Chapter 25:

Brightstar Arc 5 (Chapter 4)

Brightstar: The Rising Superhero

I had taken a seat near Zanny’s bed and waited for her to wake up. An awkward moaning came from beside me. Haru stood there with a small cup of Unicornia ice cream in his hand. He was enjoying his delights, seemingly without a care in the world. I raised my eyebrow at him. It was distracting and out-of-place, especially when my concern was fully on Zanny’s condition.Bookmark here

“Sorry, I always wanted to taste one of these for a while now. Did you want some?”Bookmark here

“No. I’m worried about Zanny.”Bookmark here

Aunt Kusagi appeared with a large tub of the same ice cream in her hands. “Are you sure?”Bookmark here

“What? At least leave some for me. No, I mean...” I groaned.Bookmark here

“She’s going to be fine. Cindy said so.” Haru waved his hand over my concern.Bookmark here

“But, Cindy isn’t a doctor.” Kusagi noticed the glare from Haru. “Oh, forgot what I said. She’s going to be fine.”Bookmark here

“Ugh, how are you guys so calm about this?”Bookmark here

“It’s because she has no severe injury, she's breathing fine, and her heartbeat is normal. So, don’t worry. She's going to wake up soon.”Bookmark here

Haru perked up on his seat with a grin. “How about we play a round of catch? All of us together.”Bookmark here

“A game of catch, now?” I turned to Haru with a raised eyebrow.Bookmark here

A slap on my back pulled my attention to my aunt. A grin on her face suggested that I have no choice in this. She carried me away by the hip while Haru followed behind.Bookmark here

The idea of recreational activity was obnoxious when the weight of my concern bogged me down. Kusagi set me down while taking a few feet away from me and Haru. I don't know how, but Haru managed to find a tattered baseball. He tossed it to me. I wasn’t in the mood for playtime, so I let it hit my chest before it fell to the ground.Bookmark here

“Kenn...” Aunty looked at me with pleading eyes.Bookmark here

I had to rethink my choice after I saw those puppy eyes. It wasn’t fair, she used the better side of me against myself. I took the baseball and tossed it to my aunt. She caught it and passed it to Haru.Bookmark here

“This is fun? It’s kinda anticlimactic, don't you think?” Haru sighed. “At least, I got to spend time with you both.”Bookmark here

Cindy rushed out from the hangar. “There’s a problem. It’s your friend.”Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

Ironhide Headquarter.Bookmark here

The building was filled with commotion as they prepared for a visit from an important guest. A teenager in a fancy suit walked through the front door and caused the employees inside to take a bow. The suit somehow fit with his clean-shaven head. It looks slick, one could say he looks like a gentleman gangster.Bookmark here

“Mr. Ironhide, It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir. My name is一”Bookmark here

“Don’t call me that.”Bookmark here

The employee bowed repeatedly at him. “Please forgive me, sir.”Bookmark here

“I don’t go by that name anymore. It’s Jake Merryweather.”Bookmark here

“Please forgive me again, Mr. Merryweather. I didn’t know.”Bookmark here

Jake knew better than to pay attention to these people. Their smiles and apologies were empty. It held no weight because they will use anything to get a glimpse of power. Their true nature is akin to snakes. They will take every chance to bite the hand that feeds them if it means gaining power in this company.Bookmark here

It was better to ignore them. Jake left the employee behind. He was escorted to the elevator by the bodyguards. The elevator brought them up to the highest floor of the building. Where Mr. Long Ironhide warmly waited for him to arrive.Bookmark here

"My adorable little brother finally came to visit me. Oh, how much you have grown."Bookmark here

Ironhide’s warm welcome was not returned. Jake simply ignored his brother and took a seat on the sofa.Bookmark here

"Such coldness. It seems you haven't moved on from the last time you were here."Bookmark here

"You’re the one who asked me to come. So, let’s get this over with. I prefer not to be here any longer than I need to."Bookmark here

“Are you still upset about what happened between us?”Bookmark here

“Upset?” Jake scoffed. “You cut me off and threw me out into the street with nothing, just because I didn’t accept your offer.”Bookmark here

“That was because you failed to see the reality in my offer. I wanted you to learn and appreciate the power that you once had. I did it for you. It was out of love.”Bookmark here

“Spare me your love. If you are seeking forgiveness from me, then you are wasting both of our time.” Jake left his seat and turned to the exit.Bookmark here

