Chapter 27:

Brightstar Arc 5 (Chapter 6)

Brightstar: The Rising Superhero

Approaching from the right was Kusagi with twin MP-7 Submachine guns with a few modifications. It was changed, so it can only fire non-lethal rounds. Kusagi let it rip on Salamander.

He put up a wall of blue fire and melted the bullets. He glanced at the remains and laughed. “Non-lethal round, are you kidding me?”

Morgana came in from the left with her sword, but she couldn’t advance closer. Salamander was keeping her at bay by flinging fireballs at her. She avoided some more until she came and met with Kusagi.

The rabbit woman nodded her head and slid to a stop, then formed a stepping pad with her arms. She launched her companion up onto the second-floor walkway. Kusagi immediately rolled to the left and avoided the incoming fireball.

Salamander moves away from his spot and goes after Kusagi. He erupted a wall of fire on Kusagi path and forced her to run left. Kusagi kept him busy with her SMG. He blocked a couple of rounds with his fire shield.

When he looked forward, she was suddenly gone. Salamander searched around him for her, but to no avail, even the other woman had disappeared from his sight.

The room had gone quiet, nothing but the noise of the crackling fire coming from the burning truck. Too quiet was what Salamander thought. He glanced around him, he scanned the room carefully for any sign of them. He didn’t like it, those women were up to something. He gritted his teeth and formed a dome of blue fire around him.

He pushed the dome outward, enlarging it, so it would force them out from their covers.

Kusagi appeared on the second floor with a fire hose. She was grinning ear to ear before she blasted the dome of fire with water. It didn’t have much effect on the fire, but it did cause enough steam to fill the room from bottom to top.

Salamander turned off his power and heard someone came running toward him, but he couldn’t see who it was or where it was coming from. He started blasting fireballs wildly at the cloud of steam, but it didn’t hit anybody. It did, however, made the attacker change her course.

There was another, this one was firing her submachine gun, so it must be the rabbit woman. Her non-lethal hurt, but it ain’t going to take Salamander down. However, there’s one threat he needs to keep an eye on, it was the woman with the sword. He saw her charging at him, he erected a wall of blue fire around her to keep her trapped while he handled the hybrid woman.

The cloud of steam was still around him, so his visibility was limited only to one meter in front of him. He turned to face Kusagi, but Salamander was shocked to find Morgana instead of Kusagi when she appeared before him.

Morgana was holding the twin submachine gun, but that means Kusagi had the sword. Inside the wall of fire wasn’t Morgana, but Kusagi herself, she jumped over the tall wall of blue fire and brought the blunt part of the blade down on her opponent.

Salamander blocked the blade with his robotic arm, but Kusagi’s strength was too much for it. The robotic arm bent while the mechanical inside was squashed from the impact. He used his other hand and placed it against her chest. An explosion occurred between his hand and Kusagi’s chest that threw her back.

It was a suicide move, but it did the job. Salamander had burned his hand and broke a couple of his fingers. While Kusagi took the full brunt of it, she crashed into the second walkway and took a chunk of concrete with her. Her chest plate had melted into her chest and caused her to feel excruciating pain. She lay there, coughing out blood and unable to move.

Salamander laughed. “Was that your plan, hitting me with the blunt side of the sword?”

It was quick, Salamander had forgotten about the other one because he was too focused on Kusagi’s attack, and she never made subconsciously into list his of threat.

Morgana slid underneath him and took the sword on the floor that Kusagi intentionally dropped.

Salamander looked down, but it was too late.

Using the momentum from her slide, she turned clockwise along with the sword. It cut through his robotic legs apart with a single swing.

Before Salamander collapsed to the floor, he gritted his teeth and aimed his other arm at her. He let out a stream of fire from his hand and mouth at her.

However, she used her shoulder to push his arm away, then used the hilt of the sword to deliver the final blow against the underside of his jaw. A tremendous hit forced his mouth to shut and shattered his teeth while dislocating the bone that held his jaw.

“This is for my husband.” She punched the side of the blade and forced it to turn clockwise. The side hit Salamander’s face and knocked him for good. The man dropped to the floor with a loud thud. Morgana twirled her sword and slid it into her scabbard.

