Brightstar: The Rising Superhero
The door was closed shut and barricaded with a heavy locker. I slumped against the wall. Every part of my body was in pain as if a burning liquid was running through my every vein. I’ve had to get to a safe place after what happened and hoped no one saw me go in here.
I lost it. God-damn it.
How could I lose it? I thought I fixed what’s wrong with me.
You don’t get it, do you?
I will never go away.
A groan coming from the hybrid in front of me drew my attention. He’s the same one with a broken arm. I didn’t know why, but I brought him with me. He was unconscious earlier and now, he's slowly waking up. I gritted my teeth, but not out of anger, I felt guilt. I know he’s not a good man, but he’s a man, and I broke his arm.
How am I different from him?
I need to calm down. He can’t know, or I will lose my edge over him.
I left the wall and stood near him. As he slowly gained his sight, he went into panic mode when he saw me, but I had my hand over his mouth, so he wouldn’t scream. “You tell me what I want to know, and I will let you go. No scream, got it?”
The hybrid nodded his head vigorously.
“What are you doing with the Stoalium batteries?”
“I can’t tell you. Please I need a doctor. It hurt so much.”
“Tell me, and I’ll get you a doctor.”
“I can’t! I won’t betray my mother.”
“Then tell me about Collin. What did you do to him?”
“Guardian of Undercity? We don’t know anything.”
I clenched my jaw and glared at him. “That was a lie and you know it. I know he met your people that night: I want to know who, and I want to know why?”
“I don’t… know anything. Please, I’m hurt.” He begged me to let him go while he kept his broken arm near his chest.
“I thought you would make this easy.” I paced back and forth. Huffing and groaning, I felt the anger rise inside me. “You know what happened to Collin? He went mad after he met you guys. He hurt his friend without realizing it. I… I had to hurt him back! Do you know how shitty it was? I don’t want to do it, but if I didn’t, then everyone else was going to get hurt. And now he’s going to jail, and it wasn’t even his fault. And I can’t do anything about it.”
My eyes were welling up, but I kept it down and slumped back against the wall. I hugged my legs and hid my reddened face between my knees. A long burst of air escaped my lungs.
What the hell am I doing? This is not a hero supposed to act.
I raised my gaze at him. “I didn’t mean to hurt you. I got mad and I lost control.” My fingers dug into my palms. “I know it’s not an excuse. I know that!” I gritted my teeth and looked away.
The hybrid averted his gaze. “We weren't there that night.”
“There was this hybrid, who we had a deal with. She had us do her a favour. Set up a meeting with Collin. We have no idea what she wants or what she did. I swear on my mother’s heart.”
“What about the EpiPen?”
“We don’t know what that thing was. She only said that it was a power booster.” The hybrid turned his sight at the ceiling then back at me. He nodded. “Okay, you are a Hero right?”
“Good. If you can promise me that you help my family, then I will tell you everything. Before you agree, there are few conditions: no police, no government, and no E-HAD whatsoever.”
“Okay, but… I can only do so much. I’m only one guy.”
“Just help us disappear. That’s all we want. Well, I hope that’s all we want.” He paused for a moment. “How do we even get this screwed?”
“Tell me, maybe I could help you.”
“A long time ago, there was a knight. Before me and before you. He wandered the planet. Alone. In a search for a greater purpose. He took on jobs that met his set of skills, mainly his ability in a fight. Furthermore, he wasn’t always a valiant knight. Likewise, he’s not perfect nor virtuous, but he got a good heart; deep down all that brooding and self loath.”
“One day on a job, he was sent to guard a wonderful princess. Much like him, she shared a trait. She was a hybrid similar to him. Perhaps it was fate, but they fell in love with each other the moment they met. Foolishly in love, the princess asked the knight to kidnap her away because she couldn’t stand to live under the same roof as the corrupted king.”
“The knight. Without a second thought, stole her away from her ostentatious prison and gave her the happiest life she could ever hope for. They even had children, hundreds of them. I would explain to you how it works, but we don’t have that kind of time.” The hybrid laughed, but I noticed he had a hard time staying awake.
