Brightstar: The Rising Superhero
I leapt out the bed toward the door while pulling back my fist, the door opened despite being locked, so the stranger must have picked the lock beforehand without me realizing it.
No matter what, my fist of justice won’t forgive a lawbreaker. With the momentum from me leaping across the room. I was about to land a punch on whoever was behind that door. But as soon as the door was widely opened, my fist was caught mid-air and my body was pulled in for an embrace.
“That was the first time I heard someone yell ‘surprise attack’ when they are trying to do a surprise attack.”
I wiggled my head out of her embrace, and when I looked up, my face brightened up with joy. It was hard to see her face under that black hoodie and face mask, but there’s no way I wouldn’t recognize my favourite family member.
“Aunty Kusagi! I didn’t know you were back.”
“It was supposed to be a…. What did you call it again? A ‘Surprise attack’?” She giggled while stroking the top of my head with a gleeful smile.
“If this was a surprise attack, it’s not a bad one.” I hugged her body more tightly than before, her hardened muscles and soft bosom were all too familiar to him.
Jake coughed to interrupt the moment, “I think I’m gonna head out first. See you at school, Kenn.”
“Oh! Wait, Jake. I forgot to introduce my aunt to you. Please give her a warm welcome, my awesome and cool aunt: Kusagi Tashikawa.”
The woman took off his hoodie and Jake was surprised by what he saw, a pair of perks up rabbit ears, the blackest hair, and fur he ever saw, darker than his hair. However, unlike her name, she was a European descendant with an incredible jawline.
Jake kept on staring at the rabbit’s ears before his gaze finally met with her cold gaze. He accidentally looked away as if his instinct was telling him that it was rude of him to keep on staring.
“A Hybrid…” blurted Jake under his breath. Realized what he just said, he covered his mouth before any unsightly words could escape.
“Yes, I am.”
Jake swung back his head quickly at Kusagi with guilty eyes, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking when I said it.”
“Don’t worry, I know you didn’t mean to. I just have a good hearing, that’s all. Anyway, it wasn’t your fault.” My aunt turned her solemn gaze at me with a discouraged half-smirk. “I should leave before I make your friend feel even more uncomfortable.”
“It’s fine, Kenn. I’ll come back later.”
“Wait!” shouted Jake. Both my attention and my aunt’s turned at him.
“Ahh! Look, I’m sorry! Okay?! And it’s not like every day I see a Hybrid-powered around, so you caught me off guard. Okay? And the way I said it was not because you look disgusting or weird. It’s just my mind being weird sometimes, and I accidentally blurted out the first thing that came out. Okay?! Also, forgive me if I ever did something to offend you from now on because I never met someone like you and thus, I don’t know how to properly react to you. OKAY?!” Jake’s cheeks were red as beets, but after he took a loud breather, he managed to calm himself.
“Okay.” Kusagi smiled brightly then laughed aloud as she pulled Jake in for a group hug.
“I just wanted to know what you’re really about and whether Kenn picked the right choice for a friend. I was testing you so don’t you worry about any of those things earlier.”
Her hug became tighter. Not that surprising, her hardened abs and bountiful bosom were suffocating Jake and me.
“Too tight!” squeaked the both of us.
“Oh sorry!” She loosened up her arms.
“One more thing.” She turned her loving gaze at the bald-headed boy.
“It is a pleasure to meet you, Jake. You can call me Aunty.”
Suddenly, the rabbit/woman laid a big kiss on each of our foreheads.
“Totally didn’t see that coming,” said Jake with reddened cheeks.
“Me too.” I broke away from her embrace and took a big breath in.
“So what were you boys doing, huh? I hope nothing naughty.”
Aunty giggled while proceeding to take off her hoodies; revealing a pair of muscular arms and what seems to be a full-body tattoo originating from her under her tank top. She wasn’t that muscular of a woman, but it was enough to see a solid bulge on her biceps. From just one look at her people could tell that she was the type of person who never misses physical training.
I turned my sight to Jake and found a perverted smile on his face as Aunty stretched her upper torso; bouncing those melons up and down. With a disappointed sigh, I shook my head at my friend.
“That tattoo is new, where did you get it?” A full-back tattoo of a black rabbit jumping over a crescent moon. Those letters underneath the illustration were Kanji, which originated from Japan. She must have got the tattoo from there. Also, the complexity of the tattoo must have taken a long time to do.
