Not long after completing his second year of the youth martial arts program, Jack was drawing pictures in the living room of his family home. Suddenly, there was a knock at the front door, went to answer it.
Jack opened the door to see a tall man in a dark suit. The man had suave black hair that lined his face, styled in a way that it looked like he had three big black antlers on his head. He also had great, red eyebrows, and a matching goatee, which Jack thought was odd.
The man looked down at Jack and flashed a toothy grin. "Hello there, little one! Is your Father home?" the man spoke loudly in a drawn-out fashion, carefully articulating every word. Jack was a bit perturbed at this point; everything about this man gave off a shady vibe.
It was at this point Jack noticed his Father walk into the room, and the face he made upon seeing the man seemed to verify Jack's unease. He went back to drawing as his Father spoke carefully, "What are YOU doing here? What do you want?".
The man frowned, "Oh, come ooon! Is that anyway to speak to an old friend? Especially one who's been away for soooo loooong. Didn't you miss me?"
"Of course not! I had hoped I would never see you again, and your sentence assured me of that! How did you get out so soon?"
The man stood up straight, polishing the extravagant blue ring he was wearing on his suit jacket. "Good behavior, of course! Even in such oppressive conditions, treated like a caged animal, my impeccable inner virtue shined through. They soon realized that I was put away under such...overblown accusations."
"Nonsense!" Jack's Father shot back, "What you've done is deplorable, and your presence here is not welcome!"
"Ohhhh but I must insist, old friend! After all, we have important matters to discuss..." the man said smug, while revealing an envelope from his suit jacket. Jack's Father looked at the man cautiously, then noticed Jack's presence. "Son", Jack looked up from his drawing, "why don't you take your art into your room? You'll have an easier time focusing if you're away from our...conversation." Jack picked up his paper, pencils, and walked up the stairs just as his Mother was stepping down from them.
He closed the door and propped on his bed, pencil in hand. Unable to continue what he was drawing initially, Jack grabbed a fresh sheet of paper and started with the color black. He drew a tall figure with pointed shoulders that tapered at the bottom into a circular shadow. He had three horn-like protrusions on both sides of its head, the top ones looking like antlers. Then Jack put a green circle between the horns as its face, with two piercing eyes and a wide, toothy grin; it looked like an oni mask, only with great, flaming eyebrows, and a fiery goatee to match.
Unsure of what to name him, Jack was otherwise satisfied with the menacing figure he had created. Downstairs, it sounded like things were getting heated, which caused Jack to frown at the drawing. It was obviously inspired by the man who was now terrorizing his home. How could somebody do this? It just wasn't right, somebody had to do something about this...evil. But who? What could possibly stand against a force of pure darkness, bent on chaos and suffering? He would have to think on this one...
The next few days his parents had been very secretive. He would often walk in on them murmuring to each other, only to stop once they noticed him come in. They don't speak like they usually do during meals, and the food is lackluster. Some nights Jack would get up to use the bathroom and see the light on under his parents' room door. He never saw them like this, and worried about what it all meant.
His fears were realized when his parents revealed awful news. Apparently, the block was being bought out by a large corporation, and there was nothing anyone who lived there could do about it. The home his Father had spent many months building, and that Jack called home for his whole life, was to be torn down along with the trees and houses surrounding it. To make matters worse, Jack's parents explained to him that their living situation would be too uncertain for the time being, so they felt the best thing for Jack would be to move in with his uncle. Jack vehemently protested their decision, stating that he didn't care where they lived as long as they were together. But his Father insisted that their troubles would not become Jack's, and so they wanted him to live elsewhere.
Jack was heartbroken, but his Mother assured him that they would see each other again. Until then, Jack's Father presented him a small charm that resembled a katana, attached to a necklace; "Though we will be separated, we will always be with you, here", as he pointed to Jack's chest. "This charm is to remind you to always rely on the power of righteousness. The ideals you hold determine who you are", he added. His Mother gave him a warm hug, "Never forget, we love you. We're so proud of you." Jack smiled through his tears, then there was knock on the door. His new guardian was here.
