Chapter 7:

Moonless Night


A man just died in front of me.

One of the guards on the carpet my family was riding just got reduced to a red mist by a metal pillar.

There was no time to have an emotional response to what happened. Running on pure instinct, I grabbed Tawaddud and Dunyazade before creating the strongest barrier of water around the three of us that I could make on short notice. I had focused only on getting my sister and my friend safe inside my bubble, so by the time my mind returned to evaluating our surroundings, I had already missed much.

Multiple walls of tin that one of the bodyguards made had been torn through by dozens of different elements that took the form of spears, drills, jets, colorless blades, and more. The carpet was nothing but scraps, as was the body of the tin governing guard.

My own shield managed to barely hold on thanks to the hardened tin walls having dulled the force of the incoming attacks. The remaining three guards had created a canopy of magnesium, aluminum, and solidified helium to protect themselves and Bilal.

We began to fall since the carpet was shredded. More attacks were coming. As I strengthened my liquid barrier further, the guard controlling magnesium created a layer of their element around my water to further protect us, though it came at the cost of Dunyazade, Tawaddud and I being unable to see what was happening outside our shelter.

Muffled explosion sounds accompanied the appearance of cracks in the magnesium shell. I could feel Dunyazade, Tawaddud, and I getting tossed around by attacks that were creating further fissures in the magnesium, yet it held strong. The guard had put his all into it.

The brief time spent being knocked about allowed me to actually develop an emotional response to the situation. Someone was seriously trying to kill not only me, but my new family. They had already killed two guards, two people I knew, people who had families and lives all their own.

In my original life, I had ended up in a few life or death situations, but they only involved me, my loved ones weren’t in danger too. I was unfortunately used to being in danger, but knowing my sister and my friend were at risk of dying made me panic. For those I cared about to die so unceremoniously and horribly was an audacious possibility that I couldn’t fully believe was possible. Intellectually I knew it could happen, but my emotions refused to accept such a future.

The magnesium shell crumbled from the strain it was under. Through the water shield, I saw a stream of electricity heading our way.

I was a deer in headlights. By the time I even thought to do anything, my water was reduced to its base elements in gaseous form through electrolysis.

The bolt coursed through my body, burning Lichtenberg figures into the flesh. I screamed in pain. It felt like burning hot roots were growing inside my nerves. As the tree-like patterns stretched across my skin, I pushed Dunyazade and Tawaddud away from me with a bubble of oxygen to prevent the electricity from spreading to them.

That bubble then wrapped around Dunyazade and Tawaddad to cushion the impact when they hit the desert sands below us. I hit the ground without any protection, the sand bouncing up as my back and head drowned in a great ache. The smell of my own burned flesh made me dizzy as I scanned the area to try and get my bearings.

Dunyazade and Tawaddud were shaking next to me as we sat in a flat desert. The area was blanketed in darkness due to Bulukiya having moved between the desert and the Nucleus, blocking the white hole’s light.

While the broken bodies of the guards littered the sand around us, we were surrounded by our attackers, of which there were over one hundred. Their faces were hidden by various kinds of masks, veils, and head wraps. They were dressed in various kinds of clothes, from jeans and t-shirts, to robes, to rags.

This wasn’t a planned assault by an organization, it was being perpetrated by a group of normal Alchemists.

One of the attackers was dragging Bilal by the arm. My newest father figure’s burqa was gone, so his beaten and bloody body was bare. He was tossed over to Dunyazade, Tawaddud, and I. While my sister recoiled and crawled into my arms, Tawaddud went over to Bilal whose gaze meandered around in his half-conscious state.

Tawaddud pulled out a regeneration pill, but before she could feed it to Bilal, a kick with a foot armored with cobalt destroyed the pill and broke her hand in a dozen places. Bones poked out and blood splattered onto the sand.

Dunyazade shrieked. Tawaddud screamed in agony. I grabbed my sister as she tried to run to her maid. While I felt the same way Dunyazade did, I needed her close to me so I could protect her..

