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Queen Of Temperance

Chapter Text

PROLOGUE

The clicking of jet black heels echoed throughout the hallway as Sae Niijima made her way to the interrogation room. Her blood boiled and curdled alternately as she thought about what she was about to do - or rather, what she was going to have to put herself through. The last thing she wanted was to know any more than she already did about this situation. But she had no alternative. Either she did her job and got to the bottom of this, or…

No. That was the only option.

"Alright," Sae sighed brusquely as the door slammed shut behind her. The noise still had yet to fade when she added the din of a metal chair scraping across cold concrete to the cacophony. A file folder with a legal pad inside was deposited on the otherwise-barren table; more routine than necessity.

"Let's start from the beginning. Name?"

The half-smiling girl across the table from her stared back for a moment. "Are you kidding?"

"I am not. Name?"

"Fine," she sighed softly, lowering her reddish eyes to point at the table as she tucked a strand of dark brown hair behind her ear. "Makoto Niijima." When the pen started scratching across the pad, she snapped, "Come on, Sis. You didn't need me to tell you that to add it to your file."

"I'm following the rules," she snapped right back at her little sister. "And don't forget our deal."

Makoto seemed to go even more pale than usual at that barely-stated threat. Her slender throat contracted from swallowing as she stared through the table that lay between them. Then she whispered, "Alright."

"Good. Now… do you want to start at the beginning?"

"Beginning of what?" she hedged.

"Of why and how you let this happen."

"When I… when I let this…" Her eyes widened and she sat up straighter. "Just what are you accusing me of?"

"Exactly what it sounds like." Sae crossed her legs and tapped the pad of paper with her violet nails, finally glaring at her sister properly. Etched across every inch of her severe features was disapproval, disappointment - just about any word that began with 'dis' was present. "You and I both know you're nobody's victim, even if you weren't the aggressor. And there are other… factors in this case that don't really add up to the simplest explanation. So I think I have every right to demand answers."

Jaw tightening in defiance, just for a moment, Makoto whispered, "I asked you to leave this alone. It's none of your concern."

But she received a lot more backlash for that than she probably had anticipated. Sae slammed her palm down on top of the notepad, eyes narrowing as she leaned in closer to her alarmed sister.

"Do you know what they think you're doing here? My superiors? They think I'm interviewing you in connection with those so-called Phantom Thieves - which I still need to do, because I think you know more than you've let on in that regard."

Only now did her sibling look truly shocked. "Wh-what?!"

"That's right. I'm not blind. But one thing at a time." Leaning in further so that Makoto had to tilt backward to avoid their heads connecting, she hissed, "I have complied with your foolish request, you little pain in my ass. I don't know what the point is. I don't know why you would want me to protect anyone who did something like that to my own flesh and blood. But I have. So the least you can do is show me a little more cooperation than this!"

As always, Makoto shut down. She knew that was coming. Whenever they argued, if it got particularly heated - or rather, if Sae let her temper get the better of her and went into full Attack Mode - Makoto would resist, she would argue back… until she didn't. The light left her eyes, the wind went out of her sails. Sae both loved and hated that moment, because while it meant she had won the argument…

She was losing Makoto. And she couldn't stop it, couldn't alter that course. It was too late. She wanted to treat her sister better, more like family, but couldn't quite see that pathway anymore.

"Yes, Onee-san," she said in that robotic tone that had become all too familiar. "What would you like to know?"

"Better. Let's begin." She turned the file folder, sliding it across to Makoto so she could see the photo clipped to the corner. It wasn't an official police file - yet. Just notes and a picture.

"What can you tell me about Sadayo Kawakami? And the nature of your relationship outside of teacher-and-student. The truth."

Makoto took a deep breath, staring down at the picture. "It's… not what you think."

"Then tell me what it is instead."

"Alright. So…" Fingers fiddling with the corner of the file, she took a deep breath before she continued. Sae had backed her into a corner; it was practically her M.O. No sense in fighting it.

"This started a few weeks ago, maybe a month, when I noticed something really unusual going on with my friend Ren…"

 


CHAPTER ONE

~ x The Priestess x ~

Kawakami has always seemed to me as if she were hiding something. Maybe that's because my big sister is a public prosecutor; something hereditary from our late policeman father. Or maybe hearing about all that legal-related work my whole life has just made me paranoid. Either way, I felt like there was something a little bit off about the Japanese language teacher even if I couldn't quite place what it was. Most of the time, she remained professional and always taught her subjects with passion. But this black cloud seemed to follow her around. Why did such a highly intelligent, capable woman who said she loved teaching so much always look as if she wished she were anywhere else but Shujin Academy?

My first clue I might be right was only a series of fleeting glances between her and Ren- I mean, Amamiya-san. My suspicions should be obvious. Even though I didn't think of him as the sort of boy who would do such a thing, or Kawakami-sensei as that sort of woman, intuition is not a guarantee. So I had to find out for myself one way or another.

I could never have guessed their true situation. Not in a million years.

My curiosity finally got the better of me one day when I saw Kawakami was more tired than usual. Drastically more tired, as if she hadn't slept in a week. With everything going on after Coach Kamoshida's confession of abusing his students and subsequent termination, I think it was natural for me to assume she was feeling fatigued from the fallout from that; the entire staff were strained from picking up the slack of his classes, and dealing with the constant gossip and bad press. Still, given my suspicions about Ren, I decided it was my duty as student council president to at least ask. If she didn't want to talk about it, then that was her choice. And if I turned out to be wrong…

I would have been relieved. Do you honestly think I wanted to find out another teacher at our school could prey on their own students like that?

"Kawakami-sensei?" I asked gently as I knocked on the open door to the teacher's office. "Do you have a minute?"

The dark bags under her eyes said that she didn't. Even her cheerful yellow long-sleeve scoopneck seemed extra wrinkled, though that was probably a figment of my imagination.

"Niijima-san. What's up?"

Seating myself at the neighboring desk, I cleared my throat. "Nothing in particular. With me, anyway."

"That's good," she began suspiciously, brow furrowing as she ran a hand through her wavy brown locks. It occurred to me that she was actually very beautiful, but it wasn't as easy to notice when she always looked tired and stressed out. Sometimes a person's mood colours all perceptions.

"Yes, I'm doing well in my studies. Making new friends."

"Excellent." A few more seconds ticked by. "So…"

"Hmm?"

"So… what did you need to see me about?"

"Oh!" I gave a respectful bow, keeping my eyes on the floor as I said, "Forgive me, Sensei. I'm sorry to take up so much of your time."

However, Kawakami chuckled at me. "So formal. Go ahead, I don't bite. What's on your mind?"

As I sat back upright, I tried to arrange my thoughts into the most tactful question I could come up with. What came out was, "Are you having an affair?"

I could see my teacher's eyes widening, and it took a concentrated effort not to throw myself out of the nearest window. It happened again. Why did I always sling the most forthright question possible at people if I was investigating them, instead of phrasing things a little more gently? That impulsiveness was so unlike me - and as I already learned many times, it didn't yield positive results!

"Niijima-san… what's- I mean, why would you ask me something like that?"

"I-I, um… I'm not sure?" Swallowing hard, I whispered, "You seem very exhausted and upset. Sorry if this isn't my business, I was-"

"You're right. It's not your business." My head snapped up to see she was frowning hard at me, and my heart sank. "I'm your teacher and my personal life outside this school is just that, kid - personal. But in point of fact, I'm not married, so I can't have an 'affair', anyway."

I felt about two centimeters tall as I bowed low. "Y-yes, Sensei."

"And you can tell that old potato the same thing."

"Old… potato? Oh, you mean Principal Kobayakawa?" My jaw almost hit the floor. "Did you just say that about our principal?!"

Kawakami rolled her eyes, seeming to actually lose another hour of sleep just from having to endure this conversation. I felt a tiny pinprick of guilt, though I tried not to think too hard about that. "Come on, Niijima. I know you're his pet; we know that. The staff, anyway."

"I…" My heart sank even further at the way she stated that. "I'm not his pet."

"We've all seen those notices pinned up all over the school, asking for information. Does the rest of the student council really care about unearthing the Phantom Thieves? Maybe about bullying and things like that, but… it's not even school-related. Well, other than their target being Coach Suguru."

Staring at her denim skirt instead of her face now, I whispered, "Of course. It is our duty to… to maintain order in this school. The Phantom Thieves, a-and bullies, are… disorderly. Right? Shouldn't we want to make sure… u-um…"

When it became obvious I wasn't going to finish because my voice had left me, Kawakami prompted, "Go on."

"Shouldn't we want to ensure this is the best institute of learning it can be? Don't you want that? You're our teacher."

"Well…" Another sigh, and I glanced up to see her pinching the bridge of her nose. "Yeah. I guess we do. But nobody likes a snitch. Even I've heard that you and the principal knew about Suguru abusing his students… what was going on with poor Miss Suzui."

"I- I didn't," I hastily told her, feeling my chest tighten, my blood running cold. She hated me. Everyone at the school hated me, didn't they?

But Miss Kawakami was shrugging and turning to look at her papers. "Didn't say I believe the rumours. Just that they exist, and they have some basis in fact. You gonna deny that?"

When I never answered, she finally did glance over at me. There was no warmth or kindness in her eyes, and I understood why; I had stormed in there, accused her of doing something unscrupulous. Even if I didn't outright state that it was with a student, maybe that was why she was so upset: she figured it out. What kind of entitled jerk was I?

"I am very, very sorry," I whispered as I bowed low again, just barely able to keep from trembling. Maintaining my professional facade. "I won't trouble you with this again, Sensei."

"Thank you," she said simply. But when I didn't raise back up, she touched my shoulder. "Makoto…"

"Wh-what…?"

Now there was the tiniest amount of warmth there - both in her eyes and the gentle hand. My heart skipped over a beat. Whether that was because the brief comfort felt nice, or because I had been shocked and afraid she might hurt me, I couldn't say for sure.

"It's alright. Get out of here, let me get back to work."

"Thank you, Sensei. I… I'll go away."

For just a second, as I stood and turned toward the door, I caught a flicker of surprise crossing her face again as she watched me make my way to the exit. But I didn't dare look back to confirm.

~ o ~

That was it. My big plan to expose further corruption in our school, to get to the bottom of the problem with my teacher, and I failed. I didn't even really get started.

So nothing happened for another week or two. I busied myself with other projects, studying, my duties as student council president. Though I did notice Miss Kawakami looked more and more exhausted, I had already burned that bridge with her; she thought I was an awful, rude busybody who cared more about advancing my school career and finding out the truth than people's feelings. None of that was true… but how could I argue with the way it looked?

Then something happened that almost made me forget all about her. You might remember this, Sister. I hadn't even been home for a few minutes when I heard you shouting for me.

"Makoto!"

I was still busy taking off my Mary Janes when I called back, "Yes?"

You came around the corner, that iron grey hair of yours dripping wet, towel wrapped around your body. It's easy to forget when I don't see you like that, but your legs go on for days. How am I your sister when you're twenty centimeters taller than me? Why did you win the genetic lottery? I always feel like a child next to you. But that's for more than one reason.

"Wasn't the water heater supposed to be fixed today?"

"I… think it was," I replied, stepping away from the door and fiddling with the strap of my school bag. "I take it maintenance didn't get to it?"

"You take it correctly." Every inch of your posture radiated anger and disapproval. "I thought you were going to make sure they could be let in."

Swallowing hard, I set my bag down near the couch. "Well, Onee-san… I said I would if I was home. But they were supposed to arrive while I was at school, so-"

"Then you should have left instructions with them. A key under the mat, something. You know I'm busy with the Phantom Thieves case; do I have to do everything around here?"

"No," I said. In what I hoped was a reasonable tone. "But you also know I can't skip class. And isn't it dangerous to leave a key out for anyone to find?"

Your jaw tightened, and I felt smaller and smaller. Pathetic and useless in your eyes; like I would never measure up. Which was how I always felt with you. On the good days, I only felt somewhat lesser; on the bad, I felt like nothing.

"Fine. You're right. Can't help that. I'll have to do it myself."

"Wait. Can't you… can they come back on Sunday? I don't have class then, and I would be happy t-"

"Nevermind," you cut me off fiercely with a wave of your hand, eyes no longer focused on me but off into the distance. "I'll do it. You can focus on your studies so you can grow up someday. Can't keep coddling you and supporting you forever, can I?"

And before I could say anything else, you were stomping back into the bathroom. There was nothing more for me to do than to move into the kitchen and begin cobbling together a simple dinner for the both of us. And that happened so often I could have set my watch by it. I was left alone in the living room, with my feelings of inadequacy coming from two women in my life who were authority figures.

Poor little Makoto, right?

To Be Continued…

Chapter Text

~ x JUDGMENT x ~

"Wait," Sae snapped at her younger sister. "That isn't fair. You have no idea what kind of stress I had been under that day - and to top it off with a forced cold shower…"

But Makoto only shook her head. "I didn't say it was fair or unfair, or that you were trying to hurt me. Only that it happened. Are you saying it didn't?"

"Of course not. But you paint me as some kind of, of… unfeeling monster!"

"No, I'm not. Really. Only a big sister who sometimes doesn't listen to her little sister."

For the first time, the elder sister looked vaguely less than self-assured. Her nimble fingers clutched the pen, thumb flicking over the button to retract and produce the nib. Trying to release pent-up nervous energy. Then she whispered, "Maybe… I am unduly harsh with you. On occasion."

"It's alright. I know you're under a lot of stress; you don't think I know that? Especially after everything?" As Sae's lips set in the thinnest of lines, she said, "Now, do you want me to continue?"

"By all means. We don't have all day."

"Fine. If I have no choice, I would rather finish this." She cleared her throat and stared downward. "So I was distracted by worrying about the hot water heater, and your approval. That kept my brain spinning for a few days…"


 

~ x The Priestess x ~

My friend Ann Takamaki also looked preoccupied. She did from time to time; she had a lot on her mind between modelling and school-related issues. And that's without her best friend being put in the hospital by Kamoshida. That bubbly blonde is the proof that things aren't always what they seem, since she routinely plastered a big smile over her inner strife.

"Hey, do you even hear me?"

"Huh?" I asked, then bowed slightly as we walked toward the courtyard. "I'm sorry, Ann. What did you say?"

Ann nodded back toward the stairs so hard that her big puffy pigtails bounced all over the place. She was almost like a living cartoon sometimes, with those ample curves and baby blue eyes - now rolling toward the ceiling. Maybe that's just because I don't know anyone else who's even part-white like her, much less an actual foreigner.

"I said, it's weird because she never takes a day off."

"Who?"

"Miss Kawakami!" Her fist drifted up to knock against my temple as she giggled, "Helloooo, Makoto-chan? The light's on but nobody's home!"

"Stop," I half-chuckled, swatting her hand away. "Sorry, I'm just… really spacing out today. Got a lot on my mind."

A long sigh issued from her pouty lips. "You and Ren both. Maybe you guys could start a club; the 'Big Bang Burger Brain Club For Space Cadets'."

"What does that even mean?!" But we were both laughing by now. I like Ann, but sometimes I just really can't understand her because we're very different people. "But what do you mean, he was spacing?"

"Like you were. Ever since Mr. Kobayakawa came in to tell us Miss Kawakami wouldn't be in, he kinda seemed to… shut down? Y'know, like one of those little toy robots when you just…" She mimed flicking a switch to the 'off' position.

"Ohhh… but that's odd. I wonder why?"

Not that I was going to tell Ann I already had my suspicions. While she was shrugging, I was already deciding that I needed to speak with Ren as soon as was possible.

Which happened right after lunch that day. I found him in the hallway and tugged him aside. "Do you have a minute?" He nodded. "Ann told me you were spacing out earlier today. Is… there a reason?"

Ren stared at me through his spectacles, expression as unreadable as ever. Maybe it was just my imagination, but I always had the impression that during every conversation, whenever he was asked a question, he was debating between two or three different answers to give - and he was never sure which to choose right up until he did so. Probably my imagination.

"It's Miss Kawakami."

"Right," I sighed, looking away. "I heard about that. Do… you know what happened to her?"

Another pause. "I heard it was exhaustion."

"Exhaustion?"

"Yeah. That she was hospitalised for exhaustion. I was thinking about going over there after school."

"Oh." My heart bypassed my stomach and shot straight through the floor. "Miss Kawakami's in the hospital? It's that bad?"

All I could think about was the way she had looked so tired. And I added to that fatigue. Even if it wasn't much… maybe if I didn't go see her that day, she wouldn't have needed to go recover in some hospital bed. And what if it got so bad that she died? It would make me a…

"Well, if you do go and see her," I managed to whisper when he didn't answer, "will you tell her that we all hope she feels better? I would appreciate it." He nodded. "Thank you. Um… if you'll excuse me…"

~ o ~

But by the end of school, I felt a little differently. The idea of going together with Ren seemed awful. Kawakami wouldn't want to see me after the way I behaved. Not that I blamed her - not at all! My questions were too harsh, even if I did want to investigate.

Moreso now than ever. Already, my suspicions were high with the glances between my friend and his teacher, but now he was going to visit her in the hospital? They had to be closer than they were letting on.

Once classes ended, I staked out the Shujin entrance gates and waited for Ren to show up. He was talking with Ryuji Sakamoto. They became fast friends very soon after Ren transferred to our school, so that was nothing unusual. What was unusual was that Ryuji headed for the subway station while Ren headed to the streets.

Aoyama Hospital came into view soon enough. I had a copy of Vague Magazine in front of my face so Ren wouldn't spot me following him; I felt more guilty about doing it now than I had before we became friends, but this was too important to back down. Maybe I couldn't face her directly, but I needed to know her situation, and if there was anything I could do to help.

I was able to hear Ren give the receptionist the room number he intended to visit, but then lost track of him because I was trying to be too sneaky. Some Phantom Thief I would make; couldn't even tail a single suspect. But I was able to eventually slip up to her floor and find Kawakami's room. Once there, I perched outside the curtain around her bed and strained to overhear.

And there were definitely more than two voices. I didn't recognise the other two, but I could certainly make out every word thanks to their carelessly loud tones.

"You never learn, do you?" said a man as he laughed harshly. "And after all you did to him…"

"I'm sorry," Kawakami said in the most defeated tone I had ever heard from her. Since she's an underpaid high school teacher, that's saying a lot.

Now an older woman spoke up. "So? When are you going to transfer the money?"

"I should be able to send it out tomorrow…"

"Don't pay them a dime," Ren said - and I was shocked at how firm, how commanding his tone was. To an adult? What was he doing?! This was going to be a repeat of his run-ins with Coach Kamoshida all over again - and he was already on probation!

"Amamiya-kun…" That was real gratitude in my teacher's voice, even if it was also surprised.

"Stay out of this!" snapped the older woman.

"Don't act so tough, kid," the man said. "Our precious adoptive son, Taiki, died because of this woman. Honestly, she should've been fired."

My heart froze, my hand over my mouth as I gasped and listened to Kawakami mutter a few protests. What were they talking about? I never heard of any incident involving a student dying because of her. That was crazy! But she was reacting as if these were stone cold facts and she had no choice but to accept their admonishments.

"It's not like we're trying to extort you," the nasty woman was saying in a would-be reasonable tone when my ears tuned back in. "But who was it that convinced Taiki to start studying when he needed to be working? The schoolwork on top of his part-time jobs overwhelmed him, which led to that accident. Poor Taiki… it's almost like he was murdered!"

"So you no longer feel regret?" the man - her husband? - demanded. "In that case, perhaps we should sue the Board of Education. Or should we have a chat with your school? Either way, your days as a teacher would be over."

"I…" Kawakami sighed, long and wearily. "I understand. I will pay you. So…"

"Well, we're looking forward to receiving your payment. Soon. So quit being lazy and laying around in bed and make sure we get it."

Hastily, I stuffed my nose back in my magazine as the two walked past me and out of the room. A brief glance showed me a very normal-looking middle-aged couple. Their expressions were pretty smug, but otherwise I never would have guessed they were capable of being so, so… greedy. And monstrous. From what I could glean, she had been trying to help their son learn. They said 'accident', so it wasn't as if she killed him in cold blood. But I would have to learn more before I could fully understand this situation.

"I have to figure out a way to make more money," poor Kawakami was saying now. "I guess transferring to our sister company is the only way."

"Sister company?" Ren asked. Honestly, it was exactly what I was thinking at that moment.

"They're affiliated with the one I'm at now. I can make a lot more there." Brief hesitation. "You can… pretty much guess the type of services they provide, right? That's the only way I can make more money."

Ren was still sighing in despair when I drew my feet up into the chair, hugging my knees to my chest. I had no idea what she was talking about, but it sounded like the absolute last resort for her. Was this another school? A cram school - maybe one that was less than reputable? Dealing drugs like Adderall, or letting students pay their way to better marks on their exams? That would explain why she didn't want to transfer there. And of course, she wouldn't want to relocate…

But the terminology didn't make sense. Weren't schools mostly funded by the government? What company was she "affiliated" with?

"You know what?" she suddenly piped up. "I'm gonna stop worrying about it! The money, I'll pay it. I'll do everything Master tells me to do!"

Master?! What was she talking about? The two ungrateful parents? But I didn't even have time to worry about that before she was emotionally collapsing again.

"I'm so tired. If they demand more money, then I just have to pay them."

"Just rest for now," Ren insisted. The tenderness in his voice surprised me - and my suspicions that they might be up to less-than-platonic activities heightened. He cared about her. Not just as a person, but as someone who was part of his life.

"Sorry, I'm not quite back to a hundred percent yet, so my thoughts are all over the place. I'll get some rest; I promise." A little warmth returned to her own tone as she said, "I appreciate you coming to visit me today. It made me really happy."

Then she was falling victim to a coughing fit. "Kawakami-sensei," Ren breathed, and the way the shadow shifted on the other side of the curtain, I was sure he had put a hand on her shoulder or something.

"I'll be released first thing tomorrow morning, so don't worry. The IVs here are top notch. And visiting hours are over, so… get home safe, okay?"

"Alright. Take care of yourself."

"I'll try."

Luckily for me, Ren was too preoccupied to notice me curled up in that chair in the corner by the vacant bed. I didn't even think to hide my face again.

Sadayo Kawakami was a fine teacher, and an institution at Shujin. Whatever was going on with these two, that Taiki's guardians, made her think that she wasn't - that she owed them some kind of restitution for an accident that wasn't even her fault. Maybe it was my usual paranoia acting up again, but this felt like a shakedown. They were bleeding a hard-working teacher dry. I vowed then and there to never let Sadayo Kawakami out of my sight again.

"Hello?"

Only when she called out to me did I realise I had been crying. She heard it through the curtain. I fell quiet and held very still for a moment.

"Is someone there?" Before I could try to come up with a plan to creep out of the room, her hand was swooshing the curtain aside. "Wha…?"

"U-um…"

"Niijima-san?!"

"Hello, Kawakami-sensei," I attempted with a small smile as I sat up a little straighter, trying for a polite smile. It probably looked fake.

"What are you doing here? Wait…" Her eyes narrowed slightly. "There's nobody else staying in my room. So you can't be… visiting…"

My heart hurt so much when I saw the outrage and anger taking over her expression. "I can explain-"

"I think you should leave. Now."

"Miss Kawakami, what's going on? Are those people giving you financial trouble? Mayb-"

"You have spied on me for long enough," she snapped, looking away. Her face was so drawn and pale, and the simple white shirt above the bedclothes only made it worse. "Seriously, if the potato wants me gone that bad… oh, maybe I deserve it. But I'm too tired to deal with you right now."

My throat tightened, my pulse raced. And then I shut down, like always. Just like when being yelled at by another female authority figure in my life…

"I understand, Kawakami-sensei." My bow was stiff and formal as I rose to my feet, and I held it for a long few seconds. "My mistake, I didn't mean to upset you while you're recovering. I won't trouble you again. Please get well soon."

Her hand waved my formality away. "Don't be so starchy all the time. I'll see you in class. Just… please, stop this snooping around, alright? It's not healthy for either of us."

"Of course."

What a lie. But it was one I had to tell to her and to myself so I could make myself get out of that hospital room without bursting into tears.

To Be Continued…

Chapter Text

~ x JUDGMENT x ~

"So you admit you were following her?" Sae asked Makoto as she crossed her legs in the other direction. "You know stalking is a crime."

The student brushed off the black vest she wore over her white shirt. Clearly it was just a nervous habit; an attempt to appear more presentable. "And yet it's part of your job, Sis."

"It is. Not part of yours."

"Fine. But I didn't have any…" Her shoulders rose and fell. "There was no way to tell if I was completely crazy, a-and Ren was just a good person concerned about his teacher, or if… if she was doing something unspeakable with him. And after Kamoshida…"

At last, Sae let her eyes fall closed for a moment. "Alright. So you believe you have good intentions. I'll grant you that - and only that so far. But I'm going to need to hear more and you know that."

"Yes, I understand. So where was I? Right… the fresh lead."


~ x The Priestess x ~

Ms. Kawakami and myself steered clear of each other for a few days. It was good to see that she was back in school and teaching again, despite whatever trouble had befallen her thanks to those two horrible people. I really wished I could help, and I wanted to ask Ren, but there was no way I could do that without revealing to him that I had followed him to the hospital and eavesdropped. Not that this was anything new for me, but I still felt too guilty to come forward.

So I left it alone for a while. But eventually…

"Hey, bro," Ryuji whispered to Ren just after one of our little… gatherings. And his whispers aren't particularly quiet.

"Hm?"

"About that thing… with Victoria." His dyed-yellow spikes barely wobbled atop his head as he glanced around, but I appeared to be nose-deep in a book and Ann had already skipped off to do something else, so he decided the two of them were relatively 'safe'. "You're really not gonna give me any details?" Ren shook his head. "Aww, man…"

Ren muttered something back that I couldn't quite overhear. He was better at being discreet than the "monkey", as another of our friends calls Ryuji on a regular basis.

"But you actually got to talk to her, dude! Like, what's that like? Y'know, with the kinda things she does?" His eyebrows waggled. "Special services! Ehhh?"

By this point, Ren looked like he would really prefer the conversation to be over. So he said something a little quieter, a little longer, and Ryuji gradually started to look like a boy who found out the video game he wanted was all sold out at the store.

"Fiiiiiine, keep your friggin' secret. Just sayin', Becky sounded really hot! And you got to hang out with her alone because Mishima an' me choked! Why couldn't I keep my shit together, man?! UGHHH…"

That was it. And alone, the piece meant nothing to me; I assumed Ren, Ryuji, and for some reason Yuuki Mishima of all people had run into some cute girls named Becky and Victoria - maybe they were Westerners visiting? - and had hit on them, and then the other two ran off to leave Ren fending for himself. Even if I didn't know what they meant by "special services", I decided it was probably some disgusting boy euphemism for activities I didn't want to think very deeply about.

The very next day was a Saturday. Ms. Kawakami still looked weary, but not quite as bone-tired as she had before her brief hospital stay. And she still seemed the same way as I followed her out of the building. This time, it was by coincidence, not design; I had been busy studying in the library and lost track of time. It was just starting to edge into the evening by then.

And I wanted to call out to her. In fact, I started to speed up my steps and do exactly that. There had to be something I could say to show her I didn't mean her any harm; that if she wasn't hurting anyone, wasn't taking advantage of Ren, then we had no problem and I wanted to help if I could.

Before I could, her phone rang. And as she rounded the corner, her voice changed when she answered; became higher.

Bubblier.

"Hiiii, this is Becky! Did you call to request li'l ol' me again?" There was a slight pause, and then she giggled in a way I had never, ever heard a teacher giggle before. "Wonderful, Master! Laundry with Becky's extra-special fluff and fold, meeeeYOW! Do you have my usual fee ready?" Another pause. "Great! Don't worry, I will be there very soon! Byeeeeee!"

As Kawakami thumbed the touchscreen to end the call, I could do nothing but stand there as if turned to stone by Medusa, watching my teacher hang her head in weariness and shame. What did I just hear? Who did I just hear? "Becky" bore absolutely no resemblance to the woman who normally slogged her way through our classes as if she could really use some of Cafe Leblanc's specialty brew - the one standing before me now, who looked like she wanted to climb down the sewer grating and disappear.

And furthermore… no way was it a coincidence that was the same name Ren and Ryuji had been talking about.

Now I had to know what was going on. That whole conversation sounded like something very specific, and it made me worry about her… but I couldn't be sure. And the last thing I wanted to do was throw around more unfounded accusations.

Which is how I ended up following her.

The subway took us another stop along before she got off. Even though she did glance in my direction once or twice, my magazine shot up to hide my face often enough that she never quite realised I was following her. Then she went inside and I was left to loiter. I needed to turn to a friend - and since I was fairly certain Eiko Takao, the flightiest girl I have ever known, would be of no use to me…

QUEEN: Hey do you have a sec?

PANTHER: What? Omg you never text me Mako-chan
PANTHER: What's up? 8D

It was hard not to be intimidated by Ann's overabundance of enthusiasm. Just made it feel too daunting and like I would be better off if I threw my phone away. But I tried not to let my nerves keep me from responding.