“Ah yeah, long story short, I met our sort of distant relative. They have a bit of the Tashikawa blood running in them, and as soon as I met them and told them about grandpa. They immediately took me in as their own… after I fought like several and incapacitated most of them.”
“Forgot what I said! You know what? It was kinda a tradition in our family to get a tattoo like this, so that’s why I have them now.”
“What about that?” I learned a bit to the left and saw a bag of what seems to be carrying quite a lengthy item.
“Oh! This?” She smirked and arrogantly rubbed a finger under her nose.
Kusagi marched toward the coffee table with a big smile on her face. She then carefully took off the bag and unzipped it. With the final zip come undone, she revealed a samurai sword also known as a Katana.
The sword was unique on its own from the hilt to the scabbard, but one thing that is common is its minimal style from the round with an inner star-shaped guard and a few layers of black strings for its grip. Yet, the distinctive features of them all are the small bell attached to the end of the hilt, a Japanese word etched at the bottom of the hilt, and the silver blade with a waving line travelled across it. The blade became more clear as Aunt Kusagi unsheathed it from the scabbard and raised it in the empty air in front of her.
“It’s truly a magnificent sword, but!” She slammed the blade onto the table, and it didn’t cut through it at all. It just bounced back almost as if it was a bat.
“It is as dull as your mom’s sense of humour.”
“I’m gonna tell mom you said that.”
“Please don’t. You know how your mother gets when she’s pissed off.”
“I’m just kidding. Sure, I won’t tell you now, but maybe I can use it someday.” A smirk appeared on my face
Kusagi laughed, “You sneaky snake.”
“Why though?” asked Jake.
“Hmmm? Why what?”
“Why is that sword so dull? Because it looks sharp to me.”
“Oh, it all had to do with the Tashikawa's bloodline. This isn’t a normal sword, it is a very special sword. It is also one of the strongest swords in the world. People said that this blade could cut through anything, and well-known shamans also said that a strong supernatural power dwelled in it. However, back to your question, why is the sword so dull now because of the legend this blade had. It is said only a true ‘Tashikawa’ whose bloodline is strong and pure can wield it.”
“Can you wield it?”
“Nope, Catty and I were adopted by a Tashikawa; Kenn’s grandpa. He can wield it, I think. I never saw it myself, but I think Catty has seen your grandpa wield it once.” Aunty sheathed the sword back into its scabbard.
“I never knew about the sword before. I never knew that our family had that kind of history.”
“You don’t?” Aunty glanced at me and back at the sword.
“Yeah. I don’t know about The Tashikawa’s or The Johnson’s family history at all. This is the first time you guys ever talked about grandpa aside from describing him as a ‘nice guy’. Even grandma rarely talked about her family history or grandpa.”
“Uhm... Kenn. Hmmm. Our family’s history is not that exciting. That’s why I rarely talked about it.” Kusagi scratched her cheeks while avoiding eye contact.
“I’m gonna head out. See you tomorrow, Kenn!” Jake quickly escaped the situation by excusing himself first.
“Are you hiding something from me?”
“Kenn! Don't doubt us. We are not liars, we’re your family... Look, I’m here because I want to settle down. I’m tired of travelling all the time and I thought that I could crash here for a while, and maybe we could hang out together after school?”
“You’re staying here?”
“Yeah. At least until I get my new apartment down the street sorted out, but still, I don’t want to start our first day of being best friends with a fight, don’t you?” She took hold of my hands and gazed into me with those cute puppy’s eyes.
“Okay...fine, you can sort out your stuff here while I go prepare you something to eat.” I groaned as I strode to the kitchen with a half frown.
“Yay!” Kusagi quickly took her bags into my bedroom as I walked away to prepare a meal for her.
We ate, played games together until Mom came home, and that when everything went to shit. Pots and pans were flying everywhere, but luckily I managed to hide behind the couch before it all started. It all started because Aunty Kusagi mentioned something about my mom’s weight after she walked through the front door.
“Catty! I was just kidding about the weight! I mean you did put on quite a few pounds before I last saw you.”
-What?!- I can see the veins popping around my mom's forehead.
