Chapter 30:


Half-Paid Heroes

In the gloom of the basement, Chris transformed and then punched the concrete floor, sending tiny specks of gravel flying.

"Dammit! I should've beaten that brother of mine down when I had the chance," she hissed, still panting.

"Don't worry about it," Jamie told her, patting her on the shoulder. However, Chris struck out at this reassuring hand with a tendril of shadow, causing Jamie to try to retaliate-

-a blinding flash of light, with a swirling pattern of darkness and warm yellow light, stopped the two from making any more sudden movements at each other. Jamie pulled the ring from her pocket to discover it was the source of the golden luminescence, and so she put it on, causing the swirls of darkness to disappear within the light...
The cicadas were chirping on this warm evening, so Kirikagura was checking the building to make sure he didn't have any unwanted guests before he unwound for the day. (It was a habit he'd developed over as he took care of the Company.)

He opened the door to the basement, only to find Heart Hope on one side of the room and Jamie on the other, both unconscious. The woman's body was still clad in a typical business outfit on the top half of her body but the navy blue skirt gradually faded to the colour of daffodils on the bottom half. To add to what was strange about it, this yellow section of her clothing seemed to shimmer with what could only be described as 'magic'.

Heart Hope rose first, seemingly blinded before regaining her bearings. Her witch's hat now had a white bow on the band, while her dress had white bows on the collar and a bigger one on the waist. Her shadows rose over her crouching body in the shape of a cupped hand. Its fingers were raised over their controller, as if watching over her.

"Are you alright, Hope?" Kirikagura asked her, noticing the shadows cascade to the ground as she stood up.

"Fine. Couldn't be better." She still sounded vaguely upset, so her comments were almost snappily sarcastic, but she didn't add any more to it because Jamie stirred.

Kirikagura ran over to her and offered her a hand up, only to get it swatted away.

"Me, a Kirikagura Company employee?" Jamie murmured, talking more to herself than Kirikagura.

Suddenly, a green blur came out from behind Kirikagura, high-kicking the dazed Jamie into submission before two feet landed daintily on the concrete floor. It was Heart Wisdom, wearing a pearl ring on one finger.

"I think it's time we talked as a group," the green-clad girl ordered Chris, causing the witch to back away from her. "About the Hearts, and about skill grafting."

Chris's sepia pupils shrunk.

"What do you know about skill grafting?" the dark-type magical girl asked Wisdom, her voice low.

"Unfortunately, I know a lot..."

Meanwhile, Kirikagura felt the walls. Noticing this, Chris strode over and rapped her knuckles against the closest wall, but there was nothing but the hollow sound and grey expanse of concrete.

Then a rose light emanated from under Kirikagura's hand, signifying he'd found the item he was looking for - a keyhole about the size of his palm which hadn't been there earlier. 

Gerry Hines