An interesting man, Jack's Uncle prided himself with his sense of adventure, and loved travelling so much that he lived in an RV. Jack wondered how this was any better than moving place to place with his parents, but his uncle explained that they wanted him to stay with someone who could consistently provide for him, which they felt they wouldn't be able to do. This made Jack feel as if he were a burden at first, but he dismissed that feeling and trusted his parents' wishes. Besides, his uncle was a worldly and intellectual man, so Jack would have little trouble learning new things.
But his parents, what would they do after he was gone?
After a tearful goodbye, Jack got settled in at his new...home. Being in a moving vehicle most of the day was going to take some getting used to, but he was determined to make the best of his situation, and continue to cultivate himself so that one day, he could save his parents from their suffering. He wanted to be their hero. He wanted to be A hero. But he would be a hero with a code, like bushido. He could be a Samurai.
Samurai Jack. It had a nice ring to it.
Not long after they got on the road, Jack pulled out his drawing tools and got to work. Drawing while driving made for a lot of smearing and smudging, but eventually his vision came to life. A noble warrior stood out from the page, wearing a white Gi, with a strong chin, and black hair in a traditional top knot. But he needs a weapon to fight evil with, what would he use, Jack wondered. He held his chin, then his hand drifted down his neck to the chain hanging around it. He looked at the sword charm, and immediately knew what to do.
A sword, bestowed upon his Father by the Gods, was the only weapon that could harm the evil demon, was used to seal it away for many years. But now he's returned and the sword has been passed down to Jack, charged with ridding the world of the evil demon once and for all. But first, he must travel the world and acquire new skills, in preparation for his climactic clash.
As Jack pondered his fantasy life, his travels with his Uncle took him all across the country. His uncle spared no effort in teaching Jack everything about the world, introducing him to people he knew from all over. For 15 years, they traveled the world; Jack learned new skills, while still honing his martial arts prowess every chance he got. But in the back of his mind, he never forgot about the man who set those events in motion.
As Jack got older, he understood just how bad the man was. Akio Kurasawa, also known by the pseudonym, AKu, was beginning to become a prevalent figure in the business world, as Jack's Uncle explained to him. He was convicted many years ago for committing major insurance fraud, resulting in many people being either killed or seriously injured. He almost got away with it, but Jack's Father, an old acquaintance, blew the whistle on him. After he got out of prison, AKu made a point to take revenge on Jack's Father, buying out the entire neighborhood just to force his family from their home. Jack's parents were now displaced in their own neighborhood, struggling to make ends meet. As AKu grew his economic empire, Jack's Father eventually went to work the only place he could: one of AKu's own warehouses. A well-built man, Jack's Father had little trouble with the job at first. But the years dragged on, he got older, and the workload got heavier (most likely a recommendation by a particular executive); Jack's Father had an increasingly difficult time in his new position, and there was no way out. His Mother had a few odd jobs here and there, but it wasn't enough to get them out of their financial dilemma.
Not only did he finally have a name for the evil demon he had created, but Jack now had the motivation to work even harder towards helping his parents. He also had new inspiration for his story, after his uncle took him to a sci-fi movie; it was about a man who was flung forward in time, where the world was now a bleak dystopia ruled by an oppressive tyrant. The man sought a time machine to get back to the past, and undo the evil that was the future he was stuck in. As Jack thought about it, throwing someone forward in time was something "AKu" would definitely do if he was backed into a corner. And that's exactly what he did to Samurai Jack.
His power left unchecked for millennia, the immortal demon ruled over the world with an iron fist, until the Samurai returned to find what had become of his home. Now hunted by all sorts of aliens, robots, bounty hunters, and alien robot bounty hunters, the Samurai must find a way to get back to the past, and undo the future that is AKu.
What a great idea, he thought; one that served as inspiration for how he would live his life, and how he would eventually do something about Akio Kurasawa. He wanted to help everyone who was suffering, his parents first and foremost; but for some reason, he also thought of Ashi. He could only imagine how unhappy she still was, and he wanted to save her from that too, even if she didn't like him.
