MINUS • PLUS
“I know we don’t have much time, but I want you to know this. Even before I left, we were already in a bad position. Tiztaan was looking to have a war with Kegmar, and there’s no way the King would’ve left us alone. He needed all the power he could get, and I am a 10th generation Tract. I know what Megumi did to you cannot be forgiven, but-”
Tetsuya Kiyoshi, who was currently speaking through a creature he allegedly created himself, stopped.
After saying that Earth can be saved, Kiyoshi expected some sort of response from Yukio. When he didn’t get any, he started stammering.
“Yukio, look… I understand that you have every reason to hate them…”
He did. But he honestly didn’t care about it. His mind was no longer in an inquisitive state. He didn’t care how he came to this place, how Kiyoshi had become a rabbit, or why he was here in the first place.
He got the answers anyway.
In brief, Kiyoshi explained that during a mission (the one Sugi already mentioned to him) one of his friends was captured by the Tiztaanians. The King of Tiztaan used him as bait, and even though Kiyoshi knew it was a trap, he tried to save him. He failed, and couldn’t save the friend either.
After being kept in an underground prison for many years, during which the King used him to charge Rima-powered weapons (the ones Sugi talked about) and keep Minus Plus at bay. Just when he had abandoned all hope, he was taken to a new planet called Igeron with a bunch of other prisoners. They were used as miners to mine a valuable mineral, under very harsh conditions. It confirmed his belief that the Earth had stopped looking for him, and he no longer had much value to the Tiztaanians either.
During the mining, they came across a toxic gas. Or that’s what he thought it was, when he saw the others die in front of him. But he was saved, and brought back to Tiztaan. A terrible mistake, because they didn’t know that he had become the carrier of a novel, deadly virus.
“I am currently at the other side of Midori. I mean this planet. I named it Midori because… well, you can understand. Anyway, this virus spreads extremely fast, and it’s so deadly that I’ve literally seen a single other person survive it. The reason I am alive is because I am its carrier. It needs me to spread it. And that is exactly why I can never go back to Earth. Not while I’m like this.”
Yukio listened to everything, without even the slightest twitch of his eyebrows.
“I think you understand now why I am talking to you through this rabbit. Actually, it’s not even a real rabbit, I made it because I can-”
“Manipulate matter.” Yukio finished the sentence.
“Y-yes… how did you…”
“After everything I’ve known, guessing that much wasn’t hard.”
He suddenly lay down on the ground.
“Would you please get to the point now?”
After Yukio told Kiyoshi to stop, both of them were silent for a few minutes. Yukio kept looking at the darkish blue sky, and eventually Kiyoshi’s patience ran out.
“Look, when I say that I understand how you feel, I mean it. Because I’ve felt it too. I know how close you thought you were with Amanda, or what happened at Kanuna. And how she died in front of your eyes.”
Until now, Yukio thought nothing about him trespassing in his mind. But that last sentence made him stir.
“You think you know everything, and yet you say that Earth can be saved.” He got back into a sitting position, and stared directly into the pair of eyes facing him.
“They are dead. Gone. I don’t even know what happened to your daughter after… I lost my mind. So unless you have millions of soldiers hidden away somewhere, don’t say stuff like that.”
The rabbit made a sound that almost sounded like a laugh.
“Oh, but my plan does not involve a war. I know… I mean it’s evident that what you witnessed was terrible. But the thing is, if the Xoris kept you as a prisoner for a long enough time, this plan wouldn’t have been feasible. And not only because you would never be here.”
My God. Every member of that damned group just has to talk in circles.
Yukio didn’t even realize that his mind was starting to work normally again.
“You’re thinking that the Xoris can be defeated through an army. That may be true, but what if there was another, much better way? What if you made sure that their plan failed, that people knew about the problem with their TDs?”
“Is that even possible?”
What he said next made Yukio completely sober.
“If you travel through time.”
“You’re kidding, right? How is it possible? Even if I think that everyone lied to me about that, if they could actually time travel, wouldn’t one of them just go to the past and inform the others? In fact, if that was the case then-”
“Why are you assuming that everyone knows about time travel?” The rabbit blew air out of its mouth, probably to indicate that somewhere, Kiyoshi sighed. “Or even if they knew, why do you think everyone would be able to do it?”
Yukio was searching for words, when the rabbit hopped towards him. After coming face to face with him, Kiyoshi spoke, “Look, I wanted to explain everything to you at the very start. But I saw that you weren’t yourself, and I knew why. Now that I see you’ve somewhat recovered, I want you to listen to me very carefully. Because I don’t have the time to repeat myself.”
After blinking and fidgeting a few times, the rabbit continued transmitting Kiyoshi’s voice.
“Time travel is not an unusual concept. Many of us have tried it in the past, for different reasons, with various degrees of success. What those tries have shown is that unless you’re at least a 15th generation Tract, there is no point in attempting it. Sorry, I misspoke. You can attempt it, but you should not. Because the amount of Rima it’ll take you to travel 5 minutes in the past will kill you. If instead of you, it was anyone else, the plan wouldn’t have worked. Anyway, what I need you to do now is travel through at least 30 worlds. Don’t worry, I know you haven’t gone to that many worlds. I’ll give you the necessary memories. All you need to do is while Jumping, travel 10 minutes in the past. In that way, you can go back more than 2-“
“But how?” Yukio couldn’t help but ask, “How can I do it?”
