Chapter 8:



“Were you a good person?” I said in my head to the sarcophagus. It sat atop a pedestal of stone along with some coptic jars that had animal heads. The room was carved from stone, and was cramped due to my bed, dresser, and other possessions having been forced into a tiny space. A lightbulb dangled from the ceiling. Its light revealed tiny devices on the walls that took the role of my old world’s picture frames, projecting three dimensional images of Dunyazade, Tawaddud, and I,. Some even moved as recordings of the three of us playing together. Also in the room were bookshelves stuffed with textbooks, scrolls, manga, jewelry, and the tank for my pet snake. The floor had a carpet over it, though there wasn’t much point as there wasn’t enough room for even one person to stand on the ground.

I really liked having a room that lacked space, as it calmed me, but it also felt disrespectful for me to live in the area that was made only for the mummy in the sarcophagus.

After years of being harassed by people, my family finally found a place we wouldn’t be found. It was a hidden underground tomb that reflected those of real life Egyptian pharaohs. This hypogeum was actually the property of my newest family, it being where many of their ancestors’ remains were kept, so we were legally allowed to refurbish it into a home.

My hand was raised to a pipe sticking out of a wall, water materializing in front of my palm and into the tube. Stockpiling massive amounts of water for my family through Alchemy meant we didn’t need to spend what little money we still had on buying it. I wanted to leave my family with enough that they’d be good for years, since I’d be gone for a while.

After I felt I had made enough, I stood up and grabbed my scholarship letter that I got for my exceptional skill in Alchemy, as well as my acceptance letter from Khalid Al-Kimiya Academy. I stepped out of my room and into the tight stone hall. With a thought alone, oxygen and hydrogen lifted up the suitcases I set up outside, as well as the many objects in my room, packing everything up so I was ready to go. The cases floated around me along with my snake’s tank.

I headed down the hall as my luggage followed behind until I reached a room that was one of the few to have a door installed. Upon opening the door, I heard crying.

The room was slightly bigger than mine, and was stuffed with my sister’s doll collection, as well as bookshelves full of books, scrolls, and video game paraphernalia. There were also four sarcophagi on pedestals with coptic jars.

On a bed was Dunyazade, who was crying into a pillow. She had gained a little weight in the last four years since she didn’t leave her room much anymore. The white haik that covered her whole body sans her eyes wasn’t as extravagant as what she used to always wear. We couldn’t afford such opulence anymore.

Standing next to the bed was Tawaddud, who was seventeen at this point. She looked much the same as she used to, merely older. The only noticeable change was the white eyepatch she wore over her lost left eye. In the end, we could never afford a replacement. Tawaddud was the only servant that still worked for our family, and for pay that was vastly less than what she was worth.

Tawaddud was scratching her cheek as she watched Dunyazade weep, her teeth clenching. When she noticed me enter, she forced a smile onto her face.

“Scheherazade. You’re about to leave? You look cute in your uniform.”

I smiled in response.

The uniform of my new school consisted of a black pant suit with a white button up, a black tie, and black shoes. To add some flair, I wore the suit jacket without putting my arms through the sleeves, allowing it to hang off my shoulders like a cape. I also wore big gold-colored hoop earrings, and my hair was in a pixie cut. Since my vision was still blurry from my traumatic brain injury, I wore big, circular wire rim glasses.

Fun fact, the uniform I wore was originally only the boys’ uniform. Given the demographic that the anime this world mirrored was trying to appeal to, the girls’ uniform was absurd. It was skin tight, had a cleavage window, stockings with garter belts, and a miniskirt.

I had been dreading having to see underaged girls in that outfit, but thankfully the revolution against the Sultanate had triggered a minor feminist revolution as well. Amongst other changes, the girls’ uniform at Khalid Al-Kimiya Academy was changed, as it was considered inappropriate for underaged girls to be wearing. In the end it was decided to have the girls just wear the same uniform as the boys.

When Dunyazade heard Tawaddud say my name, she jumped out of bed and ran into me so hard we both fell to the carpet. My sister cried into my chest, and I pet her head.

