Brightstar: The Rising Superhero
A few days later.
“Why are we doing this again?” asked Jake.
“We are spying on my mom because I want to see what kind of man she picked.”
With Jake by my side, we peeked over a sign and watched my mom stroll down the sidewalk with a big smile on her face. I let out a sigh of relief knowing my mom was unaware of my presence.
All is according to plan.
I couldn’t believe mom wore her favourite white summer dress along with the sand-colored floppy hat. She went all out for her date. Even Jake was mesmerized by her elegance and bright appearance.
Whoever this guy is, he better complements the heck out of my mom, or I swear he won’t make it out alive after this date.
“Isn't this bad? Spying on your mom.”
“Said the guy with a fake bushy moustache. Why do you even have that thing?”
Jake huffed and puffed while proudly fixing the corner of his moustache. I shook my head and kept my gaze on my mom.
“Admit it. You want one, don’t you?” Jake took one out and beheld a magnificent fake moustache waiting for me to put it on.
I clicked my tongue then quickly snatched the moustache from his hand. Undoing the thin tape, I placed it on my upper lips. It wiggled around before comfortably making itself snug between my lips and nose. It wasn't bad at first, a bit itchy if I may say so, but I got used to it.
“Not bad, ha?” such smugness coming from a boy who is in my attack range.
“I can't deny it any more. It does feel awesome. I feel like a detective on a stakeout.”
“Now the mood is right, we should follow Miss Catty before we lose sight of her.”
“Elementary, my dear Jake.”
We continued on our stealth quest, hiding away behind signs, and sometimes made ourselves be part of the surrounding. Until my mom entered a bookstore, it was too small for us to enter without her noticing, so we waited outside by the ‘Unicornia’ ice cream stand. Through the glass pane, I saw my mom browsing the books on the shelf with a familiar smile.
One thing that remained the same was my mom's fascination with books.
“Your mom is really something else. This is the third bookstore she stopped by today. It’s like she has an obsession.”
“I wouldn’t call it an obsession. It’s more like a hobby for her. That she dabbles...a lot.”
Jake raised an eyebrow at me.
“Okay fine. It’s an obsession. Ha… I did try pointing it out at her, but she always ignored me whenever I brought it up.”
“You know what?” Jake nodded his head.
“You should ask your aunt. Maybe she got a few insides about your mom.”
“That’s actually a great idea. Maybe, I’ll ask her when I get home.”
The song ‘Baby One More Time by Britney Spear’ came out of nowhere. I turned my head to Jake’s left pants pocket. He took it out and answered it with one fell move. A look of concern appeared on his face. I waited for the call to end. When it did, I never got to ask him when he suddenly left my vicinity while waving his hand at me.
“I got to go!”
“Where are you going?!”
“Family emergency. See you tomorrow!”
I stood there with a dumbfounded look on my face as I casually waved back at him. The moment Jake turned around the corner, I lost sight of him.
That was out of nowhere, I hope everything is fine with Jake’s family. I’ll try asking him about it tomorrow. Alone and without my sidekick, make this quest slightly...boring. With a sigh, I turned to the bookstore and leaned against the stand as I waited for my mom to get out.
Finally, after thirty minutes, my mom exited the bookstore with a gleeful smile. She looked at her watch with widened eyes. Suddenly, she started running like a schoolgirl stricken with first love. I clicked my tongue and chased after her while still keeping my distance.
My mom stopped in front of a highly stylish café. She entered the café after looking at the sign.
From the dark alley I hid in, I could see her make her way to the back of the café. There’s a man there, he greeted her from where he sat. My mom waved at him with a blushed smile while pulling a lock of hair back behind her ear.
He had very gentlemen like apparel; a buttoned-up shirt with long sleeves and a nice grey trouser coupled with a leather belt. At least he looked nice, I couldn’t see his face from here. I couldn’t go near them, not because I was scared of my mom. If I did get close, I swear I can’t stop myself from going berserk in there.
So being out here is fine by me.
I let out a sigh as I sat on a crate. My mom had a smile I never saw before as she communicated with the man using a pen and a napkin. The man even tried to learn a few sign languages from my mom, judging from what they were doing. They were having so much fun.
Why am I so angry? Isn’t this good? My mom is happy. Shouldn’t I be happy for her? I don’t understand what I am feeling right now. It’s like I’m glad, but it's so painful, aching even. As if an ant is biting on my skin while I enjoy a sweet dessert. It felt wrong, but it isn’t wrong. What the hell is wrong with me?
