Threat Level: N/A
“I need to eat,” Danny said, as his stomach rumbled. “A couple of hours in bed wouldn’t hurt either.”
“You need a full night of sleep,” Kaka said, smiling. “I don’t think you’ll be going out tonight.”
“There’s always tomorrow.” Danny sighed.
“Are you sure about that? Wouldn’t it be better if you spend a week or more training?” Kaka raised his hands before Danny could answer. “Just think about it. You’re an adult super now. I have no say over what you do with your life. I’d just like you to be prepared.”
“For now, I just want to eat, Kaka. The rest we can think about later.”
“You need to commune with the Asuran Veda before you do anything else,” Kabandha said.
“I don’t want to spend another eternity in the index, Kabandha.” Danny sighed. “Let me eat—”
“No. This will be quick and you’ll want it. Trust me.”
“Go on, Danny,” Kaka said. “It’ll take me a bit to get everything ready, anyway.”
Kabandha disappeared as soon as Danny followed Kaka through the door of light. The glow faded once they were both clear, and only a mirror remained encased within the stained frame of wood and metal.
As Kaka disappeared up the stairs, Danny looked between him and the Asuran Veda hesitantly. The ancient tome pulsed with energy the same way Druid’s staff had when Danny touched it. When he approached the book, the cover flipped open and Sanskrit characters flew off the pages and swirled, forming blurred rings of ink. Before Danny could touch it, the rings shot at Danny. They coiled around one another, forming tendrils. He touched, dodging them, but they followed Danny, catching up to him just before he reached the stairs. The ink shot into his Holo device.
“What the fuck?” Danny screamed, batting at his ear. It was then he remembered it still contained Druid’s Holo Device. It powered up without his prompting.
Primitive device assimilated.
Device hidden from Suran Veda.
Device only visible to devices on Yggdrasil’s Network.
No devices on Yggdrasil’s Network visible within range or local networks.
Power scanning and measuring function adapted to local parameters using ThreatLevel App’s templates.
Danny’s eyes widened as he read through all the information projected by the HoloLens. When Kaka mentioned that most magic came from technology they didn’t understand, Danny hadn’t taken him seriously. Now, as he read the messages, he thought otherwise.
You have fed Kabandha.
He gives you power in return.
After processing the lesser rakshasa’s essence, Kabandha gives you three options:
- Burning Breath
- Tough Hide
- Metabolic Regeneration
None of the three had an accompanying description. However, when Danny focused on each individual word, images flashed in his mind’s eye, showing what each of them did.
Burning Breath showed Danny standing with his arms outstretched and palms facing the sky. Little flames danced around the orifices, rising and falling with every breath. The hand-mouths spat liquid flames. They shot six feet into the sky before raining around him as tiny droplets.
That’s pretty awesome.
It looked like an ability Kabandha would want. Danny would cook foes, making them more delectable for the asura. It had two major drawbacks. First, keeping the grotesque orifices hidden would become near impossible. Second, fire was much too difficult to control. Danny’s sensory abilities put him in the Stalker category. With the sonic blasts, Danny could hit and run. However, spewing flames would leave him exposed and visible.
Focusing on Tough Hide showed Danny his fight against the lesser rakshas. He saw himself trying to sweep the creature’s legs. Focused on his opponent and ignoring the information his eyes fed him, Danny missed several minute changes. The view zoomed in on where their limbs struck. The rakshas’s hide went taught, and the beast didn’t so much as flinch. Meanwhile, Danny still felt a hint of soreness despite the essence’s revitalisation qualities. He was sure Tough Hide would increase his Survivability. Kaka would likely have fewer reasons to discourage him from joining the League.
Finally, Danny studied the details of Metabolic Regeneration. He saw Kabandha fighting a tiger. They exchanged several blows, but the tiger got in more hits. Its long claws raked skin and shredded flesh. Because of his stubby legs, Kabandha struggled to get close to his foe. Blood poured from his wounds, and the asura slowed with every passing moment. Eventually, the tiger got overconfident and lunged. Kabandha caught the beast in his giant mouth. Sickening crunches filled the forest clearing, and the tiger fell to the ground in two halves.
Even though the sight sickened Danny, he wanted the third power straight away. Kabandha’s wounds boiled and steamed before stitching themselves closed. Consuming food would heal his wounds.
After some thought, Danny settled on Metabolic Regeneration. Tough Hide would likely only protect him from unempowered blows. Durable heroes needed a lot more to survive. As soon as he made up his mind, the decision locked itself in.
The heavens didn’t fear the rakshasas for their resilience or fighting prowess. After all, Brahma and his followers carried weapons capable of smiting all that stood in his path. What worried the king of gods was their numbers and power to come back from all but the most fatal of injuries. For aeons, he tried to solve the mystery, but he never could replicate the rakshasa’s ability to speed up natural regeneration with food.
Threat Level: N/A
Powers: Enhanced Sight and Hearing, Sonic Blasts, Durable Arms, Metabolic Regeneration
The HoloLens switched itself off. The Asuran Veda sat on its pedestal with all of its lights and magical effects missing. Much to his surprise, all the art and characters on Kabandha’s page had disappeared.
An almost unbearable stinging consumed Danny’s left middle finger. Black lines spread from its base up to the first joint, forming a ring around the digit. He fell to his knees, clutching his finger as the pain intensified. Just as the discomfort became too much and Danny could no longer bear it, it stopped. After wiping tears away, he got a good look at the finger. A black tattoo depicting fruit and a mouth extended from the base of the finger up to the joint. The art style matched the pictures in the Asuran Veda—somewhere between beautiful and creepy as fuck.
