Brightstar: The Rising Superhero
“Kenn, I believe in you!” That voice was Jake. He was cheering for me.
“KENN! YOU GOT THIS!” That was Ria.
“From inside, Kenn!” That was Aunty.
“Kenn…” That was Mom. I lifted my gaze to meet her. She is waiting for me.
I closed my eyes and pushed myself on four. My teeth clenched against each other as I pulled all my strength into a single core. I used the hardened core to stand up. Sure, I was barely able to stand up without shaking, but it was enough for me. Enough for me to look into my mother’s eyes and unlatched the collar around my neck.
A bright glow expanded from me. Under my breath, I mutter, “Stardust Step.”
A moment of complete silence dawned over us. A glimpse at the door revealed the gang’s fearful face. It must have been a shock to them when I took off the collar. However, one badass Aunt had a different expression on her face. A proud smirk as she looked at me with her arms crossed.
It must have been like a snap, a powerful one. Enough to shatter the wall behind my mom and the ballistic window. Before I even managed to blink my eyes, I was already within my mother’s embrace. My heart pounded against my ribs despite my willingness to stay calm.
My face contorted in confusion after I looked behind me and saw the trail of destruction I left including a pair of torn shoes. The same confusion snapped my power out. Returning me to normal. Fear crawled over my skin as Doc’s warning of using my power again might kill me blasted against my mind.
However, a gentle caress on my head snapped the thought away. I lifted my chin and met my mother’s gaze. A gentle calming smile soothed my trembling heart. She had managed to root my soul from being overwhelmed by fear.
An aura of silver light disappeared into thin air. Her power returned to her, while her chain tattoos slithered back around her neck. Leaving my normal mom behind.
Fast was an understatement, I didn’t just go fast I went light speed. Yet, my mom managed to catch me without being affected. It finally dawns on me that nobody could defeat her, ever, but with all this power, why did she quit being a superhero?
“Mom-” Before I could ask her a question, my heart tightened as if a hand was clenching it. A burst of blood escaped when a terrible cough crawled out from my throat. What followed afterwards was a piercing headache and total darkness.
An ominous room, poorly lit, and a single long mahogany table stood in the middle. Three leather office chairs for three individuals have always been there and the amount will never change. There will always be three, not four, not two, three is the ironclad rule. Three individuals, their figure was cloaked by the dark robe they wore. Furthermore, each one of them had a thick veil over their heads, a way to hide their identity.
“This meeting will be on the record. We are The High Table. Agent, state your ID, name, and rank,” said the figure in the middle with a monotone voice.
“42567-A. Agent Bradford. Rank: Inquisitor,” answered the man with a British accent after he stepped into the dim light, revealing himself with pursed lips.
“Agree to begin?” asked the figure in the middle.
“By all means before the light drowns into the horizon,” answered the figure to the left in a tone of elegance and femininity.
However, the figure to the right only groans, in a deep and rough tone. Still, the figure in the middle understood that groan and proceeded to open the file on her deck. After a minute of reading, the figure raised her gaze to meet with Bradford.
A flash of light caused a picture of a young teen with black short hair and white highlights to display behind Bradford. Afterwards, several individuals' portraits were up on the display. Each one of them was a part of Tashikawa’s family.
“It states here, you decided to release the suspect, do you confirm?”
To the right, the figure grunted.
“You, Mr Bradford had released the suspect upon knowing fully that the suspect had broken several rules. You were tasked to bring him in. By releasing the suspect, you committed several offences such as negligence of your duties, disobedience of a direct order. Causing potential harm to people, and many more listed in this file.”
“Calm my brethren, truly this soul has a convincing reason for his action. Please, Mr Bradford, let you shine a light for us, so we may understand the predicament you had before releasing the boy,” said the left figure.
Bradford couldn’t help but let out a small chuckle. It caused the figure to the right to grunt. Recomposed himself, he nodded apologetically. “I’m sorry. I found it funny how you forget who they are.”
The three-figure doesn’t seem amused or even react to the comment. Showing no sign of emotion, only a deep intrigue. Bradford turned to the display and rubbed his chin with a grin then removed that grin before turning to face The High Table.
“Let’s start with the mother, Catty Tashikawa Johnson also known as Silver Cloak. One of the greatest Powered ever exist. You know what she could do, with a single spoken word, she can bend reality to her own will. They say the world revolves around the sun, but on the contrary, it revolves around her. I saw with my own eyes the extent of her powers. There is no limit… do you understand? Not even your so-called Saints could defeat her.”