With my hands raised, I slapped my cheeks together.
“You know what?”
“I should leave.”
“Yep. Maybe get ice cream on the way back.”
I donned my hood, covering my forehead, and proceeded to slide my hands into my pockets. I left the gloomy alley then entered the bustling street.
My chin was lowered the whole time, I didn’t even try to glance at the café. I should look away rather than watch them enjoying each other’s company.
After removing a couple of bucks from my wallet, I found myself with a cone of ‘Unicornia’ ice cream in my hand. This sweet treat does brighten my mood a bit. I remembered my aunt always brought some of this ice cream back home whenever she got back from a long journey. We would hang out on the roof with mom and just look at the stars with a glass of ice cream in our hands.
There goes my ice cream as it flew across my face and plopped on the sidewalk.
“That’s a bad omen.”
I turned to the person who bumped into me. She sat on the concrete path, groaning her ache out. Another closer look, I realized that it was the same girl I met at the hospital.
Messy chocolate hair, sandy skin, deep purple flannel shirt with a bit of torn on its side complemented with a black undershirt and scratched denim hot pants with high black boots.
It couldn’t be the same girl.
"What are you looking at? You turd!"
Yep, it was the same girl.
She tried to lift herself but fell back down with a high pitch painful yelp. Her gaze went to her left ankle, a reddish hue began to appear.
"Are you okay?"
"Do I look like I'm okay? You turd."
"You, you, what!? Turd."
As a hero, I swear an oath that I will never abandon a helpless person. However, I also remember not taking any kind of oath whatsoever. There's a high chance that I might just walk away. Tempting. She can take care of herself, right? Right.
"I can see that you don't need my help so if you would excuse me."
I turned and a couple of rough-looking people, a man, and a woman headed toward us with a glare. A deadly one. They don’t look friendly at all. They look angry, furious even. The girl behind me did something, something awful.
Upon closer look, this duo wasn’t ordinary humans. The man's entire body was disfigured by some sort of burn marks. Still, his black short hair and eyebrows were still there, at least it had grown back.
The woman on the other hand, if I could call her a woman was beyond human-like. Her skin had a sand-color hue to it while being leathery, but it was laid with a humongous amount of short horns from top to bottom of her body. Her eyes were a pair of dark pearls. She reassembled a reptile, a lizard to be more precise.
I clicked my tongue then undressed my jacket and turned it inside out before wearing it again. With the yellow stripes bare open for everyone to see, I undo the yellow chequered scarf around my waist then wrapped it around the bottom of my face to hide my identity. Lastly, with a quick scoop into my pockets, a pair of gloves appeared, and with no time left to spare, I quickly wore it.
The duo stopped when they saw me standing between them and the rude girl.
“Get out of the way, brat!” The man ordered.
“Can I ask why first?” My fingers dug into my palm.
There’s no way I can fight these two. Heck, I don't want to fight at all, but I can try, yeah, try. Fail? Maybe. But, there’s nothing wrong with a good effort. Especially if it’s helping an injured girl from getting into trouble.
“Step away. This girl isn't your problem, kid,” said the woman.
The woman seems more level-headed than the man. “I simply can't do that. Besides, she’s hurt.”
“Last warning. Get out of the way, or my hotheaded friend will make you.”
There’s no way they are going to do anything to me, at least not in front of the surrounding passer-by. “Sure-go ahead.”
Though my hubris was supported by my logic, I failed to see that people sometimes are unpredictable. As if a truck had hit me, my chin raised as the man’s fist hit under my jaw. My body recoiled back and fell against the pavement. Unexpected; yes. I failed to see it coming. Everything had gone blurry. A massive headache plagued me along with a deep pounding sensation against my skull. I tasted copper on my lips.
“I warned you kid-being a hero will get you nowhere,” said the lizard woman.
I had a hard time breathing through my nose, something was clogging it up and making its way down my trachea. As I moved my gaze in front of me, the man was thrown back as if something had slammed itself against his stomach.
“You damn brat!” shouted the man.
“I told you to be careful. That kid got power.”
“She isn't the only one.”
The man's eyes glowed bright orange as he aimed his hands toward us. A ball of fire appeared in front of his open palms. The woman beside him widened her eyes in fear as she realized how stupid the man’s action was. However, she was too late. A trail of fire crawled toward us, ready to envelop us in its devastating heat.
