Chapter 17:

Brightstar Arc 4 (Chapter 1)

Brightstar: The Rising Superhero


The alarm clock beeps three-time and at the last beep, a gentle press reset the machine. The bedroom was bland as porridge, beige colour wall, and ceiling. No decorations, not even a rug. An end table beside the bed, a single chair at the corner, and a bland medium-sized wardrobe. There’s not much there, but it’s clean.Bookmark here

Juliet sat up straight on her bed. Her eyes squinted at the light poured into her room before her sight wandered to the strips of photos on the end table. In those strips of pictures was Kenn awkwardly trying to pose for the picture beside herself. A smile appeared on her face before she lifted herself and walked to the bathroom.Bookmark here

After taking a shower and donning new fresh clothes, Juliet made her way through her empty living room and into her kitchen. She brought out a brightly coloured box of cereal, the kind that always appeared in a children's commercial. Coupled along with a carton full of milk, she got herself a complete breakfast set.Bookmark here

While enjoying her breakfast, Juliet continued her work on the small device beside her bowl until her phone vibrated and ding. Her face was beaming with joy when she saw who just texted her.Bookmark here

[Thank you for yesterday.] Received.Bookmark here

Juliet bit her bottom lip while thinking of a reply. She remembered Kenn always brought sandwiches for lunch, and it seemed that Kenn didn't mind when Jake took one. Perhaps she could have one too.Bookmark here

[Happy I could help, but you owe me a sandwich.] Sent.Bookmark here

[A sandwich, huh. What kind?] Received.Bookmark here

[I like the one with the eggs and mayo.] Sent.Bookmark here

[Ah classic. Alright, I’m doing one for you right now. Do you like baloney? I’m thinking of putting a few slices in.] Received.Bookmark here

[Baloney is the sausage thing, right?] Sent.Bookmark here

[Yep, judging by your question, I’m guessing you never had one?] Received.Bookmark here

[Never got around to.] Sent.Bookmark here

[Okay then, I’m going to make yours an extra special one.] Received.Bookmark here

[I can’t wait! :D] Sent.Bookmark here

[See you at school.] Received.Bookmark here

An excited grin replaced her smile as she smothered her phone against her chest. However, her swoon over the text had to come to an end at some point. When it did, she quickly finished her breakfast before perfecting the small device. Bookmark here

After it was set and done, she brought the device to the other room and set it neatly amongst hundreds of them laid on the table. Perfectly placed. Perfectly arranged.Bookmark here

The room wasn’t the same empty room as the other. In a matter of fact, the room was full of military crates and many kinds of firearms that one couldn’t possibly attain in a regular store. The way everything is so neatly placed, it almost seems abnormal and almost seems like an obsession. Yet this sight didn’t even bother Juliet at all as if she was accustomed to it.Bookmark here

She goes on her day as usual.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

The school bell rang loudly throughout the building. The teachers would leave the classroom first before a clutter of students flooded the hallway. Laughter and conversation filled the air above them. However, not all students would leave the classroom. Some would stay behind with their friends. Some would head toward their usual spot. Well, some are just hungry, and the only place they could get food is the school cafeteria.Bookmark here

As for me, I headed toward the roof, but while my legs climbed the steps, a deep voice called out to me, “Kenn, wait up.” Bookmark here

I turned around to see Mr Aariv with a steaming thermos in his hand. He joined me as we climbed the steps to the upper floor. A smoky scent lingered from his clothes, I could tell he recently had his morning cigarette.Bookmark here

“It has been a while since we last saw each other, how are you?”Bookmark here

“I’m fine, Mr Aariv. Sorry about skipping our thing. I had other stuff to do.”Bookmark here

“You mean Superhero stuff?” He raised an eyebrow at me.Bookmark here

“How did you know?”Bookmark here

“Your mom told me. Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone. About you skipping, it’s okay. I don’t mind it at all. As long as you’re happy, and it seems you are happier these days.”Bookmark here

“Is it obvious?”Bookmark here

“Not at all, but I do sense something else in there. If you are willing to talk, my door is always open.”Bookmark here

