out of trouble, I figure you owe me.”
From her expression, Homura figured nothing of the sort. Kyoko’s mind whirled as she considered various errands to send her on. What did she want that she couldn’t get herself? No, don’t ask that question. What did she want right this minute?
An ordinary day with the once-ordinary girl named Sayaka would be kind of nice.
“Get me two tickets,” Kyoko burst out, “ to the aquarium. Yeah. That place is hard to break into.”
She’d chosen the location on a whim. It seemed like a place that normal people would go for fun. The arcade would only wear Sayaka out faster. What did Sayaka like? That stupid violin boy, apparently.
God, Homura was infuriating. That emptiness in her eyes, frightening.
“For Madoka’s sake,” said Kyoko, taunting her (from now unstable ground), and Homura flickered out of sight.
Kyoko tensed, prepared to counterattack, but none came. She sighed and sprawled on the bench, cradling her bag of chestnuts.
“And I need them in half an hour!” she called towards where she’d last seen Homura.
Kyoko secured the tickets well before Sayaka, walking with shoulders hunched as if caught in a world of her own suffering, made an appearance on the pathway.
“Hey!” Forcing a grin, Kyoko waved. The other hand she kept in her pocket where a half-used grief seed waited.
“Hey…” Sayaka practically swooned onto the bench by Kyoko.
Her soul gem, a muddy turquoise, did not reflect the bright clouds’ light. Kyoko could just reach over and…do the magical equivalent of stuffing bread down a starving woman’s throat.
But there had been the apple incident. Sayaka hadn’t taken her offer well, even though Kyoko had gone out of her way to help her. Right now, she wanted to take Sayaka by the shoulders and scream, Let me help you!
She couldn’t even share the chestnuts, because she just might have filched that bag from the corner of a vendor’s cart, and the package of dried squid in her pocket with the grief seed was the direct result of shoplifting. Sayaka would know, and object.
The other girl took shallow breaths and squinted at the lush grass of the park.
Then what the hell could she do? Not dismissing the option of sharing the grief seed later, she withdrew her hand from her pocket. “Are you planning to patrol for witches tonight?”
Sayaka straightened and frowned at her. “Yeah. That’s what I do now, remember?”
“For God’s sake, why? A witch’ll take you down in seconds when you’re in this state.”
A quirk of Sayaka’s mouth. “Love and justice.”
Kyoko looked away. “That’s not everything.” Once it had seemed important, when it hadn’t been part of the bait for this trap she was in.
“Yeah, I already know your opinion on that.”
This wasn’t an argument Kyoko wanted to have again. Not today. “Hmph.”
The two of them stared at the bright, ordinary, and witch-free park for a long moment. Kyoko had no idea how to break the silence.
“Do you like aquariums?” she blurted out.
Sayaka’s stared at her with wide eyes. Then a laugh burst out of her.
“Hey! I was just asking!”
“Why…why would I not like them?” Sayaka managed to get the words out through her giggling. “Come on, what are you really trying to ask me?”
Her face was burning, but she couldn’t back down now. “What I’m saying is….Will you go to the aquarium with me, Miki Sayaka? Look, I have tickets.”
Sayaka frowned, although it appeared to take effort. “Did you steal th…”
“Nope!” said Kyoko, and it was entirely true.
Still distrustful, Sayaka shook her head—but said, “Sure.”
And then Sayaka was smiling again, and they were two living girls in an ordinary park, about to have fun.
“Great, let’s go,” said Kyoko, before there was space for regrets. She grabbed Sayaka’s hand—Sayaka squeezed hers back—and they walked side by side.
Love, justice, and that stupid violin boy.
What am I doing, trying to add myself to that list?