Before Aunty Kusagi could say any word, a thousand more cooking utensils flew toward her at high speed, but Aunty was fast, faster than any woman that I ever met. Even faster after she took off her shoes and used her rabbit legs to dodge all the flying utensils. However, it was getting too dangerous out here, so I ducked and rolled away into my bedroom. After I closed the door behind me, I finally felt at ease again. Nothing beats the safety of my bedroom, I stood up and hopped onto my bed.
It could take an hour before Mom calms down again.
After my head turned, I spotted the sword. It was leaned against my bookshelf. After resting my gaze on it for quite some time, I realized that something is off about this sword. I could have sworn that it was calling me with a strange man's voice. It was getting creepy, so I quickly took my blanket and covered it up. Only then the whispers stopped.
“Ugh, creepy sword.” I turned away and took a seat on the bed.
Using my phone, I searched the name Tashikawa and not surprisingly, nothing came up. I even went on to the third page of the search page, and you know when someone clicked past that second page, they were desperate as hell. Maybe she’s right, maybe our family history is boring, or she could be lying about the whole thing, and all of that was just some made-up story, so she wouldn't confess that she got ripped off from some random dude that sold her a dull sword.
“I had to take the sword, OK! That isn't a choice for me… I had to bring it back.“ Aunty raised her voice at mom, and I hope it’s going well out there.
I leaned more against the door, “That sword isn’t my excuse to still cling to him after his death. Believe me, when I said I’ve moved on, and besides, it’s not wrong to have something to remember him by. Catty...he didn't have much stuff when he was alive, you know that. Maybe it’s easy for you to forget about him, but it’s not that easy for me.”
There was a moment of silence, Mom must have been talking. I quickly broke away from the door and cleared my head. It’s rude to eavesdrop on someone, I shouldn't do this, but it is so...tempting.
“Easy for you to say! He came for you, but not for me. I remember it as clear as day...”
Did Aunt Kusagi blow a fuse?
“Nope! Don't do it, Kenn.” I muttered under my breath.
I managed to stop myself from eavesdropping again.
However, when Aunty said that he didn't have much stuff, does that mean my grandpa was dirt poor when he was alive? What mom said caused Aunt Kusagi to get angry like that. I never hear her get angry like that.
Or was he like? One of those Korean shows where the main character gets kicked out of his company, and he has to couple with his ex (Grandma) to take back his company in a very convoluted plan. Then somewhere along the way, grandma gets pregnant without him knowing it?! Ooo, spicy.
“Sounds like a good idea for a story. Gonna noted it down in my notes first.”
I took out my phone and started typing away.
As I was scrolling through the internet, I found an old clip of the first Superhero to ever surface after the disappearance: ‘Delta’. If I ever need to describe her, it would be like she was an unstoppable force of nature that can't be stopped by any means of weapons or power. There was one point in her career that she was hit with a rocket, and it exploded into a thousand pieces, and yet she still could walk out of it unscathed.
After looking in a mirror across from me, I realized that I need to get serious. I searched for ways to train my body and found a lot of regiments.
“I need to start somewhere…” I dropped to the floor and without a thought, I started to do push-ups. Every second of it was hell as the cut and wound from yesterday ache and stabbed my body. However, I had to push it, to push myself even further if I wanted to do this.
Well, at least until my mom called me up for dinner after she was done nagging aunty Kusagi. However, after dinner, I was back to my hellish training. As I was training myself, someone knocked on my door gently. With a raised eyebrow, I stood up and opened my bedroom door. It was Aunty Kusagi.
“Ah. Hm. Did you hear all of that?”
She let out a short tired laugh before dropping her chin and raising it back up. “Can I come in?”
“You don't need my permission, or did you forget? We shared a room together.”
“It is still your room.”
Kusagi let herself in and took a seat at the edge of the bed.
I closed the bedroom door and took a seat on the beanie bag across from her. Her eyes wandered before finally landing on me. It was an awkward situation. She hasn't said anything to me even after she took a seat on our bed. It looks like she has no idea what to say to me.
“What...what was my grandpa like?”
“He was a...nice guy.”
“Uhm. You know I once got lost in the Sahara desert.”
“Oh, you know. The usual.”
“My plane crashed.”
“Wait that...that’s not normal. Airplanes don’t crash, out of nowhere. In fact, one of the safest transportation in the world is a plane. They have safety measures to prevent crashes.”
“Eh, I guess it's my luck.”
“How did it even crash?”
“Some stuff happened.”
