Chapter 24:

Brightstar Arc 5 (Chapter 3)

Brightstar: The Rising Superhero

A cargo helicopter hovered down, casting a great shadow over me and Haru. The propeller blew the dust at us before landing gently in front of us. The cargo ramp touched the ground, revealing a purple-haired woman with a grim look on her face.Bookmark here

“Hey, what’s up?”Bookmark here

Cindy stormed toward Haru. She wasn’t happy at all because what happened next was surprising, to say the least. She slapped Haru so hard that she forced his head to turn. “What’s up… are you kidding me? You died, Haru. I was there when they buried your body. I mourned for you. Lina mourned for you. Everyone mourned for you. Where were you?”Bookmark here

“I was dead, but I came back for them, Cindy.” Haru matched her gaze.Bookmark here

Cindy sighed while her jaw tightened. “I know you are here for them. It wasn’t easy after what happened. I lost Lucinda, I lost you, and I almost lost Ricky. And now, Kusagi is being sent to prison for trying to save her son and Catty… She passed away. The worst part is Kenn, he… I tried to save him. I swear Haru.”Bookmark here

“I’m right here, Cindy,” I revealed myself from behind Haru.Bookmark here

“Kenn?” She pushed Haru away to hug me. “You’re here? How? No, screw it. I don’t care how. I’m just glad you’re okay.”Bookmark here

It felt a little unpleasant as she squeezed her arms over my bruises. But, I didn’t mention it because I knew she needed the embrace. I tapped on her back when it got too painful for me. She let go of me and wiped her misty eyes. Bookmark here

“Haru is an idiot. He didn’t mention you were alive.”Bookmark here

“Because I know you would overreact.” Haru rubbed his reddened cheek.Bookmark here

“We need to save Aunt Kusagi, can you help us?”Bookmark here

“Of course, that’s why I’m here. I brought all the things Haru requested. Weapons and gears.”Bookmark here

“Kenn won’t be helping me.” Haru crossed his arms and looked at Cindy. “I want you to keep him safe.”Bookmark here

“What? You said you needed my help.” I widened my eyes at Haru.Bookmark here

“Yes. That was true, but after yesterday, I can’t. You’ve been through enough.”Bookmark here

“Bullshit, you just can’t take back your words like that. If I don’t do this. No. I need to do this.”Bookmark here

“I thought you could do it, but I was wrong. You are unsure of yourself, and that can cost lives during combat.”Bookmark here

“Unsure? I know who I am. I know what I want!”Bookmark here

“He’s right, Kenn. You’re a kid. And I doubt Kusagi would want you to risk your life.” Cindy placed her hand on my shoulder.Bookmark here

I swiped her hand away. “That’s a load of crap. She does it for me, but I can’t do it for her?”Bookmark here

Suddenly, Haru took me by the collar and pushed me onto the ground. I was surprised, but it turned to anger as I glared at him. Haru’s gentle nature wasn’t there anymore. Cindy almost reached to stop Haru, but she stopped herself when the man raised his hand.Bookmark here

“Prove to me. Call back the Tashikawa family’s katana.”Bookmark here

“Call back?”Bookmark here

“The sword is a living weapon. It has one purpose: to be the perfect weapon for the user. It has many abilities beyond anything you could imagine. One of those powers is to obey the cry of its user. Prove to me, you are capable by calling it back to you.”Bookmark here

“I’ll show you.” I stood up and reached out for the sky. “Come back to me!”Bookmark here

A few seconds passed, seconds turned into minutes, and nothing happened. Frustrated, I swung my hands and yelled out from my heart for the sword to come back, but it was fruitless. I felt dumb for believing what Haru just told me. “It was a lie. There’s no way it could come back.”Bookmark here

Haru raised his right hand.Bookmark here

I heard a crackling thunder. It shook the air above us. A katana fell out from the sky and landed perfectly in Haru’s hand, sheathed in the same scabbard it had. I couldn’t believe it, but there it was, between his fingers: the Tashikawa family’s katana. He wasn’t lying after all.Bookmark here

“You rejected yourself by doing so, you rejected the katana.”Bookmark here

“I didn’t. I lost control, that’s all.”Bookmark here

Haru shook his head. “You know it’s more than that. I’m sorry. I won’t take you along with me. It’s too dangerous.”Bookmark here