“I disagree with you, our Saints are capable of defeating her,” said the figure in the middle.
“No, they can’t. No one can.”
“Oh, your poor soul, are you terrified of her?” asked the figure on the left with genuine concern.
Bradford turned to the side then rested his finger on his bottom lip. “I was there. I saw it. I lost… it doesn’t matter now,” he said with a grin.
Bradford once again turned to face The High Table. “The boy’s aunt, Kusagi Tashikawa, also known as Black Oni. A Hybrid, part rabbit, part human. She used to be a part of a Yakuza clan in Japan. She had a fallout with them. Then became a mercenary for hire. Raked up a lot of bounties over her head, but not a single person dares to go after her, and that bounty wasn’t for show. However, recently she turned over a new leaf, got a full pardon from the government. Make you wonder what she did to get that.”
“Go a bit higher on the family tree you got: Haru Tashikawa was also known as Oni. The one who fought Delta in the beginning. He was a father to Kusagi and Catty. Yet if I remember correctly he put a bomb in several hospitals just to keep Delta away. Charged with multiple first-degree murder, and many more. Not to mention, one of his victims was his parents, and possibly his uncle. Also, the tank. He dropped a bloody tank on a skyscraper.” Bradford rubbed the temple of his forehead.
“From the report, it said this man had super-regenerative healing which made him nearly unstoppable. Yet, he died from a stab wound which he inflicted himself. It doesn’t matter whether he was a powered or a Nil, but I know he was a powered. From the report alone told me that no Nil could do what he did.”
“Lastly, the grandmother herself, Lina Johnson. The one and only Delta. You know Delta. Everybody loves Delta. I did too. I used to watch the newsreel just to catch a glimpse of her before she retired, that is.”
“So in conclusion, I gave you all an opportunity. Sure, the report deemed the boy’s power is ineffective for combat, but I know he has great potential. By making him join me, he would also join the E-HAD. Imagine the things he could do for this organization if he works for us. Besides, who else fits to train him? His family of course. Can you see it now?”
“By grace, it wasn’t disobedience after all. You did not take action against our order?” asked the figure on the left.
“I did not. All I did was for the good of the organization.”
“Why didn't you inform us of your decision beforehand?” asked the figure in the middle.
“I presumed it wasn’t a priority at the time.”
“You presume too much, Mr Bradford,” said the figure in the middle.
A rough deep voice cut Bradford’s attention. “Don’t forget who you work for, boy,” said the figure on the right. It wasn’t a reminder. It was a threat.
“We have given you tons of privileges. From your Paladins which you recruited by yourself against our protocol to the many resources and manpower you requested. We have granted it all, in return, all we expect of you is loyalty,” said the figure in the middle.
“Poor, poor soul, we aren’t here to threaten your life. We are givers but don’t forget we are also… takers. Do not cross us, my poor, poor soul, because we may be kind, but we can be… ruthless,” said the figure on the left. It was weird the way the woman spoke, it was as if she cared, but also didn’t.
“Of course, High Table. My loyalty is always to the organization,” bowed Bradford.
“You are dismissed,” said the figure in the middle.
Mr Bradford left the room with a grin on his face, after leaving the room. He was immediately accompanied by his two most loyal Paladins. The thin man with no lips and the short figure in a hooded cloak.
“Wait, Grandma is Delta?” I found myself standing up before my mom with my eyes widened and my lip part in disbelief. However, the sudden shocking movement caused me to cough out blood. I was fast enough to block the blood with my hand, but I had no way of cleaning it.
-Sit down.- My Mom grabbed my wrist and pulled me down to sit with her on the bench. She then took out a napkin and wiped the stains off my palm and around my lips.
I licked my lip a little, tasting copper in my mouth. My shoulders perked up when a bottle of cold water tapped against my cheek. I turned my head and met with my aunt’s playful smirk. I took the bottle and chugged the content. Finally, the unpleasant taste in my mouth was washed away from my throat.
“So, Grandpa was… Oni. Tell me the truth, is everything they said about him true?”
-Yes.- A painful look on my mom’s face. She wasn’t willing to admit it, but she didn’t want to lie again, not to me. So she had to give me the truth.