Well, that will not help me stay anonymous.
The problem would escalate as he fed Kabandha more essences. Just hiding the hand-mouths wouldn’t be enough. Now, Danny would need to cover his hands in and out of costume. He didn’t mind. If it strengthened him, he would accept all the finger tattoos the Veda gave him.
Danny needed to figure out where to get more essences, too. He was sure the local supermarket didn't stocked them. Unless Kaka had endless stores of monsters or he chanced upon rifts. When Danny came upon essences, he needed to be careful about what he picked, too. Once he joined the League and started growing through their ranks, people would pay more attention to him. They’d ask unwanted questions if his abilities changed drastically.
When Danny headed upstairs to the apartment above the restaurant, Kaka had dinner ready. Chicken Tikka Masala, rice spiced with cumin and stir-fried okra had him smiling. Danny detested the vegetable, but he was ravenous and ate it all. He knew better than to turn down fibre, too. Danny ate the okra first. Once crushed with a fork and mixed into the rice, he could easily ignore the odd slimy but rough texture.
Metabolic Regeneration took effect within minutes of him starting the meal. The pain in his leg eased first. The soreness faded not long after. In the following minutes, the tightness around his recent injury faded, too. The scar didn’t change in the slightest, but all the discomfort he felt was now gone.
“Kaka, I’ve decided,” Danny said. “I’m heading over to the League HQ tomorrow.”
“What?!” He almost choked on his piece of chicken. “I thought we discussed this, Danny. You’ve only just unlocked your powers. You’re going to get hurt out there if you don’t know how to learn them first.”
Danny raised his left palm, opening the mouth. Following his instructions, the teeth pointed outwards, and he dragged them along his right forearm. They left long red lines along the skin.
“What are you doing?!” Kaka exclaimed. He jumped off his chair and fetched a roll of kitchen towels.
By the time he got back, the scratches were already healing. The wounds felt unbearably itchy as they healed, but he rode through the discomfort. Considering the rate of healing, they would probably take an hour if not more to disappear completely, but they proved a good enough example to get my point across.
“Kabandha gives me power in exchange for food,” I explained. “This is my reward for the lesser rakshas’s essence. I know you’re worried, Kaka, but it’ll never be safe enough for me to join the League. They have resources to help me train and the sooner I start rising through the ranks the better.” Kaka didn’t meet Danny’s eye. Instead, he watched the scratches as they slowly closed all on their own. “I don’t need your permission, Kaka. I’m an adult. At the same time, you’ve been a father to me and the last thing I want is for things to sour between us because of this decision. I love you, man.”
Kaka sighed. “Things could never sour between us,” he said after a minute of silence. “I’m just scared, Baba. You’re all I have left.” He returned to his seat and shovelled a mouthful of rice and chicken into his mouth. “Just the thought of you intentionally putting yourself in harm’s way scares me. I don’t know what I’ll do if I lose you too...Someone has to continue the family trade. Those relics won’t protect themselves.”
“You’re in your early forties, Kaka. You still have time to meet a woman and have a litter of children.” Danny’s joke got a smile out of the older man. “Don’t worry.” He nodded at the eyes floating around the room. “With Kabandha watching my back, no one will get the jump on me. I’m smart enough not to needlessly get into a fight as well. Heroes do more than just fight villains. They help people.”
“I know. I know.” Kaka leaned back in his chair and stared into Danny’s eyes. “Joining the League isn’t easy, you know. Surviving in it and climbing the ranks is even harder. There’s a lot of politics involved and you’ll need to hide a part of your power and its origins at all times. Or maybe at least until you’re powerful enough.” Kaka paused. It looked like he had more to say, but didn’t know how to broach the subject.
“What is it, Kaka?”
“Magic attracts magic,” he answered. “Magic using supers are few and far in between and far more dangerous than meta gene users. People will think you’ve allied yourself with some eldritch monster if they glimpse your hand. Then they’ll try to take it from you. There aren’t enough magical sources in the world for people like us to bond with.” Kaka faltered again, but pushed on. “It won’t be just villains that’ll be after you. If another magic-using superhero—no matter their rank and reputation, gets a whiff of where you get your abilities, they might try to steal it.”
“Don’t worry, Kaka. I know what’s at stake.” Danny took his uncle’s hand and gave it a light squeeze. “I’ll keep the mouths hidden. I’m thinking of getting some dark gloves and cutting holes to let out the sonic blasts. I’ve thought this through.”
“Fine, can I just make a request then?” He asked. Danny nodded, gesturing at Kaka to continue. “Give it a week. We’ll go down to Mirror World and practise whenever we get the time, and you’ll help me with the deliveries.”
“What happened to the speedster girl?”
“I let her go when she refused to follow my rules,” he answered. “Get used to your new physiology and give me some time to find a replacement.”
“Fine,” Danny said, after taking a minute to think about it. “Just a week, though. In the meantime, I’ll put together a mask and a codename.”
“What’s the plan?” He asked. “You’re not going to register your powers?”
Danny shook his head. “I’d rather people continue thinking that I’m powerless. That way, no one will ever think to connect my heroics to you or the restaurant. If we’re keeping my power’s origins a secret from everyone, we can’t very well put the restaurant on the map.” As they spoke, it finally clicked why Kaka had pursued nothing greater than the life of a takeaway chef. The job was the perfect cover for him, too. No one would ever suspect a family with a cheap Indian restaurant to have superpowers.