“Shit!” Kusagi said. “I didn’t expect him to do that, but we won, right?”

“The target is destroyed, Mom.” The radios spoke up in their ears.

“Let us leave this place.” Morgana rushed to Kusagi’s side and carried her in arms toward the exit to meet with her boys.

First Data Central.


Zanny sat on top of a rusted chassis. She sighed as she turned her sight to the lovely blue sky. There was a tinge of uncertainty in her gaze along with a sense of fear, not for herself, but for her friend, Kenn. The building she resided in had crumbled, but not out of force, it seems it had crumbled a long time ago as suggested by the moss that grew over the ruin.

Her target, the server, had suffered the same fate as the other. Even the mechs that guarded this building had crumbled into a pile of rusted scrap. However, not a single human or powered was affected by the same affliction this place had. In fact, they were suddenly teleported to an open clearing in the forest near the city.

All that was left is for Kenn to succeed in his mission.


Second Data Central.

Cindy and Ricky.

“I can’t believe you joined this mission, Ricky.” Cindy’s voice echoed in the cockpit of the mech.

Ricky tightened her grips over the two joysticks and blasted the enemy force with non-lethal bullets. “I hate being down there. I didn’t want to, but he put me there, I won’t let him anymore, for me and for my friends.”

“Good to hear that. On your left,” warned Cindy.

She turned the mech at the enemy on the left and fired at them.

Ricky was clinically blind after the incident, but Cindy had spent a huge sum of money and time to fix it. However, no matter how much money she threw at it, her blindness was permanent. So, Cindy transferred her resources to an alternative. And that alternative was Ricky’s greatest invention, it helped her connect to the mech, and gave her a 360’ view with all the cameras installed on the mech.

The mech itself was different from the mech Ironhide had. It had a slimmer body, more humanoid-like and agile, rather than a singular round cockpit with arms and legs attached to it. It had a plethora of weaponry on its shoulder and arms.

She drove the mech through six concrete walls with ease while a squad of Arthur’s son covered her back. Finally, she arrived at the servers, she switched her guns to her flamethrowers and melted the servers with the flame.

“Job done. Let’s go, people!” Ricky said into her microphone.

“Four targets are down. I repeat, four targets are down. It’s up to you, Kenn.” Cindy’s voice traveled to all her allies' earpieces.


Ironhide Headquarters.

Kenn Tashikawa Johnson.

“Drop your weapon, Kenn. Your plan failed,” said Jake.

A dozen and more soldiers aimed their assault rifles at me. There’s no way to go in this tight hallway. I don’t think I can fight them all and survive long enough to finish my mission. I glared at Jake while my hand rested on the sword. “Traitor.”

“Stop right there, Kenn. Remove that sword, or I swear my men will open fire.”

“Damn it.” I gritted my teeth. “I can’t believe you betrayed me.”

“You are the one who turned your back on me. I was being truthful, and you can’t see past your hatred for my brother that I was on your side. You picked this outcome. Remove the damn sword.”

There was no other choice, the katana fell to the floor. “Now, what? You’re going to kill me?”

“No, my brother wants you alive. Restrain him.”

His men took hold of me, I tried to struggle, but stopped when I saw the itchy fingers the soldiers had. They forced me on my knees and restrained me with a steel handcuff. After I was secured, Jake got closer to me and put on a suppressor collar around my neck.

“Bring him to Ironhide’s office,” ordered Jake after he picked my katana off the floor.

The soldiers slid their hands under my arms and forced me to stand. I was forced to walk forward according to their lead. It doesn’t take long for me to arrive in front of a door. They opened the door and pushed me forward. I stumbled forward till I stopped in front of a desk. Across from me was a man with a devilish smile, Long Ironhide.

“I will admit you have a good plan. You did it. You destroyed my serum and the research data. So, what’s next? Wait, let me guess. You are here to destroy the last batch of serum I kept here.”

I scanned the office for the safe, but I couldn't find it. It was well hidden. I need to keep him occupied, or if I’m lucky, I can use his ego to show me. I glared at him. “You figured it out. Congratulations. You have no idea what kind of destruction your serum will bring.”

