Chapter 2:

An Ordinary Chase

Echoes of the Sanguine

“Step away from the ledge.” The security guard shouts at me.

So my little oasis has been found out after all. If I do get detained for trespassing, I should use my phone call to let Tsukino-san know I can’t come into work tomorrow.

I look at the rooftop across the street again. Seeing I was caught, the woman leaves the scene and disappears into the night.

I can’t just jump across like her. I need some verticality to clear the gap.

I feign compliance, raise my hands in the air, and step backwards slowly. I look around the roof for anything I can use. Then I see it: A path up the large HVAC unit.

The security guard radios in and requests an officer. “You’re coming with me.” I kneel down and check the shoelaces on my running trainers: Nice and snug. He takes my action as surrender, and moves in to apprehend me.

With enough runway, I position into a runner’s start, and take off.

Ignoring the all the guard’s protests for me to stop, I dart away, building up speed. I hop on an electrical box, the vent duct, then the HVAC unit. And with all my might, I make the leap over the edge.

I keep my eyes ahead, seeing the opposite ledge approach me fast.

This feeling of weightlessness, intermittent serenity: something I haven’t felt in a long time. I resist the urge to look down…

I briefly look down. The ground is 10 stories away from me. The streetlamps glow dimly. A car drives through the street below me.

I look ahead again. The ledge, it’s escaping me! I reach out. My hand is nowhere near the roof.

I'm falling.

I reach out for anything. I grab the railing to a balcony. CLANG. My feet kick the metal. I catch my breath. That was a close one.

I then hoist myself up the balcony, balance my feet on the railing, and grab a ledge above. I vault over the parapet, just making it. I calm myself down on that adrenaline rush.

"You actually did it. Most wouldn’t even dare attempting that jump."

I look up at her. The woman was watching me all along.

"Only if I find something worth the leap."

She scans me up and down with interest. “Oh?”

I dust myself off. “I used to do a lot of parkour, growing up in New York.” I extend out my hand for a handshake. “I’m Kenji.”

Instead of reciprocating, she ignores my hand. “Well then, Kenji. Do you think you could be as fast as me?”

“Are you challenging me to a race?”

“A chase, more like. Otherwise you wouldn’t stand a chance. Think you can you keep up?”

“What makes you so confident?”

She ignores my question and points at a billboard on top of a building at the end of the busy street.

“If you can tag me before I reach that billboard, then I’ll tell you who I am. If you can’t, well, goodbye.”

I crack my knuckles. “Challenge accepted.”

“Catch me if you can.”

She takes off without warning, beelining straight to the billboard.

I chase after her, dodging AC units, sliding under pipes, while she jumps on top of all her obstacles. I try my best to keep up, but she’s too fast!

She comes across a rooftop at the end of the block, facing a wide avenue. There’s no way she can jump that.

She stops in her tracks, glancing at me not far behind. This is easy. I reach out to tag her-

She vaults over the edge, kicks herself off the façade, and hops on top the streetlamps in the median like a stepping stone. She then grabs the ledge on the other side and front flips onto the roof again.

What the hell, she can’t be human, can she?

I stop myself at the edge. How am I gonna ever win this?

I suddenly remember something Alex told me.

“Sometimes the direct path isn’t the right path. Look around and you might find a better one.”

Alex was my mentor when I was growing up in New York. I would often run with him, hopping rooftops with him, exploring the service catwalks of skyscrapers with him. He was the one that got me into parkour. He always knew where to step, where not to step, the quickest way through the city. I would rely on him to show me the way.

Now I need to think like him.

I take a moment to scan for alternate routes. Luckily, I’m familiar with this area. There are several shortcuts I can take as well, but first I need to cross the street.

I jump onto the neighboring complex, descend via dropping onto balconies, and land onto the roof of the pedestrian elevated crossing. I cut through the shopping arcade and squeeze through some narrow alleys. I look up and I can just catch the woman hopping the gap above me.

I find some fire exit stairs and climb my way back to the roof. I see her just ahead, running to the billboard the next block over. It looks like I’ll have to intercept her just before she reaches the finish line.

I am in shock at how this red-haired vixen is moving with almost superhuman agility. She effortlessly leaps across wide gaps between buildings and navigates obstacles with a fluid grace that seems almost ethereal.

Nevertheless, I’m about to make it to the billboard. I just need to hop over the next building…

The building’s completely leveled. I skid to a halt right before I fall into a rough pile of debris in the center of the demolition site.

Now what do I do?

I look across the street and see her just two rooftops away. She’s about to make it…

I see a rope hanging from a construction crane. I could use that to swing over to the billboard. But if I miss, the chance of breaking my legs is pretty certain.

I could also just wind up dead…

Fuck it. With adrenaline pumping and a running start, I leap off the rooftop, wall run on the crane's metal girders, ricochet off and reach for the rope…