I gritted my teeth, clenched my hands. I wanted him to know that I could do it, but there’s this cloud of doubt that hovered above my head. Haru wasn’t wrong. I didn’t know what I wanted. I thought I could do it, but yesterday proved that I wasn’t myself anymore. When I lost control at that dock, I lost something more than that. I lost myself.Bookmark here

“Good. You understand now. Let’s move, Cindy.”Bookmark here

Even though I wasn’t allowed to help, I was allowed to come along. We took the helicopter. It brought us to a speeding train, a hundred miles from where we were. It followed the train closely. Bookmark here

Haru stood while facing the cargo ramp. Geared up in a suit that has plates above where the vitals were, but not on the joint of his body, so he could move easily. It looked like what Ria had, but it had more protection than before. A gauntlet fit on his left arm, and he held a full-face helmet with a horn sticking out in his right hand. It’s how I remembered it from the pictures: The Infamous Oni.Bookmark here

“Thank you again for helping me.” Haru looked at Cindy with a smile.Bookmark here

“Ricky was excited when she heard you were back. She brought out all the equipment she built for you back then. She always thought that you would come back one day.”Bookmark here

“It wasn’t a lie. I was dead, not metaphorically. Literally. Someone help me come back to help them. Anyway, where is Ricky?”Bookmark here

“Something bad happened to her a long time ago, it’s not my place to say anything. To put it simply, she can’t come, but if you make it out alive from here, she would love to see you again.”Bookmark here

“I’ll make sure that comes true. Since I’m alive and all, let’s have a barbecue together. All of us.”Bookmark here

“That would be nice. Here, Ricky made it specifically for you” Cindy handed Haru a handgun. It wasn’t like anything he’s seen before, the design was minimalist, there weren't any moving parts or sliders.Bookmark here

“What’s this?”Bookmark here

“Ricky called it Rule Breaker MK IV. A handgun powered only by a Stoalium battery. It shoots an energy beam, and it only has twenty shots. So, make it count. You can set it to lethal or non-lethal with a flick of a switch.”Bookmark here

“You should set it non-lethal,” I said when I stood beside him. He turned to me with a raised eyebrow. “It’s not like I care for them. You just came back from the dead. That means heaven and hell somewhat exist, right? I don't want you to ruin your chance for heaven.”Bookmark here

He smiled at me and patted my head. “Aye, aye, Captain.”Bookmark here

The alarm blared above us. When Haru heard it, he wore his helmet. Bookmark here

The ramp lowered and the back of the train revealed below us. Cindy and I took a step back, but Haru leaped out from the ramp and landed on the train. I watched from above as the helicopter flew back up.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

Haru landed on the roof with ease. He made his way up the train. From Cindy’s information: there are about twenty-five men inside this train, from powered to non-powered. There’s also a batch of dangerous prisoners inside. Bookmark here

He stopped over a closed hatch. There’s no way to open it from the outside. It makes sense since this is a train made for transporting dangerous criminals. Two automatic turrets popped from the roof and aimed their guns at Haru. They know he’s here.Bookmark here

Haru took out his katana. The blade had grown back after what happened when Kenn used it. It was cleaner and shinier, like brand new. And it was sharper than before. Haru cut the turret on his right clean off from its stem.Bookmark here

He put up an energy shield on his left as the turret fired every round it had at him. The shield worked better than the one he had back then when he was alive. It’s stronger and the force from the bullets was absorbed into the shield. Another swing from his katana, the last turret fell off from the train.Bookmark here

With all this commotion, Haru will be needing a new plan to enter. He can’t go through the hatch because they will be expecting him. The front of the train is a good choice, but there could be more turrets up there. That leaves him at the back of the train, more turrets, and there will be tons of men he has to go through till he gets to Kusagi. It’s going to take time, Haru wondered if time is on his side.Bookmark here

Three of those choices are going to be a pain in his ass, so why not a fourth option: He makes an entrance of his own. He took an Earth stance, calming his nerves and mind until everything outside him was muted.Bookmark here

“Tashikawa Style: Shattering Boulder.”Bookmark here

He swung his blade down on the roof, shattering the steel roof into pieces. The shocked faces of the soldiers below were priceless. Haru sheathed his katana into the scabbard and used it whole to knock out one of the soldiers below. He put up a shield and blocked the incoming bullets. Since Haru was in the middle of them, the soldier had to be careful with firing their rifles.Bookmark here

