The Twenty Zanpakuto is a story that takes place in a world where zanpakuto coexist with the Bleach franchise. It details a young boy named Seth Jennings who lives in the fictional city of Veazie, South Carolina. One day, Seth's blind friend Jake hears about supposedly real zanpakuto coming to the city. When the two friends go down to the store that sells exclusively Bleach souveniers, they find the store robbed of the "real" zanpakuto. All but one remains, and this zanpakuto draws Seth into a dangerous new world.

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 because of the fact that Chad lived alone and had a strong relationship with his grandfather, just like Seth.

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. He knew he had to continue to honor his dead grandfather’s name by getting good grades.

Sighing again, Seth closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.

Seth was awoken by his alarm, blaring insistently. He looked at the clock. Seven o’ clock a.m., an hour after he had set it 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. The bus pulled up to his house just as he came out the door.

“Good morning Mrs. Glover,” Seth greeted the bus driver as climbed the stairs.

“Yeah, whatever,” she muttered.

“Hey, Seth, over here,” a voice called. Seth looked over to see his blind friend, Jake, sitting by himself, motioning for Seth to come and sit with him. Seth marveled yet again at Jake’s ability to know when Seth got on the bus even without being able to see him.

“Hey,” Seth said as he sat down.

“Dude, I have some awesome news,” Jake whispered excitedly.

“What is it?” Seth asked.

“Well you know that store downtown that sells only Bleach stuff?”

“Yeah, what about it?”

“Well, last night there was two really shady characters hanging around outside my building. I had my window open and I could hear what they were saying. I didn’t pay much attention until they mentioned that store, but 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!”

“Hold on, don’t tell me you think their real as well.”

“I don’t know for sure, but the only way to find out is to buy one. That’s way, after school you and me are going to go to the store and get one for ourselves.”

Although Seth was skeptical, he agreed to accompany Jake to the store. All day at school, Seth had trouble concentrating. Lack of sleep combined with intense excitement made it impossible to focus on anything other than fantasies of owning his own zanpakuto.

Although the day seemed to last forever, eventually Seth and Jake were on their way to the store. They chatted casually along the way, both trying hard to conceal their anticipation.

During a lull in the conversation, Seth glanced sideways, looking into the window of a clothing store. Even in the reflection he could tell that his spiky red hair was drawing the attention of the other passerby. They did little to disguise their inquisitive stares. Drawn in by his red hair, the were transfixed by his red eyes. Seth just ignored everyone around him; by now he was to the stares he got wherever he went.

After twenty minutes of walking, Seth and Jake finally arrived at the store. A man in a dark suit was standing near the entrance. He wore dark sunglasses and had black messy hair. As the two friends approached the man moved to block the door.

“Sorry, kiddos, stores closed today,” the man informed them.

“Really?” Seth asked. “Because that sign behind you says otherwise.”

The man glanced behind him. “Damn, how did I not notice that,” the man cursed.

“If you don’t mind we would like to enter this store,” Jake said forcefully.

“Fine, children. Leave now or else,” the man replied.

“Oh yeah. What are you going to do,” Seth said taking a step forward.

The man sighed. “Have it you’re your way kids.” The man reached down to his side and drew forth a katana.

“Holy crap,” Seth exclaimed. “W-Where did that come from?”

“Heh, heh, heh. Like I’d tell you that, kid. Now die!” The man charged forward with his sword raised above his head. Jake turned tail and ran. Seth fell backward as he tried to escape. He saw the blade descend and closed his eyes, expecting to feel the bite of the steel at any second. Instead, he heard a strange crackling noise. He opened his eyes to see that the man had a walkie talkie pressed up to his ear.

“Its your lucky day, kid” he said, crushing the walkie talkie in his hand. “Maybe we’ll meet again sometime.” With that he walked off. Everyone he passed backed away from him in fear.

“Seth!” Jake called. “Do you think that was a real zanpakuto?”

“No,” Seth replied. “Everyone else could see it. If it were real then nobody should have been able to see the sword or the guy. Now come on. Let’s get ourselves a sword.”

The two entered the store at long last to find it in ruins. Merchandise was scattered all over the store. The cash register was smashed against a wall and money was all over the place. In the middle of the floor lay Mr. Hanzaro, the owner of the store.

“Mr. Hanzaro! Are you okay?” Seth shouted, running over to him.

“What’s going on?” Jake asked. He took a step forward and slipped on a pack of trading cards. “Seth why are there card packs and video games all over the floor?”

“It looks like someone ransacked the place.” At this, Mr. Hanzaro started to move. The old man groaned as he tried to get up. “Hold on Mr. Hanzaro. Just lie down, we’re here to help you.”

“The swords,” Mr. Hanzaro moaned. “They took the swords.”

“The swords were stolen?!” Jake cried. “Come to think off it, that guy out there must have been in on it. The walkie talkie he was holding said something like ‘The goods are secure, your job is over.’”

“You could here that?” Seth asked incredulously. “I mean. you were pretty far away.”

“Seth,” Mr. Hanzaro croaked, grabbing Seth’s t-shirt. “Did you come here for a sword.”

“Yes we did, but if they were all stolen then…” Seth did not bother to finish the statement. All his previous excitement had now turned to disappointment.

“You are very fortunate, Seth. They took all but one of the swords. It is right over there on the ground. You can have it, free of charge.” Seth glanced over to see orange hilted katana in an black sheathe. Seth turned back to thank Mr. Hanzaro but he had already passed out.

Seth checked for a pulse and found that it was beating strong. He looked up at Jake and said “He’s got a pulse. Check him over for injuries, you’ll be able to feel them better than I would. I’m going to go call the police. I’ll have them send an ambulance.”

When the police finally arrived with an ambulance, Seth told a couple of officers everything he knew about the break-in and Jake told the paramedics that Mr. Hanzaro only had a few minor cuts and bruises, as well as a possible concussion.

“Well, you boys handled the situation very maturely,” one of the officers informed them. “We’ll notify you of anything we find.”

“Thank you officer,” Seth said.

After the police left, Seth went over and retrieved the sword, thankful that it had not been taken in as evidence. “Do you want the sword?” he asked Jake, holding it out.

“No, you keep it. What use would a sword be to blind person.” With that Jake turned and left the store.

Seth looked around the store one last time. He thought occurred to him that he could take anything he wanted, but he quickly dispelled that notion. No one could say that he was a cruel person. Seth left the store without looking back, not knowing that his life had just changed in a huge way.

That night, Seth did not sleep well. He kept hearing a strange voice in his dreams, but he could never quite make out what it was saying. Eventually, he decided he was not going to get much sleep and went downstairs to get something to eat.

At school, Seth was able to focus on his studies despite his exhaustion. Everything was just as normal as ever.

During math class, the last class of the day, everything was quiet. The students were working on some problems from the math book and the teacher was sitting at his desk grading papers. Seth worked diligently, Algebra II was his favorite class and also what he was best at. He had just finished graphing a logarithm when he heard it.

Seth, whispered a female voice.

Seth looked around. All the students were still working quietly; no one was looking at him whatsoever. Figuring it to be some childish prank, Seth ignored it and went back to work. Although he tried to ignore the voice, it would not ignore him.

Seth. Seth. SETH.

“What!?” Seth shouted. The entire class turned to look at him. Their gazes were inquisitive; Seth could tell none of them had been the ones calling his name. “Sorry, this, uh, logarithm is absolutely ridiculous. I just couldn’t contain my shock.” Although everyone was still bewildered by his outburst, they turned back to their papers and began to work again.

Seth, at sunset, go to the Wasted Valley. There you will discover your true power.

Now Seth was afraid. The Wasted Valley was the home to a nonstop party full of booze, drugs, and sex. Why would this voice want me to go there? Seth thought. He knew how dangerous it was. If you did not come with an invite or with someone who had an invite then you were liable to get killed. Unfortunately, Seth knew that that was where he would have to go.

The Wasted Valley was home to all sorts of lowlifes. There were plenty of drug dealers, thieves, hoodlums, and sometimes even murderers. The police knew the place existed, but they were just a small force and did not have a means by which they could get rid of it. Like many similar places, there was a huge bonfire roaring and many people sitting around it drinking or doing drugs. There was a small cabin off to the side where couples could go if they wanted to get intimate.

Seth walked through a maze of parked cars to get to a small gate that led onto the property. A bulky man stood off to the side of the door. He had a really low buzz cut and a butcher’s knife strapped at his side. Seth guessed that this was Meat-Slicer Mark, the infamous door guard.

“Hey you there. You got an invitation?” the huge hulk of a man asked.

“Well, no, but-” Seth started to say.

“But nothin’, get lost or I’ll slice you up,” Mark interrupted.

Do not be afraid Seth, the voice whispered.

Seth swallowed his fear and said “No, I’m staying.”

Mark reached down and grabbed his butcher’s knife. He took a menacing step forward and growled “Do you want to die, kid. ‘Cuz if you don’t, I suggest you get the hell out of here.”

When Seth made no move to go Mark began to advance on him.

What do I do now? Seth thought.

Look to your side, Seth. Draw your blade and do battle! the voice urged.

Seth looked down at his side to see that he now wore a sword belt with his orange-hilted katana attached. Without thinking, Seth grabbed the sword, pulled it free of its scabbard, and lunged forward with it.

With surprising agility for one of his size, Meat-Slicer Mark hopped backwards, out of the range of the blade. Seth quickly pulled back and squared himself for battle. Mark charged in and slashed at Seth’s side. Seth instinctively brought his blade up and blocked the knife before it got anywhere near him. Mark looked completely surprised.

He was even more surprised when Seth angled his blade underneath Mark’s and lifted it up over his head and back down to the other side. Now Seth’s blade was completely on top of Mark’s knife. Seth flicked his blade up under Mark’s chin and held it there. All this happened in the space of five seconds.

Mark whimpered like a puppy. “P-Please don’t kill me. Y-You can go into the party if you want to, but just please don’t kill me,” he stuttered.

Seth removed the blade from Mark’s throat and started walking away. He rested the blade on his shoulder as he said “You know what? I’ve changed my mind.” With that, Seth walked off into the setting sun.

Chapter Two: The Strong Opponent

Brock Balderas walked towards the location of his next battle. His bald head reflected the sunlight as he moved along. His anticipation was building; soon he would get to face his ultimate rival with his new super-sword. The people that had helped him acquire it told him it was called a zanpakuto and that it would give him immense power.

Before he was approached by his fellow thieves Brock knew absolutely nothing about the animated television series known as Bleach. When the group leader had tried to convince him to join he had shown him a few clips from the show. He wanted Brock to know the power that he could gain by possessing a zanpakuto. Brock had taken a liking to one character in particular: Ikkaku Madarame. Ikkaku loved battle just as much as Brock did and would do anything to make sure that he would one day die under his captain, Kenpachi Zaraki. Brock, too, had a goal, but it involved killing rather than dieing.

Eventually, Brock walked out of the city and into a dense forest. He reached over his shoulder and grabbed the hilt of the long sword that was strapped across his back. He pulled it out and began chopping away plants and tree branches. Finally, he arrived at his destination: a huge abandoned warehouse that him and his rival had taken as their battlegrounds.

“Hello,” Brock shouted upon entering. “Are you here Gregory or did you decide to chicken out?”

“Oh, I’m here all right,” Gregory said, stepping out from behind a large crate. “I’ve been here so long that I thought you had “chickened out”, as you so crudely put it.” Brock growled at the condescending tone Gregory used when talking to him.

Gregory was a member of the upper echelon of society. As a young boy he had taken to fencing, which eventually lead to sword fighting for real. He participated in numerous tournaments, but no one could match his skill. One day, when Gregory was visiting a slum for charity work (all for publicity of course), he stumbled upon Brock sword fighting with another person. Brock won easily and challenged anyone from the crowd of onlookers to defeat him in battle.

Gregory spoke up and the two faced off. Both combatants were surprised to find that they were evenly matched. Eventually, when both fighters were worn out, they decided to settle their fight at a later date. It was Gregory who directed Brock to the man who was planning to steal the zanpakuto. Gregory did not want to gain the immense power of a zanpakuto without his rival being able to match him.

And so now the two rivals faced of for what would inevitably be their last battle together.

“Well, are going to fight or are we just going to sit here staring at each other?” Gregory asked.

“Alright, let’s get this started,” Brock growled.

Both fighters charged in with their zanpakuto out to their sides. The initial clash left both of their arms numb. The two fought like caged tigers. Brock struck hard and fast without thinking, raining down a flurry of blows. Gregory calmly blocked each blow with his katana. He was unable to find an opening at that moment, but he knew one would soon present itself.

And so it did. After 30 seconds of furious battling, Gregory managed to slash Brock in his right arm. Brock had never been one to defend, and so he accepted the blow and dealt one back to Gregory, this one on his leg. The two combatants broke apart for a second and then flew back into battle.

The battle continued on like this for another ten minutes. It seemed like it would never end. That is, until Brock made one nearly fatal mistake. Gripping his sword in both hands, he brought it up above his head and slammed it down with all his strength and weight behind it, trying to jar his opponent and perhaps cause him to lose his grip on his sword. Unfortunately for Brock, Gregory sidestepped the attack. Brock was thoroughly off balance, unable to bring his sword to bear in time to stop the vicious attack from Gregory. He felt Gregory’s sword rip through his back from shoulder to hip.

“I guess this is goodbye then,” Gregory said as Brock sunk to his knees.

Brock could not believe it. He had lost. He should have seen Gregory’s trick coming. He could feel blood rushing out of the wound. He knew that if he could not find the strength to get up then he would die.

Do not lose hope, came a voice. You can still win Brock.

“Wh-who said that?” Brock wondered aloud. I am your zanpakuto Brock. Look into yourself. You will find that you know my name. You know how to release me from my bonds. Do it now! Attack him!

“Ungh, Give me strength, Kurasshā!”

It had been more than a week since the incident at Wasted Valley. Seth had not heard the voice of his zanpakuto since then. School had been exceptionally boring that week; Seth presumed it was just to taunt him.

One day, Seth was hanging out at his house and examining his zanpakuto when the doorbell rang. He went to get it to find Jake standing on the doorstep dressed all in black. He wore a black t-shirt, black jeans, and his dark glasses. His short, spiky black hair contributed to the goth look as well. In his hands he held two wooden swords.

“Oh, hey Jake. What are the swords for? And what’s with the goth look?” Seth greeted.

“Am I wearing all black? Huh, I couldn’t tell. My mom wasn’t home this morning so my sister picked out an outfit for me,” Jake explained. “As for the swords, their for your training.”

“Who’s going to be training me?” Seth asked.

“I am. Let’s go,” Jake replied. He stepped past Seth and went out walked down the hallway, through the small kitchen, and out the back door. He continued walking towards the forest which was a little ways away from Seth’s house.

“Hey, watch out. The forest is right up ahead.” Seth called.

“I know where the forest is Seth. It has a very strong scent. Now come on, follow me.” Seth ran to catch up to Jake and was amazed when he began to navigate his way through the trees with ease. The pair soon came to a clearing and Jake stopped.

“This should be secluded enough,” he decided. He tossed one of the wooden swords to Seth, who caught. Taking up his own sword in both hands he said “Come at me. Show me what you’ve got.”

“Jake, I’m not so sure about this. I mean you’re-” Seth was cut off as Jake charged him. Jake slashed sideways with his sword and Seth halfheartedly raised his own sword to block. Jakes initial attack, however was a feint. He quickly spun to the right and hit Seth in his other side.

“Too slow Seth,” Jake said. “One mistake like that in a real fight and you’d be dead. Never underestimate you’re opponent. Before I came to this town I was trained to defend myself with several different weapons.”

“Alright,” Seth said, regaining his composure. “Let’s do this.”

“Okay Seth. I’ll attack and you defend. If you’re opponent can’t land a blow, they can’t win, right?”

“I guess so.” Seth readied himself for Jake’s attack. “Bring it on.” Jake came in hard and fast. Seth barely managed to keep up with him. For ten minutes Jake attacked and Seth defended. After this time, Jake called for a five minute break.

“You did well, Seth. I guess you’re zanpakuto has instilled in you a basic knowledge of how to fight. Not many people could keep up with my attack.” Jake complimented.

“I may know how to fight, but my muscles can’t keep up. I suppose that will come with time though,” Seth said.

“Right. That goes without saying,” Jake commented. Switching gears, he said “Well, we know you can defend yourself to some extent. Now, let’s focus on attacking. I’ll attack you again, only this time you’ll try to find a way to counterattack me.”

The two grabbed their swords and Jake attacked again. Seth defended more easily now, searching for an opening. He soon saw one, but it was gone in a flash. A little while later he saw the same opening again. Surprised, Seth focused on the blows Jake was dealing and found that he was doing the same routine over and over.

He wants me to find the opening and exploit it, Seth thought. The next time the opening presented itself, Seth took advantage of it. He knocked Jakes sword out of the way, pulled his own in close to his side. He stabbed out at Jakes chest, holding back just a little. As it turned out, he did not need to. His wooden sword hit nothing but air. Jake was bent over backwards in the classic Matrix dodge.

“Well, you can spot the obvious openings, but had you noticed the more subtle opening you would have been able to beat me,” Jake said, sighing.

“What do you mean? I’ve got you right where I want you,” Seth complained.

“Look again,” Jake said. Seth felt a jab in his stomach. He looked down to see that Jake’s sword was poised centimeters from his gut.

“Damn,” Seth cursed. The two friends untangled themselves and took another break.

After a couple minutes Jake said “Hey you, in the bushes. Seen enough yet.”

“Heh heh. Caught me did ya,” came a rough voice. A man stepped out of the forest; the sunlight glinted off his bald head. Seth thought he looked quite a bit like Ikkaku from Bleach.

“Who are you?” Seth asked. “And what the hell do you want with us?”

“My name is Brock Balderas and I’m here to challenge you to battle,” the man, apparently name Brock, declared.

“What?! When? Where?” Seth exclaimed.

“Right here, right now,” Brock said, drawing his long sword. “Let me asked you something. Have you unlocked you’re shikai yet? ‘Cuz in my last battle I used my shikai and my opponent didn’t. That battle was way too short.”

“Well, no I haven’t yet. But that’s why we’re training. You can come back when I have unlocked it and then we can fight,” Seth replied.

“Nonsense. I don’t have to use my shikai. You and I can face off on equal footing.”

“Fine. I guess I’ll fight you. But if you win, please don’t kill me,” Seth implored.

“Don’t beg for life kid. Its really pathetic. Winner lives, loser dies. That’s how its gonna go.” With that Brock charged in and launched a flurry of attacks. Seth just could not keep up. He was hit again and again. He managed to block the fatal blows, but his body was being torn to shreds. Eventually, Brock ceased his attack and backed up. Seth fell down to his hands and knees, blood oozing from many small wounds.

“I really expected more of you kid. But I guess that’s the extent of your power,” Brock said, walking towards Seth. “Now I’m going to-”

Seth looked up with a puzzled expression on his face. Brock had just stopped talking in the middle of his sentence. Seth soon realized why. Brock was no longer standing in front of him. In fact, Seth was no longer in the forest clearing, but in a gray, dreary, deserted wasteland. Deserted, except for him and one other being.

An orange haired woman was slowly making her way towards Seth. She wore a long orange and black dress. It had a patchwork pattern, similar to a cow’s hide.

“Hello Seth,” the woman said.

“Are you the spirit of my zanpakuto?” Seth asked.

