Chapter 1:

On the run

Hero Hour

It was shortly after midnight. A lonesome schoolgirl made her way through an empty street in outskirts of Tokyo. The road had a steep incline and despite going downhill, the girl ran at full speed. With every step she took, she nearly tripped over her own feet. The girl was clearly in a hurry, but for what reason? She seemed panicked, almost as if she was running away from something. Once she reached the bottom of the hill she stopped for moment and looked back. She held her breath and listened closely to her surroundings. “Is it gone? Did I make it?”, the girl asked herself, hoping that she had gotten away. But she hadn’t. A mighty roar of a wild beast echoed through the night, sending a shiver down her spine. She quietly shrieked at sound of her pursuer approaching. Her whole body tensed up. She clung tightly to her school bag, digging her nails deeply into the fabric. Was this the end for her? She backed up slowly, her eyes still fixated on the top of the hill before her. Suddenly she felt something pressing against her back. She froze instantly. Her face turned pale. “This is it, is this how I die?”, she thought to herself. She was convinced that she had been surrounded by the enemy. But the thing behind her didn’t make a move. Instead, she heard the sound of metal rustling at the back of her head. She carefully turned around and to her surprise, rather than facing a giant monster, she was facing a chain-link fence. The fence was quite tall, but not impossible to climb. It wouldn’t do much in terms of protecting the girl from her pursuer. They would probably trample over it with ease. However, the girl knew what was beyond that fence. She had been too occupied with running, that she didn’t notice where the road was leading her to. But now she recognized the area, it was her high school. There she could probably hide from the creature that was after her. Without hesitation she threw her baggage over the fence and climbed it. She climbed as if her life depended on it. The girl had never been good at sports, but tonight she felt like the fastest climber in the world. Once she reached the tip of the fence, she could see an enormous gorilla shaped silhouette coming closer. It was as if King Kong himself had appeared. The girl quickly jumped off the fence, but before she landed, her fall was halted. Her uniform had gotten stuck on a loose wire. Desperately she tried getting it off, but no matter how much she struggled it didn’t let go. As she helplessly dangled in mid-air, she felt giant steps drawing nearer and nearer. There was no time to think, she had to get away immediately. High on adrenaline, she lifted her top and slid out of her uniform. She grabbed her bag and dashed to the main entrance half naked.

When she arrived at the door, she pulled at it hastily. It was locked. Her heart stood still. “Not like this! This cannot be happening!”, she cried. She tried forcing the door open, but it didn’t budge. She cursed herself for not realizing this sooner. Of course the buildings would be locked, it was the middle of the night after all. The girl was trapped like a mouse in a cage with nowhere to run. She looked around frantically. She had to hide. But where? The cafeteria? Locked. The gym? Locked. The storage room? She gasped euphorically. While the doors were shut tight, a small window was open. Somebody must have forgotten to close it. Hastily the girl rushed straight to the window. Her body barely fit through the narrow gap, nonetheless she managed to squeeze herself through. Finally, she could breathe a sigh of relief. As long as she kept silent, she would be safe in the storage room.

She gently shut the window. The cold air that came through it, had lowered the temperature in the room significantly. With only her bra covering her upper body, the girl froze tremendously. As there was no heating, she rubbed her arms to try to keep herself warm. She glanced over to her schoolbag. It contained a rather unusual change of clothes. It wasn’t something she would normally wear in public, but unless she wanted to freeze to death, she didn’t have much of a choice. The girl opened the bag and pulled out a cosplay dress. It was a limited-edition magical girl outfit.

“Was this really worth it, Ueda?”, she asked herself rhetorically. The girl’s name was Reina Ueda. She had a passion for anything superhero related but was socially awkward and never talked much around other people. She had always been shy by nature and easily got embarrassed. As a result, Ueda distanced herself from any form of social interaction and enjoyed her hobby in secret. She often bought hero themed merchandise online in order to avoid dealing with store clerks and the judging eyes of other people.

Today however, she had stepped out of her comfort zone to get her hands on that costume. She had been eyeing it for the longest time, but the outfit in question had sold out instantly on the day of its release. Luckily, Ueda had managed to find a store that still had it in stock, but unfortunately for her, the store did not sell its products over the internet. Hence, Ueda had to make the long commute to purchase it in person. To make matters worse, the shop was located the next town over and was not easy to reach by public transport. But Ueda was determined to add the costume to her collection, even if it meant she had to put up with these inconveniences. In spite of leaving right after classes had ended, the trip had taken up the entire rest of the day. But at the time it had seemed all worth it. Looking back on things now, had she known her journey would end up with her being hunted like prey, she would have never left in the first place.

She reluctantly put it on the dress. It had a frilly skirt and puffed sleeves. Her scarlet red hair matched the pink coloured costume perfectly. It even came with a peculiar looking gadget which went really well with the outfit, despite not actually being part of the set. It seemed custom-made. The owner of the shop had tossed it in for free, as it had been just lying around his store for the longest time. The gadget was triangular shaped with pink highlights and had a tiny blue display in the middle that showed the time. The device had an attachment that allowed for it to worn on an arm, almost like an oversized futuristic watch. It even came with a timer and stop-watch function. What fascinated Ueda the most however, was that it happened to resemble a device she had seen before during a night like this one. She had still been in middle school back then. She wondered whether this was simply a coincidence or if somebody besides herself actually witnessed what happened that night all those years ago. Perhaps they were inspired to make this replica after seeing it being used to defeat a monster. No one ever believed Ueda, when she told them about the things, she had seen that night. Everyone around her always either assumed that she was crazy or simply had a lively imagination. But it had been all real, just like tonight was. As she remembered the past, her eyelids began to feel heavy. All that running had tired her out. She fell asleep and dreamed about the fateful encounter she had several years ago.

Hero Hour Cover

Hero Hour