There wasn’t enough room to swing his katana, so he relied on thrust and downward hit. It was enough for him to start moving forward. He found himself in the holding cell caboose with no sight of Kusagi.Bookmark here

He jammed the tip of his katana against someone’s throat and pushed him into the other soldiers. Two soldiers behind him were ready to strike him down with a stun baton. He took out his handgun and shot non-lethal two blasts behind him. Then, Haru used the unconscious man in front of him as a ladder to get on top of him. A clear path was set before Haru. He skipped over the heads of the soldiers and swung himself into the next caboose.Bookmark here

He shut and locked the door behind him, using an emergency hatchet right next to it.Bookmark here

The next caboose put a smile on Haru’s face. A rectangle glass cell in the middle of an empty caboose. The glass itself was thick beyond a normal one. It could probably withstand a 50 caliber bullet. Inside it was a hybrid, a combination of a rabbit and a woman. She was secured with steel cuffs like a wild animal. She was none other than Kusagi Tashikawa herself. Haru’s target.Bookmark here

Kusagi’s eyes widened when she saw Haru, she wanted to say something but was gagged.Bookmark here

Yet, trying to set her free doesn’t come easy as a large, heavily armed Mech stood between them. In its left hand, armed with a railgun, while the other had a claw. Haru wondered about his chances of survival. It concluded that he could take that thing in a one-on-one fight. It will be hard for sure, but a few broken bones weren’t going to stop him.Bookmark here

His chances of survival dropped when another person broke the locked door with a blue flaming blade. A man who was disfigured with burn marks, a robotic hand, and mechanical legs.Bookmark here

“Is it really you? I’ve seen the pictures, but I can’t believe it. The Infamous Oni has graced us with his presence.”Bookmark here

Haru glanced between the two of them, trying to find an advantage. That Mech won’t fire the railgun if the other soldiers were behind him. However, Haru could be wrong, so he tried to be cautious of everything.Bookmark here

Salamander launched himself over Haru and on top of the Mech. “Do it now.”Bookmark here

The static in the air became lighting, and it licked the railgun. The mech fired the weapon, blasting a metal rod that tore apart the rear caboose. An explosion followed. Haru was pushed outside the train and onto the roof. He was quick to put up his shield, but the blast was something even he can’t block without sustaining damage.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

My eyes widened as the train exploded. The explosion flung Haru onto the back of the train. I absentmindedly took a step forward, but Cindy grabbed my arm. I turned to her with raised eyebrows.Bookmark here

“Haru has a powerful ability. He will be fine.”Bookmark here

“He didn’t tell you? He doesn’t have any power.”Bookmark here

“What? Damn it, Haru. Still, you can't go there, you will only be a burden to him.”Bookmark here

Is this what I want? To sit back and watch the people I loved sacrificed themselves for me? Am I that pathetic? All this power for what? Then what do I want?Bookmark here

That’s right. You are pathetic and weak. Everything you did doesn’t matter.Bookmark here

You’re right. I kept doubting myself and losing control. I can’t even save one person.Bookmark here

See? I was right all along. Kehehehe.Bookmark here

A chuckle escaped me. “You are absolutely right. I can’t save anyone... but I can fight.”Bookmark here

“Kenn? Who are you talking to?”Bookmark here

I backed away from the ramp. Cindy looked at me with a confused look. A grin appeared on my face. I took off running. Cindy tried to stop me, but it was too late. I jumped off the back of the helicopter. The wind ravaged my body as I dived toward Haru. Bookmark here

My body fully turned into hard light. I couldn’t help but smile all the way down. This has to be the most idiotic thing I have ever done. The Mech jumped on the roof from the cloud of smoke. It armed his railgun at Haru. I flipped my body and kicked the Mech back into the train. Bouncing back from my kick, I landed beside Haru.Bookmark here

I laughed, stumbled back, and fell on my butt.Bookmark here

Haru looked at me with a smile on his face. “Took you long enough.”Bookmark here

“Sorry about that.”Bookmark here

“A good old grandpa and grandson team up.” Haru stood up and pulled his dislocated shoulder back into place.Bookmark here

“That’s not a thing. And you’re too young to be my grandpa.” I raised myself, then turned my fists into hard light.Bookmark here

