Chapter 6:

The Hero Reflects At Home

My Cute Kohai is Actually My Archnemesis?!

The door to a small apartment opened and closed with a noisy creak. A tired figure sighed as he kicked his shoes off and shambled into the apartment proper. With a little click, the light flickers on and Hoshi smiled. “Nothing like coming home after a long day,” Hoshi said. “Now, what do I have to eat?”

He walked into the kitchen and opened the fridge, only to grimace. “Whoops,” Hoshi muttered, “I need to buy groceries…” He could definitely make a salad with what he had on hand, but he was craving something more unhealthy and that required less effort after an exhausting day. Going into his pantry, he pulled out some instant ramen and began to think about the day.

As prepared his ramen and put it in the microwave, Hoshi hummed. “A new partner, huh.” His day had certainly gotten interesting after meeting Reyna. Thinking back on the day, he was certainly happy to have someone to talk to again. Kazuma had been a pretty bad conversationalist and always went off into crude tangents, so having someone who seemed capable of outpacing him in a conversation was a breath of fresh air. Reyna was certainly an interesting individual, and it went without saying the he did, indeed, find her cute.

He then felt his cheeks warm lightly at the banter he had with her. Hoshi found that it was the most fun he had had in a while. As much fun as running around looking for dangerous situations or interesting stories was, it all grew pale when he considered its repetitive nature. You ran outside, you got in danger or found something interesting, you took some pictures, and you made an article. Rinse and repeat. It was the usual fact that he had someone by his side he could bounce ideas off of and talk with that made life interesting. So when he lost Kazuma, he had been bored out of his mind.

How could such an exciting life be so boring, one might ask? Well, when one could see into the future like Hoshi, however limited it may have been, dangerous things became little more than a nuisance. They became just another thing he could walk around, ignore, or face head on with confidence. The present became mundane because he could watch the future like still frames in a motion picture. Everyday life became bland and tasteless, and he never felt surprise.

That was why Hoshi never used it unless he was outside or knew he was in a perilous situation. While Hoshi knew he could never accurately assess every situation he deemed harmless to actually be harmless, he turned off his vision whenever he could. As it were, his limit of only seeing up to five minutes into the future didn’t do him any favors.

There were times when it forced itself on, however, and that was always when he himself was in danger, or close to it. To that extent, Hoshi was glad he saw that thief and that biker, because it wasn’t him who would have been hurt, but Reyna. While Hoshi could see the telltale signs of hidden talent, and a fiery passion to prove herself, he also noticed that she seemed to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders, and was jumpy when people came close to her. He resolved to watch her carefully and help her however he could.

Staring out the window at the dying sun, something else bothered him. Flare returning was still a problem. While he felt better having a partner with him, Hoshi now worried about how he would protect Reyna when push came to shove and they encountered a more Powered criminal. If it did happen, he knew he wouldn’t be able to keep Reyna safe without exposing who he was. And while he felt a little safe knowing how Flare operated, he knew he couldn’t count on that to always be true.

Hoshi dreaded the day Flare might break from her apparent morals and go full-on crazy. He shivered as he thought of what might happen if people found out her true identity and targeted those close to her. Hoshi knew what he himself might have done in the past, and with someone unstable like Flare, all bets were off.

Finishing his meal, Hoshi sat for a moment, thinking about what he would do. He still had to work. But he knew he had to up his game. If he was going to keep even a fraction of the city safe, he would need to be more active as Check. It also meant he would be more tired, he would get less sleep, and he would be stressed as hell. In other words, a return to form for Hoshi. He had been taking it easy the past few weeks, but the return of Flare felt more like a bad omen than anything.

He turned the TV on and moved to clean his dishes when he heard something unsettling. “Are we streaming? Okay. Here we are at the orphanage on 6th and 16th, and we heard an explosion coming from within! As of right now, a few children and caretakers have made it out but a majority are now trapped by the flames that are pouring out—!”

Turning his full attention to the TV, he felt a striking chill fall over him as he saw that a local orphanage had caught fire. DC Two was currently filming it, which meant it had happened moments ago, but it also meant that first responders were still a ways away. Feeling like lightning just struck him, Hoshi cursed and threw his dishes into the sink as he stripped into his costume and slapped his goggles on.

Just then, he heard his TV blare something unbelievable.

“W-wait, there’s someone coming from the sky. It looks like—Oh my god, it’s Flare! What is she—?!”

“She seems to be shouting some names and, wait, she ran into the building! She just dove in! Could she have been behind this?”

Hoshi knew he should be heading over there right now, but something told him he needed to stay and watch. As if to answer his instincts, and among all the screams and distant sirens that surrounded the scene, a brilliant blue figure could be seen emerging from the reds and yellows of the fire.

It was Flare, shooting out of the fire as she cradled a child in her blazing arms.