Though my mom may think my grandpa was a bad man, my aunt, on the other hand, disagreed. She cut in our conversation, “He wasn’t a bad man. He was a good man. He did what he did. Furthermore, he saved both of us. None of us wouldn’t be here if he didn’t stop him. I can’t believe you still won’t even try to understand him.”
-He saved us, but that doesn’t mean it absolved what he did. He didn’t do what he did because he wanted to save people. He did it because he wanted revenge. We were just lucky to be on his way. He was a murderer. You know it, I know it!-
“And what about me?!” My aunt glared at my mom while fully waiting for her answer. “Am I the same as him?”
-Classic you. It’s always about you. Poor you. What about your nephew, huh? You were terrified like me when you saw those eyes.-
“Wait? What do you mean by that?” I perked up. However, when I turned my gaze at my aunt, she looked away.
Mom took a big breath in before turning to face me. -Son, you deserve to know the truth. I had you before I married your dad.- She glanced between me and my aunt, -I was young at the time. I made a lot of mistakes. I was lonely and desperate. I was in a bad place, so I did the unthinkable. I took your grandpa’s DNA and… had you.-
“You did what?! So I am...”
-It doesn’t matter. We love you no matter what. Don’t we?- Mom moved her gaze to Aunty after placing her hand on mine.
I was squeezed between my mom and Aunty when she took a seat right next to me. Stuck between hard muscle and soft plump cushion. The comparison is like day and night. "Yes, we do. I love you and your mom loves you too. No matter what."
"Dude!" Jake jogged around the corner.
"Jake, they were having a moment." Ria jabbed the boy under his ribs.
"Ouch. No violence. Jeez. Sorry, but I got you this." He dangled a pair of nurse's shoes in front of him.
A quick downward gaze was met with my wiggling toes. "Oh yeah. Dude, thank you. Seriously."
“It’s nothing. I did all the work.” A glare from Ria caused Jake to change his earlier statement. “We both equally search. Equally, hard-working. Satisfied?”
“I found it,” said Ria while Jake rolled his eyes.
Jake and Ria made their way to me, but from another corner popped Elena. A few of her dishevelled locks dangled as she sauntered toward us. She looks way different from we met earlier.
With her dilated pupils coupled with a crazed smile, I tried to lean away from her when she took me by the shoulder but failed. Close to now unstable Elena, she stared into my eyes and gave me an offer, “Surely you need training right? Then this place can provide that. What do you say, would you like to enrol here?”
“No,” I said nonchalantly.
“No? We have everything here. Why did you say ‘no’?”
I turned my gaze to my aunt, “I want you to teach me.”
A glint of surprise sparkled in Kusagi’s eyes, it was as if what I said was incomprehensible. A small laugh escaped her as she scratched the back of her head. “I’m not a hero, kid. I can't teach you.”
“That’s true. She’s not qualified to teach you. We do.”
“I trust her.”
Elena let out a groan. “Fine, but remember, our door will always welcome you back. Not just you, Milady also. To tell you the truth, I miss you.”
My mom stood up and took hold of Elena’s hands before letting it go, -You did well. This place. What I used to be. It’s all in the past, and I’m sorry to tell you this, I want my past to stay in the past.-
Unwilling, but Elena understood Catty’s wish. She nodded her head.
Afterwards, we left the lounge and took the same way back to the surface. The elevator up to the bookstore. Leaving the bathroom or should I say hidden elevator, we entered the bookstore. Though the store was jam-packed with books, there was practically no one here except for a single employee behind the register.
A glimpse to my left revealed Ria’s troubled face --- I stopped myself from going forward and took another look around me. My eyes widened as I turned around to take another look at where I came from. A bookstore? Suddenly, a surge of pain erupted inside my skull.
Before I could fall to my knees, Elena took hold of me. She leaned in closer and whispered, “Do you understand why she is the most powerful Superhero there is? Look around you.”
“My mom did this?”
“Well, not willingly, but subconsciously.”
I leaned away from her then gathered my strength. The headache dissipated and when I turned to look at my mom. I found her looking around, unaware she had changed things. I walked to Jake and leaned closer to ask a question, “When we came in, did we go through the bookstore?”
“Yep. What’s wrong?”
We left the bookstore after Elena said her goodbyes. I took another look at the bookstore then turned around to find the smiling faces of my family and friends. They were so proud of me. Each one of them embraced me and turned it into a big hug. I was lucky to have them. I wrapped my arms around them as much as I could and pulled them in.
