Take Two

Kyouko meets Madoka.. for the second time. Things go a little differently than the first time.

Date: 2017-09-24
Pose Count: 19
Kyouko Sakura 2017-09-24 14:04:49 83414
    It's not strange to find Kyouko in this part of town on any given day- she works at the AM/Pm Minimart close-on 40 hours a week and it's by far the most common place to find her other than the apartment building which houses both her own place and Mamoru's. The conbenie itself is down a small side-street, but it's right in the middle of the downtown area, crowded with people and traffic at all times of the day.

    It's a Sunday, which means no school, but for a middle-school dropout with a full-time job like Kyouko, Sunday means less than it might to your average girl her age. So it is that, with the sound of a revving engine, a red-and-white motorcycle navigates its way through the traffic and towards that side-street down which her place of employment lies. The motorcycle is a real looker, too- a Yamaha crotch-rocket type that can probably break every speed law in the city- but hardly ever gets to do so thanks to the omnimpresent traffic.

    Pulling into a small parking space near the entrance of the aforementioned side-street, Kyouko (dressed in plain jeans and a black t-shirt, her normal work uniform over which her orange apron will be tied) tugs off the red-and-black motorcycle helmet she had been wearing, tossing her short red hair to free it a bit as she puts down the kickstand, still sitting astride the bike.
Madoka Kaname 2017-09-24 14:27:15 83416
It was perhaps pure chance, or even ever twisting fate itself, that drew Madoka Kaname to this part of town at this moment in time. The young schoolgirl, or at least soon to be schoolgirl, had spent much of the weekend fretting to herself over starting school again. Her mother assured her that things would work out fine and that Infinity had been informed of the situation, giving her time to ease back into school life. Yet that didn't make it any less worrisome for the young girl considering what else was already on her practically overflowing plate. That wasn't even touching upon the side dishes!

At a glance one wouldn't consider her any different from any other young girl walking the streets of downtown Mitakihara. With a yellow, flower-patterned skirt reaching down to just above her thighs and a pink buttoned blouse with a white shirt underneath, topped off with a red handbag slung over her shoulder with a large ribbon on the front, she was the picture of a trendy young city girl. But beneath the surface was a raging torrent, her mind awash with worries and fears. Witches, Sayaka, Puella Magi, School.

Pulling out her phone, Madoka flicked through the map and searched for a nearby store so she could get a drink, a true convenience of the 21st century. There was one only a few streets down. Navigating through crowds of people and crossing busy roads overflowing with weekend traffic, she headed down the small side street, paying no mind to anybody, not even the red-haired girl sat astride her motorbike.

But for her, the young girl passing by would be almost unmistakable. Least of all the flowing pink twintails framing either side of her hair, tied off by those large, trademark red ribbons.
Kyouko Sakura 2017-09-24 14:37:35 83418
    To be sure, Kyouko and Madoka had never been particularly close. In fact, due to Kyouko's perpetual bad-blood with Homura, they had found themselves opposed almost as often as working together. However, that doesn't mean that Madoka can walk by within feet of Kyouko without the redhead noticing. Especially considering that the girl has been MIA (as far as anyone in Tokyo knows) for the past ten months or so. Not that Kyouko has been particularly concerned- see above re: them not being particularly close. But it does make seeing the girl walk right past her in the middle of the street something of a shock.

    Kyouko is in the process of getting off of her motorcycle and locking her helmet to the handlebars when this walk-by occurs. At first, she glances up, then back down to finish fastening the lock. Then she does a brief double-take. Her red eyes narrow slightly, as if trying to make sure she's really seeing what she thinks she is seeing. Then, grabbing the keys from the bike's ignition and stuffing them in her pocket, she turns and takes a few quick strides to catch up to the pink-haired pedestrian.

    "Madoka-chan? Since when did you get back in town?" She asks without preamble, before turning her head to glance around rather quickly. "Homura's not with you, is she?" A mild tenseness in her voice, as if she expects Homura to leap out from behind a lamp-post and try and shotgun her. It wouldn't be the first time.
Madoka Kaname 2017-09-24 14:54:01 83421
Madoka had her face buried in her phone as she walked on by, not literally of course, but her attention was focused firmly upon the small screen as she followed its directions. She wasn't expecting anyone to jump out or bother her, least of all in the center of downtown Mitakihara during peak time. The odds of her running into anyone she knew, which at this point in time could be counted on one hand, were very low. As such it was quite the shock when she heard the heavy footfall of feet right behind her and her own name being called out.

