Chapter 10:

Brightstar Arc 2 (Chapter 5)

Brightstar: The Rising Superhero

When I came too, my sight was greeted by an unfamiliar ceiling. I tilted my head to the right and realized that I wasn't in my bedroom. Instead, what I saw was a spinach coloured drape around me and a heartbeat monitor attached to me by a long wire along with a hanging IV bag. Under me was a bed that wasn't soft and wasn't hard at the same time, but enough to feel the firmness that supported my entire back.Bookmark here

My mom sat beside me, her breath was faint and gentle. Her eyes laid shut. She was asleep. The bags under her eyes troubled my soul. She must have been awake the whole time until her body couldn't take it any more.Bookmark here

A hindrance around my neck. I reached out and found a collar around my neck. It had a sleek design so no pointed edge that can cause irritation, but this thing seems to be no ordinary collar. A device with an unknown function.Bookmark here

When I raised my right hand near my face, I found it odd. My hand is different. No scars, no blemishes, even the pigment was different from the rest of my body as I compared it to the skin on my chest.Bookmark here

I tried to lean forward, but my body was too exhausted, I had to lay back down with a quiet groan. My mom woke up from her peaceful slumber and our gazes met. I leaned away when she reached for me. I was expecting a hit, but no, she held my head and pressed it gently against her chest. Her heartbeat was soothing to hear, but her gladness pained me.Bookmark here

She leaned away then reached down and brought out a lunch box.Bookmark here

-I made you your favourite, dino nuggets, and octopus-shaped sausage. I know you won't admit you like them because you think you are too old for them, but I made them anyway. So eat up!-Bookmark here

With a smile, I took a piece of dino nuggets and ate it. There is a sense of familiarity to the taste, I could recall a time when I was too little to do anything, My mom was there so does… my dad. They were clearly happier back then even if they were watching me slobbering over a dino nuggie.Bookmark here

I took another one and a few pieces of crumbs were stuck on my cheek. My mom leaned closer with a napkin and wiped it off for me. “How long was I out?” I asked her.Bookmark here

-Three days.-Bookmark here

“What?! Wait...” I took a glance at the lunch, and back at my mom, “How did you know I was going to wake up today? You didn't know I was going to wake up today, didn’t you? You’ve been making the same lunch for three days. Just for me?”Bookmark here

She chopped the top of my head gently then tousled my hair. -Don’t overthink it. It doesn't matter to me if you are going to wake up today or not. It matters if you wake up without a proper meal to eat. So eat up. I don't want my precious baby to get hungry.-Bookmark here

I turned my gaze away, “Mom… I’m sorry.”Bookmark here

-Sorry for what? Getting yourself hurt? Lying to me?-Bookmark here

“I’m sorry for making you worry. But, the word ‘Lies’. We both lied to each other, don't we?”Bookmark here

Mom turned away from my question.Bookmark here

“I may be young, but I’m not blind. You were there, weren't you? You are the one who saved me. Using your power. You lied to me, and have been lying to me for my entire life.”Bookmark here

-Never!-Bookmark here

“Then tell me the truth! Who are the real you?”Bookmark here

The sound of the door open interrupted our moment, a doctor I knew walked in then turned to find me awake. It sent a shock into his system, and quickly he came to my side to check on my condition.Bookmark here

“Kenn, how are you feeling? Any sensation of pain?”Bookmark here

“Oh, Doc. I’m glad to see you.”Bookmark here

“I’m not. You almost sent me a heart attack. You came here unconscious and bloodied it as if you were just fighting a terrible battle.” The doc placed the tip of the stereoscope against my chest. It’s cold to the touch, but nothing that extreme. I got used to it over time.Bookmark here

“Do you have any idea what happened to me? The thing I remember was… my power.”Bookmark here

“Your power got out of control. Maybe because of overuse or perhaps even a random coincidence. Either way, you flew close to the sun just like Icarus.”Bookmark here

I caught a glance and a smile between my mother and the doctor. They seem to know each other, perhaps they got to bond during my comatose state. “I didn't even know a person's power could get out of control.”Bookmark here

“Oh, it happened. Rare, but it happened from time to time. It’s just that most of the accidents about them were kept in the dark by the government.”Bookmark here

“Why would they do that?”Bookmark here

“Simple. To avoid panic. Would you feel safe if you knew that your neighbour could spontaneously combust, burning half a block, or even rage uncontrollably like a beast, leaving a trail of bloody bodies behind?”Bookmark here

“I see the logic in it, but isn't the government lying to the people if they did that?” I raised an eyebrow at the doctor.Bookmark here

