Chapter 28:

Shift Happens

Half-Paid Heroes

Meanwhile, Kirikagura had read the resignation letter for the thousandth time, still pondering whether this was the best decision. Stuck, he slammed the letter on to Alex's table, causing her to jump in fright.

"You would think I would be able to prevent some of this with my omnipotence," he began, his hand curling into a fist and his face angled down towards the wooden table. A dull rose light began to glow in his eyes and dance across the grooves of the wood as the rest of the world stayed devoid of sound, as if it were holding its breath.

"Don't worry about it, Akihisa," she told him as she rapidly shoved file after file away until there were none left. "You managed to save her for a while, at least. Didn't you say Ella leaving was...what was that term again? 'Hits again'?"

"Hitsuzen. An inevitability," he corrected, then straightened his gaze towards her. The rose beacons in his eyes began to fade away as he made eye contact. "Next time you see Chris, you and Jamie need to tell her the truth about the Hearts, and be equipped with your proper items." He strode over to the desk where he kept the transformation items, and pulled out three rings - one with citrine, one with a ruby and the last with a pearl, which he gifted to the bird Valentine.
Ella regained consciousness in the real world just as the sun slid past the west horizon.

"-ou alright?" came a deep male voice. It was a man in blue spandex and slightly wavy brunette helmet-hair, with the corresponding helmet under one arm. (Then again, his arm was as thick as a sequoia log, so it was a wonder his helmet didn't break...)

Ella groggily sat up and checked her pulse, only to find her heart racing because she'd pretty much been taken from the Kirikagura Company building to...wherever this nondescript office was. Stranger danger! her mental alarm bells chimed.

"I'm alrigh-wait." She furiously backpedalled her words as she took in this new person. "You're one of Odagaki's Helmets, aren't you?" 

With a nod, the blue-clad man gestured to a white robot arm behind him. A shiny exercise ball was held in its grasp, and the man prodded it for a second before both the arm and the ball vanished. He then grabbed a silver handle, still visible on one side, and slammed it into the wall.

An ominous bounce of rubber could be heard on the street below as a result.

As the man jumped out the window to retrieve it, the other Helmets arrived, one pushing the wheelchair of his boss. It was only at this time that Ella noticed she'd been on a floral couch, which was placed at a ninety-degree angle from an imposing metal desk. The absence of a matching chair in this room indicated this was, in fact, Odagaki's desk and therefore a desk over which Important Decisions and Transactions were made.

However, Odagaki had resigned already, so why hadn't they decided to renovate this space?

Ella glanced at a picture sitting in a wooden frame on Odagaki's desk - it was the blue Helmet, a raven-haired woman and a much younger Odagaki. A streetlight's beam from outside obscured the right hand part of the photo.  

She shuffled a bit further right and stood up to reveal the rest of it, and could not believe her eyes.

The rest of the picture was Kirikagura, not looking much younger than Ella knew him, wearing his typical suit and horn-rimmed glasses. Kou was in front of his uncle in overalls and a black undershirt.

Gerry Hines
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