“However, one day, she fell sick. Very sick. She had been cursed to sleep till death with no cure or remedies to break it. Despite it all, the knight stayed by her side and used every wealth he had to prolong her life while he searched for a cure even though fate told him there was none.”
“We are running out of time…” His breath was getting short. “We need those batteries to keep her alive.”
My heart tightened, even though he was an enemy, but to let him suffer like this is wrong. I stood up then pushed the closet away from the door. I walked back to the hybrid and carried him with my arm as gently as I could.
He looked at me with a knotted forehead. I felt his body stiffen around in my arms. “What are you doing? I haven’t finished the story yet.”
“Save your breath. You need help. So, I’m bringing you back to your family.”
“But, what about the deal?”
“What about you?”
His eyes widened then his body relaxed in my arms. “I’m sorry about your friend. I didn’t know… No. I know he was going to get hurt, and I did nothing.”
“A man I knew once told me: All you need to do is look at them and look closely. You may find it surprising how much the world affects them as much as they affect the world.” I laughed. “I keep forgetting about it. Can you believe that? I don’t know why he put up with me. What I meant to say was people make mistakes, you, me, and anyone else. We’re not perfect.”
I left the room. My pace quickened as I felt his body’s temperature rising in my arms. I arrived at a hall filled with crates. To my left is a laboratory with complex equipment, and to the right is a big generator modified to use a Stoalium battery. Several thick cables led down a hallway, it seemed that most of the power was directed toward it.
The hybrids in my arms had fallen unconscious again, heavy sweats were running down his face. I need to do something.
My focus went to a crowd of insectoid hybrids. I got close to them, but it seems no one had noticed me yet. I stepped into the open. “Help! Please help!”
They turned in panic and aimed their weapons at me, from wood bats to metal pipes, even firearms. “Who are you!? How 一 Mack?!” The hybrid in the front looked at his brother in my arms with wide-eyed concern.
“He needs medical attention…” I gently laid the hybrid on the floor and took a couple of steps back.
Two hybrids rushed forward and brought him away. However, not one lowered their weapons after they took him away. I want to say something to make them calm, but I doubt anything I said will do the job. Not without the help of the unconscious hybrid. I need to talk to their boss, it’s the only way I can get the information I need and stop the fighting. That’s the problem, I find it hard to believe they would let me do so.
“I need to talk to your boss.”
“You think we would let you? We don’t know who you are. You could be the one who hurt our brother in the first place.”
He’s not wrong there.
I examined the crowd, there were about a hundred of them. Some of them were armed with a blunt weapon while a few held firearms, but most were unarmed. They probably didn’t expect me to get through the tunnel unscathed. Though their number is a big advantage to them, I saw a few of them with doubt in their eyes, and doubt is a powerful utility.
Aunty Kusagi once told me it’s all about bravado, they don’t know how strong I am, and I don’t know how strong they are. Show them no weakness, and they will turn me more than I appear to be.
I puffed out my chest, arms slightly apart, my fists readied, a deadly glare that met their gaze, and an attitude of a lion.
“Get him!” One of them yelled out. What followed next was a war cry that echoed through the hall: “AAAAAAAARGH!!!”
A hundred of them swarmed toward me like a tidal wave. I launched into a run with gritted teeth and fists readied. I don’t want to use my sword because I’m not trying to hurt them as I did earlier. All I needed to do was to tire them out and make my way to their boss.
The first hybrid that met me, I used an ‘Air’ stance and sent him flying back with a single punch to the face. His body halted a small fraction of the crowd. From my left, a punch hit my face and I took it like a champ. I turned into a ‘Water’ Stance and redirected a fist to his friend’s face.
Another fist hit my face before I could evade, then another, and another. It was chaotic. I threw it back at them. I redirected as many hits as possible and gave back some more, but it all seems endless. However, I’m not one to give up because I’ve been hit much worse than this.