“It is. There’s nothing black and white in this world Kenn. We should change the topic. From what your family told me. You have the ability to change your arms into particles of light.”Bookmark here

“I just know about that. I didn’t know I could do that.”Bookmark here

“Please never do it again. I couldn't stress enough how dangerous it is.” His forehead scrunched together as he glared at me with a frown.Bookmark here

“I don't understand.”Bookmark here

“Look at your left hand.”Bookmark here

I lifted my left hand until it met my sight, “One. Two. Three. Four? Wait, four? Where’s… where’s my pinky?”Bookmark here

“You’re lucky you even had both arms after what happened. Turning your hands into particles of light may be a simple process, but the other way around? I’m just glad your body accepted the changes. Do you know what happens if your body rejects your arm? They might have died, and I might have had to cut off your arms. Do you even understand the complexity of a human body? The cells, the bloodstream, the nerve connection, and more. Luck may be on your side this time, but next time, it won't.”Bookmark here

I laid there, staring at my missing finger.Bookmark here

“Consider it a warning. Stop whatever you were doing and take it slow.”Bookmark here

“Stop, myself?”Bookmark here

The door opened again, a half rabbit woman, a vampire teen, and a punk girl entered the room. This almost sounds like a joke, but it isn't. Aunty Kusagi, Ria, and Jake, now dressed like a 70s Dracula gathered around me. Obviously, I stared at Jake with a raised eyebrow.Bookmark here

“Kenn, you’re awake!” Aunty Kusagi rushed to my side and delivered a tight hug.Bookmark here

“Aunt was really worried about you. She's been calling the hospital non-stop. Most of the nurses here couldn’t stand her any more.” Ria shook her head with a sigh.Bookmark here

“Hey, buddy. I know you’ll be fine.” Jake fist-bumped before backing away to give me some room.Bookmark here

“What with the vampire costume?”Bookmark here

“Oh. I just got off my part-time job. Too lazy to change.” Jake shrugged his shoulders.Bookmark here

“That’s not true. Yesterday he was dressed like a dragon. I think he quickly came here as fast as he could because he was worried about you,” commented Ria.Bookmark here

“Hey! Speak for yourself. You slept here for the past three days.”Bookmark here

“Why you! You better watch your mouth, sparkles!”Bookmark here

“Oh my god, you know I’m not that kind of vampire.”Bookmark here

Despite all this cheery atmosphere, this homely feeling, a cloud of grief hovered above me. Aunty noticed it when she looked into my eyes. “What’s wrong, Kenn?” asked my aunt.Bookmark here

“Nothing. I’m tired that’s all.” From the moment Aunt entered the room, she was displeased at the collar around my neck. “Aunt, what about you? What’s wrong?”Bookmark here

Aunty Kusagi clicked her tongues, showing her displease even more than before. She turned to my mom, “Catty, he shouldn't be wearing that thing. It’s wrong.”Bookmark here

-I know you hate the collar, but it’s keeping him safe.-Bookmark here

“What do you mean by safe?” I asked.Bookmark here

-The collar is a suppressor. It holds back your power at the cost of making you feel tired. Please just bear with it. I don't want to see you lose control again.-Bookmark here

“Those E-HAD guys. It was their idea, right? Two Paladins are guarding the hallway. Treating my own family like criminals. He didn't do anything for god’s sake.” Aunty clenched her fist and slammed it against the wall. “I don't understand why you would listen to them.”Bookmark here

-Enough! It’s for his own good and that is final. Stop making a fuss about it.- Mom glared at Aunt causing her to be more irritated, but she took a breath and calmed herself.Bookmark here

The door opened again and this time it was different. Not a family, nor a friend, not even an ally. A man who works in the shadows, a casual man, who seems normal, but isn't. A man who seems to know everything, and has been keeping a close eye on me. Bradford. I noticed my mom averted her gaze when he entered the room.Bookmark here

“Quite the mess you make, kid.” There it is his British accent.Bookmark here

“You snake!” Aunt stopped him from getting further into the room by standing in front of him.Bookmark here

“Actually, I am a human while you…”Bookmark here

“You what?!” Aunty readied her fist causing the air in the room to become heavy.Bookmark here

-Can you please stop making a ruckus? Can’t you see my son is still in recovery?-Bookmark here

“I’m fine, Mom, but she is right. Aunty shouldn't cause a scene here. There are still sick people here who deserve peace.”Bookmark here

After a sigh, Aunt backed away from the man while still keeping her glare on him. Bradford took out a piece of chewing gum and tossed it inside his mouth before making his way to the end of my bed.Bookmark here