The man who kicked Tawaddud was wearing jeans and a hoodie with the hood up. His face was covered by dark goggles and a procedure mask. The man grabbed Tawaddud’s burqa and pulled it off her.

“Just a maid,” the man said with clenching fists. “Don’t you feel any shame? You bend the knee to the children of the tyrants that turned this country into Hell.”

These people were attacking us because Dunyazade and I were the children of Shahryar and Parizade. Even though everyone in our group but me was wearing a burqa, and I was veiled in water, the attackers knew who we were. It had to have been because I only disguised myself after I arrived at the salt flat. I was too distracted by my desire to see if Zumurrud was the culprit of the hostage situation to think of hiding my identity before I flew out of the house. Between my arrival and veiling myself, at least one person recognized me and gathered together a group of people who wanted my family dead.

Once again, this was all my fault, because I acted impulsively.

I kept making the same mistakes. Truly my life was a black comedy that someone was laughing at, and I was the fool.

“You’re all going to pay for your crimes against the people of Alf-Layla wa-Laylah!” The cobalt legged man held his arms out like a proselytizing preacher. “No longer can you hide in the dark from justice!”

“We didn't do anything!” Dunyazade said, catching everyone’s attention.

“Dunyazade, stay quiet,” I whispered.

“Our parents were evil! They were! It’s good they’re gone! But we didn’t do anything! We’re just kids! We haven’t hurt anyone! We don’t wanna hurt anyone! Just leave us alone! We wanna live in peace!”

“So did we,” The hooded man said. “We all wanted to live in peace, but your family, and the rest of the nobility, didn’t allow us! They sucked us dry and left us to rot in slums and wastelands!”

“Yeah, that’s bad! You should be upset about that! But we didn’t do that! We’re not even ten years old!”

“And you lived in luxury that was forged with the flames of your family’s sins. You benefited from the evils around you!” The man pointed at us. “You were surrounded by evil and you have evil blood in you!”

As the man continued his rant, I tried to call the police with my brain implant, but the signal wouldn't go through. One of the attackers was using a device that generates an electromagnetic field to disrupt signals so we couldn’t make calls.

“Hurting us won’t do anything! Nothing is gonna get fixed if you hurt us!” Dunyazade’s voice was harsh as it came up from the back of her throat.

“It won’t, but if you aren’t punished for your sins, then no one can believe that justice exists in this world.”

“This isn’t fair!” Dunyazade’s body was trembling. “Leave us alone! Leave us alone! Leave us alone!”

“You will never be free from the blood that runs-”

“Leave us alone!”

In tandem with Dunyazade’s scream, a ring of liquid nitrogen formed on the ground around my sister, Tawaddud, Bilal, and I. The ring erupted into a tsunami of liquid nitrogen that spread in all directions around us.

The man in the hoodie was frozen, as were many of the attackers. Others flew away on gusts of gas or floating mineral mounds. As the entire desert was frozen over sans the spot where Dunyazade, Tawaddud, and I were, the giant cloud of vapor the nitrogen generated made it impossible to see.

Dunyazade’s outburst of emotion caused her to draw out all her power and perform a fantastic Alchemic feat, so much so that it caused me more chills than the now frigid air. The fact she had confidence issues was insane.

I lifted Dunyazade, who was about ready to pass out from exhaustion, Tawaddud, Bilal, and I with oxygen. Now was our time to escape while none of our enemies could see. The issue was that we couldn’t see either, and we could easily run into one of the attackers. Moving in any direction was a gamble.

If there was an equal chance of getting caught in any direction, then it made sense to head straight for the mansion.

But that was the obvious choice, one that the attackers might realize and be prepared for. In that case, heading in the opposite direction could work, or perhaps towards the nearest city, but the attackers might predict those choices too.

No matter what choice I made, there would be a risk. I needed to make a decision about which option I thought was the safest bet, but I couldn’t.