“That I am Seth. It seems you have a bit of a problem. I have come to help you with it.” The woman’s voice was calm and soothing. You must be strong Seth. You must win this battle. You must also remember to be compassionate.”

Seth stood up. “He’s too powerful. I can’t defeat him.”

“Have faith in me Seth. Remember my name. I am Nichibotsu, the sun as it sinks below the horizon. Go Seth. Go and fight.” The image of the deserted field began to fade. The sky glowed bright orange. Slowly, more sights and sounds began to return. The birds chirping, the trees blowing in the wind.

“-finish you off,” came Brock’s voice as his image also returned to Seth.

“I don’t think so, Brock,” Seth said, standing up. All thoughts of pain and weakness had left him. He felt only a burning determination. The determination to win.

Seth held his zanpakuto out to his right. He began to move it in an arc up and over his head. As it descended he said “Sink below the horizon, Nichibotsu!”

His sword began to change. The blade became straighter. At the end of it was a small semicircle, out of which radiated six smaller blades, resembling the rays of the sun.

“So you unlocked your shikai, eh,” Brock snorted. “I guess this is going to be interesting after all. Give me strength, Kurasshā!”

Brock’s long sword now be its transformation as well. The hilt became circular and the blade became a long pentagonal prism topped off by a small pentagonal pyramid.

Brock began his second charge the same way as his first. With one hand holding his weapon he swiped across at Seth’s chest. Seth brought his sword up to block and held it firm, even when it was hit by so much force that he was sent flying backwards. He skidded on his back for second, and then rolled back on to his feet.

Brock was already coming in for another strike, this one over handed. Seth readied the block again. This strike made Seth’s arms go numb and caused him to sink to his knees.

“Ha, stupid kid. My zanpakuto gives me enhanced strength. I’m so strong that you won’t be able to fight me blade to blade,” Brock explained. He brought his sword up above his head yet again to deliver the finishing blow. Seth rolled out of the way just in time. He looked back to see that Kurasshā had smashed into the ground, cutting through it like it was butter.

Seth, focus on his head. I’ll help you this time. Try to feel the way I channel my, Nichibotsu said.

Seth stared intently at Brock’s head. He felt something stirring within him. Power rushed through his body and out of his eyes. It was invisible, that is, until it reached Brock’s head. The energy formed into a small globe of darkness around his head.

“What the hell is this?! Is this your zanpakuto’s ability? I can’t see a damn thing!” Brock stumbled around, trying to grasp at the globe of darkness only to find that it was not a solid object.

Seth took advantage of Brock’s confusion. He rushed in and slashed Brock in the side with the sun’s rays. He then turned around and did the same to the other side.

“Dammit kid, get this damn thing off my face. I’ll call it a draw, okay?” Brock shouted.

“So we both walk away alive?” Seth inquired.

“Yeah. You can be my new rival. I was needing one anyway.”

“Deal,” Seth said, releasing the built up energy around Brock’s head.

“Thanks,” Brock muttered. “So, I guess I’ll see ya around kid. You had better be stronger the next time we meet.” Brock started to walk away.

“Wait, so you just gave up that easily.” Jake spoke up for the first time since the battle started. “That doesn’t seem to fit you’re personality.”

“Ah, I never planned to kill the kid anyway. I came here because I could sense this kid’s power. That whole battle was to help him get stronger so that you could be my rival,” Brock explained. “By the way, you might want to find a way to hide that spiritual pressure or whatever it’s called. You’re gonna attract every person with a zanpakuto within three miles if ya don’t.” With that Brock continued to walk away, leaving Jake and Seth to ponder the last battle and its future implications.

"Well that was- ugh." Seth was cut off as he fainted from blood loss.

Sighing, Jake walked over and picked Seth up. "Let's go to the hospital."

Chapter Three: The New Girl

For the three days that Seth spent in the hospital he made sure to keep up on his school work. Jake brought him his work every day after school and the two would work on it together. Seth and Jake were in all of the same classes. That way, Seth could assist his friend in learning the material even though he could not see.

Aside from Jake, Seth had no visitors. When he was discharged from the hospital, Jake was the only one there to greet him and take him home. As they walked back to Seth’s house, they chatted.

“I can’t believe it’s only been three days and you have already fully recovered,” Jake remarked. “What did the doctor say about that?”

“He told me he’s never seen anything like it. I guess you get accelerated recovery when you possess a zanpakuto. There’s just no other way to explain it. I mean, there aren’t even any scars,” Seth replied.

Up ahead, a large group of guys was crowding around some unseen object. They were all silent, apparently listening to whatever was at the center of the group.

“What’s going on over there?” Seth asked. “Those guys look like their from our school.”

“Must be the new girl,” Jake replied. “All the other guys think she’s incredible. They all say things like ‘She’s the smartest, most beautiful girl I’ve ever met’. Personally, I’m not all that blown away with her intelligence, and she seems like a major bitch. She spends all day bossing everyone around.”

“And do they listen to her?” Seth inquired, suddenly very interested.

“Most of the guys do, but there are some, like me, that don’t. Plus, none of the girls like her whatsoever.”

As Seth and Jake approached the group they realized that the girl was telling all the guys about how she picked out her outfit this morning. Seth recognized one of the guys and went over to him.

“Hey, Max, what are you guys doing?” Seth asked.

Max turned around and looked at Seth, a puzzled look on his face. Suddenly, his face lit up in recognition and he shouted “Hey guys, it’s Seth! Seth’s back everybody!” The entire group looked his way.

“Hey,” Seth said casually.

“Get out of my way you bozos,” the girl inside the circle shouted. The crowd parted before her like she was Moses and they were the Red Sea.

Seth was finally able to get his first look at this supposed goddess. Just as Jake was not impressed by her smarts, Seth was not overly impressed with her looks. She had long black hair and bright blue eyes. She had a small pair of glasses and wore an unflattering brown turtleneck sweater along with a worn down pair of jeans.

She’s pretty, Seth thought. But not stunning.

“So your Seth,” she said, eyeing him. “You’re kinda cute. I love you’re red hair. And those red eyes are such a turn on.” Seth shifted uncomfortably as she continued. “My name’s Jessica Rand. How about you and me go into that alley over there and, you know…”

“Um, no thanks, I’m good,” Seth replied.

“Ugh, I hate it when their uncooperative. Boys, grab him,” Jessica ordered.

All of the boys turned towards Seth, then back to Jessica, then back to Seth again. “Do we have to,” one of the boys complained.

“Yeah, Seth is our friend. We don’t want to half to rough handle him,” Max piped in.

“How about this,” Jessica said. “The person who brings him to me gets a kiss.”

The guys all turned and lunged at Seth. Seth turned tail and fled and the love struck boys pursued.

Seth quickly dashed into an alley and drew out his zanpakuto. “Sink below the horizon, Nichibotsu,” He muttered, moving the sword in the arc that it required to release. Seth laid down in the shadows and tried to use the power of his zanpakuto to create darkness around himself, hoping it would blend in. Instead, he sank down into the shadows, disappearing from view.

The group of guys ran straight through the alleyway and out the other side. Relief flooded through him as he tried to rise up from the shadows. That’s when he found out he had a much bigger problem: he was trapped.

He started to twist around and found that he could move freely. Seth sat up and looked around. All around him was darkness, but he had a solid foundation to sit on.

“You truly are pathetic,” came a strange voice. “You’ve gotten trapped by your own power.”

“Who the hell are you?” Seth shouted.

“I’m someone you will hope you never meet again, even though you know you will,” the voice said. A bright light began to shine. “At least you don’t have to see my face kid. Ha ha ha ha.” The light intensified and forced Seth to close his eyes. When he opened them again he was sitting in the alley again. No one was around.

Seth got up and walked out of the alley. Jessica, Jake, and all the guys were gone. “How long was I down there?” Seth muttered to himself as he walked towards his house.

The next morning Seth went to school as he normally did. The whole school was talking about Jessica. The guys were all talking about how incredible she was and all the girls were talking about how much they hated her. It seemed to Seth that this was the most exciting thing to ever happen to the school.

Even during class people were chattering away about Jessica. Seth and Jake could not concentrate on the material and the teachers could not restore any form of order in the room. Lunchtime was even more chaotic. All the guys were crowding around the table where Jessica sat and were yelling compliments at her.

“Hey, Seth, let’s get out of here,” Jake suggested, shouting to be heard over the noise in the room. Out in the hallway the noise level was instantly reduced.

“What is up with everybody?” Seth asked.

“Its been like this since she got here,” Jake replied. “Ever since Jessica started taking guys down to the gym during lunch and after school they’ve been all over her. All the girls think she’s like a prostitute or something.”

Seth opened his mouth to respond, but he was suddenly grabbed from behind. He tried to break free, but the grip was strong.

“Jessica wants to speak to you two,” came a voice. Seth recognized it as Max’s. Seth looked over at Jake to see that he, too, had been apprehended.

The two football players carried Seth and Jake to the gym. It was empty except for Jessica and two other freakishly strong football players. Jessica smiled wickedly.

“Hello boys,” she purred. “Welcome to my house of love.” Seth was starting to get a bad feeling about this situation.

He fears worsened when Jessica reached down to her side and drew forth a pink hilted zanpakuto. “Fall in love, Botan Inko!” she shouted. Her katana began to transform. The tip of the blade widened out and curved back in, forming the top to a heart. Seth began to feel sick to his stomach.

“Seth, what’s going on?” Jake asked bewildered. “She has a zanpakuto? What does it look like?”

“Silence!” Jessica ordered. “I’ll do the talking from now on.” Jessica approached Jake. “Roll up his sleeve,” she commanded the guy holding Jake. Jessica lifted her sword and put it up against Jake’s exposed arm. Quickly she jerked her sword away, leaving a small gash on Jake’s arm.

“Ouch! What the hell did you do that for?!” Jake shouted. He started to struggle, trying to escape, but to no avail. Suddenly he went limp in the football player’s arms. Slowly, he lifted his head and looked at Jessica. “You,” he said quietly. “Are the most beautiful girl in the world!” Seth’s mouth dropped open. Even though he had been expecting it still came as a shock.

“You can’t even see me dumbass,” Jessica said obnoxiously. Then she turned towards Seth and said “You’re next,”

“Shit,” Seth cursed. “Let go of me Max.”

“Yes Max, let him go,” Jessica said. Max did as he was told and Seth toppled to the ground. “You can do the same,” Jessica said to Jake’s football player.

“What are you doing?” Seth asked.

“Each of you go guard one of the exits,” Jessica told the football players. “I’m going to have some fun with this one.” The four guys walked off to stand the four corners of the gym where the doors were located. Seth picked himself up of the ground and squared off against Jessica.

“You’ve made a huge mistake Jessica,” Seth said. He reached down to his side and drew out his zanpakuto. The look on Jessica’s face was absolutely priceless. As surprised as Seth had been to find out Jessica had a zanpakuto, she was even more surprised to see that he had one.

“Where did you get that?” Jessica demanded.

“Like I’d tell you,” Seth snorted. “Now, sink below the horizon, Nichibotsu!” Seth’s zanpakuto assumed its true from. Seth instantly formed a globe of darkness around Jessica’s head.

“Hmph,” she said, unfazed. “I wasn’t planning on fighting you myself anyways. Jake go get him. If you beat him to a pulp I’ll let you do whatever you want to me.”

Jake looked from Jessica to Seth and back again. “I’m sorry, my love, but I can’t do it,” he said, averting his gaze.

“What do you mean you can’t do it. What part of ‘whatever you want’ don’t you understand?” Jessica shrieked.

“I guess our friendship is stronger than your zanpakuto,” Seth said.

“Well, I guess I will have to fight you myself. You see, my zanpakuto is not a melee type, but a ranged type. Watch. Kokoro no Hikō!” Jessica’s blade glowed pink. Eight points of light detached from the blade and formed into hearts in midair. The glowing ceased and the floating blades become metal like the sword.

“You may have a ranged zanpakuto, but that does not change the fact that you can’t see anything,” Seth pointed out. Jessica did not respond. Instead, she waved her hand and one of the floating blades went flying off to Seth’s right. Seth gave a satisfactory smile.

That smile was erased a moment later when the blade looped around behind him and headed straight towards his back. Seth jumped out of the way and barely managed to dodge the blade. “What the hell?!” he exclaimed.

“Hm hm hm,” Jessica laughed. “I can sense you’re spiritual pressure. I couldn’t sense it until you drew your zanpakuto, but now it’s like a beacon.”

Jessica gave another wave of her hand and all eight of the blades flew out in different directions, curving around to aim directly at Seth. Seth rolled out of the way of the first two and blocked another one as it came in to slash at his other side.

Two more came at Seth head on, one at his feet and one at his head. He jumped over the lower and brought his sword across to knock the other one out of the way.

By this time, the first two blades were coming in again and the third one was reading for another attack. At the same time, the remaining three blades were also coming in hard from three different directions. Soon, Seth was locked in a deadly dance with all eight blades, dodging and blocking, narrowly avoiding getting hit. Seth had a feeling he knew what would happen if even one of those blades were to hit their mark.

As the blades whirled around Seth, Jessica sat back and laughed. Now that Seth was concentrating on dodging the blades, he had accidentally lost his hold on the globe of darkness that had surrounded Jessica’s head. She watched Seth’s peril with amusement.

Suddenly, Seth dropped a globe of darkness around himself and the blade. Surprised, Jessica lost her focus momentarily and the blades dropped to the ground. Seth took advantage of this and rolled out the back of the globe and stood up. But, Jessica was already back in control and the blades came flying out of the darkness at Seth, but he was already prepared. He rolled sideways and came clear of the blades.

Now, Seth began his charge towards Jessica. It was his belief that all the blades were currently occupied and would not be able to turn around in time. That is, until he saw the eighth blade, one that had bounced free of the darkness globe, lying in his path. Jessica smiled cruelly and flicked wrist, sending the blade slashing across his thigh.

Seth thought back to when Jake had been hit. There had been about ten seconds before the zanpakuto had taken affect. Seth had time to get to Jessica. He was about to start running again when all eight blades came and circled around him. If he tried to move he would be cut again.

All Seth’s hope was lost. Four seconds had passed. He knew it was over. Then, he felt it. Power was stirring in the six rays of the half sun on the tip of his blade. Nichibotsu was helping him again.

The rays turned to shadows and extended from the blade. Each thin shadow branched out and formed more, all of them heading directly for Jessica. Most of them stabbed through her arms and legs and a few hit her in the torso. Without a sound she fell to the ground.

Seth stared, horrified. What have I done? he thought. He rushed over to Jessica’s prone form.

Be compassionate, Seth, Nichibotsu’s voice implored him. The same power you just used to hurt can also be used to help her.

Seth knew immediately what she meant. He turned the rays into shadows again and wrapped them around Jessica’s body to staunch the bleeding.

“That will do for now Seth, but you’d better call 911.” Seth looked over to see Jake staring at him sightlessly.

“Tell me Jake,” Seth said. “What do you think of Jessica?”

“That horrible witch. I think she ought to rot in hell for what she did. Love should never be forced.” Seth could hear a hint of sarcasm in Jake’s statement, but he knew that Jake was back to his old self. Smiling, Seth took out his phone and called emergency services. Then, he and Jake walked past the thoroughly confused football players and back up into the school. Seth’s smile broadened he saw that all of the guys were stumbling around, unsure of what had been happening for the past few days.

The bell rang and everyone looked around, still puzzled. Slowly, everyone started to go off to their classes.

When the paramedics arrived, they found a lone girl in the school gymnasium, wrapped in strange bandages, which soon disappeared, and were given no explanation as to what had happened. There were few people in the world that could tell them what had happened. Two of them would never tell them, a third was unable to tell them at that time, and the fourth peered out from the window in the door of the weight room that was off to the side of the gym.

Eddie Toran was a scrawny little kid who was constantly picked on. He hid out in the weight room at lunch to avoid the brutish bullies that were constantly on the prowl for fresh meat. He had been spying on Jessica for a while and after witnessing her battle with Seth he knew that he had to find a way to get his hands on one of those swords, whatever the cost.

Chapter Four: Super Nerd

Eddie walked through the woods, deeper than he had ever been. The bruises from the most recent beating stung sharply and more than a few tears escaped his eyes. The pain was bad, but Eddie was glad to be in the woods, the only place outside of school where he could go to get away from it all.

Eddie went even farther into the woods. Had he been aware of his surroundings he might have noticed a figure slipping from tree to tree, watching him. But Eddie kept his eyes fixed firmly in front of him, thinking only about gaining possession of one of those strange swords he had seen before.

Eddie was so intent on these thoughts that he did not notice a large root sticking out of the ground in front of him. He tripped over it and his glasses went went flying off his face. His greasy black hair fell into his eyes, further blinding him. As he searched along the ground with his hands he was reminded of Velma from Scooby-Doo. That's why he was scared out of his mind when he saw the blurry outline of a hand holding out his glasses. Slowly, Eddie reached out and took the glasses, placing them on his nose again.

Eddie was immensely relieved to see, not a monster, but a bald man in old black jeans and an ACDC t-shirt.

“You should really watch where you're goin' kid,” the man said. “What are you doin' all the way out here anyway?” The man's voice was rough, but gentle. He could tell that Eddie was hurt.

“I- I'm hiding from bullies,” Eddie stuttered, getting to his feet. As he did he noticed that the man had a longsword strapped to his back. “I- Is that a special sword?” Eddie asked before he could think better of it.

“Yeah, it is,” the man replied. “Why? Do you have one two?” As he said this the man drew out his sword and leveled it at Eddie's chest.

“N- No, but I want one,” Eddie explained hurriedly. The man lowered his sword.

“What if I told you that I could get you one?” the man asked, smiling mischievously.

Eddie's eyes widened and he exclaimed “That would be great!”

“Then follow me,” the strange man ordered. He walked off, not looking back to see if Eddie was following or not, which, of course, he was. Finally, the two arrived at a large, rundown warehouse. Inside, there were stacks of crates and other useless junk.

The man led Eddie over to the prone form of another, dark-haired, rich-looking man. As Eddie approached he could see that the man's chest had been smashed in by some immense force. Lying by the man's side was a purple-hilted katana; the similarly purple scabbard was attached to a sword belt around the man's waist.

“Wait are ya waitin' for kid? Take it,” Eddie's guide said. Eddie did as he was told, buckling the sword belt around his waist and slipping the sword back into its sheath. He then walked away without another word, heading of to train with his new sword, anxious to discover the secret powers that it held.

“No!” Seth said emphatically.

“Come on,” Jake pleaded. It'll be fun. Besides you'll look really cool doing it.”

“No Jake. I'll probably just end up looking like an idiot when you kick my ass,” Seth said.

The school talent show was coming up in three days and Jake had signed up to do sword fighting. He did not hold out much hope of winning the competition, but he wanted to do it for fun anyways. However, first he needed a partner to spar with on stage. Of course, the only one around that could put up a fight against Jake was Seth, and he did not want to participate.

"Pleeeeeease Seth. It would mean a lot to me. Plus, you owe me for all the training sessions I've been giving you. What are we up to now, four? I've really helped you develop the powers of your zanpakuto.”

Unable to refute this logic, Seth reluctantly replied “Fine, I'll do it. But you have to give me as many training sessions as I need to master my zanpakuto.” Jake agreed and the two friends left the empty classroom that they were using for their meeting and headed to lunch.

