Threat Level: N/A
Power Type: Unknown
At first, Danny assumed Kaka’s relic didn’t give him any combat potential. It appeared to do a little more than reflect the world on the other side of the doorway. The misconception when Kaka pulled a marble out of his pocket, whispered a short chant under his breath, and smashed it on the floor, creating a plume of silver smoke.
When it cleared, Danny was surprised to find an ugly pig-faced humanoid. It made a half-snort, half-oink sound and looked around with a confused expression on its face. Danny had never seen a creature like it before outside of HoloGame commercials. Because of their financial status, he never got to partake in such luxuries.
The pig-nosed creature oinked and swiped at Kaka, but lightning arced between its limbs before the limb made contact. It convulsed and squealed, collapsing in a heap, panting.
“What the hell is that thing, Kaka?” Danny asked, squirming when he made eye contact with the ugly creature.
“A lesser rakshas,” Kabandha said. “Where in Brahma’s pompous name, did you get one of these?”
“I trapped them when a rift opened in Amersham,” Kaka answered. “It was mostly luck, to be honest. I kept them for training once the Veda awakened. I suppose you’re going to get more use out of them than me.”
“Hold on a second. You expect me to fight that thing?”
“It’s a big part of the super lifestyle, you know.” Kaka’s words brought Danny back to reality. He couldn’t afford to be freaked out by a little pig-faced creature. There were worse looking villains, and they had even uglier minions. A large part of a hero’s job involved containing rift monsters, too. “Your powers are sensory-focused. To deal with it, you’ll need to—”
“No, they’re not,” Kabandha said, interrupting Kaka. “Those mouths are weapon enough.”
“I was considering keeping them hidden,” Danny said.
“Why would you do that?” The skin above Kabandha’s one eye furrowed. “The eyes are just a bonus. The mouths are your true tools of power.”
Danny opened the hand mouths and flexed the muscles within. “As much as I appreciate it, these will scare people more than instil confidence. Besides, I don’t particularly like the idea of taking chunks out of everyone that I fight.”
“Do I look like a monster to you?” Kabandha frowned. He paused, giant eye sweeping over Danny and Kaka. “Don’t answer that.” He chuckled as he continued. “I don’t want you to take bites out of random people, of course. Most humans taste awful.”
“That’s not the point—”
“Before Brahma turned me into this grotesque form, I was a musician.” Kabandha didn’t let Danny get a word in. “Sound is your weapon, Sameer.” Kaka cleared his throat, and the asura froze. “I mean Danny.” He sighed, correcting himself. “Point the mouths at the wall, and I’ll teach you how to use them.”
The humming inside the hollows of Danny’s arms intensified. First, the sound grew in sound and then the vibrations gained intensity. The muscles felt no different from those in his throat.
Danny shouted as loud as he could, but Kabandha flicked him in the back of the head, interrupting him.
“Not like that, you absolute dolt.” Kabandha sighed. “You’re using the wrong muscles. Think of when you expel the eyeballs and control them. This should be no different.” Danny followed Kabandha’s instructions again, but failed. “Just remember the sensation for now.” He sighed. “The instinct is all there. You just need practice and correct motivation to use it.”
While Danny practised, Kaka talked about his understanding of known magic-based superpowers. The majority of them involved conjuration or manifestations, putting them in Controller, Projector, or Master categories.
Kaka used Rakshasa’s powers as an example. Even though he was primarily a melee fighter, Rakshasa gained his strength from the spectral limbs he manifested from his back, sides, and shoulders. By absorbing the limbs into himself and therefore losing their use, he could enhance strength and durability. The manifestations, combined with the physical augmentations gave Rakshasa incredible offensive and defensive capabilities, as well as a fair bit of utility.
Much to Danny’s surprise, Kaka brought Druid into the conversation. It was mostly speculation, but he guessed the superhero used magic to conjure his pine cones and acorn bullets. The mushroom men were likely his summons. As Danny thought about it, he believed Kaka’s hypothesis was likely correct. When he held Druid’s transforming shotgun-staff, he’d felt an odd energy radiating from it. Kaka mentioned several inactive supers who had retired or died in action, too, reinforcing one point. None of them experienced permanent physical changes.
Danny stood out among them as an exception. As a result, Danny would have little trouble passing as a super that experienced a late awakening. After some discussion, the pair decided to keep it a secret altogether. Most heroes maintained secret identities to protect their friends and families safe from villains. If the world continued to think of him as a powerless, then no would connect him to whatever superhero alias he picked.
Eventually, Kabandha got sick of Danny failing at using his arm pipes, and egged him on to fight the rakshas. Kaka retreated, waving his hands, conjuring a clear barrier. Then he dispelled whatever he had cast on the rakshas and it launched itself at Kabandha. Unsurprisingly, the furry, pig-faced humanoid flew through the asura. Kabandha didn’t acknowledge the attack. After all, he was no more than a reflection to everyone but Danny.
After years of martial arts training, Danny had high expectations of himself. Danny expected to have little trouble deflecting attacks or redirecting a mad charge. However, sparring in the dojo didn’t compare to face a mad opponent out for blood. The creature’s head only came up to Danny’s head. As a result, he didn’t worry when it came barrelling towards him. Danny threw up his arms in front of him, ready to catch any blows thrown at his face. The rakshas threw its shoulder against Danny, throwing him off his feet. Danny flew into the wall behind him. All the air left his lungs, and he slid down to the floor coughing.
The rakshas didn’t give up on its onslaught, and Kaka didn’t step forward to interfere. Danny didn’t expect Kaka’s help. He knew it was a test meant to discourage him from pursuing his dreams of joining the League. When the pig-faced monster followed up its attack with a kick, Danny rolled to the left, away from its hairy legs. His opponent refused to give him any respite.
