Chapter 9:

He Endures


“Now for a closing speech from Headmaster Ali Baba.”

The sound of clapping filled the auditorium. It was a dark space with stained glass windows, and the ceiling was carved into elaborate geometric art.

As I was lost in the crowd of students in their seats, Ali Baba shuffled across the stage and to the lectern that looked like an abstract art piece.

I had felt the glares of nearly every student that recognized me throughout the entire entrance ceremony, and I was yet to get used to what would become a regular occurrence for me. It was hard to focus when I knew that constrained hatred was being directed at me by those within attacking distance.

It didn’t help that the people’s fury had been exacerbated beyond its previous peak.

The incident from before between Abriza, her posse, the boy who saved me, and I was all over social media and had made the news. It made sense given Abriza and I were involved.

People were debating who was telling the truth, Abriza who said I attacked first, or my savior who said Abriza attacked first. Most people sided with Abriza and thus were pissed that I dared try to hurt the president’s daughter. There were a few people who were suspicious of Abriza’s claims given she backed off when my savior threatened to present his evidence, but they were a minority.

Yet more vitriol was being directed towards me by the citizens of Alf-Laylah wa-Laylah. It was hard to even get that upset about it at this point given my every move infuriated people. Ultimately, people’s anger just made me feel tired, melancholic.

What made me uneasy was knowing I was on Abriza’s shit list. I had made a serious enemy, one who could ruin my life, or even end it if she felt like it.

That said, I was able to relax a bit upon seeing the big bearded man at the lectern squinting at some flash cards he pulled out of his sleeve. Ali Baba saved my newest family when we were getting beaten by the mob years ago. It was also thanks to him that Zumurrud had been apprehended during the hostage situation without any harm coming to her. I had a lot to thank Ali Baba for, though I doubted I’d ever have a private audience with him to do so properly.

Ali Baba hunched forward as he shoved his cards as close to his eyes as possible. The way his eyebrows danced about made it clear he couldn’t read what the cards said. He probably should have written his notes in his brain implant.

Slipping his cards back into his sleeve, Ali Baba stayed hunched forward.

“Uh, hey!” Ali Baba raised a hand in greeting before scratching the back of his head. “How’s everyone doing? Excited for school? I mean, classes are pretty boring so maybe not, but y’know, learning’s important and stuff! Plus, you’ll learn more about Alchemy here than anywhere else in the country! That’s crazy, right? Um. Um…If you don’t like the classes…uh…no, wait…so, if you have to endure classes you don’t like, at least know that when it's one of…the…meal times…the food will be good. The food’s great here! So you can always look forward to those! I know I do! That’s why I eat eight meals a day! Well, I’d do that anyway. I really recommend the harira with lamb, the chicken pastilla, and the mrouzia! I’m getting off track, aren’t I? Anyway, you guys are gonna learn a lot and have a lot of fun! You’ll all do great! Believe in yourselves! Uh…See ya!”

With that, everyone clapped and the entrance ceremony was over. Students filtered out of the auditorium, many of them talking about the questionable quality of Ali Baba’s speech. I was more concerned with looking for specific students from amongst the crowd, namely characters from the original anime.

Part of my search was motivated by pure curiosity. I wanted to know what characters from the original series that enrolled in the Academy were still enrolled, as well as how they had changed due to my actions. At the same time, I wanted to see if those changes were for the better or not. Did the butterfly effect I created help these characters, or make their lives demonstrably worse?

Trying to find anyone specific in the swamp people was difficult enough, but it was doubly hard when I didn’t actually know how the characters from the anime looked when they were young. Not only that, but their appearances could have been altered due to the changes my actions created.

I could only find one person. It was a certain spiky haired boy who was posing and yelling to some students standing around him.

The boy who had saved me from Abriza left the auditorium with five older boys, and I followed them from a distance. I hadn’t thanked the youth for helping me, so I wanted to take this opportunity to do so.

My savior and the students accompanying him walked out of the building towards a forest of palm trees. I tailed my savior who remained cheery as he kept saying things to the guys he was with, though his companions looked rather grim. They guided my savior off the marked path through the forest, walking deep into the trees and away from prying eyes sans mine.

I hid behind an especially wide palm tree as the group stopped. The boys, all of which were clearly late high school age, formed a circle around my savior.

“You know why we brought you here?” One boy, a mercury student with frizzy purple hair and a lithe physique, cracked his neck.