“I heard your friend has been missing for quite some time now. What was his name again? The hero one. I can't seem to remember.”Bookmark here

Jake glared dagger at his brother.Bookmark here

“If only looks could kill.” Ironhide carved a smile on his face. “Before you start blaming me for the things I had to do, it wasn’t me who initiated first. Your friend did when he started interfering in my affairs. He just had to be the hero…”Bookmark here

“What did you do to him?”Bookmark here

“Nothing that can be undone, but you may find relief in knowing that he’s apparently fine. My men told me: he had broken Kusagi out of a prison transport and was assisted by somebody that was supposed to be dead.”Bookmark here

The good news washed over Jake, but it’s not the place to relax, and in fact, he should raise his guard up. He had a hunch that Ironhide had something else in his mind. An offer to be exactly, Ironhide was the same predictable man he had known for years now. Jake only wishes for the strength to say no.Bookmark here

“Once he gathers enough strength, he will come for me. He won’t stop. There’s only one solution between us. Death.”Bookmark here

Jake clenched his grip. It’s true, there’s no way Kenn could win this fight. It’s hard to swallow, but it is the reality. Ironhide had more men, resources, power, influence, and no one would doubt his words.Bookmark here

“Unless you could stop it or join me.”Bookmark here

“Is that what you were after all along?” Jake turned around. Then he took a step back when his brother was inches away from him.Bookmark here

“I need you, Jake.” Ironhide caressed his little brother’s cheek. “Besides, you know what will happen if they find out the truth about you. Join me, and you could stop this wasteful war. It will be like old times, you and me, against the world.”Bookmark here

“You and me against the world… I wanted to believe that, I really do, but I know you better. You don’t care about me. You don’t care about anybody. You’re the same as Dad, but you don’t want to admit it. I’m sorry. I prefer to take my chances with Kenn rather than be with you again.”Bookmark here

Jake left the room without looking back.Bookmark here

Ironhide tightened his jaw and narrowed his eyes. “Swear on my word, you will come crawling back to me. Begging me to take you back. When that happens, I’ll make sure you will never forget.”Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

We hurried back into the hangar to find something unbelievable. Several Zanny wandered the floor, each one of them was tampering with an object. It’s like she examined everything at once. HoBookmark here

wever, all of them stopped and turned their sight to me.Bookmark here

“Kenn…” They all walked into the center, turning into a singular Zanny. “I see. It’s your moment now. Your time.”Bookmark here

“Zanny, are you hurt?” I stepped forward.Bookmark here

She turned to face Haru. Her eyes widened. “Haru? The probabilities are shrinking. You are not supposed to be here. Ah! Yes. A few outcomes have already been set in motion. We can’t waste time. I need to get you both to where you need to be.”Bookmark here

Zanny took hold of my and Haru’s hands. With a flash of lightning, we were blinded and felt our bodies become weightless. After gaining our sight, we were greeted by a violent sight. A world of endless storms and tornadoes. Fiercely clashing against each other. Bookmark here

I tightened my grip around Zanny’s hand as my bodies were lashed by the brutal wind. I felt my grip slipping away. I took hold of her sleeve before I could be blown away.Bookmark here

“Where are we?!” I shouted, wishing that my voice would make it through the deafening storms.Bookmark here

“The intersection of time.”Bookmark here

“What? I can’t hear you.”Bookmark here

“A place where一”Bookmark here

Despite my strength, I couldn’t hold on to Zanny much longer. I was swept away by the wind and in a matter of seconds, I was getting further away from Zanny and Haru. They both screamed and tried to reach me, but it was too late.Bookmark here

Before I knew it, I lost sight of everything, not just Zanny and Haru. My body had been twirled countless times. I couldn’t even determine which way was up or down. A bus flew past me from out of nowhere. It almost hit me, I was lucky to evade it.Bookmark here

As I steered my body from twirling, I found myself above a whirlwind. Its suction was pulling me into it.Bookmark here

“Kenn!” Zanny dived toward me. She threw a heavy rope at me. “Take the rope!”Bookmark here

In the corner of my eyes, a World War II plane was heading toward Zanny. I struggled against the brutal wind to get to her, but it failed to produce any result.Bookmark here

“Zanny, look out!” I warned her.Bookmark here

The plane crashed into her, I saw blood smeared against the cockpit. I screamed and struggled, but the whirlwind sucked me down before I could do anything. My body was flung around inside a tornado until I was tossed out.Bookmark here

