Please help me welcome today’s guest, Zeppy Cheng…
Tell us a little about yourself. Where do you live now? Family? Pets?
I live alone in Wisconsin. I have no pets but desperately want a guinea pig. I grew up in So Cal.
Where did you get the idea for the title for The Lesser One?
The title of my book is a direct reference to how my main character starts in the story. I enjoy mixing fantasy and modern themes. The story was inspired by WuXia novels and comics from China—at least, the magic system was.
What was the most difficult thing about writing this book?
The most difficult thing about writing a book is keeping at it and not giving up. This book had a lot of characters that I had to keep track of.
What book have you read that you wish you had written?
Ender’s Game, or maybe The Lord of the Rings. Both are seminal works that I really enjoy.
Do you collect anything?
I collect Magic: The Gathering cards.
What’s your favorite book of all time and why?
I love the Eragon series, unironically, because it is a story of someone young being successful despite their situation.
What do you want readers to come away with after they read your book?
The moral that you don’t have to start powerful to do great things.
Would you rather have a bad review or no review?
What is your favorite quote?
Deep Thought answering “42” to the question of “what is the answer to life, the universe, and everything.”
Have you written any other books that are not published?
At least ten.
What is the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
I was scathingly reviewed for my bad editing practices in my first review. The best was when my story was called “A beautiful display of possibilities.”
How did your interest in writing originate?
My mom wanted me to do something besides play video games. So I chose to write.
Forty years ago portals opened all around the world, leading to dungeons with dangerous monsters inside, monsters that can escape into the real world and do incredible damage. At the same time, people began manifesting spirits that allowed them to fight back.
Markus Red just manifested his spirit and it’s a weak one, the weakest one there is. But he squeezes into the position of Adventurer and is sent to Ixtham Academy, where he’ll learn to fight those monsters and destroy the dungeons invading New York City. He is on the lowest rung, but he soon finds an ally in Dr. Barrimore, an eccentric scientist with views that no one else seems to take seriously.
Together the two of them work on a project that will change everything Markus is. But will surviving at the bottom give him the power and courage he’ll need to make it to the top?
Dungeons and Dragons meets Harry Potter in this new, imaginative urban fantasy that will keep you turning pages long into the night!
I stand before a judge. His sweeping, long hair is tied back in a ponytail that sticks up above his skull like a rocket engine. His eyes burn into my soul, and the souls of the ten initiates beside me.
Today is my discovery ceremony. The skyline of New York towers outside the window of the penthouse temple.
To the judge, today is another day like any other. But to me, this is all that fifteen years of life has been leading to. I hope that I will be special.
The judge takes off his cloak, holding his arms together.
“I am about to activate my companion spirit,” he says, his eyes level. “Do not be afraid of what you are about to see.”
A low rumble grows from the floor and circles the judge’s podium. The lights in the room darken, as if a curtain has been cast over them. The sunlight coming through the window suddenly appears sickly and dangerous.
A powerful light emerges from the judge’s body. The image of a wolverine, eyes blazing red, leaps out of the judge’s back. Wind circulates through the room. The chandelier tinkles as it rotates back and forth. My clothes ripple in the moving air.
Several of the initiates take a step back, afraid. I am not. I stand where I am, facing the monster before me.
The judge opens his arms and a ball of crystal light floats out from the podium.
“You,” he says, pointing to the girl who stands at the left-most of the lineup. “Place your palm against the sphere.”
The girl steps up. She is hesitant. With a cautious motion, she touches the sphere with her hand.
A small flicker of light dances through her hair. The ball lights up, slightly.
“A computer mouse. Household object.” The judge appears satisfied. He flicks his fingers and a piece of paper appears where there was none before. “Here is your job assignment.”
The judge moves to the next initiate, a boy with curly red hair, wearing a windbreaker. The boy approaches the ball. He does not need to be told.
When he touches the ball, a burst of sparks pops out of its surface. His hair sticks up on end. The image of an electrical socket floats above his head.
“Electrical socket. Household object.” The judge hands the boy the same piece of paper.
The judge continues.
Yellow beams of light. “Banana. Lesser food object.”
A red circle that spins quickly. “Gear assembly type two. Minor mechanical system.”
A spout of water, steaming hot. “Teapot. Household object.”