After we made it back home, I was sure to spot any abnormalities, but I, myself, wasn't sure whether it was one or another. Either I am blind to it or nothing has changed. Ignorance is bliss, they said, so I stopped trying to spot the difference rather than going crazy trying to find it.
I carried the take-away up to the apartment along with Jake’s and Ria’s help. My mom bought it for us, so we could have dinner together. However, when I opened the door, I saw a beautiful older woman in a waist-hugging black dress sitting on the sofa. Her arms were covered by a pair of elegant gloves. She shifted a bit on the sofa and let her purple flowing locks rested on the backrest cushion. I looked down and accidentally saw her cleavage. It was revealed by the long V-neck down to her belly.
Her sensual gaze wandered from Ria to Jake and me, and when she saw me and Jake, a seductive grin appeared. Both of our mouths dropped while we were tantalized by the sensuous woman.
“It has been so long since I last saw you, Firefly,” she purred.
Unknowingly, we both have been staring for way too long until Ria jabbed her elbow against both of our sides. Jake and I let out a groan as we broke away from each other.
“Cindy?” Aunty Kusagi appeared behind us then greeted the woman like kin.
“Baby!” She stood up from the sofa, a soft jiggle followed causing me and Jake to drool a bit. She embraced Aunty as tight she could. “I heard you got back. Why didn’t you call me?” The woman lightly scolded my aunt.
“I was… I just didn’t want to trouble you any more after what I did.”
“You mean after you robbed my weapons labs and took my 5.6 million dollar motorcycle? Ah, yes, speaking of it. Where did it go?” It's hard to believe that my badass aunty would be terrified of someone, but here I am. I watched as Aunt Kusagi shrunk in size, metaphorically speaking, in comparison to the woman.
“It isn't under the sheet at my workshop!” blurted Kusagi as she turned away.
Suddenly, an image of the bike hidden under a tarp which I saw a few days ago went by my eyes. So that was it.
“Barely---” One look to the left, she saw the glare. Aunty turned up her voice in a high pitch. “It’s a joke. Hahaha. It’s in working condition. Everything is fine. The bike is fine.”
I am curious to know what kind of woman capable of turning my badass aunt into this frightened little girl. My aunt was literally taller than her, but somehow this woman makes her feel small.
“Sure, it is.” She buried her deep stare into my aunt's gaze until my mom walked into the apartment. “Catty!” She walked past Aunt Kusagi and embraced my mom. “I miss you so much… Forgive me, it took me this long to visit you.”
-Aunty, I thought you had trouble in Egypt?-
“I did. Cleaning her mess.” A quick glare from the woman caused Aunty Kusagi to recoil back.
-Did you meet my son?-
“You mean the handsome boy here.” She turned to Jake and took him up against her bosom. “We haven’t been properly introduced yet, my name is Cindy Crowe. I’m the one who raised Kusagi.”
I clicked my tongue when I saw Jake’s delightful face. A glare from me, sure it doesn’t do anything, but he’s forgetting someone. In the corner of my eyes, Ria crossed her arms, unamused by the sight. I was certain he just dug his own grave.
Ria couldn’t hold her wrath any more, she brought her two hands between Jake and the woman. Then with a furious force, she broke the embrace by pushing both of them away from each other. An embarrassing moan escaped from Cindy. Ria quickly turned her attention to the source and found her hand planted against one of the woman’s soft assets.
She squeezed, confirming whatever she felt wasn’t a dream before turning red and broke the contact. Ria gritted her teeth with jealousy as she looked down at her chest.
“You know many men…” Jake stopped himself as he noticed the glare from Ria. “A’ight, I better shut my mouth.”
“It’s nice to meet you too, I’m Kenn.” I introduced myself. Cindy looked surprised as she glanced between Jake and me. She took another closer look at me. I could smell her perfume, rose, and lavender. Her luscious lips were so close to mine. “Uh, I don’t know what to call you.”
“It is you.” She leaned back. “Call me, Cindy. There is no need to be formal.”
“Formal? Pfft. She doesn’t want to be called a great-aunt. It makes her feel old,” chimed Aunty Kusagi from the back before she slithered and hid behind Mom.
“I’m not old. Okay. I’m at a mature age. Unlike you, a body of a woman, a mind of a child. Also, I know you called Ricky, but you didn't call me.” She tapped her finger against her arm as she glared at Aunty Kusagi.