“You’re wrong about that. I know full well what’s going to happen.” He stood up and leaned against the desk with his arms crossed. “Imagine a world where everyone could have powers. Haha, I know what will happen. All the countries in the world are going to weaponize it, and I will be the only one who can supply them with it. Imagine the power I will hold. The leaders will beg for my product.”

“You’re mad. I should have known it. You do know you can’t have it all?”

“Of course you would think that. Only the weak have that kind of mindset. I can have it all, and I will.” He sighed, bored with our conversation. He turned to Jake and smiled. “Shoot him.”

Jake widened his eyes at his brother. “What?”

“Don’t look so surprised. He trespassed into my property with a weapon and the intention to destroy my property. That’s a justified cause, and the law will take your side on this, and if they don’t, then I’ll make sure they do. Besides, I want to know where your true loyalty lies.”

“Are you nuts? Don’t do it, Jake. You’re not a killer.” I turned to Jake, fear in my eyes.

“It’s too late to beg for it, you turned him to my side, remember? From what I heard from my men, you and my little brother fought each other. Quite the spectacle. He came to me the next day, asking for my forgiveness and begging me to take him back.” A devilish grin appeared on his face. “How could I say no when he was on his hands and knees?”

That last question raised an unbridled rage inside me. To imagine Jake on his hands and knees, begging him, was heart-wrenching. “He’s your brother, and you let him do it?!”

“It was his decision. I only enjoyed the view.”

“You piece of shit!”

Out of nowhere, Jake slapped me. I turned to him and met with his glare. I gritted my teeth and stayed down. “It was nothing. I’ll do it again if I have to,” said Jake.

Ironhide took the handgun from his desk and handed it to Jake. “Don’t forget to turn the safety off.”

Jake stared at the handgun in his hands. Despite his initial hesitation, he pointed the gun at my head and flicked the safety off. I didn’t shy away from its barrel, instead, I pushed my forehead against it and stared directly into his eyes.

In a blink of an eye, the shot was so loud, it silenced the room for a quick second. Steam rose from the barrel as the metal cooled down. Afterward, the sound of tiny metals hitting the floor shook everyone from their dazes.

The bullet was never meant for me. It was meant for the handcuff. The chains that held my cuff together shattered. I pushed myself up without wasting any time while everyone was still surprised. Jake threw me the katana. I took an air stance and unleashed my full power on the soldiers.

“Tashikawa Style: Gust.” The blade sent a wave of light that sent the soldiers away from me and Jake.

“The safe is on your right. The pillar in the middle!” shouted Jake as he charged into his brother and pushed him over the desk.

I quickly turned my body to face the pillar Jake mentioned and prepared myself for another swing. “Tashikawa style: Tornado!”

A swing from my katana sent a raging tornado of light toward the pillar. The cloud of dust settled, and a safe was revealed. I rushed forward and cut it in half. The top piece fell to the floor with a thud. However, inside it contained nothing.

Ironhide’s laugh drew my attention. The soldiers gathered behind Jake and pulled off him. The businessman stood, now with a wide smile on his face. He turned to me and brushed the dust off his expensive suit. “I didn’t come this far without being paranoid. In the deepest part of my mind, I always had doubts about my little brother. He was a convincing little brat, more than I care to admit.”

“Let Jake go,” I shouted at him while my grip tightened around the hilt of my katana.

“This was your plan? So, the fight was fake. You had things figured out more than I imagined. I wonder who suggested a plan of this magnitude?” His eyes narrowed at me, then he turned to look at Jake. “It was you, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah. There’s no way I would betray Kenn, and I had to know where you stored that last serum. I can’t believe you were desperate enough to believe me. I guess you’re scared of being alone after all, isn’t that why you want me?” Jake smirked as he tried to struggle out of the soldier's grips.

Ironhide slapped his brother. “Me, scared of being alone?” There was uncertainty in his voice.

“I thought you said you never told a lie before? I believe that was a lie coming from your lips, wasn’t it, Jake?” I joined with a chuckle.

“Yes, it was, Kenn.” Jake continued taunting the man. He glanced at the flash grenade inside the pocket of the soldier holding him.