As they were walking they saw the school's four meanest bullies. Headed by all-star quarterback Clark “the Shark” Jefferson, the self proclaimed “Bully Squad” spared few people. Seth and Jake happened to be two of those people because Clark claimed he did not want to hurt a blind person or his “helper.”

“Where are you four going?” Seth asked.

“There's a nerd that hides out in the weight room in the gym every day at lunch. We just found out about him from one of his friends and we're heading down there to give him a beating,” Clark explained. Seth had stopped listening after the first sentence. His face had grown pale and he was staring blankly off into the distance.

“What's wrong wit' you?” one of the bullies asked. “You're not gonna rat on us are ya Jennings?” He took a menacing step forward and punched one fist into the palm of his other hand.

“No,” Seth replied. “I'm fine, really.”

Satisfied, the bullies continued down the stairs and into the gym. Seth turned and looked grimly at Jake.

“You don't think the guy they were talking about saw us, do you?” Jake inquired fearfully.

“He might have,” Seth answered. “We'd better follow those guys to make sure things don't get out of hand. We need to talk to this kid and we can't do that if he's been beaten too badly.” The two proceeded down the stairs and Seth peered into the dark tinted windows on the gym door. What he saw was not at all what he had expected.

Instead of the four bullies assaulting someone, the two friends saw a kid named Eddie Toran holding a short sword upside down. Attached to the tip of the zanpakuto by some sort of string was a small black circle with a hole in the middle.. It was swinging back and forth and the bullies' eyes were following it. Seth could tell that they were being hypnotized.

“What's going on?” Jake asked, tugging on the sleeve of Seth's t-shirt.

Seth explained what he was seeing to Jake. When he looked back the four bullies were heading towards another of the gym's exits. Eddie was standing there triumphantly. The small circle of his zanpakuto was now attached to the very tip of the sword.

“I'm going in there to confront him,” Seth announced. He moved to open the door, but Jake stopped him. He took off his dark glasses and handed them to Seth. “What are these for?”

Jake rolled his eyes. “Seth, why haven't you been hypnotized yet?” he asked. “Wait, don't answer that. Its because of the tinted windows. They must have some effect that blocks out Eddie's hypnotism. Therefore, my glasses should do the same.” Understanding dawned on Seth. He grabbed the glasses and put them on.

“It will be more difficult to fight with these on if it comes to that,” Seth commented as he opened the door.

Hearing the noise, Eddie whipped around to see what was happening. “Oh, Seth, its you,” he said. “Did you see what I did with those bullies? They'll do everything I want now. I think a little revenge is in order. I won't tell you what it is though. You'll find out at the talent show.” Eddie sounded more excited than Seth had ever seen him.

“Eddie, you shouldn't do this. The powers of the zanpakuto you now have are not supposed to be used for things like that,” Seth informed him.

Eddie's face darkened. “Don't go telling me something like that. If anyone knows that with great power comes great responsibility it's me. But those guys have picked on me one to many times.” Eddie's voice began to shake with rage. There was a glint of insanity in his eyes.

“You know I'm going to have to stop you Eddie,” Seth said.

“It's a pity. I thought someone like you would be able to understand me Seth. To understand the pain I've ben through. But if not then I'll have to defeat you.” He held his sword upside down and the circle dropped down, hanging yet again on its string. “Mesmerize, Pāfekuto Saimin.” The circle began to swing lazily back and forth. Seth looked directly at it and followed its movement with his eyes.

“Very good, Seth. Now I want you to leave this gymnasium and forget about what you saw here today.” Seth walked past Eddie, headed towards on of the doors. Once he was out of Eddie's sight he drew out his zanpakuto and slashed at Eddie's back. Eddie, however had been expecting this and was easily able to turn around and block the strike.

The two combatants separated and stood there facing each other.

“What are you going to do now, Eddie? Your hypnosis won't work on me,” Seth taunted.

Eddie did not reply. Instead, he swung his zanpakuto at Seth. At first, Seth thought that, even with the extension from the string, Eddie would not be able to hit him. Then he noticed that the string was extending. Seth ducked back quickly, but not quickly enough to avoid receiving a small slash on the bridge of his nose.

Seth was surprised to find that the circle was so sharp. He was even more surprised when the string straightened out and held in place.

“What the hell? How can you do that,” Seth queried.

“You don't know?” Eddie raised an eyebrow. “It's called iron string. It can have the properties of normal string or it can become solid like it is now. Also, it can't be cut, so don't even try.” Eddie lifted the sword above his head. The string was now so long that the circle could almost touch the rafters. Eddie brought the string and the sword crashing down towards Seth. The string hit on the top of the head and then became like regular string yet again. The circle swung down and buried itself in Seth's back.

Eddie charged in at Seth and the two engaged in battle. Eddie was better than Seth had expected. The circle was still lodged in Seth's back and Eddie maneuvered the string so that it wrapped around Seth's sword and body, hindering him. Suddenly, the string tightened around Seth.

Eddie gave a small smile. With surprising strength, Eddie swung Seth through the air. Mid-swing, Eddie returned his zanpakuto to its sealed form. The string surrounding Seth disappeared, as did the circle still digging into his back. Seth was sent flying through the air to hit the wall mats. He had the wind knocked out of him and he crumpled to the ground gasping for air.

Eddie walked away as Jake rushed into the gym. Seth had shallow cuts all over his body where the string had cut into his skin. The bleeding had already stopped, but they still stung.

The two watched Eddie walk away, knowing that Seth had lost this battle. Quietly, they sneaked out of the school and went back to Seth's house to treat his wounds and to prepare for the second, inevitable battle with Eddie.

The following day, Jake and Seth returned to school after Jake had received a lecture from his mother about skipping school. Eddie, however, was not there. Nor was he there the next day. Not even on Friday, the day of the talent show, did he go to school.

That night, Seth and Jake arrived early to help set up for the talent show. They were the first of the acts to arrive. The second act that got there was Clark and his bullies. Following right behind them was Eddie.

“Hello, Seth, Jake,” Eddie said coolly.

“You're not going to get away with this Eddie. I promise you, I will stop you,” Seth replied. Eddie just sneered.

After Eddie was out of earshot, Seth turned to Jake and said “I'm calling the cops. Maybe I can convince them to come arrest Eddie.” Seth took out his cellphone and dialed 9-1-1.

“Hello, you've reached emergency services, what's your emergency?” the operator asked when she picked up the phone.

“Hi, my name is Seth Jennings. I'm at Ron Teller High School. A kid named Eddie Toran just threatened me with a strange sword. You'd better send someone over here right away,” Seth lied.

“Okay, we will dispatch someone shortly. Thanks for your call.”

Ten minutes later, thirty minutes before show time, Seth and Jake heard sirens outside. A voice being broadcast from a bullhorn said “Eddie Toran please step out of the building with your hands above your head. Eddie glared a Seth as he walked out of the auditorium, down a short flight of stairs, and into the school's lobby. Slowly, he pushed open one of the three doors and stepped outside. He reached down to his side and pulled out his zanpakuto.

The police officers looked startled to see the sword materialize out of thin air, but they all pulled forth their guns and pointed them at Eddie anyway. There were five of them, four pointing their guns and one holding the bullhorn. The one with the bullhorn said “Please put down your weapon. We will shoot if we have to.”

Eddie laughed, held his sword upside down and said “Mesmerize, Pāfekuto Saimin.” His zanpakuto assumed its true form and the circle dropped down and began to sway. One of the gunmen realized what was happening and looked away, but was soon killed as Eddie ordered the other four to shoot each other. The remaining four all turned on each other and began shooting. Soon one of them emerged victorious and turned back towards Eddie. Eddie slashed out and cut his throat with the circle.

Suddenly, numerous shadows wrapped around Eddie's body. Seth walked up behind him, wearing Jake's glasses again. “I knew you wanted revenge Eddie, but I didn't know you'd go this far to get it,” he said.

“It's your fault they're dead Seth. If you hadn't called them I would not have had to kill them,” Eddie stated.

Seth tossed Eddie into the street. Inside the school, things were proceeding as scheduled, unaware of the battle that was starting outside.

“Well Seth, this time you actually released your zanpakuto. I've got to finish this quickly, so I'll show you what I've been working on these past three days.” Eddie held his sword up in front of his face. “Bankai, Kyūkyoku no Saimin.” Seth's eyes widened as the small circle grew and became a large circle. The blade of the sword became a chain that was attached to the circle.

“H-how did you achieve bankai in such a short amount of time?” Seth shouted.

“I don't know, I just did. Now shut up and die so I can get back to my revenge!” Eddie swung his arm downwards and the giant circle went flying at Seth. Seth sidestepped and the circle lodged itself into the thick wooden door.

“What's the matter, can't hypnotize me?” Seth taunted. Eddie smiled evilly and pointed at his bankai. Seth looked over and saw that it was beginning to vibrate. Dropping his sword, Seth clamped his hands over his ears. He was just in time, as a high pitched sound was now coming from the big circle.

“Hee hee hee, don't listen to that sound Seth or you will fall under my hypnosis. But then again, you can fight without your hands!” Eddie yanked on the chain and the circle came free from the door. He sent it flying at Seth, who ducked under it. Seth sprinted away, into an alleyway between the school and the next building over. Quickly, he pulled out the headphones of his iPod, put them in his ears, and turned the music on full blast.

Eddie was waiting when he walked out of the alley. He tossed Nichibotsu at Seth's feet. Seth bent down and picked it up. When he got back up Eddie's bankai was already coming in from above. Seth brought Nichibotsu up to block and pushed the large circle off to the side. Suddenly, it paused in midair and reversed direction, coming in at Seth's side.

Seth turned toward it and put his sword out in front of him. The two weapons connected and Seth slid backward, pushed by the incredible power of the bankai.

Eddie pulled the circle back to him and started swinging it in circles above his head. He sent it flying at Seth's feet, but Seth jumped over it. Then, Eddie reversed direction again attacked Seth while he was in the air. He managed to block it again, but was sent flying away. When he hit the ground his sword went flying away and one of his headphones fell out of his ear. Fortunately, Eddie had already given up on hypnotizing him and the sound was gone. Unfortunately, Eddie's bankai was now diving down towards Seth's chest.

It's to close, Seth thought. I'll never make it out of the way in time.

Seth closed his eyes and tried to think of a happier time. That's when he heard someone shout “Hiss, Hebi no Shita!” He opened his eyes to find a girl standing in front of him, blocking the circle with a sword that looked like a large snake's tongue. She slashed out, sending the circle flying. She then launched a large blob of goop from her zanpakuto. It hit the circle and knocked back against the wall of the school, sticking it there.

Eddie looked stunned. “No. No, no, no, no, no. Who the hell are you? You're ruining everything. I had him. I would have won,” Eddie screeched. He started tugging the hilt of his bankai but the circle was completely stuck.

“It's over,” the strange girl said, walking over to the chain of his bankai. She raised her sword above her head and chopped down, severing the chain. Eddie's zanpakuto returned to its sealed state and he sank down to his knees, cradling it in his hands. The girl now started advancing on Eddie.

“What, are you going to kill me now?” Eddie asked, surprisingly calm.

“No, I just want the sword. I need to return it,” she said.

“Fine you can have it,” Eddie said looking down at the ground. Suddenly, his head snapped back up and there was a crazed look in his eyes. “That is, when you take out of my body!” he grasped the sword with both hands and pointed in towards his chest. The girl sprinted towards him, but she was too late. Eddie stabbed himself right in the gut. Before he died he said “I couldn't go back to my old life.” Then he fell.

The girl made it over to him and flipped him onto his back. She felt for a pulse, but found none. Slowly, she removed the sword and wiped the blood off on Eddie's shirt. Then, she unbuckled his sword belt and put the zanpakuto inside.

“What's going on?” came Jake's voice as he rushed outside.

“Eddie killed himself after this girl saved my life and defeated him,” Seth explained.

“My name is Lily,” the girl said. “And you'd better come with me. We need to get out of here before more cops show up.” As she said this Seth could hear sirens in the distance. He glanced over at the five dead police officers and saw that one of them had made it to the radio before he died.

“Well, are you coming or not?” Lily asked. She had already started to walk away and was looking back at Seth and Jake expectantly.

“Where are we going?” Jake said.

“Back to the store. I'll explain things there.” Seth glanced at Jake, who shrugged. The two followed after Lily, finally ready to get the explanation they so desperately deserved.

Chapter Five: Balls of Fury

Seth and Jake were sitting at a small round table in Mr. Hanzaro’s apartment, which was above the store. Lily sat opposite them with the recently recovered Mr. Hanzaro. For a while no one said anything. They all sat in silence, thinking about Eddie’s decent into darkness and inevitable death.

Finally, Seth broke the silence by saying “Well, you took us here to give us an explanation Lily. How about it? We’re ready to here what you have to say.”

Lily cleared here throat. “Right,” she said. “Well, I suppose we should start with the basic concept of zanpakuto in our world. First of all, you may have sensed that, after obtaining your zanpakuto, there is a strange energy inside of you. As much as you want to call it spiritual energy, you can’t because we aren’t spirits. We can be seen by humans. That is why this energy is called zanpakuto energy, or Z energy for short.”

“Hold on a second,” Seth interrupted. “Someone must have come up with all this stuff. Does that mean there are other people out there that have zanpakuto besides the robbers?”

“Of course not,” Mr. Hanzaro quickly interjected. “Well, I mean, there were, but they all died out, leaving just the zanpakuto that you and the robbers now possess.”

Seth thought about this for a second, and then motioned for Lily to continue her explanation. “Now, there are a couple other things that, in our world, are different from the show. One of them is bankai. In the show, it takes an average of ten years to achieve bankai. Here, however, it is found in a similar manner to shikai. It requires an immense amount of passionate feelings, such as the desire to protect someone, or, in Eddie’s case, the desire to get revenge.”

“Humph. That sounds like something the inventors of Bleach might have cooked up to make sure everyone gets a bankai in the manga,” Seth commented.

“Well, I can assure you Seth, that this is not just some story. This is real life. Anyways, on to the matter of these zanpakuto. There are twenty of them. Each of them has been assigned a number, in order of power, from one to twenty. One is, of course, the most powerful. However, these numbers only apply if the owner of the zanpakuto is not the rightful owner. If that is not the case, then the power of the zanpakuto is limited only by the power of the owner.”

“How can we tell if a person is the rightful owner of a zanpakuto?” Jake asked, speaking up for the first time.

“Simple,” Lily continued. “One way is to find out how they ended up with the zanpakuto. For example, you, Seth, came across your zanpakuto purely by chance. This often suggests that you are the rightful owner. If some coincidence made you the owner of the zanpakuto then it was probably meant to be yours. Also, if the zanpakuto’s power matches the personality of the user, then they were probably meant to be as well.

“Next, I will tell you about the gang. It was a group of eighteen people, gathered together by a man whose name and face are unknown to all but a few of the gang members. This man recruited these eighteen people to help him steal the zanpakuto, afterwards, each of them would get one. We don’t know why he only wanted eighteen people and not twenty, but that’s the way it happened. The man also recruited a bunch of people to do the grunt work of the operation and one of the higher-ups was put in charge of them. I’m ashamed to say that I was one of those people. Anyway, during the raid, one of the underlings grabbed an extra zanpakuto. The underling leader, named Gregory, thought it would be fun to make the underlings fight it out for the sword. He threw us all into a pit with a bunch of swords in it and told each of us to take one. He said whoever came out alive could keep one of the swords, but they would not be able to know if it was the real zanpakuto or not. I grabbed a sword at random and did what I had to do to make it out alive. It turns out, the sword I grabbed was the real zanpakuto, and so I kept it. That’s how I know that I am the rightful owner of it.”

“Wow, that’s some story,” Seth said.

“After that, Gregory attacked me and managed to release his zanpakuto. Now, this might surprise you, but it was the same one that Eddie was using. He must have gotten a hold of it somehow. I think he was the rightful owner, but I couldn’t let him keep it when he was going to abuse its power. Anyways, also released my zanpakuto and managed to defeat Gregory, but I didn’t kill him. That event made me decide that I want to hunt down the remaining zanpakuto and return them to Mr. Hanzaro so he can find their rightful owners.”

“And you can help with that, Seth,” Mr. Hanzaro piped in. “It seems that people with zanpakuto are attracted to you. You’ve already had three battles now, right?”

“Yeah, I guess,” Seth replied. Mr. Hanzaro smiled and clapped his hands together.

“Fine then. It’s settled. You to will work as a team and bring me back the zanpakuto.” he said. “By the way Lily, did you happen to catch the number of that last zanpakuto you brought me? Eddie probably would not have known, but I thought Gregory might have mentioned it. I just want to keep track of all twenty of them.”

“It was number eighteen,” Lily replied.

“Good, good. Seth, Jake, you two should head home and get some rest. You’ll need it for the coming the days.”

Seth and Jake slowly made their way through the dark towards Seth’s house. Jake had already called his mom and asked if he could spend the night.

“Hey, Jake. Do you think I’m a bad person,” Seth asked as they walked.

“No. Why would ask that. You’re the nicest guy I know,” Jake answered.

“I don’t know. It’s just what Lily said, about your personality matching the power of your zanpakuto. If my zanpakuto’s power is darkness, then does that mean that I’m evil?”

“I don’t know what it means, Seth. Maybe you’ll find out someday. Can we not talk about this right now?”

Seth was about to respond when the heard a strange cackling coming from up ahead. Seth looked up to see that a man in a long black trench coat and a bowler hat.

“So you have a zanpakuto, huh. Hee hee hee, excellent. This out to be fun. You see, I love to kill. My name is Bowler. Am the owner of zanpakuto number 10,” the man said. As he was speaking he pulled a small metal ball out from inside his trench coat. “My zanpakuto is a little odd, you see. Its sealed form is this ball. Now watch as I release it. First Release, Tetsu Dama!” As he spoke the ball dropped down on a string, similar to Eddie’s zanpakuto.

Seth pulled out his own zanpakuto and lifted it in an arc over his head. As it came down he said the release command: “Sink Below the Horizon, Nichibotsu!” His zanpakuto assumed its true form, that of a sword with a small half-sun at the end of it.

The man began to swing the metal ball around and around by the string, which Seth assumed was of the iron variety. Bowler sent the ball flying at Seth before he could attempt to create a small globe of darkness around Bowler’s head. Seth easily blocked the ball and it fell to the ground, still attached to its string, which appeared to be able to stretch as far as Bowler wanted it to. “Is that all you’ve got,” Seth asked confidently.

Bowler smiled maliciously. “You know its not, my young friend. Explode, Tetsu Dama!”

The ball at Seth’s feet began to glow. “Jake run!” Seth shouted as he did the same. Jake turned tail and fled, hiding in an alley where he could listen to the battle. He heard the ball explode and heard Seth get thrown to the ground. He also heard someone creeping up behind him. He tried to turn, but was hit over the head and knocked unconscious.

Meanwhile, Seth was picking himself up off the ground when he heard Bowler shout “First Release, Tetsu Dama!” He looked over to see that a new ball and string had appeared in Bowler’s hand and he was swinging it yet again. Then he said, quietly, “Second Release, Tetsu Dama.” Now, another ball appeared at the other end of the string. He grasped the string in the middle and began twirling it over his head.

