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Threat Level: N/A
Destructiveness: N/A
Killability: N/A
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Might: F
Survivability: E
Recovery: D
Mobility: F
Spark: D
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Powers: Enhanced Sight and Hearing, Sonic Blasts, Durable Arms, Metabolic Regeneration
Classification: Projector/Stalker

“You’re not meeting this woman,” Kaka said. “It could be a trap and agents aren’t particularly secure.”

“Yes I am, Kaka,” Danny replied, digging through his closet. He lacked options for formal and semiformal clothing. The few he had were worse for wear with frayed stitching, holes, or faded patches. “My secret is already out. Sasha knows it, and I’m guessing she's passed the information on to her aunt. There’s no harm in me meeting them—”

“And I’m telling you that it’s a bad idea. Super agents that deal with heroes have the worst reputation. All it takes is one information leak and every supervillain knows your secret identity. With the League you, at least, have more security, encryptions and multiple safeguards.”

“So you’re okay with me going to the League’s offices instead?”

Kaka froze. His eyes narrowed as he continued. “That’s not what I said, Danny. You’re not meeting this woman and that’s final.”

“I don’t appreciate the can’t statements, Kaka,” Danny said. “You forget I’m an adult. At the end of the day, decision is mine. You’ve raised me and your guidance is always welcome, but you can’t tell me what to do.”

“I’m sorry.” Kaka sighed. The immediate apology caught Danny off-guard. While he was still a teenager, Kaka rarely backed off from arguments as readily. “You need to see where I’m coming from, though.” He paused, brows furrowing. Danny felt Kaka’s heartbeat slow behind him as he finally settled on a presentable enough outfit. “I have a deal for you."

“I’m not bargaining with you on this, Kaka. The decision is made.”

“Kabandha might want a say on this, too. Fight one of my stronger monsters. If you beat it, I won’t worry—as much. Kabandha will have his essence, and you’ll be stronger. It’ll be better for both of us.”

Danny glared at Kaka for a moment. It was a manipulative move, but given how his hand-mouths had started twitching at the mention of essence, he knew Kabandha was excited. The asura had feasted on every dish in the restaurant, half a bagel, and a muffin since the fight with the first asura. Now, he wanted more essence. Danny wanted to ignore the deal and visit the agent’s office for a walk-in consultation straight away, but he could feel Kabandha’s presence in his arms. The tongues were rubbing against the hollow forearm’s insides and Danny hated the feeling.

“Fine,” Danny said, leaving the blazer and shirt on his bed. “We do this now.”

Kaka grinned triumphantly, leading the way to the lower basement. Agreeing to a fight while still sleep deprived felt like a horrible idea, but Kaka’s manipulation angered Danny. He wanted to prove to his uncle that he’d grown as a fighter and knew how to handle himself. If Danny continued his current life, eventually he’d slip up during his vigilante activities. His identity would get out. Then it wouldn’t just be villains that came after him, but the League, too.

The dungeon-like lower basement looked bare when Danny entered it. The wall hangings, mounted relics, and display cases had disappeared. However, he saw them on entering Mirror World.

Did he move the originals out of the house after last night?

Danny got an indirect answer when Kaka led him into the upper basement for training. The furniture sat pushed up against a wall and the room appeared unnaturally large. He suspected there was more at play than just an increase in open floor space.

Once Danny reached the room’s centre, Kaka retreated to a corner. He reached under his shirt, gripping the locket hanging around his neck. The doors leading out of the room rippled, then disappeared. Then Kaka smashed a marble on the floor and Danny’s opponent appeared.

Unlike the rakshas, the creature in front of Danny stood a foot taller than him. It lacked distinct shoulders and the large muscular arms joined the torso before tapering into a long neck. The monster’s head was an ugly amalgamation of hyena, man, and pit bull. Its legs bent backwards at the knee and rippled with powerful muscles. Danny knew straight away that his opponent would prove more powerful than any foe he had faced before.

The creature glanced over its shoulder at Kaka. It didn’t lunge at him like the rakshas usually did. Instead, they nodded at one another, sharing acknowledgement.

It’s smarter than them.

Instead of waiting for his opponent to charge, Danny expelled two eyeballs and moved first. He ran diagonally towards the creature’s side. Meanwhile, the hyena-faced creature’s eyes followed him, head moving slowly to keep track. Once behind it, Danny charged forwards. The creature didn’t flinch, and he didn’t hesitate. He thrust his left hand at his opponent, but by the time he fired the sonic blast, it had moved.

The creature stood on the opposite side of the room from Danny, staring at him with its head tilted to the right. The golden eyes had a ferocious coldness to them. Danny charged at the monster again and feigned another blast. His opponent saw through the falsehood and swiped at him. Danny’s eyes and hands detected the movement, but he failed to react in time. The creature moved almost as fast as a speedster.

Danny’s opponent slapped him, and the force whipped his head to the right. He stumbled to the side, failed to regain his balance, and landed on his bottom. The creature didn’t move. Its golden eyes moved from him to Kaka.

“There are opponents out there that are faster, stronger, and have better senses than you,” Kaka said. “The only way you can overcome them is with more practice and a better understanding of your powers, Danny. You know how to fight, but need more time to get used to your physiology. Give yourself more time.”

“I’ve given myself a decade to awaken, Kaka. If you’d been more honest with me, I would’ve had all my teenage years to prepare like everyone else.” He stood up and glared at his uncle. “What are you trying to achieve? Do you intend to pit me against creatures far above my capabilities until I bow to your will? That’s cruel, Kaka. It’s manipulative.”