“Thank you, Mr Aariv. Oh! Do you want to join us for lunch?”Bookmark here

“An old man like me hanging out with a bunch of cool kids? Better not. I might ruin your style.”Bookmark here

“Not at all, Mr Aariv. I’m sure the rest of the gang would love to have you.”Bookmark here

“It’s okay, Kenn. Just promise me to have fun and be careful,” Mr Aariv said before parting ways to his office. However, he stopped after taking the first step and turned around. “Also don’t forget to study for the finals,” said Mr Aariv before continuing his stride.Bookmark here

My eyes widened at the reminder. “Ah crap, I forgot about that,” I said to no one in particular while I rushed up the stairs. Bursting out from the door, my sight caught my gang in a circle and each one of them held a book in their hands. I can’t believe they had a study group without me.Bookmark here

“Hello, Kenn,” Juliet perked up with excitement upon seeing me.Bookmark here

“Oh yeah, we’re having a study group. Come and join us,” Jake waved his hand to me.Bookmark here

“Hey, Juliet.” I waved at her before turning to the rest of them, “Seriously, did no one bother to remind me about the finals?”Bookmark here

“We thought you had it covered,” Ria’s sight unmoved from the opened book in her hands.Bookmark here

“I forgot, okay!” A sigh had escaped me before I took a seat right between Jake and Juliet. “I brought sandwiches, come and get some.”Bookmark here

After a collective thanks, everyone took one piece from my lunch box and left the last one for me. Juliet munched happily on the sandwich, so I took it as a good thing that means she likes it. No complaints from the other, bonus point right there.Bookmark here

“The sandwich is amazing, Kenn.”Bookmark here

“I’m glad you like it. The secret is I grilled both sides of the bread first, so it doesn’t get soggy when I put the rest of the ingredient.” Juliet noted down vigorously while I explained it.Bookmark here

“A little dry for me,” Jake commented.Bookmark here

Ria nudged her elbow against his side, “Don’t listen to him, Kenn. It’s delicious.”Bookmark here

I rested my back against the warm concrete as my eyes stared deeply at the skies. Studying isn’t one of my fortes. I don’t even know if I want to get good grades. Being a superhero doesn’t need good grades anyway.Bookmark here

“Are you okay there?” Ria asked.Bookmark here

“I’m wondering if I want to study or not since I got the job from Bradford.”Bookmark here

“That’s great news!” Juliet perked up.Bookmark here

The grated fence rattled and pulled our attention toward it. A pair of sandals stood above the fence. It led to a pair of furry legs almost the same as a pair of rabbit legs. Going above the denim shorts and the smudged white sleeveless shirt, their sight met with a grinning woman with a pair of bunny ears. On her back was a long piece of item donned in a white coat.Bookmark here

“Aunty?”Bookmark here

The moment I called out to her, she leapt into the air and turned it into a backflip before landing perfectly on the concrete floor. “Hey, there, little Kenn.”Bookmark here

A group of greetings directed toward my aunt from Ria to Jake.Bookmark here

“What are you doing here?”Bookmark here

“What am I doing here? Seriously, little Kenn?” A sigh escaped her as she shook her head. “I knew you would forget. So when are you going to tell me about the good news?”Bookmark here

“Crap.”Bookmark here

“Language.”Bookmark here

“Sorry, Aunty.” I left my seat and walked up to her. “I was going to tell you after school.”Bookmark here

“Don’t sweat it. Come here, and give me a hug.” She took me by the shoulders and brought me closer to her chest. With a whisper, she told me, “I heard what you did back at Undercity. Thank you, Kenn. Really. Collin was a friend, and it’s painful to hear what happened to him.”Bookmark here

“I did my best, but he got hurt. I’m going to help him as much as I can.”Bookmark here

“I can’t believe I have such a good-hearted nephew.” She tousled my head. “Here. It was mine, but I think you need it more than me.”Bookmark here

Aunty Kusagi revealed the item to be the Tashikawa family’s katana. Immediately, soft seductive whispers began calling out my name and this dread feeling seeped out from it. I pulled my head back. My aunt noticed my disdain toward it.Bookmark here

“What’s wrong?”Bookmark here

“I… Please don’t take this the wrong way, Aunty. I don’t want the sword.”Bookmark here

