Chapter 11:

Brightstar Arc 3 (Chapter 1)

Brightstar: The Rising Superhero

I took a long sigh before I exited the car. Never had it crossed my mind that I had to go to school after what happened, but here we are. My good old school towered over me like an impending doom as if this was the hardest thing I had to face. Another sigh escaped me as I turned around to see my mom in her old Prius.Bookmark here

-Don’t go anywhere after school. I got a surprise for you. So wait here, and don’t go anywhere.-Bookmark here

“I get it, mom. You don’t need to say it twice. I’ll wait here after school. It’s not like I’m going to do something crazy again. I already promised you that.”Bookmark here

-Don’t forget to invite your two friends.-Bookmark here

“What for?”Bookmark here

-Just do it. Your aunt is also going to join us too.-Bookmark here

“Next you’re going to tell me that Grandma is going to join us.”Bookmark here

-Don’t be ridiculous. She won’t, but she did call. She said she missed you a lot.-Bookmark here

“She did? Well, tell her I miss her too. Alright, I better get going.” I was about to turn around when mom tapped the side of the car causing me to direct my attention back to her.Bookmark here

My mom pointed to her cheek with a big smile. I snickered a laugh before leaning down and laid a kiss on her cheek. Unsatisfied by my half-hearted attempt, she pulled my head down and laid her lips on my cheek. All those eyes watching me right now. Well, it’s not like this was the first time I got to be a laughing stock.Bookmark here

After she let go of me, I groaned, “Mom…”Bookmark here

She waved her hand at me, before gesturing to, -I love you.-Bookmark here

“Me too.” I turned away with a slouch and started walking. She left the school driveway in her car.Bookmark here

The whispers started as usual as their judging sight set on me. However, I will not let them have power over me. It’s bad enough with the suppressor collar around my neck, but thank god for this turtle-neck hiding it from prying eyes. I slapped my face together and took a deep breath in then released it.Bookmark here

“Hey Kenn, you’re early today…” It is certainly a warm well-known voice. A welcome one. I’m glad he’s here.Bookmark here

“Hey, Jake. How are you.… What is that?”Bookmark here

I cannot believe my eyes right now, but there’s a pair of fox ears on Jake’s head. My eyes darted around me, trying to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming. I pinched my cheek to snap myself out of the dream. However, here I am. What my eyes saw was real as the sun itself above me.Bookmark here

I sighed. “What are you wearing?”Bookmark here

Jake, himself, sighed. “I lost a bet.”Bookmark here

A few snickers of laughter passed by us as the other students headed toward the entrance. Jake looked away with reddened cheeks and a frown while I tried to hold my laugh. Jake glared at me then pinched the bridge of his nose to calm his nerves.Bookmark here

“Just, don’t. Please,” said Jake.Bookmark here

“A’ight, but I got to ask.”Bookmark here

“It’s because he lost a bet!” A rugged and feminine voice joined in our conversation from behind me.Bookmark here

My shoulders perked up the moment she laid her palms on me and Jake then pulled us closer until our shoulder met. I glanced at the chummy girl beside me causing my eyebrows to raise with a jolt of happiness.Bookmark here

It was Ria, in the same school uniform as I was. Except for a few of her own minor adjustments to suit her punk and goth style. The changes weren't overt enough to get in trouble with the school staff but still managed to fit her own tone and gave her the freedom to express herself.Bookmark here

“Ria?”Bookmark here

“Hey, don't wear my name out.”Bookmark here

“You’re at my school, how?”Bookmark here

“What do you mean how? She goes to this school. It’s just she has been skipping class for a long time,” answered Jake with a shrug.Bookmark here

“Wait, what?” I raised both my eyebrows at them.Bookmark here

Ria broke off and did a little spin. Fluttering her skirt while giving us a full view of her school uniform. “So what do you think?”Bookmark here

“You look… surprisingly good.”Bookmark here

“Pfft, bland. Don't look at me like that. You ain't my type,” scoffed Jake while shrugging his shoulders.Bookmark here

That comment ticked off Ria causing her to hit Jake in his shoulder. The fox-eared boy yelped in pain and ran behind me to take cover. I was put in between their quarrel. With a smile, I tried to intervene as Jake pushed out his tongue at Ria which caused her to be more irritated by the boy. She chased Jake all around me until he caught him and started whomping his butt.Bookmark here

I couldn't help but smile watching both of them. A person who just met them would certainly mistake them for siblings. I’m glad both of them got along well even though it’s going to get noisier with the two of them near me.Bookmark here