“Adorable. Look at you both, best friends for life.” He reached inside his pocket and took out a syringe, inside it contained the serum. “Do you think I care if I lose this serum? Do you think I can’t make more? You naive little brats. I can always start again. I have the power to, and this serum in my hands is just one of my tools. I’ll show you how much power I have by demonstrating to you both how money can buy everything, even your precious powers.”

He injected the serum into his thigh and started laughing. The nerves under his skin bulged while he hugged his stomach out of pain. It started with his sleeves torn from the muscle that developed at an unnatural speed. It was disgusting at how much the muscles convulsed and reformed. At the end of it, he had grown two inches taller. Now at 8 feet tall, his body was at peak perfection of what a Greek god could be. He looks extraordinarily normal except being more attractive, muscular, and taller than he was before.

“I’m at the top of human evolution. I am perfection.”

“If you are, how about a round between us? Or are you scared?”

“There’s no need to taunt. I’ll fight you. And I will beat that hope out of you. Behold true despair.” He nodded at his soldiers. A signal for them to leave, and they did. Only three people were left inside the office, me, Jake, and Ironhide.

“Kenn, you don’t have to fight him. We can find another way to stop him. Besides, there’s no serum left. He used the last one,” said Jake as he backed away.

“I can’t. He’s right on one thing. Even if I destroy all of them, he could still make more.” I took an Air stance while channeling every strength I have throughout my body, changing my body into hard lights.

“As I said before, there’s only one way to end this--and that is death.” Ironhide tore his jacket and shirt off, then tossed it aside.

“Tashikawa style: Calm Wind.” In a few seconds, my blade had hit Ironhide’s arm. Instead of sending him flying, he stood there, unwavering. It was supposed to be a devastating hit, proven by the aftershock that came afterward.

Ironhide’s smirk began to grow as he looked down on me. “Was that it?”

I backed away when he pulled back his fist.

“Now, it’s my turn.” It was too fast even for me, but my instinct reacted for me, I brought the katana before his fist and blocked it. However, even with a good defense, I was sent back across the room and through the wall behind me.

My blade planted into the floor as it held me upright after I crumbled down from the shattered concrete behind me. I looked at Ironhide and the trail of destruction I left behind. He’s definitely stronger than me, but I’m not letting him beat in terms of speed. I squatted down into a runner position and dashed forward.

Ironhide resided himself to hold me, but he misjudged the full extent of his floor. His body may handle the impact, but not the building he’s in. He and I exited the office through the window, and we crashed into another skyscraper next door, but we didn’t stop there. In fact, we went through it and crashed into the roof of an apartment building.

After we broke through five floors, we finally stopped on the six. However, there wasn’t a scratch on Ironhide, he left the floor and grabbed my head with a single hand. A grin appeared on his face, he balled his other hand and gut-punched me with so much force that I was sent flying through a wall.

In a matter of seconds, I found myself outside and hurled across the sky. I held up my arms in front of my head before I crashed into a construction site. My body bounced back on impact before I settled on top of a pile of sand. A flurry of blood escaped from my mouth. I wiped it off and slid down the sand.

Ironhide landed before me. I stood and immediately swung my blade, but a slap from him sent me flying into a concrete truck. I’m losing control over my power, but I need to endure. Again, I stood before my enemy and used all my strength on this last move.

“Tashikawa style: Gust.” A horizontal broad stroke of light flew toward Ironhide. All the metal, concrete, and truck were cut in half when it met it, but when it met Ironhide, he blocked it using his arms. It only left a bruise on his skin after he was pushed back a few meters away from me.

“You can’t win this.” He dashed forward, in a few seconds, he was in front of me. Wasting no time, he took my right arm, then proceeded to grab my left shoulder. He lifted me off the ground and started to pull my arm away from my shoulder.

My eyes bulged while my teeth ground against each other. A single crack at first, it grew, bigger and bigger. It popped, I saw my arm pulled away and detached itself from my shoulder. The sharp pain engulfed my shoulder, immediately I lost grip over my power and my body turned normal. A burst of blood escaped from my shoulder.

He let me fall to the ground and I screamed my heart out. I focused everything of all my power I had on my shoulder, turning it into hard lights. It stopped bleeding, but it didn’t regrow my arm. I put on a painful smile and started laughing.

“Interesting, have you gone mad?” asked Ironhide as he placed a hand on his hip.