“You wanna fight!” My savior pointed both his index fingers at the purple haired student. “Don’t know why though, but I’m always down for a fight!”

“We’re not here to fight, we’re here to kick your ass,” an overweight Sulfur student with turban and sunglasses said.

“Your family fucked all of us over,” a hard jawed Sulfur student with glasses and a bald head growled. “In my case, my parents were servants of yours, and they overworked my parents to the point that they had to go to the hospital. You know what your parents did then?”


“They fired my parents for not coming to work! We couldn’t pay for the medical bills because of that! We ended up living on the streets!” A spear of vanadium formed in the bespectacled boy’s hands.

“My sister accidentally stepped on your brother’s shoe. She got beaten nearly to death for it. I tried to help her, but that only got me beaten too.” A mercury boy with long blue hair and scars all over his face created multiple marble sized pieces of radioactive iridium that floated around him.

“When the noble class was abolished, your dad took his anger out on prostitutes like my mom. He-” Tears slid down the face of a short salt boy who had black cornrows. “I can’t even bring myself to say what he did.”

“I see.” My savior closed his eyes. His lips pressed tightly together in a frown. “I know saying sorry won’t fix anything, but I’ll say it anyway. I’m sorry. My parents and siblings were monsters, the perfect example of why the nobility had to be abolished. I want to do what I can to make up for what they did, but I honestly don’t know how I could. My family is no longer rich, so I can’t give you money.”

“We don’t want your money!” The bespectacled student squeezed his spear so hard it looked ready to snap. “We want vengeance!”

“Killing me won’t hurt my family. My parents and siblings don’t love me, and I don’t love them. We never saw eye to eye when it came to a lot of things, including how they treated non-nobles.”

“Shut the fuck up! A noble’s a noble!”

“I’m not gonna be able to change any of your minds by talking.” My savior sighed and opened his eyes. He looked up at the palm leaves above that cast shadows on him. “I was hoping to have a fun fight, but there’s no way fighting any of you now will be fun.”

“So sorry we’re being a little too sad for your tastes, Hussain, your majesty,” the frizzy haired boy said as he created a yellow cloud of chlorine gas.

My savior was named Hussain.

Everything clicked in my head and I realized why Hussain had looked so familiar. It was because he was a character from the anime.

In the first episode, the protagonist had to fight a stereotypical bully character. He was the standard effeminate, long haired noble guy who was cruel and looked down on non-nobles like the protagonist. Hussain was the typical early story enemy who only existed to get curb-stomped by the main character to show off how strong he was. It was no wonder why I struggled to recognize him.

But why was he so different? Even accounting for the changes I had caused, this Hussain claimed he never partook in the cruelties the other nobles did, which is completely contrary to his anime portrayal. Assuming he wasn’t lying, that meant he was different from his anime self even before I made any major changes to the anime’s status quo.

I wondered if the butterfly effect of even my minor choices before the revolution could have had drastic effects across Underworld, so much so that it could cause a person I had never met to develop an entirely different personality than they otherwise would have.

“Get fucked!” The bespectacled boy extended his spear which thrust towards Hussain. Meanwhile, the cloud of chlorine rushed the former noble, and invisible beams of concentrated gamma rays shot at him from the floating iridium. The attacks came from three different directions and left no openings except directly above Hussain. It was obvious that the remaining two boys would attack Hussain if he tried to go up.

But Hussain didn’t go up. Instead he created a mass of gold in his hands that shaped into a katana. I immediately wondered why he created a Japanese sword rather than one befitting the cultures Alf-Laylah wa-Laylah was inspired by. This wasn’t how Hussain fought in the anime.

Hussain charged towards the incoming spear with such velocity that it caused the ground to move in waves like water, uprooting several trees. Hussain swung his sword horizontally, the blade cutting cleanly down the length of the spear as he kept running. The sword continued cleaving the pole lengthwise until Hussain was right in front of the glasses-wearing boy. If Hussain kept going, he would have cut right through the bald boy’s hands.

Instead, Hussain pulled his katana back and rammed his shoulder into the bespectacled boy, using the momentum of his charge to send his opponent flying from the impact. The air trembled as if an explosion had just gone off, and the glasses guy yelled in pain as he was launched deeper into the forest.

As one combatant was removed from the fight, the chlorine and radiation curved their trajectories to follow after Hussain who spun around to face them.