“Okay. Okay. Stop. I yield,” pleaded Jake.Bookmark here

“Asswipe.”Bookmark here

“You do know you hit like a dude?”Bookmark here

“Said the asswipe who lost the bet.”Bookmark here

“Wait, what's this about a bet?” I intruded in.Bookmark here

Jake groaned before explaining, “We were at the arcade and I thought how about a challenge.”Bookmark here

“When was this? And what did you challenge her to?”Bookmark here

“A fighting game, Street Brawler 2081. I thought I could beat her. Damn her, and her combos.” Jake shook his head while letting out another sigh.Bookmark here

“How good were you, Ria?”Bookmark here

“Very good. I used to hang out at the arcade back when I used to skip school.”Bookmark here

“Hoho, I need to test this myself. So how about another challenge? But this time, you’ll be fighting me.”Bookmark here

“Oh snap, Ria. You’re gonna get it now.”Bookmark here

“Hush, asswipe. I accept, Kenn. Same terms, or are you chicken?” She glanced at the fox ear on Jake’s head before returning to me.Bookmark here

“Gladly.” With a smirk, I said it with enough confidence it could drown a man.Bookmark here

Jake leaned to the side with a raised eyebrow. His gaze pierced through me, and so I turned around wondering what had caught his attention.Bookmark here

Golden and radiant as the sun itself. Her long locks fluttered in the wind as she ran toward us. Wearing the same uniform as us without any alteration, proper and new could be she’s new here. Suddenly, she took a short hop off the ground, and while in mid-air, she popped two wheels out under her heels. Her eyes closed which were reckless while she bit her bottom lip. But before my thought went further she landed on her wheels then spun causing her skirt to flutter and halted in front of me with both arms extended to the sides.Bookmark here

Her iris were the same colour as her hair, golden and glimmering. Judging from her reddened cheeks, her dramatic entrance obviously was something she has never done before. The truth was I don't even know who this girl was, and certainly, I haven’t got a clue why she did it.Bookmark here

“I admit that was cool, but can I help you?” I asked her.Bookmark here

Just like how she appeared, she left the scene with more questions unanswered while hiding her face behind her reddened hands.Bookmark here

“Wait?” It was too late, she already went inside the school.Bookmark here

“I know I haven't been to school, but did the students get weirder?” asked Ria.Bookmark here

“Nope, I don't think so. I am at a loss just like you,” I reassured Ria.Bookmark here

“And they say I'm the strange one,” sighed Jake.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I don't think so, you still got a fox ear on your head,” chimed Ria.Bookmark here

Jake sighed before heading toward the entrance with a slump. “God damn bet.”Bookmark here

School started as normally as it could after what happened, Jake went to his classroom while Ria and I went to ours. I find it rather nice to know the seat beside me that has been empty since the start of the semester belonged to Ria all along.Bookmark here

She waved at me before reaching into her bags and took out her textbook. I never saw Ria this excited before, but I’ve only known her for a couple of weeks now. Also, we barely meet outside the hospital. It has been a while, but we all should hang out together.Bookmark here

The same old grumpy teacher, Mr Don entered the classroom. The students quickly took their seats before the roll call. I didn't pay much attention to the class, instead, my gaze went through the window beside me. An ache emerged, but it didn't come from any injury I knew. The tinge of pain came from the centre of my chest, to be more precise, my heart. I never noticed it before, things were somewhat different from the normal I used to have before everything. It’s a lot... dull.Bookmark here

“Before we start our class, I have an announcement. From our neighbouring city, Eclipsa. Let’s give a warm welcome to our new student, Juliet Tricku.” Mr Don makes way for the new student.Bookmark here

“Pshh, Kenn, are you seeing this?” whispered Ria.Bookmark here

I turned my gaze back at the front of the classroom. My eyebrows raised when I saw the same girl from earlier in the morning. Blond hair that passed her shoulder, pastel white skin with a few freckles over the ridge of her nose, and two golden irises piercing through me. It must have been a fleeting thought because, for some reason, her gaze never went elsewhere except for me.Bookmark here

Our gaze met, and somehow her eyes got bigger with excitement. I turned away my gaze, back at the window. In the reflection, I saw her delighted expression dropped causing a pang of weird guilt to rise inside me. After letting out a sigh, I shook my feeling away.Bookmark here

“Why don't you introduce yourself to the class?”Bookmark here

“My name is Juliet Tricku, but you can call me Julie. I used to attend Eclipsa High school. It’s a pleasure to get to know you all.”Bookmark here

“Okay. Juliet, was it? You can pick any empty seat in the class. We will be continuing our lecture today.”Bookmark here