“Sissy! I’m scared! If you leave, who will p-protect me? What if the tomb is found? What if we’re attacked again, l-li-like back in the desert?”

I opened the texting feature of my brain implant and sent a text to Dunyazade. Though I couldn’t speak, I could write. It actually had a benefit to it, as now I had to take the time to write out what I wanted to say, and that forced me to think more about what I said rather than rambling on until I offended someone like I used to.

“You’re strong. You can protect yourself,” I wrote. “Remember that massive wave of nitrogen you made when the mob attacked us? There aren’t a whole lot of people who could survive that if you busted it out.”

“But that didn’t stop the mob, it just pushed them back! And what if someone stronger than them comes?”

“You worry too much. Bad things can always happen, but it doesn’t mean they will.”

“But they could!” My sister’s finger gripped the front of my shirt.

“Don’t worry. Don’t worry.” I rocked my sister back and forth. Part of me wanted to promise to her that she’d be okay, but I had already made and failed to keep that same promise four years ago. At this point, all I could do was try to comfort my sister as her fears ruled her life.

We sat on the floor for a few minutes. The only sound was Dunyazade’s sobbing. There was a sense of peace to the moment as my sister and I sat together, Tawaddud silently standing a couple meters away.

Once Dunyazade had gotten most of her grief and fear out of her system, she stood up, and so did I. I removed the mucus and tears from my shirt and Dunayzade’s face using Alchemy.

“I’m gonna miss you.” Dunayzade said with puffy eyes.

“I’ll miss you too,” I texted with a smile on my face before hugging my sister again. “Be back soon.”

“Good luck. I’m sure you’ll do great.” Tawaddud hugged me. “If anything bad happens, call us right away.”

“Will do.”

I stepped back and looked at Dunyazade and Tawaddud one last time before leaving the room.

Along the way to the staircase to the surface, I passed some of Bilal and Khadija’s children in the halls. Some ignored me, others sneered. This was how they normally responded to my presence since the mob attack.

In one room I passed, the makeshift kitchen, Khadija was working on breakfast for the family. We met gazes, and she nodded very exaggeratedly.

Bilal was sitting on the ground, too distracted with whatever he was looking at on the internet through his brain implant to acknowledge me passing by. He was probably working one of his multiple online jobs he did to provide for the family. Khadija had several as well, as did many of the children in the family.

I walked up the stairway corridor that led up to above ground, my luggage in tow. After passing through a trapdoor, I arrived in a lightless cave. It was a naturally formed labyrinth that I knew the layout of perfectly, so much so that I could navigate it without being able to see.

Outside the cave was a desert with many rock formations with their own caves, which helped with obscuring the tomb’s location.

Lifting myself up with a whirlwind, I flew away with my belongings.

I and several others, who varied from middle school to university age, all congregated on an artificial island in the middle of an ocean at the center of Alf-Laylah wa-Laylah. The structure looked like a glass bauble floating on the water. It was big enough that you could fit all of New York City inside. Green tinted panes made up the dome, preventing anyone from seeing inside.

Everyone that arrived touched down on the dock that formed a rim around the dome. People lined up before several gates. I got on one queue and waited.

The eyes of almost every person around were on me, their looks of disgust and fury unceasing. I could tell that many of them were begging for an excuse to punch me. It didn’t feel good, but I refused to acknowledge the stares. There was no telling what would happen if I did anything to confront the crowd’s hatred. People whispered amongst each other about my audacity and how I didn’t deserve to be here. They spoke of how I was in for a bad time, and insults were spat my way.

Eventually, I arrived at one of the gates which scanned my brain implant before letting me through. After being carried on a moving walkway through a series of halls, I arrived at my destination.

It was essentially an indoor city, though it also looked like the world’s largest greenhouse. The dome above was made of light panels that lit up the city, and fed the sea of plants that could be spotted no matter where you looked.

