Chapter 33:


Half-Paid Heroes

"I was, but...!" she declared, her voice hitting a crescendo as the words faded away.


This was no time to be panicking.
Just as Jamie located and approached the Central Security base - in her absence, the outside of the base had been refurbished, so she couldn't recognise it by vision alone anymore - a battered white rental van rumbled up behind her.

Alex stepped out from the driver's seat, resplendent in a red ballgown which was presumedly her outfit as a Heart, and gave Jamie a mistrustful glance as the other Hearts (sans Despair, of course) and Nour piled out of the van.

"You had exactly the same thought we had, hmm?" The older woman's voice was full of scorn, but it barely registered on her face while she took in the slate-grey building in front of them and took the first steps.
The Central Security building here was just as much of a maze as Jamie remembered it to be in fact, it was almost as if this building was an exact replica of the last one. As Alex and Heart Wisdom made quick work of the cameras with their powers, a flash of black appeared from one of the myriad corridors...and stopped. 

"Jamie?" a familiar voice asked, and when Jamie turned, she found out why that voice seemed so familiar - it was the one who had called themselves "Jeremiah Dubois".

She'd never seen him in her life, yet he seemed so familiar at the same time. With his long brunette hair in loose waves over a pilling orange shawl, he somewhat appeared to be a woman but the head's height difference and ink-black suit under the shawl proved otherwise.

Then she managed to connect the dots - this was what Genevieve would look like, if she were a man.

Was this a spell of some sort? An illusion?!

Jamie grasped at the shawl and her lips parted in a silent shock when she realised she could feel the woven wool under her fingers. She could feel the residual body heat, and hear the tiniest wheeze of his breath.

"Y-You couldn't be Genevieve, could you?" she finally managed to stammer as the other Kirikagura Company members slipped away into the labyrinth of corridors without their guide. (Considering her companions had probably gathered intelligence of some sort before coming to such a risky place, they might not have needed her, but it was still worrying nonetheless.)

"Unfortunately, I am."

This declaration was met with silence. In Jamie's mind's eye, she imagined the vivid wings of a monarch butterfly spreading outwards from her old companion's back, terrifying her just as much as it delighted her.

"If this is a great big joke, the caster should come out. Right. NOW," Jamie insisted, whipping a light breeze up with her powers as she ridded her mind of the image.

"Didn't you hear me?" Jeremiah told her, his lips barely moving as he intoned his words. "The one you know as Genevieve is gone. Only the Central Security employee known as Jeremiah Dubois is left!"

If this man was a butterfly, the wind should have been able to send him on his way.

Therefore, Heart Passion, the elegant musician that heralded the spring wind, should have had nothing to fear. She was merely a messenger, sent out of season to do the world's bidding.

With these thoughts running through her head, she collected the gathering breeze around her with a sweep of her hands and flung an airblast at the one she used to call a friend.

Gerry Hines