"Ladies and gentlemen," some old guy said to the crowd, "Homura Akaneno."

Sliding in to the podium, Japan's most beautiful genius, Homura Akaneno, put her hands on and leaned into the mic. "How's everyone doin' tonight?" That old goon, whoever he was, looked downright bothered by how loud the crowd's cheering was. "Yeah, you know me, you love me, it's me, Homura. It's the first day of the Reiwa era, so that's cool. I'm sure many of you are curious what Japan's most beautiful genius, AKA as me, has been working on in the past few years, and the answer is—it's a surprise tool that'll help us later!"

Loud, animated gasps from the crowd. "I know, right?" Homura said, shrugging and giving a goofy grin. "Who does she think she is? Well, technological progress has been a bit slow lately on account of a few geopolitical situations, and to be honest with my adoring crowd, I've been taking a bit of a backseat for a while to stew up my brain and also spend some time with my daughters. Is there anyone in this crowd who hasn't heard about them? They're great. Raise your hand." About ten people raised their hands in this crowd of hundreds. "Find me afterwards, I will rant your ear off. ANYWAY, many of you are curious as to what Japan's most brilliant beauty thinks about the state of our nation going into the new era."

Homura cleared her throat, and pulled her shades out of the pocket of her labcoat. "Still got lots of shit to do! Frankly, all these politicians move way too slow for my taste. It's like, what do they do that we're paying them for, right? Yeah, you!" The old coot who was still sitting there looked offended. "I don't remember your name, but it's probably true about you! You move too slow! You should really consider moving faster on a sociopolitical level to buck unreasonably conservative social trends."

"ANYWAY," Homura declared again, turning back to her crowd, "listen. What I wanted to come out here to say is that you aren't as smart or beautiful as me—nobody is—but I, for one, think that this is the kind of world that creates heroes. Way I see it, any Joe Schmoe has potential to become a hero. So figure something out! Leave a mark somehow and make the world better! Folks'll remember you better that way! This is a new era, so make a change in yourself or something. Be like me! I'm great."

—To say the crowd ate this up would be an understatement. Given her relative youth, older politicians often found it obnoxious how popular the scantily-clad genius scientist was, especially when she went on record as badmouthing them with just a labcoat and a bikini top on.

Other people who ate it up: Homura Akaneno. "Haha, hey, look!" she said, one day, sitting on the couch next to her beautiful daughters. "That's me!"

"We know, Mom," her daughter-in-law said. She smiled, that young lady of the Inomiko family. Ugh, she was such a sweet kid! Kid? Still a kid to Homura, but she was twenty-two now. Kid.

"Of course you do. I'm hard to ignore," Homura said. "Why, if I were part of a bunch of mysterious, cryptic prophecies or something, they'd refer to everyone else with epithets but they'd call me by name. Hunch I have. I wonder if there are any prophecies about me?"

"Ooh," her regular daughter said, with that otaku-y look on her face, "tomorrow, Dr. Akaneno is going to WILD BURGER."

"OH MY GOD HOW DID YOU KNOW?!" Homura shouted, jumping out of her seat. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," the otaku said.

For how scattershot she was as a person, Homura's research notes were very meticulous. She wrote with the speed of, in her own words, at least like five really angry mole rats. If it weren't for her bad handwriting, they'd be some of the best notes of anyone she knew—but every genius hero of the world needs a weakness, right?

After another long night of research, Homura hopped up from her chair, and declared to nobody, "I've almost cracked the case!" She did this every night, but this time she was sure of it. The Psy-Gene, the genetic sequence that denoted psychic abilities in humans, still had many facets left to unlock—its power for evolution, for powers to branch out, chief among them. If Homura could figure it out, the psychics of the world could have that much more control over their own abilities. Once again, Homura Akaneno would be the hero of the day! A hero to the psychics—sure she didn't really know any personally yet, but the day would come.

—Ever since she was a child, Homura had been fascinated by superhero stories of all sorts. Her first had been Turboranger, and since then, she'd been hooked. They had been most of her company for a long period of her childhood. And, more than anything—her favorites were when an ordinary person came out of the rabble and proved themselves the ultimate hero. The common person could become truly great! Anyone can be a hero!