There wasn’t a single path or alley that didn’t pass through a garden or park of some kind. Hedges surrounded fountains, and garden tunnels acted as passages between some buildings. Multi-tiered roofs housed forests, vines crawled up the sides of buildings, and giant trees intertwined with human structures as if the creations of nature and man had become one.

Those man-made structures included buildings that were always at least slightly transparent, glass filling the gaps in Islamic lattice work that made up buildings which rarely had any hard edges. Smooth curves made up structures that were cylindrical, spherical, or just about any other arcing shape, even ones that seemed almost amorphous and nonsensical, yet still carried an elegance to them.

Through the windows, you could see that the buildings were filled with yet more plants. There were also vaults, hypostyle halls, inscriptions on walls, arabesques, mosaics, stained glass, stucco, tilework, and all the other cores of Islamic architecture.

Those same kinds of staples could be seen on the building exteriors too. There were domes aplenty atop buildings, countless balconies, clean courtyards, and iwans into many structures.

Crystal clear streams and rivers formed complex networks through hundreds of city blocks, boats traveling up and down them. Monorails weaved between skyscrapers. Grassy slopes formed visually pleasing steps.

This was Khalid Al-Kimiya Academy.

It was gorgeous.

And the upkeep for it had to be insane. The money used for keeping such an absurd facility running was more than enough to raise every poor individual in this country up to at least middle class.

The fact that this academy still existed in the form it had proved that the post-revolution government had priorities nearly as twisted as the Sultanate’s.

I could still feel everyone’s death glares on me as I stood in the middle of a charbagh-style four quarter garden. After spending so long only going outside in disguise, standing out so heavily was extra disquieting. The reason I didn’t bother with a disguise was because it wouldn’t help for long. When people would hear my name in class roll calls every day, and I’d have to actively declare I was here, and thus who I was in order to not be considered absent, disguises would be limited in their usefulness.

The students wore uniforms like mine, and in various ways, but the most distinction between students was the colors of their undershirts. Some had white button ups like me, but others had red or blue ones.

Shirt color was linked to one’s dormitory. There were three of them: Salt, Mercury, and Sulfur.

Sulfur students wore red shirts, and only students who specialized in combat Alchemy and were especially strong fighters could join the dorm.

The blue shirts were Mercury students who focused on academics and non-combat Alchemy, and were considered to have the highest intellect among the students. Actually quantifying intelligence linearly was stupid given there were different forms of intelligence but whatever.

Last was Salt, the white shirts like me. Salt was for the students who weren’t strong enough for Sulfur, or smart enough for Mercury. It was the normie dorm, and lacked the prestige of the other two. The other two dorms would sometimes bully Salt students for being weak, dumb losers in their eyes.

I had the grades and combat skill necessary to get into Sulfur or Mercury, but my applications to those dorms were rejected anyway. It was certainly due to the fact that whoever was judging my applications likely hated me the same way almost everyone else did.

Among the people around, there was one person who didn’t seem to be angry or disgusted with me. He was around twelve like me, and his school uniform included the red shirt of a Sulfur student, and his jacket was open in the front rather than being buttoned closed. His hair was blonde and styled into a spiky mess like a shonen anime protagonist. His face was feminine, and his eyelashes were long. A sparkly pink flower bracelet was around his wrist, and his nails were painted pink with rhinestones.

Instead of looking at me with clear negative emotion, his eyes were wide and his mouth was in an O shape. He leaned forward, fingers pinching his chin.

Somehow he was more unsettling than the people who were imagining my head on a pike. He was also familiar looking, but I was struggling to pinpoint why. The easy assumption was that he was a character in Al-Kimiya, but I couldn’t tell who.

I decided to dawdle no longer. The more I meandered around in the open, the more likely things would escalate into an incident due to my mere presence.

Riding a whirlwind, I shot to the top of the dome and looked down. I checked the map of the school with my brain implant and found the Salt dormitory.