Despite the plethora of empty seats in the classroom, she still took a seat right behind me. I glanced at Ria, she faintly nodded her head at the girl behind me with a smirk. I don't even need to head around to know that she was staring at me. I let out another sigh. I’m pretty sure I never met her, but why does she seem so hell-bent on focusing all her attention on me?Bookmark here

The class went on like usual. No matter how weird it seemed, I tried to ignore whatever or whoever behind me and I did. Not a single glance I ever cast on her and I amend on doing it so until she gets bored. It’s better this way, it’s not a good image for her to get herself involved with me. I have a certain infamous reputation here, one that people like to avoid. So if she wanted a friend here, she better stay away from me.Bookmark here

The school bell rang, Mr. Don left the classroom first, only then the students were allowed to leave as a sign of respect. After 90 per cent of my classmates left, a few 10 per cent left. Those who are left are the popular girls, the nerd, or what I would like to call them: entertainment enthusiasts, Ria, and me. Wait, there is another person I forgot. I glanced at the reflection beside me, and she wasn't there. The strange girl wasn't there. She left. That’s good, it means my plan works.Bookmark here

“Ria?” I called to her as she rummaged through her bag, looking for something.Bookmark here

“What's up?”Bookmark here

“What are you looking for?”Bookmark here

“Oh, nothing.” She took out a small bag of nicely wrapped cookies.Bookmark here

“Did you baked those?”Bookmark here

“Yes, and no. Aunty Kusagi helped me.”Bookmark here

That’s why it looks slightly burnt, Aunt never has been great at cooking. I once saw her light an egg scramble on fire while cooking on low heat. It’s not just that one instance, somehow she managed to light an onion on fire while trying to chop it in half. She wasn't even near any freakin’ stove. Since then, never again has Aunt Kusagi was allowed to use our apartment’s kitchen.Bookmark here

“Who is it for anyway?”Bookmark here

She let out a sigh, “It’s for them.” Her eyes darted at the group of popular girls.Bookmark here

“What?”Bookmark here

“I know. I know. I’m nothing like them, but I’m trying okay?” She pouted with blushed cheeks.Bookmark here

“Trying to be popular?”Bookmark here

“No. Mr Aariv said this was the next step for me to better myself. I don't want…” Her put turned to a frown as she let her gaze down. “To be that girl who felt nothing but hatred and anger. So I’m trying to better myself. For my family and friends. There’s nothing wrong with that, okay?”Bookmark here

“Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s admirable you’re making such a huge leap to be better.” I rested my chin on my knuckle and smiled at her. “Kinda make me feel a bit jealous of you.”Bookmark here

“Jealous of me?”Bookmark here

“Yep. I tried. Twice. Baseball and Superhero, but the further I got, I always returned here. It’s not like I didn't try. I did my damn best.” I let out a tired sigh while my body felt heavy for no reason. “Maybe I’m just cursed to fail no matter what I do. Everything I ever did means nothing now, I guess.” It could be my way of coping with it, but in the face of my own despair, I let out a small chuckle.Bookmark here

“Don’t say that.”Bookmark here

“Huh?” I turned my attention back to Ria, and for no reason, a tinge of anger was there along with a frustrated expression.Bookmark here

“Never say that. Everything you did meant a lot to me. You save me without a single doubt. I almost lost everything, yet you came back. You had no reason to, and I even pushed you away, but you were there.” Her hand closed into a fist. “I know you are frustrated because of the choice you had to make. Trust me, I feel the same way as you. I know you will be great as a Superhero, but you pick your family first, and I admired that choice. So don't you worry about the future because I know you are going to do great things and I will be there supporting you with everything I have.”Bookmark here

Her eyes... It wasn't a spur of the moment. She really meant it when she said it because her eyes told me so. My heart becomes lighter because of it. She really is something else. All that brooding over my own choice was just a waste of time. My career as a superhero did end early, but not without gaining another true friend and I couldn't wish for more than that.Bookmark here

I slapped her shoulder causing her to squeak, “Thanks for that. I never thought I needed it, but I love being wrong. Now it’s your turn. Go for it. Jake and I will be here for you no matter what happened.”Bookmark here

Ria stretched her shoulders together and raised herself with a determined smile. She took a deep breath in then walked toward them with the cookies in her hands. Ria introduced herself to them. They are talking now. Okay, they accepted the cookie. I never thought I would be this nervous watching Ria talk to other girls.Bookmark here

