Chapter 29:

Coping Mechanism

Half-Paid Heroes


While Ella was still being acquainted with the picture of Kirikagura, Chris was lying on a fabric-covered sofa in her house, facedown, not bothering to do anything (including eating dinner later in the day). Neither of her senior coworkers had bothered to explain "skill grafting" to her, so that combined with Martin's absence...it, to put it frankly, annoyed her.

As she snuggled into bed for the night, she thought about her parents. They were going on about investments, superannuation and all that adult stuff, only to disappear one day. Her parents hadn't even told Martin or her about where they'd gone.

This was why Martin was so obsessed with filling the kitchen with statues - even though Chris was in high school and (fiercely) independent by the time the parents disappeared, Martin had never held such pressing responsibilities before.

Art was his coping mechanism.

A way to to escape an ordinary life.
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It had been a while since Jamie had contacted Genevieve, but knowing that Francophile, she would have harassed her phone company into keeping the exact same number on every phone she ever owned. That was the amount of pull her daddy had.

As the silver-handed black clock on the Company office wall struck 10 am, Jamie hastily slipped the citrine ring that had been left on her desk into her pocket, punched in Genevieve's mobile number and waited for the call to connect.

After a 15-minute wait, a smooth male voice (which wasn't heavily accented like Genevieve's daddy's voice, thank goodness) answered her: "This is Jeremiah Dubois. If you want to contact me, please leave a message after the beep."

Her face reddened without her noticing and she wondered, B-But 'Dubois' is Genevieve's surname...?

Genevieve had no male relatives with the same surname, aside from her dad (whose name was not 'Jeremiah'), so her head was suddenly filled with hypotheticals - was Genevieve seeing someone? Did she change her name as a prank?

The aforementioned beep sounded, and Jamie let the voicemail recording run to fill it with office chatter. It was unusually cacophonous, come to think of it...

Jamie glanced up to spy Chris, whose voice was on a solid forte setting, demanding Yuki about something. Once the voicemail recording clicked off, she tuned into the conversation:

"You mean to say, skill grafting is dangerous?! Why would anyone do it, then?" the younger girl yelled.

"Powers are a very dangerous concept which the world has grappled with for time immemorial. Of course, even an illegal yet guaranteed way to get superpowers would be enough to make anyone try them out," Yuki's tone was soft yet rational, a stark contrast to his conversant.

"Even someone like my brother?" Even though Jamie didn't focus on Chris at this time, she could hear the dark-haired girl's panting at what Odagaki was capable of doing. (However, she had to focus on Chris because her younger coworker turned to her and mentioned, somewhat offhandedly, "I want to have a practice fight with you in the basement, Jamie.")

Yuki's face was nonchalant, almost non-emotive, as he went back to work, leaving Chris's question to hang in the air like heavy smog.

Gerry Hines
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