The hall of residence I descended to leaned less into the Islamic architecture, and more into the solarpunk aspect of the city’s aesthetic. It looked like a mass of glass cubes that were all put together without any clear pattern so as to resemble halite. It covered over fifty-thousand square meters of land, and the ground around the building consisted of a giant transparent pane that let people see the underwater ecosystem below.

I saw fish of various kinds beneath my feet when I landed. The interior of the building was so lavish that it felt more like a hotel than a dorm. There were marble floors and walls with beautiful patterns on them, potted palm trees, spiraling staircases, and a canopy of fruit bearing vines that served as the ceiling.

Like I was at a hotel, I checked in at the front desk, and was then led to my room. The door to my room was nestled amongst many others in a common area. It consisted of a sitting space surrounded by fifty tiers of ring shaped balconies that traced the cylindrical wall which formed the boundary of the room. It was on the balconies that the doors to all the students’ rooms were.

The door to my room was on the highest balcony. At first I thought this might mean my room was one of the higher quality ones.

I was proven wrong when I saw that it was a single fourteen meter room with nothing in it. No kitchenette. No bathroom. No windows. No bed. Nothing but the lights on the ceiling, the white paint on the walls, and the linoleum flooring with a white and beige pattern on it.

This room definitely wasn’t standard issue. At this point the unfair treatment I was facing wasn’t upsetting or even bothersome, it was just funny. I was disappointed the people running the dorm didn’t go all the way and give me a closet to live in.

Nonetheless, I had been blessed with a tiny living space that played into my claustrophilia.

I put down my belongings in one corner of the room, fed my snake, and then arranged my suitcases into a cozy fort around myself. My stress disappeared like sea foam on the shore. The ahoge atop my head began to gently bounce up and down. Cartoon flowers appeared in the air around me to signal my sense of peace.

There was a good amount of time before the entrance ceremony, so I sat in my bliss for a while. Today was going to be stressful, I was sure of it, so I wanted to take advantage of every chance to chill out that I could.

It was right when I was beginning to doze that I heard three light knocks on my door. I jumped and felt my head swim a bit as I dug my way out of my fortress.

Upon opening the door, I saw a pack of people. Most were girls, and they varied in age from slightly younger than me, to being fully grown adults. Some were dressed in the school’s uniform, and others weren’t. Those that did wore either the red of Sulfur or the blue of Mercury.

There were crowds of students on the balconies watching the group, awe and curiosity on their faces.

At the front of the group was a girl slightly younger than me who wasn’t in the Academy uniform. Instead she wore a fuzzy pink coat over a dress that was light blue with white polka dots. She was in high heels, and atop her head was a bow about as big as her head that was a mix of blue and pink with more polka dots. As for her jewelry, there were too many bits of platinum, pearl, and diamond adorning her for me to remember. I do remember that I really liked the outfit. It gave off a bit of a drag queen vibe.

The girl wearing the outfit had long hair that was as black as could be, and her eyes were deep pink. Said eyes were sharp in a way that made me feel her judging me, and everything else she saw.

From her cat-like smile peeked out a single sharp tooth. It was a yaeba.

“You’re Shahryar’s kid?” Even considering that she was no older than eleven, the snaggle-tooth girl still managed to have a voice that felt especially high-pitched and childish. Her every spoken syllable was clearly enunciated.

I nodded.

“I heard a rumor that you can’t talk. Is that true?” The snaggle-tooth girl crossed her arms.

I nodded.

“Sublime. That’s what you deserve for being Shahryar and Parizade’s crotch spawn.” Her eyes were looking me up and down. “You’re standing really stiffly. You know who I am, right?”

I nodded.

“As you should.”

This girl was Abriza, a character from Al-Kimiya. She was a part of the protagonist’s harem, serving the role of his bratty and slightly yandere little sister.

Her backstory was that she was the daughter of a man who was a major leader of the Revolutionary Army, but he and his family, sans Abriza, were all assassinated by Shahryar. Abriza lived as a homeless orphan until she was found by the protagonist who convinced his family to take her in. This act of kindness caused Abriza to fall head-over-heels in love with the protagonist.