PANTHER: Hellooooooooo?
QUEEN: I think I'm doing something bad

PANTHER: Something bad?
PANTHER: ARE YOU ON A DATE
PANTHER: Who is it? Joker? No wait, no way…
QUEEN: It's not a date
PANTHER: RYUJI?!
PANTHER: Oh
QUEEN: Seriously does Ryuji seem like my type?
PANTHER: LMAO okay maybe not
QUEEN: It's not a date it's something else
PANTHER: Huh?
PANTHER: Hey… it's nothing life threatening is it?
PANTHER: Please
QUEEN: Whoa whoa no
PANTHER: I can't go through that again
PANTHER: Okay good
QUEEN: I'm sorry
PANTHER: DON'T FREAK ME OUT LIKE THAT
PANTHER: No no you're good friendo 3

QUEEN: Maybe this was a mistake
PANTHER: Huh?
PANTHER: Omg just tell me already
QUEEN: Well
QUEEN: I think one of our teachers is up to something strange
QUEEN: And I followed them

My eyes glanced up toward the apartment building's door when some man walked inside, and I swallowed hard, waiting for Ann to reply. At least I had managed to say 'them' instead of 'her', so she wouldn't know it was Kawakami. Or Ms. Chouno, but still, the list of female teachers was shorter.

PANTHER: Something strange?
PANTHER: Kamoshida strange? Because if it is
PANTHER: I want in
QUEEN: Well… I don't think that's it?
QUEEN: Please listen
PANTHER: It's not?
QUEEN: I'm close to the Akasaka-Mitsuke station
QUEEN: And I'm waiting to see if I'm right about something
PANTHER: Dude you're being pretty sketchy
PANTHER: But it sounds like
PANTHER: You're worried? Like really for real?
QUEEN: Yes.
QUEEN: I think this teacher is being blackmailed
PANTHER: Blackmail?

Just then, the door opened, and I had to close the text and raise my magazine to hide my face again. But it wasn't Miss Kawakami who came out, anyway; it was a woman in sleek black pigtails and a French maid uniform. She seemed totally at home walking around like that; probably had regular hours in one of the maid cafes in Akihabara or somewhere. While she stood at the curb, I started to go back to reply to Ann's incoming messages…

The maid glanced my way, waiting impatiently for her cab. And she felt familiar. Recognition was already making the hair on the back of my neck stand on end before my conscious mind sorted it out.

"Wait," I breathed softly as a car pulled up. It had a pink banner on the side of it, proudly proclaiming "VICTORIA Housekeeping Services" in bold red letters. My thumb was already activating the camera app as I watched the maid approach the back door and open it, bowing and saying something to the driver before slipping inside and away. I was able to get one or two shots of her, then of the car.

And she was gone before my brain fully realised what had just happened. "Was that… Kawakami?!"

~ o ~

In practically no time, I was standing around in the underground mall below Shibuya station - "Shibuchika" as it's called. Looking for Ann. Eventually, she waved me over to the flower shop she was poking around in.

"So?! What's up, what's the story, what's the dirt?!"

My hands came up to ward her off as I laughed nervously. "Okay, okay. Wow! Let me catch my breath. Can we get some boba or something first?"

"Sure, let's grab some aojiru. I'm trying to be healthier, for my modelling career? And like, I keep getting it pointed out to me that all I eat is crap."

"It won't kill us to be healthier, I suppose," I admitted as she steered me to the stairs.

Aojiru is… interesting. Greenish sludge in a glass that is full of nutrients but bitter and unpleasant. Still, we ordered two cups of Beauty Aojiru to hopefully make us more radiant, and shelled out ¥5000 for the pleasure.

"Bottom's up!" Ann laughed, clinking her plastic cup against mine. "The things we do for beauty!"

Passerby seemed alarmed at how much we were gagging afterward. Still, we managed to finish the drinks and then found a bench somewhere to sit and catch our breaths.

"I can… feel the burn!" she finally announced in a strangled gasp.

"R-right! So refreshing!"

Bracing against her knees, she took in a few strong breaths and let them out slowly. Then she sat back and smiled over at me, tears at the corners of her eyes.

"Okay, spill, girl. What's this crazy mission you went on, what did you find out?"

"Well…" I still felt really guilty for following Kawakami in the first place, and if she was truly an innocent victim, would feel even worse exposing such a secret. "Let's just say… her name is Becky."

"Becky?!" Her blue eyes narrowed in thought for a moment before she shook her head. "No Becky I remember hearing of on the Shujin Academy faculty."

"It's not her real name. Anyway, here's what I know so far…"

So I told her. Not everything, obviously, because I didn't want to out Ren or Kawakami until I was absolutely sure of the situation. But I filled in all of the other details I knew so far. That cartoonish face I was beginning to grow so fond of went through a million transformations - shock, disgust, sadness. But she seemed to feel roughly the same about the situation as I did.

"Well we can't do nothing, Mako-chan. Those two creeps are shaking her down for money! Totally exploiting her!"

"Exactly! I'm not sure what that student's connection is, but even without that…"

Ann nodded, arms tightly folded over her chest. All I had told her about Ren was that some student I knew was in frequent contact with 'Becky'. "There's a big problem here, though."

"Oh? What's that?"

"How are you supposed to ask her for details if she doesn't wanna talk to you? Like, I completely get that you wanna protect her identity, cuz you don't know for sure that she's hurting anybody. And if she's not... Becky is just in trouble and you don't wanna hurt her more."

My nod must have been sadder than I myself realized, because I suddenly felt a gentle hand resting on my shoulder. Smiling up at her, I whispered, "You're right. What she has to go through... it makes me sick thinking about it. So I need all the answers before I make a move."

"Sure, yeah. And… well, I could ask her for you, but then you'd have to tell me who she is. Same for any of the guys - and she'd prolly hate the idea of talking to them anyway."

"True," I said, even though Ren came to mind again. But Ann didn't need to know that. "So what can I do? Camp outside her front doorstep and confront her when she gets home? It would embarrass her too much. Right out there in the street like that!"

"Hell yeah, it would," she sighed, sitting back and staring up at the ceiling as commuters passed by us, off to destinations unknown. "But… what if…"

My ears perked up. "What if…?"

Ann held up her index finger as she looked at me, eyes wide and lips slowly beginning to stretch into a smile. "What if she didn't talk to Makoto?"

"Huh? Sorry, I'm… didn't we just say it has to be me, since I would be betraying her to tell any of you?"

"Yeah, but also nah. Okay, since you're the student council president, you've got the keys all sorts of parts of the school, right?"

Squirming, I held up a hand as I told her, "I'm not breaking into the teacher's office and waiting to ambush her."

"No, no! Let me see your phone again." I handed it over, and she wasted no time pulling up the pictures I have hastily snapped. Luckily, none of them showed Ms. Kawakami's face - or it was too blurry and far away to tell it was her. "Victoria, huh?"

Now Ann was pulling out her own phone and looking up something. Then she took a picture of her screen with mine and handed it back.

"'Victoria Housekeeping'," I read. "Wait… what are you-"

"We gotta hurry," she said as she popped up, grabbing my hand and yanking me to my feet so fast that I almost dropped my phone to the ground. "If we don't hurry up, we'll run out of time!"

"Time for what?!" I protested as I stumbled after her. "Ann, slow down! ANN!"

To Be Continued…

Chapter Text

~ x The Priestess x ~

Less than two hours later, I was sitting nervously on a bed in Dogenzaka. Love Hotel Hill. The last place I ever expected to find myself.

Just in case you don't know about it - which I doubt, Sis - that's where all young couples go when they need a night to themselves. Or just a few hours. Maybe the problem is a messy apartment, maybe it's parents… maybe it's just very thin walls in their building. Either way, love hotels do a lot of business - and that little corner of Shibuya plays host to the highest concentration of them in Tokyo. Finding one that would rent to me for a couple of hours without me already having the second person in tow was the easy part, and only cost me ¥3000.

Especially easy considering my disguise.

The hardest part was actually making the phone call. It took every ounce of courage I had, especially because I would be disguising my voice - which was something I didn't have a lot of experience doing. The memory of the call was still fresh in my mind…

"Housekeeping Service Victoria! What can we do for you today, sir?"

"Um… can I have… a maid?" Did I mention I was also the most nervous I had ever been in my life?

"Sure," the woman on the other end giggled. "That's what we're here for! Do you have a special request, or would you like me to describe a few of our top-rated maids and what services they can help you with?"

"I want Miss K-" That had been a close one. "W-what I mean is, do you have a maid named Becky?"

"Oh! I can certainly transfer you to Becky and see if she's available! One moment please."

Some pleasant, inoffensive harpsichord music played in the background until the transfer connected. The entire time, I had been sweating bullets, practicing making my voice even deeper.

"Hiiii! You've reached Becky! How may I help you today, meow?"

"Two hours. How much?" The less I said, the better.

"That will be ¥10000! Are you sure you need me for two hours, Master? I might be able to get all my work done in half that time!"

"Yes." Her calling me 'master' was already giving me nausea. But I tried to power through; I had to know what she was doing. After all, sweet Ann had given me half the money to request her, so the least I could do was follow through. "Hotel Juliet. Here is the address…"

And that was that. She didn't even waste a second hesitating when I gave her the address of a love hotel; just took it in stride. Which already seemed to be confirming my worst fears, but I told myself that I wouldn't back down or make any more assumptions; that would be even worse than confirming the truth.

So I made the room the tiniest bit messy while I waited for her. Then I sat on the bed, shaking like a leaf and sweating bullets. Right up until I heard the knock at the door.

"Housekeeping!" she called in a sing-song.

"Come in!" She came in. And already, I really wished she hadn't.

My Japanese language teacher stood before me wearing the same frilly black-and-white French maid outfit. What parallel universe did I step into?! Her hair was up in pigtails that hung down to her shoulders - or rather, it was a wig. No way her natural hair was long enough for that. A layer of foundation helped to conceal the very slight signs of ageing, making her passable for 21 or similar. Not that I knew how old she really was.

"It is nice to meet you, Master," she said with a playful curtsy. Really, I didn't think curtsies could be playful, but she did it.

"Good evening," I attempted in my best impression of a male voice.

"My my myyyeeow, but you're so handsome," she buttered me up with a flutter of her mascaraed eyelashes. "I'm such a lucky girl that you'll let me get covered in dust for you!"

"Th-thank you." Was I really handsome, though? My disguise was pretty believable. Ann helped me a lot with it, especially doing the stage makeup that made me look like I had a five o'clock shadow. But it was the big bushy mustache and having my shoulder-length hair stuffed up into fedora that made me look different enough that my teacher might not notice.

She stepped out of her Mary Janes and paced a little closer away from the door. "So! Let's just take care of that silly fee and we can get started right away! Victoria said you would pay in person?"

"Oh! Right, um…" Quick as I could, I fished out ¥10000 and handed it over. A double-shift for her. She pocketed it immediately, not even batting an eye. How many times had she done this?

"Thanks sooooo much! You're the best, Master! What can Becky do for you today?"

"U-um, well… get started on this mess. Then we can relax." That sounded really cheesy and sleazy, but it was the best I could do.

"Of course," she said with a huge wink as she fished a laminated card out of her apron pocket. "You can check this out while I get started! Should only take me a few minutes!"

I accepted it without really thinking, then watched numbly for a moment as she began to tidy up the pillows and sheets I had strewn around the floor. Humming a little tune as she worked. Finally, I decided the card might actually be important and took a look.

Hello, Master! Thank you for using Victoria Housekeeping Service! My name is BECKY !  I'm happy to do whatever you need!

Standard services include:

-Sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, dusting
-Making beds/Airing out futons
-Laundry
-Light cooking
-Conversation

Premium services (additional charge):

-Dancing alone  ¥500
-Dancing together  ¥500
-Lap kitten  ¥1000
-Lap pillow  ¥1000
-Tucking you in  ¥1000
-Stocking removal  ¥1000
-Keep stockings  ¥5000
-Foot/neck massage  ¥1000
-Deep back massage  ¥2000
-Health Massage  ¥5000  (Note: maid may refuse at any time)
-Health Kiss  ¥10000  (Note: maid may refuse at any time)

Prohibited requests:

-Pictures
-Kissing the maid
-Touching the maid without explicit permission, with any part of the client's body or objects under their control

Our maids are very important to Victoria! Please treat me with kindness and care! ❤

That had me reeling. Just that Miss Kawakami had to specify that nobody was allowed to touch her without her permission… this was her life after school was out. Being constantly hit on by men who had her all alone in their houses. She must have spent a lot of time hating herself on the inside. I had to wonder if that contributed to how weary she always looked, beyond simply being tired. But then I saw the fine print at the bottom of the card:

Our employees (maids) are not prostitutes and are not allowed to participate in sexual intercourse with unspecified persons. Violators of this policy will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. All names and locations of clients are noted in our records and employees who do not report in are treated as victims of crime and the clients as the responsible parties until proven otherwise.

Well… at least there was that.

"Soooo," my temporary maid asked as she picked up the condoms I had dumped out of the bedside table drawer - which I now was horrified about since I hadn't even noticed what they were before, "my master seems to have been very messy just for meeee. Was there another reason you called our service?"

The twinkle in her eye when she winked at me said it all: this was a love hotel. Even if I somehow partied so hard in two hours that I trashed the room, no way would I need to call a separate maid when the hotel staff would take care of that.

"L-lonely," I grumbled, trying to seem standoffish.

"Awwww, that's okay. I offer a lot of premium services, but… if you just wanna talk, we can talk. Becky doesn't mind at all." She finished putting them away, then straightened and folded her hands in front of her lap, waiting patiently for my response. Obediently.

"Um…" Glancing back down at the card, I looked up and asked, "K-keep stockings?"

Only when her eyebrows went up did I realise what that meant. But she was already recovering from her brief surprise and saying, "Master, you really want to keep my stockings? I'm so honoured!"

"W-wait, no, I…" Clearing my throat, desperately trying to deepen my voice again, I tried to play it off. "Maybe later. First… what is 'dancing alone'?"

"Ohhh. Oh, I see - you're just trying to decide what you like on the menu. Do you want a little sample?"

At first, I thought she meant a sample of the stockings. Was she going to cut off a piece?! But then she started doing a little sexy dance - nothing extremely lewd, but it definitely made my pulse speed up slightly. Was this really happening? My teacher was dancing for me - like a stripper without the stripping part! But it was over after only about ten seconds, and then she was giggling and covering her mouth.

"Dancing alone… got it. Very nice." As she bowed, an idea suddenly occurred to me. "Tell me about Becky." Maybe if I asked, she would reveal a little bit about herself. Or I would get some made-up story about this character she had invented. Either way, at least she wouldn't be sitting in my lap or any of those things.

"Sure! May I sit here?" When I nodded, she sank down onto the bed next to me, hands folded neatly on her lap. "Do you like Japanese maids, or Western maids?"

"Japanese?"

"Alrighty. So, Becky used to be a little girl whose father liked Western movies. That's how she got such a funny name! And she always dreamed of serving others, making them feel good. She didn't always know how she wanted to do that, but…" She leaned a little closer, and my heart pounded louder in my chest. "Then she one day realised that if she took this job, she would meet Master someday."

"Huh?" Her face was even closer, and my fingers gripped the bedsheet tightly as I fought the instinct to back up. "Me?"

Her nod was completely sure. "My master was going to be the best master. And he would take care of me like I take care of him. That's all Becky ever wanted out of life." Similarly, her smile was warm, and kind. "And I will do whatever I can to make him happy. Okay?"

"Okay. I m-mean… yeah."

"Good!" she sat back with a wider smile, and I let out a sigh of relief. Definitely a made-up story, just to make the client feel gratified in some way. How different listening to that had been from listening to one of her lectures in class; it was like she really was a completely different person.

"Becky," I began as I thought about the list. What was something I could order? I already booked her for two hours, so now I had to find something to do that would fill that time. "What is, um… Health Kiss?"

This shift was obvious, and I could almost reach out and touch the change in atmosphere. Miss Kawakami's eyes dulled for a moment, and she looked through me rather than at me. She took a couple of little breaths. Then a much less genuine smile reappeared on her face - though it might have fooled most of her hornier, less perceptive clientele.

"It's something very special. Becky only gives that to her best Masters, if she can. Sometimes she can't. Is… is that alright with Master?"

"Yes!" I told her right away, eyes wide. "I'm sorry, I… it's okay. I just was curious." Definitely something sexual. That was as much as I really needed to find out, but now I felt awful for asking. My teacher was a Delivery Health professional, even if those services were limited to two sexual acts, apparently.

"Of course. Master can ask whatever he wants!" A little of the genuine cheer started to come back, but she was still shaken. "Well, what can we do? I like talking with Master, but it's okay if Master wants something more from Becky. Even just…" She gestured around. "You don't happen to have a broom, do you?"

"No." I thought frantically. Literally everything on the list of special services intimidated me; how was I supposed to let her sit on my lap? Or massage me?! She would feel my curves underneath the random boy clothes! My finger tapped the stockings. "Are you hot in those?"

Kawakami shrugged a tiny bit. "A little, but I want to look nice for Master. Unless… Master wouldn't mind seeing me without them…?"

"Yes. I… wait." I glanced at the card again, then nodded to myself and fished out another bill. There went my allowance… "Here."

She took it and put it with the rest. None of the standard services besides talking were open to me in a random hotel room, and I was running out of things to say. This was the lesser of the evils; taking off her stockings and the sexy dancing were the only premium ones that didn't involve me, so I thought one of those was probably the smartest move. And at least all this would mean was seeing her legs, and I had seen plenty of girl-legs. It wasn't going to matter to me.

How wrong I was.

"Oooh, I really am hot," she giggled as she began running her hands up and down the outsides of her thighs. "Master had me work so hard to clean the room that now… Becky's so warm…" She bit her bottom lip as she slid her hands up her skirt…

This was unbelievable. Both that I was watching Miss Kawakami strip for me, and that it was affecting me. My heart rate was up, my palms tingling, my head buzzing like it was full of bees. She was a woman! She was my teacher! What on earth was wrong with me?!

Barely an inch of skin became visible beneath the hem of the skirt where it rested above her knees when she fixed me with a level stare. "Master…"

"Huh? What?!" Then I cleared my throat, made my voice more 'butch' again. "I mean… is there a problem?"

"You paid to take them off," she breathed throatily, fluttering her lashes again. "Don't you want to?"

Oh no. I thought I was just paying for her not to be wearing tights anymore. Not for the 'pleasure' of taking them off myself.

"It's alright? I mean… I'll be touching you."

"It's what my Master wants, so of course it is. But I trust you not to let those greedy hands go anywhere!" She admonished me with a wagging finger and a big grin, as if we were joking around; we both knew I wasn't going to do any such things. How laughable!

But there was a pinprick of fear in her eye. She was probably always worried she would get a client who didn't understand the way things worked.

"N-no, ma'am," I said automatically. That did get her blinking a few times, but I quickly followed up with, "This is all I want."

And I leaned down and began to push them off. At first, I tried to do it without really touching her, but I looked stupid and she chuckled a little. It was probably 'cute'. So then I pet along her legs a little before trying again, my grip firmer as I began to pull them down.

"Careful!" she warned me. "You'll tear them if you go too fast. Besides… this is all for you. Take your time! I want Master to have as much fun as he wants with my stockings."

Would this nightmare never end?! Not only did I have to do this now that I paid for it, or else she would figure out something was up, but I had to take my time and 'enjoy myself' - even though what I really wanted was to run screaming from Hotel Juliet as fast as my legs could carry me. Trying to take the safe option, I had gone from watching my teacher strip to stripping my teacher in a matter of seconds. Whoops.

Kawakami did have great legs; clean-shaven and smooth, like she spent a lot of time moisturising. It was easier than I expected to whisper, "Very nice."

"Thank you, Master." She scooted back a little further on the bed as I sat back to get the opaque white fabric moving down along her calves. They were heavily-perfumed, probably just for this reason. And the perfume was nice… but I could catch the vaguest hint of something else underneath the floral scent. Probably her natural scent.

Not that I wanted to think about it. Not that I wanted to do this at all.

"Silly Master," she giggled as I teased the fabric back and forth around her ankles, milking the moment. Now it was more because I didn't know what I was going to do once it was over. Rub my face on them? Pet her legs? Just put them on the bed and lock myself in the bathroom? The last one sounded fantastic at this point.

"Am I?"

"Yes." She booped my nose with her big toe and I couldn't help smiling. Why was that so cute? Why was any of this cute?! "Becky's happy you're having fun with her!"

Though I didn't forget to pitch my voice low, I ended up telling her very honestly, "I guess I am. Wow." Then I refocused and slid the stockings the rest of the way off.

"Oh myyyyy. I guess Master has to see Becky's feet now." Somehow, the tone of her voice made it very clear that she was fishing… because she was. Did she think I had a thing? Her little toes began to 'walk' up the front of my button-up and blazer, heading for my neck, but at a snail's pace. I could stop her very easily. She just wanted to find out what I was curious about and if she could cater to those needs in small ways.

"Guess so." I caught them and held on to keep them from moving higher. "I don't mind at all."

Again, she blinked in surprise, her mood shifting. But she seemed a lot more flattered than fearful this time. "You know… if Master decided he wants a Health Massage after all, Becky could use these…" Her toes flexed in my hands. "If you're patient with me. Becky hasn't tried that before."

"I'll keep that in mind," I hedged, trying not to mentally picture whatever that would be. The idea of sitting here, helping my teacher take off her clothes while she called me 'Master' was already enough to short-circuit my brain; I didn't need additional elements.

But then I was distracted for a second. Kawakami was calculating. I knew that look from you, Sis; when you have a case weighing heavy on your mind, it always happens before you either come up with a new angle for a lead, or work through a puzzle that had been giving you a hard time. Then…

Then she knelt down on the floor, suddenly filling my vision. Glancing down, I could see her cleavage — and forced myself to look back into her chocolatey eyes instead.

"M-miss… Becky…"

"Becky will stop if you want," she whispered very quietly. "But if you can pay the fee… Becky thinks she would like to help her master be more healthy. Take care of… whatever he needs." Her hand fell to pet up and down my side…

That was how the game changed. Suddenly it wasn't just about her body being real, and sensual, in a way no one else's had ever been in my eyes - despite my efforts to prevent that. Now she had awakened mine. And even knowing that it was a specific, intentional, targeted attempt to make me give in and pay her that ¥5000… well, I had never been in a position like this before.

"I don't know," I managed to get out, trying to back up but failing to do it well enough - or quickly enough - to convince her. "I might not… be ready."

"I think you're ready," she whispered as her hand slid up the inside of my thigh. "But don't worry. Becky will do whatever it takes to make you… feel…"

Her hand went higher than I expected that soon after she started. And this, more than anything else, sent pure shock into her wide eyes.

"…healthy?"

To Be Continued…

Chapter Text


~ x JUDGMENT x ~

"That's enough."

Makoto smirked. "What's the matter? Too awkward for you?"

"Yes," Sae half-snarled, slamming her hand down on the table again. "I really have no desire to hear about my little sister's sex life. You don't need to go into so much gruesome, sordid detail!"

"Oh, I think I do." Her smirk slid off, replaced with an angry, defiant look. "You wanted this. Remember? Said you had to know the whole story. I asked you not to pry, to let me have my privacy - but it was more important you get the facts. So now you don't have any choice. I'm telling you all of it. All of it, and you will just have to figure out how to be okay with that."

For a moment, it looked like Sae might not respond at all. Then she frowned and clenched her hands over and over. "Makoto… I can't believe you're being so cruel to me just for doing my job. Trying to protect you."

"That isn't why. But you might as well just let me finish now, since I will whether you like it or not."

"That's… that isn't…" Sighing in defeat, she nodded and waved for Makoto to continue.

"Good." Brushing down the front of her skirt again, she began, "So…"


~ x The Priestess x ~

Miss Kawakami's delicate feminine hand was between my legs.

Every part of that mental sentence baffled me. It was my teacher. She was a woman. And she was wearing a French maid costume, pressing her fingertips gently against my very warm anatomy through my costume trousers. Anyone doing that was something I was totally not prepared to experience yet, much less her! This whole situation was insane and I was reasonably sure I was having a mental breakdown.

Meanwhile, there was something else to deal with.

"Oh." Miss Kawakami moved her fingers experimentally, I couldn't completely stifle a quiet moan - and her hand shot away. "Oh my GOD."

"U-um…" It was all I could get out. I mean, someone had just fondled me for the first time in my entire life, so I think I had a good excuse!

"Wh-what I mean is… oh my God, you…" Frantically scrambling for a better reaction, she petted my thigh again. "Oh my God. My master is a very, very special boy."

"Huh?!"

"Of course, I've never done this for somebody who's a- who's special." Licking her lips, she tried for a smile, but it didn't hide any of her anxiety at all this time. "But, well… I, um, I want to try! If Master wants me to."

One of my hands came up to clamp down on her wrist, to keep her hand from moving higher. "Please don't. I… it's very interesting, but I'm…"

"Master, it's okay," she told me earnestly. "That's not something that matters to me. Alright? But… if you really don't want me to, I promise, I won't go any further. Really."

That was more like the teacher I knew and respected. She had been trying to encourage me to open up, but when I looked too afraid to try more she let it go. Easily. I could have hugged her, except it would give her the wrong impression - and probably also give away my secret identity. Such as it was.

"Do you not have the money?" she asked in a whisper. "I think, since you're so special, I could… offer half price?" The awkward smile told me she was mostly trying to make me feel better rather than to earn more money. Though it was both.

"Please, I, u-um… could you draw me a bath? Maybe after a bath…"

"Of course." She patted my leg, then stood up and towered over me, hands on her hips. I could almost see up her dress… which I had no idea why I cared about. I didn't, did I? "I'll get to it right away, Master!"

Once she was gone, I managed to crawl my way up the side of the bed and onto the mattress. I wanted to cry, I wanted to throw up… but I ended up just huddling there, staring at the wall while I listened to the sound of running water.

The worst part was, I didn't even know which part was the worst part. That I was here with my teacher? That she had molested me, and it was because I had deceived her into doing so?

Or that one simple touch from her had actually turned me on? I had never been aroused before; not really. A little antsy once or twice, but only from small things, like sitting on the edge of a chair wrong. No person had ever been attractive enough to me that my interest would spark such a reaction. So why now, with Miss Kawakami?!

Because she was beautiful? Because I felt drawn to her out of sympathy for her situation? Because she was interested in me - even if it was false interest, part of her job? Because it was an intimate touch I had never experienced before?

"The bath is almost ready, Master!" she chirruped as she skipped into the bedroom. Now she was back to her usual self; it seemed the break from me had given her time to recover her professionalism.

"Thanks," I croaked, still lying there like a dead fish.

"Master…" Sitting on the edge of the bed, she rested a hand on my arm. "Everything is fine. If you really want me to leave, I will, but… I hope you'll let me make it up to you. Anything you want; name it. As long as it's not… that, it's on the house."

My eyes widened. Now she felt guilty enough to offer me a free lap pillow or tucking-in? That wasn't right. This whole situation was my fault. I owed her, not the other way around.

"Here," I said, handing her a ¥5000 note. Cup ramen for a week was in my future. "W-we can say you did help me. With, um… 'Health Massage'? That's what that means, isn't it?"

"Oh. Well, yes, but I didn't really do-"

"It's fine. Um… and you can keep the other ¥5000 for the other hour. I'm just going to take a bath and… and forget I did something this stupid. But there's no reason you should lose time and money because of me."

"You're sending me away?"

"Yes. A-and now you can use the other hour to do another job for someone who… deserves you. Who isn't useless."

For a long moment, she simply sat there, staring at me. She was going to start reassuring me, or petting over my body, or trying to come up with something else she could do to make me feel better. And I couldn't take it. This was all my fault, and she was being wonderful. Maybe that was her job, but it didn't mean her intentions weren't genuine.

Except what she said was, "Wait. I know that voice."

"N-no, you don't," I said, back to being unnecessarily gruff. Damn. At some point, I had forgotten to pitch my voice low enough to disguise it.

"Yes, I do." And I was powerless to stop her as she reached down and pulled at the mustache until the adhesive gave out and it left my identity a lot less obscured.

"Um…"

"Niijima-san."

"I can explain," I began nervously, sitting up and facing her fully. Even though I really didn't want to. "This wasn't-"

"Still following me, huh?" The anger was slowly bleeding through, and I averted my eyes. "You have a lot of nerve. Do you have any idea what you've done?"

"Yes. I do." My throat worked for a moment before I started blurting out, "I'm ruining your life. I wanted to help, but now I know too much, and… and your life is already hard enough without me complicating everything."

That seemed to undercut her anger a little. "Well… yeah. That's pretty close to what I was thinking, to be honest."

"You can go. I will never tell anyone about this. That's a promise."

"How can I trust you?" she asked weakly, shrugging as she stared down at the bedspread. "You already said you would stop prying into my life. And here you are."

"I tried! But…" Might as well clear the air. "I was behind you."

"Behind me?"

"When you left school today, a-and took that phone call. For your client. I didn't mean to be there - I mean it this time. It really was an accident." Her cheeks flushed a little, and I rushed ahead, "But I already know why you do it. I know it's not just for 'fun', it's because of those people, asking for more money. That you don't have a choice. S-so I know you don't care what I think, but I'm not looking down on you, o-or… or judging you for any of this."

Kawakami mulled that over for a few seconds. "But you pity me."

"Of course. Someone is hurting you."

"They aren't. I hurt myself." Sighing, she turned to sit down more properly. "Takase-san was counting on me to tutor him; he really wanted to learn. But I let others convince me that it was doing more harm than good, and told him I couldn't tutor him anymore. That was why…"

"That was why?"

"That was why he got into that accident. He was distracted by what I had told him, upset about that, and got ran over. And now he's gone. I ended a student's life because I couldn't pay attention to what he really needed, instead of what I thought he needed. It's my fault."

My lip trembled for a second before I whispered, "You… have no reason to listen to me. But unless you were driving the car that hit him, I'm pretty sure it's that guy's fault."

"But… he's gone. Nothing can bring him back, how am I supposed to live with that?"

