As the crowd grew larger, Kimiyo Hoshi smiled appreciatively as she saw how excited her children were. They were happily staring at the odd costumes and shouting with pleasure as they spotted various characters they knew from television.
Kimiyo even had to admit that the ever-bubbly Yuki’s Sora costume was a real hit with the crowd. If they are this excited by Jiro’s creation, then his books truly are appealing to a large audience, she thought. Sora may indeed become a sensation!
Yuki Tanobi was a natural with children, and she displayed her customary warmth and good nature as she greeted the young fans as well as the older ones. But as she chatted animatedly with a small ten-year-old girl, Yuki was jolted by a sudden impact that shook the store.
Kimiyo whirled to see the source of the sudden force, and she frowned as two costumed figures charged into sight.
The first man wore a purple costume with light yellow trim around the legs and arms. He also wore a strange metallic object on his head that was perched there like a crown. His movements shook the building, although his size was average, and there was nothing abnormal about his physique. The second man was older and was wearing the traditional garb of the ancient Samurai warriors. Blood-red kusazuri hung from his hips, while the armored shoulder pieces known as sode covered a muscular upper body. He brandished a gleaming katana.
They are not manga fans in homemade costumes! she realized. These beings possess real power of a type that I have only encountered during my time as a super-hero!
She glanced over to where Jiro sat with Yasu and Imako. The kids were safe for now with their father and Yuki nearby. So she slipped through the crowd and found a deserted aisle in the rear of the store.
An uncharacteristically ironic thought crossed her mind as she noticed the untouched books in a neglected area of the shop. Where yesterday’s heroes go to die, she thought as she slipped out of her outer clothing and concentrated. A brilliant golden glow suffused her body, and she flew back to face the intruders. She knew exactly how to increase or diminish the light emanating from her body in order to obscure her features and thus protect her identity.
Kimiyo sighed with relief as she spotted Jiro and Yuki ushering the kids to the rear of the booth. In spite of his irresponsible ways and her incessant schoolgirl-like chatter, Jiro and Yuki are always protective of the children, she thought. I cannot fault them for their concern. That will allow me to focus my full attention on these unwelcome intruders!
As the super-heroine Hikari, she studied the pair before making contact with them. With the eye of the trained scientist she was, she noted the nature of the power displayed by the man in purple and gold. He moved toward a booth, and with an almost casual wave of his arms, he shattered it into a crumbled ruin as the occupants dived for safety.
No visible emission of energy on any level, and my eyes can adjust to detect things far beyond the norm, she thought. No change in temperature. The booth was made of metal and wood, so he did not use magnetic force to destroy it, and yet the structure appears to have been pulverized. He apparently generates powerful vibrations akin to tremors or quakes. His companion moved gracefully but made no comment and took no action as he scanned the store.
When three men in the matching dark suits associated with the security staff of the Akihabara Electric Town of entertainment facilities hurried forward, Hikari realized that Planetary Plaza had gone to the trouble of hiring a few security guards who were off from their normal jobs at the AET.
“Stop! You will surrender quietly!” said their leader. “This disturbance will not be tolerated!”
The man in purple and gold smiled coldly and stared at them with a dismissive manner. “You are not worthy of my scorn!” he said as he gestured, and the unseen vibratory waves he controlled hurled them across the room.
Hikari replicated into two additional light forms and solidified herself in time to cushion their falls before merging with her original body.
She frowned as the samurai stepped forward and spoke in both Japanese and English, “We come in peace. No, seriously, we come to leave you in pieces unless you give us what we want! In truth, we will harm you regardless of your cooperation. You see, we may do as we please! He is Yureyu — Shockwave — and I am the Seventh Samurai!”
Hikari knew most Japanese citizens could read English, but in spite of the demand for language educators, few were comfortable speaking it. Ambitious salarymen and their staffers naturally learned the language, but it was outside the realm of customary studies for ordinary citizens.
She flew forward and hovered before the odd duo. “I advise you to surrender,” she said. “I have more than enough power to stop you both!”
The Seventh Samurai laughed and said, “Really? And yet we have you outnumbered!” He replicated into six additional selves and circled her warily with blades drawn.