At this point, after yet another brash decision of mine caused this situation, I could no longer trust myself. I second guessed every thought in my head as I feared acting too hastily again.

I was paranoid and hesitant, to the point that I was paralyzed.

“Scheherazade, what are you doing? We need to go.” Tawaddud spoke between grunts of pain. She hadn’t tried to use one of the regeneration pills, as she probably didn’t want to waste them in case things went south.

“I-I don’t know where to go.” My breathing became fast and irregular. My chest hurt. I was soaked with sweat.

“Don’t think, just go somewhere. Anywhere but here.”

“But what if we run into-”

A woman wearing a face veil and a pant suit appeared from the fog. I had hesitated for too long.

The woman swung her arm, and suddenly my water veil was destroyed while my body was covered in deep gashes. She had manipulated an invisible gas into the form of blades. I yelled, and so did Dunyazade, Tawaddud, and Bilal who had been injured the same way.

Seeing my family get injured replaced enough of my doubt with anger that I was able to counterattack. I swung my arm down and produced my own invisible blade. My copy of the woman’s technique proved superior to the original, as I sliced off one of her hands and left a vertical cut on her face and torso that gushed blood. She dropped to the ground.

I flew away with my family. The screams definitely alerted the other attackers to our location, so I couldn’t keep hesitating. We were headed towards the nearest city, but in an arcing path that would be harder to predict than going straight there.

As we soared, Tawaddud pulled out some regeneration pills. She was about to hand one to Dunyazade when an invisible gas bullet struck her left eye, causing it to pop and become a splatter on her face. Tawaddud squealed and dropped the pills.

I caught the pills in a bubble of gas, but then they were destroyed by more invisible shots.

A buff man who wore a scarf around his head was the one firing the bullets as he followed us. He had found my family, and now that Tawaddud had shrieked at the top of her lungs, more attackers were on the way.

Behind the buff man I created a mass of liquid hydrogen that washed over and froze him.

“Sissy!” Dunayzad’s cry accompanied the appearance of several arcs of electricity, spike-covered balls of solid oxygen, and giant swords of titanium from the mist.

Adjusting the air blade technique I copied from the woman from before, I created a vortex of oxygen and hydrogen blades around my family. The swords and spike balls were shredded, but the thunderclap producing bolts pierced through.

I maneuvered my family and I out of the way of the arcs, only for all of us to get caught by tungsten threads. We were wrapped up to the point that none of us could do more than squirm a bit.

The threads pulled us down to the frozen ground. We would have landed with the force of large meteor impact, but I created cushions of oxygen that made the landing soft.

I looked up and saw a downpour of Alchemic attacks. Mountains of metal, floods of liquid, and conflagrations the size of cities were about to rain down upon my family. Death was on its way, and there was no way to dodge fast enough. I had to use all my power if my family was going to survive.

Hydrogen materialized and I forced the atoms together to induce nuclear fusion. Hydrogen became helium and a massive amount of energy was released. Blindingly bright light lit up the once nearly pitch black desert. Heat melted the frozen land and ignited it. Sand turned to molten glass and the air burned, both of which were pulled towards my creation by its gravity. I had created a blazing engine. In my old life, it was the object that was the most vital for life to come about and thrive, a force that was worshiped by many throughout history as a god.

Floating above me was a star. It was only the size of Mount Everest, but that was due to me condensing it and its range of influence so as to not cause too much devastation. It produced immense energy, so much so that I had to use about as much power as I spent making the star to create a strong enough barrier of oxygen to block the heat and radiation.

The incoming attacks vaporized or were blown away upon getting close to the star, and the enemy Alchemists had to retreat to avoid getting turned to ash, their defeated allies getting carried off by those who were still conscious. Most got caught on fire due to not fleeing fast enough, and they had to put themselves out.

I don’t know how Dunyazade, Tawaddud, or Bilal were reacting to my creation, as I was too focused on maintaining it and the barrier. My brain was in the worst pain I had ever felt as I pushed the limits of my mental energy to perform such extreme feats of Alchemy. Calculation after calculation was performed in my mind, and each was more difficult than the last as the pain kept increasing.