Kaka frowned. “That’s not what I’m doing, Danny. It’s important you learn your limitations and figure out what your body can handle.”

“And what about this—” Danny glared at his opponent. “—creature. It’s not like the rakshasas, is it? This thing is smarter. It looks like you two can communicate and are on decent terms. You really don’t care if this thing dies after you fail to prove your point?”

“You see the clumps of fur falling off Rin’s body and the mottled hide underneath?” Kaka asked. “That’s not mange. I saved her litter and tribe. Rin put hours that are left of her life in my hands so I can make something of it.”

Danny glared at his uncle. Resentment and rage bubbled inside his stomach. He hated the sensations. Danny would’ve liked to sleep and return to the fight after eight hours of rest, but he knew Kabandha wouldn’t be satisfied with the decision. The tentacle-like tongues in his arm hollows writhed when he thought about walking away from the fight and his palm mouths twitched.

“You’re sleep deprived and not your best self right now, Danny. This isn’t the time—”

Kaka stopped speaking when Danny charged at his opponent again. He doubted winning conventional methods were within his reach. He would need to fight dirty and use the few advantages he had. No two superpowers were made equal. Once he joined the League, Danny expected to fight opponents that outclassed him regularly. Walking away from the fight would rarely be an option.

When Rin waited for him impassively, not taking on a defensive stance or fleeing, he was sure his opponent underestimated him. Danny coiled the muscles in his left forearm. His eyes saw her legs tense. The rest of her maintained the relaxed postures.

On reaching Rin, Danny launched a right hook. She didn’t dodge. Instead, the creature twitched, swinging at him once again. His right hand remained at his waist, aiming down at the ground. The muscles in the hollow protested as he kept them contracted and tense. It felt like trying to sing or yell at an uncomfortably high pitch, but several times worse. Once he was sure Rin had committed to the attack, Danny released the sonic blast.

Rin recoiled as a screeching sound filled the room, her attack going wide. Danny heard Kaka wince, too, but kept all of his focus on his opponent. Her giant padded hands rushed to the pointed canine ears growing out of the top of her skull.

The projectile proved unpredictable. It flew further than last time but missed Rin. Danny’s eyes tracked the trail of rippling air passed under her arm and then exploded behind her back.

The physics behind the attack made little sense to him. Given the situation, he didn’t think too much about it. Plenty of meta-gene-given abilities didn’t follow the standard laws of the universe. His power set’s magical origin only added to the oddities. As far as he understood, waves couldn’t travel as projectiles.

Stop thinking about shit that doesn’t matter.

The explosion of air had staggered Rin. Even though Danny’s left arm burned and he felt a muscle spasm on the horizon, it was in the perfect position for a punch. He fell into a Shotokan karate form, raising his right arm in a close face guard and planting the corresponding foot firmly in the ground. Then he attacked with his left fist, stepping into the punch. The blow caught Rin in the snout.

Before Danny could follow up with another attack, the creature had disappeared. He spotted her in the closest corner almost blending into the shadows and clutching her nose. A stream of blood streamed from Rin’s left ear, darkening the reddish-grey fur. Danny’s heart leapt into his chest when she lowered her hands. Giant claws had grown from her fingers and ferocity filled the previously cold eyes. Rin charged at him, baring her teeth.

Following his instincts, Danny ran. Rin’s current visage terrified him. But the plan had worked. He knew she would win in a fair fight. Speed and strength were on her side. However, Danny had an additional weapon—or he believed he did—and hoped to make the most of it. He ran to where Kaka stood.

“What are you doing—”

Rin was on Danny before Kaka could finish his sentence. The eye informed him of the distance between them, and Danny dove onto his stomach just as she lunged. He screamed as she flew over him, raking her claws across his back. The momentum carried her towards Kaka, and just before she struck him an invisible wall shimmered between them. Danny had seen it several times before. The barrier protected Kaka from the rakshasas. As soon as Rin touched the transparent surface, yellow lightning burst from the surface and struck her. A canine yelp rose from her mouth and she collapsed, spasming.

Unwilling to lose the opportunity, Danny bit back the pain and forced himself on to his feet. He ran to her as fast as he could while the warmth of blood slowly soaked his back. A close ranged sonic blast to Rin’s head ended her life, and a tongue retrieved the essence from her body.

“You weren’t supposed to win that way,” Kaka mumbled, eyes focused on the creature lying dead at his feet. “That was brutal, Danny.”

“The boy completed the test you set for him,” Kabandha said, materialising next to him. “Battle is never fair. You use every tool you have at your disposal. It doesn’t matter whether it’s from your arsenal or a part of the environment.” The asura bowed in front of Kaka. “Thank you for the meal, mage.”

Kaka sighed, clutching his locket. The walls shimmered and the missing doors made themselves visible. “I won’t stand in the way of you living your life, Danny,” Kaka said. “You ignored the spirit of the deal, though. If you defeated Rin as you were supposed to, you would’ve had my blessing, but you don’t.”

“Parents rarely take it well when their children leave the nest and find independence,” Kabandha said after Kaka left. “That’s what I heard, anyway. I barely remember mine.”

The asura faded, leaving Danny alone with his thoughts. Consuming Rin’s essence felt euphoric, but the guilt cut the pleasure short. The victory felt hollow. Guilt filled Danny as he stared at the corpse lying at his feet. As far as he knew, she wasn’t a mindless monster or evil. Instead, she’d made a deal with Kaka to make the most of her final hours, and Danny had stolen them from her.

I’m sorry.

 

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J Pal

  • London

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