Chapter 11:

Edge of the Forest, Part 1


When Yukio and Amanda arrived at Katori, he was surprised to see three people standing outside the gate, having a conversation.Bookmark here

“Can you do it now?”Bookmark here

“Just a bit. Still not as good as Ando-san.”Bookmark here

“Are you stupid? Of course you can’t be as good as her! You should take it slowly and-”Bookmark here

“I don’t care! I want to be stronger as quickly as possible! So that… it never happens…”Bookmark here

Yukio noticed that the conversation was happening between the two boys. The girl, who looked the youngest among them, was just a spectator. As Yukio approached them, one of the boys noticed him.Bookmark here

“You’re the new member, right?”Bookmark here

Yukio realized that he is probably the only one not related to any of the Minus Plus members.Bookmark here

“Yes…”Bookmark here

They must be the Apprentices, he thought.Bookmark here

“God, you were right. They really are kids.” Yukio whispered to Amanda, and then realized she was no longer beside him.Bookmark here

“Oh my gosh, who do we have here!”Bookmark here

She was standing beside the girl and rubbing her face against her.Bookmark here

“Mami-chan… I missed you…”Bookmark here

With a pissed expression, the girl was trying to shove her away, but Amanda was really persistent.Bookmark here

Yukio had no idea what was going on. As he was standing there awkwardly, the boys pretended as if nothing was happening and walked up to him.Bookmark here

The shorter, healthier one asked him, “What is your power?”Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

He wasn’t sure what he meant by that. Don’t all of them have the same power?Bookmark here

Then he remembered Kichiro-san talking about Sugi.Bookmark here

“What are you doing here?”Bookmark here

Yukio was surprised. The voice belonged to the person he was just thinking about, but he was nowhere near them. As Yukio was looking all around him, one of the boys tapped on his shoulder and pointed towards a tree.Bookmark here

Sugi was standing on top of a branch.Bookmark here

“What the…”Bookmark here

“It’s okay,” the taller boy adjusted his glasses and clarified, “For some reason he likes to stay on treetops. We’re used to it.”Bookmark here

Yukio felt a bit jealous, as he was always bad at climbing trees.Bookmark here

“I think,” Sugi was suddenly right in front of him, with a stern expression, “I asked you a question.”Bookmark here

What’s up with him?Bookmark here

“I’m here because I’m going on an Expedition with Sumeragi Sensei.” Yukio answered, reluctantly.Bookmark here

“What?” he sounded surprised, “No one told me that!”Bookmark here

That’s your problem…Bookmark here

Now the boys were also looking at him curiously, along with the third person of their group. The girl was silent all this time, and when she walked up to him, Yukio expected her to say something. But she just shook her hands in a peculiar way.Bookmark here

“She is saying,” Amanda was so quickly beside her that Yukio was sure she Jumped, “What are you going to do?”Bookmark here

The realization finally dawned on him.Bookmark here

He awkwardly scratched the back of his head, “Nothing much, actually… just gonna help him test his TD. Considering I don’t have any powers, that’s all I can do…”Bookmark here

The girl frowned, and made a series of hand signs. Amanda translated, “She is saying she can’t use her powers either. So you shouldn’t worry about that.”Bookmark here

Yukio smiled at the girl. “Thank you. Let’s do our best.”Bookmark here

“Hey! We were having a conversation!” It was Sugi, who sounded pissed.Bookmark here

“Oh, really?” Amanda rolled her eyes, “I thought your question was answered, and you were back being a monkey.”Bookmark here

“Burton!” Sugi was having a staring contest with her.Bookmark here

“Come on, you two…”Bookmark here

Now I have to be the mediator? Yukio sighed.Bookmark here

“Lively as ever, huh?”Bookmark here

All of their eyes turned towards the person who had suddenly appeared on the other side of the gate.Bookmark here

It was a man in his early Thirties, wearing a checkered shirt and a black pant in such a way that made him look like an average office-goer Japanese. His expression made Yukio think that he was one of those people who were always happy for some reason.Bookmark here

“Kawata-san!” Amanda exclaimed.Bookmark here

Kawata? Wasn’t that the name of Sumeragi Sensei’s assistant?Bookmark here

“Good afternoon, Amanda. Sugi, aren’t you supposed to be with Tetsuya-san?” The man spoke. “She will need your help soon.”Bookmark here

Upon hearing the words, Sugi’s expression changed.Bookmark here

“Yeah, you’re right.” He was clearly nervous.Bookmark here

Then he looked at Yukio.Bookmark here

“Okay, I don’t know why Sensei chose you of all people. If you’re really going with him, make sure you don’t cause any troubles for him. Good luck.”Bookmark here

