MINUS • PLUS
“It’s possible for us to travel to other worlds, but it takes more… Rima. For example, I can easily Jump 20 times without breaking a sweat, but in different worlds, I start to feel fatigued after 5 or 6 jumps. And that’s not all. You have to jump to a safe place, one that’s not surrounded by enemies or hasn’t sunk to the bottom of the ocean. So… whenever you’re thinking about Jumping to another world, you need to be careful. Otherwise, it won’t end well for you.”
Won’t end well for you.
Yukio shook his head, trying to forget Hirata’s words.
After Yukio met Amanda, and they were about to talk, she indicated that they were being followed by someone. He learned later that it was that manga club member, who was basically responsible for everything that has happened since yesterday. Anyway, they had to go their separate ways; Amanda later called him to explain the situation. Then it was decided that they’ll meet again tonight.
They were talking in his apartment. This time, she used the front door to enter it. Today, when Yukio returned from the school, his neighbor had asked him where he went last night. Apparently he also heard the sound of a girl’s laughter from his room. He had to lie, tell him a friend came to visit. The old man didn’t say anything, but his eyes made it clear he was still doubtful. So the next thing Yukio did was calling Amanda and begging her to come normally.
After entering his room, Amanda fell on his bed face down. “Umm…” She purred, “it’s so soft.”
Yukio tried hard not to look her way, as he sat on the chair. Today she was wearing a white tee with blue stripes, which matched perfectly with her dark blue skirt. Although the skirt was long, the angle in which she lay down gave him a glimpse underneath.
Pink, huh… so she has a feminine side as well…
When she started talking, he couldn’t help but get serious. Apparently, some centuries ago, there was some kind of war among multiple worlds, including their own. That was when the Tracts of Earth first learned about the other worlds, and formed a group to tackle them. The group went through a lot of upheavals, and what remained of it today was Minus Plus. As for what it meant, along with other details, he was supposed to learn from the leader in due time.
It sounds so unbelievable, Yukio thought, as if Amanda was describing the plot of an average light novel.
And yet he was excited.
Although she said it was dangerous, he didn’t care about that.
“Okay, I understand. But how are they like? How are the people who live there? Are they like… I mean…”
“You’ve already seen one, haven’t you?”
He remembered the lizard-man he saw on Lativis.
“They were the Toxa, a sort of tribal people who live in the marshlands. Since they are… close with nature, they are able to tame many wild beasts and grow herbal plants. But they aren’t the only people in Lativis. It is mainly ruled by the Agten, who are more like us.”
“Like us? You mean… humans?”
As she nodded, Yukio exclaimed, “How?”
“What do you mean?” Amanda sounded slightly irritated, “Their worlds aren’t that much different than ours. They also have humans, their own culture, countries, everything.”
“Okay, wait,” he knew he was onto something here, “So, do you mean they are… like… parallel universes?”
She gave him a thumbs-up, “Exactly. Different choices, different roads, all that stuff.”
His mind was surprisingly good at adapting such stuff now. So the multiverse theory is correct? Only they don’t need any machines to go there, since apparently there are people who can do that through some mysterious energy?
“So how many worlds have you visited? I mean the Tracts? There must be infinite-”
“Yeah, yeah,” Amanda stopped him. “Can I go get a can now?”
She disappeared before Yukio could say anything.
“So far, we have established contacts with 8 other worlds. It may not seem like much, but considering our history, having a non-hostile relationship with so many worlds is actually a really big deal. The one I took you to, Lativis, is the only one of them that has two types of humanoid species. Otherwise, the rest just have a subspecies of what we call ‘Homo Sapiens’ as it’s main intelligent species. What else? Oh, all of them have much less population than us, and most only have 2 or 3 countries, or kingdoms. The rest of the people live in various cities scattered all over the planet. So, sort of like us during the middle ages, I guess. But don’t think that means none of them are technologically advanced.”
Amanda was gone for so long that Yukio was thinking of attempting some studying and then turning in for the night. He was almost done with the class notes when she suddenly reappeared. Although she said something came up, Yukio suspected that she also decided not to waste the study hours.
“Anyway,” she resumed, “So there are many worlds, but we’ve only gone to a few of them. That’s because the further we go, the more different they become, and we just don’t know what to expect. Well, that’s all I’ve heard from Sensei.”
For a moment, Amanda had a nervous expression on her face. The next moment, it was gone.
“Oh, right, you haven’t met Sumeragi Sensei yet. Don’t worry, you soon will. Then you can learn much more about the other worlds.”
Now that I wonder, Yukio thought, there are still people I haven’t met. Like, according to Amanda, Tetsuya-san has a daughter; Tetsuya Midori. She wasn’t present last night, along with some other people. Busy with other things, Amanda had added, cryptically.
“Okay, I think I’m done for tonight,” Amanda got up from the bed and stretched her arms, “I think you basically know everything now. Still, if you have anything else to ask, it’ll have to wait till you meet the leader again. Or Sumeragi Sensei.”
“Wait,” Yukio called out to her.
“Yes?” Amanda turned back at him with a sleepy expression.
“Aren’t you… forgetting something?”
He hoped for a long time that she’ll volunteer the information herself. But, if she wasn’t going to, he had no other choice but to ask her directly.
“What about me?”
She kept looking at him with a furrowed brow.
“You said I was also like you, right? Also a Tract? But I don’t have any powers! I don’t know how to use… what was it… Rima! So what am I supposed to do?”