A flash of light blinded me. I felt my side spectacularly hit the ground before bouncing back a couple of meters forward. After I gained my sight, a cloud of dust blocked my view. When it dispersed, I was greeted with a wasteland in the middle of the night. I raised my sight to find a shattered moon above. The moon was closer than it was supposed to be.Bookmark here

A dread realization dawned on me, Zanny, she was struck by a plane.Bookmark here

“That was unfortunate.”Bookmark here

I quickly turned around to find Zanny, completely fine. She stood there with her gaze directed at the shattered moon.Bookmark here

“I saw you… how did you survive?”Bookmark here

“I didn’t.” There was something else in her gaze. It was too quick for me to determine what it was, but it definitely got to do something with the question earlier.Bookmark here

“What do you mean? You are standing right in front of me.”Bookmark here

“Oh. It happens. Dying. It’s common here. I died a lot.”Bookmark here

“You do?” Her answer was alarming.Bookmark here

“Yes, but don’t worry, everything she feels and thinks has been transferred to all of us.”Bookmark here

“How about pain?” I raised my eyebrow at her.Bookmark here

“Pain…” She paused. As if the word was foreign to her. “Yes, even pain.”Bookmark here

“Are you sure you're okay?”Bookmark here

“I’m fine. There is so much going on. You’re not supposed to be here.”Bookmark here

“I’m not? Haru! What happened to him?”Bookmark here

“He’s where he should be. The other me made sure he got there safely.” Zanny took a seat beside me, hugging her legs closer to her chest.Bookmark here

“Where are we?”Bookmark here

“Earth. In the future.”Bookmark here

“This is Earth, what happened?”Bookmark here

“One of several possibilities. The one I failed to prevent. On this Earth, we went back in time, and you chose to give up. You didn’t become a Hero. Your actions deterred from that point on. Like Dominoes, it tips the next and keeps tipping until we come to the point of no return. It was too late when you decided to fight back.”Bookmark here

“I chose not to fight and this happened. What kind of bullshit is that?”Bookmark here

“That's why you have to fight. To stop this. Ironhide and Bradford failed to see it. That serum they created held more power than they realized. You need to stop him from telling the world of its existence.” She held her tongue for a quick second. “I was there. When you died. I died beside you. You make me promise that I will find a way.”Bookmark here

“How many times did you die before you got to me?” I gritted my teeth together.Bookmark here

“I don’t think you want to know that.”Bookmark here

“Tell me. Please.”Bookmark here

“1,379,467 times and counting up. 2 deaths every one second. Either by unforeseen event or intended. I’m used to it. However, there’s one thing I want to ask of you.” For the briefest of moments, her gaze was glazed with burden, sadness, and pain. It changed to a complete void of any emotions. “I want you to let your mother die.”Bookmark here

My eyes widened.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

Haru was tossed into a blank room. He landed perfectly on his two feet. He proceeded to examine his surroundings. There was nothing in his vicinity, not even a speck of dust. Everything was so white, it made the color white redundant. Not even a horizon can be seen.Bookmark here

“Is Kenn fine?” Haru turned to face Zanny.Bookmark here

“He’s with the other me. They are talking. He’s not hurt.”Bookmark here

“Good then. Is this the place where we were heading?”Bookmark here

“Yes, it is.”Bookmark here

Something jiggled inside Haru’s pocket. It was the skeleton finger. It wiggled itself out of the pocket and flew. Haru followed its trail and was surprised. The skeleton finger reattached itself onto the owner’s hand and turned flesh.Bookmark here

Aeterna, in her human form. It has been a while since Haru last saw her fleshy body and face. Her dark, long mane dragged behind her. It was similar to an overflowing dress. Her eyes were something else. No matter how long since he last saw it, he could still remember every detail about her eyes. It wasn’t hard to remember because her eyes were black like the abyss itself, but at a second glance, it’s more than that. Her eyes were filled with stars, each of those orbs held an entire universe in it.Bookmark here

A smile was carved on Haru’s face. “You have the most amazing eyes in existence.”Bookmark here

Aeterna’s cheek brightened bright red. It was an irresistible blush. Haru rushed and embraced her soft body. He has always wanted to do it. The hug came as a surprise for Aeterna. Her heart pounded even louder than her inner thought.Bookmark here

Haru broke his embrace and gestured to Zanny. “Have you met?”Bookmark here

“We did. Once.”Bookmark here

“Not surprising. But, why are you here?”Bookmark here

“Miss Zanny and I have been talking. I will never force you to do anything and I know even though you love me, there are some things I cannot argue with you. A matter of family is one of those things.”Bookmark here