“You aren't going to tell me what happened, right?”
“The how or why isn't that important of a thing.” She shrugged her shoulders.
“Then what is?”
“As I roamed the desert in the night, searching for civilization. I can't believe how beautiful the sky was. A thousand twinkling stars illuminating the dark heaven. Each one of them is a luminous ball of gas that’s so far away and so bright that it makes the distance between us a joke.”
Aunt Kusagi stared through the window and at the night sky. Such a lonesome gaze. I took a seat right next to her, leaning my head against her shoulder. A kind smile appeared as she ran her fingers through my hair.
“You know what I realized back then?”
“No matter how beautiful the view was, it doesn't compare to being here with you. That’s why I came back. That’s why I decided to settle down.”
For me? I can't believe she is settling down for me. She doesn't have to do that. I don't want her to be stuck here because of me. She should be free.
“I know what you were thinking.” Kusagi tapped my forehead, snapping me out of my train of thought, and it.
“I’m done being by myself. I want to spend my days here with you. Don't you want to spend more time with me?”
“But why? Do you hate me or something? Or am I crashing your style or something?”
“No! I’m happy that you’re staying with us. It gets kinda lonely with only mom around. Don't get me wrong. I love spending time with mom, but sometimes it feels empty. Too quiet... If you know what I mean.”
“I do... Being out there on a life-threatening adventure does get tiresome. I want to be here with you and Catty as much as I can.”
“Are you sure?”
Our gaze met, Kusagi stared deeply into my eyes and leaned her forehead against mine. With a joyous smile, she caused me to smile.
“I have never been so sure in my life.”
Two knocks caught our attention, we broke away and turned at the door. It opened revealing mom with a guilty expression. She looked at us then glanced away. Rubbing her forehead, she took a step forward.
-I know he meant so much to you. I loved him too. It’s just…-
Kusagi took her hand and pulled her for a big embrace. We sat there together, exchanging small talks that seemed inconsequential, but we enjoyed each other's company so much that even the smallest thing we did together was so much fun even if it was uneventful. We love each other and that is obvious as the sun that shone above the sky.
The Next Day.
I took Aunty Kusagi's offer to drive me to school. The word ‘Drive’ is a loose term, more like a ride on her dark matte coloured 1973 Kawasaki Z2. With its big engine and obnoxious exhausts, it roamed the streets like a lion in a savannah.
The speed was no joke, Aunty was going so fast that I had to keep my arms around her or risk falling off the bike. She swerved and leaned through the traffic jam without any effort at all. The smirk on her face says it all. She loved to ride, and it has always been a huge part of her life. However, It wasn't bad because somehow she managed to make the ride as smooth as possible. I even enjoyed it after getting used to the speed.
Passing through heavy traffic, I arrived at my school in no time.
Jake’s widened eyes amused me as I vaulted out of the seat. Aunty readied her knuckle for a fist pump as I was taking off the helmet. I finally saw the knuckle and fist-pumped it then gave the helmet to her. Her face was partially covered by her air force pilot-Esque helmet with a giant rabbit logo on it, but I could still see her wide and toothy. It was as radiant as the sun. She waved her hand for the last time before wheelie away in a roar.
“Someone just went up the popular poll.”
“I doubt that.” I turned to Jake.
Behind him, I could see other students sharing his admiration before realizing they were staring for an uncomfortable amount of time. When they noticed that I was looking, they turned their gaze away and continued as nothing had happened. Jake patted my back and nodded his head.
“I wish I could have a cool aunt like yours.”
“I could grant that wish if you are willing to be my little brother.”
“No, thank you. I would rather jump off a cliff.”
“Jeez, man. That’s way too harsh.”
“Yeah… you’re right. What about we start over? I wish I could have--”
“Hahaha, let’s go. I don't want to be late for class.”
“I think I might have a new favourite.”
“Ah, not my aunt. Come on, dude. Find someone your own age.”
“What can I say? I got good taste.” Jake shrugged his shoulders.
“You are disgusting.”
I left Jake when we parted our way to our own classes. Walking down the hallway, I noticed a couple of stares from the roaming students. Those stares weren't any lonesome stares, whispers accompanied it.
“Isn't he the one?”
“Shhh, he can hear you.”
“How could he come to school after what he had done?”
“I don't know, but we shouldn't get close to him. I don't want to die.”