"How am I supposed to live with the fact that I got so hung up on finding out whether or not my teacher was abusing one of her students that I completely violated her privacy? I don't know. Maybe we just have to do it. Figure it out as we go."

"Abusing?" After a second or two, she closed her eyes and nodded. "Amamiya-kun. You thought we were sleeping together."

"I'm still not totally sure you weren't, but… now I know it was never any of my business. And I'm sorry."

"You really thought I was capable of touching a student that way?" Suddenly, she was staring right at me, the color draining from her face. It took me a moment or two to figure out why.

"Listen-"

"I can't believe I did that. Put my hand right up there and-"

"You had no idea it was me," I reassured her. "If anything, it's my fault for not revealing myself earlier. I tricked you, and it's all on me. I refuse to let you take any of the blame."

Her hand pushed into the side of her face as a shiver of disgust ran the length of her spine. Whether that disgust was at me or at herself, I couldn't be sure. "My own student. I should have been more careful, I… how stupid can I get? That mustache is obviously fake, and your hair is obviously under that hat."

Finally, I took the fedora off. It served no purpose now. "Pretty lame, huh?"

"Why did you do it?" The hand fell away, and I could see her eyes were glistening with unshed tears, but she was trying to focus on the moment instead. "Why didn't you just confront me in class, in front of everyone? I just don't understand why you set up this… this sting operation, or whatever it is. Is the potato hiding in the closet?"

"You should probably stop calling the principal that," I laughed quietly, and she did crack a half smile. "But… you were so angry and hurt when I accused you of having an affair. This time, I couldn't make any assumptions. I had to find out for sure one way or the other."

"Guess I can understand." She stuck her legs out in front of herself, staring down at her uniform. "Look at me. What a mess! Maybe I'm fooling myself. I was never cut out to be a teacher. Outsmarted by the student council president, caught being a Delivery Health maid by two students now…"

After biting my lip for a moment, I reached over and picked up her laminated card. "Well, going by this, I would say you're more maid than Delivery Health. It says right here the only two of those services you offer, you might even refuse."

"God!" she burst out in exasperation, snatching the card away and stuffing it into her pocket. "I'm sorry I ever handed you that! You have no idea the hands that thing has touched!"

"Oh? Um, is it really that unsanitary?"

"I disinfect it before every shift. So not really. But the idea of it…"

Fighting down a creepy crawly feeling that was trying to make its way up my arms, I reached out to lay a hand on her forearm. "I'm sorry. About all of this, about tricking you, following you… it's all my fault and I will apologize every day for the rest of my life."

Kawakami shook her head. "That's not necessary. I deserve this for having both of these jobs at the same time. They really don't go together, do they?"

"Not really. But I am sorry, anyway."

"Well… I forgive you. You did the wrong thing for the right reason; trying to protect Ren. I'm no better than you, I guess."

"Huh? Oh… I didn't come to the Rabuho for him. Even though I'm still not sure how close you are to each other, I know now that I was wrong about you hurting him like that."

Now her eyebrows hiked, and again I was struck by how different she looked with all that makeup, the wig. "Huh? Then, uh… why are we here?"

"Because I wanted to see what this job of yours was. I'd already seen you in the maid outfit, and I was worried… this is stupid."

"No, no, go on."

"Fine. I was worried you were a prostitute, and… those people were making you use your body like that just to pay them off. And it wouldn't matter why; that would be wrong. So even though… this is… not ideal, I guess I'm glad the job isn't as bad as it could be."

She pushed both hands into her face. "I'm so embarrassed. You'll never be able to look me in the eye again, will you?"

"Why wouldn't I?"

"Because I'm an old slut."

"Hey! Don't say that. Come on, I know you, Miss Kawakami, and… and I don't believe you really do that very often. Do you?"

Lowering her hands, eyes empty and dead, she said, "More than I want to admit. But… I normally do refuse the Health Kiss, unless I feel really comfortable with the client. Even then, it depends on the day, and my mood. It's been a while since I did that."

So she did touch them. Just not with her mouth. My stomach curdled but I tried to ignore the reaction - to focus on my teacher. No… this woman in front of me, whose life was troubled because of something she had little control over.

"You have nothing to be ashamed of," I whispered as I moved closer, resting my hand on her back. Her eyebrows raised, and she looked over at me.

"What are you doing?"

"Oh… s-sorry." I took the hand away. "I don't know, I was trying to help."

"No, no, it's alright. You're fine, Niijima-san." Pinching the bridge of her nose now, she added, "I poked your nose with my toes - oh wow, I made you take off my tights! You probably hated doing that, didn't you? Why was I so stupid, why did I assume you wanted that?!"

My laugh was a little bitter. "Why was I so weird that I let you believe I wanted it? That's the question. But… it wasn't that bad. Really, I mean it."

"Having my foot in your face?" I shook my head. "Huh. Maybe you're a weird kid and I'm a weird adult."

"Or maybe we're both weird adults. Come on, I am eighteen; I could even get married if my sister gave her permission. I could even play pachinko, or vote for the Diet… and I can do other things."

The blush was back. I was making my teacher blush, and the crazy thing was, that wasn't my goal at all. Why did I keep making this situation worse simply by trying to reassure her?

"Do you need to see the card again? Because… I know we know who each other is now, but I'm on the clock. If you wanted something-"

"No, no," I chuckled nervously, playing with the hem of my sportcoat. "You shouldn't finish that thought. And you said you could refuse any requests if you don't want to do them, so… I wouldn't even try with those two, anyway.."

Cheeks getting redder, even through the makeup, she whispered, "I was going to say maybe I could massage you, I… seriously, if you asked for me to… do that, with my hand… I can't. You're my student."

My eyes went wide. "If I asked for a massage, you still would? Really?" Her expression was mortified, but she did nod. "Oh."

"Sorry. You're freaked out, maybe I should go to the bathroom and get out of your hair for a minute." Then she straightened up. "Oh! Or you could!"

"What?"

"The bath is still ready! And there are bubbles, and scented oils…" She smiled cautiously. "You should take a bath, let yourself relax. Give yourself some time to think without me being in the way."

"Ohhhhh. I get it now. But what if…" I bit my lips for a moment, then forced myself to finish - even with her staring at me, curious. "What if I wanted you to help me with my bath?"

To Be Continued…

Chapter Text

~ x JUDGMENT x ~

Sae actually got up from the table at that point, pacing back and forth. "You're determined to do this, aren't you? Make your big sister uncomfortable?"

"That's not why I'm doing it. You asked for the facts and here they are. And why are you so uncomfortable, anyway?"

"Because I think you're about to tell me something I don't want to hear. Ever. So excuse me for having a normal reaction to hearing about my sister being deflowered."

"Deflowered?!"

"Fine." Sinking into her chair, she folded her hands on the tabletop. "Might as well keep going. I just may need to bleach my brain afterward."

"Sure, if you say so. I went into the bathroom, not really sure if Miss Kawakami would follow me…"


~ x The Priestess x ~

A few minutes passed as I got undressed. The bindings that were holding my breasts flat were beginning to cause me major discomfort, so I was happy to have that out of the way. Only once I was done did I glance in the mirror and laugh at my makeup; it was a little too good, but now I looked like I forgot my mustache in my other jacket.

"Are… you ready for me?"

The question shocked me so much that I squeaked, practically throwing my clothes into the corner. But I had asked for this. Just because it shocked me that she agreed didn't mean I could back down now.

"Sure!" I called out as I sat on the little wooden stool by the wall-mounted showerhead, facing away from the door. At least she wouldn't have to get an eyeful the second she walked in.

"Okay! Here comes Becky!"

The door slid open. I could hear the patter of her bare feet as she approached, and my entire body locked up, trembling slightly from the thought of my teacher seeing this much of me. But she seemed to have slipped back into her professional mindset.

"Master, I'm going to rinse you off before we get started. Is that alright?"

"Y-yeah." As she began to fire up the nozzle, I asked, "Do you… do this for other clients?"

"No, not really." Her voice dropped, as if that conveyed she was speaking as herself, not Becky. "Guys tend to get a little carried away if we let them get totally naked in front of us. So we have to be ready for all that if we offer that service; it's why I don't."

"Oh. Well then why for me? I mean, you should trust me even less than them."

"Hey, that's not true! I do trust you. Well… I'm starting to, again. But anyway, you're a girl, right? You wouldn't attack me like some of them might if I give them enough reason. So it's fine."

My answer turned into a gasp when I felt the water splashing over my thighs. "Ooh… but it's warm."

"Sorry if I surprised you," she giggled.

"How many… um…" This time I laughed, out of nerves. "How many clients have you had that you, um…?"

I made a crude jerking gesture, and she snorted. "I don't know. Maybe a couple dozen? Not as high as some girls who started younger and have been doing it longer; they've had their hands on hundreds of dicks."

"I can't even imagine touching one, let alone hundreds." Now that my body and hair were dampened, she picked up the bowl and filled it with a little water, and grabbed for the washcloth and soap. "It's okay, you don't have to keep doing this. Maybe it's too weird."

"The whole day is weird for both of us. Let me do something like my job; taking care of my Master."

"You calling me that is…" I cleared my throat as her hand began to caress my arm.

"Too much?"

"Yeah. It's not bad; I don't dislike it. But it feels wrong, since you're older than me, and I… and you were the victim of me stalking you.."

Kawakami sighed as she caressed up and down my back. "You weren't stalking. Well… you were, but now I understand you thought I was doing something terrible to Amamiya-kun. But I might as well tell you now that I'm not."

"You're not?"

"No. He…" With a sigh, she paused for a moment to collect her thoughts, hand stilling where it lay on my lower back. "The same thing as this; he caught me working as a maid, and now he has my fate in his hands. I promised him I would help him with little things if he kept my secret. But… he hasn't blackmailed me, or held it over my head like I worried he would."

"Well, that's good," I sighed in relief. "Not that I thought he would do those kinds of-"

"But he still makes use of some of my services."

"WHAT?!"

Both of her hands came into view off to my right side, waving back and forth. "No, not those services! He's my student - and underage! But… I clean up his room for him, or watch his laundry while he goes out at night. Little favours. And he still pays me for the job, so it's not like a shakedown; I'm just a more convenient maid than the other maids now."

"Oh. How… mutually beneficial?"

"You got it," she chuckled as she continued to cleanse my skin. Truth be told, it felt wonderful; her touch was tender, attentive. I felt myself relaxing in some ways, and feeling vague excitement in others.

"Mmmm…"

She washed me in silence for a few more minutes. Then she whispered, "You could have the same arrangement. All you need to do is ask, and I can take care of whatever you need."

Unfortunately, right when she was making that offer, her hand was stroking the cloth up and down my thighs. It came across as suggestive. And the worst part was, I felt my body responding to the suggestion.

"Whatever I need? Really?" Then I cleared my throat and shook my head to clear it, as well. "N-no, I'm fine. You don't have to do that."

"I want to. Think of it as… a token of my gratitude, not a blackmail payment or whatever. I just want to show you I appreciate you keeping my secret." A tiny sliver of fear entered her voice as she said, "If you will."

"I will," I told her immediately. "But… you have to do two things for me. First, promise you aren't hurting Ren or any other students. I know you're not, I just… after Kaneshiro…"

Miss Kawakami sighed as her hand caressed over my shins. By now, she was kneeling at my side instead of behind me, and I could see she had tucked her skirts into the belt of her apron to keep it off the floor. Luckily, the dress was already short-sleeved. "Oh, I get it. He really screwed the rest of the faculty; nobody trusts us now. Don't worry, I'm not."

"Right. And the second is, um… is if you keep my secrets."

"What? But you don't have any secrets." Then she paused, eyes wide as she looked up at me. "You mean that you booked a Rabuho and called a Delivery Health maid?"

"Yeah. And that I followed you."

"Done." When I blinked down at her, she smiled and kept washing my leg. "Hey, I told you that I get it now; you wanted to help Ren, and then to help me, for some reason. Why would I punish you for that?"

Frowning, I reached out to rest a hand on her shoulder. "Why do you think I wouldn't want to help you?"

"Because… I'm nobody to you besides your teacher. And a teacher who has a sleazy night job."

"The night job doesn't say anything about you, other than… you're really brave."

"Brave?!"

"Sure. Not just anyone could swallow their pride and take a job like this one, just to pay back the parents of a student she thinks she hurt. I think that's brave, and… and really admirable."

Becky chuckled weakly as she scrubbed one of my feet. "Brave that I'm dressed in a maid costume and washing one of my students? Sure, I guess."

"H-hey! That tickles!"

"Oh? Does Becky tickle her Master?" She smirked, then made claws in the air as if she were going to pounce. But instead she only laughed and kept washing, while my fake-stubbled cheeks exploded in colour. "You're a cute kid, Makoto." The blush got even worse. "Sorry I didn't trust you before, but… well, I'm sure you've heard the rumours about the principal. And you. That you knew…"

"That we knew what was going on with Coach Kamoshida," I finished for her with a sigh, and a slight twitch when she switched to my other foot. "He did. I did not; I was curious about the rumours, and when I saw Mishima or Suzui with bruises, but had no confirmation."

She nodded as she finished washing me, then put the bowl and the washcloth aside to take up the shampoo shield and fit it around my head. "That's fine. I mean, I'm sorry for doubting you; I just… was worried when you started sneaking around me."

"Miss Kawakami, I don't need this," I chuckled as I tapped the waterproof visor encircling my skull. "I'm not a baby."

"But Masterrrrr," she protested in her sing-song voice, and I cringed. "Becky doesn't want to get shampoo in your eyes! That would hurrrrt!"

Now I was laughing harder. "Cut that out! I'm probably not even ten years younger than you!"

"Alright, alright," she laughed as she rinsed my hair again, then poured shampoo into the middle of it. "But you're fun to tease for some reason. Maybe it's just a relief that we aren't at each other's throats anymore."

"Or maybe," I suggested, "it's because you can talk to me now? Normally. Not as a teacher, or as, uh… whatever Becky is."

"Hey, don't make fun of Becky. Poor girl has always dreamed of being a maid, and she's living her dream!" We both laughed as she lathered up my hair.

"Sure. That must be it."

When she was about halfway through, she asked, "Makoto… I almost asked before, but… are you feeling alright? I hope it's not cold in here; the bath should be keeping it pretty warm."

"Um… no? I don't understand."

"Well, I noticed your cheeks were flushed a minute ago, but your nipples were hard. I just wanted to make sure you aren't coming down with something."

Biting the inside of my cheek to keep from letting out a yelp of shock and dismay, I let her lather me up for a moment. Trying to fight against overreacting. Then I said, "I, um… I'm not cold. Kind of warm, actually."

"Yeah? Well, that explains your cheeks, I guess." Her tone was still light and conversational. Didn't she realise what she had noticed?

Maybe she was too straight to realise that. Which I thought I was, too… or at least, I never had any inkling that I would be open to exploring anything with another woman. Not until now. My body was barking up the wrong tree, and my brain was having difficulty telling it to stop because it just had too many other things to deal with.

"Guess I'm also just nervous," I tried. Knowing it might not work.

"Nervous? Why?" As she picked up the shower nozzle again, I could see her looking at me out of the corner of my eye. "Oh… because I'm still your teacher? Well… don't worry about that for tonight. Monday Morning Makoto can worry about it, and Monday Morning Sadayo."

"Well… I guess." After a moment, I chuckled a little. "Sadayo isn't even here. Is she, Becky?"

"Right! And Niijima-san isn't here; it's just Becky and Master!"

"Of course," I laughed. "In that case, Becky, will you be so kind as to rinse out my hair?"

"I'd looove to, meeeyow!" As she rinsed it out, I shivered, and she asked, "Is that weird? Me using the voice. It's part of the role for me, I guess; I want to appear young."

"What do you mean? We've been over this; you are young."

"Niijima-san, I'm a little over the hill for this kind of work. Most girls have quit years before I started." When I didn't answer, she paused in her washing to walk around me on her knees, hands on her hips as she 'stood' in front of me. "How old do you really think I am? Be honest."

"I don't know… no way you're older than thirty at the absolute most."

She smirked a little. "Right so far."

"Twenty… six?"

"Ohhh, that was pretty close! Twenty-seven."

"And you look amazing," I followed up with firmly, which earned me a scoffing noise. "I mean it!"

"Sure you do. But you don't have to butter up the maid; that's my job." Pursing her lips a little to make her voice cutesy, she said, "Master is soooo pretty!"

My wet hand knocked into her shoulder, and she giggled. "Stop that. I can tell my maid she's pretty if I want to, can't I?"

"Sure, but it's not your job, right? I'm supposed to be the one-"

"Becky, you are gorgeous," I told her in a firm tone, as my hands caught her upper arms, hanging onto them firmly to keep her looking at me. "Anyone would be lucky to have you serving them. Or more. So don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise; don't let them say you're worthless, or too old, or anything stupid like that. You're an amazing woman, and a great teach- a great maid. The fact that you're so pretty is just the icing on the cake."

For a moment, Miss Kawakami was speechless. I could see it in her eyes; she was exploring my face, signs for some little clue that I was either full of shit, or trying to dupe her into something. Finally, she swallowed hard, and whispered, "Do you mean that?"

"Of course. Why would I say it if I didn't mean it?"

"Ohhh, Master," she covered, fluttering her eyelashes and clasping her hands to one side of her face. But I could see that it genuinely meant something to her. "You're so thoughtful! That's why you're the best Master ever!"

Deciding just this once to play into it, now that I was myself instead of… whoever I was supposed to be with the mustache on, I cupped the side of her neck and pulled her a little closer. "It doesn't make me the best just to see that you're pretty, and pretty wonderful."

I could feel her pulse picking up a little. "Y-you also have such a way with words. Makes Becky feel…" She had been about to say something else, but she smiled wider and said, "Becky feels happy to make Master happy."

"Good." Then I let her go and cleared my throat. "Anyway, you should, um, rinse off the shampoo now."

"Right." She moved around behind me, picking up the nozzle and spraying the shampoo clear. "Master…"

"Yes?"

"Becky is sorry for assuming too many things earlier." Her tone was light, but careful. "About what services you would want from her. But… even if Becky can't do those now, because she knows Master's a little too young-"

"Kawakami-sensei!"

"-Becky could still do a lot for Master. And she wants to." The warm water washed my shampoo away, leaving my hair clean. "Maybe a massage? Or I could tuck you in, i-if you were staying the night here?"

"I'm not," I sighed nervously, trying not to glance down at my perky nipples. Why couldn't they control themselves?! Especially when I didn't like women. At all. This wasn't Shinjuku!

"Then how about a lap pillow? For a little while, after you get out of the tub. Or I could brush your hair! Or…" She leaned a little closer, lips a hair's breadth from my ear as she whispered, "I could dance."

"Dance? You… already danced."

"Privately, just for you. While you're under the covers. And I can't see what your hands are doing."

My eyes were wide as dinner plates as I turned to stare at her. "M-Miss Kawak- Becky, are you… a-are you trying to put on a show for me? Like, that kind of show?!"

"No! Don't be silly!" But she winked as she took off my visor, reaching for a small towel. "Just offering to let you relax while I dance! If that's something you would be… interested in. And I would never judge someone for their interest in, um, dancing. Don't worry."

This was not happening. No. My teacher was not telling me, as explicitly as possible without being overt, that she was fine with me being a lesbian, as long as neither of us openly acknowledged that I was getting off while watching her.

"I… I-I'm not a pervert!" I breathed, terrified. "Don't you know I- come on, I'm the student council president! I haven't even ever seen anyone naked other than my sister!"

"I never said you were a pervert!" she assured me with both hands raised to ward off the idea. "Really! And I'm surprised at you, Makoto-chan. Do you really think all lesbians are perverts?"

"What?! No, I meant for…" I lowered my voice. "For doing things while watching you dance! Isn't that perverted?"

"Oh. Well, I suppose that might be, a little. But it's not so bad if we've already agreed to it."

I blinked a couple of times, trying to let something bothering the back of my mind come to the forefront. Because I wasn't sure what it was. Finally, it hit me: "Did you just call me Makoto-chan?"

Blinking a couple of times, she laughed and scratched the back of her neck. "Guess I did! Should have said 'Master', shouldn't I?"

"No, no, I meant… you've always called me 'Niijima-san' before. Or 'kaicho' once in a while."

"Well…" As I smiled at her, she waved my words away with her hand. "Don't worry about it, alright? Won't happen again. Unless you like it, and then I guess… it could."

All at once, I think we both figured out the way we were talking had changed a lot. Our smiles were both small and secret, our eyes locked on each others' as she knelt right next to me where I sat on the stool. Everything was different, and strange, and I didn't know how to handle this. Normally I would formulate a plan based on my preexisting knowledge, and the parameters of the situation to reach a desired outcome. That's how I plan my study sessions, and our student council meetings, and… well, everything in my life.

But I had never had feelings for someone before. Even if the feelings weren't "love" or anything that strong, this weird infatuation and desire was more than I ever, ever expected to harbour toward a woman! And I know I keep saying this, but she was my teacher! So since I was starting from scratch, I was totally and completely lost.

"Kawakami-sensei, I…" My hand touched the side of her neck, and she jumped - and then I yanked it away. "I sh-should get in the bath."

"The bath?" Then she laughed - way too high and shaky. "Right! Right, yeah, the bath! I drew for you! Becky is happy Master wants to use the bath! That's great!"

We both chuckled for a minute before I turned to walk to the side of the tub. When I turned back to glance over my shoulder… she was watching.

"What?"

"Nothing!" she assured me, both hands raised and waving from side to side. "Enjoy your bath, Master! If there's anything you need, just call! Becky is ready to help!"

And then she whisked herself out the door, leaving me all alone and wondering what the hell was wrong with both of us.


To Be Continued…

Chapter Text

~ x JUDGMENT x ~

"I find myself wondering the same thing," Sae whispered, a cold sweat having broken out across her forehead. "What you're telling me… I can't believe this. All these years, my little sister was a lesbian? Why would you hide something like that from your own flesh and blood?"

Makoto fiddled with the edge of the file folder. "It's not 'hiding' if you don't know yourself, Sis. We both know that pretty well, don't we?"

"That… is fair." She shook her head, staring in awe at the nervous girl. "Well. This is certainly a less than ideal method of coming out."

"You're not wrong. Sis… I'm sorry I didn't say anything. But I was scared of the consequences. This was nothing personal against you."

"I believe you. Or at least, I'm starting to." Then she gestured. "Well, you might as well finish now. What happened next?"


~ x The Priestess x ~

The bath was luxurious and warm. Just the thing I needed to relax away all of my panic about Miss Kawakami, and how close we had come to doing something both of us would regret.

First of all, the very idea that I could be in love with my teacher was ridiculous. People develop crushes on their teachers all the time - or so I've heard. I've never had one. There was one in primary school who I liked a lot, but I was in fifth grade! And I never thought of him in a romantic way. Strictly a platonic crush because he was a very smart, capable adult who took an interest in my academic career, and those were in short supply.

And I wasn't attracted to women. Seriously, with Ann Takamaki as a part of my life, I think that if I were going to find the female form appealing, it would be that perfect-ten exotic supermodel. Even if I don't hold it against her because that would be petty and stupid, I am a little jealous of how cute she is and the amount of attention she gets from male students. Looks aren't everything, but I'm pretty plain when compared to her.

But nope. Never had the hots for Ann - arguably the hottest girl at Shujin.

So why Miss Kawakami? Maybe the entire reason was that she came onto me first. Touched me, teased me, let me undress her. Knowing that was part of her job didn't make it any less tantalising. Nobody had ever made such advances on me, even bad ones… and hers were pretty good.

But deep down, I knew it was more than that. Miss Kawakami was beautiful, and smart, and kind of funny when she wasn't worn out or stressed. And hanging out with her like this, outside of the barrier of teacher and student, or master and maid once she found out who I was… it was very different. And exciting. I was excited to find out what would happen next with her in a way that terrified me.

What would it mean about me if I was infatuated with her? Was I a lesbian? Or just curious, like a lot of young girls can be curious - the whole "Class S" concept? I've often wondered about that ever since my dear sister warned me not to let myself be perceived as too close to my female classmates, which I always wondered why she did that.


~ x JUDGMENT x ~

"Care to shed any light?"

Sae shrugged, though every movement was taut, rigid. "I was warning you about how perceptions can be shaped if you aren't careful. You used to spend a lot of time hugging other girls in your class before I said something; I didn't want it to make the parents of those girls ask you to stop hanging around them."

"It happened anyway," Makoto said softly, staring down at her hands. "I overcorrected. They would notice that I was too distant, and stop talking to me on their own. I think that may have contributed to why I'm so diligent in my studies."

"Oh." A flicker of guilt passed through the elder sister's eyes. "I… thought that was your drive to follow in our footsteps. Be successful and stand on your own two feet."

"Partly, yes. But what else could I do without any friends? Study, participate in student council. Focus on my academic career."

"Makoto…"

"I'm not asking for pity. My life is… not bad, all things considered. I know that. Just a hypothesis."

Brow creasing, Sae gestured to her sister again. "Continue. We'll revisit the topic of my past mistakes another time."

"I'm not trying to guilt you, either," Makoto sighed, reaching across the table for Sae's hand. But the hand withdrew. So after a moment, she sat back in defeat. "Alright. I know you want to get this over with, so let's do exactly that."


~ x The Priestess x ~

When I started to feel like my fingers and toes would turn all pruney, I pulled myself out of the bath and toweled off. Two robes were hanging on the inside of the door. I pulled my undergarments back on and covered myself with a robe, stepping out to see what had become of my temporary servant.

Miss Kawakami had already put her tights back on and was sitting on the corner of the bed, staring off into the corner. When I entered, she stood and bowed slightly. "Welcome back, Master!"

"Hey." I cleared my throat. "Can I ask you a favour?"

"What is it? Anything for you!"

I chuckled a little at her feigned enthusiasm. "Can… we talk? Without all this… this." I gestured to her outfit, her rigid posture.

"Oh myyyy, Master, so forward," she teased with a wink. When I gulped, she laughed and said, "I think we could arrange that. Is it alright if I use the bathroom?"

"Sure," I sighed. "Take all the time you need."

And she did. Honestly, by the five minute mark, I was about to get up and knock, but then the door clicked open and she stepped out into the main room.

And it was Sadayo. The wig and the maid costume were gone, and her soft waves of chestnut brown were framing her face. My room's other robe was wrapped tightly around her body by a belt, and paper slippers were on her feet as she shuffled in my direction.

"Niijima-san," she said politely as she bowed the tiniest bit in my direction.

"Kawakami-sensei. Please, have a seat."

She did. Then she turned slightly in my direction and asked, "What's on your mind?"

"Well… so I have this situation. With my friend, um… let's call her 'Becky'."

"Oh?" Clearly, she was trying not to laugh, and I cracked a smile. "Alright. Tell me what the situation is."

"Well, Becky is a new friend. I'm starting to think we could be closer, but her situation is really… complicated. So I'm not sure how to approach this friendship exactly without going too far, or… or I dunno."

"Too far?" Her expression became a bit more guarded. "You're interested in her? As more than a friend, I mean."

No way could I maintain eye contact with her anymore after she asked that. "W-well, I… that's not- I'm not that kind of girl. And not just about other girls, but about anyone."

"So you have more than one problem going on, it sounds like. Both your first crush, and you're worried about your sexuality?"

"Yeah. But the whole thing is stupid anyway."

Her tone became more gentle. "Why do you think it's stupid?"

"Because there's no way we could ever be together. Her situation is… I'm younger than her, and she's in a position that is out of my reach. So even if I decided I was… that way, and she was someone I was interested in, it still wouldn't make any difference. Don't you think that's stupid?"

"No, not at all. I mean… sure, I agree that it isn't ideal. But I would never say that you're stupid or anything just because you have the feelings in the first place. How cruel is that?"

Her reaction was a lot more favorable than I had been worried it would be. On the other hand, it was a little too favorable. Like she thought the idea of us together was ridiculous. To be fair, so did I, but being shot down when I was still barely thinking about it hurt.

"Oh my God," I breathed as I ran my hands through my hair, resting them at my temples as I stared down at the floor. "I'm so crazy."

Kawakami's touch on my shoulder made me jump, but she didn't take the hand away. Just clamped it down more firmly. "You are not. A lot of girls go through this when they're young. I went through it."

"You did?"

"Sure! Had a few friends in junior high that I thought about more than was normal, I guess. Even wanted to kiss one of them. But I knew it was just a crush and talked myself out of it, and you know what?" Her shoulders rose and fell as she favored me with a small smile. "Don't really feel any regrets about it. And I don't feel ashamed of it, either - and I don't think you should."

Again, there was that double-edged sword. At least she wasn't judging me for my feelings, but clearly she thought it was a phase I was going to grow out of it and didn't take it seriously at all. Maybe she was right.

"Thanks," I sighed deeply as I shot her a taut smile that was almost a grimace. "I'm glad you aren't upset, or freaking out or anything. Especially about me stalking you or booking your services."

"Hey, you paid me. What's to complain about?"

Again, she made me laugh. "True. I can't argue with that. But anyway, I'm sorry for prying so much. Finding out that you have this job… I feel terrible, it's none of my business."

"Well… I tell you what." She crossed her legs and leaned a little bit in my direction, smirking as her voice dropped in pitch. It took some real concentration to keep from glancing down at those legs instead of maintaining eye contact. "What if I give you the same offer I gave your friend Amamiya-san?"

"Offer?"

"Anything you need done around the house, if you have a spare ¥5000 lying around… just call me. You can have my direct number. I still need to get paid for my services, but if I'm working that night, you and Ren get top priority."

My shoulders hunched up a little closer to my ears. "I couldn't do that. You're my teacher, it's… just today has been strange enough. It would be even stranger if I did it again already knowing you're Miss Kawakami!"