Once it was going really fast he threw it at Seth. Seth knew it would break bones if it hit him, not to mention the double explosion. He ducked underneath the balls and string and they continued onwards, towards where Jake was hiding. Seth was about to cry out when a figure stepped out of the alleyway and yelled “Batter up!” and swung something at one of the balls. The force of the hit was so great that it completely reversed the momentum of the weapon, sending it spiraling back towards Seth.

Seth ducked a second time, but this time Bowler was ready for it. As the weapon passed over Seth, Bowler shouted “Explode, Tetsu Dama!” He misjudged the distance a little so that the balls where a little ways away from Seth when they blew up, but the blast was big enough to singe Seth’s clothes and hair anyways.

When Seth opened his eyes, for he had closed them during the explosion, he saw a hand reaching down to him. He grabbed it and allowed himself to be pulled to his feet.

“Dust yourself off, kid. Ya look like shit,” came a gravely voice. Seth was face to face with Brock.

“Brock?! What the hell are you doing here?!” Seth asked, amazed.

“I sensed your power in the area and decided to check up on ya, that’s all. It looks like it’s a good thing I did, too.”

“Helloooo,” Bowler said in a sing-song voice. “Aren’t we in the middle of a battle here. You guys are so rude. I guess I will just have to punish you for your insolence. Third Release, Tetsu Dama!” Now, from the center of the string, another string dropped down and a third ball appeared at the end of it, making his weapon a true bolo.

Again, Bowler started to swing his weapon above his head. This time, Seth did not give him time to launch it. He formed a darkness globe around Bowler’s head. Bowler screamed in rage and launched his bolo at Seth and Brock blindly. It missed and skidded off down the street. Bowler made it explode anyway, not caring what damage it caused.

“Quick, Brock, now’s our chance. While he’s blinded and needs to reform his weapon we can attack,” Seth said. Brock nodded and the two of them charged at Bowler.

“I don’t think so, Bowler yelled. “Bankai, Zyuu Tetsu Shikyū!” Behind Bowler, ten more iron balls materialized, floating in the air above his head. Large iron ropes rose from the ground and attached themselves to the balls. “Heh, heh, heh. You’re finished. Each of these ten balls can do a variety of things. Unfortunately, they’re each one use only, so I guess I’d better exercise caution when using them,” Bowler explained.

Seth had already given up on the darkness globe as he readied himself for Bowler’s attack. One of the balls started to move. Bowler shouted “Expand.” and the ball grew huge. Bowler lifted a hand and then brought it down dramatically. The giant ball dived for Brock and Seth. The both dived out of the way on either side of the ball as it smashed into the street, creating a large crater. Next, Bowler shouted “Explode.” The ball blew up and launched the still airborne fighters into the walls of the houses on either side of the street.

Seth fell to the ground, leaving behind a large dent in the house. He groaned as got back up. He heard Bowler say “Flatten!” and watched as Brock battled a spinning buzz saw. He did not recognize that there was also one coming at him until it was almost too late. He dodged to the side, but still got a cut on his arm. It turned around and came back at him. Seth put his sword up and when the buzz saw hit, its serrated edge caught on Seth’s blade and stopped spinning. Brock had managed to pin his saw to the ground and both of them faded from view.

“Alright, sp you’ve thwarted two of my techniques and three of my weapons. But I still have seven left. Fling and Multiply!” Bowler cried, now hysterical.

Two of the ropes flung their balls at Seth, and two more flung them at Brock. Each ball multiplied until their where ten instead of one. Seth used his Shadow Fingers move, which he had now decided to call it, to knock away some of the balls. When they all exploded, however, he was surrounded by fire. He covered his face with his hands and received a few minor burns, but he could still fight.

Brock, however, was a little worse off. He had not managed to divert any of the balls and when the smoke cleared Seth saw that his shirt was gone and his upper body was burnt pretty bad. He fell face down on the tar and laid there, unmoving.

“Well, well, well. It looks like there’s just one left. I’ll finish you off using all of my remaining balls. Bind!” Two balls faded from view and the ropes lashed out and wrapped around Seth’s ankles. He struggled to free himself, but to no avail. “It’s over. Fling,” Bowler said, now suddenly calm. The final ball flew directly at Seth.

Once again, Seth felt power welling up inside him. His lips started to move. “Shadō Bōru!” he said. A small ball the same size as the metal ones appeared on the half-sun of Seth’s sword. Seth launched it at the remaining ball and knocked it out of the way. The ball glowed and then sucked the glow back inside itself. Seth guessed that it had resealed itself.

“Dammit, no. Now I can’t even release its shikai for twenty-four hours,” Bowler cursed. He turned to flee, but Brock managed to get up and throw his now sealed sword at him. It hit Bowler in the back and he toppled over. Brock walked over to him, confirmed that he was dead, and then pulled his sword out of the his back.

“Why did you kill?” Seth demanded. “We had the zanpakuto. You could have let him live.”

“Look, kid. You’re the one collecting zanpakuto, not me. In my world, a fight ends when the opponent is dead or neither combatant can fight any longer,” Brock replied.

He started to walk away, and Seth called “Brock, what’s your zanpakuto number?” Brock just flipped him off and continued walking.

Jake stumbled out of the alleyway he had been in; he was completely dazed. Seth walked over to him. “Come on Jake. Let’s go home. We’ll give Mr. Hanzaro the zanpakuto in the morning.”

Seth glanced up at the sky and wondered again about what the dark nature of his power meant.

Chapter Six: Love and War

The following morning, a Saturday, Seth was awoken by Jake shaking and shouting “C’mon Seth! There’s something on the news that you have to see!” After he said this, he bolted out of the room, ignoring the small television in Seth’s room.

Seth groaned and looked at the clock by his bed to find that it was a little past six in the morning. Groaning again, Seth got up, stepped over Jake’s hastily made sleeping area, which consisted of a blanket and pillow, and moved out into the hallway. He stumbled down the hallway, past the bathroom, and into the kitchen.

Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, Seth stepped into the living room. All the furniture in the room was leftover from when Seth’s grandfather had been alive. There was a worn down sofa that used to be red but now looked an orangey-brown. There was an incredibly comfortable gray leather recliner with several rips in it; this is where Jake sat. There was also two bean bag chairs on the ground, in case Seth had a bunch of people over at once. The television was not overly large, but not exactly small either. It sat upon a small square table.

The television was turned to the local news channel. A story was just starting.

“…named Jessica Rand was found in the gymnasium of the Ron Teller High School,” the anchorwoman was saying. “She was wrapped in strange bandages that disintegrated when the one of the paramedics touched them. Underneath, it was found that Jessica had numerous nonfatal puncture wounds. She was immediately rushed to the hospital and has been asleep ever since. That is, until yesterday. That morning, Jessica woke up with no recollection of what happened to her. We will have more information, after the break.”

Seth and Jake looked at each other, stunned. “She, doesn’t remember any of it?” Seth asked.

“She probably does, but telling them what happened would be admitting the existence of zanpakuto. No one is willing to do that,” Jake answered.

“Well, the question is: Where is her zanpakuto?”

The two friends sat there, pondering this, until they heard the news coming back on. The anchorwoman announced that there was a police officer who thought he could shed some light on the strange case. The camera cut to a man with raggedy blonde hair and a police uniform.

“I believe that this case is connected to two others, both equally as mysterious,” the man was explaining in a Southern drawl. “Ya see, last night, two incidents occurred that cannot be explained. One: five officers were sent to investigate a report of a boy having a weapon at the Ron Teller High School. In retrospect, we probably sent a few too many, but oh well. We soon received a call from one of the officers before he died. We arrived on scene to find all the officers dead, along with a boy named Eddie Toran. That night, two boys had gone missing from the school. I am not at liberty to discuss their names.

“The second thing that happened last night was this: an old woman looked out her window before falling asleep and saw the two boys that I mentioned previously. Later, she was awoken by the sound of explosions. After that she called the police, who arrived on scene to find another dead body. I am the only one that has pieced this together, and after this interview, I will be heading over to arrest the suspects.” Jake turned off the T.V.

“We’ve got to get out of here,” Seth said. “Quickly, let’s head out the back.”

The two boys dashed out the back and went into the woods a little ways. Seth pulled out his cell phone and dialed Lily’s number. She picked up right away. Seth explained the situation to her and she told him to meet her at the hospital.

“C’mon, Jake. We’re heading into enemy territory.”

Seth and Jake stayed in the woods until they reached Main Street, the central hub for the entire city. They easily blended into the crowd and tried to act naturally. A little ways down the street, they came to the hospital.

The hospital was a huge complex. There was tons of parking and many different buildings, all serving their own purpose. He building that Seth and Jake wanted was a plain, square, ten-floored building. Many different departments resided within this building.

The two friends entered and approached the reception desk. A fairly young girl sat behind the counter, reading a fashion magazine and chewing gum. As Seth and Jake approached she looked up and asked “Waddya want?”

Taken aback, Seth told her that he was looking for his cousin, Jessica Rand. She rudely gave him the room number and told him to scram.

“Well that was rude,” Jake commented. “I wonder what her problem is.” The two took the elevator to the third floor and walked down the hallway until they arrived at Jessica’s room. Lily was waiting outside.

“Let’s go,” she said, briskly. Seth and Jake glanced at each other and shrugged. The three entered the room. When Jessica saw them she sat bolt upright.

So much for her not remembering us, Seth thought.

“What do you guys want?” Jessica demanded. “You guys made me lose everything. My life was perfect until you came around.” She glared at them accusingly.

“We’re just here to find out where your sword is and what you know about the gang. That’s it,” Seth told her soothingly.

“Well, I’m not telling you anything,” she said, stubbornly. “Unless you give me a kiss, that is.”

“Okay guys,” eth said. “I guess we’re not going to get any info out of her. Let’s get out of here.” he turned to leave, but Lily grabbed his arm.

“Seth, just kiss her. It’s not that hard,” Lily ordered.

“No, no. If he doesn’t want to he doesn’t have to. It’s not like any guy has ever wanted to kiss me,” Jessica said dramatically, putting her hand over her forehead. “It all started when I was a little kid and my parents died, leaving me with my older brother. He was a control freak. He always had to know everything about my friends and he stalked them and spied on them. They all left me because they feared him. Then, when guys started to get interested in me, he would beat them up and tell them to leave me alone.

“A couple years back, he started to get into drugs and alcohol. Some days he would come home stoned or drunk and beat me for no reason. One day, he got into a gang that was planning on stealing some strange swords. He got into a fight with one of the gang members and got pushed into the street. He was hit by a bus and killed. Now, I thought this was a blessing in disguise, but it was even more so when the gang asked me to join in order to keep their numbers up.

“That’s how I came to have my zanpakuto. I can’t tell you much about the gang members, because only one of them ever showed his face to me. When I finally unlocked my shikai, I knew that my life was going to change for the better. I would have friends and I could make any guy like me. But now, thanks to you, Seth, I will never have a friend.” As she finished a tear rolled down her cheek.

“That’s not true, Jessica,” Seth declared. “Me and Lily and Jake will be your friends. We will help you find your zanpakuto as long as you promise to use it for good. You can join our team to take down the gang members and retrieve all the stolen zanpakuto.”

Before Jessica could respond, another voice broke in. “Well, well, well. I reckoned I’d find y’all here. What a touching little speech that was Seth.” Everyone turned slowly to look at the speaker. There, standing in the doorway, was the police officer from the news. “Looks like all of y’all have joined forces. I guess that means I’m goin’ to have to arrest all four of ya.”

Seth glanced over at Jessica, who looked the most shocked out of all of them. “Leave her out of this,” Seth demanded.

“A brave request, but I’m afraid I can’t oblige it. Ya see, she’s gonna be charged with obstruction of justice for clamin’ that she didn’t remember anythin’,” the officer drawled. “The name’s Mike, by the way. And who might this lovely young lady be?” Mike grabbed Lily’s hand, but she pulled it away instantly.

“I’m Lily,” she snapped.

Mike frowned, then shrugged. He turned around and motioned for the four children to follow him. Seth knew that they could not make a scene here, and so he followed the Mike out into the hallway. Lily helped Jessica get up and led her out of the room as well, closely followed by Jake.

Outside, Mike made Lily, Jake, and Jessica get into the back, while he and Seth climbed into the front two seats. He drove off down Main Street in the direction of the police station. To the astonishment of the four passengers, Mike drove right past the station altogether.

“Where are you taking us?” Jessica demanded.

“Y’all are gonna find out soon, so just be patient,” Mike responded, snickering.

The turned off Main Street and head into the more residential areas of the city. Eventually, they came upon a dirt road leading off into the forest. Mike took it, and the vehicle bumped along to a large clearing. Mike parked the car in the middle of the clearing and got out.

“C’mon now, kids, don’t be shy. Step right out! Welcome, to the place of your execution!” Mike shouted.

Seth jumped out of the car and reached for his zanpakuto. “Sink Below the Horizon, Nichibotsu!” he yelled. After his sword had undergone its transformation, he added “Shadō Bōru!” When Seth swung his sword, a ball of shadows flew out and hit Mike, knocking him backwards.

“Huh. Thanks for confirming my suspicions, boy. Now, watch and learn!” Mike grabbed his pistol and threw it up in the air. He held up both his hands and shouted “Blast, Pisutoruzu!” His pistol began to glow and then split in half. Both of the pistols transformed and became fancier. They looked more old fashioned, like the kinds you would see in old westerns. The two guns landed perfectly in Mike’s hands.

By now, Jessica and Jake were out of the cruiser and heading to safety. When Mike released his zanpakuto, Jessica’s face grew pale. “It really is him,” she squeaked. “He was the one who killed my brother and brought me into the gang.” Although Jake was surprised, he did not show it. Instead, he kept hurrying Jessica along, trying to reach the woods before the battle got into full swing.

Meanwhile, Lily had gotten out of the car to stand next to Seth. Her zanpakuto, Hebi no Shita, was already released.

“Two on one?!” Mike asked, faking fear. “Well, that ain’t fair. I guess I;m gonna have to even the score boards a little. Setting three should do it.” Mike reached down to a knob on the side of one of his guns and twisted it until it pointed to the number three. Then, he pointed that gun at Lily’s head and pulled the trigger. A stream of concentrated water came out of the gun and hit Lily in the head. She was thrown backwards, unconscious.

Dammit, Seth thought. All my friends are useless. Maybe Brock will show up to save the day again.

Unfortunately for Seth, that did not happen. What did happen, was Mike turned his gun back to setting one and pointed both of them at Seth. He pulled the trigger of the first gun and a blast of pure energy came out. Seth rolled out of the way and the blast flew past him and hit a tree. Seth looked up to find out that another energy bolt was coming at him.

He started to run around the clearing, followed closely by blasts of energy from Mike’s guns. It was impossible for Seth to get in close, so instead he focused on making a globe of darkness around Mike’s head. Mike cussed.

“Ha, you can’t shoot what you can’t see,” Seth taunted. Mike felt around his guns for the knob and turned it to setting number two. He pointed his guns at the ground and pulled the triggers, releasing two streams of fire. The grass caught easily, and the clearing started to burn.

“Now for the forest,” Mike said. He put the barrels of his guns together and pulled the trigger. A small ball of fire formed in between the two barrels. Suddenly, a giant stream of fire was released from the ball. The stream incinerated everything in its path, trees, animals, and anything else that happened to be in its path.

When the fire stopped the forest was burning. There was fire everywhere. “Remove this darkness Seth, or I will burn down the entire forest,” Mike ordered. Seth did as he was told.

Jessica and Jake, who had been watching from the shadows, ran out and grabbed Lily. Jessica looked up to see Mike turn his guns to the first setting again. Then he put the barrels together and fired. An energy beam the same size as the fire beam was unleashed. Jessica saw Seth become enveloped by it, and when it disappeared Seth was no where to be seen.

“Seeeeeeth!” Jessica shouted, dropping Lily. She could not believe it. Her first real friend was dead.

Why am I so helpless? Jessica asked herself.

You are not helpless, Jessica, came the voice of Botan Inko.

Slowly, Jessica reached down to her side to find that her zanpakuto was back.

A zanpakuto will never leave its rightful owner, Botan Inko explained. Now go, Jessica, fight!

“Fall in Love, Botan Inko! Kokoro no Hikō!” Before Mike could do anything against Jessica, he was slashed by one of her heart-shaped, flying blades. He was already under her spell. Then, the shadow of one of the trees began to rise up and form into the shape of a person. Finally, it solidified to reveal Seth, alive, but beat up pretty badly. He fell backwards as soon as all of the shadows disappeared.

Jessica rushed over to him, dodging around the flames that were rapidly spreading. She leaned over Seth, who was barely conscious. “Hey, Jess,” he said. “I guess I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. That ray blasted me a little bit.” Jessica could see that there were burns all over his body.

“Hey, you, police officer. Get over here and help me move him,” Jessica shouted.

“Yes, my love,” he said. He hurried over to where they were and picked up Seth by himself. Jessica returned to Lily and helped Jake move her as well. They set the two down in the forest and Jessica placed her zanpakuto over Seth’s wounds.

“Koibito no Tatchi,” she said quietly. A soft pink glow came from her sword and she moved it slowly over Seth’s wounds. As she did, the burns faded and Seth let out a sigh of relief.

The blare of sirens could be heard above the roar of the fire. Jake looked worried, but Jessica assured him she had a plan.

When the firefighters arrived on scene they found Mike stumbling about the woods. They were told the story of how Mike had been on the team that had been sent to Ron Teller High School last night, and he had shot his fellow officers and taken Eddie’s own sword and killed him with it. Afterwards, Seth and Jake came to investigate the noise and he had attacked them and chased them off. The met up with a strange man on the street later on and when Mike arrived he killed the man and threw a bomb. He knew it did not kill Seth and Jake so he kidnapped them and left them in the burning forest. However, he had inhaled a bunch of smoke and gotten dizzy and lost.

When Seth and his friends were found a ways off in the forest, they confirmed this story. They told the story again at the police station and Mike was arrested for seven counts of murder and four counts of attempted murder.

That night, the four friends returned to their respective homes. Jake was feeling horrible because he could not help his friends in battle. Seth wondered what his next battle would be and what kind of powers his opponent would have. Lily pondered the gang and the its leader, wondering how he had found so many evil people to join him. And Jessica was truly happy for the first time in a long time. Now, she finally had real friends.

Chapter Seven: Meteor Shower

“This is strange,” Mr. Hanzaro said, examining Jessica’s zanpakuto.

“What? Is there something different about it now?” Jessica asked.

“No, that’s just it. There isn’t anything different about it at all. I have never heard of anything like this happening. Unless a person’s zanpakuto has been returned to its sheath, it will not be at that person’s side until it has been. For yours to have done so is indeed quite interesting,” Mr. Hanzaro explained.

It was now Monday afternoon. At school, Lily, Seth, and Jessica had been discussing the recent turn of events and decided they should consult Mr. Hanzaro about the mysterious reappearance of Jessica’s sword.

“What do you think happened, Mr. Hanzaro?” Seth inquired.

“I can’t say for sure, but I think that Jessica’s need for her zanpakuto may have called it to her side. For now, I will need to study the sword to make sure that this is not an inherent power of the zanpakuto.”

“You can do that?” This time it was Lily that spoke up.

“Yes. It is a fairly long process, but I can analyze the Z energy of a zanpakuto and find out all of the powers it contains. It is very taxing, so I don’t do it often, but I think in this case, it is necessary.” Seth knew that Mr. Hanzaro had said that last part to make sure that nobody would ask him to do it for them so that they could know the full extent of their power.