“No… I just remember I had worse than this.” I grabbed my katana with my left arm and raised myself.

“I’ll admit. You’re one tough kid. I had torn your arm off, but you still found the strength to stand up.”

“Of course.” I spat a log of blood at the ground, and stared at him, unafraid and even more determined.

“What is this?” Even though he was smiling, his body betrayed that smile because he took a step back. My smile grew even further after I noticed it. For a mere second, I discovered he was scared. “You’re not even afraid, you must have another plan, right?”

“You’re asking me? What can I do? I got only one arm.” I took a step forward. Ironhide wasn’t an experienced fighter, all his moves have been straightforward. Still, the speed and strength made it impossible to block, but move and skill alone only half the battle, just like what my aunt taught me. Doubt is a tool, and to a man who lives in constant paranoia, it’s a powerful weapon.

“Is this place a trap? You planned all this, didn’t you? You led me here.”

I took a step forward, laughing ominously, and he took a step back. “Are you scared--of me?”

“Of course not, but I ain’t a fool. You have another ace up your sleeve. What is it?”

“Like I tell you anything.”

He grew irritated by my smugness and grabbed my shoulder with the missing arm. He dug his finger into it. Though it was turned into hard light, the surrounding flesh around it reacted to it, sending a pulsing pain throughout my chest and forcing me down on my knee. However, I persevered and laughed even more.

“Never underestimate--a cornered rat.”

Those very words echoed inside Ironhide. I could see it now as the doubt grew to fear and fear into paranoia.

“It’s funny, I never won a fight before. I always had someone else save me.”

Five thunderous claps roared the sky above. It was from something that had broken the speed barrier five times, and it was getting closer to our location. The trail of red was left behind and in a few seconds, something crashed into Ironhide and sent a cloud of dust outward. The Crimson Diamond has arrived.

She struck under Ironhide’s jaw and sent him flying into the air. Her super strength mixed with her tough body tore the impervious skin that Ironhide had.

Yes, it was a plan. It was supposed to be the last thing I wanted to happen, but it was a plan nevertheless. That night I fought with Jake, he asked me what if everything went south? And I told him to get the one person who could stop him. But, he will need proof to get her help, and that’s why Jake wore a wire under his shirt. He must have contacted her.

The bad side of this plan, there’s no escape for me. I didn’t have my license, and I caused a lot of damage with my power. E-HAD is going to come and arrest me for the destruction, but they will also grab Ironhide. Once, the Crimson Diamond had her fill with him. I fell back against the pile of sand as I watched the Crimson Diamond give Ironhide a beating of his lifetime.

It was getting harder to breathe, but I could hear the sirens in the background. My sight slowly blurred out. “Haru… you better got it right or all this effort was for naught.”


Haru Tashikawa.

The Infamous Oni.

At a bottled water factory near the edge of the city, inside were thousands of bottled water being produced in a matter of seconds and at the same time being shipped out across the country. Haru leaned against a water tank that delivered water into the bottles on the conveyor belt below. With no weapon on him.

Bradford and Juliet turned around the corner. They immediately stopped when he saw Haru and took cautious action to reach for their handgun. However, Bradford stopped Juliet from aiming her handgun when Haru didn’t even react to his appearance or his action.

“Haru Tashikawa, I presumed?”

“And you are Bradford,” said Haru as he left the water tank.

“How do you know I will be here?”

“Kenn told me. Called it an educated guess. Let’s make it simple, he sent me to stop you.”

“The Kid sent you to kill me?”

Haru shook his head. “Nope. He was strict about not killing you for whatever reason. He only said to stop you.”

“Not kill me? He knows that I will never stop, no matter what.”

“I don’t question it because I have faith in him. He knows what he's doing, and I will abide by his request.” Haru cracked his knuckles.

“He’s a fool then. Still, a Nil fighting a Powered isn’t fair, am I right?”

“That would be a correct statement, but I’m not a Powered. Not anymore. So, do we settle this with hand-to-hand combat?”

“You’re not a Powered?”

“Not anymore. Those days are long gone.”

“Then hand-to-hand it is.” Bradford took out a vial of serum and gave it to Juliet. She looked at him with confusion, but she withheld her opinion when she saw the glare he gave her. “I must warn you, I am highly trained in hand-to-hand combat.”