Seems like it’s going fine then one of them sneakily pointed at me. I pretended not to notice them, but I caught a few of their glances. They are laughing now except for Ria. Wait, they stopped. The mood turned sour all of a sudden. They dropped the bags of cooking inside the rubbish bin. I almost left my seat when I saw Ria’s hand behind her, gesturing at me to stay calm. They left Ria behind and exited the classroom without a glance. Her gaze dropped while her hand shuddered a bit.Bookmark here

With gritted teeth, I stood up and walked to Ria. “Are you okay?”Bookmark here

“I’m fine. I didn't know high school girls can be so mean.”Bookmark here

“What did they say?”Bookmark here

“Something bad about my look, about you, and about the cookies.”Bookmark here

“Ria…” I lowered my chin and tightened my fist. “It was my fault. I should have warned you to stay away from me. I think we shouldn’t hang out any more… if you want to make more friend.”Bookmark here

“Nonsense! I don't want to be friends with them. Bunch of basic chicks who do nothing but gossip and belittle people.” Ria turned to me with a large smile, “I make a good call being your friend. Way much better.”Bookmark here

I let out a small chuckle, “They don’t deserve you.”Bookmark here

“Absolutely. I am the one and only, Ria Rougham.”Bookmark here

Perhaps it was instinct, perhaps it was a memory buried deep inside me, a flash of blood on my very hand caused me to grit my teeth with annoyance. My hand reached down the dustbin then pushed the sticky leftover, and pulled out the bag of cookies. Ria turned to me with a raised eyebrow. “Such a waste,” I said before unwrapping the bag and tossed one of the cookies inside my mouth.Bookmark here

“Did you just eat that?”Bookmark here

I swallowed it down like it was nothing, “Yep. Oh my god, this tastes good. I thought it was burnt but no… just the right amount of flavour. By the way, chocolate is my favourite, so I’m not wasting fresh-baked, perfectly made cookies.”Bookmark here

“That doesn’t mean you should eat them from the rubbish.” Ria massaged the temple of her head as she groaned with a smile.Bookmark here

I shrugged my shoulders. Ria slipped her arms around mine and leaned her chest against my rib to take one of the cookies from my grasp. Without hesitation, she popped one into her mouth and nodded her head while savouring the taste. We started walking out of the classroom and down the hallway.Bookmark here

“Did my aunt really help you make this?”Bookmark here

“Oh hell no. I don’t know how, but the moment she poured the flour into the bowl, the whole thing went up in flame. At that moment, I knew she had to stay away, but she did help read the recipe for me though. So I would say that she helped. A bit.”Bookmark here

“I think she’s cursed by the cooking gods.”Bookmark here

“Could be. Are we going to get a stomach ache after eating this?”Bookmark here

“I hope not. I don’t want to go to the hospital again. I’m tired of the test and food, but not the hot nurse though.” I said it and immediately regretted it when Ria pinched my arm.Bookmark here

“Ouch. Ouch. Hey, be careful. I’m damaged goods.”Bookmark here

“Whoops, sorry. I forgot. Passed me one of the cookies.”Bookmark here

“Hell no, I want them.”Bookmark here

“So do I, and by the way I made them. It’s all within my right.”Bookmark here

“Finders, keepers.”Bookmark here

“Are you really that desperate for a rubbish cookie?”Bookmark here

Ria looked at me with a straight face then we burst into laughter after a couple of seconds. We both looked like a mad couple, bickering in the hallway and laughing. However, we barely noticed anything happening around us, and we both are fine with that. We ate the cookies as we headed toward the roof where Jake was waiting for us.Bookmark here

When we opened the door to the roof, we saw Jake staring at the sky. Ria and I walked to his side and took a seat. “What are you looking at?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Is it me? I thought the weather guy said it was going to be cloudy, but I didn’t see a single cloud today. Weird.”Bookmark here

“They probably got it wrong.” I shrugged my shoulder then leaned against the fence.Bookmark here

“Right…” Jake sighed.Bookmark here

“Why do you care so much anyway?” Ria asked.Bookmark here

“I like to prepare, that's all. In ‘prepare’ I mean I don't want to get wet if it starts raining. Here green tea and egg dipped in Mayo sandwich just how you like it.” Jake handed Ria a can of green tea.Bookmark here

“Aww, thanks, asswipe.”Bookmark here

“No biggie.”Bookmark here

“What about me?” I raised my eyebrow at him.Bookmark here

“Oh, you didn't bring any lunch? That’s weird, you always bring your own lunch.”Bookmark here

“I brought it, but I forgot it in my classroom. I was just enjoying this rubbish cookie. It's so good. You want some?” I showed him the cookie. “It’s still fresh.”Bookmark here

