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“Did you just see that?” Oracle asked. “He didn’t attack them! This is Oracle bringing you the highlight. Rakshasa is not the bloodthirsty animal the League claims.” The camera drifted upwards as the villain rushed towards where they’d emerged from. He wildly lifted chunks of rubble, throwing them away from the site. “What in the world is he doing?”

Oracle’s shoulders slumped when crying rang from the new opening. There were children trapped in the wreckage. As a rescue-focused super, she often went on about her detection programs. Over two decades later, the league still used surveillance drones of her design. However, in the midst of a rescue operation, they had failed her. It wasn’t she, a hero, that had saved the trapped individuals but a supposed villain that her organisation had sworn to fight. The drone continued to record as Rakshasa lifted a family out of the collapsed tunnel. He ended up pulling out a dozen people.

Then another boom sounded nearby, making Rakshasa flinch. A golden disk made of light shot through the air, slicing through Rakshasa’s arm. The man he had just pulled out and two of the children. If the villain hadn’t moved, the attack would’ve killed him too. Everyone watching knew where the disk had come from. Its owner called them chakrams.

“They’re just kids, Vish!” Rakshasa yelled at the sky. “What’s happened to you?!”

The camera panned to face the sky. A man in golden armour floated down, riding a manhole-cover-sized disk. Several rings floated behind him, forming an interlocking circle. Vish waved his left hand at Rakshasa, and he leapt to the side. Two chakrams broke free and zipped through where the villain had been standing. It minced through the survivors, killing them all.

“You’re forcing my hand,” Vish replied, hopping off his glowing mount onto the ground. “Why couldn’t you just leave ‘well enough’ alone? I’ve been doing so much good.” He shook his head, shoulders drooping. “Look at all this devastation we’ve caused. It could’ve all been avoided if you stayed away and left me alone.”

“This wasn’t me!” Rakshasa roared. His flesh bubbled around the severed limb, and it took a couple of seconds to regrow. “It’s your damn chakrams! I’ve tried to stay away from population centres, but your lemmings keep herding me there!”

“I can’t control my chakrams’ flight patterns or explosive tendencies yet. You know that.” Vish’s words made Oracle’s back stiffen. She didn’t move to face the confrontation and let the drone continue to record everything. It broadcasted all the recordings to her helmet, so she didn’t need a direct line of sight. Besides, she was blind. It didn’t matter which camera recorded the scene. “It’s a shame. I hoped sticking to crowded areas would keep you away—”

“You don’t understand, Vish! It’s a matter of balance. You have to stop this! I know you’ve been doing great things. Bloody hell, you saved the world! Isn’t that enough? Surely you got this madness out of your system! It's time to stop.”

“Why don’t you just go away?” Vish attacked Rakshasa once again, but the villain danced away from the disks. They flew straight on, struck a wall, and exploded, raining brick and mortar everywhere. “This wouldn’t have happened if you left me alone.”

“I can’t help it!” Rakshasa exclaimed. “Why don’t you understand that? By picking up the mantle and doing everything you have, you’ve ruined this dimension’s balance as far as the Vedas are concerned! Those rifts around Westmisnter? Those aren't opening for no reason! Your presence at the League headquarters is causing that—”

“Nonsense. You just can’t bear to see me in a position of power. It was supposed to be you, wasn’t it? Look at you now.” Vish laughed. “Rakshasa. You couldn’t have picked a more obvious name.”

“If you won’t stand down, we’re going to make sure everyone knows the truth behind your powers and the price of using it.”

“I can’t allow that,” Vish said. He thrust both arms at Rakshasa, and all the chakrams flew at him at once. The oversized villain crossed his forearms to block the attack, and ten ethereal arms grew out of the ground, mirroring the move. Each of them was the size of his body, but the chakrams still cut through them one by one. It wasn’t until they reached the second-last pair did they stop. “So, that’s who you got your power from. Ravan, the king of Lanka.” Vish laughed again, and despite its musical quality, the menace behind it was apparent. “Why would you pick the nemesis when he fell to the chakrams in the stories, too?”

Rakshasa didn’t answer. Instead, he went on the offensive. When he lunged at Vish, several ethereal pairs of legs grew out of his hips and launched him forwards. As soon as they disappeared, several pairs of glowing white arms grew out of Rakshasa’s back. A few of them crossed themselves in front of him, ready to defend the other thrown chakrams. The others pulled back, preparing to launch several simultaneous punches.

Vish pulled his extended arms back towards his chest, and the chakrams gathered in front of him, forming a golden shield. When Rakshasa met it, his fists struck the glowing disk all at once. A metallic screeching made Oracle jump, and she scrambled to cover her ears despite the helmet. Cracks spider-webbed across the shield before exploding, raining fragments on Rakshasa. The crossed ethereal arms protected his head and torso, but blood sprayed from exposed limbs.

“You can’t win...Rakshasa.” Vish paused before speaking the villain’s name. He burst out laughing. “I’ve had more time to learn about this power. You, on the other hand, have been suppressing it, trying to keep it hidden so I couldn’t prepare.”

Rakshasa removed his mask, exposing a handsome, mid-thirties face. He looked at Vish with pleading eyes. “Please,” he begged. “You have to stop this. I can’t stop until you do. The Vedas won’t stop until the karmic balance is restored.” He took a step forward, and his bulging muscles shrank, returning Rakshasa to more human proportions. He was a short—five foot and six inches at the most, and skinny. The man looked nothing like the villain terrorising West London. “Power corrupts. If I fall and you continue on the path you’re on, someone else will rise and follow in my footsteps. Or worse, the Vedas will turn on you and force you down a dark path to balance all the good. It’s inevitable.”

“Won’t you just shut up!” Vish’s placid face contorted with rage. He sent a trio of chakrams at the smaller man but got no physical reaction. Several glowing white arms grew out of the ground instead, blocking the golden projectiles.

“Vish is not the hero the world thinks him to be,” Oracle whispered. “He just launched his attacks without care for civilian lives. We might have a frame job on our hands. Is the new A-rank hero, Vish, a fraud? Who is Rakshasa, really, and how are they related? The League doesn’t want you to know the truth about their new star player, but something doesn’t smell right!”

Vish thrust his arms out on either side of him, and the golden fragments flew back towards him. They reassembled, forming the chakrams once more. They spun around Vish, blurring into a single ring of light. When Rakshasa summoned countless silver arms, legs and heads out of the ground, Vish shot at him. The hero didn’t bother defending and ran past his opponent. Everything was still for a moment. Then Vish’s spinning chakrams slowed, and blood sprayed from the villain before he collapsed in a heap. The summoned body parts dissolved into white light, leaving the chakrams and flickering street lamps as the only sources of illumination.

“No,” Oracle whispered. A chakram flew free from Vish at the drone. The screen went dark a heartbeat later.

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J Pal

  • London

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