Chapter 5:


Half-Paid Heroes

Kou's body convulsed and his bones cracked as they reformed into an older version of him. However, this version had black hair, as well as a black tail and cat ears that twitched whenever they sensed a noise. Also, although he had become much leaner, his clothes didn't fit him too well anymore, so the pants that had gone down to his ankles in child form only covered about half his legs in older form, while the collar had stretched to become a perfect fit.

Chris stood up silently, her sepia eyes downcast and her face suddenly ruddy in a mixture of shock and physical closeness.

A few moments of quiet later, the door slammed open to reveal Kirikagura, mahogany eyes burning with anger, his mouth set in a straight line. Just as soon as he arrived, he grabbed the boy and dragged him out by the collar, just as one would do with a misbehaving cat. The boss then left the same way he entered, and the subsequent chewing-out was somewhat audible through the door: "What do you think you're doing, Kou? Your parents - my sister and her husband - sent me here so that the management and I could take care of you! Now that you're like this, you'll have to work under me - that's not legal!"

Chris tuned the boss's lengthy lecture out as he continued to ramble, but there was something familiar about the entire scene. In fact, it reminded Chris of when her older brother snuck out one night to "work on one of his art projects in the garage", only to come back at 2 am, battered and bruised.

Just as she was about to verbalise these thoughts, she was snapped out of it by a combination of furious wing beats and claws against metal. Only a few moments after she noticed this, the floor began to shake, the cage tipped on to its side, and then the world became unsettlingly silent.
There was something wrong with that earthquake, Kirikagura was sure of it.

Sure enough, after he marched up the stairs (Kou and Chris in pursuit), the first thing that was visible through the window was a large metal structure coated in blue paint, five helmeted people in different coloured spandex visible through the windows.

"That's Odagaki's team of Helmets, right?" Alex asked, having snuck up behind him while he wasn't looking. In her hand was a phone in a violet case, playing the brass band tune of one of Odagaki's ads featuring these five sudden visitors.

The man gave a nod, signalling the present offence members of Kirikagura - Alex shut off the phone screen and joined in - to barge open the door and get to work. Meanwhile, Kou, having become acutely aware of how underdressed he had become, escaped upstairs to his uncle's living quarters, the bell on his collar giving off soft peals as he bounded up the stairs.
If Chris knew her superheroes from her brother's comics and TV shows, these five Helmets - red, blue, green, pink and purple, each with a seven-point star eyeshield - were what would be termed as "sentai heroes", meaning that their manpower would be concentrated at the core of their giant robot. It was best not to get near their weapons, which were situated on the back and limbs of said robot, so...the cockpit was the best point of attack, knowing her usual tactic of close combat.

In other words, she'd have to get in the robot, as much as it didn't thrill her - after all, the robot was much taller than the four storey Company building...

Gerry Hines