“I’ll take that as a compliment.”Bookmark here

The Mech jumped back onto the roof with Salamander on top of it. “You? The report stated you were dead.” Salamander laughed. “Lucky me. Say, when you died, did you ever meet Arthur?”Bookmark here

“He’s baiting you,” Haru whispered.Bookmark here

“I know…” My hands balled into a fist. “You take him. I will take the Mech.”Bookmark here

“Wise choice. Ready?”Bookmark here

“Ready as I can be.”Bookmark here

The Mech aimed the rail gun at us. We both charged forward. Salamander sent a wave of blue fire to thwart our dash. I turned my body fully into hard light and launched Haru up in the air while I pushed through the wall of fire. I felt the tremendous heat against my hardened body.Bookmark here

Haru took a Water stance against the incoming fireball. “Tashikawa Style: Stream.” He directed the blast back into Salamander. His opponent was sent back into the front of the train.Bookmark here

A single uppercut against its body caused the Mech to take a step back. It was forced to fire its rail gun into the sky. A dent the size of my fist was left behind. I continued my assault, landing several hits against its metal armor. I forced it back, nearing the edge of the roof.Bookmark here

It swung its claw at me. It was slow enough for me to duck down and avoid it. “Stardust Punch.” A breakneck speed uppercut sent the Mech into the front of the caboose.Bookmark here

Haru blocked every swing of Salamander’s fiery blade. One thing Salamander misjudged was the sharpness of his fiery blade, he thought it could cut anything, but it was wrong. Nothing can break the Tashikawa family’s katana.Bookmark here

“Haru!” I called out to him. He wore a grin before backing away. Bookmark here

Salamander raised his eyebrow at his sudden opponent’s retreat. He finally realized a Mech was thrown toward him. He did not avoid it, though, instead planted his hands on its back. Then stopped it from going overboard by propelling the bottom of his feet with fire.Bookmark here

“Fire!” Salamander ordered. The Mech fired its rail gun.Bookmark here

The metal rod dispersed the air at breakneck speed toward me. I stood there with a smile on my face. Haru appeared in front of me. “Tashikawa Style: Flow.” Haru cut the incoming metal rod in half. Bookmark here

Soldiers poured out from the back. Salamander blocked our means of escape with a wall of fire. Haru tossed the katana forward through the fire. It flew by, barely an inch away from Salamander’s face.Bookmark here

“You missed,” He taunted.Bookmark here

“It wasn’t meant for you,” Haru replied, then raised his arms up in the air.Bookmark here

I followed Haru by raising my arms. Salamander was confused by us, but he ain’t taking any chances and was about to order his men to fire. However, the noise of cracking glass coming from behind stopped him.Bookmark here

The blade had torn Kusagi’s suppressor collar off her. It's only a matter of time now. With her superhuman strength, she tore the cuffs around her arms and legs. The gag was torn next. By the look of it, she wasn't in the mood to waste time here. She squatted down and launched herself through the glass as it was nothing. Bookmark here

Even though several broken glasses had cut her body, she flew through the fire without hesitation. Then stopped herself when she arrived between Haru and me. Her arms wrapped around our waist.Bookmark here

Our helicopter flew above us. After concentrating her strength on her legs, she leaped forward at an incredible speed and height. She carried us into the back of a helicopter while a dozen bullets flew by us.Bookmark here

However, the Mech wasn’t going to let us go easy. It aimed the rail gun at us, but before it could do anything, the katana flew through Mech’s chest from behind. Shutting off the mech. The katana slid back into the scabbard. Salamander flung several fireballs at us in anger. But, it was too late, we’re already out of their reach.Bookmark here

After a hundred miles away from the train, the helicopter finally landed at a private airstrip in the middle of nowhere. Cindy owned this place, so no civilian would accidentally find us here. It’s a good place to stay low for a while. Bookmark here

Haru walked out of the helicopter cargo bay without a word. It was weird, he was too quiet even after we saved aunt Kusagi. We were all tired and needed some time to rest, but Haru was different. He felt distant for some reason. He took a seat on a chair. Posture straight and strict as if he was meditating.Bookmark here

A sudden embrace jolted my senses. Aunt Kusagi hugged me with all the heart she had. Her tears drenched my shirt. It was not out of sadness, but true joyous relief. I returned her tight embrace.Bookmark here