“You don’t?” Her face contorted into confusion and disbelief.Bookmark here

“It’s haunted, okay? I can hear these voices calling out to me and every time I got close to it, I had this creepy feeling.”Bookmark here

“Don’t be ridiculous. I wielded this sword for years. There’s no way it’s haunted. This is our family’s legacy, Kenn. You held the key to shape what our family name is all about. You can’t deny this kind of offer just like that.”Bookmark here

“Well, I am. I don’t want it, so please don't force it on me.”Bookmark here

“Force?” My aunt’s expression shifted from a smile to a frown to disappointment. “Is this Catty’s doings? Did she tell you not to take it? I can’t believe she would do this. It’s bad enough she hates our family legacy, and now, she got you brainwashed too?”Bookmark here

“No. That’s not true. It wasn’t Mom’s fault.”Bookmark here

“Your mom, ha! I’ve had enough of your mom. Did you know I tried asking her for money to pay Cindy? And she said no, what a prick. Blah blah, she said, I should use my own money, she said. I can’t believe that woman.”Bookmark here

“Aunty! It’s okay. I’ll take it. Just trust me when I said that mom didn’t do anything, and she was probably right about you paying for the damage with your money. It was your fault.”Bookmark here

“What? I can’t hear you. Hold this.” Kusagi dropped the sword into my hands then reached into her pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. Bookmark here

For an unknown reason, the sword was sticky to the touch even though it was clean. I don’t know why, but I felt something slithered around my hand. I’m pretty sure this katana is haunted.Bookmark here

“Here we go. Our family line has always been a protector. This sword that was made from a falling star and imbued with supernatural power marks the turning point for our family. Now not only a powered can protect. A non-powered could do the same. My name is Kusagi Tashikawa. I may not have our family blood, but I have done my deed. It’s time for another to replace me. May our ancestors lend you their strength. It’s now up to you to redefine our family name.”Bookmark here

A deep silence donned over us as she stared deeply at me. I need to correct that. She wasn’t staring at me. There was something else in her eyes. “Aunty?”Bookmark here

“Sorry, my mind wandered.” A longing smile formed. “I didn’t realize how much I miss Haru. Anyway, I’m going to get groceries. So be careful. You too, Ria. Wink. See you back home and don’t be late for dinner. That last part is for Ria. Wink.” Aunty backflipped into the other side of the fence and disappeared from our sight.Bookmark here

“Did she say ‘wink’ ?” I turned to Ria.Bookmark here

“Don’t look at me. She’s your aunt.”Bookmark here

I turned to the creepy sword in my hands, “Where am I gonna store this thing? Did she realize that I can't even bring this to class?” A long sigh escaped me. “Screw it. I’m just going to place it in Mr Aariv’s office.”Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

After school.Bookmark here

With the sword lugged on my back, I waited with Jake in front of my school for my Handler. I already said goodbyes to the rest of the gang, but Jake insisted on staying behind. Turning to him, I could tell he wanted to talk to me. So instead of waiting for him to take the first step, I initiated the conversation.Bookmark here

“Come on, Jake. I know you have something on your mind. Let it out.”Bookmark here

“It’s about Ria. Did you talk to her like I asked you?”Bookmark here

“That again? If it makes you feel better, I’ll talk to her tonight. Anything else?”Bookmark here

“Hey. I’m serious. Talk to her.” His grim expression held weight. “One more thing, please be careful out there. I don’t want to lose you too.”Bookmark here

“Don’t get soapy on me, Jake. The worst thing could happen is I lose another finger.”Bookmark here

“Yeah. Yeah. You know what I meant.” He bumped his fist against my shoulder. It felt no weight to it. Too weak for any sign of strong emotion. I think it was fear. “I can’t lose you, dude.”Bookmark here

“Jake…”Bookmark here

It’s the first time I saw him this worried. I wanted to say something back, but he was quick to change the subject. “Is that him?”Bookmark here

“I don’t know. Bradford said he’ll come to me.”Bookmark here

A nondescript van pulled up in front of us. Inside was a dark-skinned woman with brown wavy hair and donned a courier uniform. Her eyes were hidden behind a pair of black aviators. She exuded calmness and showed no sign of other unnecessary emotions.Bookmark here