Clutching the sword charm around his neck, Jack knew is quest would be tough; this wasn't some fairy tale, real life is serious. But he smiled to himself regardless, because he knew that righteousness would always prevail.
Ashi's Mother was acting very strange.
Only two days after she lost in the tournament, Ashi was shriveling under her Mother's constant look of disapproval. Ashi herself was still reeling from it, but she felt even worse now. Not only was she the youngest of her seven sisters, but she was now the weakest. It's a miracle her Mother hasn't disowned her, she thought. Surprisingly, however, her Mother's negative attention only lasted those two days, after which she seemed to have forgotten it completely.
It all started when they were driving one of her sisters to soccer practice, and suddenly her Mother's cell phone rang. She grabbed it from the middle compartment of the driver's seat, checked the caller ID, and dismissed it. A couple moments later, it rang again; Ashi's Mother checked it, rolled her eyes, and dismissed it again. Not long after, they called a third time, and her Mother finally answered. She growled, "Listen! If your number isn't listed in my phone then you should not be calling this number!" The voice couldn't be made out from where the girls where sitting, but Ashi could see from the backseat, her Mother's face drained of color in the rearview mirror. She spoke slowly, "What… What do you want? How did you get this number?" The mysterious caller spoke for a minute or so, as Ashi's Mother looked on in a blank stare. Finally, she snapped back to attention with fury in her eyes as she bellowed into the phone, startling the girls, "ABSOLUTELY NOT! YOU THINK YOU CAN GO AWAY FOR ALL THESE YEARS, GET YOUR ASS BUSTED, AND EXPECT TO COME CRAWLING BACK!? AND ALL THIS TIME, YOU DIDN'T EVEN CARE THAT YOU HAD—"
"MOTHER!" Ashi shouted from the backseat, noting the stopped cars in front of them that her Mother was clearly unaware off. She slammed the brakes and the whole van screeched as it slowly came to a stop, merely an inch before the sedan in front of them. The passengers lurched forward, and Ashi finally understood why they wore those uncomfortable straps in the car. Her Mother exhaled after a moment, then spoke to the caller through gritted teeth; "I have to call you back, but this discussion isn't over...", and she hung up.
After that, it was like Ashi and her sisters didn't exist. Their Mother ran her errands completely unaware of the girls' presence. Usually she kept them on a tight leash, calling them out if they strayed even a little. But now she didn't acknowledge them once, although she was clearly furious over what happened in the car. Afraid to become the object of her aggression, the girls stayed in line regardless, but also out of familiarity, having done it for so long.
Ashi, though, felt as though a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. Her Mother's terrifying gaze was now fixed firmly in front of her, no longer on Ashi's failure. The ride home that evening was quiet, only the sound of passing cars. She watched the streetlights flash by as the van rode down the parkway, and sighed comfortably. This was the most relaxed she had felt in a long time, possibly ever; she quietly wondered if she would be able to lay out in the backyard tomorrow, and felt giddy at the thought of it. That night, she slept like a baby.
The next morning, Ashi awoke and immediately felt that something was off. The fact that she woke up on her own, not by the shrill sound of her Mother's yelling, was already strange, so she got up to investigate. She hopped off her bed, put on her ladybug slippers (she picked them out herself), and stepped out of the room as her sisters were just starting to wake up.
Ashi stepped carefully down her house's stairs and quietly stepped through the hallway, unsure what her Mother would do if she found her snooping around. She peeked around the corner to check out the living room, but her Mother was nowhere to be found.
Instead, a man she had never seen before was sitting on the couch. He was typing away on a cell phone looking awfully disinterested in whatever he was doing. What was this stranger doing in her house, and where was her Mother? Maybe she should try to get answers from him; he didn't look very nice, but Ashi's Mother was very pretty and she wasn't nice, so maybe the opposite could be true? His hair is weird though, and some of his eyebrows and goatee are red. That doesn't look very natural, she thought.