I was incapable of doing anything due to my slow recovery, yet, somehow a metal bat appeared, rotating like a fan in front of us and blocking the fire. I glanced behind me, the foul mouth girl gritted her teeth as she extended her hand at the metal bat. At that moment, I realized that she was controlling the metal bat without even touching it.
Wiping my blood-stained lips, I lifted myself and rushed to the foul mouth girl. Against her wishes, I slid my hand underneath her and carried her away. I ran because I know that there’s no way I could even fight any of them. Clenching my teeth together, I couldn't believe that he took me down so easily.
Now, I need to focus on the more important goal: carrying her far away from the danger.
“Why did you run? We could have taken them down!” The girl scolded me.
“Oh yeah, with your bruised ankle?”
She groaned and slammed her fist against my chest. It wasn't because she was angry at me. It was because she was frustrated with herself. I could tell by the way she clenched her fist. The metal bat caught up to us and when I glanced behind, the two duos remained where they were. They watched as we left, not even bothering to follow.
“Where are you taking me?”
“To the hospital.”
“No!” She tried to wiggle out. Which makes it even harder to carry her.
“Because I can't.”
“But you need someone to take a look at your ankle.”
“Then find someone else!”
After a sudden stop, I glanced at the sky and let out a sigh. The foul mouth girl turned her gaze at me.
“Why did you stop?”
“Then think faster.”
“There’s someone I know, she can help you, or, at least, know someone who can.”
Our trip began again as I finalized my new destination. The stop was further than I anticipated. When I finally arrived, my legs were cramping up as I sweat furiously. The girl in my arms doesn't seem to even care for my tireless effort or my aching face. At least there's some relief in bringing her to safety.
“Where are we?”
“I’m not sure.”
“What do you mean ‘not sure’? You’re the one who brought us here.”
“This was supposed to be my aunt's place.”
An actual old-fashioned barbershop built between two boutiques stood in front of me. I don't even know that my aunt had proficiency in cutting hair. She snapped her finger in front of my face causing me to look down.
“I think. It’s better you lower me down.”
“Are you sure?”
“I wouldn't say it if I wasn't sure.”
“You could always lower the sass meter a few inches down,” I mumbled underneath my breath.
I carefully lowered her down while making sure her healthy leg was the one that supports her instead of the other. She stood with my help of course. Slow and steady, we moved forward toward the door. With a push against the handle, the door opened causing a bell to chime.
The place was empty except for a scary looking dude sitting at the end of the room. He had the appearance of a barber so, despite my unwillingness to speak to the terrifying-looking man, I had too. I walked toward him with the foul mouth girl in tow.
He turned at me with a death glare.
“I’m looking for - Kusagi Tashikawa.”
He grunted at first then nodded his head at the door beside him.
“Sorry to bother you. I’ll be moving along.”
I helped the girl toward the door, but the man stopped me. I looked at him, wondering what I did wrong. Surprisingly, he raised a jar full of lollipops at us.
“Is it for us?”
He grunted. I think it was yes.
“Thank you?” The girl and I took one for each of us and continued through the door.
On the other side of the room, I was greeted by the sight of a motor enthusiast’s heaven. Rusted motorcycle along with new one. Tools of different variety scattered on the workbench. A multitude of types of machinery I don't even know what its function was. Trying to find her in the garage seemed more difficult than I thought.
“Woah, is that 1973 Kawasaki Z2? And that is a modified BMW R1250GS, that motorcycle can go anywhere. But, it looked like it had been through hell.”
“Do you like bikes?”
“What kind of question is that? I live for them. One day. One day, I'm gonna afford them.”
“You're gonna love my aunt then. She probably owns most of the motorcycles here. Assuming if we could find her in here.”
Suddenly, a lullaby echoed from the open shutter. I followed the melodic hum until I found my aunt - she sat on a large tire. Out of nowhere, she huffed a short burst of smoke while unscrewing a nut on a motorcycle she’s working on.
Her gaze was something I never saw before, it was laced with some sort of mix between somber and melancholy and peace. My eyebrows furrowed but raised it back up as I knocked on the oil drum.
My aunt glanced around until she saw me with the girl. She immediately hid the cigarette and waved off the cloud of smoke around her.
“Kenn? What are you doing here, and who's that?”
“We need help.”
“Kenn, you’re bleeding. What’s going on? What happened?”
She rushed to me first. Upon a closer look, her pungent ashy scent lingered under my nose. I glanced away from the smell.
“You need to help her first. I think she dislocated her ankle, but I don't know.”
“Are you sure?”