“You’re here.” She pulled away and pressed my cheeks. “You’re alive. I thought I lost you.”Bookmark here

“It’s okay. I’m here.” I pulled her into another embrace. “I had help getting you back.”Bookmark here

Aunt Kusagi turned her sight to Haru. “Is that really him?”Bookmark here

“Yeah. You should go talk to him. I’m sure he missed you too.”Bookmark here

She walked up to him and stopped. Her hand was about to reach him, but she hesitated. The man she cherished the most is right in front of her. However, why is she hesitating? She always wanted to meet him again. And when she got that wish, she had doubts. Kenn is here and so is Haru, she’s afraid that this might be a cruel dream.Bookmark here

“I see you covered up that barcode with a tattoo.” Haru took off his helmet and set it aside.Bookmark here

A smile grew on her face. “It really is you. How? I saw your body.”Bookmark here

“If you were wondering about me being a clone or not. The answer is no.”Bookmark here

Kusagi noticed a large bruise hidden underneath his collar. “You’re hurt.”Bookmark here

“It’s from the fight earlier. I can handle it.”Bookmark here

“No, you can’t. I’m going to grab the first aid kit. You stay here and rest.” Aunt Kusagi rushed back into the helicopter.Bookmark here

I helped her in treating Haru’s injuries. Turns out he had more than a small bruise. His body was riddled with it. He must have kept it quiet for us.Bookmark here

Cindy left us to buy something for dinner. There’s another reason she left us. It was so we could catch up.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

In the middle of the city, where skyscrapers ruled supreme. Bradford stood in front of a crater. It was his work. He caused this. He wanted it. All for the name of revenge. However, now he accomplished it, why is it so empty inside him? He had destroyed every Tashikawa family member.Bookmark here

Juliet stepped out from the van with a worrisome gaze. “Bradford.”Bookmark here

He turned his face slightly to the left. “What is it?”Bookmark here

“Ironhide called… He said: Kenn is still alive.” Juliet had a small hidden grin at the mere mention of the news. “They just broke Kusagi out of the prison transport. And they had help from Oni.”Bookmark here

Bradford burst out laughing for a quick second before calming himself down. “Get everything ready.”Bookmark here

“Yes, sir, but what are going to do with Ironhide’s request?”Bookmark here

“What does he want?”Bookmark here

“He wants us to deal with it.”Bookmark here

“I don’t need him anymore. We’ll stick to our original plan.”Bookmark here

“But he won’t be pleased to hear that.”Bookmark here

“He thinks we need him, but we don’t. Ignore him, that will buy us some time.”Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

Haru stared absently at the water tower. I joined him. It wasn’t the water tower he was interested in. Instead, it was the skeleton finger in his palm. When I looked closely at the water tower, a massive word can be seen on its body: Astra.Bookmark here

Where did I hear that word before? It’s like that word has been repeating over and over again.Bookmark here

“Where is your aunt?” Haru asked.Bookmark here

“She got some business with Cindy. What should we do next?”Bookmark here

“Hmm, my love is pointing at this tower, but there’s nothing here. I guess she wanted us to wait.”Bookmark here

“Wait for what?”Bookmark here

“I don’t know yet. But what I do know, whatever it is, it’s going to help us save Catty.”Bookmark here

A bolt of lightning cracked the water tower apart, spilling the content below it. Haru pulled me away from getting drenched. It was bizarre. The lightning came from out of nowhere. There wasn’t even a dark cloud above or a single cloud at all.Bookmark here

Suddenly, a ball of lightning erupted from the destroyed water tower. A woman was tossed out from the ball of energy and toward us. I pushed past Haru and caught the unconscious woman in my arms. A cloud of steam rose from her skin, she was hot to the touch.Bookmark here

The ball of lighting disappeared.Bookmark here

“Who is she?” Haru asked.Bookmark here

Her head was clean-shaven, several scars decorated her olive skin. She was wearing some kind of gear, a mismatch of military outfits. Upon a closer look, I knew who she was. Even though she was older when I first met her. It was her. It’s Zanny. The one who helped me escape.Bookmark here

“Zanny. She’s helped me. We need to get her someplace where she could lay down.”Bookmark here

“Let’s bring her inside.”Bookmark here

“Is she who’s going to help us?” I turned to Haru.Bookmark here

“Might be.”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.