“Fresh out of rubbish? No, thanks. Besides, it looks burnt, whoever made it probably doesn't know how to cook.” Ria jabbed Jake in the arm. “Ouch! What was that for?”Bookmark here

From a frown soured into a pout, she crossed her arms and turned away. I shook my head disappointedly at Jake. Sometimes he is attentive, but sometimes he’s a goddamn idiot. This time he was the latter.Bookmark here

“What did I do?” Jake turned to me, looking for an answer.Bookmark here

“You’re an idiot,” I answered.Bookmark here

“Me? You are both a bunch of jerks. I barely did anything and I’m the idiot. Pfft. Uncivilized people.” He kept on grumbling his annoyance until I cut in.Bookmark here

“Alright! I finally figured it out.” Now on my two feet and a finger raised at the sky. I returned to them with a smirk on my face. My head is brimming with a single idea to jump-start my life again.Bookmark here

Jake shook his head with a sigh because he knew what’s going to happen next while Ria glanced between me and the bald boy beside her with a look of confusion. With a grin on my face, I backed away with a large grin and posed with my arms crossed together.Bookmark here

“I am gonna be a breakdancer! Hit it, Jake!”Bookmark here

“A what?” blurted Ria.Bookmark here

After taking out his phone, he played a song of his choosing then stood up and posed with me. We began by tapping our feet to the rhythm of 'Beggin by Madcon'. Jake took a step back with his hands raised and hyping me up as I moved my body to the music.Bookmark here

Ria turned to Jake with a confused smile, the boy replied with a shrug and a tone-down half frown. They both had no idea what's going to happen. Of course, they don't, I just make it up on the spot, and now I'm gonna own up to it. I knew Jake would go along, he's my best friend after all.Bookmark here

I didn't know I had it in me, but after I shuffled my feet and waved my arms, I realized I could actually breakdance. Time for the finale, I backflipped then hoped I could support my entire weight with a single arm.Bookmark here

Unfortunately for me, it didn't go as I planned. My hand slipped causing my entire body to fall. My shoulder slammed against the concrete floor then the back of my head and finally the rest of my body.Bookmark here

"Kenn!" Jake and Ria shouted in unison.Bookmark here

"Brightstar!" In the distance, behind the entrance to the roof, peeking behind the corner with a worried face was the same weird girl I met this morning.Bookmark here

"Juliet?" I groaned out through the pain, surprised to see her here. "Wait, what did you call me?"Bookmark here

Out of nowhere, Juliet took off into a sprint and ran downstairs. Jake and Ria looked at each other before casting their gazes on me. There's no way I heard that wrong. I need to confirm and luckily Jake pointed it out for me.Bookmark here

"I think she called you, Brightstar."Bookmark here

"Oh shit," said Ria.Bookmark here

Oh shit, indeed. Pushing myself off the floor, I took off into a run. Down the stairs, skipped a couple of steps then vaulted over at the end of the concrete railing. With a quick halt, I turned to the window and clicked my tongue. She appeared from the entrance and ran toward the baseball field.Bookmark here

I didn't expect her to be this fast. I glanced down the window noticing a tree right below. It’s tall enough to reach the second floor, but the branches are hidden behind the foliage. There’s an 80/20 per cent chance I will miss the branches and plummet against the brick path. I raised my gaze back at the girl, if I don't make my choice now I'm going to lose her.Bookmark here

Scratching my head with a groan at first while stretching my neck. I flung the window open. A few couples of steps away from the window build my resolve. Here goes nothing.Bookmark here

Like a plague in the middle of summer, Mr Aariv appeared in the worst time possible, “Ah, Ken. We are still having that session, right?”Bookmark here

I don't even care any more. Besides, nothing can stop me now. I took off full speed and leapt through the window. What followed my jump was Mr Aariv's surprise shouts as he watches me exit the window with a big smile on my face.Bookmark here

Angling my body, so my body would aim for the tree was easy, but here comes the hard part. My feet went through the foliage first, breaking the tiny branches and as my head passed through the same hole I made. I finally got a better view of the branches. Lucky me as one of the thick branches were in my way, I extended both hands out.Bookmark here

Grabbing the branch, I felt the dozen prickling splinter going through my palms. My momentum was redirected forward, and after I reached an angle I desired, I released my grip and then launched myself forward. Now for a perfect land or at least what I hope for, instead, what I got was a reckless roll that turned into a sprint.Bookmark here

Juliet turned around the corner only to be blinded by a sudden gust of wind.Bookmark here

Slam!Bookmark here

The breeze dissipated, I was over Juliet with both my hands against the wall behind her. Trapping her between my arms, but still avoiding any unnecessary touching.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.