"Why can't it work the way it did today? When I'm in the maid costume, I'm Becky. Back in class, I'm your teacher."

"Oh…" That did make a lot of sense. But I found myself nervous for another reason. "What about right now? You're not in the uniform, but we're not in class. How should I be thinking about you?"

"Well… I'm trying to still be your teacher, but… maybe I'm your friend. Sadayo."

"Sadayo… hmm." Suddenly, I noticed she was staring at me with wide eyes. "What?"

"Well, um, maybe don't say it like that."

"Like what?"

"Like you're in a perfume ad," she explained, looking away as her cheeks turned slightly pink. "All smooth and sexy."

Now it was my turn to look surprised. "I said it a sexy way?"

"Enough," she laughed in a slightly nervous way. Which was interesting. Maybe I was more assuming that none of this affected her than it being true. "But yeah, if you want to keep talking to me, your friend, until my time is up, we can do that. Obviously there's not much more for me to clean up around this rabuho room."

My mind returned to the list of services on her laminated card. It was true that there wasn't much else for her to be doing there. But I still felt really guilty having my own teacher wait on me hand and foot…

Suddenly, it hit me. A way I could pay her back for being so understanding and accommodating. And it was technically on the list — even if I knew that wasn't what it was supposed to mean.

"Actually…"

"Hm?"

"There was one other thing I wanted off the Becky menu. You don't have to change," I hastily told her when I noticed she started to stand up. "I'll get you the ¥1000 when we change back, if that's all right. For now, would you mind laying back on the bed for a moment?"

Clearly indecisive, Kawakami glanced at the bathroom, then back at me as she scooted back on the bed. Her eyes narrowed slightly at me. "You're not going to do anything crazy, are you? Like… not-on-my-menu crazy?"

"No. Don't worry. Just… close your eyes?" For a second, I thought she wouldn't. But then she settled in against the pillow and sighed, eyes falling shut.

And I tried to get started as quickly as I could. I quickly nipped the paper slipper off and started in on her sole with my thumbs before she had time to react.

"OH! Whoa, wait, what are- mmhhh…" I glanced up to see her biting her lip, a slight crease between her brows. That together with the moan sent butterflies into my stomach but I did my damndest to pretend otherwise; just focused on massaging.

"Is this okay?"

"Okay?! Makoto-chan, you… I don't know why you… want to, but GOD it's phenomenal! My feet were killing me… how did you know?"

My shy smile would never be seen by her as I dug in harder. "I wanted to help you this time. And I guess I didn't know for sure, but I just thought… it might help?"

"Help?" Her breathy laugh also made me blush. "I'm three seconds from offering you all your money back! This is worth it to me!"

"No, no!" I laughed back. "That's yours. You earned it. And you earned this, too."

"Huh? Oh…" Finally, she slitted an eye open to glare at me playfully. "That's supposed to be me giving you the foot massage. Not the- MMHHH, oh wow, oh wow that's- right there! GOD I hate it but I love it!"

So I kept it up, giggling a little at my teacher's reactions as I played my thumbs across the soft flesh. Her feet were surprisingly silky; I don't know why that was unexpected. Maybe because she spent all day walking around the school, looking nice but also down-to-earth. Not like someone who did beauty upkeep as much as she clearly did.

By the time I moved on to her other foot, I was mesmerised by Kawakami. Her mouth was hanging slightly open for her to gasp for breath, cheeks rosy, eyes closed as she gripped the sheets. The neckline of her robe had fallen slightly more open, and I could just glimpse about as much cleavage as I could in the maid outfit. The worst part was how her writhing legs had begun to hitch up the hem of the robe… but I tried not to look in that direction. More than I needed to know about lay there.

Even though I didn't know why I kept ogling her anyway. But it was getting harder and harder to say "but I'm straight!" when all the signs pointed in another direction.

"Mmmm… thank you so much," she finally breathed in a much more moderate tone of voice. Completely relaxed. "Makoto-chan, you never had to, but it was so good…"

"Of course." I leaned down to leave a little kiss on her toes, then began tugging her slipper back into place. "Sorry I had to exploit a loophole in your menu, but it seems like you enjoyed it."

I had the other slipper on before I realised she wasn't responding. When I looked up and saw her simply watching me, I asked, "What?"

"Nothing," she breathed. "It's… nothing, really."

"No, it's something. You can tell me."

Sadayo's throat worked - and it was her turn. Now she was the shy one, she was the one totally out of her element. Why? I saw it but I didn't understand it.

"Nobody's ever done that before. I… my whole life, all the crappy dates over the last decade, all the grossest clients I've had in this night job. Not even my parents back home when I was little. Honestly… I can't remember anybody wanting to kiss my stinky foot for any reason."

"Hey, I told you it wasn't that bad," I tried to laugh, even though I was blinking and trying to recover from that.

"Well, maybe you're right; I always perfume the inside of my shoes before I start working, just in case. I mean, I haven't gotten a 'keep stockings' before, but you never know when today could be the d-"

"Nobody?" She fell silent. "You're an amazing teacher, and a beautiful woman, and… you mean nobody's ever given you a massage?"

Shrugging, she delicately rearranged her robe, closing it up and trying to close off her body from my attentions. But the blush remained. "My shoulders, maybe. A while ago. But no foot massages, and definitely no foot-kisses afterward."

"That's a crime. You deserve better."

"Stop," she breathed with a wide grin. "You're a female student at my school. I think it's a crime that you're this smooth."

My posture self-corrected purely from shock. "Smooth? Me?!"

"Yes! I mean, do you hear these lines coming out of you?"

"They're not lines! I mean it, I'm really… I think you deserve to feel good, and I think it's terrible that nobody has tried to help you with that before me. Especially because I'm just some girl from Shujin."

"Hey, that wasn't what I meant." Sitting forward a little more, she frowned across at me. "You're not 'just' anybody. I only meant… if a man my age said the things you were saying now, I'd be caught. Hook, line, and sinker."

I couldn't help smirking as I said, "I was a man your age before you took the mustache off."

"You were neither one," she snorted.

"How about this?" I pet along her shin. "Sadayo, I think you're one of the best people I've met in my life. Maybe mine's been shorter, but so what if I'm not one of those guys you dated? That's their loss if they can't see what I see."

Her hand slowly drifted up to cover her mouth as she gazed down along the bed at me. Through the fingers, she said, "Damn."

"Huh?"

"Whoever you end up with… they are not gonna know what hit 'em." Then she lowered the hand to her chin so I could watch her bite her lip, trying to minimise her huge grin. It wasn't working.

And now we were both blushing up a storm. This whole thing was crazy, and at the same time felt so perfectly natural that I couldn't keep freaking out about it.

"Maybe I'm already with that person."

"Stop!" she giggled, kicking at my shoulder.

"And maybe not," I laughed. "Sorry. I'm not trying to be weird, I just… I really don't know what I'm doing."

With a long sigh, she finally swung her legs off the edge of the luxurious bed and stretched her arms over her head. "Mmmmmm, well it seems like you're doing great so far. Just sucks for me you aren't ten years older and that mustache was fake."

"Yeah? The mustache is something you were into?"

"Nah. I'm mostly kidding about that. I just meant… I'm straight, Niijima-san. As an arrow. And I really didn't mean to send any mixed signals, but my whole adult life, I've never had any interest in women. Much less one who's my student."

Now it was my turn to sigh. "Yeah. I'm as surprised as you are. Where did all this come from? I keep trying to tell myself it's not real, that I'm getting caught up in the moment, but it feels real."

It took Sadayo a minute to answer me. Then she began hesitantly, "If… you really are a lesbian, and it's not just a Class S thing… that's alright, you know. Just because I'm not doesn't mean I'm trying to say it's… bad, or…" She shrugged helplessly, a half-smile cutting through the gloom in her expression. "Am I even making sense? I've never had anybody come out to me before."

"You're doing fine," I laughed softly, and she smiled a little wider. "It's me who's going crazy. But thanks for trying."

"And hey, there are plenty of girls in your class who…" Then she kicked her feet a little as she admitted, "Maybe not. I mean, I guess you can't know if they play for your team."

"H-hey, wait a minute - it's not 'my team'. I don't have a team, I'm not even in the game!"

"You are now," she muttered as she elbowed my side with a sly wink. "Practically swept an old oba-chan off her feet just now - literally."

"You're not 'old'. Just older than me, Onee-san." We both grinned at each other. "And you're cuter than me."

"Whaaaat?! No way! You're adorable, and I'm an ancient bag of bones."

"Stop that!" We play-fought for a few seconds, and then she burst into laughter, hugging around my back. It felt…

It felt incredible. Comforting, real. More physical contact than I had in a long time, other than an occasional pat on the back from the guys, or random crushing hug from Ann that only lasted a couple of seconds. Maybe it was only for that instant, but Miss Kawakami felt like home.

To Be Continued…

Chapter Text

~ x JUDGMENT x ~

Sae Niijima was silent for a few long, painfully quiet seconds as Makoto's voice faded out in the small interrogation room. Staring across at her sister uncomfortably, hand at her chin as she mulled over the entirety of this situation.

"What?" Makoto finally asked.

"The way you described that…" Her eyes lowered. They were flinty and her tone harsh, but the words themselves vulnerable if listened to closely enough. "I think I've robbed you of a normal home environment. That might be why you're going down this path."

"And what 'path' is that?" She folded her hands on the table, sitting up straight. "The wrong one?"

"Yes. And no. Just… a more difficult one than I would have chosen for my baby sister."

The student council president's eyes darkened. "I'm not a baby."

"That wasn't what I meant and you know it."

"Maybe not. But it's how you've always treated me. I used to buy into that, you know; used to accept that I was a burden on you. But it's not true, is it? Because I do as much for our household as you do at my present status. Going to school is my job, and I'm great at it."

Teeth clenching, she fired back at her, "But it isn't a job that contributes to our household right now. Even if I may have been harsh with you, I need you to understand how difficult my life is, and why I let it drain me as much as I do. You think I want to be a public prosecutor because it's 'fun'? This is hard work, Makoto."

"Of course," she sighed wearily. "And I know that already. You don't have to shove it in my face every few days so I don't forget."

"That's… not what…" Sae turned away, staring into the corner. "Fine. So you're a lesbian now, hm? That easy? One little crush moment and you make up your mind to-"

"I don't want to hear that from you," she fired at her hotly. "No, this is not something I 'decided'. You taught me it doesn't work that way, and I'm not trying to make it work that way for me. Just figuring myself out."

Waving her hands, she said, "Alright, alright. Enough about that for now. You're honestly telling me that you and Sadayo Kawakami never had sexual relations in that love hotel room? How am I supposed to actually believe that?"

Makoto sighed, all the ire leaving her expression as she slumped down in her chair. "Because I'm your sister. But maybe you can't trust me anymore, Sis. I don't know."

"Well, you must see how it looks. And I would prefer to trust you than not to trust you, but you have made that quite a bit more difficult than it was before I found out more than I bargained for."

"Right. About that… I guess you're still waiting for me to get you caught up, aren't you? I might as well…"


~ x The Priestess x ~

Miss Kawakami left Hotel Juliet not long after that. I insisted several times that she should take the extra ¥1000 for all the trouble, even if not for the foot rub, but she refused very firmly. Despite how much she needed the money, it seemed she still wanted to earn every last yen. Which is just the kind of person she was.

No, I did not purchase her stockings. Why would anyone do that?

So now we had a problem. I knew a secret about her, and she knew one about me. Granted, neither of us was the type of person who would use it for blackmail purposes, but it still made us responsible for keeping each other's secret under wraps. it was going to make interacting with each other very interesting from then on.

But before that, I had something else to follow up with. Or should I say, someone else.

"How'd it go?!" Ann demanded the moment the phone line connected. "C'mon, gimme those deets!"

"Not here," I whispered. "Meet me at the Ore No Beko - the beef bowl place, on Central Street?"

"Mkay, I'll see you there!"

The walk wasn't terribly far. I felt stupid leaving the love hotel in my "guy" costume, so I ducked into an alley and stowed the rest in the shoulder bag I brought along exactly for that reason. The chest bindings were still annoying but I would just have to put up with them until I went to the bathroom again.

Not long after that, Ann showed up. Even despite the late hour, there she was. I began to feel really lucky that we had become that close in such a short period of time.

"Hey, girl," she called excitedly as she pushed through the crowd over to my corner. Now she was wearing a red varsity jacket over a blue button-up with a white skirt. Three guesses whether she looked cute wearing it. Go on, guess.

"Hi."

As she bounced into the seat next to me, I moved my tea out of the way. "Hoowee! I ran all the way to the train, and then all the way here from the station!"

"That sounds like you," I chuckled in a quiet voice.

"Huh? Oh, yeah, I guess so. There's hot gossip, right?" Something must have shown in my face, because she leaned a little closer. "Hey… Mako-chan, what's the matter?"

"We should order. And then I'll tell you everything."

We ordered. And then I told her everything - well, everything except the teacher's identity and details that would expose that on accident. Luckily, Beko only seemed to get busier at night instead of emptier, so nobody could really pay attention to our conversation over all the noise. Or wanted to, I'm sure.

Amazingly enough, Ann took it pretty well. She just sat there and nodded, listening and glancing away. Well… at least I thought she was taking it well. What if she just couldn't hear me?

"Cool… um, you think you might be gay?"

So much for her not listening. "No idea," I sighed - then we paused while the bowls were sat in front of us. They smelled amazing, and we both inhaled the savoury aroma of the seasoned meat deeply before we broke our wooden chopsticks apart and dug in. Ann had opted to forego the egg - which I know is because she's trying to watch her figure for modelling - but I felt like I needed it after the night I had. Comfort food.

"Hmmhggh," she sighed a couple of minutes later, once our bellies were half-full of rice and beef and onion. "Geeze Louise, that really hit the spot!"

My lips twitched into a smile. "What is 'geeze Louise'? I don't know that one."

"Just something from the States." Stirring her bowl and staring into its depths, she began, "So…"

"So?"

"Well… you're into this teacher now."

"Hey, I am not," I tried to head her off. "Well… not for sure. But she is pretty, and um… and I liked talking to her woman-to-woman, once we got past all the… other stuff."

Smirking as she leaned closer, she muttered, "She bathed you, huh? That's a lot of 'other stuff'. Plus that sexy footrub!"

"Since when are footrubs 'sexy'?!"

"C'mon," she chuckled as she took a sip of her aloe drink - another healthy choice. Made me feel really self-conscious about my melon soda, but at least I had some tea before she got there. "Footrubs are like, the truest expression of love, right? Anybody can kiss a cute girl or boy on the lips, but saying 'I like you so much I'm gonna touch your stinky feet to make you feel better' is just… the real shit! Totes selfless! Right?!"

Laughing weakly, I focused on my beef for a second or two, purely to avoid thinking too hard about whether or not she was right. Because if she was… a lot of the comments Kawakami made during and after the massage were even more telling than I thought. Which was bad.

Mistaking my silence for sadness, she sighed and put down her chopsticks. "Hey, I'm sorry. You're freaking out, right? I'd be freaking out."

"Well… it's a quiet freak-out."

"Uh-huh. Um… you said you don't know if this is just a weird thing or if it's really who you are. And like, I know in Japan it's 'weird' to like other girls, but it's not like that in the West! Like, what's her name? The one who was the spacy Disney fish… man, I can't remember right now. But she's a big gay icon, and she's had a wife for years! So it's like, real there, not a little kid thing."

I absorbed that as best I could through the filter of Ann's bubbly personality and meandering thought processes. "Yeah. Problem is, I am in Japan. Not over there. And here, people are going to think I'm either immature, or a pervert."

"I don't think you're a pervert." When I glanced over at her, those baby blues were burning holes right through me as she smiled. "You did this whole thing just to make sure she wasn't hurting that student, and to make sure she wasn't being hurt, either. Just because you ended up crushing on her… it's not a bad thing."

"No?" Screwing up my courage, or what I could find of it, I asked her, "You're not… uncomfortable?"

"Huh? No way! I mean, it's not like I had to watch you two or whatever."

"I meant sitting next to me. Knowing I might like girls."

"Oh." Her eyes glanced up and down. "Well… you might be a lesbian, but you're not a creep. Not all guys are Kamoshida, right? This is the same thing." Then she laughed and waved a hand back and forth as she added, "N-not that I'm saying all other lesbians are creeps! Probably none of 'em are! Like, I meant the opposite!"

"Okay, calm down," I chuckled, bumping her with my elbow. It worked; she relaxed a little, cheeks a tiny bit rosy. "But, um… thanks, Ann. Really. I can't even believe this is happening to me, and… I'm really relieved you're not upset that I'm… different."

Suddenly my face was being yanked around to look at her, so she was sandwiching my cheeks between both of her hands. "Mako-chan. Did you forget what our after school job is? Like, you wanting to make out with one of your teachers ain't that crazy."

"Ann…" It must have been the relief in my voice, because she gulped. "Hm?"

"Ooh… okay, it does make that sound a little different, though," she said nervously as she let go of my face. "Never had a gay girl say my name like that."

"I didn't say I was gay for certain!" I hissed at her. "Would you let me figure this out on my own?!"

Her head was already tilting thoughtfully. "Do you think that's what it's going to be what it's like when a boy finally asks me out, and he says my name as we stare into each other's eyes under the moonlight?"

"I'm not a boy!"

"You were for a few hours. And you still have no boobs right now!"

"ANN!"

~ o ~

By the time we had polished off our food and exited the restaurant, the topic of my burgeoning sexuality had gotten a little old. So we went back to discussing Miss Kawakami. The warm night combined with the warm food in our stomachs made us yearn for the cool underground of the subway station as we chattered back and forth.

"I wish I knew who it was," Ann sighed. "Especially… like, I keep wanting to guess. I stopped myself from doing it at least six times."

"Who would you guess?" I asked curiously as we jogged down the stairs. "I'm granting you permission now."

"Huh? Oh, um… well, I really can only think of Miss Chouno and Miss Kawakami. I don't think many of the other teachers could pull off a maid costume at all."

"O-oh?" I gasped, uncomfortable at how close she was.

"Well… Ms. Usami might be pretty cute behind those glasses. And with that wig you mentioned. Kinda hard to tell."

Relaxing just the tiniest bit, I said, "Okay. I was just curious who you would guess; I still promised not to tell anybody. Even though if I was going to tell, it would be you."

That might have been the biggest smile I ever saw on Ann Takamaki's face. And she regularly smiled bright enough to put the sun to shame.

"Thing is," she finally said as we waited for the train, "I still have no idea what to tell you. How are you supposed to actually go out with her if she's your teacher? I mean, in half a year you could ask her out for real; she wouldn't be your teacher anymore once you're off to university. Right?"

My eyebrows shot up. "Oh. Wow, I hadn't even… thought about that." Then I deflated, staring down at the dirty platform. "But isn't it still a little… unpleasant? Some eighteen-year-old crawling all over an adult?"

"I doubt you would 'crawl' on her like that," Ann laughed. "But I get what you mean. Just… I know this is some huge, brand new thing. You're still figuring it out. But if she ends up making you happy, then… you owe it to yourself to go for it! Don't let anybody tell you what you need besides your own heart!"

"Ann," I laughed. But the earnestness in her expression stopped me short. "Ann… you really think that? I should date my teacher?"

"Not 'your teacher'. You should date… Becky. Or whatever Becky's real name is - you don't have to tell me. But if you ever feel like you n-"

My hand pressed into her mouth. "Stop, stop. Thank you. But yeah, I guess I have a lot of thinking to do. What am I going to do about this situation with her working herself to death for those two awful people? That on top of me being attracted to her is… the whole thing is a mess."

"UGH! I wish I knew who it was - my advice would be better!" When I glared, she held up a hand, eyes closed. "Don't tell me. That wasn't me trying to get you to cave, just being frustrated that I can't help more."

"Sure, sure." Suddenly, I threw my arms around her. I wasn't used to doing that, but maybe it was time I started putting in more effort in that regard. "Thanks, Ann. You're an incredible friend."

After only a brief hesitation, she hugged back. "Hey, it's okay. I got you." There was no holding back because I might be gay, no jokes. Just firm acceptance. I couldn't have asked for anything more.


~ x JUDGMENT x ~

"Well, that is wonderful to hear," Sae sighed wearily, rubbing her temples. "But having a supportive friend doesn't answer the question at hand. We're supposed to be talking about the nature of your relationship with Sadayo Kawakami. If all you did was rub her feet once, then I suppose I can overlook any allegations of misconduct with a student under her care."

The younger Niijima shifted in her seat, trying to abate her tension and discomfort. "I was hoping you would do that anyway. As a favour to me."

"You know I can't do that. The law is the law, and you are one of her students. Even if you're old enough to decide for yourself who you date."

"I am?" she asked, genuinely surprised.

"Yes. I might be your legal guardian, but…" With a helpless shrug, she added, "All I can do is tell you it's unwise. After that, the choice is all yours."

"Dating women, or dating Sadayo?"

"Both. Unwise specifically because she's so much older than you, but also because she is a sex worker. Regardless," she rushed ahead when she saw Makoto was about to protest, "of whether or not her sexual activities in her job as Delivery Health maid are minimal, and rarely utilised. It's still not nothing, and you could wind up with an infection. You're my responsibility, and that includes making sure you don't get sick."

"Well…" Dipping her head, she admitted, "You have a point. And I do appreciate you looking out for me, Sis. But I would put my love for someone before any worry about risks like that. Not saying I 'love' Sadayo; just clarifying my priorities."

Sae picked up her pen and began clicking over and over. Just a nervous tick to help distract herself from being unduly upset. "Fine, fine. I suppose that's… admirable, in a foolish way. But as interesting as it is, I don't know why you bothered telling me about this conversation with Takamaki."

The truth was, she was jealous of the blonde. Ann got to freely and openly offer Makoto her support in a way Sae never could; she didn't get to be the 'big sister' anymore. Now she had to be her parent, until such a time as Makoto grew up and left the house - entered the workforce of Japan for real. Even then, she would probably always have to look out for her best interests for the rest of her life.

"It will be important later. And… I'm sorry."

Sae's eyebrow went up. "Sorry? For what?"

"That I can't simply let you believe all I've done with Sadayo is letting her bathe me and paying her back with a massage," she went on in a near-silent voice. "There's definitely more, and I promised you the whole story. So yeah, sorry about this in advance, but… I have to keep going."

Heart sinking down into the floor, she whispered, "Very well. Continue."


To Be Continued…

Chapter Text

~ x The Priestess x ~

Things settled down until Monday afternoon. Mostly, I hung out with my friends and tried to focus on my studies. And everything had been fine. There were other girls around the school I kept glancing at, trying to figure out my feelings, and I didn't feel any "lesbian stirrings" - if that's even a thing. Just looked like regular people. So I started to convince myself that it had been a fluke, and I only felt those urges because Miss Kawakami had been so sensual with me in the hotel room. Everything was going to be fine.

Then I saw her in the hallway again and it shot all of my hopes to hell.

"Good afternoon, Niijima-san," she said with a smile as she waved. And I felt my knees go weak, my heart speed up in my chest. She was completely back to her usual self: longsleeve yellow scoopneck, denim skirt, sensible white low-heels, fluffy brown hair. Armload of books and lesson plans. Tired-but-cheerful expression.

Just Miss Kawakami, being Miss Kawakami… but she still made me want to do things I had never done before. And wouldn't know how. Experiment with her.

"Niijima-san?"

"G-good morning," I managed to stutter.

"It's not morning," she chuckled. But she peered at my face for a moment. "You… should request me again."

"Huh?!" But when she held a finger to her lips, I quickly said, "Right. Sorry."

"You should. Because it looks like… you need to talk. But not here." Her eyes flicked from side to side, indicating the throng of students surrounding us.

"Of course. I'm sorry, I really… yes. I'll ask you about that homework later."

Her gorgeous mocha eyes did roll toward the ceiling at my poor attempt at covering, but at least she was still smiling. I wished she would always smile…

"Of course. Friday."

"Friday?"

"Or Saturday. I'll let you know if another time works equally well."

"OH!" She was trying to tell me her schedule. "Y-yes, I'll hand it in by then, if I don't have any questions sooner. Thank you."

When I bowed slightly, she patted my shoulder. "Good, good, Run along to class." Then she walked away…

And I did something I have never, ever done. For anybody, no matter who they were, or how attractive I might have found them - though I almost never notice that kind of thing. I turned to watch her leave. Not because I liked her and missed her, or because she was a decent role model. Those things were also true… but for some reason, I wanted to see her calves moving below the hem of that skirt.

The bell for class rang and I was still standing there, staring at the spot where her calves had last been. At least that finally prompted me to move again.

~ o ~

The rest of the week turned out to be my own personal Hell. Every time I saw Miss Kawakami, she looked better and better, and my thoughts were less pure. Maybe it was because I had never thought about anyone in this way that I fell so headlong into lust. Or maybe she was just exactly my type and I didn't know it before Hotel Juliet revealed all.

Dreams of her cleavage in that maid outfit when she crawled across the floor toward me, her stockings recently discarded, filled my nights. Or of her shapely thighs disappearing up her frilly French Victorian dress. Worse - disappearing up the hem of her robe as she writhed under my touch, panting my name with her eyes closed…

Recalling that also gave me another new experience: trying to focus in class while being aroused. I'm not kidding when I say that not once in my entire academic career had that been a stumbling block for me. Now, my thighs twitched, my face flushed, until a neighbouring student asked if I was feeling under the weather. That only made my blush worse.

When Thursday rolled around, I was at the end of my rope. I had basically called Ann in complete distress about six times in three days. She was great at talking me down, but had no real advice to give - which was okay. It would be kind of an insane convenience if she somehow knew exactly what to do about developing a lesbian crush on a teacher, wouldn't it?

"Look," she sighed into the phone as she did her nails, and I slowly tried to finish formatting a report. "She said you can request her tomorrow night, right? So just… don't worry about it until then. Forget about her totally. Like, since you can't do anything."

"That doesn't work. Believe me, I try."

"God, you're so cute. I know, I know - not helping."

"It isn't cute that I'm so smitten with a woman out of my reach that I can't eat, or sleep, or study. Those are basically the only things I do, Ann."

A little laugh floated over the phone lines. "Yeah. I mean, until you started hanging out with us, I'd believe it. Except maybe kissing Principal Kobayakawa's-"

"Don't even finish that sentence," I warned her, and she laughed more.

"Fiiiiine. And I'm gonna offer again; I know you don't wanna reveal her secret. But if you need me there, to mediate or whatever, like, call me. Swear I won't show up without you asking, but all you gotta do is call."

"And you'll be here. I know, and thank you. But this is something I should be able to do on my own."

"Why? You've got friends; use 'em."

I had been about to protest and tell her I didn't want to 'use' my friends… when I realised that I could. Not Ann; she was already being enough help as it was. But there was someone else I should be going to about this matter.

"Thanks, Ann," I said suddenly, sitting up and closing my textbook. "I think I have an idea. I'll call you back when I have put it into practice."

"Huh? O-oh, okay, bye. Good luck!"

"Thank you. I'm gonna need it."

~ o ~

Cafe Leblanc was basically closing up by the time I got there. Futaba Sakura was lingering at the counter, and the proprietor, Sojiro Sakura, was wiping down the counter. Ren was doing the dishes; sometimes the old man roped him into that, considering he was letting him stay in the attic rent-free.

"Hey," I greeted Futaba first. Not that I could see much of a reaction. Her huge glasses and orange hair covered most of her face and head, as if they were a protective shield from the rest of the world. Which was likely true; she's the biggest introvert I've ever known.

"Guten abend."

"Huh?"

"German." Pushing up her glasses, she peered up at me with those oddly mauve-tinted eyes. "You are here to see Ren."

"How do you know that?"

"Keep glancing at him. Not exactly rocket science - though rocket science is actually fairly simple and straightforward. Just gotta know the formulas."

Chuckling softly as I slid onto a stool at the bar, I said, "Uhhh, I'm going to have to take your word for it, I guess. But you're correct."

"He'll be free in a few minutes," her adoptive father said as he tossed the rag under the counter, then perched a cigarette just above his goatee. As he flicked the lighter, he said, "Can I get you anything, Niijima-san?"

"Oh, no thank you," I said with a slight bow. The cigarette smoke bothered me, but I would never dream of mentioning that. "You're already closing up; it would be rude."

"Nonsense. I've got some leftover curry ingredients in the fridge; you kids could go upstairs while I whip some up."

"You do not wanna miss his recipe," Futaba confided as she typed on her phone at lightspeed. The screen was flashing so fast I couldn't even keep up with what she was doing. "Mom's recipe. Their recipe."

"Huh?"

"Don't worry about it," her surrogate father chuckled good-naturedly as he puffed, turning back toward the kitchen. "Amamiya-kun. Take five and see your friend; I'm going to make you something."

"And I'll help," Futaba volunteered with a smile, pocketing her phone.

Ren nodded at him, barely glancing at me before drying off his hands and abandoning the dishes for now. Then he nodded toward the stairs and we went up together. Futaba made no move to abandon her place at Sojiro's side - proving that she really did accurately guess I wanted to talk to Ren alone. What a little genius.

Once upstairs in his cozy little loft, I dropped onto the old couch and wasted no time telling him everything. Ren eventually sank down beside me, expression slightly pained but mostly resigned. As if he knew this day would come, but couldn't be sure which friend - or maybe stranger - would approach him about it.

"So I know you've been having her run errands," I wrapped up with. "But she insisted that you aren't hurting her, and she isn't hurting you. I guess… I feel like I believe you, but I need to hear it. What is the nature of the relationship with Miss Kawakami?"