Before she could change her mind, the man looked up from the phone and noticed her standing there. He greeted her, "Why helloooo there!" The way he spoke creeped her out, so she took cover in the hallway. "Now, now, child. There's no need to be afraid! I only wish to meet you." he said sweetly. Ashi didn't like the vibe she got from him, but felt that if she didn't go to him, he would come to her, and that sounded a lot worse. Slowly, she shuffled into the living room, where the man was now standing close to the couch; she couldn't tell when he was sitting, but he towered over her.
The knelt down so he was level with her, "Little girl, what is your name? Do you know who I am?"
"Um, Ashi...and no." she said, uncertain how he would respond.
"Is that so? Your Mother never spoke of me or showed you any pictures?" he asked, and she nodded no. "Well, Ashi. I'm sorry that your Mother's vindictive behavior prevented you from having a loving, healthy relationship with your dear old dad!"
Ashi blinked "Are...are you m-my dad?"
The man smiled, "Yes, daughter! I, Akio Kurasawa, am your Father! Your nights of lying awake in your bed—wondering where I've been all these years—are finished!" he put a hand on her head. "And how many years has it been? How old are you, Ashi? Three? Four?"
Still processing everything, Ashi managed to eke out "Eight".
"O-Oh, yes! Eight, of course!" he cleared his throat, "So sorry! I've spent so much time...er, away, that the years just slip right past me now."
This pulled Ashi out of her trance, "But, where HAVE you been all this ti—"
But her new Father cut her off, "Say, you have siblings, yes? Why don't you bring them down, I'd love to meet a son of mine!" Ashi was about to correct him when a couple of her sisters stepped in from the hallway. Akio immediately noticed, "Two more daughters, wonderful! It's so nice to finally meet you both! Now, why don't we—" he cut himself off when he noticed another one step out. "More? Well come now, don't be shy! All of you come introduce yourself to Dad!"
Suddenly there were seven little girls at his feet, looking up at him. His pupils shrank, and his wide smile was starting to crack, but he quickly recovered and dramatically gushed; "Would you look at that! Seven of you! That—That's fantastic! Your old man sure is fertile!" He chuckled, but all of them just stared blankly, as his quip had gone over their heads.
One of the girls spoke up. "But...Father, where is Mother?"
Their Father shook his head, "Do not worry, children. Your dear Mother had to run some important errands, so she charged me with getting your things together, so that we can be on our way."
Another spoke up, "On our way to where?"
"Why, to your new home! You didn't think I would allow my precious daughters to live in such...squalor, did you?" They actually had a very nice house. It was two stories, spacious, and well maintained. Not that they could ever really enjoy it, with how closely their Mother watched all the time. But it seemed that their house was a shack compared to wherever their new Father was going to take them. He gave each of them a small suitcase, in which they packed their belongings, and lead them outside to a waiting limousine. The girls marveled at the length of the car, they had never seen a vehicle so luxurious. Akio noticed their amazement, "Get used to riding around in style, children. From now on, I will share with you the true joys that wealth and power can bring. You are now the daughters of AKu!"
While her sisters were enraptured by the commanding presence of the man who had apparently given them life, Ashi wasn't yet sure how she felt about him. But the more she thought about it, the more she liked the idea of living with her new Father. He seemed nice, if not a little eccentric, but much nicer than Mother. Now she'll have a parent that won't be so smothering, or demanding of her.
After the disappointment that was the martial arts bracket, Ashi finally felt that things were starting to turn around. She thought about Jack, and how his life seemed all too perfect, it just wasn't fair. But things were finally starting to go her way, and Jack couldn't take it away from her this time. Her Mother wasn't scolding her anymore, she had a new rich Father, her past sorrows were slowly being pushed to the back of her mind.
Ashi looked forward to the future with bright hope; maybe now, she could finally be happy.
Jack and Ashi were on the move, but with different people to different places. Their fortunes had swapped, Jack's world seemed to be crumbling down as Ashi's arose from the rubble. They would each go on to live drastically different lives, but both had something inside of them; a drive, that compelled them to seek something more in their lives. And it was that compulsion that would eventually lead them to meet again, in this city they both found by accident, just like the way they would find each other.
—END CHAPTER 1—