“Get in.”Bookmark here

I did what she asked of me, and we left Jake behind without giving me a chance to say my goodbyes. Bookmark here

She drove for about thirty minutes without saying a word until she stopped in front of a video store. Without making eye contact, she turned the engine off and made her way to the back of the van. I followed her through the curtain and found myself amidst surveillance equipment.Bookmark here

“Hello, my name is一”Bookmark here

“No real name. I call you Brightstar. You call me, Sister. Understand?”Bookmark here

“I got it. So…”Bookmark here

“Let me brief you on the mission. Our Intel suggested a criminal gang named Honeycomb involved with the incident that happened last night. This information was based on the interview conducted on Mr Alexander Conroy, also known as, Stripes The Tiger. From his account, Mr Collins Goodfold contacted him in need of a backup. Recently, Mr Collins had trouble dealing with the Honeycomb gang after they expanded their territories to Undercity.”Bookmark here

“How are they?”Bookmark here

“Mr Alexander is in stable condition. The doctor has reattached his arm and is in a state of recovery. Unfortunately, Mr Collins still hasn’t woken up yet, but he is in good care. The test suggested there was something inside him that forcefully altered his DNA, but it is still inconclusive of what it might be.”Bookmark here

“Tell me more about the gang.”Bookmark here

Sister handed me a file. Inside it consists of several pictures of insectoid Hybrids in luxurious attires. “The Honeycomb is a close-knit gang and their numbers can rival this city’s police force. Most of their members are related to each other by blood and the leader is a woman also known as The Queen Bee. Her real name is unknown because she had hidden her identity well in the group. Infiltrating this group is impossible since they don’t accept outsiders.”Bookmark here

“We need a plan. Give me a minute to think of something. Hmm…”Bookmark here

“There’s no need. I’ve concocted a plan for you to follow and the result will give us more intel to work on.”Bookmark here

“You did? I thought we were supposed to work together?”Bookmark here

“Excuse me, is that a joke?” That was a genuine question. “If it was. It wasn’t funny. Look, I have trained in covert operations for years, I have the highest mark in my batch, and I was personally taught by Mr Bradford. Who by the way, is the highest decorated inquisitor in E-HAD. Compared to a kid like you? A kid who hasn't even received his diploma yet, and probably couldn't even solve a simple geometry question. So just do as you are told and keep your mouth shut.”Bookmark here

My lips clambered up as I looked at her with utter disbelief.Bookmark here

She pulled out a crate from under the table and pushed it toward me. “Here. A standard-issue E-HAD suit. Wear it and get ready.”Bookmark here

The black suit wasn’t that impressive to look at, it was bland and designed to be mass-produced. However, it was much better than my regular clothes which had torn apart a lot of time during a fight. I wore it and found it surprisingly to move in, but was slightly uncomfortable around the joints. Coupled with my jacket with yellow stripes going down its sleeves, and I was set to go. Bookmark here

This suit also came with a mask that covered the bottom half of my face. It was far much better than the scarf I used previously.Bookmark here

“Are you ready? If you are. Take this tracking device.” She handed me a small chip. It was the size of my finger. “I’ve tracked one of the low-level members to a restaurant two blocks from here. The mission is simple: just hid this tracking device in his car, so we can use it to gain more information about their operations. Your mask came with an earpiece and mic, enabling us to talk to each other. Another thing, here is the picture of your target. It’s a black 2001 Chevrolet Silverado truck. It will be parked in front of the restaurant.”Bookmark here

{Can you hear me?} Bookmark here

I heard her voice in my ear after she spoke through her headset. Taking a look at the screen, I saw a real-time video from my perspective.Bookmark here

{I can see what you see, hear what you hear.}Bookmark here

{Get a move on, our window is closing fast.}Bookmark here

I left the seat and went through the backdoor. However, before I proceed with the mission, I turned to face her with a furrowed eyebrow. “I understand that you are more qualified than me, but don’t you dare make light of the work I’ve put in to get here.”Bookmark here