Haru ran his hand through his black locks. “This doesn’t sound good at all.”Bookmark here

“Haru, you can’t save Catty without sacrificing another life.”Bookmark here

“I’m not trying to bring her back from the dead. I’m trying to pull her away before she dies. Isn’t that why she’s here.” Haru turned his gaze at Zanny.Bookmark here

“Correct. But, her power needs a host, or else, everyone in that park will die.”Bookmark here

“I don’t care about them. You know that.”Bookmark here

Aeterna nodded her head, agreeing. “You may not care about them, but what about Kenn or Catty? Will they understand the sacrifices you're willing to take?”Bookmark here

“Then me. I’ll be the host.” There wasn’t a shred of hesitation when he said it.Bookmark here

“Of course, but your life is not yours to decide.”Bookmark here

“What do you mean by that?”Bookmark here

A crackle of lighting pulled Haru’s attention. He covered his eyes to avoid being blinded again. When he lowered his arm, his eyes widened. Kenn appeared from out of it with another Zanny at his side. In his hand, he wielded a katana. It was unsheathed, and he was ready for a fight.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

“You set my family against me? How could you?” Haru’s hand clenched tightly. “I’m disappointed in you, Aeterna.”Bookmark here

Aeterna turned away. The disappointment from Haru hurt more than she realized. The anger and the pain she caused to her loved one were beyond pain.Bookmark here

I took a step forward. Even though my eyes are filled with pain, my decision was final. I didn’t want to fight Haru, so I will try to beg him to see my way. “Haru, I know it sounds ridiculous. It wasn’t my first choice or my second or any of the choices I could think of. But, it’s the only way. I’m not letting you sacrifice your life to save…”Bookmark here

“Kenn, you don’t need to follow them. We are Tashikawa! We paved our path!”Bookmark here

“I’m sorry, Haru. It’s the only way.”Bookmark here

Haru groaned. “Explain to me why this path is the only way?”Bookmark here

“Zanny showed me every possibility that I could take. It’s far beyond anything I could imagine. I see my death and countless others. I know what to do and what is needed of me. It is a curse to know so much.” A tear ran down his cheek.Bookmark here

“Then fighting me is that one of those paths, you see?”Bookmark here

“No, but I see your tenacity.”Bookmark here

“If you follow whatever this illusion is, you might as well throw away your free will.”Bookmark here

“No, we both can make the choices. Zanny and Aeterna won’t interfere and follow the victor’s decision.”Bookmark here

“We will both be fighting each other. Doesn’t it occur to you that I don’t want to hurt you?” Haru flailed his arms in anger.Bookmark here

“Neither of us want that. Do you think this is easy for me?”Bookmark here

“Now I understand why. Both of us won’t say no. So, when two sides disagree, sooner or later, we will clash.”Bookmark here

Haru took an Air stance with his blade behind him. I mirrored his stance and readied my katana. We muttered the same words: “Tashikawa style: Gust”. Our weapons clashed, sparks flew, and the blades sang. He was strong, there is no doubt about it, but he’s a Nil. Bookmark here

My power gave me an advantage over him. I turned my arms into hard light before our blades clashed again. This time, he had to give in. The back of his blade came closer to his shoulder.Bookmark here

Haru took a step back. I brought the blade down on him. He stopped it by ramming the hilt against my grip. If I didn’t pull back and had my power on, my fingers would have been crushed. Out of nowhere, Haru gut punched me.Bookmark here

I had to back away. That hit almost made me puke, but I kept it together. He didn’t hold back. After a grueling hit, his attacks became relentless. I had to take an Earth stance to block all the barrage. Hit after hit, he was getting faster.Bookmark here

There is no way I could win this, not without using my full strength. I quickly changed into a water stance and turned my full body into hard light. “Tashikawa style: Tsunami”. My katana was pushed away when it met. It was intentional, I used the momentum back at Haru.Bookmark here

He was managed to block my attack. It was not strong enough to stop it. His katana slipped out of his hand. Despite losing his weapon, Haru wasn’t going to give up. He kicked mine out of my hand. The fight became hand-to-hand combat.Bookmark here

I kept my arms up to protect my head. Haru landed a few jabs against my side. I launched a few into him, but he was quick to evade. The pain was gathering around my chest while my power was draining me. I turned myself into hard light before, but this is the second time I ever did it successfully. I haven’t mastered it yet, so it drained a lot of me.Bookmark here