"E-Eh?!" the startled girl cried out and flinched, almost tripping over her own feet as she quickly turned around to face the mysterious person, taking a few steps backwards in the direction she was heading in the process. What she faced was....a total stranger.

Her initial reaction was to tell her she must have had the wrong person, but the name 'Homura' made her stop, and everything clicked into place as she remembered what Sayaka told her. Homura, the girl she was so close to. The girl she didn't know.

"A-Ah I'm...I'm sorry but no, Homura isn't here and..." Madoka apologised quickly with a light blush creeping onto her cheeks, the awkwardness of it all suddenly becoming apparent. What could she say? She didn't know this girl and telling her the truth might not be so simple. "I suppose I'm not either really! Ehehe..." A nervous giggle was followed by a scratch of her cheek, an awkward smile forming on her face. This was definitely an awkward situation.
Kyouko Sakura 2017-09-24 15:00:42 83423
    Although Madoka apologized for the absence of Homura, Kyouko visibly relaxes upon being told that the other Veteran Puella was not in the vicinity. Her expression loses its tenseness and transitions into her trademark lopsided grin, one fang peeking out of the corner of her mouth. "Ah, no need to apologize, last thing I needed today was to get shot at." She says, off-handedly but probably not reassuringly.

    Her demeanor, at least, is easy-going, the redhead always posessed of a natural charisma that tends to charm despite other aspects of her personality tending to abrade. "But seriously, kid, what are you doin' back here? I thought we'd seen the last o' you two after you.." She pauses, the comment about Madoka 'not being here either really' finally sinking in as she eyes the girl a bit more closely.

    She finally seems to notice the fact that Madoka looks a bit younger than the last time she laid eyes on her- it's not dramatic, really. There's not that big of a difference between 15 and 14. But when you look for it, it is there. "What's that s'pposed to mean?" She asks, sounding mildly confused. "And why do you look like you aged backwards? This isn't some bizarre side-effect of your magic, is it?" A mild sigh. "Seriously, seems like everybody I know is either immortal or a reincarnation or aging backwards.. 's enough to make a girl feel over the hill at 16, I swear."
Madoka Kaname 2017-09-24 15:17:50 83425
There was really no easy way to phrase it. It was hard enough for her to tell Sayaka, but she at least had the comfort of her being her best friend and knowing she could get help. But this girl? She didn't even know her name, let alone anything else about her. For all she knew in this mysterious past they shared, they were arch-rivals! It was already clear enough that she didn't seem to like the equally mysterious Homura, and that alone didn't bode well for her.

But Madoka was a forgiving girl, and those who knew her would lambast her for both that and for being too trusting. It was clear to her that the red-haired girl must have been part of this magical world that had lifted its curtains to Madoka for a second time. Maybe she'd know more, enough to help or provide answers. At the least she deserved to know, and there wasn't any other way for Madoka to get out of this without leaving her very confused.

"Ehehe...not quite. I'm not sure how to put this..." Madoka started, bringing her hand around behind her head and rubbing it as a way to cope, "...I'm actually not the same Madoka you know I suppose. While I don't fully understand myself, my last memories are from...maybe two years ago, before...everything! Saya-..my friend, theorised that it might be some kind of time travel." Another nervous giggle followed as the absurdity of it all became readily apparent the moment the words left her mouth. "So what I'm saying is that to me....we haven't met."
Kyouko Sakura 2017-09-24 15:25:58 83427
    Kyouko blinks a few times. She's kept walking, slowly, the whole time while speaking to Madoka, meaning tht the two of them are now approaching the entrance to the side-street down which her conbenie lies, and she pauses there at the turn in the sidewalk, quirking a brow. If Madoka was expecting disbelief, she's going to be disappointed. Kyouko has been around the magical block far too many times for something like this to seem impossible. It is a bit of a surprise, though.