In this new timeline, the revolution happened before Abriza’s original family got axed, so she never became an orphan. Not only that, but Abriza’s father ended up becoming the first and current president of the new government.

This meant that Abriza was a famous public figure, and a beloved one in contrast to me. She had a lot of societal influence, as well as all the money anyone could ever reasonably want plus extra.

“I’m enrolling in this educational institution next year, so when I was informed that a future threat to the nation was also enrolled, I had to see you in person.”

I wanted to tell Abriza that I had no intention to take ‘my throne’ or do anything to hurt the country, but I held myself back. For one thing, that would require trading contact info with Abriza, which I felt would have been a bad idea. Secondly, I was sure that anything I said would only be used against me. It’s not like I could change Abriza’s mind with words anyway.

“You want to tell me I’m wrong.” Abriza was observing all the different parts of my face, and that let her read me like a pop-up book. “Speak your mind. I know you can’t talk, but I’m sure you can write. Go on.”

I didn’t move. Anything I did could make things worse. My paranoia petrified me.

After facing the consequences of my reckless actions in the past, I was terrified of doing something that could make the president’s daughter my enemy.

“She’s scared,” a member of Abriza’s posse said.

“Well she should be.” Another posse member sneered at me.

“She’s shitting her pants right now.”


“Cease wasting my time. I’m telling you to speak.” Abriza scowled as she walked through the doorway and stepped on my shoe. Her full weight was pressed on my foot as she began to grind her heel into my toes. The spectators couldn’t see what Abriza was doing, because her posse was in the way.

I could feel my face scrunch up as it felt like my toes were going to start bleeding. My black dress shoes were getting covered in brown strokes of dirt from Abriza’s heels.

Yet I still didn’t move or speak.

“Wow, she’s really just standing there.” A posse member snickered. “Maybe she’s into this.”

“You mean she might be a masochist?”

“Yo, that’d be crazy.”

“All of you, shut the fuck up.” Abriza’s posse zipped it at her command. The president’s daughter kept staring at me. “Talk. I order you to talk.”

I stayed silent.

And that got me slapped. The heel of Abriza’s palm dug into my cheek, and my head turned so quickly that my neck nearly snapped. I was spinning in the air until I hit the back wall of my room.

As I dropped to the floor, I heard a clicking sound. Abriza and her crew had entered my room, locking the door behind them. They looked down at me as I did nothing to stand back up. I feared that a wrong move could be interpreted as an attack. Beyond giving them an excuse to retaliate, they could record it with their brain implants and use it to make me look like the aggressor. Considering Abriza was the president’s daughter, there was no telling how harsh my punishment would be, but getting expelled would be the barest minimum.

It felt easier to do nothing.

“Talk.” The toe of Abriza’s shoe slammed into my mouth. I tasted metal.

I continued to stay on the floor like a corpse.

“I came all this way to talk with you, because I wanted to hear about what evil schemes you're cooking. Talk.” A kick to my diaphragm knocked the wind out of me. That made me spasm a bit, but I still did my best to not do anything. “Either you talk, or we’ll beat you until you’re a stain on the floor. I’d get a fucking medal for it too. So, talk.”

I did nothing.

“Suit yourself.”

Abriza’s leg raised to bring its heel down on me.

A knock on the door. Everyone turned to face it.

“One of you check who it is.”

One older guy in the group went to the door and opened it a crack. There was a crowd of people at the door. It was probably a mix of those who wanted to meet the president’s daughter, people who wanted to know why she was here, and folks curious to know why she was visiting the daughter of Shahryar.

Then the door flung fully agape, tossing the guy who initially opened it back. A tendril of gold had come from past the crowd and shot into the room.

Abriza and her posse moved out of the way of the tendril as it charged right at me. It wrapped around my waist and pulled me out of the room. I flew over the crowd at my door, over the edge of the balcony, and into someone who held me in a bridal carry.

We dropped all the way to the sitting area in the center of the bottom floor, the boy carrying me dropping in a sitting position onto one of the couches.