At the same time, the Salt boy shot a stream of phosphorus powder at Hussain that immediately ignited into flames. The turban boy created a panel of amorphous selenium, the gray material absorbing ambient x-rays and turning them into an electrical charge. A bolt of electricity shot at Hussain and created a thunderclap.

Now there were four attacks headed for Hussain, and he couldn’t even see one of them since gamma rays were invisible. The only reason I could detect them is because I was sensing the changes in the properties of the oxygen and hydrogen in the air, which allowed me to detect when invisible attacks moved or altered them.

It appeared that Hussain figured out the radiation beams were coming, perhaps through recognizing the iridium wasn’t visibly doing anything which made him suspicious. Hussain created a wall of gold that floated in front of him as he ran forward. It had its chemical properties altered to block the radiation beams, absorb the bolt of electricity, and hold strong against the flames.

The only attack that wouldn’t be stopped was the chlorine that moved around the shield. Hussain yelled as he swung his katana hard enough to create a shockwave. The entire forest shook and the chlorine was blown away.

At the same time, the gold shield morphed into several hiltless katanas as Hussain continued to run, heading for the turban boy. The blades flew at Hussain’s four opponents. All but the turban guy blocked the swords with barriers made of their elements. Instead of doing that, the turban guy wrapped the incoming blades themselves in selenium while dashing backward.

The masses of selenium stopped the gold swords and merged into a wall to stop Hussain’s pursuit. Without even the slightest sign of worry, the spiky haired boy slashed apart the barricade so many times that it was reduced to atoms. I could tell he couldn’t actually see the individual atoms, he was simply swinging his sword so many times and from so many angles that the atomization was inevitable.

A wave of radiation twice as tall as the trees and just as wide came at Hussain, who didn’t see it coming. He was hit dead on, his flesh burning. Hussain stumbled forward and he vomited.

“Got him!” The scarred boy said.

A torrent of flame from the Salt boy burned Hussain further, causing him to grunt from the deepest part of his throat. This was followed by a jet of chlorine gas getting Hussain right in the face. Every one of Hussain’s facial orifices leaked, and he writhed as he struggled to breathe.

I nearly ran into the fight to help Hussain. He was in horrible shape and could seriously die if things kept escalating. The reason I stopped myself was because I feared making things worse. Yet again I was terrified of making an impulsive choice that hurt those I wanted to help.

The turban boy saw Hussain’s weakened state and stopped dashing back. He fired another bolt from his selenium panel, but when it approached its target, Hussain’s hazy eyes became sharp.

Hussain raised his katana, the gold absorbing the electricity. A swift swing of the sword released the electricity towards the scarred boy. Not only that, but the slash created an invisible blade of displaced air. The bolt electrocuted the scarred boy while the translucent cutter sliced his chest open and sent him careening through several palm trees.

After that attack, the scarred boy was out for the count.

“You fuck!” Multiple vanadium spears flew at Hussain. The bespectacled boy returned after having been sent flying.

Hussain chopped the spears to atoms, his eyes darting around to the two new attacks coming his way. Another jet of chlorine and more burning phosphorus.

Spinning to face the chlorine directly, Hussain raised his katana high and swung down with full power. An invisible air blade split the gas jet in twain, created a crevice in the ground too deep to see the bottom of, and left a vertical gash down the frizzy haired boy’s body.

The powerful slash knocked out the chlorine controller, but performing it required focusing fully on attack and not evasion, so the blazing phosphorus hit Hussain dead on. Despite his skin beginning to char black, Hussain only winced a bit. This version of Hussain’s fighting style was all about aggression and endurance. He must have practiced taking a lot of punishment while continuing to fight. It was primarily thanks to Hussain’s abnormally high endurance that he was able to fight five students with more power and experience than him simultaneously.

But it could only take him so far.

Selenium chains shot up from the dirt and wrapped around Hussain. They dragged him to the ground, and no matter how hard he struggled, they wouldn’t snap.

The bespectacled boy’s spears pierced Hussain’s limbs, pinning them to the dirt. Hussain groaned, but he still continued to struggle.

“Finally,” the Salt boy exhaled slowly.

“He’s a tough sonuvabitch. It’d be admirable if it was anyone but him.” The turban boy adjusted his sunglasses.