“Oh… I’m sorry…”
Amanda sat back down on the bed. “Look, the reason I didn’t tell you anything is because I’m not in charge of that. The leader will decide what you’re going to do. Since you don’t know how to use your powers, you’ll likely start as an ‘Apprentice’. It’s someone who just started having seizures, and needs to train to control their power. Then again, they are mostly kids, so… I don’t know. She might have something else in mind. In any case, you’ll meet her this Sunday.”
He decided not to question her anymore. Ever since they met, she had gone out of her way to help him, to guide him. Yukio was sure it wasn’t her job, and she could’ve just dropped him off at Minus Plus and let him figure out the rest. The fact that she was in his room this late at night clearly showed she actually wanted to help him.
That was why Hirata’s words didn’t have any effect on him.
For him, ‘Minus Plus’, ‘Tract’, ‘Rima’, these words still didn’t have any real meaning. Only she was real.
He had no fantasies that she was in any way interested in him. But if she was offering him her friendship, he was willing to accept it.
Letting out a big yawn, Amanda grumbled, “Okay, I really need to sleep. See you at school tomorrow.”
“Yeah, see you.”
And then, completely surprising him, Amanda lied down on his bed, closed her eyes, and curled into a sleeping position.
Yukio’s eyes started getting bigger.
Is this… really happening?
“Hey… what are you…”
Amanda slowly opened one eye, her lips curled into a smile. “Good night.”
And then she disappeared.
2 Years Ago
When Sugiyama Kaito took his first step in the new world, the first thing he noticed was that the tree in front of him was even bigger than he imagined.
Hand in hand, others also slowly followed him. When all 5 of them were together, one of them suddenly left the group and started observing a nearby bush.
“Sensei? What are you doing?” Kawata Minori said, nervously.
“Haven’t seen these flowers before. Just taking a closer look.”
As Sumeragi Atsushi was busy fumbling around the bush, Amaya Hanako put a hand on Kawata’s shoulder, “Leave him. Sensei is always like that. When he gets tired, or hungry, he’ll join us on his own.”
“I can’t do that! You guys go ahead, we’ll catch up with you.”
Sugi had already left them behind, looking at the scenery around him. It was dusk, and the trees and valleys around him were giving him a familiar feeling. If someone from Earth was beside him right now, it would’ve been hard to make them believe this wasn’t their planet.
Kanuna wasn’t a human-friendly world; most of its lands were covered in forests, harboring strange, and often deadly creatures. The city of Lemia, where they were right now, was one of the few human settlements on this planet. It was sufficiently large, and it’s middle portion contained some electricity-driven colonies as well. All of them were near the rivers, as they could only produce electricity from dams.
A technology they had received from the Tracts of Earth.
Sugiyama Kaito, Sumeragi Atsushi, Kawata Minori, and the siblings Amaya Hanako and Amaya Okuma were heading towards one of such colonies. Kawata was the assistant of Sumeragi Atsushi, having joined him around two months ago. The Amaya siblings were with them as backup, and also because they wanted to see Kanuna.
If Sumeragi Sensei was somewhere, it usually meant research. But this time, they were here for a special purpose.
“Nee-chan, what is that?” Amaya Okuma, the younger sibling, asked his big sister.
He was pointing towards an unusual looking animal. It had a flat, hairy body, with short legs and a long snout. It was coming towards them, while occasionally pointing its snout towards the sky and sniffing the air.
His sister was speechless, because she also had no idea what it was. It didn’t look particularly dangerous, so they weren’t scared, but the nervousness made them freeze in their spot.
By the time they spotted Kawata, with Sumeragi Sensei trailing a bit behind him, the animal was already heading towards another direction; likely no longer interested in them. After Kawata and Sensei caught up with them, the siblings started waving their hands in all directions to describe the creature to him.
“Okay, got it.” Sensei was clearly not interested, “It was a ‘Wanu’. There aren’t many of them here, that’s why I didn’t tell you about them. They live near the slums, although I don’t know how well they have been tamed. Anyway, don’t mind them.”
All this while, Sugi was completely disinterested in the conversation. After Sensei stopped talking, he suddenly asked him, “Is this where he used to stay?”
“No,” Sumeragi Sensei adjusted his glasses, “This colony didn’t exist back then. He lived further south, near the bogs.”
“Oh. I see.”
They resumed walking.
When they reached the colony, it was almost deserted. Only one person was waiting for them inside one of the houses, which looked less like a house and more like a big storage space made entirely of wood. Before entering it, everyone activated the device connected to their ears.
Sensei was the first one to enter the house. As he walked towards the sole inhabitant, the others trailed behind him.
The girl looked just like a normal teenager of Earth. The only distinction was her dress, a white piece of cloth draped all over her body and fastened at places with rope.
“Where is everyone?” Sensei said, and waited a bit before the device translated his words in a language the girl understood.
“A new dam is being built in Rexia. They are all there, working. You will stay for dinner, right? They will be back soon.”
The girl was surprisingly talkative in front of strangers, Sugi thought. As she looked at him, his gaze quickly fell on the floor.
“Well, we won’t be staying,” Sensei said, “But he will. Sugi, meet Wei Barog, your cousin.”
Sugi walked up to her, hesitantly. “Hi,” he said in a meek voice.
Wei embraced him.
He wasn’t expecting it. It induced a strange sense of calmness inside him.
He felt like he was finally home.