    "What, really?" She asks, giving Madoka a bit of a closer look up and down. "That's.. weird." Well, that's an understatement, isn't it, but Kyouko has never been particularly good with words. "Sure sounds like some kinda timey-wimey bullshit to me. Or like, interdimensional weirdness.. I heard that Homura originally came from some alternate Tokyo that's not ours. And that kinda crap was always her ballpark anyway." This last said contemplatively, more to herself than to Madoka.

    Then she re-zeroes in on the topic at hand. "So, like, you really don't remember me? Or all the crap we had to deal with over the past two years? Walpurgisnacht, the White Flower, any of that crap?" She quirks her lips to the side. "Frankly, I'm kinda jealous. Most of that ain't worth remembering anyway."

    She sighs. "Still, this probably deserves looking into. I guess you've talked to Saya-chan, then? She's my friend, too, though we don't hang out as much as we used to. You haven't talked to Kunzite yet, have you? Real tall, skinny guy, white hair?" Without waiting for a response, she goes on, "He's good at figuring out this sort of thing, you should probably talk to him. He's like, smart and stuff."

    Then she pauses. "Oh. I guess if you don't remember me you have no idea who I am." Pieces finally falling into place. After a moment, she sticks out her hand. Her fingernails are painted black, but her hand is calloused and her grip is firm- the hand of somebody who does a lot of work, of one type or another. "I'm Kyouko Sakura. I'm a Puella too.. well, sort of. Semi-retired. That's how I knew old-you.. other-you? Whatever. Y'know, through work and such."
Madoka Kaname 2017-09-24 15:46:17 83430
It was all gibberish to her. For all that Sayaka told her, she didn't exactly compile a detailed encyclopaedia covering the past two years of Madoka's life in this timeline for her to peruse over and get up to date with. Every month, week, day and second of her life in that period might as well have been erased. Walpurgisnacht? White flower? Those sound like things Pappa grows in the garden! All the bewildered young schoolgirl can do is shake her head, the confusion clear and genuine on her face.

Eyeing Kyouko's hand, Madoka extends her own, smooth to the touch with unpainted, trimmed nails that were as pure as the girl they belonged to. With a weak grasp she shakes, still unused to doing such a ritual, but offering Kyouko a sincere smile all the while "It's nice to meet you again, Kyouko-chan. I hope we can be good friends." Her words were just as sincere as her actions. While her initial impressions told her that the red-head magical girl was a little rough around the edges, she gave off the vibe of someone who was good at heart and reliable.

Releasing her grip, Madoka tilts her head slightly to the side, her smile persisting "I appreciate the information a lot. Truthfully I still don't really know what is happening, it's all a bit of a wild ride. It's only been a week but so much as happened already that I feel like my head is about to just...explode." The edges of her smile faltered slightly before her eyes widened and she quickly bowed "A-Ah, sorry I didn't mean to burden you with my problems!"
Kyouko Sakura 2017-09-24 16:00:45 83434
    Kyouko might not have the book-smarts to be able to spout equations and hypothesis about alternate universes the way Kunzite or Naru might, but she's always been good at reading people, and she can tell just by looking at her that Madoka is telling the truth, or at the least that she believes what she is saying. That, coupled with the fact that she does genuinely look younger, is enough to convince the redhead that there's merit to the story.

    Of course, the possibility remains that this girl is actually some sort of evil clone or trap by somebody nefarious, out to trick everyone into letting their guard down. But Kyouko has an unfortunate sensitivity to Dark Energy, and she isn't getting any of that sort of vibe. She does look mildly uncomfortable at being called 'Kyouko-chan', the honorific one she tends to only accept from a select few people, but she also knows Madoka, or a Madoka anyway, well enough to know that the girl is being genuine in her warmth.

    "Look, I know how it is." Kyouko says. She gestures down the side-street. "I work at the convinience store right over there. I was on my way to work when I ran into you. Why don't you come on in? I'll spot you a slurpee or somethin', whatever you want." As she starts walking towards the store again, she goes on, "It can be rough gettin' thrust into all this crap. Seen it a bunch of times, lived through it myself. So look."

