Chapter 1: A Gift From the Heavens
A man walked down the street, stiff briefcase in hand, his suit tight and uncomfortable in many places, the bags under his eyes threatening to become like deadweight, and a dead sigh escaping his chapped lips. Staring at the sidewalk, swerving around the crowds of people that yelled, screeched, and seldom excused themselves, he swiftly made his way into his favourite coffee shop. It was a quick swing into the glass doors, and a wave of relief that soothed his being, and he knew he could look up again.
For the heart of the city, it was almost vacant. Almost nobody came into this shop, which was odd, since most humans on the entire globe’s surface drank gallons of coffee everyday. However, the woman who owned the place was known to not take rude comments lightly. Using her broom as a prized weapon, she drove out so many horrible customers that the rest had been too terrified to ever set foot in the quaint place.
“Mornin’,” that unmistakable woman’s voice called from the counter as the bell above the door signaled his arrival. She was bent down, grabbing something from behind the counter. Within another second her frizzled head popped up, and a playful grin streaked her dark, African face.
“Ryan! Back as usual, huh? What can I get ya for?” Her black eyes glittered as she leaned over the counter, her typical white shirt and jeans combo underneath a stained, orange apron with the words ‘Coffee Lover’ expertly woven into the fabric.
Ryan approached the counter, not even bothering to look at the menu and striking conversation.
“Rita. It’s more dead than usual, isn’t it? Just grab me the usual.” She set off to work instantly, focusing half of her attention on the coffeemaker, her grin never quite fading.
“Bah, the mice of this city are just to wobbly in their knees to face a girl who’ll beat them if they’re a little snarky.” She mixed in some sugar and cream into his coffee as she spoke.
“Isn’t that bad for business?” Ryan chuckled. Rita brought his coffee to him, closing the lid and placing it on the counter. She gave him a cocky look.
“Maybe so. But the customers I get tend to stick around now, don’t they?” She pressed some buttons on the cash register and continued, “One French Vanilla; two bucks.” Ryan plopped the money on the counter, taking his coffee and drinking a small sip.
“Thanks,” he said. Rita stared at him for a moment.
“When are you going to quit?” She suddenly asked. Ryan nearly choked on his drink.
“You heard me. This stupid business job you have - when are you going to quit? It’s easy to see you don’t like it. The way you always drag your feet up here every morning...you must want something else. And I wouldn’t quite say you have the ideal look for a businessman.” Ryan sighed, looking to the left. A mirror stood, oddly aimed towards him. He could see his full reflection; a square jaw, jet black hair, some early morning stubble, and tired brown eyes. Oh, he also supposed that he had quite a few tattoos. And by quite a few, that meant they covered a good chunk of his body.
He had sleeves on both arms, each sleeve featuring a whip wrapping around his wrist. There were sharp blades around them as well, and the whips trailed onto his chest, where he knew a gleaming sun shone on his breast. On his back was a set of inked wings, its feathers gently resting on his back. There was also a small knife on his right ankle. What could he say? Ryan loved his weapons, his sun and wings. He loved his tattoos. It was a miracle he was able to cover them all for work.
“Alright, so maybe I don’t look the part. Or enjoy the part. At all. I still have to make a pay for rent.” Ryan sighed, averting his eyes and gazing into the steam of his coffee.
“’Course. We all do. But, you know, I was once told that in an average human life, someone will make three major career changes. This might be the time to consider such a thing. Just keep it in mind, alright? Now go, you’ll be late.” Ryan hesitated, but gulped down his thoughts and gave Rita a last smile.
“Thanks,” and this time he meant it.
Another regular, boring day of numbers and complaints. One full of stress and uncomfortable pants. A lunch full of boring rice and overcooked steak. A walk home full of uneventful ruckus and pushes from other people. It was the kind of day that the average human went through without question, without ever wondering if there was more to the world other than earning a paycheck.
Ryan truly hoped that he’d find a better place than he was now. He had been thinking about Rita’s words for most of the day. Even as he stalked home, slow and annoying the public, he still found himself swimming in her words.
Three major career changes, huh? Ryan thought. He never really wanted to be a businessman anyway - it was just an escape from his family nagging at him to go to college. The studying was difficult and time-consuming, and even though he had the job now he was still heavy into student-loan debt. Starting another career now would be foolish, financially.
But something spoke inside of him, something that Ryan wasn’t sure was a repressed feeling or some sort of hallucination. He needed a change. At this point, it didn’t matter that he was in debt. He could start fresh - do something he actually loved for a living and feel good at the end of the day.
Ryan had made his decision. He was going to switch.
“H-Hey! Lemme go!” A high-pitched yell broke through his thoughts. He stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, ignoring the shouts of angered civilians and gazing down an alleyway. He saw a small child, no older than ten years old, struggling against two full-grown men. Even though he was far away, he could still see the evil gleam in their eyes. The way they looked at the poor kid made him sick.
Without thinking, without reasoning, Ryan marched himself down the alleyway, a power surging through his body. The men glanced up, laughing as if Ryan’s very presence was a funny joke.