“Good. Then don’t hold back.” Haru charged at him with fists readied at his side.

Haru’s punch was blocked, he turned and dodged the incoming fist from Bradford. In one move, he took Bradford’s arm and swung him against the metal pipe. Bradford kicked Haru’s feet out from under him and caused him to fall on one knee. Bradford brought his elbow down on Haru’s arm, but Haru let him go and rolled back.

Haru stood again. “Tell me, why are you doing this?”

“Powered is a sickness and the public tends to close their eyes rather than face it. I’ve seen it happen. Time and time again. A powered will always lose control. Even the best of them have no control over their ability, and we still parade and worship them like a god.”

“Is that what happened between you and my daughter? Did she wrong you somehow?”

“I trusted her. I trusted her with my family. And she took them away.” Bradford turned his hatred-filled gaze at Haru.

“But, haven’t you got what you owe when you took my daughter’s life and sent her son to hell, isn't that enough for you?”

“No, I realized there is so much more I need to do. I need to prove to the people that Powered is a mistake. They shouldn't exist or let loose on this earth.”

Haru laughed and dashed forward. When he was near Bradford, he swung his fist against Bradford’s face. It connected before Bradford could block it and forced him to spat a trickle of blood. “How dare you pretend that you have a higher purpose? You’re just a man who hasn’t realized that revenge didn’t tame the beast you have inside you.”

Bradford fumed with anger, he rammed his shoulder against Haru’s chest then grabbed his shirt. He punched him in the face twice before Haru kicked him away. “You don’t know anything about me.”

“Of course I don’t, but I was you. I know… how easy it is to choose revenge rather than walk away.” Haru swept Bradford’s legs right underneath him and kicked him across the room.

Bradford rolled until Juliet stopped him, she looked at Bradford with concern in her eyes. However, he pushed her away with a huff before standing up again. He glared at Haru, then wiped the blood off his lips. “Walk away? What do you know about walking away! How could I walk away when every night I dreamt of them still alive? Only to find out the moment I woke up, they weren’t.”

Haru laughed. “Look at you. A spitting image of whom I used to be. I hate that you kept making excuses to justify your actions. Kenn was a kid, and he didn’t even know what happened between you and Catty. He didn’t deserve it.”

“So does my daughter. She was younger than Kenn when Catty took her away. She looks up to her, and. And...” Bradford chuckled while a tear ran down his cheek. He wiped it away and calmed himself with a breath. “I will fulfill my mission. No matter what.”

“I’m guessing your mission has to do something with that serum.”

“You’re right. A simple plan. It’s not the same serum that Ironhide had, but a defective one. My agent, Juliet, recovered it before E-HAD got a hold of it. Its potency and property have been slightly modified. Now it is much stronger and more potent than before. I plan to dump it into the water supplies and unleash it on the world. Whoever drinks it will gain power or improve it, but it also will make them mad. They will tear down every city in the world.”

“Thank you for telling me. At least I know what to do next.”

“It doesn't matter if you know or not. You can’t stop me, or at least both of us.” Bradford nodded at Juliet to get ready and join the fight.

“Two against one? It’s going to be tight, but I think I can manage.” Haru grinned as he raised his fists in front of him.

Juliet took out a handgun, but Haru stepped out of the way by getting in front of Bradford. Bradford raised his arms to block the punch that was meant for him.

However, that was a feint, Haru twirled around him and punched the handgun out of Juliet’s hands. Haru then stepped back and took the handgun from Bradford’s shoulder holster. He tossed it on top of the water tank, out within their reach. Haru then ducked down and dodged the incoming kick.

Juliet was after the other handgun.

Haru avoided again the incoming barrage of attacks from Bradford while backing away toward Juliet. She grabbed the handgun and aimed at Haru. She managed to fire a couple of shots. He jumped back until her arm was underneath his armpit and the handgun in front of him. He squeezed her arms around his and dismantled the top half of the handgun with one fell swoop.

Bradford charged and threw a punch at Haru.

Haru turned himself and the girl around, so she took the full brunt of the punch and pushed her back against Bradford. It only makes Bradford frustrated. While Haru couldn’t help but grin. “I think you underestimate me.” Haru faced them while keeping himself on the move.

