Also, I've been thinking about doing a sort of author Q&A about the series, past and present, so if anybody would be interested in asking me some questions about the series, my inspiration for it, or for the characters, let me know and I'll make a topic about it.
Chapter One: The Sword
Seth Jennings sat in his sparsely furnished room watching reruns of his favorite show, Bleach, on his puny television. It was an episode where Chad, a strong, silent friend of the main character, Ichigo, unlocked the full potential of his strange powers. Chad was Seth’s favorite character. Though Seth was, personality-wise, quite different from Chad, he admired the relationship that the character had with his grandfather, one that mirrored Seth’s own when his grandfather was alive. It had been many years now since his grandfather had passed, but Seth still missed him terribly.
Seth looked at his bedside clock and saw that it was past midnight. Sighing, Seth turned off the T.V. and laid his head back on the his pillow. He had school tomorrow and he did not want to struggle to pay attention. His grades were important to him because they had been important to his grandfather, and any time he got a bad grade on something he felt that he was failing his grandpa.
Running through tomorrow’s schedule in his mind, Seth slowly drifted off to sleep.
Seth was awoken by the insistent blaring of his alarm. He looked over to see that it was 7 o'clock, an hour after he had set the thing to go off.
“Damn clock,” Seth groaned as he jumped out of bed. He took a quick shower, threw on some clothes, and hurried outside to catch the bus. Ever since his grandpa had died, he’d been on his own and it had been his own responsibility to get himself up and ready for school. Seth’s parents had abandoned him long ago and had never deigned to enter back into his life, so Seth’s grandfather had been his sole guardian. After his death, Seth’s best friend’s mother, who was a lawyer, managed to convince the court to allow him to stay in his grandfather’s old house on the condition that she keep watch over him.
Seth still wasn’t quite sure how she had managed to get him that arrangement, but he was certainly glad of it. It was nice to have a house to himself, and with the money his grandfather had left him he could easily afford to pay the bills necessary to live comfortably. Mrs. Warner would stop in at least once a week to check on him, though it wasn’t really necessary as he spent half of his time at her house hanging out with Jake anyways. All in all, Seth really had nothing to complain about regarding his current situation. Except maybe the faulty alarm clock.
The bus was just pulling up as Seth burst from his house. It generally showed at about 7:15, and today was no different. If Seth had taken a minute longer to groom himself before heading out, he most certainly would have missed the bus and been forced to walk a good three or four miles. He could likely still have made it to school in time, or close enough, but it was definitely far easier to be driven.
“Good morning Mrs. Glover,” Seth greeted the bus driver as he climbed the stairs.
“Yeah, whatever,” she muttered.
“Cheery as ever, I see,” Seth said, grinning. Mrs. Glover gave him a dour look and he turned to head down the aisle.
“Hey, Seth, over here,” a voice called. Seth looked over to see Jake, his best friend, sitting by himself, motioning for Seth to come over. The two had been friends for as long as either could remember, and though Jake was completely blind, he could recognize Seth’s voice with ease. Besides that, he knew exactly how many stops were in between his house and Seth’s.
“Hey,” Seth said as he sat down.
“Dude, I have some awesome news,” Jake whispered excitedly.
“What is it?” Seth asked, %$**@?# an eyebrow at him.
“Well you know that store downtown that sells only anime stuff?”
“You mean Mr. Hanzaro’s shop? Of course I know it, you and I go there all the time.”
“Yeah, yeah that’s the one. Anyways, last night there were these two really shady-sounding dudes hanging around outside my building. I had my window open and I could hear everything they were saying, but I didn’t pay much attention until they mentioned the store. Once I started listening I heard them say that the store is receiving a shipment of swords today. These people seem to think that these swords are real zanpakuto!”
“Come on, surely they don’t believe that. Surely you don’t. They were probably just talking about replicas from the show. Maybe he’ll finally get in a Tensa Zangetsu. I’ve been saving up for one for quite a while.”
“I don’t know, they seemed pretty convinced. I guess the only way to find out for sure is to head there after school and see for ourselves. Even if you’re right, at the very least you’ll be able to get the replica you want.”
“Fine, fine, we’ll go. But don’t get your hopes up. You know the chances of there being real zanpakuto are practically non-existent, right? How could there be? It’s just a show,
To the two boys, that day seemed to drag on for far longer than most. Despite his skepticism, Seth was quite excited about the prospect of real zanpakuto. Logically he knew there could be no such thing, but I part of him wanted to believe that it was so. He realized that getting his hopes up for something like that would surely only lead to disappointment down the line, but he couldn’t help himself.
When the day did finally end, Seth and Jake began the walk that would lead them downtown, where the anime shop was. The shop wasn’t too far from the school, but when Seth thought about how long it would take him to walk back home, he began to wonder if this had been such a good idea after all. Not that it mattered now. With the bus gone and Jake’s mom working late that night, there’d be no way to get back but to walk.
The farther they got from the school, the more Seth started to notice that they were getting strange looks. Part of that was because of Jake’s blindness, of course, but there was some interest in him as well. He had been born with hair that was an unusually deep shade of red; most people assumed he dyed it and were shocked to learn he did not. People at school were used to seeing him by now, but passerby still stopped to stare sometimes.