I looked at the face of my savior, and saw that it was the spiky haired boy who was staring at me earlier. Apparently his interest in me had led him to follow me all the way to my room. That was kind of creepy, but I wasn’t going to complain at that moment given he just saved me.

“Hey!” Abriza and her posse were at the edge of one of the balconies. The whole area was now full of onlookers. At the very least, Abriza couldn’t attack us now without looking like the aggressor. She put a hand to her chest. “Do you have any inkling as to who you just attempted to assault!”

“I wasn’t attacking you or anything, I was just saving this girl you were beating up!” The spiky haired boy said with a smile.

“For your information, she attacked us first! We were just defending ourselves!”

“Is that so? Funny, that’s not what my recording says!” The boy held out a coin shaped device in his palm. “I put this recorder on the end of a gold string and sent it through the vent system right to the room you were all in. It recorded everything you said and all the noises made. I’m sure it’ll be enough to prove who really started things.”

“You could have made a forgery!” Abriza crossed her arms and looked down her nose at my savior.

Back when I sent the evidence to the Revolutionary Army, media like video or audio couldn’t be faked without altering the stamp they came with. The exception was through very skilled hackers or complex hacking programs, but the existence of these avenues were not common knowledge at the time. Since then, the veil has been lifted from the eyes of the public when it comes to these forgery methods, and said methods became easier for the lower classes to access.

“There’s no way I could make AI fakes of all your voices and create a complex scenario with sound only in the time since you first went into that room.”

“You could have prepared it ahead of time.”

“How could I when I had no way of knowing you’d even be here today, let alone who would be part of the group of people you’re with who also said things. Now even if I showed this to the authorities, I know that you can use your influence to avoid facing any kind of punishment, but it’ll be a different story if I show this to news outlets. I mean, this conversation we’re having is already being recorded by our spectators, but it’ll be way worse if I actually hand out copies of the recording itself.”

“Don’t forget you just attacked me and my friends!” Abriza said through grit teeth.

“Right. Even though I didn’t actually attack you, there’s no way to actually prove that wasn’t what I was trying to do with my tendril, so it’ll be your word against mine, and that’s a fight I’ll lose since you’re, y’know, the president’s daughter! So this is sort of a mutually assured destruction situation! If I release the recording, you accuse me of assault, and vice versa! So how about we do neither of those things and go our separate ways? I gotta get this girl to the nurse anyway!”

Abriza looked around the room at all the spectators. She took a deep breath.

“We have done nothing wrong, as your accusations are completely baseless, but I do not have time to waste on this situation! I am a busy young lady! As such, I agree to let this all go if you do!”

“It’s a deal!” The boy stood up with me still in his arms. “Let’s bounce!”

With that, the spiky haired boy carried me off to the dormitory’s infirmary. I could have walked, but I couldn’t really think of a good way to let him know.

As we left the room, Abriza and her posse began speaking to the spectators. One of Abriza’s group, someone in a burqa, didn’t take their eyes off me as I was carried off.

The nurse gave me a regeneration pill and I was back to full health just like that.

“Excellent!” The boy posed when he saw I was all fixed up, leaning back while holding his arms crossed above his head.

I tilted my head, my ahoge forming a question mark.

“I’d love to stay and chat, but I have some unpacking to do!” The boy pointed behind himself with his thumbs. “I’ll see you at the entrance ceremony!”

I nodded and he turned to leave the nurse’s office.

“By the way.” The boy stopped as he opened the door. “Doing nothing is still a choice. It’s not neutral. Don’t think that standing by doing nothing can’t make things worse than actually doing something.”

With that, the boy left.

His words stuck with me. If I had said or done something, would things have gone better with Abriza? I wasn’t sure.

I was still wondering who the boy who saved me was and why he looked so familiar.

Despite the overwhelming sequence of events I just went through, I couldn’t spend much time dwelling on them. I had to do some unpacking before the entrance ceremony.

I left the nurse’s office and continued on with my day, hoping that there wouldn’t be many more wild events in store for me at this Academy.