    She pauses, reaching into her pocket and digging around until she comes up with a small paper square. Upon closer inspection, it is a business card- but not for Kyouko herself. Rather, it has an address and a phone number on it. "See this place? It's kinda a safe-havent for magical folks. Guy who owns it is sort of.." She pauses, considering, then goes on, "Well, he helps people. S'basically what he does. There's all sorts of rules in place which make it safe. And there's people there who can answer questions a lot better than I can. If you need or want help.. that's where you should go. Ask for Mamoru or Kunzite. Or me.. I'm there often enough." She hands the card over. It has the address for the ECFH.
Madoka Kaname 2017-09-24 18:00:21 83450
Madoka goes along with Kyouko, hooked onto her every word and nodding along eagerly as she speaks. It never occurred to her that others may have been in a similar situation to her. Maybe not exactly waking up one day in an alternate universe with no recollection or memory of the events that transpired there and ending up in the mary janes of your 'other self'. But close enough that people would have problems of their own, most of all the Puella Magi with the terrible burden they had to bare. It seemed everyone in this brave new world had their own baggage.

Before she opens her mouth to speak, she is cut off by Kyouko rummaging in her pocket and eyes her inquisitively, taking the card as it's pressed into her hand. "ECFH?" Madoka reads out, her brow furrowing somewhat in confusion not understanding the acronym, though understanding clear enough what Kyouko meant by giving her this and tucks the card safely away in her handbag.

"Mm! Thank you Kyouko-ch..-san. It's a great help, I appreciate it." Madoka tilts her head to the side and smiles amicably. She took notice of her body language before, Madoka being rather perceptive of other people's feelings, and despite her tendency and eagerness to be close to people, she stopped herself from using the same honorific again. It didn't however limit the gratitude she had for Kyouko.

For the first time since reuniting with Sayaka, things seemed to be looking up for her. If these people, this ECFH, could help her find the answers she sought then she had to see them. Answers for why she was here, and just who she was.

Walking further down towards the convenience store, Madoka rummages inside her handbag again for her purse, "I know you offered a slurpee but I was coming here anyways. Maybe it was fate we met again like this." she giggles, pulling some Yen notes out and looking at Kyouko intently "I'll buy us both some, and I won't take no for an answer! Consider it a small thank you...and an apology from me...my other me...for not saying goodbye." Going by the determined look in her eye, she was very serious.
Kyouko Sakura 2017-09-24 18:32:54 83453
    "Oh, uh," Kyouko looks mildly put out as she attempts to come up with an explanation for why the place is referred to as the Earth Court Frat House that isn't an hour or more long. In the end she dodges the questoin by saying, "It's just a nickname for the place, an old joke. But it's actually a penthouse apartment, belongs to a guy by the name of Mamoru Chiba. Like I said, he's kinda in the business of helping people, and the apartment has sorta become a safe haven for magical types when they need a place like that."

    "I'd tell you to say Kyouko sent you, but honestly you won't need to. They'll recognize you too." She shrugs. "But you can tell 'em I sent you anyway. If I'm not there. I live in the same building, a few floors down." She pauses, not wanting to overwhelm this new Madoka with too much information at once. She still isn't totally sure she buys the whole 'no memories, time-travel' situation, but she also doesn't feel like this Madoka is lying to her, and she's not qualified to figure out the truth either way. So handing it off to those more qualified seems like the proper move.

    The doors to the small convinience store whoosh open, and Kyouko shakes her head slightly as she walks in, waving to the old lady behind the counter (who is her mundane-world boss) but turning to speak to Madoka again. "You don't have to buy me any. I work here and I have a snack allowance." She chuckles. "'Sides.. you don't gotta apologize for nothin'. Whether you are or aren't the same as that other Madoka, s'not like we were best buddies or anything. People are free to come and go as they please. That's life, yeah?" A shrug of her shoulders. "Be right back." She vanishes into the back room, and re-appears a minute later with an orange apron emblazoned with the white "AM/PM Mini Market" logo on the front tied on overtop of her regular clothes.
Madoka Kaname 2017-09-24 19:04:45 83455
Madoka follows in after Kyouko, smiling and nodding her head at the old lady with a courteous greeting before glancing around the little store. It was about what she expected with perhaps the most outlandish thing being Kyouko herself. As she heads off into the back-room with a timed, tactical retreat, Madoka puffs her cheeks out and stares after her, unable to complain or argue the payment any further and stuffs her Yen back into the purse with a huff.