“Now what?” the Salt boy asked. “We’ve beat him up. I guess we should take him to the infirmary now so he can get regenerated. He’ll die if we leave him.”

“What are you talking about? We’ve barely started.” The bespectacled boy created another spear in his hands. “He’s got a lot of suffering to do.”

“But he could die if we push his body any harder.”

“And the problem is what?”

“We’re not satisfied yet,” the turban boy said. “You don’t gotta keep going with us if you don’t wanna.”

“But it’ll be real bad if he dies and we get caught!” The Salt boy started twitching. “And this seems extreme! I don’t know if he deserves this much!”

“Fuck yeah he does!” The bespectacled boy pointed the tip of his spear towards Hussain’s spine.

“I’ve got a plan to dispose of the body if it comes to it.” The turban boy’s selenium panel crackled with electricity. “You don’t have to participate, but don’t get in our way.”

The Salt boy froze in place, his head hanging low.

Hussain continued to struggle despite the obvious futility in doing so.

He was going to die if I didn’t do something, and yet my fear was still weighing me down. My mind kept screaming that I’d make things worse if I got involved.

Dunayzade’s screams as she was beaten by a mob reverberated in my mind.

It became hard to breathe.

I couldn’t move an inch.

Then I remembered what Hussain had told me earlier.

“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.”

Intellectually, I understood Hussain was right, but my trauma remained. I imagined absurd scenarios where I tried to save Hussain, only to accidentally kill him by my own hand. At the same time, I remembered the countless nights where Dunyazade would have nightmares of her being beaten by the mob, and how she’d scream, flail, and cry.

I nearly decided to run away rather than help, but I didn’t.

Hussain had saved me. I might have died if he hadn’t stopped Abriza, so how could I not try to help him in his time of need? It would be unjust to not repay his kindness.

Also, if I didn’t stop Hussain’s murder, I’d be actively allowing it to happen. I’d be condoning the killing of the innocent.

I had to save Hussain.

The bespectacled boy was about to stab Hussain's back.

With only a thought, I created an unyielding film of oxygen around the bespectacled boy, as well as his two companions. They couldn’t even move their jaws to speak, let alone take a step or attack Hussain.

Nitrogen blades diced the chains and spears restraining Hussain to pieces. I created another oxygen film around Hussain, this one not intended to restrict, but to seal his wounds and gently carry him away at high speed while I followed behind by riding a nitrogen whirlwind. My body was veiled in water so the boys I was restraining wouldn’t know who I was. Them seeing I was Scheherazade would only cause more problems for myself and Hussain. I also made sure the oxygen films would disappear after a while so the trio could take their friends to get medical attention.

I flew Hussain, who was looking at me with a raised eyebrow, and myself into the nearest building that would definitely have an infirmary in it. That happened to be a laboratory for student use.

Maneuvering around students and teachers, we arrived in the infirmary. The nurse on duty was a middle aged woman wearing a headscarf who jumped out of her chair when she saw me bring in Hussain.

“What happened?” The nurse pulled out a regeneration pill and popped it into Hussain’s mouth as I lowered him onto a bed.

“I screwed up an experiment real bad,” Hussain said after he swallowed the capsule. His flesh began to revert to normal and his wounds closed. The radiation had already vanished thanks to the lights of the Academy's dome having the ability to regulate the radiation levels throughout the campus. It allowed students to experiment with radioactive elements while not having to worry about causing things to go full Chernobyl. “I was trying to see if I could force gold to undergo nuclear fission, but I had never practiced it before, and I caused an explosion, and there was shrapnel.”

“Where did this happen? Which lab room?” The nurse began to perform a full body check up on Hussain.

“No lab. I did it in the woods. I prefer doing my experiments in nature.”

“You are aware that all nuclear experiments must be performed in an approved lab space, yes?”

“I am.” Hussain groaned. “I’m in trouble.”

“You are. Be thankful you survived. You’ll face your punishment at a later date. You’ll also have to show where in the woods the accident happened. Depending on the degree of damage to the area, your family could be fined.”

“I understand.”

It wasn’t hard to guess why Hussain was lying to cover for the boys who attacked him. He sympathized with them. They were angry at genuine injustices they faced, and they were lashing out at the only target they could get their hands on. What they did wasn't right, just like with the mob that attacked my family, but they were victims who wanted catharsis. Hussain didn’t want to hurt them any more than they already had been.