Guess I really do sound like you sometimes, Sae.

"We don't have one," he answered after a pause to mull over his words. "She's my homeroom teacher."

"And the maid stuff? You really do request her just to… what, give her free money?"

Another pause. "She does jobs for me. Makes curry, cleans up, does laundry. I pay her for the work. But I request her more often because I understand she needs the money; it's the only official way I can help her without…"

"Without?" I prompted.

"Without it being charity."

"Ohhh…" My eyes turned sad as I looked down at the floor. "Miss Kawakami wouldn't accept any handouts, probably. That makes sense." He nodded. "You're sure you've never… a 'health massage' or-"

"No."

"Would you want to?" At that, he looked a little uncomfortable. "Ren?"

"Maybe. But not that way; not because I paid her. It would feel like forcing her into it. And though Miss Kawakami is beautiful, I don't have strong feelings like that for her."

"All of that's very fair," I sighed, staring down at my plain black shoes. "That's how I felt, too; the 'forcing her' part, I mean." He made no reply, so I looked up at him. "You don't even care about… that part of this. That I might be attracted to her, even though I'm a girl." He shook his head. "Why not?"

His shoulders rose and fell. "That's your business."

"So simple for you," I chuckled softly, eyes sad. "But I feel like… a freak. A circus freak for seeing a woman old enough to be my mother in the hallway - well, almost old enough - and wanting to do things with her I've never even dreamed about before."

Ren's only response was to sit back a little, folding his arms and crossing one leg so the ankle rested on his knee. I watched him for a moment, squinting at his passive, thoughtful expression.

"What? What is it?"

"I may have somewhere you should visit. Come with me."

"Now? But it's so late - and we'll miss Sojiro's curry."

His smile was small and coy. "Very well. Curry and then come with me. It's important."

That word could not be ignored. He didn't just think this was a good idea, he thought it was "important"? And Ren was a fairly serious guy; he didn't just spout off things like that for no reason. I trusted him. Therefore, I nodded.

"Curry, and then I'll go with you. It's a promise." And we shook on it, like we were making a business deal.

~ o ~

Once our bellies were full of delicious curry, my taste buds still singing at the spices and mingling flavours, I hopped the train with him up to Shinjuku. That was a surprise; I didn't even know Ren knew anyone up that way, or ever went there. Maybe I didn't know him as well as I thought, but I opted to put my faith in him for the time being.

Within minutes, we were walking into a bar called "Crossroads". The place was pretty empty, except for a young woman with a pink fanny pack slumped over at the bar, and an older woman with an ornate kimono behind it cleaning glasses.

"You spend way too much time here, young man," she said - and my eyebrows shot up. That was a pretty deep voice. Was she… a he? A cross-dresser?

"Lala-san, this is my friend, Makoto Niijima. Makoto, this is Lala Escargot."

I bowed slightly, trying to hide my surprise from before. "It's a p-pleasure to meet you, Lala. Escargot… is French, right?"

"Sure, honey," she chuckled with a big grin. "French is so fancy. Why do you think I picked it?"

"Picked…?" I swallowed hard, then moved to sit at the bar in front of her. "Forgive me for asking something very forward. But are you… transgender, or a drag queen? I don't want to assume."

While Ren looked a little surprised, Lala grinned. "Just a queen, girl. When I ain't on the clock, this all comes off and I'm a regular run-of-the-mill man. Well… maybe not run-of-the-mill."

"No, I am sure you're very unique." Luckily, 'she' seemed to take that as a compliment. "Should I keep using female pronouns while you're Lala, then?"

"Yes, please." A little bow to show her gratitude, and I bowed back. "What brings ya taggin' along with this no-good louse?" Then she chuckled and hid her face behind an elegant white fan. "Just kidding, Amamiya-chan. You know me."

"Of course," he laughed with an easy smile. Not at all flustered or annoyed by her teasing.

"Well… I actually don't know." After a few seconds to consider, I just blurted out, "I think I might be gay."

"Oh yeah? Good for you, honey!"

"Thanks?" I laughed self-consciously. "But I have a feeling Ren thought it might be a good idea to talk to you about it. And maybe he's right; I really don't know what I'm doing, or feeling, or thinking, and… this isn't exactly my first contact with, um, 'the community', but none of my friends are gay. So I'm a little unsure of where to turn."

Her smirk was playful. "That you know of. I mean, just saying, Ren does hang out with a drag queen an awful lot for a straight boy."

"I work here, Lala," he sighed with a roll of his eyes. But she only laughed in response.

"But why here? Hmmmmm? So many after-school jobs, and here you are in Shinjuku. Just saying…"

Interrupting her further teasing, I asked, "So what do I do? How do I know? Especially because I have a crush on a teacher, not another student, so it's…"

"Ooooh, damn," she intonated, heavily-shaded eyes widening. "That is a pickle, sister. How old are ya?"

"Huh? Oh… eighteen."

"Awww, you're almost outta there. Just hang on and then ask her out when you're in college."

Drawing my knees together and folding my hands on the bartop, I whispered, "That's what Ann said. You make it sound so simple. I don't even know if what I'm feeling is real, or-"

"It's real."

Stunned by the firmness in her voice, I asked, "How can you be so sure?"

"If you're worried enough about it to follow your friend to some dive bar in Shinjuku, you're feeling real things, baby," she pressed with a sympathetic sigh. "Maybe you get a few years further along in life, and it turns out you ain't a lesbian, or maybe you are. But right now, for you, in this moment, you wanna be with a woman. Don't second-guess yourself or waste a lot of time thinking you're 'crazy'. Take Ohya there."

With a start, the other woman shot upright, eyes unfocused and sunglasses askew. "Huh? Wh-wha…? I'll pay my tab next week…"

"Poor thing was in love with this old colleague of hers," Lala went on as Ohya slumped back downward, clearly not even listening. "Completely oblivious until it was too late; she's still in denial about it. Now Kaya's out of her life and she ain't got nobody. Think she still likes men, but when's the last time I saw her on a serious date with any of 'em?"

My eyes widened. "Oh. She's a lesbian, too?"

"Bisexual," Lala corrected. "Probably, anyway."

"Right, right; like you said, she still dates men." I watched her snore for a few seconds, then cleared my throat. "I guess… it's different, meeting a woman who likes women in person. Not that I doubted their existence."

The drag queen shrugged as she poured me a tonic with lemon; something light and non-alcoholic, but still being courteous. "We get a lot of people like you wandering in. Girls or boys who ain't sure what they want outta life, or outta relationships. Some of these places around Shinjuku will really turn your brain upside-down if you let 'em, but… most of us just wanna help family."

"Family?" After a second of flashbacks to dead parents and my stubborn sister, I got it. "Right. That's me; I'm 'family' now. But what if I try dating a woman and decide I like men? Isn't that… wrong, somehow?"

"What's wrong with experimenting and figuring out what you like?"

"Well, when you put it that way… I feel stupid," I ended up saying, and she chuckled.

"Don't, honey. Nothin' stupid about not knowing where you wanna end up in life. Just take your time, figure it out. Come back here if you got questions; maybe Ichiko'll be sober enough to answer 'em next time."

"Hey, I'm not that drunk," the woman muttered without lifting her head or opening her eyes. "Sober enough to see Ren-kun brought another cutie with him. You're the drunk one, Lala-chan… not me."

Another cutie? Did she mean me?!

"You're the horizontal one," Lala mocked back, and Ohya did smile slightly. But she still didn't get up.

And now I found myself really looking at her. If I'm being brutally honest, I don't know why I had such a strong image in my mind that a woman who likes women would be some kind of freak. Probably had something to do with societal brainwashing. But here was this Ichiko, very normal other than the fact that she was drunk. Bobbed black hair, blue jeans and sneakers. Very pretty in the same way Miss Kawakami was pretty: a little older but taking good care of herself, other than the drinking which probably had the same amount of detrimental effect on her as the lack of sleep did on my teacher.

"Maybe," I breathed quietly to myself before taking a sip of the tonic water. It was actually pretty refreshing.

"What's that, honey?"

"Nothing, nevermind. Just thinking to myself."

"Questioning?"

For some reason, she was smirking at me again. I had the feeling her comment meant more to her than it did to me, but I decided not to ask about it. "Anyway, your friend looks like she's not getting up anytime soon, so maybe I should go. Thanks for this, Lala - and you, too, Ren. Helped me a lot more than I can be sure of just yet, I'm sure."

Ren nodded with a small smile as he took his place behind the bar. Lala came over to stand next to him. "Ohhhh, you're up for a shift, huh? Good, good. And let me know if you ever change your mind about me dressing you up."

Feeling second-hand embarrassment for Ren felt like reason enough to quickly and quietly take my leave. Besides, now I had an awful lot to think about.


To Be Continued…

Chapter Text

~ x JUDGMENT x ~

"This is serious, isn't it?"

Makoto remained silent. For a long time. And Sae waited for her little sister to speak up. She was feeling a lot of things herself that were nearly as strong as those of her flesh and blood. The temptation to round the table and try to comfort her in some way was almost too strong to resist.

"Yes."

"Then how do you identify?"

"I'm… uncomfortable with a label just yet," she admitted in a fragile whisper.

"Very well." Her tone came out as a harsh rasp, and she cleared her throat to hopefully get rid of that. "We can come back to that another time. So you had spoken to your friends, asked for their input."

"Wouldn't you do the same? Didn't you, a long time ago?"

Frowning, she looked away. "I did. You remember how difficult my journey was."

"Of course I do," Makoto told her as she leaned forward, gripping the edge of the table as her eyes stared straight into Sae's when she looked back. And they held each other's gaze for a minute. "I remember every step you took. Well, the ones here. If you hadn't been gone, I would have helped more, but it didn't feel like it was my right to… insist."

"Really? So you wanted to come with me to Thailand? Help me with dilating, hormone therapy, plastic surgery after plastic surgery? Bloody, messy, disgusting help?"

True pain flickered across the younger girl's features. "You're my sister. I would have done anything you needed and it would have been my pleasure."

That left Sae breathless. Her own emotions were rising to the surface, despite how deep she tried to bury them on a regular basis. Of course she knew Makoto had been supportive, but she had never given a strong outward display of it. Perhaps that was because… she never asked. From the very beginning, she had been so firm and sure of her path that she never dared disturb her little sister's education with trivial matters like her own transition. The physical agony, and the many and varied troubles associated with that and with the social problems. They were her burden to bear alone.

And all along, this girl had been waiting to share that burden. Denied that familial obligation that she seemed to see as no obligation at all.

"Makoto…"

"Do you want the rest of the story or not?"

"Makoto."

"What?" She let out a harsh little laugh. "Oh, now you're feeling guilty about forcing me to come out? Only now that you understand that I would never have done that to you?"

The elder sibling's expression suddenly became drawn, as pained as the younger's had been moments ago. "Makoto, please, I have told you that isn't why… I thought she was taking advantage of you. All I wanted was to protect the only family I have left. Why is that so wrong?"

After thinking about it for a moment or two, her little sister did nod. "You're right. I'm just angry that we got caught, and you're the one that brought me in here. But I know…" A deep, bracing breath. "I know you're doing your job, and you're trying to look out for me. Sorry about my attitude."

"Well I suppose in your shoes, I would be doing the same. Not that I think you have made the wisest decisions, but…" She sighed shakily, sitting back and gesturing for her to continue. "Finish."

"Sis… are you crying?"

"No. I'm waiting for you to finish your testimony."

Staring hard at the watery sheen to her elder sister's eyes, Makoto finally breathed, "Alright. We're almost through, anyway, so I suppose I should."


~ x The Priestess x ~

When I told Ann about the plan I had, she was actually pretty excited. Said that it was 'fantastique', and she was completely on board with helping me. However, there was one little detail we needed to take care of before we finished cementing all other plans - and it meant I finally had no choice but to fill her in.

"Nine…?" she whispered as we peered around the corner of the hallway toward class 2-D. Toward where Miss Kawakami was berating one of her students just outside the door, gesturing up and down his entire body.

"I would say seven."

"Nah, her hips are just a little too wide."

"Hmm… maybe." I squinted for another second, then nodded. "You're probably right. We'll play it safe."

"Still can't believe it's her," Ann hissed with a huge, conspiratorial grin. "Like… okay, sorry if this is super weird, but go you! She's really hot!"

My cheeks burst into flames. "Shhhhh! Sh-she is not! I mean, she is, but that's not what I- we aren't here to check her out!"

"Hey, c'mon, let me brag on you a little! The other teachers aren't bad, but even though half the time she doesn't do her hair or makeup… Kawakami is a knockout. And you're practically going out with her!"

"Ugh," I grunted, even while privately thrilled that Ann was still taking the situation so well. There had been a lot of squealing, and some amount of "I had no idea!" and "You can't tell by looking at her!", but overall my friend stayed focused on helping figure out how to get the two of us together. How did I luck into such supportive, understanding, non-judgmental friends? But I would have to ponder that later. "What about the shoes?"

"You're asking me? You were the one playing with her feet!"

"I wasn't playing with- okay, fine. I'm not very good at knowing sizes by sight though. Mine are twenty-twos."

"Lucky. Mine are twenty-fives; can't ever find cute shoes. Well, I can, but not everywhere. Easier to find 'em out West, they stock bigger sizes there."

"Ah, I'm sure that's frustrating," I told her earnestly. "Um… so compared to us…"

"She's probably… a twenty-three? But we're gonna be able to slip up less with shoes. You know if they don't fit just right, they suck. Murder if you have to walk in them at all."

Sighing, I said, "Yeah. I'd better ask."

"You got this! I believe in you!"

As I made my way around the corner and toward my teacher, I could just catch her snapping, "...and next time, I won't be so nice. Get going, Takeba." Meanwhile, I was quickly scrolling through a webpage on my phone. As the student ran off, she turned to sigh when she saw me coming. "Niijima-san… I hope this is about schoolwork."

"Well, not exactly. It's not that bad!" I headed her off when she started to look even more tired.

"Okay, okay. Follow me." She led me to the corner of the hallway that was the least occupied. "What's up?"

"So I've, um… I've been thinking about getting into solestry. What shoe size are you?"

"Huh? Oh… um, twenty-three and a half. But what's that got to-"

"Cool! I just, um, I would need to factor it into your chart. So do you have wide feet or high arches? Flat arches? Anything like that?"

My poor, mystified teacher shrugged. "Not that I know of. Did you notice anything like that?"

"No, but I mean, a lot was happening," I admitted with a slight wilt, and she chuckled. "Sorry. But I'll do your chart after school and can show it to you soon - and if I need to fill more in, well, I'll take a look later."

"You're starting to worry me. On the other hand… you do have me curious." She lowered her voice even more to ask, "Were you going to request me?"

"Yeah. Of course. I'm looking forward to it."

"Seems that way," she sighed. "And this isn't about the money - though I still have to charge since it's through Victoria. There just isn't any other inconspicuous way for me to meet up with you. Um…"

When she continued to hesitate, I prompted, "What?"

"It's not going to be another rabuho, right?"

"Oh, no, no! My apartment." Her eyes widened. "Is that not good?"

"What about your family?"

"It's just my sister living with me. And she's gone almost… all the time. But I made sure she plans on working late tonight."

Kawakami nodded, eyebrows still furrowed as she regarded me, smooth lips just the tiniest bit pursed. I had this sense she was about to make a comment about my family situation - maybe one of regret. Not that she could have resurrected my parents either way. Then she merely said, "Alright. Put in the call when you're ready."

"I will. Thank you." I bowed slightly, turned, and got the hell out of there.

"Oh my God, you took so long," Ann whispered as we headed off to the courtyard. "What was all that about?"

"Fortune-telling."

"Huh?!"

~ o ~

Our little shopping trip went smoother than I had any right to expect. Armed with recently-acquired knowledge, I was able to pick up everything in one trip. Ann tagged along, and Ryuji even ran into us while we were out - which came in especially useful.

"Awww, c'mon!" he grunted as we staggered away from the subway with a huge armload of boxes and bags. "How much further, you guys?!"

"Almost there," I promised him easily as we turned a corner. "Just a few more kilometers."

"Ahhhhh, you gotta be kiddin' me! What the hell?!"

Ann giggled. "C'mon, be a trooper! Do it for me? Huh?"

"Told ya before, you ain't my type," he grumbled - though it was barely audible behind the wall of packages.

Our apartment is not large, but it is fairly nice. Very classy. That wasn't why I was nervous about having friends over. Mostly it was the unfamiliarity of it; I had never done this before, for anybody. Not a single friend from primary school ever stopped by. Just didn't bother asking because none of them wanted to hang out with me.

I guess now I know that's because you gave me that advice, Sis. Well-intentioned, but it didn't work out in my favour.

"Whooo, sweet place you got here!" Ryuji declared once he had dumped all the packages on the dining room table. "Yeah, real nice pad!"

"It's super fancy and modern!" Ann gushed. They had such a similar energy, those two - just directed down different avenues. "Wow, I'm so jealous of this kitchen!"

"Sweet TV! Man, like super high-def and shit!"

"Can I get some water? You have your own water cooler! Oooh - is that an espresso machine?!"

Laughing a little, I said, "Can you two calm down for one minute? It's just an apartment. I can give you the tour if you want."

So I did. Only when I got to my bedroom did Ann waggle her eyebrows at me, but she didn't do anything more than that, at least. Ryuji crept curiously toward my closet but Ann pulled him back by the waistband of his cargo shorts before smacking him across the back of the head. At least it only took that one admonition to cut him off.

"And that's your sister's room?" she asked as we passed the door.

"Yeah. Um… it's the smaller room, and it's kind of… we should stay out. I don't think she would be happy if we went in there."

"Yeah, yeah," Ryuji sighed in Ann's direction. "And listen, I wasn't even gonna take anything, I just wanted to see how big it was!"

Her smirk was poisonous. "Sure, sure, you little perv."

With a groan, he flopped on our soft purple couch. "I'm beat from carryin' all that stuff. Chicks are all the same, just want you to carry stuff while they shop."

"You haven't even known any 'chicks' until this year!" Ann fired back.

"Maybe not! But like, I watch movies about 'em and whatever! Ren and I saw that one flick at the theater, where the-"

"Okay, okay, Ryuji, yes," I interrupted their budding spat. "And I'm sure I'll agree with you any other day. But Ann and I have girly things to do, so…"

Alright, so I actually did feel guilty when he looked like a wounded puppy. "Oh. I thought we were gonna hang out and junk."

"Maybe another time. But, um…" I moved to the fridge and got out a bottle of Pocari Sweat and handed it to him where he sat on the couch. "Consider this a down payment on me getting you ramen sometime? You can hang out for a little longer and catch your breath."

Noticing how put out he looked, Ann added, "Yeah! Seriously, thanks."

"Well… I guess the girly stuff wouldn't interest me that much… though I do wonder how you do the eyelash thing without poking yourself in the eye."

"Well… why don't I show you that while you rest? I don't mind."

"Yeah, sure, why not? Might be cool."

Demonstrating the finer points of mascara seemed to help our friend feel a little less unceremoniously ousted. By the time he was at the bottom of his beverage, he was willing to hop out the door and leave us to our "girls' night", as he kept calling it. Way too many times.

~ o ~

I'll skip ahead to when Ann had already left me to my own devices. Once the scene was set, and the hour was right, I dialed the number for Victoria and had them patch me through to the proper maid.

"Hiyeeee! I'm going to fill your tired heart full of lovely energy, Master! How may I help you tonight?"

"It's me."

"Oh." Her saccharin tone faded, though she didn't sound displeased to hear me. Just comfortable dropping the act. "Well, considering most of my clients have deeper voices, I don't really need to ask for confirmation."

"Probably not," I laughed softly, excited more than I wished I was. What a little dork I've turned out to be. "Um… can you come soon?"

"I'm totally free. It's… kinda sad how free I am, but at least it means I can see you right away."

"Another double-length slot. Is that alright?" No answer. "Becky?"

"Well… it's fine, but are you sure you have that kind of a budget to work with? Normally, I wouldn't ask that since it's so personal, but…"

I waved my hand to dismiss the question, despite her being unable to see it. "Don't worry about that. Seriously. I just wanna make sure we have all the time we need. That's more important than a few more yen."

"Sure, yeah. I understand." A little of Becky returned as she said, "I look forward to serving you, Master! See you in about fifteen minutes!"

"Okay. See you then."

By the time I heard a knock at the door, all was in place. I moved to quickly open it, not wanting to waste a second of her time.

"Housekeepi- oh! Master!"

"Good evening," I told her easily with a slight bow before I took a step backward. "Welcome to my home."

As my maid stepped inside, I could see her eyes raking up and down my form. Perhaps I went a little overboard, between the deep shade of crimson I had painted my fingers and toes, and the sleek black a-line dress that hugged my curves. But she didn't seem disappointed; just surprised and unsure of how to react.

"Thanks for getting here so quickly," I told her as I shut the door behind her.

"Sure… no problem. Um… what's going on? Something smells amazing."

"Don't worry about it right now. I have one job for Becky."

"One?" Then she turned to me and bowed deeply. "I mean, yes, Master! Becky just wants to see a smile on Master's face more than anything!"

"Sure," I chuckled. "Then what I want you to do… is change into the clothes in the bathroom. Then I'd like Miss Kawakami to come out. I figured I could do better than a robe this time."

Though her eyes were definitely suspicious, after a moment to think it over she bowed again. "Right away, Master."

About five or ten minutes later, Sadayo emerged. And she looked gorgeous. The silver evening gown with the modest neckline shimmered as it caught the light, the slit that ran halfway up her thigh giving just the tiniest glimpse of interest without revealing everything. Somehow, we even found a pair of heels to perfectly match. And, as I had been hoping, she ditched the wig along with the maid uniform.

"Ohhhh wow," I breathed into my hands, which had flown up to cover my mouth the instant I caught sight of the vision in my apartment.

"Oh wow!" she echoed when she saw my table. Having planned for a quick change, the amount of time she spent putting on the dress was enough for me to move the duck l'orange to the center of the table, two flickering candles on either side and the other dishes further along. Soft piano music was playing in the background as an open bottle of wine breathed, ready to be poured into the two glasses at each place setting.

"Dinner is served," I told her with a very Becky-like curtsy. "Care to join me?"

A smirk was just blossoming on her lips as she walked over to stand next to me. "What's going on here? If I didn't know any better I'd say you're trying to sweep me off my feet again."

"Maybe a little. But… I mean, you were coming over to talk, not just to clean my apartment or whatever. Why shouldn't we have a nice dinner while we talk?"

"That… is a little bit of a stretch, but I guess it does make some sense. And that duck smells amazing." When I pulled out the chair and gestured for her to sit, she laughed, "Such a gentleman."

Still, she did take her seat. Once I scooted her forward, I rounded the table and took my own, then held the bottle out for her to inspect.

"Yep, that sure is wine. But I don't think either one of us is supposed to be drinking it right now; you're a couple years too young, and I'm on the clock. Technically."

"Oh, that's right… sorry."

My expression must have made her feel guilty, because she held up her glass and said, "One glass probably won't hurt. You did book a double; we have time."

So I poured us both a moderately sized glass. Then I put the cork back in the bottle, just to show her that I was serious about not trying to get her drunk or whatever she might be thinking. She took a small sip while I served her some of the duck, plus a heaping spoonful of the potatoes au gratin.

"Mmmhhhhh, it is as good as it smells!" she announced after she had sampled a forkful. "I didn't know you were such a little chef."

"Oh, I googled a recipe. Even if I don't know something, I'm pretty good at research."

"And putting that research into practice, I see. Not bad, Makoto-chan." Her eyes closed for a moment. I wasn't sure what she was doing until she corrected, "Niijima-san."

I waved my fork at her as I finished swallowing my own bite. "I don't mind."

"That's not…" With a sigh, she set down the fork and took a long drink of her wine. Then she fixed me with a level gaze.

"Okay," I muttered as I also set my fork down. "Guess we're doing this part already."

"Guess so. Niijima-san… Makoto. If I have led you on-"

"No, no… wait." I cleared my throat, folding my hands just in front of my plate. "You haven't. I'm sorry. For the way I looked at you in the hall, or… whatever made you think that."

Sadayo let out a weak little chuckle. "Then what are we doing here? Candlelit dinner, these dresses… I'm actually flattered. More than I thought I could be flattered by one of my students. But you know this can't happen, don't you?"

My heart was already speeding up, stomach churning. But I tried to take a sip of wine and let both of those reactions calm down. "I know."

"Then… what…?"

"Maybe I just wanted to see what this would feel like. Pursuing a woman. A test." Heaving a big sigh, I added, "But I also wanted to give you a nice dinner, because… it just… felt right. You do so much, and are being so great about me not knowing what I'm doing, and… we had to talk anyway, so…"

"Makoto…" Frowning, she leaned a little further forward and reached past the duck and my plate to my hands. "Listen. You're a wonderful girl-"

"You don't have to-"

"No, no, let me say this. Alright?" Her thumb caressed up and down my fingers. "You're… really surprising me. Like I told you before, I've never had anybody chase after me this much. Even if you are my student, and young, and… not quite my 'type', it's really… I do get butterflies anytime you do something like this. You're gonna make somebody really happy someday! But I can't enjoy those butterflies because I know it's wrong. Okay? So you have to stop, but I just need you to understand it has nothing to do with you as a person."

My hand flipped over to catch hers, and we held on for a few more seconds. Looked into each other's eyes. And I could see fear mingling with excitement, doubt mixing with despair. And longing - the same kind that I felt in the pit of my stomach.

"Sadayo?"

Her eyes lowered. "I'm your teacher. And older, and… come on, why would you care about some old woman?"

"Because you aren't 'some old woman'. You're a beautiful, smart, capable… strong, brave, kind, funny woman. Which are good things."

"But that's-"

"And I know that doesn't have to mean anything between us," I hurried to follow up. "That's not what this is about, I promise. Honestly, I have no idea what I'm feeling because it's the first time I felt it. But maybe… part of why I did this was to prove I'm not just some little girl who doesn't know anything at all. What I don't already know, I can learn."

Magically, it worked. I left Sadayo speechless. The tiniest part of me started to hope she at least wasn't going to dismiss me. Not that we would be together; that was impossible, just like she said. But that she would consider it for more than a half-second.

What I didn't expect was for her to pull her hand back, shaking as she pressed it into her forehead. "Oh God… oh God, this is not happening…"

"Sadayo?"

"Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay." She cleared her throat as if she were going to say something else, but all that came out was another, "Okay."

"Seriously, what's wrong?" I asked in a sharper voice, sitting forward the tiniest bit. The way her eyes were bugging out of her head was highly disconcerting.

"What's wrong? I'll tell you what's wrong - I'm on a damn date with my damn student."


To Be Continued…

Chapter Text

The corners of my mouth lifted up the tiniest bit. "So… this counts as a date?"

"UGH!" Miss Kawakami got up from the table and crossed to lean against the kitchen bar. Seeing her framed there, between the mini water cooler and the espresso machine, her dress revealing just enough of her back to make my fingertips tingle and my mouth run dry…

'No, Makoto,' I thought to myself. 'Focus. Don't let your weird new gay feelings distract you from helping her.'

"Look. It doesn't have to be a date. This was just the kind of dinner you deserve from a date. Not specifically from me. Not me being your date, I mean, um… if that makes sense."

"Well, why not? I'm already a maid for two of my students. Gave you a bath and let you massage me, put on this dress for you. Why shouldn't I just say 'fuck it all' and throw myself into your arms? Huh?"

There was anger and frustration bleeding through now, and it made me duck my head in fear. "I'm sorry. Y-you can leave, I won't tell anybody you left early. I d-don't want to keep you here if you-"

"No, that's exactly what you want. Right?" Finally, she turned, and she was shaking with anger. "I told you already that this can't happen, and here it is. Happening. What gives you the right to just ignore my wishes? Like I'm not the grown up here!"

"O-oh," I breathed softly, shutting down. Like a puppet with its strings cut. "You're right. I apologise."

"Makoto, what…?" Then she sighed in exasperation, throwing up both hands. "See? You act like a little kid getting yelled at! Why aren't you yelling right back at me? This is not how it would work if we were equals in this relationship! What the hell am I saying? We're not even in one! Oh my GOD…"

"Hey, it's alright," I said, finally rising from the table as I kept my voice low. "Listen. I'm… I'll go to my bedroom for a few minutes. Please enjoy your meal, and… if you're gone when I come back out, I'll underst- understand."

My voice had broken on the last word but I tried to recover quickly as I strode away from the table, the room spinning. Sadayo didn't do anything, but she did watch me go, trembling as she stood there trying to weather the blunt force of a million different emotions buffeting her all at once.

Something I could relate to.

I had only been laying on my bed for a minute or two, tears rolling down into the pillow silently as I stared at the wall, when I heard a soft knock at the door. "Come in," I said as I hastily blotted at my eyes with the tissue in my hands.

"Hey," she breathed. My lights were off, so all I could see was the halo of her slightly messy hair from the backlighting. "I, um… I seem to have lost my appetite."

"That's fine. I'll clean it up later, and… Sae and I can have the leftovers. She'll just wonder why I made duck. I'll get your money in a m-"

"I'm not leaving yet," she reassured me. "Can I sit?" I nodded, so she sat on the very edge of my bed, not quite far enough back so that we were touching. "So… now it's my turn to apologise."

"For what? You didn't do anything wrong."

"No, I did. I really overreacted out there, I… don't know why I did that. Well, I do, but it doesn't make it okay."

Eyes still blurry, I glanced up at her face that I could see a tiny bit better now. She looked pale, and scared, but not nearly as two-steps-from-crazy as she did before. Her eyes closed for a moment as she contemplated the situation, chose her next words carefully.