Something blunt hit my back, staggered me forward. I saw a metal pipe coming toward me and I raised my arm to stop it. It hit hard, though the suit might have absorbed a bit of that force, it got enough to feel it reached the bone inside my arm. I almost screamed out my pain, but I didn’t. It came again, but this time I grabbed it and pulled the assailant toward me for a kick. He went flying into his friends.
Another one hit my back again, and it hit again. I was staggering twice forward and almost fell to my knees. I felt it coming again, but this time I grabbed it in the nick of time. Not only that, but I pulled the attacker close and elbowed him in the gut.
A battle cry was coming from my left, I turned and saw him charging at me. Instead of evading it, I waited for him and slammed my forehead against his face. He fell on his back and writhed in pain. I grabbed another by the throat and gut-punched him before letting go.
“I just want to talk to him!” I yelled out in frustration.
“We won’t let you hurt him!” The hybrid yelled before dropping on top of me.
I saw him coming then took a step back and grabbed another guy. He didn’t expect me to throw his brother at him, but I did, and both fell on top of another one.
“I didn’t mean to hurt your brother.”
“But you did, you bastard.” A metal bat dropped on me.
However, I managed to block it at the last moment, but it still hit my arm which caused me to stumble back. He hit me again in my stomach and I almost hurled out my lunch. He was about to hit me again, but by that time, I'd had enough. I took out my katana: Tashikawa style: Gust. He didn’t stand a chance and was thrown across the room.
The tip of the blade fell against the concrete floor. Now, it was ridiculous, the weight had certainly shifted more and more. Heavier than before. However, I don’t have the time to think about the technicality.
Blood ran down my head, half my sight was turning red while the other stayed normal. I glared at them, I saw it on their faces. They were scared. Half of their forces had fallen. While the other half was hesitating on whether to stay and fight, or fled. “If I wanted to hurt you then I would have done so. I wouldn’t care, and I wouldn’t try to get your brother medical help, but I did.”
“I’m sorry for hurting your brother in the first place. I was angry because of what happened to Collin. I needed to know the full story. Not only that, but I wanted to know who was responsible.”
They looked at each other and back at their heaving siblings. “Let him through.”
“What?” Another one asked his brother.
“If he wanted to murder us, he would have done so. Haven’t you noticed he hadn’t used his power yet?”
“What if he doesn't have any power?”
“I doubt that. A superhero with no power? Do you listen to yourself?”
“What if he hurt mother?”
“We have guns. Anything happens, we’ll shoot him down. Besides, Father is there. He wouldn't get far.”
“I hope you know what you are doing.”
“I hope so too. Make way.”
The crowds of hybrids moved aside and gave me a straight path toward a hallway with thick cables laid into it. I was led by one of the hybrids while a group of them followed behind me. They aimed their firearms at me and wouldn't dare take their eyes off me.
After a minute of walking, we arrived at a massive bedroom. Cables laid across the wall and the ceiling toward a pod at the end of the room. Though the wiring was done extensively, the room itself was also decorated to make it feel like home. With pink curtains, an adorable closet, a crystal chandelier, and even vibrant bouquets set around the pod.
I couldn’t see who was inside the pod, but what I can see was the towering insectoid man that sat beside it. His height rivalled that of Stripes and Collin, even his body was muscular underneath that suit. A sword: Claymore to be precise. The length similar to my height leaned against the pod.
There was a certain sorrow in his gaze as he stared into the pod.
A few steps forward was all I could take before the hybrid stopped me. From here I saw a beautiful insectoid hybrid in the pod. Donned in a pink nightgown surrounded by roses. All sorts of wires and tubes attached to her body. The beeping noise from the heartbeat monitor was slow, alarmingly slow. She seemed to be sleeping, but I doubt she chose to sleep like this.
“Father… We’re sorry to disturb you, but there is a young man here who wanted to talk to you.”
“We know you wanted some time alone, but I think一”
He raised his hand. “It’s all right. Go on ahead and start the preparation.”
“Are you sure father?”