“Can anybody do this process?” Lily asked.

“No. It requires a special type of person. This person is unable to release zanpakuto, but in exchange he or she is granted numerous other powers. For example, you may have noticed that zanpakuto users here have no form of Kiddo. That is because that power rests with people like me. In this world, it is called Z magic.”

“Wow Mr. Hanzaro. I never knew you were so powerful,” Seth said.

Mr. Hanzaro smiled. “Thank you, Seth,” he said. “Anyways, speaking of power, it would seem that there is a place off in the woods a ways where you can test yours, Seth. I hear two master swordfighters take on all challengers in a fight to the death.”

“I dunno, Mr. H. Fighting to the death isn’t exactly fun for me,” Seth replied.

“Oh, don’t be a wimp, Seth. Come on, we’ll both go, right now. It will be two on two, a fair fight,” Lily interjected.

Seth sighed and said “Okay, fine. But you can do all the killing.”

“My pleasure,” Lily said, smiling maliciously.

With directions from Mr. Hanzaro, the two friends arrived at the location of the battlegrounds. It was an old rundown warehouse located way out in the woods. Seth could not imagine what purpose it once served, but he did not really care. He was here to fight and fight he would.

At the entrance to the warehouse, a man barred the way. Seth saw with dismay that it was Meat-Slicer Mark. When Mark saw Seth he immediately stepped aside.

“What? You’re not even going to try to stop us from going in there? Are you afraid mark?” Seth asked mockingly.

“Hey, man. I don’t wanna mess with you, no way, no how. But if I let you in, there’s a strong chance that you’re gonna die, and that will be my revenge. So go on, go die. Those guys in there are strong. Stronger than you anyways,” Mark said.

Lily snorted and brushed past Mark. Seth followed, keeping one eye on Mark at all times. The two found themselves in a long hallway with curtains on either side. Seth did not see the point to the curtains, because anyone could duck under them if they wanted to.

The closer the two got to the end of the makeshift hallway, the more they could hear cheering. It looked like these two guys were not only taking on challengers, but also allowing people in to watch. Seth figured they were probably charging people money to get in.

At the end of the curtained hallway, Seth and Lily stepped out into a small rectangular area surrounded by a wire fence. On either side of that fence were cheering fans, who were separated from the main stadium by more fencing. Inside the ring, there were multiple boulders set up, possibly to hinder the fighters and make the battles more interesting. Seth, however, was not concerned about the fans or the boulders.

His attention was focused solely on the four fighters in the ring. Two of them were people he did not know. Seth could tell that those were the challengers. It was the other two that interested Seth. One of them was Brock(which somehow did not surprise Seth), and the other was the one that really got Seth. It was the man that had attacked him and Jake on the day they went to the store!

Brock fought with his sword sealed. Since his opponents did not have zanpakuto he wanted to challenge himself. Neither of his opponents were as good as Gregory, but with both of them coming at him at once he was hard pressed to fend them off.

Off to the side, Brock’s partner watched with mild interest. Brock told him not to help because he wanted a challenge. His partner readily agreed; he did not like fighting that much anyways, but he set this place up to get money.

One of the challengers rushed in at Brock’s right side. Brock blocked the man’s strike easily and was about to counter when the other man came in at him from the left. Again, rock blocked the strike, but was unable to counter. The sound of metal on metal rang out as Brock blocked again and again, unable to go on the offensive. His opponents moved forwards, pushing Brock back.

Brock might have lost the battle eventually, if it had continue the way it was going. But, fortunately, it did not. Both enemies chopped down with overhand strikes. Brock blocked both of them at once. Then he swept his foot out, tripping both men and knocking them to the ground. As one tried to get up, Brock slashed out at him. The man parried, but was knocked to the ground again.

The other man was trying to rise to his feet as well, but Brock cut him open from shoulder to hip with one strike. The first man tried to flee, but Brock’s partner stepped in front of him and stabbed him in gut.

“I thought I told you to stay out of this,” Brock growled.

“I would have too, only we have some more challengers and I did not want to keep them waiting,” his partner replied.

Brock glanced over to the fenced in area to see that Seth was there with some other girl. Brock smiled. He could not help but think that it was ironic that the boy that had helped him get this gig would arrive here.

Not long after his first encounter with Seth, a strange man in a dark suit approached him. It turned out that Brock had not been the only one hiding in the bushes that day. This man wanted to create a place where people could come to fight or to watch fights. Brock agreed to it and they started making preparations. The day after Brock had given Eddie Toran Gregory’s zanpakuto, they started moving stuff out of the warehouse and down to the dump. Then they set up the fence, did a little advertising in the world of the underground, and waited for people to show up.

While Seth was off fighting a police officer, Brock was fighting anyone that wanted to fight him. In truth, the day that Seth and Brock fought Bowler, Brock had been trying to inform Seth about his new fighting arena. By the time the battle was over, Brock had forgotten completely.

“Alright, new challengers, step right up and prepare to fight. These people have paid to see a great show, so let’s give them one.” As the strange man spoke, people rushed out onto the field and hauled the bodies of the previous challengers off the field.

Gulping, Seth opened the gate to the small area and stepped out into the arena. Lily followed suit.

“So you two, tell me your names,” the man said. “I am Preston Lightfield, at your service. My bald-headed friend over there is named Brock. By the way, are those zanpakuto I see at your side.” Lily and Seth both looked down, but their zanpakuto were not yet materialized.

“How can you-” Seth started to ask.

“Never mind that, kid. I asked your names, if you remember,” Preston said, cutting Seth off.

“I’m Lily,” Lily said. “And this is Seth.”

“Ah, I see. Well, it’s a pleasure to meet the both of you and I wish we could be friends, but at the most, only two of us will be walking out of here. Now, if you don’t mind, let’s all release our zanpakuto. That way, things will be a lot more fun. I’ll start.” Preston reached down to his side and drew out a normal long sword. “Slash and Burn, Tōchi!” At the end of Preston’s zanpakuto, a small cone appeared.

“Hiss, Hebi no Shita!” Lily shouted. Her sword transformed into the shape of a snake tongue.

“Give me Strength, Kurasshā!” Brock’s sword was long pentagonal prism with a small pentagonal pyramid at the top.

Seth drew out his own sword and shouted “Sink Below the Horizon, Nichibotsu!” His became a long sword with a semi-circle at the end of it. Stemming from the semi-circle were six short blades.

“The boy’s mine!” Brock screamed, rushing in at Seth with a vertical chop. Seth side stepped this blow, but Brock brought his sword up into a horizontal slash. Seth jumped back and then ducked as Brock brought his sword back the other way. Seth was then forced to roll off to the side to avoid Brock’s next slash. Seth knew that blocking was useless and that one hit from Brock’s sword would spell his doom.

Seth got to his feet and faced Brock again. “Shadō Bōru!” Seth yelled. He sent a ball of shadows flying at Brock, who easily knocked it away. Seth focused his Z energy on the blades of the half sun and turned them into shadows and sent them out at Brock. The wrapped around Brock’s arms and legs and held him in place. He struggled, but he could not get free.

“Well, looks like you got me, kid. Or so you think. Bankai, Yama Kurashā!” Brock’s zanpakuto began to glow and… when it stopped glowing, it had not changed.

“What the hell?!” Seth exclaimed. “Your bankai is no different than your shikai? That’s pathetic.”

“It may not look different, but it sure as hell makes me more powerful,” Brock said calmly. He managed to maneuver his wrist so that his sword touched one of the shadows. As soon as it did, that shadow shattered into a million smaller pieces. Seth looked surprised. Brock twisted his wrist around some more and managed to hit the other shadows, which also shattered.

Brock was now standing free. He grinned at Seth and said “The power of my bankai is to shatter anything it touches. The bigger the object, the harder I need to strike it. You see those boulders set up all around the battlefield? Those are for the ultimate combo of me and my partner. You ready, kid? Are you ready for the Meteor Shower?”

Meanwhile, Lily was having troubles of her own. After Brock and Seth started their fight, Preston led Lily over to a more secluded area. He turned towards her, casually swing his sword around.

“You ready, girl? I’m not going to go easy on you,” Preston said.

“I wouldn’t expect you to,” Lily snapped back. She launched a blob of yellow goo at Preston. Preston pointed his sword at the goop and the cone on the top of his sword opened up and unfolded until it was a silver circle. From this circle, Preston released a burst of concentrated fire. The goop was incinerated almost instantly. Lily was forced to dive to the side to avoid getting scorched.

“Heh, heh, heh,” Preston laughed. “That sort of trick isn’t going to work on me, girl. I hope you’ve got something else up your sleeve or you’re screwed.”

Lily rushed in at Preston, sword out to the side. Preston was momentarily startled, but he managed to get his sword up in time to block. The two engaged in a brief but fierce sword fight, and then Preston jumped back and pointed his zanpakuto at Lily. He unleashed another burst of flame and Lily was not able to get herself fully out of the way. The fire hit the side of her left arm and lit her t-shirt on fire. She managed to rip the sleeve off before the fire could spread, but she received burns on her left arm and right hand.

That’s when Lily heard Brock shout something about a meteor shower. She turned to see him rush around to the backside of one of the boulders. Seth was running away as fast as he could, but Lily could not imagine why.

“It’s time for that already, my friend. Well, if you say so Brock. Hey girl, watch this and find out why we call this the Meteor Shower Combo,” Preston said. He lifted his zanpakuto so that the circle reflected the light from the overhead lights at the boulder. As soon as the light hit the boulder it was set on fire. Rock was on fire!

Then, the entire boulder smashed into littler pieces and went flying right towards Seth. Despite his best efforts, Seth still had not managed to get out of the way of the rock fragments!

The first rock hit Seth on the shoulder, burning through his t-shirt and leaving a mark there. He turned around to face the rocks and managed to block or dodge most of them. However, he took two more hits, one to the upper thigh, the other on his hip. He was lucky that the fire had not spread to any of his clothes.

Suddenly, Seth heard Lily cry out. He turned to see a stream of fire coming right at him. It was too close to dodge, so he covered his face with his arms and waited to feel the burning feeling that would most likely signal his death. When it did not come, he uncovered his face and saw Lily standing over Preston, who was facedown on the ground.

“What did you do to him?” Seth asked when he could see no signs of damage to Preston’s body aside from a cut on his arm.

“That goop that I can fling from my blade is actually a poison. It paralyzes the opponent. Everything but their mouth that is,” Lily explained.

“Dammit, I can’t move. Undo this poison you witch,” Preston ordered.

“Sorry, no can do. I have to kill you now, as per the rules of this competition.” Lily raised her sword and prepared to strike. Then, four police officers rushed into the arena through the curtained tunnel that combatants used. People began to flee in all directions, trying to get to an exit.

“Damn. The police have horrible timing,” Lily muttered under her breath. She reached down for Preston’s zanpakuto, but was pulled away by Seth.

“There’s no time for that,” Seth told her. “We will have to be satisfied with it being in the police’s hands. Right now, we need to get out of here.” The two sprinted over to the fence and hopped over it easily. Seth looked back for a second, just before he got to the door, and saw Brock running for the other side of the arena.

“Brock!” Preston shouted. “Don’t leave me here like this! Please, help me!” Brock looked back briefly, but continued onwards, undeterred. “You’ll pay for this Brock! I promise, you’ll pay!”

Seth hurried outside alongside Lily and ran off into the woods. There were two more police officers trying to grab people, but they were too busy to notice Seth or Lily. The two easily made their escape and headed back to Mr. Hanzaro’s to tell him and Jessica what had happened.

That night, Preston sat in the arena, his back to a boulder. The corpses of the six police officers were scattered throughout the stadium. Sitting in front of Preston were his four true allies.

“I told you Preston, you need to keep a low profile. This is not exactly low,” said one man, the leader, in his gravelly voice.

“Oh, lighten up boss,” said one of the two woman in the group. “You also told us to have a little fun with our zanpakuto.”

“Be that as it may, we had to kill these six cops to bail Preston out. Now we will have to move our base of operations somewhere else. I will decide where shortly. Meanwhile, all of you should pack up your things and get ready to leave,” the leader said.

A man wearing small circular glasses started to giggle. “What are ya laughin’ about?” asked the final member of the group, cocking her head to one side.

“Nothing, nothing,” the man said. “Me like to kill, so me wants to kill more officers. Is very fun.” Preston laughed at the man’s odd way of speaking. He was surely the weirdo of the group.

“Well, try not to cause anymore trouble. That goes for all of you. Until we leave, I do not want anyone to see your faces. Preston, you deal with the bodies since their deaths are your fault. The rest of you are dismissed. In one month we will meet again. Be prepared to leave.” With that, the boss got up and walked towards the exit, followed by the other three. It seemed to him that everything was going according to plan.

Chapter Eight: Destiny

“You are on in ten, Izzy,” the stage manager informed the man sitting cross-legged on the floor, backstage of the Veazie Dance Studio.

“Thank you, Lisa. I shall be ready shortly,” Izzy replied. Lisa left and he went back to preparing. He finished putting on his costume, which consisted of many feathers on a skintight body suit, and sat down again to have a brief moment of zen. Sure, the costume was not as traditional as he would have liked, but at least he got to perform the Sparrow Dance in front of an audience. Of all the Japanese dances, the Sparrow Dance was his favorite.

Izzy's thoughts soon drifted elsewhere, namely, to the zanpakuto that lay hidden at his side. Izzy knew that this sword was part of his destiny. It had to be, after all, he was the ancestor of the man that had created zanpakuto. That fact must make him destined to wield a zanpakuto, mustn't it? He thought so.

He also knew that there were those out there striving to take away his zanpakuto and ruin his destiny. He was not going to allow that to happen. The reason he was now in Veazie, South Carolina and not in Japan was to find those people and make them pay. Fortunately, Izzy had kept in touch with one other member of the gang who had stayed in the vicinity of Veazie and knew about these evil people.

Already, Izzy had tracked down his first target, a young boy who went by the name of Seth. All that was left to do was corner the boy and kill him. Then, he would be able to complete his destiny, whatever that destiny was.

“You're on Izzy! Let's go,” Lisa shouted.

Still thinking about killing the fools that got in his way, Izzy picked up the two fans that were required for the dance and headed out onto the stage.

It was not long after their battle with Brock and Preston before Lily and Seth sat in the apartment of Mr. Hanzaro. He had examined both Jessica's and Mike's zanpakuto and looked thoroughly exhausted.

“Well, I did not discover why Jessica's zanpakuto appeared for her when she had not put it back in its sheath, however, I did discover the numbers of both zanpakuto. Jessica, yours is number twenty. Mike's was number twelve. That means we have ten, twelve, eighteen, and twenty accounted for. Seth, Lily, if you would like I could find your numbers for you. I found that finding the numbers requires very little energy,” Mr. Hanzaro said.

“No thanks, Mr. Hanzaro. I think I'd prefer if I didn't know my number until the very end. That way I'm not worrying about the supposed power of my zanpakuto and I can focus on making it as powerful as I can,” Seth replied.

“Same here, Mr. H,” Lily agreed.

“Well okay then,” Mr. Hanzaro sighed. “I guess I'll go to bed then. It's only seven o' clock, but I've had a long day.” As Mr. Hanzaro got up to leave, Seth suddenly remembered something he was supposed to be doing.

“Hold up, Mr. H. Did you say it's seven already?” Seth asked.

“Yes, why?” Mr. Hanzaro responded.

“Oh no, I forgot I was supposed to go over to Jake's house to work on our homework with him.” Seth grabbed his backpack and pelted down the stairs without even saying good-bye to anyone. He ran out the front door and headed straight for Jake's house.

What Seth found when he arrived was not at all what he had expected. There was a police car in the driveway and the front door was open. Seth could hear Jake's mother crying inside.

“W-When I got home from work the door was open and Jake was nowhere to be found,” Mrs. Warner was saying. “On the wall, someone had written 'Seth Jennings, meet me at the Veazie Dance Studio before nine o' clock or your friend gets it.'” This was all Seth needed to hear before he was off again, heading straight towards the Veazie Dance Studio.

This is all my fault, Seth thought. If I had been there this never would have happened.

Do not blame yourself, Seth, came Nichibotsu's voice. You were merely carrying out your destiny.

What destiny? Seth thought back. Nichibotsu did not reply, so Seth forgot about the comment and focused on making it to the Dance Studio. He knew he had plenty of time, but he was not willing to risk his friends life.

The Veazie Dance Studio consisted of two parts: the back side, which was where dance lessons were taught, and the front side, which was where the stage was. When Seth arrived, he found that the front side was locked, so he headed around back.

The parking lot was completely empty, so Seth walked right up to the door and turned the handle. It was unlocked. Seth pushed the door open and stepped into the studio. Like most dance studios, it was a plain wooden floor with mirrors in the walls and handrails going all the way around. Sitting cross-legged in the middle of the floor was a man with long black hair tied back in a ponytail like a samurai. He was dressed in traditional samurai armor and had a zanpakuto in his open palms.

“So you have come, Seth Jennings. I have been waiting for a while now,” the man said.

“Where's Jake?” Seth demanded.

“Patience, patience. We will get to him in time. For now, I suppose I should introduce myself. I am Iz Margad, but you may call me Izzy. I am here to defeat the one who threatens my destiny. That would be you, Seth,” Izzy explained.

“Well, Izzy, I want my friend back, and if I have to defeat you to do it than I will.” Seth drew out his zanpakuto and shouted “Sink Below the Horizon, Nichibotsu!”

Izzy stood up and grasped his sword with both hand, holding it straight up at arms length. Calmly he said “Shatter and Grow, Aojemu Yaiba.” His sword began to widen out. The top of the sword ended up being wider than the bottom, giving the sword a top-heavy appearance. Emerald formed around the blade, like a sheath.

“Ha, ha, ha. Prepare to be obliterated,” Izzy laughed.

“We'll see about that,” Seth muttered, forming a globe of darkness around Izzy's head. Izzy just laughed even harder and brought his sword up to his head. The ball was sucked into the emerald on the blade and the emerald increased in size

“All of your moves that use Z energy will not work on me, fool. These emeralds absorb Z energy. Therefore, you don't stand a chance,” Izzy said, now cackling like a madman.

Seth, seemingly unphased by this new revelation, rushed in and slashed at Izzy. Izzy blocked with his sword and the emerald casing shattered. Small pieces flew into the air around Seth. He could feel them sucking at his Z energy. They began to grow, surrounding him with emerald. He dived through on end and rolled to his feet. Somehow, he had managed not to get any emerald shards on him.

That did not matter, however, as the new emerald ball that had been trapping Seth shattered towards him, sending more emerald shards at him. He dived out of the way to avoid having his energy drained. He could already feel the effects of his lost energy; he felt sluggish and his limbs felt heavier.

“Getting tired, Seth. It is understandable if you want to surrender now. I will make your death quick and painless. And, I will give your friend a swift death as well,” Izzy said.

“No. I can't lose. I have to win for Jake's sake. For the sake of all my friends. I will win Izzy. I will win!” Seth could feel something stirring within him. Nichibotsu's voice whispered in his head. Suddenly, he shouted “Bankai, Fainarusansetto!” His sword began to transform once again. It split in two and one went to each of his hands. Then, the all of both the swords disappeared except for the two half suns at the end. Those became bigger and grew handles at the bottoms, making them chakrams. Seth grabbed them both and faced Izzy again.