Heroes were born, created, forged. And Homura Akaneno—she was a hero. Without a doubt. People looked to her for guidance, for amazing feats. The world was better because of her. And yet, for all her achievements—cracking open computer connections, psychic abilities, even quantum physics, she was only mortal. Sure, she was Japan's most beautiful genius, but there were things that even she couldn't accomplish.

And what if those things were to become important? Would 'anyone' appear? Would a hero appear?

She thought and thought and thought and thought and thought and thought and thought some more.

—"S-Class" was the term the government began to use. People with S-Class swordplay, conditioning, computer skills... These were "heroes". People whose untapped potential could rise to the challenge. S-Class... in other words, agents of a certain agency.

"So, you managed to get to the top, huh?" Homura said, over drinks, in the year 2010.

On the other side of the table was a woman who wasn't quite as beautiful, or quite as smart, as Homura Akaneno—and yet, she was quite smart, and quite beautiful, if Homura did say so herself. "I suppose I have," said Natsume Hikasa, President of Murakumo. She laughed. "It seems we've both risen quite a ways, doesn't it?"

"An agency full of heroes," Homura said, taking a drink of her wine. "You get specialists from everywhere, and then you just do what you want with 'em. It's just the right place for you, Nacchan!" She laughed in that hyena-like way she did.

"What is that supposed to mean?" Natsume raised her eyebrow and grimaced. "Should we make an agency for you to lounge around in and have people admire your body, Homura?"

"Still... it's a bit, uh, whatchacallit... weird?" Homura waved her hand around. "I mean, you already know what these folks are good at. There's no romance to it! They're heroes, but they're specialized heroes. Where's the 'protagonist'?"

Natsume rolled her eyes. "Homura, we're in our thirties. Isn't it time to grow up and stop acting like a Kamen Rider?"

"Whaaaat? I think you need to grow down!" Homura scoffed, standing up and putting on a stupid voice. "'Look at me, I'm Nacchan and I'm too busy for cool things because I drink wine and order people around all day.'"

"Some of us aren't S-Class geniuses, Homura," Natsume said. She looked down self-effacingly. "An A-Class isn't good enough for anything but management, you know."

"Eh, whatever," Homura said. "But you know that kind of untapped potential has to exist. Some people are just ordinary people without talent who rise up and become amazing—right? That's the basis of tons of legendary stories across the world. Those are the best stories, man!"

"—How would you even measure that, then?" Natsume said, taking a drink of her wine. "I know you. You'd want someone who could stand up to any situation. S-Class 'adaptability', if you will."

"It's not just that," Homura said, shaking her head. "It's not just about ability, it's temperament! An ordinary person who's determined, who can survive through sticky situations by the skin of their teeth, AND who's adaptable, who can do a lot of different things after a bit of practice... A leader! A hero!"

There was a moment of silence between these two old friends.

"Such a person doesn't exist," Natsume said, "or at least you can't find one. As a specialist yourself, are you really aspiring to something beyond specialty?"

Then, Homura laughed, and pulled out an old, rusted coin. "I'm Japan's most beautiful genius, Homura Akaneno. Do you really think I can't find something if I put my mind to it? I'll find it! I'll find 'heroism', and then—"

She flipped the coin, and it froze in the air—a parlor trick she'd stuck into this particular coin. "—you'll buy me drinks afterwards!"

Natsume laughed back. "And if you give up?"

"I'll buy you drinks," Homura said with a wink, "and help you do your taxes."

"I do hate those," Natsume said. "You're on. Good luck in your search for S-Class 'heroism'—"

"Nah," Homura said, shaking her head. "That's not right. It's gotta have a cooler name. S-Class is so bland. Heroism is something special, something that exists outside your Murakumo crap. Tell you what—I'll name it. I'll bring you your first 'V-Class'!"

"What does the V stand for?" Natsume laughed.

"Viewtiful! It's 'cause of this one game I super dig that came out a while ago, you should play it when you're not busy being a big important exec." Homura laughed again. "Maybe you can come over and say hi to Mio, like a godmother should!"

"Maybe," Natsume said. "Maybe."

—Watch me, Homura Akaneno said to her friend. I'll surpass you, and everything you think of as 'genius'. I'm Homura Akaneno, Japan's greatest genius! I'll find it—by my hand, a hero will be born.

"Ma'am," said the cashier working at WILD BURGER, "that's fascinating, but this is a restaurant."

"Hah! You're right," Homura said. "Gimme another two to go. My daughters'll love 'em."

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