The desert evaporated, as did the numerous layers of earth below, and the barrier my family was in now sat atop a slab of perfectly smooth material. It was green and resembled gemstone, the material stretching across the entirety of where the desert once sat.

This was Kuyutha, a layer of mysterious and immutable substance that existed four point five billion kilometers deep into the ground no matter where you dug. It was a layer that separated Underworld from the surface of the giant planet in sat within. Nobody knew what was on the other side of Kuyutha, or if there even was anything. Some religions and scientists believed the world ended with Kuyutha, while others believed heaven was on the other side, or that an entirely unseen world we can’t imagine was there.

Even my star could do nothing to phase the unyielding emerald layer.

What the star did do was continue taxing my brain, to the point that I was about to pass out. My willpower could only take me so far. It felt like my skull was full of burning needles. I thought my head was going to pop. Blood was leaking from my eyes, nose, ears, and mouth. Redness fogged up my vision to the point that I could barely see.

I had to stop or I would die.

Upon ceasing my calculations to control the star, its light began to fade. I wasn’t yet capable of creating a stable star, so the blazing sphere rapidly fizzled out. The air took a little longer to stop burning, and the pit where the desert once sat was still hot like the inside of a furnace.

The depth of the pit paired with Bulukiya’s position directly above caused my family’s surroundings to be pitch black. My barrier dispersed, the oxygen spreading out and cooling the area. I dropped to the ground, barely conscious.

“Sissy! Sissy!” The sound of Dunyazade’s voice was muffled because of the blood in my ears. “Tawaddud, get the pills! We need them!”

“They all got destroyed!” Tawaddud said.

“Then what are we gonna do?”

“We need to get to a hospital! Can you fly us there?”

“I’m not good at flying, and I’m still drained from the waves I made!”

“You still have to try-” Tawaddud was cut off by her own scream.

“Tawadd-” Dunyazade was similarly intercepted by her own cry.

“Fucking bitch!” I felt an impact to my head, though it paled in comparison to the pain it was in before.

“Fuck you!” A woman’s voice said as I felt another impact, this time to the gut.

“You’re gonna pay!”

“Not so tough now, are you?”

“You’re not getting away!”



The attackers, whichever ones were still in fighting condition at least, had returned and were beating me. They weren’t dealing the death blow, because they wanted me to suffer.

“Sissy!” A raspy yell from my sister made it clear that she was getting beaten too. So was Tawaddud, and so was Bilal.

I tried to muster up any strength left in me, but my limbs wouldn’t move no matter what I did. There was nothing I wanted more in that moment than to protect Dunyazade as she cried for help, but what I wanted didn’t matter. If I didn't have the energy within me, then I was helpless to do anything other than breathe.

“Agghh! Aggh! Khhha! Kha! Ah!” Tawaddud cried and coughed.

“Nn! Uha! Ha!” Deep sounds were forced out of Bilal as he was beaten.

“Sissy! Please! Sissy! It hurts! Stop! Stop!” Dunayzad’s voice sounded like her throat had been shredded with shards of glass.

A year ago I had promised my sister that I would protect her, and I had failed due to my own mistakes. Now Dunyazade was getting abused and could die at any moment. Her desperate, horrific screams were being engraved in my mind so that I would never forget what I had wrought.

I was a failure as a big sister and as a person.

My sense of time was distorted, so I had no clue if the beating had gone on for hours or seconds. Eventually, I couldn’t force myself to stay conscious anymore, so I fell into my dreams. The nightmare I experienced was of me standing before Dunyazade’s grave. That was all.

I escaped that hellish dream eventually, and when I did, I found myself on a bed. My probing hands felt the softness below me.

Yet I couldn’t see the bed, because when I opened my eyes, I couldn’t really see anything. Everything was a blur of color. It was mostly a pale blue. I reached out to the blueness and eventually my fingertip touched cloth. Pinching the material between my fingers, I figured out that it was a curtain that went around the whole bed.