“There’s no need for an introduction. Those who knew me, good for you, but those who didn't, it better that you don’t. Kenn, you know why I’m here right?”Bookmark here

“My licence?”Bookmark here

“Well, that’s one of them. There’s more though. I’m here to detain you under E-HAD’s order.”Bookmark here

“Don't you dare! If you as much as touch Kenn, I will bring hell down upon your master and your ratchet organization,” Aunt directed her threat at Bradford.Bookmark here

“She’s right. If you want to get to Kenn, you have to pass through me,” Jake took a step forward against Bradford with eyes of hardened resolve.Bookmark here

“Me too.” Ria took out her metal bat and gripped it tightly around her hands.Bookmark here

Bradford let out a sinister grin and rested his gaze on my mom. “What about you Catty? Are you going to stand up to me and be a hero, just like you were before? Or are you going to stay down and finally listen to what I got to say?”Bookmark here

My mom shrank in her seat while turning her sight away. There’s guilt in her eyes, I noticed it the moment Bradford walked in. They both had a history with each other.Bookmark here

-Sister, please leave this room with those two kids.-Bookmark here

Aunty raised her eyebrow in disbelief at my mom, “But, Catty?”Bookmark here

-Please. I need you to listen to me. Just this one time.- It was the first time I saw my mom beg. It pains my heart to see it, and I know my Aunt felt much worse than me.Bookmark here

“O-Okay. You two. We need to give them some space. You too, Doc.”Bookmark here

“W-Whuh, but?” Jake glanced between me, my mom, my aunt, and Ria then let out a defeated sigh before walking out of the door with Ria. Doc shrugged his shoulders and followed after them.Bookmark here

Aunt stopped at the doorway, “Catty… He isn’t....” She was about to say something, but held her tongue and left the room.Bookmark here

“Now that we can talk freely. High Command wants me to bring you in, kid. However, I don't want that and neither does' everyone. Even High Command doesn't want it even if they don't want to admit it. We both know why, don't we Catty?”Bookmark here

My mom nodded her head in response.Bookmark here

“What do you mean?” I asked.Bookmark here

“There’s a simple answer to that. They are afraid. Not of you, but at your family.”Bookmark here

“Why my family?” I turned away and looked at my mom, “What did he mean by afraid of our family?”Bookmark here

“Oh you didn't tell him, did you Catty?” He let out a troubled sigh while rubbing the temple of his head before continuing, “It’s not my place to meddle in your family affair, but your family has a few skeletons in their closet. So I will skip to the point. Breaking the guideline is one thing, but your power getting out of control? That’s a big no, no. Here, take a look.” Bradford tossed a couple of pictures onto my lap.Bookmark here

I looked closely at the photo, it was an apartment or used to be. Half the building was burned and all the stuff in my bedroom was toast. It was a total loss. All my belongings, my pictures, my clothes, my memories were eaten by the fire. Worst of all, it was my fault.Bookmark here

“I-I did this… What about the neighbours, are they fine? Did anyone get hurt?”Bookmark here

“You are lucky we were there. No one was harmed. You see now why they don’t want you roaming around? Powered is like a ticking time bomb, one mistake, one wrong move, boom. It's a rare thing to happen, but it can happen.”Bookmark here

“I didn't know.” I gripped the blanket over my laps.Bookmark here

“I’m not blaming you, kid. It’s in your kind’s nature. Powered has always been a problem, but I’m not here to preach about my opinion. I’m here to ease both sides. To put it simply, we can't detain you, but I can't go back empty-handed. So I have a proposition for you, the first one: it is the end of the line for you, kid. For the rest of your life, you need to wear that collar and never take it off, and promise me to never use your power until the end of your life.”Bookmark here

“What about the second one?”Bookmark here

Bradford nodded at me with a grin because he knew that I would ask about the second choice.Bookmark here

Mom directed her gaze at me with furrowed eyebrows. -What do you mean by the second? We should take the first one. You don't need to use your power. You can be a normal boy.-Bookmark here

“The second choice, please?” I had to ignore my mom and asked again.Bookmark here

“The second choice, ha? Easy, you can become a Hero again, but under my strict supervision and surveillance. If you were to say go out of control again, I will be there to contain it. High Command will have to approve of it because what choice do they have? Either let you loose or be under my supervision.”Bookmark here

“I’ll take the second one.”Bookmark here

-Stop.- Mom grabbed my wrist causing me to turn my head at her. -No way I’m letting you pick the second one. Are you mad? Are you trying to get hurt again?-Bookmark here