That trick fails to confound me, she thought as she shone a bit brighter from her back and noted that the Samurais in front of her body did not blink or shade their eyes. They are truly separate beings split from the original. Had they merely been illusions of some type or super-swift blurs, all would have blinked as did the original!
As the swordsmen sliced away at her gleaming body, she merely studied the situation and then released a burst of energy that hurled all of them into the air. They can’t cut my light-based form, but I can certainly harm them! she thought.
Yureyu roared with anger as his more talkative ally met with more force than his multiple forms could handle. He lowered his head and charged at Hikari.
She started to become intangible in order to allow him to pass through her light form, but she realized his headlong charge would lead him toward innocents behind her, so she became solid and increased her size until she towered over him by several feet.
I dare not increase my stature beyond a few feet, she thought, or I will lose control as I did when Dr. Arthur Light first altered my powers with his infernal experimentation! (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Green Lantern: Power and Light.]
She grunted as Yureyu slammed into her, and she held him fast even as he began to lift her giant form off the ground. Bare feet give me little traction! she thought as she reduced herself and grappled with the bulky man.
Hikari rocketed forward and carried him skyward until both of them broke through the roof and sailed higher. “Do not force me to drop you!” she cried as anger began to sweep over her.
“While contact with what appears to be a brightly lit water trade girl pleasures me,” he said, “I have no fear of being released!” He punched her in the face and then kicked free of her arms.
Hikari followed him as he used vibrations to slow his descent and then cushion his landing below. She sighed with annoyance and said, “This may test me more than I ever expected.”
Meanwhile, back inside the store, the Seventh Samurai had recovered from his fall and now raised his blade as he closed in on a medium-sized booth and its cowering owner. The fat and balding man in a wrinkled white shirt and jeans trembled as the swordsmen drew nearer.
Behind him stood two models who represented manga types of a rather indeterminate kind. The male model was carrying a wand and wore a pointed hat that marked him as some variation of the magical being archetype, while his sultry female coworker was dressed in a somewhat stereotypical dragon lady costume consisting of a slinky white dress with matching heels and copious amounts of makeup and gaudy jewelry. She looked at the costumed villain with an appraising gaze that registered little emotion.
The Seventh Samurai smiled and said, “The stench of cowardice pains me. Luckily for me, the aroma of blood excites me!”
He raised his sword, only to be stopped by the unlikely pair of Jiro and Yuki. They had darted forward to block his path in order to allow Jiro’s fellow artist and his hired models time to flee.
Jiro received a blow from the hilt of the spinning sword and fell to the ground. Yuki, still dressed in the blue costume and wig of Sora the Sky Girl, bent over his fallen body and glanced up at the Samurai with a look of anger.
“You’ve hurt him!” she cried. “He was merely trying to help a friend!”
As the supposed wizard and the fat artist raced away in abject panic, the female model sneered with contempt and said, “You should truly be Sora in power as well as in costume and name — then you might be of some value!”
The Samurai laughed and brought his blade down, only to gasp in surprise as Sora broke it in pieces with her raised arm. Yuki stood up and smiled with amazement. “I felt nothing! And yet your blade was not a toy!”
The Seventh Samurai replicated again, and all seven of his selves swung at the girl, but again, all their blades shattered on her body.
Yuki laughed with delight and said, “Perhaps I am Sora now!” Sora grabbed one of the Samurais and punched him through the booth’s counter with one blow. As he collapsed, all six remaining doubles returned to his stunned body, and he lay still. She hurried over to the fallen Jiro and gently lifted him to his feet as the kids hurried over to their stricken father.
“Yuki, you are as strong as Sora!” shouted Yasu. “Father must have known your secret and used you as his Sky Girl!”
Sora giggled and said, “No, little one. I never had such power before today. I cannot explain or understand it!” As Jiro rubbed his face and then reached out for the kids, Sora said, “If I have the abilities of Sora, then I must use them as she would! I will find the other attacker!”
Yuki yelled with pleasure as she leaped into the air and flew out of the hole in the roof to soar through the sky over the city. “I can fly!” she cried. “What a feeling! What a rush!”
It was a tribute to the girl’s simple good nature that she wasted little time trying to understand why she was now a super-heroine. She merely enjoyed every moment with an uninhibited love of life that gave the children she cared for such joy, while irritating their more somber mother.