Without waiting for her reply, I closed the door and pulled up my hood. However, as I casually walked toward the restaurant, my attention was drawn to the faint gunfire and shouts coming from behind me. An armoured truck in full speed and showing no sign of stopping was about to hit a crossing pedestrian.Bookmark here

I ran across the street and pulled him aside. The truck flew past us at a speed that should be against the law. The man in my arms was trembling in fear. I don’t blame him, we were almost going to be roadkill. Police sirens blared as several cop's cars chased after it.Bookmark here

{A lot of chatter coming from the police channel. There has been a robbery.}Bookmark here

“I need to stop it before it gets worse.”Bookmark here

{Forget about it, we need to focus on our mission. Quick, my camera showed me that the target is about to move.}Bookmark here

A man in a suit with a bee head can be seen calling the waiter to his table. My gaze glanced between the target and the truck as it made a left turn. I looked past the man at the alley behind him. I could take that shortcut and catch up to the truck.Bookmark here

{We are going to miss our chance, Brightstar. Think of your friend.}Bookmark here

“I need to stop that truck first.” I left the man and ran straight through the shortcut.Bookmark here

{You’re an idiot. We are going to fail the mission before we even start.}Bookmark here

“I’m not an idiot. I’m a Hero.”Bookmark here

After taking the shortcut, I appeared on the other side and saw the truck heading toward me. My eyes darted around me while my brain went to overdrive as I tried to think of a way to stop it.Bookmark here

“Brightstar!” Someone called out to me from the sky.Bookmark here

Heading toward me from the sky was a superhero surfing on a high tech hoverboard. Upon a closer look, my eyes widened and a big smile appeared on my face when I realized who it was. Ria Rougham, I couldn't believe it, but it is her, in an awesome black superhero suit with deep purple streaks running down her body.Bookmark here

“Grab on!”Bookmark here

I started running away from her, enough to build up the momentum. When she got close, I jumped and grabbed a handle underneath her board. She lifted me into the air. Another closer look, I could see her metal bat slid between the board, so that’s how this thing works.Bookmark here

“The wink was all about this. Why didn't you tell us?”Bookmark here

“It was supposed to be a surprise. Do you like my new suit?”Bookmark here

“I do. It looks great.”Bookmark here

“You look good too.”Bookmark here

“Well not as good as yours.”Bookmark here

“Brightstar, I need your help. I managed to stop two of them back at the bank, but the other two managed to get away and stole that truck.”Bookmark here

“We need to stop it from the inside.”Bookmark here

“I got just a thing.” Ria flew closer to the back of the truck and flung a small sticky object on the door.Bookmark here

A few seconds later, a high-temperature burn flashed through the lock and exploded the door open. I swung myself into the back of the truck, and Ria did the same thing except for her, it was more of a soft landing.Bookmark here

A masked man made his way to the back with a handgun. I immediately disarmed him by slapping the gun out of his hand and kicked it outside the truck. However, the man wasn’t an easy mark. I thought it would be as he erected two energy blades out of his hands. I backed away as he started swinging his deadly blade at me. Bookmark here

Ria tried to get to the front of the truck while I kept the man occupied, but something hit her out of nowhere. Ria looked like she was pushed by someone until her back was against the metal panel.Bookmark here

“Are you okay?” I evaded another swing.Bookmark here

“Someone else is here, but I can't see him.” Ria started swinging her punches, hoping to hit something.Bookmark here

I need to finish this as fast as I can and help Ria, but when I tried to pull my katana, it was stuck in the scabbard. No matter how much strength I used, it still won't budge. I knew taking this sword was a bad idea. Katana or no katana, I need a weapon and I don’t care if I have to use the whole damn thing, scabbard included.Bookmark here

A fist landed against Ria’s stomach causing her to grunt in pain before she was thrown to the stack of money beside her. A few of that cash flew up in the wind and stuck to my leg. Her eyes widened when she saw it. An idea, though a simple one, still she had to try it. She immediately threw all the bills she could muster up in the air.Bookmark here

The green papers blocked my vision and almost cost my head as the energy blade flew near my neck. Bookmark here