“It’s not about that.”Bookmark here

-Then what?-Bookmark here

Bradford stepped in, “You both can discuss later, but right now, here are my conditions. First, find someone to train you. Second, if you were to work for me, I will not have someone who questions my every decision. Understand? So in the meantime think about it and we'll be seeing each other for another… six months.”Bookmark here

He proceeded to turn and walked toward the door, but I stopped him, “Can’t you train me?”Bookmark here

“Sorry, kid. I don't train your kind. Besides, I doubt your aunt out there would let me. Whatever you pick, do know I don’t really care.” Bradford opened the door, leaving a gap for me to see through.Bookmark here

Two figures waited in the hallway, looming over the entrance like a guard dog. The short one to the left dressed in a dark large overcoat, hiding his or her face and body, but for a few seconds, my eyes caught something slithered inside his or her sleeve. It was too quick to see, but I'm certain it was a tentacle.Bookmark here

The second to the right, a slender man, wearing the same type of coat, but his clothes are made to fit his slender body. His short hair is messy black. There is a strange marking on his mouth, and that’s not the strangest part about him. He literally had no lips and for unknown reason kept chugging a water bottle.Bookmark here

Aunt mentioned ‘Paladins. Could it be those two, was the Paladins she mentioned? After Bradford left, the two strange figures followed him. Kusagi walked back into the room with Ria and Jake.Bookmark here

-I forbid you to become a hero.-Bookmark here

“Forbid? You can't do that! It’s my choice, not yours.”Bookmark here

-You don't have a choice in this matter. Sister, help me with this.-Bookmark here

“I heard the gist of it. Your mom is right. We don't want you to get hurt.” Aunty sat at the edge of my bed and placed her hand on my leg,Bookmark here

“Why? Tell me why?”Bookmark here

They both looked at each other. Those stares weren't a regular one, nor a shock one, it is clouded with secrecy. There’s something they are not telling me. It seems they are adamant about keeping that secret as they looked away then back at me.Bookmark here

-It doesn't matter why.-Bookmark here

A feeling boiled inside me, it is rising hastily causing an ache in my heart as if something was clawing at my soul. I felt a fit of unbridled anger begin to leak out. My mind is filled with the word ‘Lies’. I gritted my teeth and glared at both of them.Bookmark here

That is when for the first time in my life, I saw fear in their eyes, not a regular one. A deep obvious horror of me. They weren't just scared, they stood up and took a step back. I turned to Ria and Jake, and even they were terrified of me. I didn’t understand until I looked into the reflection on the metal railing beside me.Bookmark here

My anger quickly washed away and replaced by my own fear. I remembered the last time I felt this. I remembered that face. A flash of my bloody fist and the sound of it hitting against a slab of meat kept repeating until Jake snapped me back when he embraced me within his arms. A tear ran down my cheek.Bookmark here

“I-I’m sorry. I didn't mean to get…”Bookmark here

“It’s okay. No one got hurt. It wasn't your fault. It’s okay, trust me.” Jake's soothing voice brought me back from my prison of fear.Bookmark here

“You were right, Catty.” Aunty looked at my mom with worry in her gaze.Bookmark here

-I don't want to be right... We need to talk,- gesture Catty while inviting Aunty Kusagi to follow her. She turned her attention to Jake, -Please take care of him. We’ll be back in a minute.-Bookmark here

Jake nodded his head. Both of them left the room leaving me, Ria, and Jake alone. Ria slowly took a spot beside my bed while hesitantly wondering if she could place her hand on me. She took another look at me, this time I felt her sympathy. She gently placed her hand on me.Bookmark here

“You don’t have to think about it, Kenn. We could have a rest first until you are back on your feet. What do you think?”Bookmark here

“That sounds great… Thank you, Jake. You always know what I want.”Bookmark here

“Not always, buddy.”Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

A few weeks later.Bookmark here

Now donned in my regular clothes, I sat on a wooden bench under a tree with split trunks, overarching branches, and vibrant green leaves. I was waiting for my friend and family to finish packing my stuff. I did offer my help with the task, but they politely refused and kept saying I should take it easy. All the wounds my body sustained had healed in record time thanks to Doc.Bookmark here

The breeze brushes softly against the leaves. It’s quiet here, no soul in sight. A perfect place to relax, but truth be told, all I did was relax in the past few weeks. I grew a bit sick of it by now.Bookmark here

“Just in time.”Bookmark here

I turned to the right and saw a familiar dark-skinned older man walking toward me with a thermos.Bookmark here

“Mr Aariv, what are you doing here?”Bookmark here

“I’m here to see you. It looks like I made it just in time.” Mr Aariv let out a sigh as he took a seat right next to me.Bookmark here

“I thought you were busy with school and stuff?”Bookmark here

“Not that busy, but getting a day off is a hassle. The principal is…”Bookmark here

