My Cute Kohai is Actually My Archnemesis?!
Hoshi followed as closely behind Flare as he dared. It was obvious she wasn’t really paying attention to anyone who might be following her, but it was also because her focus was solely on the vehicles that had left the convenience store. While he couldn’t get across rooftops as effortlessly as Flare could (not everyone could fly after all), he did his best to keep up crossing the street and maintaining his momentum. It was tough keeping her within his sights, but Hoshi made it work.
By the end of his little chase, he was panting and gasping for air. While he didn’t believe he was out of shape, it went to show that he should probably practice navigating the urban sprawl like this a bit more. In any case, Hoshi ducked behind some air ducts and watched Reyna from a couple rooftops away.
She seemed to be arguing with someone about something on the phone before putting it away and staring intently at the people below. Moving closer to the edge of his own roof, he made to look down as well. Just as he did so, his cell phone buzzed in his pocket. Hoshi pulled the phone and sighed at the caller ID. “Hello?” he asked warily.
“Hoshi! Hey!” Reiko chirped. “How’s it hanging?”
“Kind of in the middle of something, Reiko,” said Hoshi as he watched the truck open. “It’s a pretty fragile situation. I can’t afford to lose focus.”
He heard Reiko harrumph on the other end. “You wouldn’t happen to be on a rooftop somewhere, would you?”
At Reiko’s insinuation, Hoshi jolted in shock. “W-what, how do you know that?”
“Well,” began Reiko, “Your tag has been running through buildings at a pretty alarming speed. I don’t think you’re strong enough to run through walls, though, so that was the next logical conclusion.”
“Oh, that makes sense—You’ve been tracking me?!” Hoshi hissed in alarm. “Since when?!”
“Since we last talked. You bring your phone everywhere you go, right? It’s not that hard to track you when I know who you are, what your phone is, and what networks you’re connected to.”
Hoshi pinched the bridge of his nose in disbelief. “This is a severe breach of privacy, Reiko!”
“Don’t worry!” assured Reiko, “I haven’t seen your search history yet.”
“That is illegal on so many fronts—!”
“And what you’re doing right now isn’t?”
“I…” Hoshi sighed. “No. You’re right. It’s not like I offered any alternatives when I told you.”
“That’s right! Now, tell me what’s going on.”
Hoshi looked back down and frowned as he watched them moving to bring one of the boxes out. “Well, I saw Flare fly overheard and followed her here, wherever here is. Right now, a bunch of guys are unloading their delivery truck, so I’m not…”
His voice trailed off as he realized that they were opening one of the boxes. He watched intently from a distance, and widened his eyes in shock. “Whoa.”
“What? What is it?”
The people who opened the box had pulled out a stuffed bear. When they did so, the most well-dressed and likely superior of them all stepped up and pulled out another stuffed bear. “They were transporting children’s toys?” Hoshi wondered quietly.
“Children’s toys?” Reiko asked. “That doesn’t sound right.”
“You’re probably right, Reiko, but it’s what I’m seeing. Something strange is going on here.”
“She must be shocked to see this too…” Reiko murmured. “Hey, Hoshi. I’m going to look at something. I don’t need to tell you to be careful. But don’t hold back if push comes to shove, either.”
“I’ll see what I can find out about some of this. Take pictures, eh?”
With that, Reiko’s call dropped, and Hoshi frowned. He stared at his phone for just a moment more before he pocketed it and shook his head. “What a mystery,” he muttered. Was Reiko going to look up the bears the people were holding? If they were just stuffed animals, they couldn’t be that bad, right?
Hoshi couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong, though, and he was quickly proven right when the superior ripped a bear open and pulled something out of it. Hoshi then heard his distant laughter and his orders as the rest of the boxes began to be pulled out of the truck.
“What is that…” Hoshi muttered. He chanced a glance at Flare on the other rooftop, and he blinked as he watched her stand up. Her hands and feet caught fire, and Hoshi’s head flared as a vision of Flare rushing down assaulted his eyes. In a few more seconds, that same vision would come to pass, and he couldn’t allow that. They needed more information. Giving themselves away would amount to nothing.
Without a word, Hoshi ran out from his hiding spot and crossed the distance between him and Flare as fast as he could. The sound of his feet on the pavement was loud, but it seemed Flare was so focused on what she was about to do that she didn’t even register him. Just as he reached her, Flare finally heard him and turned with her hands ready to strike.
“Flare! Get down!”
That seemed to catch Flare off guard as her flames sputtered and a few embers fell to the ground. “You can’t go down right now. We don’t know enough yet!”
“What are you talking about?” Flare scowled as she fell to a crouch beside him. “They’re smuggling toys away from kids! And they’re hiding whatever those things are in them! I can’t let that go by!”
The fact that Flare was concerned about the kids first and foremost was reassuring to Hoshi, but he shook his head anyway. “If you attack now, who knows what’ll happen? And we can’t do anything just yet. What if someone else comes out? Someone whose more responsible for this than that other guy?”
“Do you really think someone that important would come here?” Flare asked. “And who cares if there’s more. If I take them down now, that’s a few less Moon Ravens I have to worry about.”
“You’re angry. I get that. It’s terrible what they did, but if we don’t seek out the root of the problem, they’re just going to come back. You can’t—“
Flare slammed the ground with a palm that flashed a wave of blue flames. “You think I don’t know that? You think I don’t know they’ll keep coming? And what if I want that, huh? I want them all to burn!”
Hoshi, in a moment of clarity, remembered that Flare was actually his enemy, and a public villain. “Flare…” He blinked in shock as he saw her eyes watery with frustration.
“Just shut up about things you don’t understand, Check. I get that you’re a hero, but you can’t save everybody. And I know you see me as evil, but I’m doing my best here…” She growled. “So stay out of my way. I won’t hurt anyone that doesn’t deserve it.”
“Thank you for saving me the other day, I owe you one, but that doesn’t mean you can stop me.”
“So you can stop trying. I’m going whether you want me to or not—“
“FLARE! Someone else is here!”
Hoshi watched Flare snap out of her monologue and meet his eyes before they both stared at the newest addition to the rooftop.
“My…” the woman whispered. Her grin was predatory as her eyes flickered between them. “I’ve been found out, haven’t I?” She took a low stance and bared her teeth in a wide smile. “Looks like I’m going to have to take out a couple of high-profile insects, hm?”