"You aren't… the only one."

"Hm?"

"You aren't the only one who feels this… pull toward each other." Another breath to steel herself. "I couldn't tell you when it started, or why, or how I could actually feel anything this strong for a girl in my class. But it's real and it's there."

Now I sat up a little more on my elbows. "What are you saying? Do you-"

"Wait," she bade me with a hand raised. "The thing is, that doesn't change the situation. You're a kid! And my student - and my boss when you request me through the agency. It's so messy… and I'm straight, so even if we did anything with these crazy feelings, it's probably not going to work out in a 'happily ever after' way. When I sit there and picture my ideal future, it's married to a husband who's providing for me, whose big, strong arms can comfort me when I'm sad or stressed out." Then she snorted. "Not that I'm gonna meet one at the rate I'm going, as my mom would say."

"Oh."

Her lips pulled into a little sad smile. "But I will admit you got to me way more than I thought. Just something really special about you, Niijima-san."

"And there's something special about you, too, Kawakami-san." At the term of address, she did raise an eyebrow and laugh a tiny bit, but let me continue instead of interrupting. "I've done a lot of thinking, about… what you said. Your bath and all that."

"Don't remind me," she sighed. "And how much thinking could you have done in five minutes?"

"No, not just now. The whole week." I sat up a little more as I continued, "You're my first in a lot of ways. But honestly? I don't think it matters that much. Because I know how I feel about you even without those things. Maybe I already did, because…"

When I didn't continue right away, she prompted, "Because?"

"You were the teacher I looked forward to seeing the most every day," I confided. "Probably because you were attractive to me, even though I didn't understand that until the hotel room. But it must have already been there, because… you flirting with me shocked me, but not enough. I should have been a lot more scared - I should have wanted to run screaming from the room. Instead, it almost felt… natural. And that scared me the most."

Miss Kawakami frowned. "But that flirting was just part of the job. You know that, right? I didn't… I thought you were a young man who paid to have me flirt with him. That isn't disgusting to you?"

"Like you said, it's your job. I think it would be pretty stupid and narrow-minded of me to judge you for that. Really, the way you're working so hard to pay that student back only makes me admire you more."

"Oh," she breathed, staring down at where her hands lay in her lap. As she watched, one of mine came to rest atop them, and she looked over to see my face was a lot closer. "M-Makoto, wait…"

"For what?" I whispered - and I could barely believe I was doing any of this. But it was too late to turn back; that ship had sailed. "I think you need to know right now how serious I am. Sadayo…"

Her eyes closed. "Shit. You say my name like that, and I can't…"

"Can't what? Sadayo?" That time, I was teasing a little.

"Can't resist you. Can't fight back against this huge mistake."

The last word gave me pause. Enough so that I changed my tactic; my lips pushed into her cheek instead of her mouth. But it was still a kiss. I had never kissed anyone before, and now I had, and it was my Japanese teacher. Life really is crazy. For that moment, however, we were just two women who didn't know how to handle their feelings, and it was more powerful than I ever dreamed.

"Oooooh, okay," she let out in a shaky sigh a few seconds later, when I had drawn back to rest my chin on her soft, warm shoulder. "Wow. That was nicer than a little peck on the cheek has any right to be. God…"

"Yeah?" I breathed cautiously. "I figured I should start small. Not push too much."

"So you're all in now, huh?" she asked with a bitter chuckle, despite the warmth in her eyes as she gazed down at the floor. "Totally gay, and totally gay for your teacher?"

I shrugged as I pet along her back, and she melted. It was almost comical except it was too inflaming to be laughed at. "Guess so. I'm as confused as you, but it just seems silly to pretend I'm not interested."

"Makoto… your moves are like… A+ level moves. How are you only eighteen? How are you a girl?!"

"Do you want me to put the mustache back on?" I laughed.

"No!" We both chuckled for a moment, even though halfway through she shivered and arched her back. "Oh my GOD, you are barely doing anything and I'm ready to go."

"Ready to go?"

Fearful eyes turned on me. "Wait - forget I said that. Shit, why did I say that?!"

"Do you mean…" My eyes widened, and I felt heat explode within my cheeks. "Oh."

"I said forget I said it, so stop thinking about it! Wow, I really am a mess - I need to see a therapist or something!"

My teacher was turned on. Was this really happening? Despite the fact that, as she said, I was barely doing anything to her, apparently it was getting her aroused and ready for me to explore further. Only question was…

Was I as ready to explore as she was to be explored?

"It's okay," I reassured her, petting a little more firmly and hoping it would help. "I, um, I don't remember you saying anything. Just that I have some good moves. Did you say something after that?"

Her embarrassed laugh spoke volumes. "Nice try, kid. Ugh, I'm such a loser."

"Why? Because having someone focused on you feels good? Because this…" I pet a single finger down the middle of her back - not even sure how I knew to do that, running purely on instinct - and she shook and shivered. "…feels good?"

"Stop, please…"

"Really?" My hand came to rest in the middle of her back, staying totally still. "I will if you want me to."

"Yes. I do." So I took the hand away. Her eyes were sad, but what she said was, "Thank you."

Swallowing hard, trying to ignore the pinprick of fear in my stomach, I whispered, "Of course. I'm sorry, I just… I thought I could make you feel nice, and you might feel less… mad at yourself? Scared?"

"You did, in a way. But you also made it way worse." She turned to gaze at me. "Because it worked. You got me all revved up by barely doing anything - and I only felt that with the best of the dates I've been on. Even then, most of the guys had to work harder to get me there."

"Except… you don't want it from me. I'm a student, and a girl." She nodded, and I sighed. "I understand."

"Well, I don't," she blustered, folding her arms over her chest. My hand was resting on her thighs now, but I tried to keep it still so as not to draw attention to that. "This is nuts! I feel like I'm being pranked, except it's way too real to be a prank, so…"

"How do you think I feel? You're my teacher, and so beautiful. And a woman - which I think I'm somehow more comfortable with that than you are. But it doesn't mean I'm not panicking."

"You're panicking?" she asked, and I could tell she was almost grateful to think about me instead of her own feelings. "But you seem so cool with it all. Like, other than when I scream at you like an idiot."

My lips split in a smile. "Not an idiot. You just weren't expecting any of this. We're both trying to figure it out." I pet her thigh a little now, and she shivered. "Is this alright?"

"N-no." I stopped. "God… I can't believe how different it is with girls."

"Hm?"

"I ask you to stop, and you actually do it. No 'Aww, c'mon' first, no telling me I'm some big tease if I get less comfortable."

"Oh," I chuckled softly. "Do you want me to do that instead? I probably could learn."

"GOD NO!" Then we both laughed. "It's one of the only clear advantages. But, um… anyway, yeah. How do you keep from blowing your stack while I'm over here, sweating enough to fill a bucket?"

"You are not sweating," I snorted as I thought the question over. Finally, I sat up completely, my legs out and to the side behind her as my face rested against her shoulder. She didn't seem to mind me there, even if my touches were too much for her to handle at the present.

"Miss Kawakami, I wish I knew what to tell you. But I've always been like this under pressure. I'm still freaking out and trying to figure out what to do, but it's like… there isn't any point in letting the panic turn me into a mess, so I just… don't. And I can't explain to you why I'm like that, either."

"Lucky," she pouted.

"I feel lucky. You're not yelling at me for all this, and… I do keep worrying about what you said."

"Which thing I said?"

"That I'll go too far and you won't tell me to stop, and I'll hurt you. That's why I keep taking such… small chances." I kissed her shoulder again, and she sighed. "Like that one."

Humming her pleasure at the next kiss, she finally whispered, "They're small but they aren't small. My brain is telling me 'no', but my body…"

After the next kiss, when she still hadn't finished her thought, I whispered, "Tell me."

"My body wants this. Needs it - and that's all I'm going to say, because it's already really terrible that I told that to any student. I deserve everything that's happened to me in the past few years. Scummy old woman."

"Hey." I reached up and gently moved her chin so she was facing me, and her eyes grew wide and fearful. "Don't talk about yourself like that. It's not fair. Those two are wrong."

"How are they wrong? I got a student killed, and now I'm feeling way too much for another. I'm a monster, Makoto-chan."

Smiling, I leaned a little closer. "Don't you mean 'Niijima-san'?"

"Right. That thing."

"You aren't a monster. And you aren't scummy. You're a beautiful, smart-"

"I can't take any more compliments," she laughed shakily as my face got closer. "I can't take any more of this, no matter how much I…"

"What? No matter how much… you want it?" I guessed.

All she could do was nod before our lips made contact.

Kissing Sadayo was both everything I had ever dreamed it could be, and nothing like I expected. Which didn't seem to fit together very neatly, since those feelings were such different shapes. It was warmth, and softness, and openness… passion and comfort mixing like fire and water. And now that I had tried it…

I could no longer imagine kissing a man. That easily. As much as I still couldn't believe I was with a woman, it felt so right that I didn't want to question it anymore; didn't think it was necessary. Her mouth was sweet and warm and open to me, and as our lips kneaded each other, I craved more, I leaned up harder against her, my arm wrapping around her back to keep her close.

"Shit," she breathed when we finally broke apart. Only then did I realise her hand had come to rest on my upper arm, another around my waist.

"Huh? I mean… hey."

"Hey." Swallowing hard, eyes swimming with the threat of tears, she went on, "I'm… just… it's not fair."

"What isn't fair?"

"That a little girl just gave me the best kiss of my life."

Blushing though I was, I managed to protest, "I'm not a little girl. I'm a grown woman; I just so happen to be in school, that's all."

"You'll be 'grown' when you can order that wine at a restaurant," she muttered, and I couldn't help smiling. "This is still a really… terrible idea, but…"

"It's good, though?" I insisted on knowing. "You're not just flattering me? I've never kissed anyone before."

"Stop reminding me how young you are," she whined. But when she saw me biting my lip, she closed her eyes and whispered, "The best. You just barely beat out Katsuya from my high school; he was really good, too. Like, legendary."

"Wow, high school must have been a really long time ago. How do you even remember?" When her eyes flew open, I dipped my head. "Teasing. O-or trying to. You really shouldn't shame yourself so much for this happening; it was… fate."

Her hand began to caress up and down my arm, and I felt the goosebumps dimpling and shifting under the light touch. "You believe in that stuff? Like fate? Oh - right, you still owe me a reading."

"Reading?" Her heeled foot raised up and waggled just in the corner of my vision, and I smiled bashfully. "Oh yeah… I don't know why I thought that would work."

"Honestly, I wasn't sure why you were asking about my shoe size until I saw the heels in the bathroom. So it did work; it just was very suspicious. Like, what is solestry, anyway?!"

"It's a real practice!" When she squinted at me, I shrugged and admitted, "So maybe it's not very widespread…"

"If you wanna play with my feet again, just ask. You don't have to make up fortune-telling excuses; I don't even believe in tarot cards or any of that."

Sure I was beet red by now, I whispered, "Wh-why are you so sure I'm some pervert? I just liked giving you a massage!"

"You did kiss them," she laughed. "And I'm teasing. But you keep getting all flustered, so if you want me to stop my teasing and let you play with them… just say the word and I will. I mean it."

"But you freaked out when we kissed. Why would that be any different? Because they're only feet?"

"In a word… yeah?" We both laughed. "Okay, okay, so you're not into it. I just… I don't know, I'm trying to think outside the box. Things that won't be as dangerous as that kiss was a few seconds ago. Do you want to take another bath?"

"Only if we're both naked."

The words were out of my mouth before I could stop them. Sadayo was still gulping and gaping at me when I hastily averted my gaze to stare at the wall, my fingers flexing where they rested against her shoulderblade. Seconds ticked by in silence as we tried to figure out how to recover from that line.

"So…"

"Maybe we should go back to eating," Sadayo whispered.

"I thought you lost your appetite."

"I did. But um… that kiss kind of… woke it back up. So either I satisfy it that way, or…"

My eyes lifted to meet hers, and I was aware of how close our mouths still were. "Or we could do it in a fun way?"

"No. We really shouldn't do that. I want to, I… guess there's no point pretending I don't, but it's still a bad idea."

"I'm sorry I said such a stupid thing," I suddenly blurted. "I thought it would be funny, or flirty, but instead it sounded… kind of… scary."

"Yeah," she agreed with a hard swallow as she pulled me tighter against her side. "But I know you weren't doing that on purpose; I'm… this is why you don't date somebody nine years younger than you, right? They don't have the same experiences you do. I've been around the block a few times; you just got to the neighbourhood."

"Then show me. You're already my teacher at Shujin; teach me this, too. How to do it right instead of… of messing up and making you feel bad."

"This is not what 'sex education' is supposed to mean, you know," she chuckled. I smiled a little along with her.

"Let's finish dinner. I feel like you don't want to try more because you're worried about too many things, so maybe it's smarter if… we don't keep sitting on my bed."

A long whine issued from her mouth. "I kissed a teenager. On her goddamn bed, I must be out of my mind!"

"Yeah, but… think of it this way." I couldn't help smiling up at her as I whispered playfully, "You're hot enough to get a teenager to kiss you. On her goddamn bed. Has to count for something."

That did at least earn a giddy laugh from her as she facepalmed. "Sure. It means I'm a real vixen for a predator, right?"

"Hey, don't call yourself that," I scolded her, eyes darkening a little. I saw her blink in surprise at how insistent I was. "Not ever again. I'm the one who's been chasing you, not the other way around; that makes you an herbivore, I think."

"Well… I… sure, yeah," she admitted with a weary nod. "You're right, let's go eat. That duck was really good and I feel terrible that we kind of flirted our way out of finishing it."

"You really like my cooking?" I asked as we stood up, arms still loosely around each other. Now I was a lot shorter than her again - only because she was still wearing the heels. Which was at my insistence, so I had no one to blame but myself.

"Makoto, it was amazing. Where did you get that recipe?! Not that I can cook anything besides curry and instant ramen, anyway… what a failure of an adult I am."

"I think you're perfect," I breathed as we left the room. That only made her groan.


To Be Continued…

Chapter Text

~ x JUDGMENT x ~

"I thought you were leading up to something more."

Makoto smirked across the table as she sat back in her chair. "Why, whatever do you mean, Onee-sama?"

Clearly irritated by the formal tone her sister had taken, Sae crossed her legs in the opposite direction to abate the sudden discomfort. "You and Kawakami were kissing on your bed. That painted a very specific picture of the events that would unfold."

"So now you're mad that I didn't meet your expectations? That she didn't push me down and force me into anything? That's nice, Sis."

"Not 'mad'. But that was my hypothesis, and it's… I'll have to adjust my thinking." Then she smirked a little and sat back, unconsciously mirroring her little sister's movements. "I am curious about something else, though."

"Really? Is it the leftover duck? I was a little surprised you didn't ask about that."

"No, no. And I was just thankful that it was delicious." She noticed Makoto's eyebrows shot up at the unexpected praise, but pressed onward. "Why does her teasing about feet get to you so much?"

At that, her little sister looked like her little sister for the first time since she had walked in the door, deflating and scowling toward the corner. "Come on, do we have to talk about that? I swear, I just really liked giving her a massage; she enjoyed it so much! It has nothing to do with me being 'into' feet!"

"Sure it doesn't," she snorted. "Mostly, I'm surprised to be learning all these things about you. It's fascinating."

"Don't be fascinated by things that aren't real," she sighed.

"Maybe not. I suppose you should finish telling me what is real." But while she said as much, she turned the chair to the side and propped her heels up on the table, crossing her legs at the ankle.

And Makoto glanced. She didn't stare at her high heels openly, but her eyes definitely flicked in their direction. Police instinct told Sae that was a red flag that the girl might have a budding fetish, but that didn't necessarily mean she was lying to her; sometimes people weren't ready to admit things to themselves, which meant they were literally incapable of admitting them to someone else.

Or perhaps it was purely due to the teasing - both from her and from Kawakami. Sometimes, that could almost create a fixation against the target's wishes. Or it could have simply been an innocent glance due to the movement and nothing more.

"Y-yeah," she stuttered before clearing her throat. Another red flag. "What's real. I'm not sure you're ready for that, but I'll keep going."


~ x The Priestess x ~

We finished dinner without anything else happening to interrupt. And the conversation went back to school, and eventually to Ren. I found out that he had known for weeks, and she found out that I already had spoken to him about it a little. Plus, she reassured me very firmly that there was nothing romantic going on between them… despite the many, many visits to his little loft.

Then she helped me with the dishes. I tried to tell her to relax, but she said she couldn't since she was supposed to be my maid - despite the clothing change. It was oddly heartwarming, doing something so mundane and domestic next to her.

"So I guess there's no point trying to change your mind," she sighed as we set the last few in the drying rack.

"Maybe. I still don't really understand all this, but every time I ask myself if I like you… I have to say 'yes'. Even if it's inconvenient."

Sadayo laughed quietly as she picked up the towel to dry off her hands. "That's one word for it. Kind of 'inconvenient' for you to date your teacher."

"Yeah. But how can I let that stop me? Look at you… I mean, you're already so pretty in class, but now? In this dress? It's like you're a pop idol."

Finally, my little comments were starting to flatter her instead of making her distressed. Smiling and biting her lip, she took a few steps away. "What, this old thing?" Then she did a little spin for me, and covered her face when I hooped and hollered. "Stop!"

"Hey, you twirled! If you didn't want me to like it, why did you do that?"

"I don't know!" When she lowered her hands, she was still smiling. "By the way… I don't exactly know how to say it, but you look nice, too. I'm just not used to thinking of girls like that but I should have said it earlier."

"Oh, I don't care about that," I lied. I mean, I did care, but I also didn't… so it was half-lying. I guess.

"But it's important. You're a really beautiful young lady, and I don't want my, uh, straightness to keep you from knowing that."

"Like I'm that much gayer than you! Considering I have never looked at any other women!"

Pacing closer again, she took up my hands and squeezed them gently. "How can I be your first? That seems… I don't know. Unrealistic somehow."

"Well, you kind of tried to touch me somewhere nobody had before," I whispered, and she flinched. "Hey - it's alright. I should have been more clear that I didn't want you to; you just thought I was nervous, like a lot of your other clients probably are."

"They are," she admitted with a hesitant nod. "You sure seemed to enjoy taking my tights off, so I thought I might get to… 'upsell' you into a handjob. Isn't that terrible?"

"Not for most of them. I'm sure a lot of them are happy you're showing interest - and underneath my fear that you would find out my identity, maybe I was, too." In a whisper, I added, "I certainly enjoyed the feeling."

Flushing a little darker shade of red, she whispered back, "And I hated it. But only because it felt like… you know when you're walking up the subway steps, paying too much attention to your phone, and you think there's one more step but then there isn't?"

"Ohhhh. Yeah, I know that feeling - it was like that?"

"Definitely. I, um…" Letting out a deep breath, Sadayo announced, "I've never touched another snatch. What a weird thing I have to say out loud!"

That got me smiling and stepping a little closer. "Me, neither. So at least we both have a first that we can still enjoy together."

"That's true." And her eyes danced with something like hope.

"Anyway, what I meant was that you touching me, letting me take your tights off… flirting at me, giggling, all that stuff. At first it didn't do anything, but after a while, I could feel it…" I paused, gathering my thoughts. My teacher waited. "It drew something to the surface that was already hiding beneath it. I always thought you were beautiful, it was just… I had no reason to think it was anything besides… not quite 'hero worship', that's not it. But similar."

"Am I your senpaaaaaiiiiii?" she called out in a very Becky sing-song. When I rolled my eyes, she laughed and pulled me into a light, gentle hug. "Mmm… oh, Makoto, I'm sorry. This whole thing is my fault; I should have tried to find another part-time job. An educator shouldn't spend her off-hours going down on random guys in a French maid outfit."

"No, she shouldn't," I breathed against her skin, breathing in the light, clean scent. She clearly only used the perfume on her shoes and undergarments; it was so severely muted that I was mostly only enjoying pure Sadayo without obfuscation. "But that's not your fault, and you aren't doing anything wrong. It just… turned out this way because I'm so nosy. It's my fault you ended up servicing me, not yours; I made the call."

"Alright, alright. Maybe we should just quit blaming each other. I just can't believe I didn't see through your disguise!"

Grinning, I began to sway slightly to the piano music that was still playing, even an hour later. "Well, we worked pretty hard on it. My friend and I."

"Your… friend?"

"Yeah. She knew about this, but she didn't know which teacher I meant - and I told her I wouldn't tell."

The taller woman pulled back to blink down at me. "You told a friend? That's… why?"

"Because I'm so confused. Still am a little, but I just needed to talk through some things to figure out what to do."

"Well…" Sighing, she nodded before resting her head atop mine - and it felt so good. Why? I loved it and couldn't even quite put my finger on the reason. "I guess that's not really a big deal. You didn't even tell her who I was. Did you blame Ms. Chouno?"

"She did guess Chouno," I giggled, and she laughed as well. "And you, and Ms. Usami. I just didn't confirm anything at all and she told me she didn't care that I wouldn't tell her. Respected my choice."

"That's a good friend."

"But I trust her. And I did eventually have to tell her everything, because... I needed her help guessing your dress size. I'm sorry, but I promise she won't tell anyone."

"Oh, it's fine. Everybody else and their cousin is finding out, so why should I be mad at you for trusting your friend?" We were both quiet for a minute. Then she began, "This friend…"

"Hmm? You want to know who it is?"

"I do, but it's alright if you don't want to tell me. Cuts both ways, right? That wasn't what I was going to ask." After a brief hesitation, Sadayo went on, "Have you ever… with her?"

"Have I ever what? I'm not s- oh! Oh, no, no way!"

"Sorry, sorry." And she definitely sounded apologetic. More than that, she sounded mortified that she asked at all. "Just curious because, well, this whole thing is new to both of us. I thought maybe you and her…"

Leaning up to gently kiss her cheek, I whispered, "Told you that you're my first. Anything."

"God…" This close, I could actually hear her swallowing, and somehow that was the most exciting thing I had ever heard. "You're driving me crazy…"

"Good. And don't worry, my friend is not going to steal me away from you. I promise. We aren't like that."

After a weak whimper, she finally replied, "Maybe she should… I don't know. Why would you want some oba-san when you can have a girl your own age? Is she not prettier than me or something?"

That made me laugh out loud. "No way! You have no idea, she's practically perfect!" But when she drew back to raise an eyebrow at me, I realized my mistake. My stomach seemed to shoot straight down into the floor. "W-wait, that's not- I didn't mean it how it-"

"No, no, it's totally fine. I know I'm over the hill and shouldn't expect to be able to compete with girls in your class."

"I meant that the reason I like you and not her doesn't have anything to do with her being ugly or whatever! Not that you aren't beautiful, because you are! You're the most… come on, don't be mean to me, I'm new at this!"

Laughing at my expense, she reached up to cup my burning cheek tenderly. "That's kind of the whole problem, isn't it?" The mirth left her expression until she just looked like the exhausted teacher I had come to know over the years. "You have no idea what we're about to go through."

Her telling me that did make me take an extra second to contemplate my response. I already knew what I wanted to say, but I tried to take her feelings into account first. Then I shrugged and kissed her on the chin.

"You're right. I don't know. But I trust you to help me figure it out. I trust you completely."

"That's so dangerous," she warned me as we swayed in the space between the dining room and living room. "You already know my life is a mess, and you think I'm going to do any better of a job with yours? What if I screw this up, and I hurt you somehow? What if I ruin everything?"

One of my shoulders rose and fell as I laid my head on hers again. Letting her lead. "We'll fix it. Or we will figure out that we can't, and deal with that when the time comes."

"Wise little girl. Young woman," she corrected with a quiet laugh. I felt her hand slide down to push into the small of my back, and tried not to think about how badly my legs wanted to turn to jelly. "Too sweet and trusting for your own good. But I promise I'll try my best to take care of you. Really, even if I fail, it won't be because I didn't try."

"Yeah," I said as we slow danced. "And this feeling… I would chase it across the stars."

For a few more seconds, I thought Sadayo would not answer at all. Then she breathed, "So would I." Her fragile, frightened voice just barely loud enough for me to hear it.

"Are you really going to be okay? I keep trying to let you go, and you keep trying to let me go… but we're still here. I could kick you out if it will be easier."

"I… no. I think it's too late for that tonight. Maybe we'll both wake up tomorrow and come to our senses, realise we made a huge mistake. But tonight… oh… Makoto, I really don't think I should be saying these things to my own student. But do you wanna hear them, anyway?"

"Sure. No… let me rephrase. I need to hear them, but will also understand if you can't."

Drawing back to look me dead in the eyes, she swallowed hard - and I saw for the first time that she was crying. But she had kept it out of her voice completely. Maybe that's what being an adult was all about: learning how to cry without crying. Her hands moved up to rest on either side of my neck, holding me steady.

"I think you're strong. And beautiful, and… noble. Nosy." At the last one, I laughed shyly, and she smiled a little wider. "But now I know it's because you just… really need to do the right thing. That's very rare to find. And you're also sweet, and steadfast and a million other things. But more than all that? You make me scared because never in my life have I felt more like losing someone would hurt than I do when I look at you."

The raw emotion in that statement bowled me over, and I had already been floating on a cloud at the rest. Now I felt like I might ascend to a higher plane of existence. "Lose me…?"

"Yeah." As my hands moved up to wipe away her tears, she half-flinched away from them but forced herself to stay put. "I just found you in my life - losing you now… isn't that even worse? When we barely got to…"

"I understand," I breathed as I leaned closer. "It's why I keep coming back for more. Just need you, and I'm scared if I don't take what I can get now, that I'll miss my chance. That's a terrible outcome."

Her head shook from side to side as her lips ghosted over mine. "Terrible… but I still don't understand this." We kissed again, still hesitant but less so. "Don't understand… why me…?"

"Because I'm not an idiot," I whispered back, pursing my lips on her bottom one and tugging gently. That shiver along her spine was real and visible.

"Maybe we both are."

"Maybe… I just can't seem to care."

The next kiss lasted a lot longer, and took us to the wall, then over to the counter. Sadayo's lips were so sweet and inviting, her body warm and soft, that I couldn't imagine ever getting enough - and if her reaction was any indication, mine must not have been so bad, either. We seemed to unconsciously take turns pursuing and being pursued. Oddly enough, even though I hummed a lot and felt my entire body tingling in anticipation, she was the one who more often squeaked in surprise, who took breaks to gasp and mention again how crazy this all was. Wasn't I supposed to be the virgin?

Finally, I had her pinned to the couch as we devoured each other's mouths. We had both felt flashes of tongue but never dared explore that deeper. One particularly loud moan broke us apart to catch our breaths, eyes locked in a blistering gaze of warring intentions.

"This… I really-"

"Holy shit," she finished for both of us, and I laughed a little. "That was incredible! Where have you been all my life?! Wait… wait, don't answer that."

Smirking, I shifted my hips atop hers from side to side. "Why? Don't like to think about where I was when you were my age?"

"Makoto, do you actually want me to keep going or to die of embarrassment?" Still, she bit her lip to weather the heat as I ground against her - a totally subconscious act. "Stop, I don't think I'm… ready for all… that…"

"Neither am I. Honestly, I only know how this is supposed to work from what I've read."

"You read about this?!" she gasped out. "Lesbian sex?"

"No! What?! I mean, mostly in class for sex ed. But then… after all this with you, I started to wonder… how… to do it? And I still can't quite picture it in my head."

My teacher's expression grew even more bashful as she looked away. "You were that serious about me? Before tonight, I mean. That is… I don't really get it, but I can't deny it feels wonderful. Being yours like this."

"You're mine for as long as you want to be," I purred. But it didn't take her long after that to push me back slightly. "What?"

"Listen. I, um… I need a little more time to think about this. Before we go any further, I mean." The shame was etched into every inch of her face, so I had no trouble believing her.

"Okay." My hips came to a stop despite how much I wanted to continue. "Seriously, don't be afraid to tell me to slow down at any time. I know it seems like I'm… only interested in pushing this as far as I can, but I swear that's not what's happening. I'm just really awkward."

Sadayo thought about that for a moment before she snorted. "Yeah right. You're working me so easy! But… I know, it's all new for you. Awkwardness plus inexperience equals… well, a lot of what's happened tonight." With a helpless laugh, she added, "This is insane, I can't believe it feels so natural with a woman! I thought it would disgust me!"

"Me, too! But… at least you've been on actual dates with men before. Maybe that makes it worse for you?"

"Oh, definitely. I keep finding unexpected things and not finding things I expect!" One of her fingers poked the side of my breast and I shivered. "Like these."

"Well, they do tend to be found there on women," I laughed softly, earning a much more full belly-laugh from my teacher.

"And you're so soft and delicate, gentle… which is part of what's throwing me. I'm used to exclusively dating men taller than me who can truly make me feel like a lady. I was kind of shallow about it, if I'm being really honest with you. But a year or so of working this job for Victoria has kind of broken me of that shallowness. Maybe…"

When she had been thoughtfully silent for a few seconds, I kissed her cheek and prompted, "Maybe?"

"Maybe that's part of why I'm not running screaming from this right now. Being required to flirt with and jerk off a bunch of gross guys reset my expectations. A cute girl like you is… a relief? Definitely a step up from any of them, even if I never thought about it before."

"And even if I'm a little younger than would be ideal," I admitted. She did nod her agreement, but also looked apologetic about it. "I get it. And I know there's really nothing I can do about it, but I would if I could."

"Whoa, whoa, wait." She rested a hand on my shoulder. "You don't think I blame you for being in school, do you? I would never-"

"No, no," I assured her quickly.