Aunt let out a sigh before helping the girl lay her butt on the homemade wooden stool. I let the girl go and proceeded to walk toward the door with the bathroom sign at the end of the room. I saw my aunt throw a few worried glances at me, but I had to walk away.
The bathroom was cleaned, albeit looking like it doesn't age well. My gaze pierced my reflection in the mirror as I ran the tap water. With a splash of water, the dried blood was washed down. There’s a small cut on my lip. I tried touching the rim of my nose, and it stings a little. It wasn't broken, but there’s a cut inside. I kept washing the running blood away until it stopped bleeding.
The more I washed, the more frustrated I got.
It wasn't the blood - the pain - or even the crappy bathroom. I can't even do anything back then. I thought that I had the high ground, my logic was sound, there's no way they could do anything with all the surrounding eyewitnesses...but, he punched me. He goddamn punched me. I go down like a sack. I should have been more careful.
Like a distant flash of memories, my head throbbed as I heard a faint gunshot noise from far away. I remembered how he went down. The blood.
When will I learn to be more careful?
That agent who gut-punched me out of nowhere was trying to tell me something.
Is this it?
Two knocks snapped me back to reality. I turned the tap water off and wiped my face dry. With a quick breath in, I gathered myself before opening the door. My aunt was waiting on the other side with a face that has a lot of angry wrinkles.
“What in the hell is going on? You’re hurt and dressed like one of those good-doers. Does Catty know about this? About what you are doing? Did you finally snap? Do you need help? Oh my god, Catty gonna snap when she found out.”
All those questions passed by me as I stared at the box of cigarettes in her pocket. I gritted my teeth and relaxed my jaw again.
“I didn't know you smoke.”
“What?” My aunt looked at the pack of cigarettes in her pocket.
As she tried to hide her pack of cigarettes, I walked past her. She took my hand forcefully. I glanced behind me, and her furrowed eyebrows were telling me to stay.
“Talk to me.”
I pulled my hand away.
“Why does mom love books?”
“What kind of question is that?”
“Just answer it please.”
It may be a simple question, but I could tell that it was much more than that. My Aunt's gaze wandered frantically, avoiding my question, or trying to find a fitting lie.
“Catty loves books because she likes them. There's nothing wrong with it.”
I gritted my teeth.
“Fine--and you smoke... Is she fine?”
With a painful turn, Aunt averted her gaze.
“She’s fine. A small dislocation, but I popped it back in. Kenn, I know there’s something wrong with you, but if you don't want to tell me about it then it’s.... your call, damn it. I respect that. I truly do.”
“I know. And I know you will always get my back. Can I ask you a favour?”
“Don’t tell mom.”
“The things I do for you. She won't like it, but there’s nothing I can do about it. She's gonna be furious either way.”
After grabbing a clean cloth beside me, I wiped my face as I made my way to the girl. Before I walked to her, I had to make sure the bottom of my face was covered by my yellow and black chequered scarf, so my identity was hidden. She turned her glaring sight at me and let out a small groan as she adjusted herself to face me.
“I think we met before, but I’m certain that you didn't remember.”
“You're that rude guy from the hospital. I remember. So what are you, a hero?”
“Pretty much. Call me, Brightstar. What’s your name?”
“Brightstar? Sound stupid to me. My name is Ria. Ria Rougham.”
“Yeah, don't wear it out.”
A small laugh escaped me. It was infectious alright. It got Ria to let out a short faint chuckle.
“I like your name. It’s short, easy to say, and it’s cute. So care to tell me what was all of that about?”
She took her moment before answering my question.
“They were from a gang. Bad people hired to do bad things.”
“What kind of things?”
“They are kicking good people out of their home. Simply because they want the land to be developed into a shopping mall. My people have lived there since before we were even born. It’s not fair. And I will not let it be.”
Without hesitation, I extended my hand toward her.
“Let’s do something about it.”
Aunt grabbed me by the shoulder and turned me around.
“Brightstar... am I saying it right? Yeah, I think I did. Brightstar, you need to be careful. Don't bite off more than you can chew.”
“I can do this, okay?”
Aunt's furrowed gaze wandered at the girl before making its way to me, she then leaned closer beside my ear.
“Be careful with her, there’s something else she ain’t telling you.”
“Oh, like you?”
Like a dagger through butter, she looked at me with widened eyes. I backed away from her and turned to face Ria. I extended my hand to her.
“Can you walk?”
Ria took my hand and I helped her to stand. Her grip was trembling, but strong as she rose from her seat.
“Sure, but I need a little help.”
