Chapter 3:

That Which We Call a Rose...

Half-Paid Heroes

As the redhead came from below with a kick to the solar plexus, it was clear Chris had changed, both for gender and outfit - despite stating she was a "witch", she was now dressed like a garcon, complete with towel on one arm.

"Hey, wait! You never told me this-," Hope gestured furiously at himself while he tossed aside the towel, "would happen!" Compared to Chris's female form, the male version's voice was slightly deeper and a bit taller, but otherwise there wasn't much of an outward change.

"Not my fault. Probably Kiri-" The redhead straightened out his white shirt and jeans when he added this. He then summoned the carnivorous plant to eat Hope-

"Why do you keep blaming the boss?!" Hope interrupted, simultaneously sending a punch to the plant's "mouth".

"He fired me! What else could it be?!" Ross's face contorted in a combination of disgust and anger.

At this, Hope gritted his teeth. If the redhead wasn't lying, Kirikagura was indeed playing them off against each other.

At this point, Heart Hope hadn't realised Ella had been assimilated into the ranks of those being drained of their energy. Nor had he realised most of the plants scattered about were actually one plant - the Venus Flytrap. However, the darkness morphed into hand-like formations in Hope's anger and tore apart the vines draining people's energy. The other plants tried to sneak away from the shadows and closer to their master, but the budgie from earlier whacked and nipped some of them into submission.

The redhead declared as the remaining plants huddled behind him, "I just need to turn the tables-"

He commanded two vines to pull open the curtains and doors, only to suddenly remember there was a crowd outside. There were still enough hostages around to prove that this redhead had been doing mass kidnapping, so by default, Heart Hope had won his first battle.
Back at the office, a now-normal Chris buried her face in her hands. "I was hoping for a cooler debut. At least a better outfit would've sufficed..." she mumbled as Ella fed their new avian friend sunflower seeds.

"Thank you," Akihisa started, his arms crossed and his posterior perched on the edge of the table, "for putting Ross in line." He stared out the window wistfully as he spoke, as if he were reminiscing about times gone by.

"Ross? You mean the man from earlier?" Ella chipped in, to which she received a nod.

Chris interjected, "What about what happened to me?"

Ella grabbed the bulky manual they'd had to read earlier, flipped to a page and jabbed a finger at the top line. "Transformation section c. It is noted that stress may cause initial transformations to be imperfect. Didn't you read the entire thing like the boss said you should?"

"I only read the management bit..." Chris admitted, turning her reddening face away in embarrassment.

Gerry Hines