"Good," she sighed in relief. "This is nobody's 'fault', it's just a really cruel twist of fate. You're an amazing young woman, Makoto, and I wouldn't change a thing."

I must have been smiling even wider than I thought, because Sadayo kissed both of my cheeks tenderly. "Th-thank you."

"What? It's just the truth." Then she rolled her eyes and said, "Besides, if I could magically change one of us, why make you older when I could make me younger? Talk about a waste of a wish; I'd rather add ten years to my life then subtract from yours."

"Nine years," I corrected gently, petting up and down her side. But it made her laugh. "What? Isn't that less bad than ten?"

"Yeah, but I really doubt it's going to make much of a difference to our families." Then her eyes went wide. "Oh God… my parents."

Wincing, I pictured the middle-aged couple that had been yelling at Miss Kawakami in the hospital. I knew they definitely were not her parents, but my brain filled in the mental image with them anyway. "Are they going to think less of you?"

"Definitely. They are good parents, don't get me wrong, but they're pretty traditional. Take your pick! Will they be more mad that I'm gay or that I'm dating a teenager? Honestly, I'm not sure."

"Bisexual," I corrected again. Though I did start to worry that correcting her so much would be annoying. "You still find men attractive, right?"

"They won't care about that. Especially because they think girls liking other girls is 'just a phase' anyway." Her hand caressed over my hair, and I leaned into the touch. "I have to go soon."

My heart squeezed in my chest. "Oh. Yeah, I guess our time's almost up. I should grab your money."

"Thanks. It's… I can use it, sure, but really it's the best protection I have against catching hell for sneaking around with you. If it's part of my job, who can really blame me?"

"Exactly. And it's not forever."

As I extricated myself from her tempting body, she looked vaguely sad. "No… not forever. You're right. Just feels like it."

~ o ~

Within about five minutes, she was back in her maid outfit and I had her ¥10000 stuffed into her pocket. We lingered by the door. Neither of us seemed to know what to say, but kept trying to communicate something with our eyes to the other person. I know what I was trying to communicate was that I hated to see her go, that all I wanted was for her to stay so we could explore the strange new feelings together. I can only guess what she was trying to tell me.

"Thanks for a wonderful evening," she told me with a smile and a bow. "You really pulled out all the stops. Kind of blew me away."

I bowed back. "My pleasure. I'll… have to save up a little before I can request you again. Sorry."

"Oh… I'm sorry, we can find some time when I'm not working. I don't want to bleed you dry! Maybe…ugh, it'll be riskier but you could come to my place. I live alone."

"Riskier?"

"They'll see you going in and out of my apartment. God… okay, what flimsy excuse will we use? I'm tutoring you? I mean, you're probably the smartest girl in school. But… maybe with me being a female teacher, it could work…"

Eyes dancing with with ill-suppressed glee, I leaned up to deliver another heated kiss to the woman I was suddenly dating. Or something like dating. Then I pulled back, biting my lip as I watched her sway and waiver.

"We'll just have to be very careful. Like a game."

"What a dangerous game. Didn't think a little kid like you could be such a gambler." But at least she was smiling as she bowed low at the waist. "Thank you for your support, Master! Becky really enjoys getting dirty for you!"

I don't exactly know where the flirty line came from. But before I could stop myself, I was muttering, "Seems like you do." It was the reason a deeply blushing Sadayo scrambled for the doorknob and out of my apartment as fast as she possibly could.


To Be Continued…

Chapter Text

~ x JUDGMENT x ~

"Seems I was right," Sae sighed with a nod. "And wrong. There was more but it wasn't what I anticipated."

"I told you, Sis. You really were certain she was taking advantage of me, but you're wrong; if anything… I'm the one taking advantage of her."

The elder sister was surprised. "What? That's not… what on earth do you mean?"

"Part of me is worried that she's just humouring me." Makoto fiddled with her fingers, staring down and through the table at unseen ghosts in her memory. "I have this gay crush and she feels like it's her fault, so she can't let me down easy. I've tried to make sure over and over she knows my feelings are genuine, even if I don't understand them. But… does she know that she doesn't have to return them? If they aren't there for her?"

The room was quiet for a moment as the student council president trembled, biting her lips. Full of tension without sound. Sae stood and rounded the table, leaning back against it with her palms on either side of her rear as she stared straight ahead. Just wanting to be a tiny bit less distant from her sister.

"You couldn't hurt a fly, Makoto. Don't worry so much. I'm sure she is with you because she wants to be. Whether or not she's been coercing you into things you aren't ready for remains my only question; the reverse is simply… impossible."

"Not impossible," she breathed. "Just… unlikely, I guess. And you don't want to think your own sister is a disgusting little-"

"Don't even finish that sentence." Her hand finally rose, hesitated, then rested on Makoto's shoulder. "You're a smart girl. And a good sister."

"I'm not useless?"

"No. Why would you think you are?"

"Because you told me I am."

The hand vanished. Sae didn't move or say anything more, but she did sit perfectly still, eyes narrowed as if trying to burn a hole through the wall. After a moment or two, Makoto rested her hand on top of the one on the table.

"It's okay."

"No, it isn't. You're right; I've been…" A helpless laugh fell from the prosecutor's lips. "I've been taking out all of my work-related frustrations on the only person in my life."

Tilting her head to the side, trying to get a better look, she asked, "The only family close to you. Right?"

"No. I meant what I said."

"You have other people in your life, I'm sure." No response. Slowly, Makoto drew back in dismay. "But you have such an important job… you have to have coworkers who…"

The silence was even more oppressive now. So Sae broke it. "My job is hard, thankless. And it's a male-dominated field. The ones who don't see me as an 'invading force' simply don't know what to make of me, or they steer clear to avoid angering the ones who actively dislike me. Or they're disinterested. I'm not going to be making friends."

"No…" Heart breaking, she swallowed hard and whispered up at her, "That isn't fair to you."

"Life isn't always fair." Then she fixed her sister with a half-smirk. "You went over to her apartment next. Take me through that so we can get to the important things."

Makoto narrowed her eyes. "This is important. My sister is important to me." But Sae didn't budge. So she sighed, looked down, and gathered her thoughts. To get it over and done with.


~ x The Priestess x ~

"Hey," Sadayo sighed as she opened the door to her apartment, smile tired but still a true smile.

"Hi." My heart was pounding in my chest with anticipation. We had waited until a couple of days had passed, so as to not book the two visits so close together, at least, but it somehow both felt like no time at all had passed and a thousand years. I was more than ready. "Got my books."

"Good, good. Get in here; I have some Pocky if you want it, and some coffee if you really get sleepy."

I chuckled a little. "What, no scotch on the rocks?" But she rolled her eyes and yanked me inside so she could shut the door.

"Don't you start, you little brat." However, she caressed my hair the instant we were alone. Then she laughed and pulled her hand away, holding it with the other as if burned. "Wow. That is… so easy to do, and weird."

"Mmm," I breathed a little belatedly. Then I cleared my throat. "Okay. So um, I guess we should do a little studying first, just to… make our excuse legitimate."

"Sure, of course. I know you don't really need it but don't mind giving you a refresher. Grab a seat."

Miss Kawakami's apartment was tiny, and a little messy. All of her furniture was dilapidated and older, and she had taken pretty good care of it but some pieces could have used replacing. The sofa was definitely a Western-style sleeper; the way the cushions bounced told me it had to be. Still, I parked myself there and waited for her to come back.

Then we set to work. My teacher walked me through the more intricate facets of Nihongo, the parts that would probably come up in my exams. For a little while, we both slipped into work mode and actually managed to forget about how strange it was that she had a student on her couch, and I was in my teacher's apartment. A few times, one of us would laugh at some comment or another and the other would grin or reach out automatically with an affectionate gesture. Still, we were both fairly serious about academics and kept our hands to ourselves.

Mostly.

"You sure you don't want something?" she finally asked when we had finished a unit and she was getting up to use the restroom. "Help yourself if you want but my fridge is pretty, uh… gross, and mostly full of old rice and ramen. Maybe some eggs?"

I chuckled and called out, "How do you live like this?!" Then stared down at my socks as I fiddled with the book on my lap. I really wasn't sure what to do with myself. What were we going to do when the studying ran out? This barely counted as a relationship at all; we kissed a few times. And I had no idea how to be one half of a couple, anyway! Did she want me to assume the 'male' role? She was going to be out of luck; I knew nothing about any of that.

Another terrifying thought blindsided me. Did she want me to 'set the mood' while she 'freshened up'?!

The door clicked back open before I could mobilise any plans. Sadayo took one look at my face and her own mild expression turned to one of concern. "What? What's the matter - did you need to get in there?"

"Oh, no, no," I reassured her with a self-conscious laugh. "I'm just… yeah. I don't know."

"Nervous?" she half-chuckled as she slid into the couch next to me again. This felt better. She was wearing her usual denim skirt and a white top today; simple clothes, what she had been teaching in. No crazy maid costume, no fancy evening gown. Just the natural state of the woman I was quickly growing so fond of.

"Definitely. Wouldn't you be in my shoes?"

"In your shoes, I'd be running for the door. You have no idea what I'm like but I do, and you can do way better than my crazy ass."

"We both could do 'better', in a way. But I know what I want now."

One hand slid into the back of her hair as she smiled shyly, and she was so beautiful to me in that moment that I wanted to tackle her. But I refrained. We needed to take this slow if we wanted to figure out what we genuinely needed from each other. "Do you?"

"Yes." I took up her other hand and began to rub the back of it with my thumb. "We've already conducted the tests, haven't we? Kissing you feels right. Being in your arms… and we like each other. At least, I like you. So it would be pointless for me to keep pretending I'm not sure."

"Pointless, huh?" Her eyes turned sad, guilty. "I must be pretty pointless then."

"What? No, don't say that."

"But I still don't know what I want, Makoto. Playing with you is a lot of fun, obviously, but no matter how much we 'conduct tests' I still feel like a monster. Look how I caught you like a mouse and dragged you back to my lair."

"What are you talking about?" I chuckled as I petted her neck - and she sighed. Goosebumps erupted across my arms.

"You know… cats, or something?"

"Sure, sure. But I don't feel like a caught mouse at all." I scooted closer and ghosted my lips over hers, and she sighed, eyes falling closed. "Hey. I want this to make you feel good, because you deserve it. If you don't feel good I'll stop - I could leave. Whatever you want is what I want."

A tear slid down her cheek, and I figured she was about to kick me out. What she whispered was, "I want this. How do you make me feel more desirable than any man ever has? How do you do that? I'm honestly… I do not understand it at all."

"Those tryhards got nothing on me." Maybe I was emulating Ryuji in that moment. At least the statement made her laugh. "Sorry. But I mean it; if those men didn't even make you feel desirable, then they were failures."

"Or maybe you're just a very charismatic girl."

"Nobody has ever accused me of being charismatic before," I said with a slight smile as she nuzzled the side of my face, and my breath caught. "Mmhhh… they think I'm a robot."

"No robot could be this warm." Another little kiss. "Sweet…" Another. "God you're perfect…"

That was as long as we could keep our hands off each other. Lips locked around each other and legs entwined as we gave over to desire. I lost track of time. We wound up with her pushed back into the crack between the cushions and the back of the couch, hands wandering up and down backs and sides as we just barely brushed the tips of our tongues against each other now and then. And I loved every minute.

Until her thigh pushed too high, and I groaned - and she pulled away from me. "Hnnhhh, wha…?"

"Sorry," she whispered, eyes wide in alarm.

"For what? It felt pretty great, I'm just… not used to that."

"But we're still…" Her hand moved up to graze along my neck, and I shivered. "I told myself I wouldn't, um… go too far until you graduate from Shujin. So I'm not shitting where I'm eating."

"Go too far? Oh, you mean- ohhhh. But why? I mean, what difference does it make?"

"Well… a lot. There is a difference between making out with my student and actually fucking her."

My head instinctively ducked from the vulgarity of the word. "Ah!"

"Sorry!" she whimpered as she grimaced. "God, I'm really making a mess out of everything! At least I act like an awkward teenager."

"N-no, it's fine," I stuttered, face clearly a blushing mess. Betraying my true thoughts. "But I think I understand. And if you were asking my advice without me being part of the situation… I would agree with you. It's smarter to wait until I'm not… until you aren't 'in charge' of me."

"Right," she sighed, clearly grateful that I understood that aspect of our relationship. "That really makes me uncomfortable. Like, it's kinda hot, but also I feel so guilty that it's not worth it."

"Kinda hot?"

Sadayo's eyes went wide as she realised what she had said. "Um… can we rewind a few seconds to before I said that part?"

"Afraid not." My smile was just playful enough that she looked even more ashamed of herself. "You like that I'm your student, don't you?"

"No. I hate it." When I just kept staring at her, she shifted a little, bit her lip, then rolled her eyes and admitted, "I hate that it's hot, too. Okay? There, you made me say it."

"Makes sense," I giggled as I kissed her cheek. "Because that's exactly how I feel about you when you're 'on the clock'. I don't like that I can tell you to do things… but I do like it. Weird."

"Yeah…"

"Sorry."

She shook her head before pecking me on the cheek. "Well, they say absolute power corrupts absolutely. People like to feel like they have control of something; it's exhilarating, right? Even if it's a little messed up when that power is over another person, it still feels incredible."

"Yeah," I breathed ashamedly. "But… I don't want power over you. I like this, right here. Just being together and… and equal."

"Oh, honey…" Her brows furrowed, even as she smiled across at me. "That's okay, too. I wasn't saying we take turns tying each other up; just acknowledging that power dynamics can be kinda fun for a reason. Just part of human nature. Doesn't mean we have to do anything about it."

Now I was blushing for a brand new reason. Tying Sadayo up, hm? For some reason, my very first thought was her in the maid costume, hands bound behind her back, gag in her mouth… and the throb between my legs was impossible to ignore. But it made me feel sad an instant later. Even if the daydream was enticing I could never go through with it. I cared about her too much.

Then I thought about her tying me up. That didn't really do anything for me. However, if it turned her on, I could probably stand it; I wanted her to enjoy herself as much as was possible. No big deal.


~ x JUDGMENT x ~

Sae got up from her chair and began to pace back and forth. It took a moment before Makoto spoke again, and when she did, it was to ask, "Something wrong?"

"Oh, no, it's fine. Obviously I wanted to hear about my little sister contemplating BDSM activities and saying they are 'no big deal'."

"We weren't really," she sighed, folding her arms over her chest. "More like, discussing that they exist. Nobody was about to start tying anybody up."

"Good. Then I don't have to find her and claw her eyes out."

Both of the sisters fell silent for a few seconds. Then the younger one asked, "You seem… a little too protective of me in this department. I don't understand."

"What's to understand?" she flung down at her as her heels echoed against the claustrophobic walls. "You're my little sister. This is perfectly normal; I have every right to want to protect your innocence until you're old enough to truly date - and that's without me being your legal guardian."

"To be blunt, this isn't your choice. But…"

Finally, she came to a stop. "What?"

"But it does feel good to hear you care about me, Sis. Just so you don't think I'm unappreciative."

"Oh." Wrongfooted more than she expected, Sae coughed and folded her arms over her chest. "Of course I care. And it's not 'your choice' until after you've moved on to university; then you can make all the mistakes you want. Even if I'll still be worried."

"And I'll call you every day if you want me to," she insisted, frowning up at her. "So you don't have to worry so much. I promise."

"Thank you." Even though she said it brusquely, the words were deeply meant. Sae sat herself down again and asked, "So what else happened?"

Resigned to having to go back to being interrogated, Makoto sat back and rested her hands in her lap. "Nothing, that day. We discussed how weird our feelings were for a little while and then kissed a little while longer. She made me some tea and we talked about school. Then I went home."

"So I can see your relationship was progressing," the prosecutor sighed as she prodded her bottom lip with her pen, staring into the corner. "And I appreciate that it wasn't simply physical; you've done a good job of casting it in that light, and I have no reason to think you're lying. How long ago was this study session?"

"About two weeks."

"Very well. Why don't you take me up until the moment this all came to a head?"

"I can do that," she relented with a little nod.


~ x The Priestess x ~

Those two weeks did feel like a few hours, they happened so fast. Ren and Ann asked me a few questions about Sadayo now and then - especially Ann - and I kept the details thin but gave them enough to be satisfied. Ren seemed to approve because he knew I would take care of her, and Ann merely wanted to gossip and say she was jealous of how close we were already. I reassured her that she was so beautiful that the right guy would come along and sweep her off her feet, but… she didn't seem to believe me.

Or at least, she didn't agree for some reason. But she did at one point mention that she was inspired by how bold I had been and that she wanted to be just as bold. Of course, I told her that she had my support… even if I had no idea what she meant.

Then there was my Sadayo. Every moment with her was an adventure, and filled me with joy. We had an argument or two, but they were always about whether or not we should be dating at all. She constantly wanted to pull the plug. Eventually, I was able to trust that it had nothing to do with me after the first couple of times; I knew it was my age. I didn't mind that she was older, but she certainly minded that I was younger - 'too young', in her mind. Which was true from an objective standpoint, of course.

But I wanted her, and she wanted me. And we fit together so well that it honestly shocked me. Sadayo Kawakami, of all the people I knew…

We got into a routine of me coming over to her place once during the week and her coming over to mine on a Friday or Saturday evening, while she was working. I loved being able to give her some money to help her scrape by, and she despised taking it from me. But I would threaten to bite her if she didn't take it and she would laugh and dare me to do it. We made a running joke out of the monetary issue and that helped to make it feel less strange.

Now we did more than kiss and panic. We ate dinner, cuddled and watched movies together. Sometimes I ordered her to clean just so she would laugh when she realised I had already cleaned the apartment before she got there. Once, I asked if she wanted me to dress up in the Becky outfit and clean her apartment instead - and got a lot of very flustered laughter along with the firm refusal. It was cute.

Everything was like a dream. Until that night.

We knew we were probably pushing it to request her through Victoria twice in the same weekend. But I wanted to see her - craved more. And she craved it enough not to refuse, even though she couldn't really turn me down without it being conspicuous. But we always discussed it the day of to make sure she was okay with being requested before I made it official.

"Hello again, Master!" she chirruped with a bow as I leaned against the door frame. "I think your apartment is going to sparkle when I'm done!"

"I hope so," I purred as I let her slip inside. She stepped out of her shiny black heels and waited for me to shut the door before she grabbed me by the lapels and pulled me in close for a heated kiss. "Mmhhh…"

That kiss lasted about three minutes before we broke apart for air. Then she whispered, "GOD, I've wanted to do that all day."

"Me too." Resting my hand on her side, I asked, "What do you wanna do tonight? We have some rice and eggs and things - oh, and some leftover Big Bang Burger in the fridge. And I thought we could break out my old Famidrive if you wanted to do something different."

Her expression lit with mingling mirth and surprise. "You have a Famidrive? Isn't that a little before your time? I mean, I had one when I was a kid, and it was dated even then."

"It was my dad's," I admitted with a wistful smile. "His guilty pleasure. I found it in the closet one day and he let me get it out and hook it up. Some of those games really bring back memories."

"Sure," she said readily, grinning from ear to ear in that way that was too endearing to be allowed. "Why don't I make us some curry or something while you set it up?"

"That sounds great! I mean… if you don't mind."

She held up a finger as she backed toward the kitchen. "Ah, ah, ah, we've been over this. The least you can do is let me do some domestic work while you're paying me for it. Otherwise I won't let you request m-"

"Yeah, yeah," I waved her off, rolling my eyes even as I grinned. "I know. Get to work, Becky."

"Yes, Master! Right away! I'll make your stomach so happy!"

"Just do it, you nerd!"

Dinner was a quick and simple affair. She complained about her other clients, even though she withheld names, and I talked about my trip to Akihabara with Ren and Futaba. Light, everyday topics. Then we started in on Star Forneus and Power Intuition, both eager to see whose rusty gaming skills could beat the other one's rusty skills. I seemed to win most of our Power Intuition matches, but she did a lot better in Forenus; I was never any good at space shooters. But we both failed often enough that we almost spent more time laughing than playing.

She was the one who dared me to strip-game when we started in on Gambla Goemon. I mean, it made sense; it was a gambling game, right? I could tell she was joking, and just laughed… until I lost my next bet. And started to peel off my socks.

"Hm? Oh, you getting a little warm?"

"No, I thought we were stripping."

"Huh?!" Then her eyes widened even more. "Oh - you were serious? I was just kidding around!"

Smirking playfully as I tossed them on the coffee table, I said, "Well, I wasn't." She was glancing at my legs and back up at me. "You alright?"

"No, no, it's… fine. I guess. I mean, I've seen enough naked girls in the locker rooms at school, right? Plus I bathed you once! That already happened!"

The blush budding on her cheeks said it definitely wasn't the same now. But I pretended not to notice. "Good. Then you'll be fine. Ante up."

So she did. And she lost the next hand. I think that one was purely because I flustered her so much that she wasn't playing very well anymore.

It was hard to keep my eyes on her face as she took off the apron. Even though her body was still covered by her maid dress, it still set my heart pounding to know that a layer of clothing was gone now - and more would follow, if I could play my cards right. Literally speaking.

Back and forth we went until we were down to underwear. I was really glad I chose to wear a bra, even though I wasn't leaving the house; one more thing to keep from losing right away. Even with that added delay in being naked in front of her… I still felt like I already was. And her face was more red than ever, so I knew I wasn't alone in that.

"Maybe… we should stop," she whispered softly when the prompt came up to ask if we wanted to play again.

"Are you scared of losing?" I asked with a smirk.

"Yes, actually. Or of winning. Both of those are…"

My smirk vanished, and I took the controller from her to lay both of ours aside so I could hold her hands. "We can stop. I'm sorry, this was supposed to be fun, not… I don't know. Scary."

"It has been fun until now," she admitted with a soft smile, squeezing my fingers. "Seriously! But if we keep going, it might change everything, and… you know my policy."

"I do. And I respect it, even if… y'know. I do things that look like I don't." The worst of my thoughts burst out excitedly, unwilling to be held back. "I just want to keep going so bad! I want you!"

Her throat constricted as she tried to swallow her nerves, and I noticed she was trembling a little now. "God, I want you, too. But I'm… I can't. I just can't, okay?"

"That's not- I didn't mean you had to, I just wanted you to know what I…" My eyes lowered. "I apologise, Sadayo."

"Why? You feel what you feel, it's okay."

"Yeah, but I keep kind of pushing for more, a-and I should get by now that it upsets you."

"That's not…" After a second or two, she pulled me forward to kiss my lips tenderly, and I melted into the touch. The one I craved every moment of the day by now; that urgency had only grown the longer we were together. "I'm not upset. Even if I'm trying to be responsible, you wanting more is not upsetting. I promise."

Instead of answering with words, I just kissed her again, harder and with more urgency. Within the next minute, we were rolling around on the living room floor, limbs tingling and mouths trying their best to fuse into one. It did feel a little different without all those layers of clothing between us, but then again she had already seen me nude once before. This was just the least amount of clothing I had ever seen on her.

Or felt.

Sadayo pulled back to look down into my eyes after God only knew how long of drinking in the pleasures of the flesh. Breathing hard and cheeks rosy, lips parted, she represented pure sensuality to me in that exact second of time. The older woman who could teach me everything I wanted to know - and not just in the classroom.

"We should stop," I said before she had the chance. "Right?"

"Yeah. Yeah, definitely." But there was an uncertainty in her eyes as she kept me pinned against the floor.

"Sadayo?"

"Sorry." Clearing her throat, she favored me with a small smile. "Got a little carried away. Maybe… we should find a different game."

Taking a calculated risk, I pouted up at her. "But I like this one."

My teacher gaped at me for a few seconds before she shook her head. "You… little… what am I supposed to do with you? Seriously!"

"Just teasing," I giggled. And I was. If it ended up prompting her to make out with me a little longer, I would take it, but I didn't honestly expect her to fall for such an obvious ploy.

"Okay, good," she chuckled back as she caressed the side of my neck. "For a minute there I thought you were trying to get me in-"

The sound of a key scraping in a lock shattered the comfortable atmosphere as if it were a gunshot.

"…trouble."


To Be Continued…

Chapter Text

~ x JUDGMENT x ~

"And you know the rest," Makoto sighed as she rubbed her eyes, weary from the fluorescent bulb above them. "So now you're up to speed."

Sae scowled. "I'll decide when I'm up to speed or not. And I don't feel like I am."

"Why not? You already know the rest of this story, so there's no point in-"

"There is. I want to hear it from your perspective. Can you see how that might provide me with some valuable insight that I'm otherwise missing? Unless… you don't want me to take that into consideration, and act purely based on my own observations."

The younger sister's expression turned darker. "You promised. And I've already told you so much. Why are you being so insistent?"

"Because it's my job. Just keep going and I'll tell you when you can stop."

"Really?" No budging. After a brief staring contest, she closed her eyes. "Fine… but I don't see the point in making me relive one of the scariest moments of my life…"


~ x The Priestess x ~

Seeing your face peek through the doorway as you stepped inside was like seeing Death coming. Because it was; it was the death of the carefully cultivated relationship that was now so important to both of us. Nothing spells "the end" like being barged in on by your sister, who just so happens to be a public prosecutor.

"Makoto?" There was nothing either of us could do as we watched you kick the door closed behind yourself, dropping your briefcase on the kitchen counter. "Are you home?"

The worst part is that it didn't happen right away. We had no way to escape without being noticed, so we could either have called out "Hello" or waited for you to notice we were there. Unable to speak as we were, we chose the latter. Sadayo didn't even have enough time to roll off of me before your sharp eyes found the two of us.

"What…?" The transformations hurt. Watching your face move from passive to confused, to shocked. "Makoto?!"

"W-welcome home, Sis," I said. Stupid. I don't know why I thought that would be a smart thing to say at all, it just automatically slipped out.

That was when the anger came, Sae. I'm sure you remember being angry, but you don't know what that looked like to me - to us. Like a mythological creature filled with holy fire, about to unleash vengeance. Your voice was a low growl when you finally found it again.

"What are you doing to my sister?"

"Nothing," she said instinctively, rolling slightly away from me with one hand raising as if to ward off an actual physical blow. "I promise, it's… you have the wrong-"

The cocking of the gun silenced her, while it made me squeak in dismay. "You have five seconds to get off her or I'll make sure you don't even make it to prison. One… two…"

"Okay, I'm going," she breathed as she backed up, shaking like a leaf. I had never seen her look that scared; afraid of what we were doing was not the same as afraid for her life. Then she was kneeling next to me, both hands raised as she gazed straight back at you.

"Three…"

"Wait! What else do- you said to get off her! What do you want me to do?!"

"Four-"

"STOP!" I shouted, throwing myself in front of her with my arms out to the sides. "Sis, you can't do this - it's not what you think, you don't understand!"

That was when the righteous fury cracked just enough so that you could take in what was going on again. Not just glare at the both of us until you had the chance to exact vengeance.

"Makoto, what are you doing? Don't get in the way - I can't get a clear shot now!"

"I don't want you to have one! She's not hurting… she's my friend, okay?! Please, don't hurt her!"

You would know better than I would, but that next expression… I think it was betrayal. You thought I was siding with her instead of you and it hurt. Not that it was the truth of the situation, but I can see how you would think so given where I was positioned.

"Sister… why? Who is she, and what the hell is she doing here?"

"I'll explain everything." Swallowing hard, I held my hands a little higher as I felt one of Sadayo's resting in the middle of my back. "Just let her go, a-and I'll tell you anything you want to know. Okay? Is it a deal?"

"No. I'm sorry, but it doesn't work that way. You're a minor and you are my responsibility; she's taking advantage of you and I will not stand for that. In my own home!" Your teeth were bared like a growling dog as you added, "And even if you weren't my responsibility, I would do the same thing. It's my job to punish criminals."

That last word, criminals, seemed to break my teacher. She let out a shaky sigh and stood from behind my back, arms still up.

"You can take me away. I deserve it, I… just don't blame Makoto too much. Please, she's… I led her on, and she was my victim."

"Sadayo?" I whispered, turning to look up at her with wide eyes. But she didn't look back; only shook her head slightly as she kept her gaze on the attacker.

And you gazed right back. Still aiming your weapon at my teacher, still threatening the woman I loved. I was so angry at you for doing that, even if I was more scared that this situation would devolve and you might actually hurt her.

"You'll come quietly?"

"NO!" I shouted.

"Yes," she said immediately afterward, expression pained. "May I… put my uniform back on first? Please."

At least you nodded to that one. "You try anything funny and you'll regret it. Don't dawdle."

So we watched her get dressed. For a moment, I panicked, not sure what to do with myself. Almost shut down again, like I always did when things got rough with people close to me. Then I started hastily pulling my own clothes back on; I beat Sadayo to the punch because mine were less complex. While she was still securing her apron around her waist, I walked up to your side.

"Let me explain first," I whispered.

"What is she wearing? Did you- is she a Delivery Health professional?!"

"Sis-"

"What are you doing hiring a hooker?"

I could practically feel Sadayo shrinking nearby. Hastily, I hissed at her, "I can explain. And I will. However much you need to hear, just… just don't report her, o-or hand her over to the police. Not yet!"

"I'm sorry. Maybe you have Stockholm Syndrome right now, but that's not going to keep me from doing my-"

"If you run her in without hearing my side of the story first, I will never forgive you."

"That's fine," you sighed, shaking your head as you watched Kawakami finish dressing, hands shaking as they fell to rest at her sides. "Give it a few years and you'll get over it. You'll understand what I did for you today."

"No." I stepped directly in front of your gun again, and my heart pounded wildly as I realised that as well trained as you were, one little slip and my life would be over.

"Makoto, this is NOT a GAME."