However, whatever Ria did, it worked out for her as the bills stuck to an invisible man. Ria jabbed him right in the nose causing him to stagger. From outside, her board folded into a bat and flew into her hand. She took a big swing right in his stomach and took him out.Bookmark here

A moment of relief was washed away. Her eyes widened when she saw the truck was heading toward a group of pedestrians crossing the street. “Brightstar!”Bookmark here

“Go. I got this.”Bookmark here

“On it!” Without a glance, she flew out of the truck using the same way she got in.Bookmark here

Now it’s just me and the man who apparently can cut through a sheet of metal like butter. I have fought worse though most of my fight always ended with me being saved by Crimson Diamond. Well, this one is different, I trained for this. I grinned, and I saw the doubts in him after he saw my grin. It’s all about bravado. Thank you, Aunty Kusagi.Bookmark here

I kept dogging his blades until one clumsy step from him gave me a chance to retaliate. Or so I thought, suddenly, the truck swerved to the right, forcing us to slam against the truck body and dropped to the floor with groans.Bookmark here

We both got up, I noticed the driver about to make another turn. So I switched position then changed into a ‘Water’ stance. When the truck turned sharply again, I waited for him to stumble toward me. “Tashikawa style: Flow.”Bookmark here

Supposedly, I accounted for the distance his body was to be thrown, but what I did expect was the truck body to hit a lamp post which caused me to overuse the momentum. What happened next was I overexerted my strength and threw him forward. He crashed into the driver which knocked him out. Which was a good thing, one stone, two birds, but now, I got an out of control truck that’s gaining speed by the seconds.Bookmark here

I ran to the driver, pushing the unconscious man off the driver. His foot was still on the pedal and I can't take it off. I stumbled to unlatch his seatbelt but noticed the truck was heading toward oncoming traffic. So I jammed my katana into the brake, dropped the gear before pulling the handbrake.Bookmark here

The truck’s speed began to drop exponentially, but it wasn't enough to stop us from crashing into another car. Without a doubt, I love being wrong as Ria appeared like a guardian angel and attached her board on top of the truck then used her rocket engines to slow us down to a halt.Bookmark here

My lungs breathed out a big sigh of relief as my legs turned into wet noodles. “Woosh…”Bookmark here

Two knocks pulled my attention to the windscreen, and I smiled when I saw Ria’s brightened face with two thumbs up. I stored my katana then jumped outside the truck. Ria landed beside me, bumping her fist against my shoulder.Bookmark here

“We did well?”Bookmark here

“We did awesomely.” I gently hit her in the shoulder.Bookmark here

“It’s strange.”Bookmark here

“What is?”Bookmark here

“My team said someone hacked all the traffic lights before them and turned it all red.”Bookmark here

“Hmm, I think I have a clue who it was.”Bookmark here

“Oh, a part of your team?”Bookmark here

“More like a pissed off boss.”Bookmark here

The crowd gathered around us, we both had expected to be scolded for causing such a scene in the middle of the day. Not that I blame them, the whole thing was a mess. We could have done better if we were stronger, and Ria understood this as well. However, our expectations betrayed us as we were showered with applause.Bookmark here

I was somewhat familiar with the cheers because of my olden days as an ace for my baseball team. However, when it came to Ria, it was a new experience for her. I could tell she never had so many praises directed at her before. She saved people, she stopped the truck, and heck, all I did was help her. She deserved it.Bookmark here

“What should we call you?” Someone asked from amongst the crowd.Bookmark here

“Call me, Violet Jet.”Bookmark here

A pat on her back snapped her attention to me. “Jake was wrong.” There’s no denying it, she’s not Solana. Ria can take care of herself and I have faith in her.Bookmark here

“What?”Bookmark here

“Nothing.”Bookmark here

Ria smiled then put a finger near her ear. Her team was speaking to her. “A fire? On it.” She turned to me. “I’m sorry, Brightstar, but I need to go.”Bookmark here

“Go get ‘em, Violet Jet.”Bookmark here

Ria jumped on her board and flew toward the sky.Bookmark here

{Brightstar, there’s an alley on your right. I will be waiting for you there.} The tone she took wasn’t pleasant to hear. I knew she was angry at me, but her voice told me it was much worse than that.Bookmark here

Bookmarked
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