In a shocking twist, Hien Vo-Chase is a good, wholesome kid. The worst that can be said about him is that he cares way too much about designer sneakers, and is sometimes less gracious to his mother than she deserves. He’s so sunny and good-natured that even Aspen, a cynic par excellence, can’t bring herself to resent him for it. He’s mystifyingly normal, with, up until recently, concerns that any kid in any city in the United States could have had.
Now he’s in way over his head, so deep he can’t even conceive of it. And even when he does realize, there’s no way he’s gonna abandon ship or swim to shore, not if it means leaving behind the people(???) he cares for.
A cadet member of the ISA, he seems a bad match for convicted criminal Aspen and her associates. However, in defiance of both their handlers (the people that will one day be his superiors, and he knows that they’ll remember this), he continues to pursue a friendship with her. She seems so lonely! And , uh, she’s insanely hot, but he tries to keep himself from being too weird about that. He is overwhelmingly determined to Just Be Decent.
His father passed away when he was very young, so he was raised by his mother, her parents, and his paternal grandfather, whom he was extremely attached to. Ông nội taught him vovinam, an indigenous Vietnamese martial art, and with it, the idea that he has a responsibility to stand up for and protect those weaker than he is. I’m trying to figure out the closest Vietnamese equivalent of ‘Ben’ here, because, naturally, someone who gives a lesson that close to ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ is destined to catch a bullet.
Which is just what Ông nội did.
Nobody is exactly certain what happened with Hien during that altercation. Well, they know about the shouting and the eventual gunfire. But Hien himself… maybe there was something special about his grandmother after all, and Ông nội just never got a chance to disclose it. Maybe there was something special about him. Maybe it was just a sheer fluke of magical power, or a blessing, or something. The shot that was fired wasn’t even meant to kill him, but, even so, while it was partially burrowed into him, he went incorporeal, and it left only the scar on his cheek. Now he can do that at will, and, in addition to just how helpful it is to do stuff like that during close combat, Hien can punch ghosts. Well, like, ghosts and anything else that isn’t exactly physical! That’s baller, isn’t it?! He thinks so, at least.
The discovery of this latent magical ability is what prompted him to become an ISA cadet. Those who can have a responsibility to those who cannot, after all, that’s what Ông nội said, and it’d be an insult to his memory to do anything different. Exactly none of Hien’s family agrees with this choice, especially not his mother, who has seen her husband and his father die, and is in no hurry to bury her son, too.
Hien is as close to a normal, well-adjusted kid as there is in the main cast. Clearly, misery is his future. But he’s gonna keep on doing his best! Until his best either saves his friends, or gets him and everyone he loves killed.