“It does not matter whether you have bankai or not. My emeralds will still absorb your energy,” Izzy said, more than a little nervous. He created a new emerald sheath and sent more shards flying at Seth. Seth merely stood there, expressionless. The emeralds surronded him, but they did not grow, did not steal his energy.

“What?!” Izzy shouted. “Y-Your Zenergy is to strong for my emeralds to absorb. But I will not lose.” Izzy rushed at Seth, but his charge was cut short when a tendril of shadow warapped around his waist. He looked behind him to see that it was coming out of his own shadow! Suddenly, the whole room went black. Izzy felt something cut him on the waist, then the back.

“Dammit!” Izzy screamed. “It cannot end like this. Bankai, Aojemu Ryuuza Koutei Yaiba!” Seth's darkness was sucked away into a large emerald dome that had formed above the two combatants. When it did the dome grew inwards a little bit.

Seth looked at Izzy to see that he now looked quite a bit like Captain Toshiro Hitsugaya in his bankai. Izzy had wings, knee guards, and gauntlets made out of emeralds. In each hand was a strangely shaped sword. The blade came out for a while, then sloped outwards, and then leveled off to become even yet again.

Seth felt something on his feet and looked down to see that the floor was made of emeralds now too, and it was growing upwards, over Seth's feet. Seth jumped up and moved to another location, but he could still feel the tug of the dome absorbing his Z energy and it was constantly growing in towards him.

“Now, I bet I know what you are thinking, Seth. You are thinking 'Now we will both be crushed here together. This is a stupid bankai because he is going to kill himself.' Well, if that were true Seth, then this would not be the number seven zanpakuto. No, I can escape, while you will be trapped here. Good-bye, Seth Jennings.” A hole appeared behind Izzy and he jumped out. Seth rushed for the hole, but it closed before he could get to it. Seth beat on the emerald, trying to break through, but it was too strong. Seth stepped into the middle and prepared to be killed.

What a pathetic loser you are, Seth, came a strange, sinister voice in his head. Making me do everything right? Is that what you want? Fine then, have it your way.

Who are you? Seth asked the voice.

The last thing Seth heard before he blacked out was the mysterious voice saying, I've told you before, you don't want to know. Then, there was only darkness.

Izzy watched his dome moving slowly towards the end of Seth's life. He could not help but laugh at how easy it had been to defeat this boy. He could feel Seth's presence inside the dome weakening. It was just too easy.

Izzy had started to drift off to sleep when he felt something change within the dome. Seth's presence was gone and in its place was a dark presence the likes of which Izzy had never felt. The dome shattered outwards in all directions. The mirrors on the walls shattered as well when they were hit with the emerald shards created by the blast. Izzy covered his face as he was peppered with emerald shards. Of course, they did not damage to him, but he covered his face just the same.

When he looked again, Izzy saw Seth standing in the middle of all the destruction. His face was covered by a black mask that looked like a dark sun because of the ray-like protrusions around the edge. His body was surrounded by a black aura and power was radiating from him.

“Hello there, fool. I am Seth's other half. Some might say his better half. Well, I would say that anyway.” The strange creature spoke with a dark, sinister voice that sent chills down Izzy's spine.

“I will not allow you to defeat me demon. You may have bested my dome, but that is not the only power of my bankai,” Izzy shouted. He pointed one of his wings at the strange creature and sent emerald needles flying at it. The thing quickly stepped out of the way and charged at Izzy with its chakrams held out behind it. As it approached, Izzy slashed out at it with both his swords. It jumped over him and slid to safety on the other side.

Izzy felt something grab his wings from behind and plant a foot on his back. Whatever it was snapped the wings right off. Izzy whirled around, expecting to see the strange creature. Instead, he was facing a copy of himself made completely out of shadows. It even had all the features of his bankai. The shadow Izzy charged at the real one and the began to sword fight. Izzy found that his shadow had all the same skills that he did and that they were evenly matched.

After a few minutes of battling, the shadow managed to position itself so that one wing was pointed at Izzy's gut. It launched some shadow emeralds and struck Izzy in the abdomen. However, it left itself open for an attack, and Izzy took that opportunity to stab it where its heart would be if it had one. Itsat there for a second, and then it did something strange: it resealed its zanpakuto. Izzy found out why a moment later when his own zanpakuto sealed itself as well!

As the shadow creature dissolved into nothingness, the other creature said “Your shadow is linked to you in ways you cannot imagine, Izzy. You see, when you do something, so does your shadow, so shouldn't go both ways?” Izzy just stood there, dumbfounded.

“Well, I guess I should finish this,” the creature said. Small points of black energy began to form on the ends of the mask's rays. They all shot lines of energy down to a single points where a large black ball began to form. Izzy knew that it was a cero and that it was pointed at him.

Just as the cero was about to launch the mask disappeared and Seth regained control of his body. “I will not kill anyone!” Seth shouted. Then, he added under his breath “Not again anyways.” An image floated into his mind of him as a kid, standing over two dead bodies, but he shut it out quickly.

Izzy dropped to his knees, more shocked then ever. “What is happening?” he asked.

“What's happening is that were taking you're zanpakuto and there's nothing you can do about it,” came a new voice from behind Izzy. He turned to see that Jake and Lily had entered the room from the front side, where Izzy had kept Jake tied up.

“No, you can't!” Izzy shouted. “That sword is my destiny. It is the whole reason I became one of the eighteen. It belongs to me, I know it does!” Izzy was hysterical now. Tears ran down his face and his voice wavered when he spoke. Lily walked over to him and grabbed the sword out of his hands.

“Someone like you does not deserve this sword,” she spat. Then, she turned and walked calmly out the door, followed by Jake. Seth stood for a moment longer, thinking troubled thoughts, and then followed the other two out the door, leaving Izzy on the floor, sobbing.

Chapter Nine: "You're Invited"

Understandably, Jake had been mad at Seth at first, but in a couple of days he got over it. It is generally very hard to stay mad at someone who you see every class of every day. By Friday the two were as thick as thieves again. Sunday, as the Seth and Jake were doing their homework, something dawned upon Jake.

It was while they were doing their science homework. They were in Biology and they were learning about ATP, the molecule that provides energy for cells.

“Hey Seth, I just thought of something,” Jake said excitedly.

“What's that, Jake?” Seth asked.

“Well, I just came up with a hypothesis. I'll explain it to you in a second, but first you need to agree to test it. It will be like a science experiment,” Jake replied.

Seth was now feeling slightly uneasy. He did not like the sound of this. However, he was also interested in what Jake had to say. “Okay, Jake, I'll do it. What do you want me to do?”

Jake grinned. “You're going to join the track team.”

Seth waited with the other members of the distance team for Jeff, the coach, to pull the trigger of the fake gun. They were preparing to do a mile time trial so that Jeff could get a sense of where they were all at. According to him, an 800 meter run, which was a half mile, was too short for him to judge them on and a two mile run was too long for the first day of practice.

Seth still could not believe he was doing this. He had never been one for sports; he kept himself in shape, but he was not the competitive type. He tensed as Jeff began to count down. “Runners to your marks, get set...” BOOM. And they were off.

Now, at the beginning of a distance race, everyone starts off faster than their normal pace so that they can get ahead of everyone else. None of them, however, go out in a full out sprint. None of them except Seth. He ran as fast as he could around the track. Halfway around his legs started to scream out for him to stop, but he continued anyways. He could hear Jeff shouting for him to slow down, but he ignored him.

As he approached the finish line, Seth began to reach inside himself, trying to test Jake's idea. He could almost hear Jake describing it.

“Alright Seth, here it is. You know how ATP is three phosphate groups attached to an adenine molecule? Well, when the third phosphate group breaks off, energy is released. What if Z energy was just that same process, but multiplied times ten?” Jake had said.

“So, what you're trying to say is that Z energy is made from bigger ATP molecules, right?” Seth replied.

“Sort of. What if Z energy came from a different type of molecule, not ATP at all, but something that could release even more energy? Maybe it's AQP, adenosine quarto-phosphate. Maybe when two of the phospate groups break off at the same time, a new type of energy is released. That energy is what we call Z energy.”

“That is an interesting theory, but how are we going to test it by joining the track team?” Seth asked.

Now it was time for Seth to test the theory. Jake had told him that he was going to have to use up all his energy and try to tap into his Z energy. Jake wanted him to try to make a new reaction where one phosphate group was broken off at a time, thereby releasing normal energy. If Seth was able to continue his sprint for more then one lap then they would know that Jake's theory was correct.

Seth searched for the source of his Z energy and when he found it he commanded it to give him the energy he needed. It worked. Suddenly he felt energy flood through him. One second he was about to drop dead, the next he felt like he could sprint forever. He sprinted lap two without any trouble. In the middle of lap three he began to feel a little bit of strain come back to his muscles, but he ignored it and pushed forward anyways. By lap four he knew he was running out of Z energy. He started to feel like he had at the end of the first lap.

During this last lap, Seth's pace slackened off a bit. His muscles burned and he was having a hard time breathing. He was still sprinting, but he was slowing down. One the final straightaway he squeezed every last drop of Z energy out of his body and finished the race as fast as he had started it. He managed to get a glimpse of the astonished faces of all those watching and then he passed out.

Jessica sat at her house, eating a snack and watching television. She was feeling lonely and wanted to call one of her friends, but she knew that all three of them were busy. She looked around at all the objects that had never been able to fill the void in her heart. When her parents had died they had left her brother a large sum of money which he had in turn left for her. She had bought all sorts of different things with the money. All the walls of her house were fuzzy and pink. All the furniture was brightly colored. She had a plasma screen T.V. In the family room and a large stereo in her bedroom. The kitchen was filled with all sorts of foods and her basement had all manner of toys she could get her hands on. She had all the video game systems and plenty of video games. Unlike Seth, Jessica was very well of.

When she was a child, Jessica had never had such luxuries. Her parents may have been rich, but they would never spend the money on stuff Jessica wanted. Jessica got only what her parents deemed necessary. But they were not around for long before she was given over to her brother, who would only spend the money on gambling and drugs. Jessica was surprised to find that he must have been a successful gambler because their parents fortune was bigger when it came to Jessica then it went to her brother.

By and by, the doorbell rang and Jessica went to get it. When she opened the door, nobody was there. Instead, there was a small envelope on the ground. Jessica picked it up and found that printed on the front of the envelope were the words: You are cordially invited.

Lily was practicing her fighting moves on the dummy that she had set up in the clearing out behind Seth's house. This clearing had been adopted as their official training grounds. Scattered about were wooden swords and other types of training equipment.

Lily had been practicing ever since school got out that day. Seth and Jake had informed her and Jessica of their experiment, but neither of them had been all that interested. Lily thought that the most likely outcome was that Seth would end up looking like an idiot when he tried to sprint a mile.

It was not long before Lily became aware of someone watching her from the edge of the clearing. The person was trying to hide, but he or she was not very good at it. Lily could see the silhouette of the person as clearly as that person could see her.

“Hey, you!” she shouted, brandishing her wooden sword. The figure straightened up. Lily charged at him and he fled. She was going to pursue, but she slipped on something. She turned around to see an envelope bearing the words You are cordially invited.

Brock had returned to his warehouse two days after the incident with the police. Everything looked exactly as he had left it and so he decided it was safe to stay there again. He did not give a second thought to what might have become of Preston; matters like that did not interest Brock. However, he did wonder where he might find Preston when two letters arrived at the warehouse, one addressed to Brock, the other to Preston.

Each one them had the same thing written on the front: You are cordially invited.

When Seth woke up he found that he had been brought to the hospital. He looked around to see that Jeff and Jake were the only two in the room. Jake was fast asleep while Jeff gazed at him worriedly.

“Are you okay Seth?” Jeff asked.

“Yeah, coach, I'm fine. I guess I just pushed too hard,” Seth answered.

Jeff smiled a little. “Good. Seth, I'm not going to ask you how you sprinted that mile and I don't expect you to tell me. I am, however, going to ask that you not do it again. I don't want you to kill yourself. I am concerned only for your safety. Promise that you won't repeat this incident,” Jeff implored.

“Okay, I promise,” Seth said. As Jeff got up to leave Seth added “What was my time coach?”

“To be honest, Seth, when you sprinted that second lap I was so surprised I dropped the stopwatch. It fell right on the stop button. Thanks to you, everyone's going to have to do the time trial all over again. You'll be doing yours on Wednesday because you will be taking tomorrow off,” Jeff explained.

“Great,” Seth mumbled as Jeff exited the room. “Hey Jake, wake up!” Jake eyes popped open and he nearly jumped out of his skin.

“Jesus, Seth, don't scare me like that,” Jake complained. Seth just smiled and waited for Jake to realize the obvious. “Holy crap! Seth you're okay! I thought I'd gotten you killed there for a little while.”

Seth looked over to the table next to his bed and say that someone had bought him flowers. Attached was an envelope with the words You are cordially invited printed neatly on the front. “What's this?” Seth asked. Jake shrugged and said it was not there when he had gone to sleep.

A passing nurse heard their conversation and poked her head into the room. “A strange gentlemen dropped those off a little while ago. I thought he was your father so I let him in,” the nurse said.

Seth thanked her and waited until she was gone before opening the envelope. Each of the letters said the exact same thing. “You are invited to my mansion for some lunch a bit of competition. Tell no one that you received this letter. Attached is a map to the location of my mansion. It is located deep in the woods so we will not be disturbed. Be there Tuesday afternoon.” That was all there was.

“Well, too late for the 'don't tell anyone' part,” Jake whispered to Seth after he had read the letter out loud. “Are you going to go?”

“Of course. It's probably another gang member that wants to fight. I'll go, defeat him, bring back his zanpakuto and everything will be okay. Easy,” Seth replied. Jake was not so sure it would be that easy, but he went along with it anyways.

The next day, none of the four friends mentioned the strange letters. They went through the day like nothing had happened the day before. Seth and Jake did not even divulge the results of their little test.

After school, Seth followed the directions on the map and headed off into the woods. After getting lost a couple of times, he eventually found the mansion. It was huge. It looked like a stereotypical mansion, as if the builder had been watching a lot of cartoons and decided that that was what he wanted the mansion to look like. It was white, three stories, and rectangular. Seth walked up the front steps to the large double doors, grasped the metal knocker, and smacked it three times against the door. After several moments, the door opened.

The man standing in front of Seth certainly looked like he was rich. He was wearing a purple designer suit, perfectly tailored black pants, and brown shiny dress shoes. He had long blond hair pulled back in a ponytail and bright blue, intelligent eyes.

“Ah, Seth, you're just in time,” the man said. “The others have just arrived as well.”

“Others?” Seth asked.

“Yes,” the man said. “I believe you are all acquainted.” The man took Seth by the arm and guided him into the center of the big foyer. Two staircases, one on either side of the room, led up to a balcony and the second floor of the house. There was a large portrait of the owner of the house above the doorway at the top of the stairs. Beneath the balcony was a second doorway leading off into the mansion.

Seth, Lily, Jessica, and Brock were all surprised to see each other there, yet it was a mild surprise. By this time, they had gotten used to the fact that their destinies were somehow intertwined. It was the fifth person there that really surprised Seth and Lily. They never thought they would be seeing Preston Lightfield again.

“Well, now that we are all here, I suppose I can begin,” the strange man announced. He ran up the stairs and looked down on the five people he had gathered from the balcony. “I invited you all here today to test your limits and put your abilities to the test. I am Johnathan Blackwell and you are standing in my zanpakuto. Its name is Manshon. Its powers lie in the rooms of this mansion. There are traps and weapons and strange creatures. My challenge to you all is for you to make it through this house, braving all the challenges, and get out the other side. If you do, I will give each of you one million dollars!”

“One million dollars! Just think what I could do with that!” Preston exclaimed.

“However, there is a condition. For you to receive your one million dollars, you must all make it out alive. If any one of you dies then the rest will not be getting the money no matter what. You will all enter through that door there-” Johnathan indicated the door below him. “-and from there on you are on your own. It would be wise to keep your companions alive.”

“What about lunch?” Brock shouted. “You said you were going to feed us.”

“Yes, well, I lied,” Johnathan answered. “You may now begin. Oh, and you only have until midnight before the doors will seal permanently. Good luck.” The doors opened on their own while Johnathan retreated into the room on the balcony.

“Should we go?” Jessica said, voicing the thought that all of them were having.

“It's worth a shot,” Seth said uncertainly.

“I'll go in,” Preston said. “If all of us come out, I get a million dollars. If not, I'll be rid of a few enemies. It's a win-win situation for me.”

“I might as well go to. He said there are monsters in there and those should provide for some interesting fights,” Brock put in.

“It'll be okay, Jess. We'll protect you,” Lily said confidently.

“I guess that settles it,” Seth said. He turned towards the doors and began to walk towards them. The other four followed suit. When they went through the doors, they found themselves in a hallway lined with doors. The hallway dead-ended a little ways down.

“What's that fool talking about? There's no way out of here,” Preston said, turning around to leave. The doors slammed shut and the five people were trapped inside.

“Behind each of those doors is a different test. Some will lead to traps, others will lead in the direction you need to go,” came Johnathan's voice from all around them. “Choose carefully.”

“Screw you guys, I'm going my own way,” Preston said as he yanked open one of the doors.

“Wait, Preston, don't just go around walking into any room you see. It could be a trap,” Seth shouted. Preston ignored him and entered the room. “Wait right here guys,” Seth told the other three as rushed into the room behind Preston. It was just a plain, white-walled room.

“Don't get your panties in a bunch kid. It's perfectly fine in here.” As Preston said this the room began to shake and cracks appeared in the floor. Both occupants of the room rushed towards the door, but it shut itself and they just ended up smacking into it. Seth grabbed on to the door knob just in time. The floor shattered beneath the. Below was darkness.

Seth felt something pulling him down and looked at his leg to see that Preston was holding on for dear life. Seth was about to tell him to let go when the doorknob came off in his hands. Instead, all that came out was a scream as he and his enemy plunged into the darkness.

Chapter Ten: The Maze

In the hallway outside, Jessica, Lily, and Brock felt the brief tremor, saw the door slam shut, and heard Seth’s scream as he fell to his doom.

“Seth!” Jessica shrieked. She lunged towards the door, but Lily held her back.

“There’s no point in trying to go in there. If he’s dead there’s nothing we can do about it, and if he’s not then he’ll be able to fend for himself. Right now, we need to focus on getting out of here ourselves,” Lily said.

“Yeah, let’s do this already. I want my million,” Brock added. He quickly walked over to the nearest door and yanked it open. Seconds later he dived out of the way as numerous bullets flew from the open doorway. As Brock got up a robot stepped out of the room holding a gun.

“Hiss, Hebi no Shita!” Lily shouted as she drew her sword. It transformed until it looked like a snake’s tongue. She fired a gob of yellow goo at the robot and it covered the tip of the gun. The robot tried to shoot anyways, but the bullets could not get past the goo. The robot dropped the gun and swords popped out of both shoulders. It grabbed them and charged at Lily.

The robot’s attacks were fast. It would strike with one sword and when Lily blocked that, it would strike with the other. She was slowly pushed back and was only faintly aware that Brock had released his zanpakuto.

“Duck!” he shouted. Lily did as he ordered and he smashed the robot away. When it landed it was no more than a pile of useless junk.

“Thanks,” Lily breathed. “That could have ended badly.”

“No problem,” Brock grumbled.