"You're right. And I'm not playing. You had better pull that trigger if you want me to let you take her away."

"Makoto, no!" Sadayo hissed at me. "It'll be alright; just let her take me in! Don't do this!"

"I have to. She isn't listening - and she won't unless I make her."

That was the first time you truly focused on me and my words, saw the determination shining in my eyes. "What is wrong with you? Is this random prostitute really worth your life?"

"All of my friends are. But especially her. I know you won't shoot me, but I am going to keep putting my body between yours and hers until you agree to hear me out. If… you still think you need to arrest her after that, then…" My voice lost a little of its steam. "Then I guess I can't stop you."

You would never have harmed me. Don't think I'm confused on that point.

"What is your name?" you demanded as you finally relaxed your posture and holstered your weapon, a deep sigh escaping you. I could see the hatred burning down into resentment; you resented me for making it harder for you to do your job.

"S-Sadayo Kawakami."

"Good." You wrote down the name in your notebook, and my heart sank. That was it; my sister, the public prosecutor, now had my girlfriend on the hook for whatever charge she wanted to hit her with. "Don't leave Tokyo. If you do, I'll find you and have you extradited."

"No, of course not," she breathed with a deep sigh, running her fingers up toward her hair - and finding the wig. So her hand fell away. "I'm not going to run. Might as well accept my fate; I dug this grave and I can lie in it just fine."

You didn't care about how she looked. How much she hated herself in that moment, how she had just barely been hanging onto life for the few good things in it. Being registered as a sex offender - if that was the route you tried to take with her - would kill what little was left of her life completely. And all you cared about was victory.

"Get out of my apartment."

"Okay. I mean, yes, sir. I mean…" She cleared her throat and bowed, then turned to get her shoes on.

"Wait." I held up a finger to point at you and hissed, "You know I don't run, either. But I'm going to tell her goodbye. Then you can do whatever you want to me."

Your eyes narrowed to stab into my body as you hissed, "Fine. Tell your… sex toy goodbye. Might as well."

Wanting to hit you was a surprising emotion. Despite all our previous disagreements, the times you made me feel worthless and small, I never wanted to hurt you physically. Not even once. Until you threatened the woman whom I stood a chance at loving.

"Fine."

Sadayo had just been opening the door when I caught up to her, opened it, and pushed her into the apartment hallway. The floor out there was a little cold on my bare feet but I endured the mild discomfort, focusing on her stricken face.

"I'm so sorry," I whispered as I instantly began to cry. It was almost like flipping a switch. "I didn't- she w-wasn't supposed to get home until tomorrow, she told me- I didn't-"

"Shhhh," she whispered with a finger on my lips. My heart seized in my chest but calm seemed to settle over me at the same time. Whatever magic she had at her disposal was working. "It's okay. This… was always going to happen. I just let myself believe it might not. What the hell miracle was I expecting?"

My tears only came faster. "It's all my fault. How could I forget who I live with? Even if… K-Kawakami-sensei, I'm sorry, I am truly sorry!" I bowed at the waist, eyes slamming shut as I held the position. Trembling all over, wanting to sink into the floor.

"Come on, don't… don't take it all on yourself. I've always known I'm the one screwing up both our lives." Her hand caressed the back of my neck. "Don't beat yourself up."

"Alright." She was telling me not to, and I wanted to honour her request. I stood upright again, eyes and cheeks wet but trying to be my usual stoic self. Trying to get back the old Makoto that she and my other friends had helped to soften. "I apologise for what happened today. I will live a thousand lives and never be sorry enough. I… I will see you soon."

Her brow creased for just a moment. Then she glanced at the door, open a crack as it was, and quickly dusted my forehead with a tiny kiss. "You're going to be okay."

Then she was gone. I had never felt more alone in my entire life.

The instant I was back inside our apartment, you said, "I'm taking you to the station."

"What? Why?"

"I want you to understand how serious this situation is. If you want to be questioned like a criminal, you'll be treated like one. Let's go."

I marched over to you, took a deep breath-


~ x JUDGMENT x ~

"We don't have to get into that part," Sae sighed at her little sister wearily. "I remember. That was an argument I would rather not relive."

"You said you wanted my perspective, even though you know all this."

"Only on the confrontation, and what I missed outside the front door."

A little at a time, Makoto began to smirk darkly. "Pretty sneaky, Sis. You got me. Didn't even figure out that was why you wanted me to keep going, and you already got the information out of me. What a great reporter you would make."

"I just don't understand this. Any of this." The elder of the siblings contemplated for a long few seconds before firing at her, "How could you ever want to date a prostitute? Don't you know how many men she's touched? Or women? That doesn't terrify you?"

"No." Makoto's shoulders rose and fell. "It's not like she's working at a Soapland; she's just… giving a little relief if they want to pay the extra. Most of her clients just want the cleaning done, or someone to listen to them talk and act cute."

"But you could wind up with an STI, Makoto. Did you ever think of that?"

That brought the girl up hard. She squirmed for a moment, then shook her head. "I guess you're right, but I don't care."

"How? How can you not-"

"Do you think this is the life she wants? She's my teacher. She loves being a teacher, even if someone tried to convince her that she got a kid killed by trying to do the right thing. And the money isn't enough. So she does this to atone for what she thinks is a 'mistake', but… but it's not! She just wanted to tutor him, that's not a mistake! It's not a crime!"

Sae sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. "And neither is Delivery Health, very technically speaking. But you know it's going right up to the line without stepping over."

"Stop shaming her," she snapped. "Not everybody's as lucky as you."

"What? Lucky, hm?" Sae smiled darkly. "Fine. I'm lucky that I spent so many years having to claw my way up the ladder of success. I'm lucky that I've been held back from achieving it again and again by disgusting men with disgusting ambitions. And I'm lucky that I had to peel a slut off my sister's-"

"SHUT UP!"

Sae flinched from the outburst, even if it was a tiny flinch. Then her expression darkened even further as she stood, hands leaning against the table as she glared daggers at the younger girl.

"This delusion that Kawakami cares for you needs to stop. You are a plaything to her. Can't you see that? All she wants is to see how far she can get with you and then she will discard you like a Big Bang wrapper. And I'm going to have to pick up the pieces."

Makoto stood as well, even if she was lacking several inches on her sister. "No, you don't. You can leave me to rot if it makes you feel better. But if you actually prosecute her after everything I just told you… then I don't care anymore. I don't care about you anymore because family wouldn't hurt me that way."

"It would hurt you to punish her for doing something immoral? That doesn't even make sense!"

"I'm leaving," Makoto told her firmly as she began to round the table. "Going home. Just… if I can't see her, then I want to be alone for a while."

"Don't you walk away from me!" Sae spun her chair halfway around, her body fully. "I'm trying to save you from being preyed upon, you stupid, ungrateful child! Can't you see that?"

"I don't. All I see is my sister is… hurting me. So badly, and she can't even tell."

"That bitch doesn't 'love' you! Do you really think a high school senior could charm an adult woman like that if she weren't already a predator with her sights set on the prey?!"

"Oh." Makoto turned back from the door she was approaching, hands on her hips. "That's what this is about? You don't think I'm attractive? You don't think I have enough charisma for her to want to be with me?"

Sae's eyebrows hiked. "What? I didn't say you aren't attractive at all. Just that a woman of Kawakami's age-"

Suddenly, the elder sister found she had a lap full of Makoto. The younger girl reached a hand up and delicately nipped a stray hair that had escaped Sae's barrettes behind her ear, then grazed her nails over the skin of her cheek and neck. The woman could only blink and stare, lips slightly parted in surprise as she tried to string two brain cells together to form any basic reaction whatsoever.

"Wha…?"

"I am a quick study," she whispered as she caressed her.

Sae's primary problem was that her sister was doing this in the first place. What was she trying to accomplish? But the bigger problem was that, beneath her anger and her outrage, her disgust at the idea, it wasn't entirely unsuccessful. Her heart rate had increased, her breathing louder and quicker. She couldn't seem to do anything with her hands besides rest them on either side of Makoto's waist, to keep her from falling.

Motherly instinct. But she couldn't fully rule out that there was another instinct at work.

"Sis… I'm not as much of a boring pushover as you probably thought. So just let me go see Sadayo, and let me tell her that she's going to be okay. That you won't hurt her."

A lot more uncomfortably than she intended, Sae whispered, "But she's hurting you. She's taking you from me, and… and she's going to take your innocence. You're my little Makoto, how can I just… let you be stolen by someone who doesn't care about you?"

"I'm yours?" Her face was suddenly yet closer. "Care to explain why you think I belong to you?"

"Because… you're my responsibility. Have been for a long time. I can't turn that off, and I don't want to. You help me with my stress, and take care of the house, and… cook dinner, because you know I would only make a mess. And in return… I protect you from all of those things out there that want to destroy little girls."

Her smile was a little dangerous, and Sae gulped. "So I'm your wife?"

"Oh… no. What? No! At least… I never meant… for…"

"It's okay." She kissed Sae's cheek, feeling her jump from the contact, then got up from her lap. "Sorry. Maybe I got too pushy, and asked things you didn't want to think about."

Swallowing hard, Sae stared off into the corner. "Makoto, I am a woman. And you're my sister! There's no reason to- please, listen. Honestly, I do not want that from you; I don't think of you that way."

"Never? Not even once?"

"NO."

At the firmness of that answer, Makoto's smile faded. "Alright. I'm sorry, I just… wanted to prove I'm not some sexless bottle of milk. And I got you blushing, so I did that. I promise I'll stop."

Sae's hands pushed into her cheeks. She was burning up. Why? Because Makoto sat in her lap and teased her? Maybe she needed to get out more. And there had been that gorgeous back-alley doctor she went to see after that case a couple of months ago, because she had been shot through the shin…

That doctor had been a woman. Maybe there was more to what Makoto was hinting at than she wanted to admit. But the last thing she wanted to entertain was that it could ever apply to the relationship between Makoto and herself.

"You proved it," she admitted, clearing her throat and ignoring the speed of her heart thudding against the inside of her chest. "I'm sorry, I wasn't trying to say you were unattractive. Just that in my experience, no one over the age of twenty-five dates a woman ten years younger for honourable reasons. It wasn't about how appealing you might be."

"Trying to protect me, I know," she sighed. "But… I don't want to be protected from Sadayo. I don't need to be."

"Of course you think so. But you could be wrong. And what if I let you do this… and you get hurt? Not just sad for a week, but you wind up with a disease?"

Frowning hard at the floor, Makoto whispered, "She's not a prostitute. She doesn't have diseases. She is a person, Sis. Can't you show her some respect?"

There was a long pause as the prosecutor weighed her options. Now she could tell that her sister was dead serious, and she really might lose her forever if she refused. So… "Alright, alright. For your sake, I'll agree to meet her before I take her into custody. If I'm satisfied that you've been telling the truth about the nature of your relationship being non-sexual and that she has your best interests at heart… I suppose… I might forego arresting her."

"Really?" The pure, unadulterated hope blossoming in Makoto's features told Sae that she was doing the right thing. Even if she despised it.

"On one condition." She held up her finger as she looked her little sister dead in the eyes. "She has to get tested. And stop offering 'health kisses' entirely. I'm not risking your well-being because you two are reckless."

Makoto folded her arms. "You'll have to take it up with her. I don't own her and I'm not going to make decisions without consulting her. Which is how that's supposed to work, isn't it?"

Still flustered from the impromptu lap dance from her own sister, Sae pushed to her feet and smoothed down the front of her suit. "It is. But I would appreciate if you would stop acting as if you're the authority figure and I'm the spoiled brat. Legally, I can still ground you from seeing her and arrest her for soliciting a minor."

"Not if I don't press charges! And I won't."

"Then I can have her fired. Surely Shujin would frown upon a teacher dating her own student. Do you really think I'm being unreasonable by wanting to make sure she's not a predator?!"

Makoto opened her mouth a couple of times, closed it. Then she sighed and bowed slightly. "You're right. You're not doing anything that different from what I did when I first found out about her and Ren. Forgive me, Sister. I'm very upset and worried, and you are trying to look out for my best interests. I shouldn't be so ungrateful."

After a few seconds of silence, Sae grunted, "Oh, stand up. Let's just get this over with."


To Be Continued…

Chapter Text

Sadayo Kawakami's apartment hadn't changed much since the younger of the Niijima sisters last visited. However, it was a completely new sight for the elder. Try as she might, she couldn't suppress a curl of her lip as she glanced around at the shabby surroundings.

"Welcome," the terrified teacher said as they stepped out of their shoes. She was dressed in much more mundane clothing than she had been earlier; simple blouse, yoga pants. The slight bags under her eyes had somehow deepened in color in the few hours since they had last seen her. "Um… I have tea, I think. Or instant coffee, if… you…"

"Coffee, please." She was clearly trying to make an effort. "Don't worry, I don't expect LeBlanc."

"Coming right up."

Once three cups of instant coffee had been passed around, the women sat in tense silence for a few seconds as they sipped. Makoto felt a little awkward because she didn't have much of a taste for coffee, but decided not to say anything for fear of being perceived as immature.

"So I think it would be best if I heard from you first," Sae began once the silence got too strained and stale to be tolerated anymore. "Before I start. What explanation do you have for the situation I walked in on?"

After heaving a deep breath, she whispered, "None."

"Excuse me?"

"I've been thinking about it a lot, and… I don't have a good explanation. I was forcing myself on a student, and… and it was wrong, and… I'm sorry. You'll never know how sorry I am. But you should do whatever you want to me. Makoto is totally innocent."

The younger Niijima sister's eyebrows went sky high. After glancing at the confused Sae, she turned to her teacher. "Sadayo… what are you saying?"

"What's necessary. Be quiet." The order shocked Makoto, but she didn't have time to think about it because she was continuing, "Niijima-san, I will go quietly into custody. I only ask that you not put the handcuffs on me, and let me… let me walk out of here voluntarily. I promise I'm not a flight risk; I have nowhere to go. Just don't drag me down there like an animal."

"Kawakami-san…" Sae's arms folded over her chest. "That wasn't what I asked for. And I think you're lying to absolve my sister of any responsibility."

"I'm not. Just take me in, and…" Seeing the prosecutor lean closer, her voice got quieter. "Please, just get it over with, I don't… want to keep wondering how it's going to go."

"No."

"What? Are you… what are you trying to do? Make me 'sweat it out'? You already have a confession!"

Pointing at the teacher's confused face, she commanded, "Makoto has told me that you haven't had any kind of sexual contact thus far. Not with her, anyway. As such, while I could get you fired from your position at Shujin, there is no legal impetus for me to do so. Your night job is probably against school policy, and immoral, but aside from that… I suppose my sister is old enough to consent to a kiss or two. Therefore, I have no real motivation to drag you in, since this case likely wouldn't go to trial."

"Wait, wait," she protested, waving her free hand back and forth as she set her coffee down. "Now I'm really losing it. Because it almost sounds like… you're letting me off the hook. But why would you? I've been corrupting your-"

"I think it's more likely she's been corrupting you," Sae remarked, glaring over at the red-faced Makoto. "If a certain little display she made just before we came down here was any indication."

"It was just an example," the girl muttered.

Sadayo frowned down at her lap. "But you were so…" Swallowing hard, she whispered, "That was only the second time I've ever had a gun pointed at me. The first, it was just a mugging; as soon as he got my purse he was gone. But you were out for my blood. Don't pretend you weren't. So why the change of heart?"

"My heart hasn't been changed," Sae told her firmly. And Makoto carefully didn't look at her sister in that moment, even though the word 'yet' flitted through her mind. "I simply have deduced from the available evidence that instead of seeking to put a notch in your bedpost, you seem to honestly care for her. Why else would you try to take all the blame when I know my sister, and that she is nobody's victim?"

The room was quiet for a moment. Then Makoto whispered, "I'm sorry, Sadayo. But I can't let you go to jail." Then she said to Sae, "Everything I told you before was the truth. I am to blame. I lured her to the rabuho and I seduced her, over and over. The only thing she's guilty of is not pushing me away, but… I think the only reason for that is she knew it would hurt me to lose her."

"Not the only reason." The teacher's voice was full of undiluted affection as she sat slightly forward. "I'm… I d-don't deserve… you're so good to me…"

Sae's lip curled as she glanced between the two of them. "God. Perhaps I should leave before the dramatic music swells and you fly into each other's arms."

"Maybe you should," Makoto teased with a very slight smirk. Sae shook her head as she stood up. "Wait, where are you going?"

"Home. I already told you, if I decided I believed your story, I would let Kawakami remain free. Don't ever give me any new reasons to believe she's taking advantage of you, and I will… look the other way."

Sae was most of the way to the door when she heard "Thank you!" Turning around, she saw the teacher on the floor, bowing as low as she could with her forehead on the floor. "I… I don't deserve your kindness! Thank you so much!"

"Oh, get up. That behaviour is beneath you, especially in front of your student."

As Sadayo sat back on her heels, Makoto stood awkwardly. She had to say this immediately before the moment had passed. "Sis, I'm actually really happy. I know you're probably still upset about all this, but thank you for… for not taking it out on her. Really, I mean it."

Sae started to offer a flippant response, but one look at the earnestness in her sister's eyes made her sigh and dip her head. "Of course."

"You're welcome to finish your coffee," Sadayo told her as she stood again, still trembling all over. "I-if you want. Honestly, I've been kind of hoping to meet you."

"Why?" she asked suspiciously.

"You're the most important member of my- of Makoto's family, of her whole life. I didn't think I'd get to, since we were keeping our relationship a secret, but… now that you're here… I wanted to learn more about what makes you tick, I guess."

"You do not. You just want to learn my weaknesses so you can exploit them."

"Sis!" Makoto burst out.

"I don't," Sadayo assured her firmly, taking a step closer. "But if you think I'm some disgusting, over-the-hill lesbian, I'll understand if you'd rather scram. I mean, why would you think any different? You're such a strong, normal woman, and I'm clearly a weird freak."

Sae smirked for a moment, then let out a little laugh. "You think I'm normal, hm? I'm guessing Makoto hasn't spent much time talking about me."

"Huh?"

"You know I never tell anyone about that," Makoto told Sae pointedly, looking very slightly hurt at the idea that she thought otherwise. "It's not for me to tell."

"Of course," she reassured her little sister as she turned back to the living room, reclaiming her seat. The other two followed suit, picking up their cups of coffee. "It's alright, I can handle it myself. Kawakami-san, do you know what the English word 'transgender' means?"

~ o ~

"Sae has lived such an amazing life," Sadayo breathed as the two of them lay on her couch a couple of hours later. "Thinking about her, and everything she's been through… I feel like I've barely done anything, y'know? What a boring homebody I am."

Makoto nodded, curling against her teacher's side. "You are not. But yeah, that's why I shut down when she gets really upset. I know next to her, I'm nothing."

"Hey." A finger poked her stomach, and Makoto giggled. "Don't do that, okay? I mean, maybe I wasn't helping when I was being stalked and yelling at you for it, but you are an amazing girl! So smart, and talented, and strangely wise beyond your years! You're just… still a kid. That's all."

"A kid you're dating," she teased. Sadayo groaned, and she laughed. "I'm sorry, but you set yourself up for that one."

"Yeah… yeah, I did." Shrugging helplessly, she pulled her 'kid' closer. "But just because your sister won't be hauling me into court still doesn't mean I'm real thrilled about our nine-year gap, okay? I feel like a creep every time I think about it."

"Well yeah, but… what about when you're not thinking about it?"

A little whimper sounded from Sadayo as the teenager crawled up and onto her body, straddling her hips and gazing down into her eyes. The teacher's breath hitched, her lips parted.

"When I'm not… I think you're the best thing to ever happen to my life."

"That sounds better."

Five or ten minutes later, when they took a break from kissing so frantically it was as if they thought they were living on borrowed time, Sadayo pushed to a sitting position, running a hand up and down her face. Makoto sat next to her, rubbing her hand up and down her back and trying to be a calming presence.

"I have to quit that job. I… your sister's right, maybe I don't have any diseases right now but if I keep going down on clients, I'll probably get one eventually. And it's not just my health I have to worry about anymore, it's yours, too. S-so yeah."

"Well, it is how we met… in a way." They shared a brief smile. "But I'll support your decision."

"But I can't! How am I going to pay off the Takases? They… well…"

"What is it?"

Swallowing hard, she whispered, "They came to visit me at school. Said that I wasn't working hard enough to pay them back for Taiki's death, and if I didn't give them more… they would tell the school board about my night job, anyway. So I have to keep working for the money, but if I keep working there, they just have more leverage over me. Damned if I do, damned if I don't."

"They really said that?" Makoto breathed.

"Yeah. Ask your friend Amamiya; he was there."

Her eyebrows furrowed as she tapped her chin. "He said he wanted to talk to me soon, but didn't make it sound that urgent so I said I would the next time we all met up. I m-mean, hung out."

"It's fine. I'll just ask Victoria to print me out a new menu without Health Kiss on it, and… and keep working there until the day I die. Or they die, whichever comes first."

"Oh… I don't think that will be necessary."

"Huh?"

The twinkle in Makoto's eye was almost criminal. "You'll see."

~ o ~

A week later and the poor student was being smothered by her teacher's grateful kisses. Not that she was complaining; this was everything she looked forward to on a daily basis. Just because it was a sudden influx of affection that made her squeal and flail around didn't mean it was unwelcome.

"I knew it," Sadayo gushed eventually when the flurry of kissing had finally died down. "I knew you two were the Thieves! Well, probably also a few of your little friends, but at least you and Ren."

Makoto grinned at her as they relaxed on her teacher's sofa-bed. It was still a little scandalous to be there in the first place, but compared to the entirety of their relationship she couldn't seem to care.

"How do you know it's us? This could just be a coincidence."

Her teacher held back a smirk. "Sure, yeah. And we could just be gal pals. Come on, nobody else knows about my situation other than you two, and there's absolutely no way the Takases would have changed their hearts unless the Phantom Thieves intervened. Who else in Tokyo has the power to make crappy people do a complete 180 like that?"

"Could be lots of people," she hedged. Privately, she was also thinking about a certain ace detective and their suspicions, but that wasn't something she needed to worry Sadayo about. The public only knew about the Thieves and their supernatural ability to change the hearts of corrupt individuals, and that's what Sadayo was fixated upon at present.

"Nah, I don't think so." She kissed her student on both cheeks, making her giggle. "But yeah, they suddenly called me this morning and told me they were going to pay back every last yen I had ever given them. With interest! I'm going to be able to live like a queen for a little while!"

"That makes us two Queens." At her puzzled look, she hurriedly explained, "I-it's a nickname my friends gave me. Don't spread it around, though."

"Ohhhh, okay." The elder woman bit her lip excitedly, petting up and down Makoto's side. "So…"

"So?"

"Soooooo, if you're not too busy with Thieves business-"

"SHHH! I haven't even admitted that's true!"

"-and you don't already have post-graduation plans," she went on as if there had been no interruption, "would you…"

When she never finished, Makoto prompted her nervous girlfriend, "Would I what?"

"Would you want to go on a little trip with me? After you graduate from Shujin. Maybe just to, um, Okinawa, or somewhere more exciting? Since I'll have the extra money, and… and I'm really into finding out what you and me can be like when there's nobody to tell on us or judge."

Still stunned, all she could do was whisper, "You… want to go on vacation? Together? Like… together-together?!"

Sadayo gulped. "Yeah. I mean, it's still crazy that I'm with you in the first place, but I can't just sit around, squealing that I'm a lesbian. If we're really in this… I might as well start treating 'us' like it's real."

"Oh. When you put it that way, I can appreciate the logic." Cheeks rosy and smile small, she whispered, "And I think that sounds wonderful."

"Really?! You'd go with me?"

"Of course," she assured her, sealing it with a long, deep kiss. Her girlfriend melted into the contact, humming her obvious interest so loud it was almost obscene. During the moment, they had rolled over so many times she lost count, but they wound up with Makoto on top.

"Ugh, don't look at me," Sadayo half-laughed. "I was too excited to see you and ask you about the Thieves thing, I forgot to do my nightly rituals before I went out to meet you at the subway station."

"What are you talking about? You look as beautiful and sweet as you ever have."

"But I didn't moisturise. Or shower, or… not that I haven't showered today, though! I did this morning before work. But I would rather freshen up before spending any significant time with my significant other."

Makoto's small smile spoke volumes. "Well, how about I bathe you this time? Seems only fair, Becky."

"Wha… hey, that was my job! You don't have to pay me back; you already did. With actual money."

"But I want to take care of you. Please?"

Sadayo smirked and waggled her eyebrows. "You just wanna get me naked, Master."

"I…" Caught off guard, she blushed and ducked her head. "M-maybe, but that doesn't mean I'm not being genuine about taking care of my girlfriend."

"Uh huh." The smirk remained, but a little of that teacher-exclusive sternness crept into her expression. "But what did we say about steering clear of that kind of thing for now?"

Trying for flirty, Makoto leaned forward on her elbows so their faces were only an inch apart. "I didn't say we would do anything besides wash."

"True. But for some crazy reason, I think you have sinister plans, Miss Phantom Thief."

"Shhhhhhhhh! You can't keep talking about that, I'll get in trouble!"

"You know you can trust me. I'm your confidant, right?" When Makoto didn't look any more comfortable, she whispered, "I promise I'll take care of you. And that means keeping your secret for the rest of my life; that's an easy choice, Niijima-san."

Rolling her eyes, she chuckled, "We have to get used to being more familiar with each other, Kawakami-sensei."

"Yeah!" she giggled. "Guess so. And… well, if you promise to keep your clothes on, maybe… it won't be so bad. But if you get too fresh-"

"I will be a perfect gentleman," she reassured her teacher with a small smile. "Promise. Cross my heart."

So they moved toward the bathroom. Makoto had a very difficult time suppressing her nerves; this was going to be her first time seeing anyone who wasn't a relative in the nude, aside from brief glimpses in the locker room. Even then, she felt like a pervert and would look away quickly. Now her girlfriend - and that alone was crazy! - was about to be fully disrobed in front of her, and she wasn't sure she could handle that.

But she wanted to. More than anything in the world, she found herself yearning to get closer to this incredible woman who had completely changed her life in ways she was still figuring out. And besides, it was her turn.

"I'm nervous," Sadayo confessed with an awkward smile as she began to strip out of her yellow scoop neck. Makoto found herself staring down at the floor to avoid seeing too much all at once, actually watching the striptease, and saw her teacher's toes were curling with anxiety against the bathroom tile. "Like, have I mentioned that I pretty much never go on dates? I have, right?"

"Y-you have," she breathed, heart hammering a mile a minute.

"And it's different when I'm Becky," she said, as if predicting Makoto was going to mention how confident she was as a maid. Which, to be fair, she had been contemplating. The skirt joined the blouse on the floor, and Makoto's face grew hot. "I'm playing a role then. This is just… me. Sad, frumpy, tired old Sadayo."

"Nothing sad or frumpy about you." When she saw the panties joining the rest, she had to bite her lip to keep from squealing with combined dismay and excitement. "Y-yeah, maybe you're tired, but… that's going to change. Really soon."

A purr had entered her teacher's voice when she stepped closer. "Mm-hmm. And you're doing a really good job of not looking. Now… I'm going to turn and sit on the stool, and then you can look. Okay? Is… that alright? Maybe we should have gone to a bathhouse."

"No, this is fine," Makoto told her gently, smiling at the nearby wall. Once her teacher was in position, she rolled up her sleeves and approached. "Okay, so… please don't think too badly of me. I've never done this before. For somebody else, I mean; my sister used to do it for me, but…"

Her teacher smiled over her shoulder. "Don't worry, I'm not expecting my level of professionalism. Or anything, really. Just… y'know, put soap on me and spray it off. Easy. And if you have to jump out, I can wash myself; it's honestly not a big deal either way, okay?"

"Okay," she laughed with a small smile.

The two relaxed into the bathing ritual for a while. Though Makoto was distinctly aroused, and wanted to touch her teacher all over, she didn't have as much trouble forcing herself to stick to washing her as she had worried. The gentle motions and the small hums of contentment from each of them helped to boil the intensity down to a dull simmer: still a thread of sexuality in the air without it being overwhelming. And all the while, for both of them, there was joy at being able to be so close.

Until… "Aren't you going to finish the job?"

"What?" When she caught the look in Sadayo's eyes, Makoto gulped and whispered, "O-oh, I… well, you said we shouldn't do that until we're…"

"I'm kidding," she laughed lightly, though the wicked gleam remained. "You're right, we should behave ourselves. Sorry."

"Maybe I don't want to behave myself," she whispered. The smile slipped from her teacher's face, so she hurried to hold up both hands in surrender. "N-no, no, I won't- I just meant… I really wish I didn't have to. But I agree that it is the wiser course of action as long as you're technically teaching me."

A more subdued sort of amusement entered her face as she looked away. "You say that like you haven't been teaching me just as much, Makoto. But… you're right. Thanks for washing me, I'll, um… I'll take it from here."

For a moment, she simply watched her teacher rinse off her soapy form, longing seeping into every bone down to the marrow. Then she cleared her throat and whispered, "I don't have to go."

"What?"

"Go. I, um… I can…" She closed the toilet lid and sat, hands folding in her lap. "We can talk while you bathe. If you don't mind. Or I can let you soak and relax."

Kawakami was smiling a lot wider. "So domestic." When Makoto rolled her eyes, she giggled and added, "I'd love that. Just don't want you getting bored."

"I could never be bored of you."

Without even realising they began, suddenly she was kissing her teacher again, damp fingers winding into her wet hair to cradle her close. One of them being nude did change things but only subtly; the contact and emotion behind it was much more important. It was everything.

To Be Continued…