A hospital. I had been hospitalized after the attack. Despite just having woken up, I remembered what happened clearly, and felt the same sense of urgency I had when I was in the midst of the fight.

I had to know how Dunyazade was, if she had survived like I had. What about Tawaddud? And Bilal?

My anxiety caused me to sit up and start getting out of bed. My body didn’t hurt. Alf-Laylah wa-Laylah’s medical technology could heal nearly anything, so it made sense that even the abuse I had taken could be healed without so much as a scar.

What halted my attempt to get up was the pair tugging sensations on my body when I moved. There was one in my arm, and one in my privates. An IV drip and catheter. While I considered just tearing them out so I could search for Dunyazade ASAP, I realized that was my impulsiveness talking, so I laid back down and tried to find the call button for a nurse.

As I blindly pawed around the bed for the button, I realized that my blurry vision wasn’t abating. I had initially assumed it was the result of my eyes being dry after sleeping for so long, but even after blinking over and over, I still couldn’t see clearly.

It was then that I put two and two together. Not only had I overtaxed my brain by creating a miniature Sun without having practiced making anything that complicated with Alchemy yet, but right afterward I got hit in the head hundreds of times by the attackers.

I had brain damage.

Upon that realization, I was going to say ‘fuck’ to myself, but that wasn’t what came out of my mouth.

My mouth wouldn’t do what I wanted it to. My lips and tongue moved around at random, making my attempt at speech into an incoherent sound as a result.

Suddenly I was ice cold.

A second attempt at speaking, this time a full sentence, was just as much a failure.

I remembered my Alchemic research. It often led me to learning about various scientific fields, such as the medical field, and thus I knew of many disorders.

Apraxia of speech was a condition that made it difficult to speak due to the mouth not moving as intended.

My first thought upon understanding my new state of being was, ‘If Dunyazade is alive, is she going to live with some sort of disability too?’

Suddenly, I found myself trying to get out of bed to find Dunyazade again. I was a few steps away from ripping my IV and catheter out, but I realized how stupid that would be and I laid back down.

All will to do anything was lost. It felt like every time I made a choice, it turned out to be the wrong one. My instincts were a source of much of the pain in my previous life and my current one.

My impulsivity caused everyone to hate or be indifferent to me in my first life, it caused my sister and I to nearly get executed during the revolution, and it caused my sister, friend, and benefactor to all be beaten by a mob of people.

At this point, I no longer wanted to do anything, because I was sure that any time I decided to act, I would do so without having fully thought through the situation and would cause a new disaster.

I stayed on the bed, waiting for someone else to do something.

Eventually, a nurse arrived and saw I was awake.

“You're awake? How do you feel? Can you hear me?”

I tried to speak, demonstrating my condition as I created meaningless sounds while pointing towards my mouth.

The nurse understood what I was getting at, and the next thing I knew, I was seeing multiple doctors beside my bed performing all sorts of tests on me, doing their best to ask me questions despite my near complete inability to express my thoughts.

Eventually Khadija, Bilal’s wife, showed up. She had a look in her eyes that I couldn’t pin down.

She filled me in on what happened and what the current situation was.

Ali Baba, the same man who captured Zumurrud, was the one who saved my family from the mob. He saw the light of my star and came rushing over as soon as he was done dealing with a different situation. The attackers immediately gave up when he arrived.

It had been nine days since then.

Regarding Zumurrud, the president of the new government made an announcement that he would be pardoning Zumurrud for her crimes. He explained Zumurrud’s history with Shahzaman, how she was a victim of his abuse and wasn’t related to him by blood or anything. She was a poor, manipulated innocent who couldn’t actually pull the trigger on killing the hostages she took, showing she was still kind at heart.

Ultimately, sparing Zumurrud was a move made by the new government to appear merciful. Zumurrud’s whereabouts are being kept under wraps. Despite not taking any lives, and despite not being the actual child of Shahzaman, there were still those who would want to get revenge on Zumurrud, so it was best to keep her out of the public eye.