“I thought Grandma raised Aunty and Mom,” I said.
-Grandma did raise me while your aunt had a bit of a problem back then with her.- Mom rested her hand against her cheek.
“She let Haru die,” said Aunty with such a cold and distant tone.
-She didn't. He sacrificed his life to save us. Also, could you stop? You know now isn’t the time to start another fight.-
“I’m trying to tell the truth. My truth for Kenn. I thought we agreed to be more honest with him. Well, I’m trying.”
-You are just using him as an excuse to say what you want. You think I didn’t notice?-
The mood of the room intensified in weight. I had to change the subject. “I don't want to be rude, but why are you here?” I asked Cindy.
“Straight to business, I like it. I’m here for you.”
“I heard about your heroic deeds. I saw the footage. I want to offer you a job under my company as a superhero. You see, I want to build a brand. As your fan base increases, an opportunity will arise in the form of merchandising. Imagine this: your own action figure, your own name on a million towels across the world, your own cereal, your own TV show, and more.”
Her offer sounded eerily similar to Mr Long’s. The CEO I met while I was helping Ria, “I don't know about the offer. Seem shady.”
“Please hear me first before you come to any conclusion. This offer isn't a one-way deal. I will be helping you along the way. I can provide you with the best teacher in the world to improve your skill. I can provide you with a team that can support you in any way possible. Not only that, but I will have a whole lab dedicated to your gear alone. If you worried about money? Don’t be. For I am willing to give you an allowance of six-digit numbers as a minimum.”
“Finding a trustworthy partner is not easy. Trust me.”
“You can trust her, Kenn. I trust her with my life. I know you want me to teach you, but...” Aunty Kusagi clenched her fist. “It’s better if you go with her.”
“No,” I answered.
“Kenn, don't be stubborn.”
“I said no. I want you to teach me.”
“Kenn, I don’t understand why you want me?”
“Because you’re awesome.”
“What kind of reason is that?” Aunty let out an annoyed groan, but I can see the smile she tried to hide. “Fine. Don't blame me if I fail you.”
Cindy chimed in, “So it’s a no then?”
“Yes. I’m sorry, but Kenn will be my cute student for the time being.” Aunty stood beside me after placing her hand on my shoulder.
“Well, at least it was nice seeing you all again. I mean it. It’s time for me to leave,” said Cindy as she makes her way to the door.
“Wait, you could join us. You can have half my meal.” I stopped her by taking her hand.
She turned to me with a gentle stare then dropped to meet my gaze. “It’s okay.” She took out a business card and slid it into my pocket, “I hope you come and visit me. Ricky would love to know you and I always wanted to spend time with my grandson.”
Aunty Kusagi stood beside me before Cindy rose back up. They stared at each other for a while. It wasn't out of anger or annoyance, it’s longing. They both miss each other even though they won't admit it. Cindy tried to reach for Aunty’s head but forgot the height difference.
Lowering herself, Aunty Kusagi gave Cindy a chance, so she could pat her head. A smile forms on both their faces, “I’m sorry I didn’t call you.”
“You’ve grown so much.” Cindy took the time to appreciate what she said and continue, “I don't care what you did. You’re my daughter, and will always be.”
She pinched Aunty’s ear, “Ouch!”
“Don’t forget. I will be waiting for that call. On another note, I will be billing you the cost of repair for the damage you did. Don't forget to pay.”
“What? I don't have that kind of money.”
“You’re a grown beautiful woman. You’ll figure it out.”
“Wait!” Suddenly, Ria spoke up. “If Kenn doesn't want the offer. Can I have it?”
Cindy tilted her head then rested her chin on her hand, “Sure. I’ll give you a call, Ria.”
“How did you know my name?” said Ria, feeling perplexed because she never met this woman before, but she knows her name.
“I know everyone's names. Including you, Jake. It has been a pleasure to meet you all, but I have other business to attend to.” She left the apartment in a seductive saunter.
Jake and I kept staring at her wavy hips as she made her way downstairs. Both of us let out a regretful sigh after she disappeared from our sight. Her rose and lavender’s scent still lingered in the doorway. We took our time to savour it. “Dude,” I said.
“Dude….” replied Jake.
Out of nowhere, a pillow struck Jake in the head. He turned to meet Ria’s annoyed glare. “Why is it always me? Kenn did it also!”
“Dude?!” A pillow hit my face. A sigh escaped as we both marched to the kitchen.