“Dumbass?”Bookmark here

Mr Aariv laughed, “Close enough. Don't tell him I agree to that.”Bookmark here

“I won't if you won’t tell him I said it.”Bookmark here

“You got yourself a deal. Ah, I miss this, the back to back banter.”Bookmark here

“You don't mean that. Other kids have so much better personality than me.”Bookmark here

“None like you. So, shall we start?” Mr Aariv popped the thermos open. Inside the lids slid two cups like a nesting Russian doll. He poured one for him and another for me then placed the thermos beside him.Bookmark here

“Therapy day, now? Is that why you came here?” I held the warm cup between my hands. My eyes darted to my missing pinky before raising the tea back to Mr Aariv.Bookmark here

“As I said before, I came here to see you, but now that we’re here, I think you might want someone to talk with. So I asked you again, how are you?” He leaned back after taking a short sip.Bookmark here

“To tell you the truth. Horrible. A few weeks earlier I lost control of my power. Burned down my apartment. Almost lost my arms. Actually lost a pinky. My mom wants me to stop using my power and be normal. To top it off, everyone agrees with her except for Ria.”Bookmark here

“Quite the week you had, but I sensed something else you aren't telling me.”Bookmark here

“My mom… has power. I saw it. Still, she tried to hide the truth from me. I’m surprised and… angry. I can't believe she and my aunt lied to me. I don't know why she had to lie. I’m her son. I deserve to know the truth.” My grip tightened around the cup.Bookmark here

“I see. So you never lied to your mom before?” Mr Aariv raised an eyebrow at me.Bookmark here

“I-I lied to her before about the superhero’s thing, but...”Bookmark here

“Tell me the truth, you aren't mad about the lies, aren't you?”Bookmark here

“I’m not okay with it. I understand she had her reason. What I don't understand is why she doesn't want to talk about it. Is she ashamed of it? Is she afraid? Is there some kind of secret rule or something? I need an answer, that's it. I don't understand why she can't trust me with it.”Bookmark here

“You can't empty a pool with a single bucket. Do you understand?”Bookmark here

“I do. Deep down, I know she needs time even though I don't want to admit it.”Bookmark here

“Correct. Just like you need time to open yourself up to me after the accident.”Bookmark here

The accident… the moment he brought up the word, my mind flashes a scene where my hands are bloodied. I took a sip of the tea to wash away the bad taste in my mouth and took a long deep breath in then exhaled furiously. “I know. I’m stupid, aren’t I? I kept nagging about my mom when I’m even more troublesome than her. It happened again… I almost lost control. Why is it so hard?”Bookmark here

“You're not that bad. You’re just a teen, trying to make sense of everything while also trying to find yourself in this world.”Bookmark here

“Mr Aariv, I need your opinion. You know me much better than myself. Should I stop using my power and be normal?”Bookmark here

“Normal… ha? We both have a different interpretation of normal.” He raised his gaze to the tree’s crown. “What a beautiful tree. I believe it’s an Elm tree.”Bookmark here

I followed his gaze. The rays between the leaves shimmered when a breeze passed by and shook the tree. The shades kept the area cool, but a few occasional brushes of air let the warm lights pass through and rest on my skin. This spot is truly blessed by the trees. It’s almost perfect in its imperfection.Bookmark here

“I don't know what to do,” those words escaped my lips.Bookmark here

“I think you do. The only thing you need to know is the reason why you pick that choice, and to do so you need inner strength. My advice is to look deep down inside yourself, and when the time is right, let it all out. Make them acknowledge your reason.”Bookmark here

“Easier said than done.” I let out a half-hearted sigh.Bookmark here

It came out of nowhere, a firm yet gentle palm rested on my head. It was a bit heavy, but I felt Mr Aariv held back the weight of his arm. He’s not the type to prefer human contact. In fact, I’ve seen him avoid any unnecessary handshake even though it was meant as a common courtesy. Still, he tends to avoid it causing people to view him as a rude person.Bookmark here

However, when he did, it was never rough or forceful, it was gentle, soft, and caring. I remembered the first time he carried me to the nurse’s office. The familiar lavender musk still hanged subtly from his arm. The only way I could smell it if I were close enough, and I don't think many people had the privilege to do so due to his strange habit of avoiding contact.Bookmark here

“It’s okay if you pick the first option. I’m still proud of you regardless.”Bookmark here

“How is it that you know me so well?”Bookmark here

“I wasn't lying when I said you were my favourite.” Mr Aariv took a sip of tea while we both enjoyed the solemn peace and the beautiful view.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.