As he turned around to leave, Yukio called out to him, “Hey!”Bookmark here

“What?” He rotated his head.Bookmark here

“Thank you.”Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

“For saving my life.”Bookmark here

For a moment, his eyes widened.Bookmark here

“D-don’t sweat it,” He said embarrassingly, and Jumped.Bookmark here

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“Alright. It’s time.” Kawata Minori said with his ever-cheerful expression.Bookmark here

Yukio was standing together with him and Sumeragi Sensei, their luggage at their feet. They were at the lawn, with only Amanda and Kichiro-san to see them off.Bookmark here

The kids he met earlier were the Apprentices Amanda talked about. The girl he saw was Amaya Mamiko. The taller boy with glasses was Fujimoto Sasaki, and the shorter one was Tamura Hirotaka. They were the only Apprentices in all of Japan currently, a fact that initially came as a shock to him. Then he realized that the number of Tracts in Japan weren’t much after all.Bookmark here

After their introductions, the apprentices were sent to Ando Satoko, their teacher. And then they were joined by Kichiro-san and Sumeragi Sensei.Bookmark here

“Yukio, remember what I said,” Amanda said in a commanding voice, “DO NOT touch any unknown flowers or plants. Most of them are still not studied by Sensei, so-”Bookmark here

“They can be dangerous,” Yukio completed her sentence. “I know! You said that already!”Bookmark here

“Yeah, Amanda,” Kichiro-san added, “Don’t treat him like a child.”Bookmark here

Amanda puffed her cheeks.Bookmark here

It was the first time I’ll be Jumping without her, Yukio thought.Bookmark here

He knew it wasn’t a big deal, that he couldn’t expect her to always be with him. He tried to convince himself… and yet a part of him remained unconvinced.Bookmark here

“Are you ready, Takanashi-kun?” Sumeragi Sensei looked at him with mischievous eyes.Bookmark here

He should have been ready. But the truth was, he was already feeling a tightness in his chest. He was excited about going to another world, that much was true. But this time wasn’t like the last time, when Amanda took him to Lativis without any warnings. This time he knew what was coming… and he felt apprehensive.Bookmark here

Did I make the right decision, coming back here?Bookmark here

The time was up. The three of them were holding each other’s hands.Bookmark here

“See you!” Kawata announced.Bookmark here

“Be careful!” It was Amanda.Bookmark here

The next moment, he was standing in a different world.Bookmark here

Yukio started taking deep breaths.Bookmark here

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The Forest of Kelna, EbromiaBookmark here

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Yukio was sitting on a rock, enjoying the view of the vast greenery in front of him. Or at least, he wanted to.Bookmark here

After they arrived at the Kemirsh village, and spent some time there, whatever uneasiness Yukio had pent up inside him was gone. It was substituted with frustration.Bookmark here

Is this what he was so afraid of?Bookmark here

In his eyes, Kemirsh wasn’t different than any other typical village on Earth.Bookmark here

It was situated in the middle of a valley, and surrounded by a huge forest. There was a single, long road crisscrossing through the entirety of the village, and most of the houses were situated on the sides of it. As for the houses, they were mostly made with a combination of wood and clay. Some were made with stone, but those were mainly shrines and places to store harvests.Bookmark here

And the people were… people.Bookmark here

He looked hard at them, but couldn’t find any difference between them and himself. Even their dresses were made of normal clothes sewn together to form the shape of a body, i.e. the same way clothes are made everywhere. The person (if he could be called that) he saw on Lativis had given him an impression that he will see lots of different kinds of people on the other worlds; even though Amanda told him otherwise.Bookmark here

Yukio looked intently at a tree near him.Bookmark here

I don’t know what it’s called, he thought, but I’m sure I’ve seen the exact same thing somewhere on Earth.Bookmark here

And ultimately, that was the thing that disappointed him the most.Bookmark here

He tried, but absolutely didn’t feel like he was anywhere but on Earth.Bookmark here

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“How did people from Earth get here?” Yukio just couldn’t keep the question out.Bookmark here

He was sitting in their tent with Sumeragi Sensei, while Kawata was back on Earth; to back up some data and get some resources.Bookmark here

Yukio did as he was told: he went to the village, and rubbed his head at the ‘Sacred Stone’ five times in front of a witness. Then he was taken to a house.Bookmark here

Usually outsiders were not allowed on Kemirsh, but they could spend some time there if they were blessed by Lord Kah, the god of the soil.Bookmark here

Much to his dismay, it was less of a house and more of a farmhouse. It had some furniture that resembled tables and stools, indicating people lived here. But there was fodder lying around everywhere, and at a corner a bunch of animals (resembling sheep with unusually large noses) were constantly bleating. It smelled really bad.Bookmark here