Haru aimed for the girl first, he avoided her kick and got closer to her. He was about to punch her face when he suddenly stopped. He was stunned to find Kenn’s face on her. It was enough for her to stab him with a knife and land a kick that sent him against the metal pipe.

“That was dirty,” grunted Haru as he took out the knife and tossed it away.

“Give me the serum and keep him busy,” ordered Bradford. Juliet complied: she tossed the serum to Bradford, then brought her fist down on Haru.

The punch caused Haru’s sight to blur a bit, he felt it hard. Another punch was coming, but this time Haru took her hand and pulled her for a headbutt. It made her stumble back, Haru left the floor and grabbed behind her neck. He brought her face closer to a medium-sized pipe with a label on it: Extreme Heat.

“Don’t, or I swear I'll burn her face off!” shouted Haru.

Bradford stopped and turned his head with gritted teeth. “Kenn told you not to kill us.”

“A burn won’t kill her. Back away or she gets it. Your choice.”

“I need to finish this, Juliet. I have to.” He turned his back on her and ran toward the metal staircase.

Haru saw the brokenhearted look she gave to Bradford as he ran away. Even Haru felt pity for her. “I’m sorry, kid.” He pushed her cheek against the metal pipe. “This was your choice, Bradford!”

Juliet screamed her heart out as her skin boiled and seared against the scorching pipe. She fell unconscious from the pain, and only then did Haru let her go. Half her face was torn off when she left the pipe, the remaining of her skin had stuck on the pipe. Still, Bradford turned his head out of concern. His goal was the only thing that was on his mind.

Haru sighed, then darted toward climbable pipes. He climbed up before Bradford and blocked the tight walkway. The disappointment in his gaze for Bradford was abundant. “I can tell that you were important to her, but you left her.”

Bradford gritted his teeth. “You’re the one who hurt her. Not me!”

“I gave you a choice. And you made it clear which one you pick.”

“Shut up! I didn’t choose to leave her.” The calm facade he had slowly started to unravel.

“You did. It’s the same with your flimsy revenge. You could have gotten your family back if only you worked with Catty. You could have found a way, but you choose to hold on to that anger and hatred, am I right?!” shouted Haru.

Bradford screamed as he charged forward in anger. His rage had taken over him, and he intended to pour it out on Haru. However, it was a mistake to direct it at Haru.

Haru caught his fist and pulled him closer for a massive headbutt. Before they broke contact, Haru reached inside his jacket.

The headbutt disoriented Bradford. Enough for Haru to force him over the railing and at the edge of falling. He stared at him, not with anger, or hatred for what he had done to his daughter, but pity. Just like he said before, he and Bradford were the same. He knows the pain Bradford holds on to and knows how hard it is for him to let it go.

“She wasn’t even angry at me when I took her life. She looks at me and still thinks I’m her friend. I know how much I hurt her, and she knows how much she hurt me, but I couldn’t forgive her. I don’t have anyone left. I don’t know what to do next. I just wanted it to end,” said Bradford, a waterfall of tears ran down his cheeks.

Haru sighed. “There’s no answer I can give you on what to do next, but you’re not alone.” He let Bradford fall.

Bradford reached for Haru, but it was too late, he was heading down, and there was nothing he could do. Maybe it’s better this way. Maybe the voices can finally shut up. He closed his eyes and waited for his death.

However, before he plummeted, someone caught him. She let out a small grunt before she fell on her butts. Bradford was much heavier than Juliet had expected. She wrapped her arms around him and placed her face closer to him.

“Juliet?” muttered Bradford in confusion. “You save me?”

“You saved me first. I wouldn’t be here without you, and I won’t leave you behind.” She still found the strength to smile through the pain. “Dad, I love you.”

“Juliet, please forgive me for leaving you behind. I--I didn’t mean to,” pleaded the sobbing man.

Haru overlooked the heartwarming moment while keeping his hand pressed against his wound. He leaned back against the railing and took a moment to rest. It’s done. He hopes it was enough. Despite the high adrenaline fight, he was craving some Unicornia ice cream. Perhaps, he should buy some before he went back.