The rakshas grabbed at Danny, but he successfully parried the attack, using his forearms as shields. Danny rolled away from his enemy, marvelling at how his arms barely stung despite the power behind the attack. He recalled the sensation of his arms swelling with muscle and invisible tendrils coiling around his shoulders and back. The transformation had increased his Survivability. He didn’t need to worry too much about trading blows with his opponent.
After blocking the follow-up attacks, Danny slid between the monster’s legs before jumping onto his feet behind him. Danny exhaled through his nostrils and all three mouths. The act got his breathing under control and slowed his heartbeat. Villains wouldn’t follow the rules of the ring. They wouldn’t use honourable attacks. Instead, they’d try to jump him and play dirty. Danny needed to learn new rules and not let nerves get the best of him.
Calm and collected was the name of the game.
When the monster spun on its heel and swung at Danny, the muscles in its right arm coiled, making the limb look like a wrung towel. Danny didn’t dodge out of the way or run. Instead, he raised both forearms in a cross block. The rakshas’s right hook rattled Danny, but his guard didn’t falter. If not for his footwork, the blow would’ve knocked him down. Instead, he staggered backwards a couple of steps before dropping into a crouch. He swept his leg in a low kick, aiming for his opponent’s right knee.
Danny groaned as the blow connected. He had hoped to knock the creature onto its back, but its legs proved more solid than they appeared. A sharp pain shot up Danny’s shin, making him wince. While joining Kabandha had reinforced his forearms, his legs were mostly unchanged.
The rakshas let loose an angry squeal, picked Danny up by the collar and flung him. Time slowed. It had taken a moment, but something clicked in his brain. Kabandha had shown Danny how to use sound, but as his body hurt and his senses sharpened, the instructions finally made sense.
While flying through the air, Danny pointed his left arm towards the wall. He was milliseconds from striking it when a sonic blast fired from the mouth hole. He felt the invisible force shoot out from the orifice, and the air rippled as a sound similar to a booming tuba filled the room. The force arrested his fall and thrust Danny forwards ever so slightly. He landed on his feet, but it took several staggered steps to regain stability.
The rakshas’s buggy bloodshot eyes widened. It oinked, tilting its head to the side like a confused dog. Then it flared its nostrils and steam rose from them. The rakshas raised its head and roared. The sound didn’t bother Danny as much as the orange glow in its throat.
Danny didn’t wait to find out. When the rakshas charged, he leaned forward and firmly planted his feet on the ground. Over the years, Danny had grown more accustomed to Muay Thai, using mostly punch and kicks in combat. Now, because of his new weapons, Danny needed to keep his palms open. Shotokan Karate used a handful of open-palmed moves. So, he adjusted stances to match the style. Open palms also made grappling an option. However, Danny doubted he had the strength to get his opponent in a lock without suffering major injuries.
A deep breath helped Danny focus. Fighting for the first time using his new senses, Danny hadn’t paid attention to the information his eyes fed him. Finally, he let them feed him the knowledge they absorbed. The eyes read the rakshas’s posture. Its arms weren’t preparing to strike. They intended to grab Danny. Danny assumed the creature intended to hold him down while spraying him with incandescent fluids.
Well, that’s not going to happen.
Time slowed as adrenaline continued to work its way through Danny’s system. His hand mouths felt the vibrations born of his opponent’s fat feet slapping the ground as it charged. Unlike Danny’s controlled breathing, its was erratic. Unsure of his range, he waited until the rakshas was within an arm’s length before firing sonic blasts from both palms simultaneously. The air distorted in front of him and the shock wave of air and sound burst outwards, making the hollows in his forearms vibrate.
A high-pitched squeal escaped the rakshas when the sonic wave struck it. Its eyes bulged, and fur stood on end. The monster flew back a couple of feet and landed on its back, the cry of pain cutting off abruptly. Danny’s arms ached, and he felt light-headed. He couldn’t tell whether it was a side effect of the sonic blasts or using the supernatural ability had drained him.
I need to end the fight as fast as possible.
Danny sprinted forwards before the rakshas’s body came to a rest. He landed on the potbelly knee first, forcing all the air out of the monster’s lungs. He clenched his right hand into a fist and swung it down hard on the piggy nose. Danny struggled to decide whether the crunch that followed was satisfying or sickening.
A long-skinny tongue shot out of the mouth in his left hand and slithered past rakshas’s lips and down its throat. Danny tried to will it back, but the appendage refused.
At least I can’t feel or taste whatever’s in there.
It returned a moment later, clutching a glowing orange wisp.
“Now, I feed,” Kabandha said.
The tongue pulled the light into his hand-mouth. Danny felt its warmth as the energy flowed up through the hollow in his forearm. The rakshas went still, and its breathing ceased a second later.
Even though Danny wanted to shout at Kabandha for the disgusting element of the power and demand answers, exhaustion pushed such urges away. His body turned into jelly, and he slumped sideways, falling off the rakshasa. Every ache and pain flared at once, and the soreness in his side reminded Danny of the recent injury. Kaka didn’t come running to his rescue. Instead, both he and Kabandha walked over casually and stood over him.
“Thank you for the meal,” the ugly Asura said.
“You’re welcome,” Kaka replied even though Danny was the one that did all the work. “That was some display.”
“Indeed, it was. Our boy has potential.”
The warmth from the wisp pulsed through his body, pushing away the fatigue and pain. He felt strong. For a moment, Danny felt invulnerable. The rush that came with the electric feeling made him want to feed more. He wanted to feed endlessly.
“What is this?” Danny gasped.
“It’s power, my boy,” Kabandha said. “Food for power. I keep my promises.”