“Yes, he has begun his move against us. It’s only a matter of time now.”
“Will do.” The hybrid turned to his brothers. “We don’t have time. Let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s go!” They dashed back the way they came and left me with the towering man alone.
“What do they call you, son?” The towering man asked while his gaze still fixated on the woman.
“Brightstar. Look, I want to know the truth.”
“The truth?” He grabbed his claymore and turned toward me. I was a bit taken back by his piercing gaze, but I didn’t show it. “The price for truth is a steep one.” He took off his jacket and rolled his sleeves then unbuttoned his collar.
“It’s a price I'm willing to pay if I could help you people.”
“Help us?’ He sighed. “We are already on a timer. There’s nothing you could do. The forces you're trying to fight against isn’t something you wanted to take lightly.”
“I probably can’t do it alone, but together we could. I know you didn't want any of this to happen. Perhaps, there is a way out for your sons and your wife to get out of it if we work together.”
“Admirable… My name is Arthur Antho.” He cracked his neck. “Show me your resolve. Defeat me and I will do anything you ask of me.” The hybrid took a fighting stance with his claymore.
“Please, I don’t want to fight you.”
“You have no choice!” With a single step forward, he was upon me with the steel blade above me.
He was fast, almost as fast as Collin or Aunty. I barely dodged the last second before he brought down the blade. The concrete floor shattered on impact and sent a cloud of dust my way. I took a few meters back away from the cloud.
“I applaud your skill, son.”
I took a ‘Water’ stance and scanned the dust cloud for any sign of him. However, there was one major problem, the katana in my hands slipped and fell to the floor. It wasn't my intention to let go, but my family’s sword suddenly became too heavy for me.
“Judging by the sword, you’re Tashikawa. I’ve met one before, a woman hybrid. She had a fiery spirit in her.”
My head turned in search of the source. “Oh yeah? You’ve probably met my aunt.” I tried to lift my katana back up, but I couldn't, even with all my strength.
“A problem with your family sword?”
“A slight problem. I shouldn’t have brought this haunted sword with me.” I was still trying to lift the sword because I know without my katana, I was no match for him. Not against someone who has far more experience in sword fighting than me.
“Too bad… It’s too late now.” He appeared out from the cloud at an abnormal speed.
I gritted my teeth and put all my strength into it. What happened next was something I couldn’t imagine. The katana’s handle broke apart from the scabbard and I stumbled back before falling onto my butt. I was stunned by the revelation: my aunt said that this sword was unbreakable.
However, I have a far bigger problem than the family’s katana. In seconds, Arthur was an inch away from me. I had no time to dodge this time. The back of his hilt drove into my gut and I almost puked out my lunch before my body was sent flying into a wall.
I cracked the wall then fell on the floor. My whole back felt like there was a hot iron pressed against it. The slightest shift of my left shoulder sent a hellish pain throughout my boy. It had dislocated and was in an awkward place.
He charged again, I ducked down as his claymore flew above my head, but I didn’t notice where his leg was. His kick was so powerful, I rolled to the side against my wish and dragged my arms across the room.
“A shame. I thought I was going to fight another swordsman.” A disappointed sigh escaped Arthur.
I yelled out in pain as I lifted myself back up then slammed my shoulder against the floor. My teeth grind against each other as I hold another scream, but it works, I fixed my dislocated shoulder.
Sword or no sword. I’m going to defeat him. I raised my arms and charged forward with my fist. Arthur sensed my resolve and a smile crept on his face. He faced me off unabashed, no tricks, and with his sword readied for a swing.
We met in the middle, I blocked his claymore with my hardened arms. The strength of his hit caused my feet to dig into the floor. I ducked down and sent a couple of jabs under his ribs. Then I slid underneath between his legs and laid a couple more punches against his back and sidestep to the left to send more hits under his ribs.
I waited for him to swing his claymore, but he defied my expectation by letting it go and sent a fist my way. His speed was double from before, I barely missed his knuckle, but again failed to notice the other arm coming down on me. He slammed his clenched hand down on my shoulder. I felt the weight of his attack forcing my bone to desolate again, so that’s why I had to drop to my knee.