As for Shahzaman himself, he had been executed. His death date had been moved up to make sure there could be no further attempts to free him.

I was so relieved to hear Zumurrud wasn’t going to die that I thought my body was going to liquify. Tears trickled down my face. Now Zumurrud could live on without Shahzaman in her life. She could learn to live for herself, and in doing so, find happiness.

At least one person’s life wasn’t ruined as a ripple effect from my actions.

Bilal was unconscious still, but was alive and seemed like he could wake up soon. He had no permanent injuries.

Tawaddud had woken up and was mostly fine, though her left eye was unable to be regenerated. Normally, my new family would have been affluent enough to afford to have a clone eye or cybernetic eye made as a replacement for the original, but we had been saddled with more than just medical bills.

The sun I made had destroyed an entire desert and killed its wildlife, not to mention that my star could have led to the deaths of countless innocent civilians, or even devastation all across Underworld if something went wrong when I made it. Normally there were licenses or other legal permissions you could get to allow you to perform such feats of Alchemy, but I was too young to acquire such authorization.

These were crimes that came with heavy fines, ones that had eaten through most of my family’s savings. We were no longer wealthy.

As for Dunyazade, she was awake, and had no permanent physical damage, but mentally she was doing terribly. She was terrified of people coming to kill her like the mob had, and she had constant nightmares and panic attacks. Her every waking moment was full of anxiety.

Khadija tried to downplay the negative effects of my actions. She emphasized how making the star had been what saved my family from getting killed and what attracted Ali Baba to come to the rescue. According to her, I should be proud of that.

Dunayzad would overcome her trauma. They’d pay for a new eye for Tawaddud somehow. The money that was lost would be replaced soon enough with a little hard work. Every optimistic view of the future Khadija spouted was completely unconvincing.

She wasn’t saying all this for me. It was for her own mental health that she stayed positive.

If it was only about me, I was sure she would have slapped me as hard as humanly possible for how my actions had caused so much heartache for her and her loved ones.

Who could blame her?

I really had been a blight on everyone.

There was a straightforward solution to the problem of my existence, but I had promised to myself at the end of my first life that I’d never give up. I’d keep fighting even if it was pointless.

But it was hard not to give up when my choices had led to my sister being traumatized more than once.

Yet I also brought down a corrupt regime, though it was replaced by another government that was only slightly less corrupt. Nonetheless, it was a step towards a better society.

Baby steps. That was how I needed to look at achieving my goal. My progress towards self-betterment had been slow, but it was inexorably being made. I needed to cling to that fact.

So long as I made progress, I could stay hopeful.

But to progress, I needed a goal. Simply lessening the severity of my flaws was too vague for me. It was part of why I continually failed in my first life, it left my path too abstract. I needed to attach my true goal to another, more tangible one. As I worked towards the clearer goal, I would interweave my efforts towards self-improvement in order to achieve that clear goal as effectively as possible.

As for what goal I would aspire towards, it was an easy choice for me. I desired atonement for all the suffering I had caused, and a straightforward way of doing that was to become a great Alchemist. After becoming one, I could use my powers to help people in various ways to offset the pain I brought into the world. I’d dedicate my life to helping others. At the same time, becoming a great Alchemist would open numerous avenues for making large amounts of money, which I could use to repay my newest family for taking in my sister and I, and would serve as a way of making up for all I’ve cost them.

To become a great Alchemist required a good education in the field, and that would be hard for me to come by now that I wasn’t royalty anymore. I no longer had access to the best tutors in the nation.

The only avenue that was still available to me was to go to a school for Alchemy, and there was one I had my eye on.

I needed to go to the apex of Alchemy schools in Alf-Laylah wa-Laylah, the institution Ali Baba was headmaster of, and the academy where the main characters of the Al-Kimiya anime attended.

I needed to enroll in Khalid Al-Kimiya Academy.