She didn't quite agree with the assessment that it was fine for her to just disappear without so much as a word. If they worked together in the past and were both Puella Magi, then it meant they had a bond of sorts at some point. They fought together as allies and had each others back. Surely that counted for something? Madoka couldn't help but wonder the reason for her disappearance as much as the reason for why she was here, and if they were somehow connected. There must have been other people out there in the world who knew both her and this Homura she was so connected with. People who could provide further answers.

Her musings were cut short with Kyouko's return which was welcomed back with playfully narrowed eyes and a must unamused stare as Madoka holstered her purse away back into her handbag. "You're a perfect picture of customer service Kyouko-san. I'll be sure to leave a commendation." the spirited teasing was followed by Madoka sticking her tongue out grinning before turning around and tapping her cheek thoughtfully over which slurpee to go for "I suppose if you're willing to use your allowance on me, I'll just have to go with a strawberry flavour. It seems only right!"
Kyouko Sakura 2017-09-24 19:09:28 83456
    Kyouko finishes tying her apron on as she moves behind the counter. She exchanges a few words with the little old lady, who smiles and nods to Madoka as she in turn heads out from behind the counter and disappears into the back room which Kyouko had just vacated, leaving the two girls once again the only ones in the small sotre. Kyouko leans her elbows on the counter, clearly at home in the position- she's worked at this store for almost two years now, and is almost as at-home here as.. well, her actual home.

    "I do my best." She says, amusedly, to the comment that she is the very picture of customer service. "Somebody's gotta keep the customers happy, or none of us get paid." She grins as she watches Madoka perusing the slurpee flavors, shrugging her shoulders. "It's no big. The boss ain't gonna begrudge me a few slurpees here or there in exchange for my faithful service, and it sounds like you've had a rough time so. No worries."

    She nods her head as she gestures to the cups. "Go ahead, take one, and we'll call it even. Just don't forget what I said about the ECFH, huh?" Kyouko is not qualified to give any answers to anybody, except maybe on the topic of how best to stab somebody. But there are plenty of people she knows who are much more so.
Madoka Kaname 2017-09-24 19:23:59 83457
"Then I don't mind if I do!" Madoka takes a cup from the stack and holds it underneath the strawberry nozzle on the machine, using her other hand to turn the little lever on the side to open up the floodgates and pour forth the red-tinted icey beverage, gradually filling the cup up.

As it did so, something came to Madoka's mind relating to her meeting with Sayaka. She was a Puella Magi and signed a contract, granting her a wish and the powers of a Magical Girl. Glancing over at Kyouko leaning over the counter, she recalled what she called herself. 'A Puella..sort of. Semi-retired.' Something didn't make sense to her.

"Kyouko-san...if you don't mind me asking. You said you were a Puella Magi too, right? But, semi-retired? Did you not sign a contract too?" it was a frank question she asked and the puzzlement was clearly signalled on her face as she lifted the lever back up and took her cup in hand, holding it against her chest and turning to face Kyouko.
Kyouko Sakura 2017-09-24 19:31:08 83458
    Kyouko blinks a little bit at the question.. tilting her head slightly as she quirks a brow. "I guess Saya-chan told you the basics then, huh? She never was much one for.. tact." She sighs a little bit, with a mild shrug of her shoulders. "It's.. complicated. More complicated than I can really explain to you in just a few minutes."

    She waves a hand absently in the air. "Long story short though, yeah I signed a contract, and yeah, I'm a Puella Magi too. Just.. well, I found a better employment opportunity a while back, and I answer to a different boss than the Incubators, now." A small smile. "But I still gotta hunt Witches and use Grief Seeds and stuff, same as any other Puella Magi. I just don't really compete for 'em anymore, y'know? I'm not.. in the game, so to speak. I got other priorities. That's all I meant."
Madoka Kaname 2017-09-24 19:54:42 83459
Madoka listens intently and nods her head as she explains, oddly enough understanding almost everything now which was a sharp contrast to when she first learned about witches and grief seeds and other Puella Magi terms. "I think I understand. So you're still a Magical Girl bound by your contract despite everything." It was about what she expected and what she knew already. When the contract was signed, you couldn't go back.

She looks down into her cup, idly stirring the slushy ice with a straw, remembering what Raskoph told her. Every contract has a price that has to be paid, and the terrible truth behind what the witches were...or what they used to be.