A single punch to the face disoriented me. My sight became blurry as I was on the verge of passing out. Before my body could fall against the floor, Arthur grabbed the entirety of my head and lifted me off the ground. My legs and arms dangled in the air.
I groaned nonsensically. He took his fist and rammed it against my stomach, again and again. There was no stopping it even after the fifth time.
He had no mercy for me.
Tired of my battered body, Arthur tossed me to the side. I landed beside my broken katana, drools and blood escaped my mouth. My wreck body twitched slightly as I stared at my sword. I knew this pain, I felt it countless times before, but what I couldn’t handle was the thought I failed after all my hard work. After all the support I had. I gritted my teeth together in frustration.
“I thought you were going to be one,” Arthur said as he sat on the floor beside his claymore. “Is this it? Is this the limit of your strength?”
I told you. Without me, you are nothing. Kehehehe.
A voice different from the one that mocked me called out to me. It was soothing and warm as if I had met him before.
Can you hear me, Kenn?
I wanted to answer back, but I couldn’t find the energy. Tears ran down my bruised cheek in frustration.
If you do then you need to listen to me. I can hear your pain. I can hear your frustration but never lose hope. Kenn, I know you can do this. You have my unbending spirit. You always stood up again in the face of hopelessness.
Not only that, but you’re a Tashikawa. I know deep down you are afraid of me. Afraid of what I had done. I apologize, but you need to accept the tainted past, and only then, the katana will accept you.
“W-Who a-are you…?”
A part of you. A part of me.
A subtle light encased the sword handle. It was barely there, but I saw it. The light permeated from within it. I know it’s crazy, but I could hear the ring from the bells that were attached to the sword handle. It was as if it was calling me, but not with a dread whisper, instead, a soothing one, filled with warmth and hope.
‘It’s now up to you to redefine our family name.’ My aunt’s voice echoed out.
‘You're the light.’ For the briefest moment, I saw Juliet’s smile.
I screamed through my gritted teeth as I put all my strength in trying to get back up. Arthur looked at me wide-eyed. I took the handle into my hands through the pain. It started to glow like never before in golden light as a newfound power flowed harmoniously from me into it, and back into me.
The word underneath the hilt started to morph, and for the first time, I finally understood what it said:
A new blade emerged from the broken handle. It was made of light unlike anyone had ever seen. It shone brightly with hope and unbending will.
The light made its way all over my body, soothing the pain and healing it with ease. It’s a power, unlike anything I had before. It was the first time in my life that my power was more than glowing hands.
Arthur stood up then pulled his claymore out of the floor. A big smile on his face as he looked at me with respect. He readied himself into a sprint. I did too. The power flowed into my legs and arms and turned them into hardened light.
It was speed unlike before, triple the amount he had shown earlier. Arthur flew toward me with a claymore readied for a swing. I took the ‘Air’ stance and launched myself toward him, rivalling his speed. “Tashikawa Style: Gust!”
We both left a trail of broken rubble and dust behind us until we met in the middle. Our two swords clashed and sent a shockwave that cracked the concrete all around us. One thing that was different between us was Arthur’s hand was trembling against the force while I didn’t.
A single crack at first. It grew and grew uncontrollably. Arthur’s claymore shattered. An expression of disbelief donned on him. I moved my blade from him and readied myself back into ‘Air’ stance, but this time this move I’m about to execute was different from anything my aunt ever taught me.
“Stardust Style: Brightest Star!”
I channelled all my power into my arms. With a single upward slash, I sent Arthur flying into a breakneck speed. He left a trail of light with himself shone blindly as if he was a star travelling across the night sky. His body slammed against the ceiling. Shattered the entire concrete and left a small open crack before falling back down.
Small pieces of rubbles and sprinkle of dust rained over us.
My blade pointed at the ray of light that escaped the small crack as it shone on Arthur.