“This should be a lesson to us. We need to be more careful. Instead of just opening random doors we should try to use other methods to decide. Also, we need to keep our zanpakuto ready at all times. Jessica, you-” Lily was cut off mid sentence as Brock walked up to another door and pulled it open. “Hey! What they hell are you doing? Didn’t I just say to be more careful?”

“It’s fine the rooms empty. I won’t go in and everything will be fine,” Brock said defensively.

“I guess so, but stop just opening random doors. We need to work together to decide which doors to choose. There has to be some kind of method,” Lily said.

Suddenly, there was a large bang from the room that Brock was standing in front of. Lily and Jessica walked over to see what had happened. When they looked in, they saw that the walls had slammed together. All three of the companions looked at each other with wide eyes. This was going to be harder then they thought.

As Seth fell, his only thought was that he was going to die with his worst enemy rather than with the people he loved. Images flashed through his mind: Jake, Lily, Jessica, Mr. Hanzaro. He wondered how they would feel with him gone. He closed his eyes and braced for the impact that would end his life.

Then he felt Preston pass by him, going upwards. He did not have time to contemplate this before he hit the ground and bounced back up again. He passed Preston again, and then a third time as he fell back.

There was a blinding flash as lights from far above lit up. Seth could now see that they were in a room with a trampoline floor. The walls of this room were made out of a yellow stone and did not extend all the way to the ceiling. It was not hard for Seth to tell that he and Preston had fallen into some kind of maze.

“Hello there, Preston and Seth. Can you hear me? It is I, Johnathan, speaking to you through the powers of my zanpakuto. You two have entered the part of Manshon called the Maze. This maze will lead you to the same place as the others and will also pose many challenges to you. As of now, it is four o’ clock. You have eight hours to escape from this maze. Good luck.” Johnathan’s voice echoed for a little while before disappearing completely.

“Great. Now we have to navigate our way through an entire maze,” Preston complained.

“Hey, you’re the one that got us into this mess. We just have to deal with it and move on. We have eight hours to get out of here. That should be enough time. Now let’s go,” Seth said. He bounced his way over to the only doorway and walked out. He was soon followed by Preston.

They found themselves in a long hallway with numerous other hallways branching off of it. Preston took the lead and the two walked in silence for a while. They took a number of wrong turns, but they were making some amount of progress. Eventually, they came to a door that lead into another room. When Seth touched it, it slid down into the floor and revealed the room behind it.

The only thing that was in the room was a person lying in the middle of the floor. Behind him was another door. Seth rushed over to the person and was shocked at what he found. It was Jake.

“Help me, Seth,” he moaned. “I’ve been shot by that Johnathan guy. You need to help me.” Seth rolled his friend over and saw that there was a small hole in his abdomen. Blood was pouring out of it.

“Hey kid. Get back here. What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Preston shouted.

“I’m trying to help my friend, so shut up. Come over here and help me move him,” Seth shouted back.

Instead of rushing over to help, Preston charged at Seth and tackled him. Seconds later a large pillar came down and crushed Jake.

“What are you doing? That was my friend,” Seth shouted, horrified. Blood leaked out fro under the pillar. His friend’s blood. Jake’s blood.

“I don’t know what your talking about kid. There was no one there. It was an illusion, a trap. You were lured in so that the pillar could crush you,” Preston explained. When the pillar lifted back up, there was nothing there.

“Oh,” Seth said. “Thanks for saving me. Hey, why did you save me anyway. Ou don’t even like me. Or is it that you really do, secretly.”

“Don’t start thinking you’re all that, kid. Turns out I want the money more then I want you dead. Anyways, let’s move on.” Preston walked over to the door and touched, just as Seth had done with the last door, but nothing happened.

“Here, let me try,” Seth said, walking over to the door and placing his hand on it. Still, nothing happened.

“That won’t be enough, this time,” came a woman’s voice from behind Seth and Preston. They turned around to see a lion sitting in the middle of the floor. Only this lion had the face of a human woman. It was a sphinx. “If you want that door to open then you will have to answer three riddles.”

“Okay, we’ll do it,” Seth declared. “Give us the first riddle.”

“As you wish. When is a door not a door?” the sphinx purred.

“When it’s ajar,” Seth answered immediately. “I’ve heard that one before.”

“Well, well, well. Looks like I’d better step it up a notch. What is no sooner spoken then broken?”

“Something you break by saying it’s name? What could that possibly be?” Seth whispered to Preston.

“How am I supposed to think about the riddle if you won’t shut up kid,” Preston replied. Suddenly, his face lit up. “I have the answer. It’s silence. When you say the word silence then the silence is broken.”

“Correct. Here comes the hardest one of all. What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon and three legs in the evening?”

“Mankind,” said both Preston and Seth at the same time.

“That’s the oldest one in book, Ms. Sphinx. You see, when a human is born he crawls on all fours, then as an adult he walks on two legs. When he is old he uses a cane, which is like a third leg,” Preston said contemptuously. “Yeah. If you’ve studied Greek mythology at all you would have heard about the riddle of the sphinx,” Seth added.

“Fine then. The door will open, but you still have me to deal with!” the sphinx growled. It jumped at them teeth bared and claws unsheathed. Seth reached for his zanpakuto, but he knew he was not going to make it in time.

While Seth and Preston had spent an hour wandering through the maze, Jessica, Lily, and Brock had been deciding on how to approach the doors. The figured out that there was no way to know for sure what was behind each door, so they decided that they would open each one with extreme caution. The first one had sent a bolt of electricity flying out at them. Another room had completely exploded. Eventually, they got so there was only one door left.

“I can’t believe we hit every door but the right one,” Jessica complained. “We almost got killed multiple times. At least this room will be putting us in the right direction.”

“Quit your whining, girl. You, other girl, open the door already. I want to get out of here as soon as possible,” Brock ordered.

“Fine,” Lily said. She grabbed the door handle and pulled the door open. When she did everyone dived out of the way, just in case. When nothing happened the got up and peered inside.

There was a wide tiled corridor leading to another door. The tiles were set up in a checkered pattern, some were white, others black. “Here you are, my friends. Your first challenge room,” came Johnathan’s voice. “In order to continue your journey through the house you need to get across this corridor. But be careful, everything is not as it seems.”

“What does he mean ‘Everything is not as it seems’?” Jessica asked nervously.

“Who cares?” Brock said as he stepped into the room. “See, everything is fine.” He took another step forward and landed on a black tile. The tile sunk into the floor and there was a soft click. An arrow was fired out of the wall, aimed directly at Brock’s head. He ducked it and it flew harmlessly by to embed itself in the opposite wall.

“There’s a lesson for you, Brock. Don’t go charging in headfirst. Also, don’t step on the black tiles,” Lily chastened. She stepped onto one of the white tiles and the hopped to the next one. Brock did the same and Jessica soon followed. Each of them made their own path towards the other side, but they all stayed close enough to each other so they could help out if necessary.

Suddenly, Jessica jumped onto one of the white tiles and slipped backwards. Her hand hit one the black tiles and it sunk into the floor. Then, that tile and the ones surrounding it collapsed. Jessica screamed as she began to fall.

Brock tried to run over to her, but he stepped on a black tile and received an electric shock. His muscles went limp and he fell over, hitting another black tile in the process. This tile launched another arrow over his head.

Lily, too, was trying to make her way over to Jessica, but she was being more careful. She jumped quickly from white tile to white tile. She saw Brock fall and saw the arrow, which was coming straight at her. She was forced to jump onto the black tile in front of her, and then jump forward onto the next two white tiles as liquid nitrogen poured from the ceiling and froze the floor.

Now Lily was standing over the hole into which Jessica had fallen. She had not gone very far by this time, so Lily shot a string of sticky liquid at her. It hit her in the chest and stuck there. It was also still attached to Lily’s sword. Jessica dropped down a little further and then bounced back up, like a bungee jumper. Lily pulled her up and she managed to get back onto the floor.

“Are you okay?” Lily asked.

“I’m a little freaked out, but other than that I’m fine,” Jessica replied. “I’m more worried about Brock over there.” At the mention of his name, Brock began to stir.

“I’m okay,” he yelled groggily. The three of them started to move across the floor again and eventually came to the door. On it was a riddle. It read: Man goes over, man goes under, in times of war he burns asunder.

“Do we need to answer it?” Lily wondered aloud.

“Let’s find out,” Brock said. He grabbed the door handle, twisted, and pulled. The door cam open easily and the three entered the next room. In here was a bridge which spanned a large gap. From around the area of the gap, Lily could see lights, as if there was another level of the house down below. This gave her hope that maybe Seth was still alive after all.

The bridge itself was a magnificent thing. It was made of pure white marble and was quite wide. It had marble handrails on both sides, allowing people to cross more easily.

“The answer to the riddle was a bridge,” Jessica said. “I guess it was just telling us what was in the next room.”

“We should be careful about crossing. This might be another trap,” Lily warned. She approached the bridge and stepped onto it lightly. When she determined that all was safe she motioned for the others to follow her. When they got to the middle of the bridge a maniacal laughter started up from all around them.

“Did you all forget the riddle? This is a time of war, is it not?” Johnathan sneered.

“How are you going to burn a marble bridge, Johnathan?” Lily shouted. Her only reply was more of that haunting laughter. Then, the floor of the bridge began to excrete a strange black substance. Lily began to feel sick.

“It’s oil, isn’t it?” Jessica asked. “What are we going to do?”

“The railings,” Brock shouted. “They’re wide enough to walk on if you place one foot in front of the other and there’s no oil up there.” Brock was the first to jump onto the railing. Jessica and Lily jumped up soon after. Seconds after they had done so the oil burst into flames.

“Another close one,” Jessica stated.

“We’re not out of the fireplace yet, Jess,” Lily said. “Now we’ve got to get across on these railings.” The three of them started across, moving slowly. On one side of them the fire raged, on the other was a huge drop. Finally, they made it across.

They hopped down onto the landing at the other end of the bridge with a large amount of relief. To one side of the landing was a staircase leading downwards. Set in the wall was an identical door to the one across the gap.

“In order for that door to open, all living participants in this game must gather. There are only three here, and two more to come. You can go down the stairs and enter the maze to look for them if you want, but if you both get lost in there…” Johnathan did not bother to finish his statement. They all knew that if both groups were lost down there, then they would most likely be down there forever.

Preston drew his sword and stabbed it forward with lightning speed. Seth barely registered the action. All he knew was that one moment the sphinx was flying through the air at them and the next Preston was pulling his sword out of the creature’s eye socket.

“That was amazing, Preston!” Seth exclaimed.

“I’ve had a lot of practice kid. Someday you’ll be able to do that too. If you live that is. Let’s move on.” Preston touched the door and slid into the ground just as the other one had. The two walked out into the maze yet again. After another two hours of walking, Preston finally spotted what they were supposed to be aiming for. There was a large tower sticking up from the ground a ways away. Preston assumed it contained stairs.

With something to aim for at last, the two enemies made good progress. They made less wrong turns and moved faster. Even so, it took them another hour to reach the tower. Surrounding the tower was a circular area where there was nothing but the ground. Seth and Preston entered this area to find that Preston’s conclusion had been right. The tower contained stairs. They also found, however, that there was a guardian. Half man, half bull, and all muscle, the minotaur stood in front of the entrance to the stairs and glared at the newcomers with hatred in its eyes.

“Oh shit,” Preston said as the thing charged. He again took out his sword, but this time he shouted “Slash and Burn, Tōchi!” At the end of his zanpakuto, a small cone appeared. It unfolded itself and became a small metal circle. He pointed it at the minotaur and a burst of fire came first. It hit the bill-man in the head, but it continued to charge, unaffected.

Seth and Preston both stepped out of the way on opposite sides on the creature. Surprisingly, the creature stopped its charge and began to thrash around. It knocked Preston and Seth away to either side of it. Then, it turned on Seth. It reached behind it and grabbed the battle axe that was located there. It ran at Seth with axe upraised and brought it down. Seth rolled out of the way and got to his feet.

The thing turned to face Seth again and prepared to strike. Seth saw Preston charge in behind the beast and attempted to stab it in the back of the head. Unfortunately, the minotaur noticed him and swung around, smashing Preston with the flat of the axe. He was sent flying away and landed on the ground in a crumpled heap. Seth ran over to him and bent down to examine his body. His left arm appeared to be broken, along with a couple of ribs, but he would be able to walk.

The minotaur charged towards the tow again, but as it passed by the stairwell it was smashed out of the way by some unseen opponent. Brock stepped out of the stairs and looked at Seth accusingly.

“You don’t even have your zanpakuto out? What kind of fighter are you?” Brock asked.

“Hey, I didn’t want to waste Z energy by having my zanpakuto out the whole time. we’ve been walking for four hours so I would be out of power by now. What the hell are you doing down here anyways?” Seth shouted.

“Well, waiting for you two to come up the stairs was boring so I decided to come down here. Anyways, just having your zanpakuto out doesn’t waste any energy,” Brock yelled back.

“Will you two shut up?” Preston moaned. “We need to get going so I can get my million. Brock, carry me up the stairs.” Brock grumbled as he came over and did as he was told. In his right hand, Preston still held his zanpakuto, so the three headed up the stairs immediately.

At the top, Jessica and Lily were waiting. They were overjoyed to finally confirm that Seth was still alive. Together, the five of them approached the final door. All five touched the door and it swung outward to reveal the field that the house was located in. Standing a little ways away was Johnathan.

“Bravo. You all managed to make it out alive. I am very impressed,” he said.

“Yeah, yeah. Where’s the money old man?” Preston demanded.

“Yes, about that. There is no money. I figured you would all figure out I wasn’t rich when I told you that the mansion was really my zanpakuto. This was really just a team building exercise designed to prepare you for-” Johnathan was cut off as Preston rushed forward and stabbed him in the gut.

“Team building exercise my ass,” he said, walking away. “Look, it’s been fun guys, but I gotta jet. You know, people to see and all that.” With that he walked off into the woods.

The remaining four ran over to Johnathan and kneeled down beside him. “What was this ‘exercise’ supposed to prepare us for, Johnathan?” Seth asked quickly, knowing that his time was short.

“For your upcoming battles. When the gang broke apart, most of the people went their separate ways, but two groups were formed after that. One of the groups is made up of the five most powerful of the gang, and the other, the weaker one, is preparing to attack as we speak. All of you are going to need to work together to defeat them. I know you can- Ugh.” Johnathan gave one final cough and then died without finishing wat he had been trying to say. Behind them, the house disappeared. All that was left was a single sword protruding from the ground.

Chapter Eleven: The Raging Blue

It was nighttime in Veazie when the strange boy was walking home. His skin was pale and his hair was as black as the night sky above. Two women were walking in front of him: his targets. When he was close enough to his house, he moved faster and walked in between the two women.

“Hey! What the hell do you think you’re doin’?” said one of the women, a fat African-American. The boy ignored the woman and continued walking. “Hey! I’m talkin’ to you, boy. Get yo’ honkey ass over here!”

When the boy still ignored them, the second, much skinnier black woman turned to the other and said, “Let’s follow this kid to his house and tell his mama. That oughta teach ‘im.” The boy heard the comment and smiled. This was too easy.

He soon reached his house and walked up to the front door. As he pulled the door open, he looked back over his shoulder and said, “Won’t you please come in. I’m sure my parents would love to hear from you.” Then, he entered the house and walked into the kitchen. The women soon followed.

“Where’s yo’ mama, honkey? I wanna have a talk wit’ her,” the fat woman said.

“Well, I do believe she’s upstairs. If one of you wanted to go and check, why, that would be perfectly acceptable.” The boys voice was high and condescending.

“Fine, fine. I’ll be right back, so don’t you go nowhere, kid.” The woman went over to the stairs and climbed up. She walked into the first bedroom she saw and walked over to the bed. There was a figure in the bed and the woman started shaking it. “Hey! Wake up!” she commanded. When she did not get response, the woman grabbed the sheets and yanked them off. It was instantly clear that the gray skinned person was not alive.

The woman screamed and ran back to the stairs. At the bottom, she turned and ran towards the door, but a large man stepped into her path. Slung across his shoulder was the unconscious body of the second woman. She turned to run the other way, but she was hit in the head with the hilt of a sword and passed out. Standing over her was a young girl with blonde hair.

“All war preparations have been completed,” she said in a flat tone. “We will now begin the divide and conquer portion of the plan.”

“So, what do you think we should do Mr. Hanzaro?” Seth asked. He was sitting with Mr. Hanzaro, Lily, Jessica, and Jake around the small table in Mr. Hanzaro’s apartment. After Johnathan had died, Seth had asked Brock to join their group, but he refused and walked away by himself. After that, the remaining three had retrieved Jake and come straight to Mr. Hanzaro’s shop.

“Well, we need to make preparations. We have no idea how many people are in this group, but we can narrow it down. First, we take you three and Brock. That’s four of the twenty. Then, we take the ones we have already collected. I have now determined that Izzy’s zanpakuto was number seven, and Johnathan’s was number eight. Combine that with the ten, twelve, eighteen, and twenty that we already have and we end up with six more. Finally, there’s the top five, which have all joined up apparently. That means that at most, there are five people in the group we now face,” Mr. Hanzaro explained.

“Okay, then. How should we prepare for this, Mr. Hanzaro?” Lily inquired.

“By training, of course. That’s the only way to prepare. But nit tonight. It’s late and you should all be getting home pretty soon,” Mr. Hanzaro replied.

“Mr. Hanzaro, why don’t we use the zanpakuto we have already captured? I mean, we could be much more powerful if we each had two. And then Jake could have one, too,” Seth said. When he did, Jake, who had been sulking all throughout the conversation, perked up.

“Well, Seth. I’m glad you asked that. This is an important lesson to learn. When a zanpakuto is first created, it chooses a master. That master could be far in the future from when the zanpakuto was made, but it will always end up in that person’s hands eventually. Until that time, the zanpakuto may have many masters, but each time it is released by a wrongful owner, the zanpakuto spirit feels pain. When the rightful owner eventually dies, the zanpakuto will seal itself forever. That being said, the reason why we don’t use zanpakuto that don’t belong to us is that is would hurt the spirit and I don’t want that to happen.” When Mr. Hanzaro had finished, Jake was again in a bad mood.

“Awwww, cheer up Jake,” Jessica said. “Just cause you don’t have a zanpakuto doesn’t mean you’re not a valuable part of this team.”

“Yeah, whatever,” Jake said grumpily. “Come on Seth, let’s go back to your house. My mom said I could spend the night.” With that, everyone said their good-byes and went their separate ways; Seth and Jake went towards Seth’s house, Lily and Jessica walked together back towards Jessica’s house, where Lily would be spending the night.

Little did they know, but they were being watched. From inside the building across the street from Mr. Hanzaro’s shop, a young boy with pale skin and a girl with blonde hair looked through a pair of binoculars at the four people below.

“I’ll take the two girls,” the blonde said in her flat voice.

“Aw, come on. I wanted the girls,” the boy said. “I thought I might be able to have a little fun with them afterwards.” The boy smiled maliciously.

“That’s exactly why you can’t have them. Maybe if you were interested in them while they were alive, but I happen to know you and I know that you enjoy necrophilia. That zanpakuto of yours sure does match your personality.”

“Whatever. I know yours sure doesn’t. If it did then it would be a lot more dull and dreary. Oh well. We can’t act until morning anyways. We need to get word from Cruncher. Until then, we can discuss who gets what.”

Brock walked confidently out onto the pier. The man facing him was huge, but that did not bother Brock. He could not say that he had fought bigger opponents before, but he had probably faced some of a similar size. Probably.