The judge turns to me. “Step up,” he says.
I step up. Touching the ball, I wait for something to happen.
Nothing happens. The judge appears confused. He checks his tablet. “Markus Red. It says here you awakened your spirit potential a week ago.”
“Touch the ball again,” he says.
I touch it. The ball changes color almost imperceptibly.
The judge sighs. “Anima.”
I tilt my head. “Anima?” I say.
The judge nods. He seems to think for a moment, and then flicks his fingers. A piece of paper is handed to me.
The words read: Adventurer. The judge sighs. “I know I’m going to get flak for this decision, but we just don’t have enough manpower.” It appears he is explaining things to himself rather than me.
“Manpower?” I say.
The judge nods, his eyes already turning to the next initiate. “Touch the ball …”
Later, on the subway heading back home, I take another look at the paper that was handed to me.
It’s actually an envelope. The job assignment is written on its face. I tear the envelope open and a plastic card drops out. It has my picture on it and all my physical information. At the bottom, it says, in small red letters:
Companion spirit: Blue Anima.
I don’t know what that means.
Along with the card is a couple of pieces of paper with instructions.
I must report to the New York Adventurer’s Association within two days of receiving my companion spirit.
A small voice echoes in my mind. I have not heard it before.
Hello … Hello …
I do my best to ignore it. Something about the voice makes me feel uncomfortable. Does it have to do with my companion spirit? I don’t know. All I know is that I now am among the few in this world who have awakened their spirit potential.
I decide to report to the Association now. I don’t have anything to do, after all. Today is a Sunday. I don’t have any homework, and I have no friends to hang out with.
I ride the subway to the stop closest to the Adventurer’s Association. Passing by my favorite dollar-slice pizza store, I approach the Association’s building. It is a gigantic tower, at least seventy stories tall, the entire thing dedicated to the New York Adventurer’s Association.
I approach the entrance. A security guard stops me.
“Your reason for visiting?”
I hand him the piece of paper that came with the envelope I just opened. The guard looks it over. “Right this way,” he says. I follow him into the building’s grand entrance.
Marble pillars march towards a far-away row of elevators. A waterfall coats the atmosphere in a thin covering of mist. Exotic plants line the walls. Several sitting rooms, tucked quietly away in the corners, host chatting adventurers.
I can tell because of their armor. Bright metal, dark cloaks, studded leather. The gear of an adventurer.
It finally hits me—I’m going to be an adventurer! Protecting the world from dungeon portals! I’m going to be famous!
That thought is put out of my mind by my meeting with the receptionist. She looks at my ID card and frowns.
“Who did your awakening?” she says, sliding the card underneath a reader.
“Er, um, judge Erin.”
The receptionist sighs. “I trust his judgement, but I don’t understand his thinking.”
“Why?” I say.
The receptionist shakes her head. “Don’t worry about it. The decision has been made.” She hands me the card back, pointing to a bank of elevators. “You’ll have your meeting with the coordinator in room 1204.” She turns away to answer a phone. I stand there, stupidly, for another fifteen seconds, before turning towards the elevators.
Room 1204 … That means it would be on floor twelve. Probably. I wait for the elevator to arrive.
When it does, two armed adventurers walk out. I recognize one of them.
“Fast T!” I say, without thinking.
The adventurer, a thin, lanky man with small armor plates all over his body, looks at me with disinterest.
The lady beside him elbows him. “You have a fan.”
Fast T sighs, visibly irritated. He looks at me. “What, you want an autograph?”
I shake my head. “No. I, uh, I just became an adventurer.”
“What’s your familiar spirit?” says Fast T.
“Er, Blue Anima,” I say.
Fast T sighs again. “Yeah, don’t get your hopes up, kid,” he says. He turns away.
The woman touches his shoulder. “Come on, tell him something supportive,” she says.
Fast T pauses. He turns to me. “Be careful out there.” It appears he is forcing it. Then he turns away.
As they leave, I hear the woman say: “You could have been nicer …”
Even though the encounter didn’t go like I had imagined it many times before, I had still met Fast T, one of my favorite adventurers.
About the Author:
Zeppy Cheng lives in Wisconsin, where it is very cold in the winters. He enjoys anime, writing books, and Magic: The Gathering.