"Do..." Madoka started to speak before shutting her mouth and swallowing, shaking her head from side to side, the confliction and doubt clear to see on her face. "Never mind." There was every chance she already knew, but bringing it up here and now would be a mistake. She understood little enough herself to talk about such things.

"I was told that Kyubey would learn of my presence soon enough and attempt to make a contract with me." Madoka spoke again, bringing the straw to her lips and taking a sip, feeling the icy chill of the slurry attack her mouth and making her shiver. "Sayaka-chan warned me off, telling me that despite the good it could bring, it was not worth the price. But I was a Puella Magi once before, wasn't I? Well, not me but...my other me in this time."
Kyouko Sakura 2017-09-24 20:12:05 83460
    "If you mean 'do I have to follow the rules', then yeah, I guess so." Kyouko says, with a mild shrug of her shoulders. "But I don't really look at it as contract, as such. Not anymore. Payment's been made in both directions, and now my fate is mine to do with as I choose.. just, people gotta eat. Puella gotta purify with Grief Seeds. Just kinda how it is."

    She eyes Madoka a bit as the girl starts to ask something, but then stops. She isn't sure what it might have been, but she doesn't press, just shrugging her shoulders as if to dismiss it and moving on with the conversation.

    "He probably will. And Sayaka's not wrong.. usually. The thing is, Kyubey always gives you what you ask for.. the problem is that most people ain't smart enough to really understand what they're asking for. Or what the othe part of the bargain entails." She shrugs her shoulders. "But is it never worth it? I dunno. I think, if you've got a good enough reason and you understand the consequences, sometimes it can be worth it. I can't imagine my life any other way, at this point. But.. if your life is good, or at least y'know, tolerable, and you have people you care about and who care about you and the world ain't about to end or anything like that.. you're probably better off steering clear. Or going another route. Kyubey doesn't have a monopoly on magic, much as he'd like to pretend otherwise."
Madoka Kaname 2017-09-24 20:43:51 83461
It was food for thought and something Madoka knew she'd be thinking about for the days to come. Sayaka and Raskoph warned her off from Kyubey, telling her under no certain terms that making a contract would be a terrible mistake and that every wish has a price. Such was the contract. Even so she couldn't help but think and consider. If she had such cosmic potential dwelling inside of her, if she once brought so much happiness to people...would that not be worth any price to pay? As she was, she was weak. But as a Puella Magi...no. She knew Kyouko was right. She had people she cared for, and people who cared for and wished to protect her. There was no reason to throw that away.

"You're right, Kyouko-san. Thank you." Madoka bowed slightly, smiling brightly at the magical girl all the while. "Perhaps it was fate that brought us together. I've had a lot on my mind, but talking it over with you has helped me a great deal. And this..." digging into her handbag, she pulled out the small card for the ECFH before pushing it back inside "Gives me a direction."

Just as she finishes speaking, the doors to the store slide open as a customer walks inside. Sensing it was time for her to go and leave Kyouko to her work, she places the empty cup down and turns her back on Kyouko, rummaging around for something inside her bag. Facing back around, she places a Yen note down on the counter in front of Kyouko, smirking at her mischievously and backing off with her hands behind her back, giving her no chance to complain.

"I hope we meet again...Kyouko-san. Whatever happened before, I'd like to become good friends." And with that she disappeared out of the store, leaving Kyouko, the customer and the Yen note behind....with a hastily sketched smiling face resembling Madoka and the words 'Thank You' next to her drawn on it.
Kyouko Sakura 2017-09-24 20:49:35 83462
    "I don't believe in fate," Kyouko says, with a bit of a smile. "Just hard work and determination. Lemme tell you this, Madoka-chan.. this world, magical or otherwise, it's a pretty rough place. But if you grit your teeth and get on with gettin' on, you can come out on top. That's what I learned in the past couple years. Don't trust to fate, or luck, or destiny. Get out there and do what you gotta do, and if you're persistent enough, stuff'll work out for you."

    "Do stop by the ECFH sometime. Everybody you might meet there is good people, and trustworthy. And if you do, I'm sure we'll talk again." She turns to greet the new customer, not noticing the Yen note until Madoka is well gone and on her way.