“The same way you’ve done everything till now.”
The rabbit was now on his lap.
Yukio was taking deep breaths. He was neither feeling particularly healthy, nor energetic. But he had a long journey in front of him now. A journey that’ll wring everything out of him.
Kiyoshi had explained that just like he thought about a place before Jumping, now he has to think about going back a specific duration of time as well. It doesn’t work for the future (likely because it is uncertain) and it doesn’t follow any actual clock. Everyone has a biological clock that gives them the sense of time; that is exactly what’s measured by his mind when it sends the body to another planet.
The rules were few, but Kiyoshi was thorough.
-Yukio can think of 30 minutes, or even 2 hours while Jumping, but that will put too much strain on his body. Just like a normal human body won’t be functional if it suddenly loses its 50/60% of energy at once. And going back more than 5 hours at once has a high chance of killing the body. That’s why he should only go back 10 minutes each time.
-He can try to Jump somewhere on the same planet while time travelling. But, say 10 minutes ago, if he was on that planet, then the spot won’t matter, because he would find himself at the exact same spot where he was 10 minutes ago. The place would only matter if he jumps to a world where he wasn’t 10 minutes ago. So he should only go to places he hasn’t been to recently.
-After a few jumps, he should see if he feels any fatigue or not. If he feels really tired, he should stop for a bit, and next time choose a shorter duration.
“Oh, and take this little thing with you,” Kiyoshi said through the rabbit, “As I said, it’s not an actual rabbit that I made my puppet. I don’t think this planet has any such animals. Anyway, I made him through mud, barks, and leaves. If you show it to them, there’s a high chance they’ll believe you, as out of all of them only I had the power of Manipulation. Oh, Amanda could do it as well, if I’m not wrong…”
Yukio had a sudden urge to meet the man who was hiding behind this doll, and ask him directly, “What is wrong with you? Sugi said you were actually good. Then why did you let them make Amanda like that?”
“Touch your head with my head. I mean the rabbit’s head.”
He slowly picked the thing up, finally realizing there was no way it was alive. Its almost mechanical movements creeped him out so bad that he nearly dropped it.
Then, their temples touched.
A bunch of memories flooded Yukio’s mind. It was a peculiar sensation; he was feeling like he had been to those places a long time ago, but the memory was only of a particular spot. I was like he went to check the spot, saw it, and then returned. The semi-memories disturbed him more than he thought.
After he felt like he could Jump to all of those places, he stood up.
“Yukio,” the rabbit wasn’t moving anymore, only its mouth was being used as a speaker, “Thank you for doing this. At first, I honestly thought that you might not agree, as they-”
“What are you talking about?” Yukio shook the rabbit, “What kind of a person do you think I am? Yes, your wife and her whole organization tried to kill me. But that doesn’t mean that I want the Earth to become a colony of an alien race. Which is also what your wife is doing.”
“I know,” the sound was almost whispering now, “I heard Sugi. I feel sorry for the kid. He did not deserve what happened to him. Same as you. I promise you, if I ever return to Earth, I’ll see to it that we do not become a Tiztaan or a Kegmar.”
“I hope so.”
“See you soon, Takanashi Yukio. Now go and save the world.”
Jumping through the first few worlds was easy enough. Yukio was feeling a bit worried about whether he was actually time travelling or not. But he was already asked to not worry about that, so he did what he was told.
Castles, bazaars, jungles, all were passing by him like scenes of a strange movie. At one point, he started feeling tired. After reaching an empty field, he took a break for a few seconds.
Should I make it 7 or 8 minutes? Yukio was considering it at that point. But he shook that thought out of his head. There’s already a chance he might not reach Earth in time.
He couldn’t take that chance.
With an acute tiredness, he arrived at Gibeena, the last planet whose memory he was given through the rabbit. It was a green valley, with a river at one side and a deep forest on another. It was so beautiful, it took him a few seconds to be conscious of his mission.
He was supposed to go to Earth now. But he didn’t think that it was enough, so he decided to Jump to the few other worlds he knew as well.
Starting with Kanuna, he started Jumping through all the other worlds he had visited. That was when he made a mistake.
He wanted to go near a tree, where they had first arrived when they came to Ebromia. But the moment he Jumped there, he found himself sitting on a stone. And then remembered what he was doing back then.
Sitting there for a few minutes, he thought about whether he should go to Earth now. He wasn’t sure that he had the energy to even stand up. But if he was here, it meant he had already been to Amanda’s house and… talked to her. He didn’t know how long it took for them to capture her.
There was a decision to make.
Do I just go back 5/10 minutes, since I’m really exhausted? Or should I…
It didn’t take him long to make the decision.
Taking the deepest breath possible, he jumped at Amanda’s apartment.
Going back 30 minutes.
Amanda dropped her phone on the bed. She couldn’t wait any longer. She had to go to wherever Yukio was right now, and bring him back.
But before she could do anything, something fell on her.
It was Yukio.
As both of them fell on her bed, his body over Amanda, Yukio was reminded of that night he accidentally hugged her in his bed. It seemed a long, long time ago.
“Listen carefully,” he whispered in her ear, “I don’t know how long I’ll be able to talk. Some kind of broadcast will happen soon. When it’s happening, make sure that no one is wearing their…”