“Honestly, it’s not like my hair color’s the weirdest in the world,” Seth complained. “Some people dye it pink or green, and some people even have multi-colored hair! You’d think people would be used to seeing stuff like this by now.”
“Just don’t let it bother you, man. I don’t,” Jake replied.
“That’s cuz you can’t see the people staring, idiot” Seth said.
“So all you have to do is make yourself blind.” Jake smiled. “It’s got a lot of advantages, really. You get to judge people not based on their looks but on the quality of their mind, you don’t have to worry about who’s looking at any given time, your other senses are all improved...”
“And you’d give that all up just for the chance to see one sunset,” Seth said, already knowing where his friend was going with this. Jake nodded and said no more, and the two continued in contemplative silence.
Twenty minutes after leaving the school, Seth and Jake arrived at the store. On the outside, it was a fairly rundown, two-story brick building. There were no windows on the first floor save a small one set in the wooden door, and the only indication that it was a store was the OPEN sign hanging in said window. Today, a man in a pinstripe suit stood near the entrance. He wore dark sunglasses and had messy black hair over which he had shoved a fedora to match his suit. As the two friends approached, the man moved to block the door.
“Sorry, kiddos, store’s closed today,” the man informed them.
Seth raised an eyebrow at the man. “Really?” he asked. “Because that sign behind you says otherwise.”
The man turned to see the sign and cursed under his breath. “I can’t believe nobody noticed that,” he said. “Well then, if you insist on going in, we’ll have to do this the hard way. What’s it gonna be kids?” The man reached down to his side and grasped the hilt of a katana that Seth could swear hadn’t been there moments before.
Seth took a step back. “Jake, maybe we should do what he says.”
Jake, unable to see the danger that the man posed, said, “This guy doesn’t have any right to keep us out of this store. I’m not backing down just because he says so. I’ll fight him if I have to, but I’m getting what I came for.”
“You might want to reconsider that statement, sunglasses.” The man drew his sword. “You brought your fists to a sword fight, after all.”
Hearing the sound of the blade sliding out of its sheath, Jake gritted his teeth and balled his fists. “Dammit…” he growled. The fact that this man had a blade only confirmed to Jake that there were real zanpakuto in the store, and now that he was so close he was even more reluctant to walk away. Under threat of death, however, he had no choice. He was just about to relent when the man’s cellphone started ringing.
“Hold on, let me answer this.” The man put the phone up to his ear and listened, then dropped it on the ground and crushed it with the heel of his shoe.“Looks like its your lucky day, kid. The boss says we’re good to go, so I don’t need to defend the store anymore. Maybe I’ll see you around some time. Later.” With that, then man sheathed his sword and began to walk away.
It was then that Seth noticed the small crowd of curious onlookers that had gathered around the three of them. As the man approached, the crowd parted and he strolled by as if he hadn't just threatened to harm two teenage boys. In the distance, Seth could hear sirens and realized someone must have called the police, though the man didn’t seem at all concerned. Seth didn’t want to think about what would happen if the cops caught up to him.
Seth turned back to find say something along those lines to Jake, but found his friend already heading into store. Seth followed him quickly, and what he found inside forced him to grab Jake and prevent him from moving further into the store. Whoever had been there had left quite the mess behind them. The shelves and tables the held the merchandise had all been overturned, and the merchandise itself was strewn about the store. In the center of the room lay a motionless body.
“Mr. Hanzaro!” Seth shouted, rushing over to the elderly store proprietor. Jake followed more cautiously, feeling his way forward with his foot. As Seth rolled Mr. Hanzaro onto his back, the old man groaned and his eyelids fluttered open. In his hands he clasped a sheathed katana.
“Heh, I thought you boys might show up today,” he said, smiling.
“Don’t try to talk Mr. Hanzaro, you’re injured,” Seth said, but Mr. Hanzaro shook his head.
“I’m fine, I’m fine. The bastards just gave me a little bump on the head, that’s all. I’ve had worse in my lifetime. That’s not what’s important. They took the swords, Seth! All but this one I have here.”
“Are they really zanpakuto?” Jake asked, trying to keep the eagerness out of his voice but not fully succeeding. “I mean, not just replicas but the real deal? Superpowers and all?”
Mr. Hanzaro nodded gravely. “These are not mere toys we’re dealing with here; they’re dangerous. However… I don’t think I have a choice at this point. Seth, take this sword and flee out the back way. I don’t want it falling into the hands of the police.”
“But Mr. H, people saw us come in here. It won’t be hard for the police to track down a blind kid and a guy with red hair like mine. They’ll come for us and then they’ll have all sorts of questions about why we ran!”
“Don’t worry about that, I’ll cover for you as best I can. If they do come for you, make sure they don’t find the sword. Now go! They’re almost here!”
Seth looked fearfully at Jake, then hardened his resolve. He grabbed the zanpakuto with one hand and his friend’s wrist with the other, and quickly led Jake through the debris field that the store had become to the back door. He glanced one last time at Mr. Hanzaro, who smiled at him, and then left the store.
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.