Sensei had already arranged everything, so he just had to sit on a stool and wait for the villagers to come talk to him. Whatever they said, it got translated by the TD on his ear with a few moments’ delay. But most of the sentences were inane.Bookmark here

“I like jumping.”Bookmark here

“My wife hairy.”Bookmark here

“My rear painful.”Bookmark here

After some time, the village leader said something that translated to “Time to remove.” He was shown out, and then he was walking back at the only modern piece gracing this piece of land: their foldable tent.Bookmark here

He was thinking of a lot of things, but mainly that he couldn’t wait to return to Earth. He would rather visit villages on Earth than places like this. Why would anyone want to come here?Bookmark here

That’s when it hit him.Bookmark here

“I will ask you again. How did people from Earth go to the other worlds?” Yukio was looking at Sumeragi Sensei with large eyes.Bookmark here

After some time, when no answer was offered to him, he resumed, “Amanda told me that to ‘Jump’, we just need to imagine a place, or a person. Now, I don’t think she meant that by imagining the wrong image, we can end up in an alternate world. Because that would’ve made Jumping completely useless, and extremely dangerous. So, how the hell can someone Jump to another world?”Bookmark here

Just when Yukio thought he wouldn't be getting an answer, Sumeragi Sensei steadied himself.Bookmark here

Yukio kept looking at him.Bookmark here

“What you said about ‘Jumping’,” Sensei started talking, “It was just slightly wrong. Or rather, it omitted something. To Jump, Tracts need to either imagine a person, or a place with a specific ‘Anchor’. And by ‘Anchor’ I mean some landmark that the Tract remembers. Otherwise, if they think of a broad area, they can end up anywhere on it, far from their destination. Anyway, just as you said, there’s no way someone can end up in a different world because they imagined something slightly different.”Bookmark here

“Then?” Yukio leaned forward.Bookmark here

Sumeragi Sensei continued, “You asked how Tracts from Earth ended up on other worlds. The thing is, they didn’t. Not at first anyway. Has anyone told you about the War of the Seven Worlds? It’s called by other names as well. Anyway, it was a war that was fought a long time ago, among Tracts of many different worlds. Now, before that, no one on Earth knew about the existence of other worlds.”Bookmark here

“What?”Bookmark here

“Yeah,” Sensei adjusted his glasses, “One day, suddenly a bunch of people from different realities were on Earth. Minus Plus, or whatever its name was at that time, interacted with them at first, since the intruders were almost as confused as them. After scanning their memories, the Tracts learned about the existence-”Bookmark here

“Wait, wait,” Yukio had to stop him. “Scanning their memories? Is that even possible?”Bookmark here

“Come on, you should already know this. Although most of the Tracts are only capable of what you call ‘Jumping’, and some level of telekinesis, many of them have some specialized powers. Kiyoshi also had that power. The power to scan parts of someone’s memory, and remember things one isn’t supposed to remember.”Bookmark here

My God…Bookmark here

Yukio had no idea that such a thing was possible.Bookmark here

“So you mean…” he was saying in-between pauses, “The Tracts scanned their mind, gained memories about their world, then Jumped there. But then… how did the people of the other worlds obtain memories of Earth?”Bookmark here

“That, truthfully, I don’t know,” Sensei admitted with a downward gaze. “I asked that to Kiyoshi many times, but he never revealed the origin of those memories.”Bookmark here

Yukio was bummed.Bookmark here

“Who is this Kiyoshi-san? Can I talk to him?”Bookmark here

Sumeragi Sensei was silent for a few moments. Then he said in a grave voice, “Unfortunately, he is no longer with us.”Bookmark here

Both of them fell silent. Yukio gazed at Sensei, who was back at clicking the keyboards of his laptop in a rapid speed. Then he just let go of his body.Bookmark here

Special powers…Bookmark here

After observing the tent-top for a few minutes, he suddenly got up.Bookmark here

“What other kinds of special powers are there?”Bookmark here

“What now?” Sensei stopped typing, but didn’t move his head.Bookmark here

“Nothing…” Yukio suddenly realized he wasn’t talking to Amanda. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb you.”Bookmark here

“It’s okay,” Sensei waved his hand, “I didn’t hear you. What was the question?”Bookmark here

Yukio composed himself, and then slowly muttered something different, “I was just thinking… how someone can get these special powers…”Bookmark here

“No idea,” he resumed typing, “Ask Chiro-chan, or Man-chan.”Bookmark here

Who are they?!Bookmark here

“Do you have any special powers, Sensei?” Yukio asked, apprehensively.Bookmark here

“Oh God,” Sumeragi Sensei suddenly turned towards him, “Did no one tell you?”Bookmark here

“What?”Bookmark here

“I’m not a Tract. Just a normal human.”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.