Sora spotted the glowing form of Hikari as the other heroine battled Yureyu below. The villain was staggering as Hikari battered him again and again with solid light emissions. Finally, as he reeled backward once more, he was struck by a high-kicking Sora, who left him beaten on the pavement. She cheered happily as Hikari stared at the young woman in amazement.
“Yuki? How did she do that?” gasped Hikari before drawing closer to the blue-clad heroine.
“Hikari, I have enjoyed seeing you on the television,” said Yuki. “We could be partners! I’m Sora!”
Hikari nodded and said, “I know who you are. Now, you must listen to me. This is not a game. This is not an anime brought to life.”
“Of course not!” she said with a smile. “It is a manga brought to life. I’m Sora now, just like in the manga Jiro draws!”
Before they could continue their conversation, they saw a ship appear overhead, and a beam of energy blazed downward from the bottom of the odd craft to strike the store.
“A death ray!” gasped Sora.
“No, it is a teleportation device,” said Hikari. “I think the attackers are being taken away by their employer. Why they would use their powers to disrupt a manga circle convention is beyond me.”
“Maybe they are just sour apples,” suggested Sora. She flew at the craft, but it deflected her speeding body with a force-field.
“I should be able to penetrate the field,” said Hikari. She approached it carefully and had begun to pass through the glowing barrier, when her senses shut down and she found herself fighting merely to remain in a cohesive state. Light refraction — it almost scattered my very molecules! she thought. By the time the golden guardian was able to recover, the ship had vanished.
Sora hurried to her side and asked, “Are you OK?”
Hikari nodded and said, “Yes, but we must return to the convention.” The two women flew inside, and Hikari sighed with relief as she spotted Jiro and the kids. The security guards had recovered as well, and no one seemed to be hurt.
Jiro waved them over and said, “Yuki, how did you become a real Sora?”
She shrugged and said, “I don’t know. Maybe someone up there likes me!”
“Jiro, what exactly happened in my absence?” asked Hikari.
“The clown with the sword tried to cut my pal Ahito, and I jumped him,” said Jiro. “He knocked me silly.”
Ahito, the balding artist, came forward at the sound of his name. “Thank you for trying to help me. I thought I was in peril, but that weird beam of light missed me. It took my model instead.”
“Who was she?” asked Hikari. “She must have been their target all along. They did not rob anyone.”
“She is a girl from the water trade,” said Ahito, using the traditional Japanese euphemism for often-shady nighttime entertainment activities. “I paid her to wear a costume and attract business. She was stuck up.”
“What was her name?” asked Sora. “If she truly worked in that profession, then she might have connections with organized crime!”
“She calls herself Anje Omi,” said Ahito. “She is not Japanese. I mean, she is not purely Japanese!”
“A girl in her profession could have witnessed many crimes or participated in any number of them,” Hikari said thoughtfully.
“She wasn’t scared of them,” said Jiro. “She didn’t know them, either, though.”
“What they wanted with her and how Yuki turned into a real Sky Girl are questions I must answer,” said Hikari.
“How can we find them?” asked Sora.
“I can track them,” Hikari said. “The ship emits a particular energy pattern. My eyes can see that trail.”
“I’ll come, too,” said Sora. “I mean, I might need to know how I became all super.”
Hikari nodded and said, “Very well. You must obey me, though. I have experience that could benefit you.”
After making certain that the kids would be fine with Jiro, Hikari led Sora back into air. “The trail is not fading,” said Hikari. “That allows us time to summon an ally.”
“I hope it is Ace Archer!” said Sora. “He is dreamy!”
“An archer will be of little help to us,” said Hikari. “I have sent out a flare to attract one of more resources than a skilled bowman.”
She smiled as a man in white and red soared into view. “Rising Sun, thank you for responding to my signal!”
A handsome man with a mustache and a colorful costume of white and red smiled in return as he approached them. “It is my pleasure,” he said. “Doctor Mist had already informed me of certain rumblings of activity that merited our attention.”
Hikari nodded abruptly and said, “Then allow me to lead you after our foes. We will explain on the way.”
Sora winked at the older man and thought, She certainly is businesslike! You’d think a bright yellow-costumed woman would be fun!