Losing isn’t an option. I pushed my fist at a speed that Haru couldn’t evade. It hit right in his chest and sent him flying back. I leaped into him with my fist ready. My fist shook the floor underneath Haru.Bookmark here

Haru rolled back and kicked me with two feet, sending me back. That hit was a final blow, I had to turn my power off, or I might lose more than a finger. There is no way I’m going to lose. I slammed my shoulder against Haru and forced him on his back.Bookmark here

The fight became desperate, blow after blow. I took some and gave him some. His knuckle and mine became bloody. A splash of blood splatter across my face and his. Bookmark here

He pushed me off and landed a few kicks against my shoulder. I fell to my knees, grimacing at the pain. Another kick was coming, I grabbed his leg and brought my elbow down on it. He screamed in pain before falling in his butt, but not without sending a kick against my face.Bookmark here

We both lay there, bloody and bruised. Either of us had any more strength to stand up, but none of us would be willing to give up. I forced myself to stand with my hand against my face, where he had kicked me. I stumbled on top of him, gritting my teeth.Bookmark here

He called upon the katana. It flew toward him. I extended my hand out at it. The sword flew into my hand instead. It became the same katana I knew, the blade turned into hard light. I pointed the tip against his throat.Bookmark here

“Why me? I’m just an old, filthy fool whose hands are soaked in blood.”Bookmark here

“It isn’t about you…” My eyes watered up. “Can’t you see, it’s her time. I wanted to save her too, but no matter what we did, she'd die before we even won. She will be in more pain with us.”Bookmark here

“What am I doing? I’m causing you more pain.” Haru relaxed his body. “I concede.”Bookmark here

I offered her hand and Haru took it. He stood up with my help. Aeterna wiped the single tear underneath her eyes, then blew against his palm. A sweet scent of lavender followed by a purple mist enveloped both of us. Our wounds and bruises healed in seconds, even our fatigue was washed away.Bookmark here

Aeterna turned to Zanny. “It’s time for them to say goodbye.” Bookmark here

Zanny nodded her head. She proceeded to extend her arms above her. The world shifted around them, forming from tiny particles, and decayed through time until it reached the point where Catty sacrificed her life. She was frozen in time. Bradford can be seen in front of her while holding a trigger, and so do other park goers. They were frozen in time as well.Bookmark here

The explosion had happened and can be seen frozen between the cracks of the earth.Bookmark here

Even though she was frozen in time, she can be seen smiling. I wondered what her last thought was. Zanny tapped on her skin and she came alive, aware of her surroundings. She turned around, confused, but when she saw me, her shoulders relaxed as she smiled. It was the same smile she had. She was thinking about me.Bookmark here

“Mom… I’m sorry I couldn’t do anything to save you.” Tears poured out of me as I gripped my pants.Bookmark here

She turned to Haru, surprised to see him here, but didn’t care much for an explanation. She wrapped her two arms around us and pulled us in closer into an embrace.Bookmark here

“I couldn’t keep my promise. I tried everything, but I failed. If only…”Bookmark here

Catty shook her head. “Y-ah-ou Did Go-ar-od.” She broke away from the embrace and tousled my hair. “Go-ar-od.”Bookmark here

I laughed. “Use your hands, mom.”Bookmark here

She adorably pouted her lips and shook her head with a grin. She looked at Haru. “Kusa-ah-gi ne-ah-ed you-ah.”Bookmark here

“I will be there for her.” Haru nodded his head.Bookmark here

Tell-ah her: I lo-ah-ve her and for-ah-gave her.”Bookmark here

She turned us both around and patted us on our backs. We both glanced behind, seeing mom waving her hand at us as she backed away slowly. I turned around with shivering lips, “Don’t you want to talk to us any longer?!”Bookmark here

She shook her head.Bookmark here

“Why? You don’t even tell us that you loved us!”Bookmark here

You-ah Alrea-ah-dy know.” With a big and toothy smile, she gave Zanny a nod.Bookmark here

A blinding light caused me to cover my eyes. A huge tremor followed behind. I dropped to my knees. She was gone. She really was gone. I broke apart, sobbing everything out while I screamed at the blank sky. Haru kneeled beside me and embraced me. He tried to hold in the tears, but a few of them managed to get out.Bookmark here

“Mom!!!”Bookmark here

“MOMMM!!!”Bookmark here

“MOOOOMMM!!!”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.