“No problem. I’ll do the heavy lifting, you just show me the way.”
We exited my aunt's garage using the same way we entered, passing by the scary man in the barbershop. I didn't even say any goodbye, but as I was leaving, my aunt chased after me.
I stopped right in front of the barber shop’s door and with a glance, I looked behind me. Aunt Kusagi was tightening her hands together and took a quick breath before speaking.
“You won't find my things back home. I moved out. I’ll be staying here starting today. I’m sorry that I had to tell you like this, but just know that it got nothing to do with you as to why I left. I love your mother, but we both are like oil and fire. Argument after argument, I think it’s better this way.”
With gritted teeth, I remained silent before starting to walk away.
“Come by anytime you want, okay?”
I had to reply even if it’s short, I don't know why I was so angry, but I don't want it to end the conversation with anger. I hope it’s enough, a simple ‘Okay’. Yet, deep down, I know it’s not enough. Her painful look was something I didn't want to see, so that’s why I didn't turn. It’s not your fault. My brain just decided to be like this. I need time. So I hope she understood my intention. Please just understand what I was doing.
We continued walking for about an hour until we arrived at a street that I've never been to before. The building opening such as windows and doors was blocked with makeshift barricades. Numerous crowds stood in front of another crowd, blocking the street. One of the crowd was regular everyday folks holding up protest signs while the others were hard hats wearing construction workers.
“This our home, we won't leave!” They were chatting along the lines of those words at the top of their lungs.
A police cruiser parked at the corner of the street and judging by the occupants inside, they didn't give a dime about the protest.
Suddenly, a massive fight broke out, I never saw what caused it, but there’s a boy between the crowds.
“Tommy!” shouted Ria as she tried to break away from me.
“I’ll go save him. You stay back.”
I leaned Ria against the concrete wall and ran at high speed into the violent crowds. A flying brick barely missed my head, I had to lower my chin down while raising both arms beside me to protect myself. The boy was almost within my grasp when someone fell on top of me. I pushed the unconscious man off and turned to the kid.
A man holding a baton was charging into a woman, but the woman managed to get out of the way in the last second. Instead of the baton hitting the woman, he missed entirely and was headed toward the kid.
The kid raised his gaze and met with mine. I showed him through my eyes and a smile that everything was safe. Snot and tears dripped down his face. With a trembling fist, I turned to the man and his widened eyes said it all; he was shocked to see me still standing. I took his baton away and threw it on the pavement. With a single raised hand, I enveloped the entire street with a bright light that stunned everybody near me.
As the light faded away, I found their gazes against me.
“Who are you?” asked the hardhat.
“They called me, Brightstar.”
“You don't know anything about what’s going here. You should leave.”
“Not after you leave this folk alone.”
A couple of glaring sirens rang as the police cruiser drove toward us.
“Alright people, please disperse.”
The hardhats let out a frustrated groan before ordering his men to walk away. As the construction workers left the vicinity, so did the crowds of normal folk. I turned to Ria, she nodded her head at me, but before I could join her, someone pulled on my jacket. I looked down and it was the kid.
“Thank you, Brightstar.”
A woman rushed in and embraced the kid tightly.
“Thank you. I don't know how he got here. I thought I left you back at your aunt’s house.”
“He must have sneaked out. I will keep a close eye on him next time. Thank you again, Brightstar.”
“No problem. Stay out of trouble.”
I tousled the kid’s hair before joining Ria. I helped Ria to walk, and we headed toward a building complex.
Its height was a dozen floors of apartments and home shops. The architecture itself was structured like a square fortress with a pool and a small park in the middle of it. A single healthy tree grew in the park while its branches were decorated with a dozen string flags and string lights that were tied from the surrounding balcony.
The community here was incredible, they had built vegetable gardens and maintained the livelihood of this building. People here seem to be helping one another without hesitation. I can tell that it’s more than being a good neighbour to them. The entirety of the people who live here, know each other very closely, and treat each other like family.
“Here it is. The heart of our fight. There are only a few buildings left that they haven't taken yet. And we will be damn if we let them take this place from us.”
“You’re okay! Everyone! Ria is here, and she’s okay!”
As the crowd gathered around us, they took Ria away from me and carried her like a saint toward the infirmary. It was surprising to find her being worshipped like a hero here. She must have done a lot for these people.
I looked around me. Despite the desperate situation they are in, this place wasn't as bleak as I thought it would be. Vibrant flags, lively green plants, and cheerful graffiti as if they are in their own ecosystem separate from the dreary city.