The man stood an astonishing six foot six and had large broad shoulders. His arms muscles were the size of tree trunks and his legs were about the same size. He had brown hair which was kept in the style typically favored by the military.

“I see you got my message, Brock Balderas,” the man said in a deep booming voice. “Are you ready to die here today?”

“Funny, I was just about to ask you the same question, big guy. What’s your name, anyways?” Brock asked.

“I am the mighty Cruncher. I was once a professional wrestler, but I was forced into hiding when I killed someone on national television. Later on I was approached by the gang and decided to join so I could increase my power. When I got my zanpakuto, I began to feel a strange kinship to two of my fellow gang members. It turned out that we were all part of a group with similar zanpakuto. That group is, The Primary Color group!”

“I asked for your name, not your life story. Anyways, that group name makes you sound like a pushover to me. Now tell me this: why are you attacking me?”

“First of all, I have the number nine zanpakuto, so don’t go around calling me a pushover. Second, you have been targeted because of your association with the group that is collecting zanpakuto. They must be defeated because we want to keep our zanpakuto. Now, let us begin this battle.” The man pulled out a sword that looked puny in his enormous hands. Like Brock’s, it was an ordinary long sword. “Crush with Enormous Pressure, Toraidento Ken!” His sword transformed into something that looked like a trident, but was really a three-pronged sword. The strangest thing about it was that the metal was blue rather then gray.

“So that’s why they call you the Primary Color group. I get it. But have a colorful sword won’t help you. Give me Strength, Kurrasshā!” Brock charged in while his sword was still transforming. Before he could get close enough to land a blow, however, he was blasted back by a burst of water.

“Hah, it is as I have heard. You are a reckless fool who does not even stop to judge the strength of his opponent. I will kill you easily,” Cruncher said, laughing. Brock charged again and Cruncher pointed his sword at him and launched small bullets of water at him. Brock dodged the first two, but the third one hit him in the stomach, knocking him back a bit. He lifted his sword and smacked the next bullet away, and then the next one as well. He charged forward yet again, smacking every bullet that got near him.

“Shit,” cruncher muttered. As Brock got closer, Cruncher decided to unleash a wave of water at him. Brock jumped over this and raised his sword above his head. He brought it down and the main raised his non-sword arm to block. Brock hit it and heard the bone break, but the man did not seem to care. He simply flung Brock away.

“What the hell?” Brock asked. “How can you just accept a hit like that?”

“If it means I can corner you, then it is worth it. Now, die.” Cruncher pointed his sword at Brock and unleashed a concentrated beam of water from the middle sword part. Brock rolled aside and the beam hit the tar, cracking it.

Brock got to his feet and shouted “Bankai, Yama Kurasshā!” His sword did not change, but he felt himself get stronger. He smashed his sword into the ground in Cruncher’s direction. The tar began to crack and split into large chunks.

“Hah, is that all your bankai can do? Pathetic,” Cruncher said.

“Not quite. Face my ultimate technique, Funka o Funsai!” Cruncher was thrown into the air along with many large chunks of the ground as the area that had been affected by Brocks bankai exploded. Cruncher saw Brock coming at him, jumping from rock chunk to rock chunk. Cruncher managed to raise his sword enough to block the full force of Brock’s attack, but he was still sent flying through the wall of the nearest warehouse to land on a bunch of crates.

Dazed, Cruncher got up and stumbled about for a bit. His right arm, the one that was broken by Brock, was now completely unusable. “Damn this guy,” Cruncher muttered. “Forcing me to use this. Bankai, Ankā Hakai!” His sword became a large blue anchor. He was strong enough that he could carry it in one hand.

“So, you’re finally going all out, are ya? Good, then this oughta be interesting,” Brock said as he approached. Cruncher merely growled and pointed the anchor at Brock’s chest. A small circle on the anchor’s bottom(the part that it normally on the seafloor) opened up and unleashed an even larger beam of concentrated water. Brock blocked it with his sword, but now it was his turn to pushed through the wall of the warehouse. He landed on a part of the pier that was still intact.

“Look behind you tough guy,” Cruncher commanded. Brock turned and saw that a giant hand made of water had risen up and curled into a fist. The fist punched down and suddenly Brock was surrounded by water. The water swept him away, into the ocean.

The water around Brock now began to push in on him from all directions, crushing him. He looked around to see that he was still holding his sword. He saw the wall of the pier and got an idea. He struggled to move his arm over to the wall, and eventually succeeded in tapping his sword on the pier. As the cracks were spreading, Brock focused inside of himself and brought up as much Z energy as he could muster under the circumstances. Then, using the last of the air he had, he shouted, “Funka o Funsai,” and even though under water it did not sound the same, it had the same effect. A large portion of the pier exploded. Cruncher was killed instantly.

Brock was launched back and spun around until he could not tell which way was up. He tried to swim, but his muscles would not obey him. He lost his grip on his sword and he saw it sink. Slowly, his vision went black. Before he passed out, he thought he felt the ocean rising up around him and pushing him and his sword towards the surface, but he knew it must just be some crazy hallucination that comes with death.

Brock woke up hours later, spluttering. He had absolutely now idea where he was. Beside him lay his sword and Cruncher’s. The floor beneath him was wooden and seemed to be swaying. He soon realized he was lying on the deck of a ship.

“Ah, you’re awake,” came a strange voice. Brock looked in the direction of the voice and saw an old man sitting on a chair looking down at him. “I tried to get here as soon as possible, but you had already blown up the pier when I did. I used my Z magic to rescue you by manipulating the water. My name is Mr. Hanzaro, by the way.” The old man smiled amiably.

“Wait, are you the one that leads Jessica, Lily, and Seth?” Brock asked.

“Well, I wouldn’t say I’m their leader, but I do assist them from time to time. Anyways, let’s talk about the man you just killed. If my assumption of the enemy’s plan is correct, that man was sent to take out both you and Preston. Neither of you were actually in Seth’s group, but they wanted you gone before they attack because they thought you would help Seth if you came upon their battle. Basically, they were destroying our reinforcements,” Mr. Hanzaro explained.

“So what happens when Cruncher never calls in?” Brock said.

“Cruncher has already called back in though. You see, I have a spell that allows me to imitate any voice. Cruncher has reported that you have both been taken out and that everything is ready for the next part of the plan.”

“So, now we go in and surprise them, right? Because now they won’t be expecting us and we can beat them easily.”

“Well, well, well. Are you actually caring about the life of another human being? Anyways, you’re wrong. Now we wait for them to sort it out by themselves. You see, if we come in and help, they might not get a chance to further advance their powers. Yes, now we wait.” ==

Chapter Twelve: The Electric Yellow== Seth and Jake returned home safely and promptly went to sleep. At dawn the next morning, they were awoken by a knocking at the back door of the house. Seth got up to go see who it was, but when he got to the door, all he saw was a figure vanish off into the woods in the direction of the training grounds. “Hey Jake,” Seth called. “Someone’s going out to the training grounds. I’m going to head out there and see who it is. You can come too if you want.” It was only now that Seth noticed he had not changed into his pajamas the night before. He put on his shoes and headed out to see what was going on, followed closely by Jake. When Seth and Jake arrived they found a strange boy standing in the middle of their training grounds. He had very pale skin and very dark hair. Like Seth, he had red eyes, only his were filled with malice and evil. “It is very nice to meet you in person, Seth Jennings. And I see you brought along your friend Jake Warner as well. The more the merrier I suppose,” the boy said in his high pitched, yet smooth voice. “My name is Edward. I’m a vampire. Hah, just kidding. My name is really Darren. Darren Shan. Hah, tricked you again.” The boy laughed and danced around in a little circle. Then, his face grew hard and he turned serious. “In truth, my real name is long forgotten. You may call me Dracule, though it doesn’t matter since you shall soon be dead.”
The boy pulled out a zanpakuto and swung it around a couple times. “This is my zanpakuto. I would like to inform you that I am a member of the Primary Color Group. My compatriot, Cruncher, has already taken down the two known as Brock and Preston,” Dracule explained. “What?!” Seth shouted. “I don’t believe you.” “Oh, but it’s true. He called in not long ago to confirm. Now the second part of our plan begins. I attack you two, my friend Brook attacks the other two.” “You leave them alone, you bastard,” Jake growled. “What can you do, you pathetic little weakling. You don’t even have a zanpakuto,” the boy cried out. “Jake, get out of here while you still can. I don’t want you to get hurt,” Seth said to Jake. “I want to help you Seth. I’m going to stay whether you like it or not. I’m not useless,” Jake replied. “You’re quite stubborn, aren’t you Jake. Well, no matter. I’ll just have to kill both of you. And if you think there’s any chance of your other two friends coming to get you, then forget. In terms of raw power, Brook’s zanpakuto is the most powerful out of all twenty.”

Jessica and Lily faced off against their new opponent. Jessica’s house was not near the woods, so they now faced off in an abandoned parking lot nearby. The girl with blonde hair who called herself Brook had led them here after waking them up at dawn. Strangely, see actually seemed to want to protect other people. “Are you ready?” Brook asked in her flat toned voice. “I will not go easy on you and I will not allow either of you to live. That being said, if you want to give up your zanpakuto right now and leave, then that is fine by me.” “We’re going to go through with this and we’re going to defeat you,” Lily said. She drew out her zanpakuto and said, “Hiss, Hebi no Shita!” It transformed from a normal katana into a blade shaped likes a snake’s tongue. Jessica also pulled out her sword and said, “Fall in Love, Botan Inko!” Her zanpakuto changed into a sword that, from the base up, widened and then curved back in to form a heart. “Alright then, let us begin. Zap, Raiton Inguboruto!” The blade of Brook’s sword went through its transformation, but as it did, different segments bent in until her blade looked like a stereotypical lightning bolt. It was also yellow. “Now you see why we are called the Primary Color Group. We each have a zanpakuto that is the color of one of the primary colors. That is the primary colors of art, by the way.” “I don’t give a crap about your group name, I’m just going to kill you and take your zanpakuto!” Lily shouted as she charged in. She lashed at out Brook, but was easily blocked. Lily noticed that the tip of Brook’s blade was glowing yellow. She felt a slight discomfort in her hands, but dismissed. “That is something I would have expected out of the one called Brock, not from someone as rational as you, Lily,” Brook remarked. Just then, a cell phone started to ring. It was the sharp high pitched sound that one would hear from a telephone instead of some personalized ring tone. That was what Lily would have expected out of a person like Brook. Brook took out her phone and flipped it open. She put it up to her ear and said, “Hello?” After a brief pause, she smiled and said “Yes, of course. You may go back to base then. I will meet you back there shortly.” Then she hung up. “What was that about?” Lily asked. “It was my partner, Dracule. Your friends Seth and Jake are dead. With Brock and Preston already gone, that leaves just you two,” Brook replied. Lily was stunned into silence. There was no way that could be true. Brock, Preston, Jake, even Seth? All gone? No. She could not believe it. “You’re lying, you bitch. I’m going to kill you for even suggesting such a thing!” Lily yelled. She lunged forward and launched a flurry of attacks at Brook, who blocked them all with ease. Then, Brook slashed at Lily and she was forced to step back. Her hands were tingling as if they had received a minor shock. She saw that a little bit more of Brook’s blade was glowing. “I get it,” Lily said. “Your blade is charging. The more it glows, the more I’ll be shocked if I touch it. Well, if you want to play like that, then take this!” Lily sent a gob of yellow goo flying at Brook. She smiled and raised her sword. A small lightning bolt came out of it, burst through the goo, and hit Lily in the stomach. She felt a small shock go through her body, and she was knocked off her feet, but the bolt was not powerful. “My blade grows in power the longer it is released. The power of my bolts and my electrocuting power increase as time goes on. You are going to have to end this quickly if you do not want to be facing my full power,” Brook explained. Lily was about to get up when she heard Jessica shout, “Kokoro no Hikō!” Brook turned to regard her for the first time as eight heart shaped blades came flying towards her from different directions. “I may not be able to make you fall in love with me,” Jessica started. “But Kokoro no Hikō is still a great technique.” Brook blocked the first blade and sent it flying away. Two more cam in at her, but she blocked those as well. Blades four through eight all came at her at the same time, but even then she managed to deflect them. Each one was sent away with electricity racing across its surface. “I’ve got you now,” Jessica said. The eight blades had all landed in different places around Brook. Jessica sent all of them at rook with a flick of her wrist. It looked like Brook was trapped, but she easily ducked under the blades, paying for the close call with only a few locks of hair. The blades turned around quickly and came at Brook again, still in a circular pattern. Brook suddenly pitched into a series of blocks and dodges that were so fast that Jessica’s blades could not keep up. Then, Brook was up in the air. She had jumped off one of the blades as it readied for an attack. Her sword was pointed directly at Jessica. Lily saw that half the blade was glowing now. “Jessica, watch out!” she screamed, but it was too late. The lightning bolt, now quite a bit more powerful, hit Jessica in the chest. An electric shock went through her body and she blasted back into the wall of the now empty store that had been the previous owner of the lot.
“Jessica,” Lily whispered pathetically. First Brock(whom she had to admit she liked even thought he was kind of rough) then Seth and Jake, and now Jessica. Over the time they had spent together, Jessica and Lily had become close, almost like sisters. Now losing her was… Losing Jessica was out of the question. She could still be alive, Lily thought. And if she is I have to save her. I have to become stronger, for her sake. I have to… “Bankai, Haidora!”

“Can you feel it Brock? The Z energy of all the people fighting,” Mr. Hanzaro said peacefully. “If you can’t, then just relax and get in touch with the world around you.” Brock did as he was told. He felt out the Z energy in the air and was able to sense Jessica, Lily, and one person that he did not recognize. “Focus on those energies, Brock. This is a good skill to learn.” Brock focused on the those specific energies and all of a sudden he saw Jessica and Lily fighting some blonde haired girl. “Woah,” Brock said, losing the image. He relaxed again and concentrated on finding Seth’s energy, but he could not find anything. “Hey, Mr. H, I can’t feel Seth’s energy anywhere.” “Yes, that is rather troubling. He must be fighting somewhere a ways off from his house because that would put him out of the range of our Z tracking ability. If he was anywhere near his house and living, then we would be able to sense him,” Mr. Hanzaro explained. Brock was about to comment on this further, when Jessica’s energy signature disappeared. It was shortly followed by a burst of Z energy that gave Brock a headache. He looked in on Lily to see that she had now reached bankai. After silently congratulating her, Brock zoomed out again to search for Seth’s energy signature. Not too much later, Brock’s head was overwhelmed by a large release of Z energy. For a moment, he thought his head might burst, but then he lost his concentration and came back to the real world. Mr. Hanzaro had fainted on the deck. “Holy shit,” Brock exclaimed. “What the hell is that blondie packing?”

The hilt of Lily’s zanpakuto transformed to the handle of a whip. Coming out of that whip was the body and head of a snake. Lily’s clothes had become that of an amazoness; it was like a leather leotard that showed a lot of cleavage and a lot of leg. “Oh my, your bankai turns you into a whore. I’m really scared now,” Brook said in something that sounded like sarcasm, but Lily could not be sure because of the bland way she talked. “I’ll show you,” Lily growled. The snake raised itself up and hissed. Then, it spit gob of purple liquid at Brook, who dodged it easily. The liquid hit the ground and started to dissolve it. “Acid,” Brook commented calmly. “Interesting. Unfortunately, your bankai seems to have one key weakness.” With that, Brook went on the offensive for the first time. She rushed in and chopped off the head of the snake. “There, it is over.” “Not quite,” Lily said. The body of the snake split in two and grew back, creating two new snakes. Brook looked surprised and Lily took advantage of that. The second snake head quickly slithered through the air towards Brook. Brook shot it with a jolt of electricity and it exploded. Two more soon formed, making the count three. The two new snakes rushed in again, snapping at Brook as she skittered backwards. One shot a gob of acid and hit her in the waist. She wiped it off with the back of her hand, but she received heavy burns on both her waist and hand as a result. Trying to protect herself, Brook lashed out with the flat of her sword and hit one of the snakes, which promptly exploded from the electricity. Now, Brook had three snakes coming at her. The fourth snake was up above, moving into position. When Brook took one final leap back, the snake lunged. Its head and the part of its neck that was closest to the head grew in size until it was larger then Brook herself. It chomped down of the ground around Brook and slammed its jaws closed. Brook had just enough time to notice that her sword was now fully charged and to yell, “Bankai, Raiton Sutōmu!” Lily watched as the snake was pumped full of so much electricity that it literally glowed. Then, it blew up. Two more formed in its place, giving a grand total of five snakes. “You’re finished!” Brook shouted, her voice now crazed. “This is my most powerful form. With this, I will kill you!” Her zanpakuto was no longer one blade, but a collection of zigzagging pinpricks. Unlike before, the zigzagging was not uniform, but random, giving the small, thin blades the appearance of actual lightning. Brook’s appearance had changed as well. She now wore a white, full-body suit that had lightning bolts running down the arms and legs. Her hair was starting to float into the air as if compelled by static electricity. Brook pointed her weapon at Lily and a electricity began to run down to the ends of the blades. It shot off the blades to one central focal point and gathered there. Then, it shot out in a huge blast that looked a lot like Pikachu’s thunderbolt attack from Pokemon. Lily rolled out of the way and the blast went and it hit a metal telephone pole, blowing out the light at the top. Suddenly, it got dark, and Lily looked up to see thunder clouds forming in the sky. A bolt of lightning came straight down from the sky and scorched the ground near Lily. More Bolts began to come down at random, striking the ground at different places. “Hee, hee. This is wonderful. I’ve really got you now!” Bolts of electricity began to fly randomly from Brook’s weapon. “Holy crap, she can’t control her weapon,” Lily whispered to herself. Out loud she asked, “Brook, what number is your sword?” “It’s number eleven, except it has more raw power than any of the others,” she answered. Lily knew it was eleven because its power was so much that it could not be controlled. “Well, if I can’t hit you, then I guess I should aim for Jessica. If she’s not dead yet, then she will be now.” Brook swung her zanpakuto around so that it was facing Jessica and sent of another blast of electricity. One of Lily’s snakes flew through the air, growing as it went, and intercepted the bolt. It blew up, just as the others had done, and reformed into two more. Two of the other snakes wrapped themselves around Jessica’s body and carried her away, putting her down behind Lily. Just then, Lily felt a drop of water on her forehead. She looked up right when it started to pour. Within seconds, Lily, Brook, and Jessica were soaked. To Lily’s great surprise, the rain drops halted in midair and hung there suspended. “This is my final technique. To be used only when absolutely necessary. My power was going out of control, but for this final technique I am given full control over it,” Brook said, her voice no longer tinged by insanity. “This is my Denki Netto!” Electricity hopped off of Brook’s zanpakuto and hit a raindrop. It then spread to the next one and the next, spreading ever outwards in all directions, a giant net of electricity. Lily had to act quickly. She made one of her snakes grow and coil around her and Jessica. She focused on that one snake with everything she had. When the electricity hit, Lily poured her Z energy into keeping it from exploding. It took everything she had, but it held up. She heard Brook scream, and then there was silence. Lily’s zanpakuto resealed itself and fell to the ground. Before she fainted, Lily saw Brook’s body, with her eyes rolled back into her head and her hair standing up like a crazy scientist’s. They had won.


The Twenty Zanpakuto Showcase

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