“Can’t you see we’re busy here? Get lost, asshole.” One of them gave a quick glance before going back to grabbing the boy.
“I-I’m fine! I can handle these bozo’s myself!” The boy protested, though he looked unsure of himself. Ryan didn’t speak a word. He hardly knew that his body was shaking. He hardly realized it when his fist collided with the man that spoke to him. It was a sturdy punch, but not enough to knock him down. The man spat on the ground, pissed.
“Jo, hold the kid. I’ll take care of this fucker.” The man let go of the boy and cracked his knuckles. “You don’t know what you’re gettin’ yourself into.” Ryan said nothing, glowering at the man’s twisted, greasy, alcohol scented face. He swung, and Ryan barely dodged, the fist just missing his ear, and sent a nifty right hook at him.
It collided, and for a moment he felt victorious. But the man was far from gone. He signaled for the other guy to join him and swung quickly, this time knocking Ryan hard in the cheekbone. The other guy joined in, kicking at Ryan as he fell down. Ryan could feel bruises forming already, the pain was so intense he felt tears roll down his cheeks.
Not only that, but the pride he once held had so easily shattered. He briefly saw the kid’s face through a swollen eye as the two men stopped beating on him and started to walk back. Crushed. No, beyond that. Ryan couldn’t even describe the kind of pain that the kid must have been feeling. He felt something throbbing through his body, but assumed it could only be the physical pain he was going to be in for a few days at least.
By chance, he glanced down at his arm, the suit torn and his arm mucked up with dirt and gravel. He could barely believe his eyes. His tattoo was glowing. It was radiating a light of its own, a sort of luminescent aura.
My gift to you, a woman’s voice spoke so soothingly in his ear, though there was no such woman around him at all. Though it was beyond all logic and reasoning, her voice filled him with such a great bound of determination that Ryan somehow found the strength to shakily come to his feet, all of his tattoos gleaming a heavenly light. A power surged through his fingertips, and he felt almost weightless.
The men disregarded Ryan’s glowing tattoos; they must not have seen them yet, but the boy was gazing at Ryan with wide eyes.
“You really don’t know when to quit, do ya?” The greasy man said with a snicker. He geared his fist to strike, but was caught speechless when Ryan grabbed his hand with ease. Ryan didn’t know why he felt this way, but something told him to reach into his tattoo. It was absurd - absolutely nothing could come of it, but when he used his free hand to come closer to the glow in his arm, his hand easily slipped inside.
Ryan felt his hand clasp around a sort of handle. He couldn’t tell what it was, so he pulled it out. A whip, not unlike Ryan’s own tattoo, appeared in his hands, with a strange, inky texture, and a familiar feeling in his hands. By this point, the greasy man was looking terrified, and his friend wasn’t looking any braver. Ryan felt the whip easily snap at the greasy man, as if he’d known how to use them his entire life.
A gash appeared on the man’s cheek, and his eyes widened as he felt the warm blood drip down his face. He wasted no time in letting out a girlish yell, dragging his comrade by the wrists as they bolted as fast as they could away from him. They were gone. Ryan looked to where the kid was, beaten and terrified. He approached him, and the child understandably flinched.
“D-Don’t hurt me!” he cried. “I mean...I can t-take you on!” Ryan could see that he was trying to be brave, even in an odd situation like this.
“It’s alright. I’m not going to do anything. No more fighting, okay?” Ryan gave the boy a small smile. As he did, his whip dissolved from his hand, the ink returning to the exact spot in his arm from where it came.
“How did you get those superpowers?” The boy asked.
“I don’t know,” Ryan answered honestly. “It just kind of...happened. Are you alright?”
“I’m fine.” The boy held his head up high, regardless of the bruises and cuts that were extremely visible.
“I can help you out, if you want. My home isn’t too far away. Or - better yet, where’s your parents? I can take you to them.” The boy opened his mouth to say something rash, but thought better against it and instead stared at the brick wall, fighting tears.
“They’re dead,” he choked out. The smile vanished from Ryan’s face. Dead?
“Oh,” Ryan cleared his throat. “Well...I can’t just leave you here alone. If someone else were to come and grab you then what we just fought for was worthless. Are you okay with accompanying me to my house?” The boy bit his lip, a thousand thoughts possibly running through his head. Ryan could barely sympathize with him - his parents were healthy and very much alive.
“Fine, mister. But you need to tell me your name first.”
“That’s easy. I’m Ryan, Ryan Ikaika. What’s your name?”
“Markus. But call me Mark!”
“Will do.” Mark was a bit reluctant at first, but soon stuck with Ryan as they made their way through the bustling city, gathering a few suspicious glances along their way, but pulling through all the way. Ryan had a billion questions rushing through his head that demanded answers. What happened to Mark’s parents? Who was that woman that spoke to him? How did his powers even work? Why did he get them now, of all times? Ryan shook his head. There were more pressing matters to attend to now, all of his questions would be answered in time, sooner or later.
A/N: And that marks the end of this first chapter! This was an absolute joy to write - I’ve been wanting to introduce the character of Ryan for a while. So, what did you think? Let me know! I eagerly look forward to the next chapter