All the gossip, the whispers, the slanders weren’t their fault. I know that and I don't blame them. However, I'm still human, hearing those things and noticing their scrutinized stares was still hurtful. Gritted my teeth together, I quickly turned and entered the bathroom. Walking to the end of the stall, I burst through the door and quickly locked it.
A huge sigh of relief escaped from my lips as I leaned my back against the wall. My finger ran above the tile wall, feeling every crevice and crack along the way. A tear dripped down my cheek and fell onto the floor. The silence helps so does the separation and the isolation. Sometimes, being alone is the best course of action.
It was pure luck that Jake wasn’t with me when it happened because I don't want him to see me like this. I don't want him to be dragged down along with me again. Not after all he had done for me. A simple ‘thank you’ won’t be enough.
I shook my head vigorously, blocking my ears out. The noises suddenly disappeared. Like a broken TV, it always buzzed when my negative emotions overwhelmed me.
I need to get going. I can't stay here. I can't be here. I need to see Mr Aariv. Jake would want me to see him. I left the stall, slowly walking toward the exit. My breathing was so loud that I could even hear my thoughts.
Yet, the negative one always made it through.
Why am I here? Weak. Why am I so useless? Useless. I shouldn't be here. No good. I shouldn't be at this school. Failure. I shouldn't have anybody around me. Alone. Furthermore, I only caused people pain. Despair. I am nothing and I should leave this world. End it. Do it. Do it now. Do it!
Somehow, I found myself in front of Mr Aariv’s office. I grabbed the handle, but it was locked when I tried to slide it open. My body was so exhausted that I had pressed my forehead against the door, so I could stand. No one was around me, that’s good. They must have gone to their classes.
I blinked once. My hands were bloody.
Then I blinked again, and it was back to normal.
Another tear ran down. I was about to faint. No one was going to come. I was all alone.
That male voice was like a ray of sunshine, I glanced to my side and barely able to smile. My body dropped, but before I could fall, Mr Aariv caught me in his arms.
“I’m sorry. I was late.”
“It wasn’t your fault… I’m so useless, aren’t I?”
“No. Don’t say that. We should get inside my office first.”
Mr Aariv unlocked the door with his keys and helped me inside. He lay me to rest on his office sofa as gently as he could. He took out a folded blanket and rested it over my body. It was soft, furry, and warm like hugging a cloud. Mr Aariv closed the door then made his way to the short cabinet where an electric kettle and a bunch of other stuff sat on top of it.
Mr Aariv is so kind…
“Am I?” He let out a chuckle.
“Did I say that aloud?”
“Yes, you did.”
He proceeded to make some tea.
“Do you want me to call your mom?”
“Please don’t. I will be fine. I just needed a rest.”
“If you say so, but you have to stay here until you get better, and I mean really better. No excuses or lies, understand?”
“I understand, Mr Aariv.”
“So this is the third for this month.”
“Four then. The same as usual?”
“Yep. I’m so weak, aren’t I?”
“Humans are inherently weak creatures; power or no power.”
I let out a sigh and turned to my side, so I could face the sofa. Mr Aariv placed two cups of tea, one near me and another one on his table. He took a seat then opened the window slightly, so fresh air could pour into the room.
“However, you are not weak, Kenn.”
“You came to school every day, even though this place caused you so much suffering. You didn’t transfer because you don’t want to trouble your mom. Even after what happened. You kept smiling and tried to make the best of each day.”
Mr Aariv leaned forward and met my eyes with a conforming smile.
“Heck, you even tried to befriend other kids who don’t want anything to do with you. You stood up for what is right even though you got in trouble for it. The best of it all is you never submit to despair. Never once. You are stronger than you realized, Kenn T. Johnson.”
I gritted my teeth, barely holding the smile I had while a couple more tears escaped. After that, the room grew silent, nothing but the sound of a breeze slipping into the room, a pen grazing on a piece of paper, and a small pot of water bubbling in the distance.
Mr Aariv was busy with his paperwork while my eyelids were heavy. I was tired. I didn’t remember when I dozed off, but I did.
How could I not?
I felt safe here because my mind thought that I could finally have a rest. Here, without anyone bothering me, or judging me, I feel more relaxed. Peaceful in my slumber. Minutes turned into hours, and afterwards, I lost sense of time. Ever drifting in my empty dreams.