“Who is this?’ The nurse pointed at me. “Why is she cloaked in water?”

“She’s the first person to come running when the explosion happened. The water was to block the initial radiation. She showed up before the lights reduced the radioactivity to safe levels.” Hussain looked at me. “Did I miss anything?”

I shook my head ‘no’. Hussain smiled.

“Alright,” the nurse returned to her desk. “You’re good to go.”

“Thank you, miss.” Hussain hopped off the table and posed with his arms flexing. His muscles visibly bulged despite the fact that they were covered in clothing. “I’m back to five hundred percent!”

I opened the door and left the nurse’s office.

“Hold up!” I turned and saw Hussain had followed me into the stark white hallway. “Thank you, too! You really saved me!”

I gave a thumbs up.

“Also…” Hussain spoke softly. “thanks for playing along.”

Hussain’s gratitude made me feel tingly. I smiled on instinct. It was the first time in years that someone outside my family had thanked me for something.

My choice to help Hussain had been a good one. I actually made a big decision that was correct.

I hadn’t fucked up. I actually hadn’t fucked up.

As embarrassing as it is to admit, I could feel a pressure behind my eyes that I had to suppress or I’d start crying.

“Who are you by the way?”

Part of me wanted to avoid telling Hussain who I was, but I needed to thank him for helping me earlier.

I couldn’t text him since I didn’t have his contact info, so I pulled out a notepad I always kept on me that was full of prewritten phrases. Turning to one page, I stealthily showed it to Hussain when none of the other students in the hall were looking.

“My name is Scheherazade,” it said.

“Oooooooh.” Hussain pinched his chin.

I turned to another page.

“Let’s exchange contact info.”

“Sure!” Hussain said with a clap.

We swapped info and I sent Hussain a text.

“Thank you for helping me earlier.”

“You mean for saving you from Abriza? No prob!” Hussain said aloud, his mouth having become cartoonishly large and his eyes having turned into > <. I jumped in surprise. “How could I not-”

I raised a finger to his lips which got him to stop, his eyes becoming white circles.

“Sorry,” Hussain texted.

Vertical lines meant to signal my exasperation appeared on my head.

“Only text.”

“OK. Guess you wanna hide who you are so you don’t get harassed. That’s why you’re in disguise.”

“No. That wouldn’t be worth the effort since there’s only so long that I could hide who I am.”

“Then why are we doing it now?” Hussain’s brow raised.

“It’s because I’m talking to you. If people associate you with me, and they assume we’re friends, it’ll be bad for you.”

“I’ll be bullied for associating with you, and you wanna avoid that?”

I nodded.

“Oh, don’t worry about that!” Hussain said out loud again, this time with a high enough volume to gain the attention of all the students around. I jumped again. “I’m not gonna let other people being mean stop me from doing what I want!”

“But you’ll be bullied a lot. Like all the time.”

“I already get bullied for being a former noble!”

“It’ll be worse. I’m public enemy number one in this country. If you become associated with me, what you’ll experience will leapfrog past bullying and harassment and go right into torture. Attacks like the one that happened to you today will be commonplace.”

“I don’t care!”

“Why are you putting yourself at risk just to talk to me for a bit?”

“Because I live my life the way I want to! Also, I was hoping we could talk for more than just a bit. I think you’re cool, and I wanna hang out with you if you’re okay with that!”

“Why? What about me seems so cool?”

“For one, I love your fashion sense!” Hussain quieted down. “Also, you saved me, and you did so without hurting the guys who were attacking me, even though it’s obvious you could have obliterated them. You’re a good person, I can tell. Why wouldn’t I want a good person as my friend?”

Hussain’s positivity was breathtaking, though I wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or not.

But I did want to hang out with Hussain. He was the only person I’d met on campus so far who didn’t wish me dead. I didn’t want to squander the opportunity to make an ally, especially since it could have been my only chance.

My water veil disappeared. The students and teachers in the hall immediately started looking at me like a turd they just stepped in.

“Let’s hang out,” I texted.

“Awesome!” Hussain crossed his arms into an x across his chest while giving a double thumbs up. “Then let’s go!”

The humanoid ball of energy broke out into a sprint. A sweat drop appeared on my head. I followed Hussain out of the building where he generated a mass of gold that molded into a motorcycle. He jumped into the air, did a few flips, landed onto the solid gold chopper, and grabbed the twenty five inch tall ape hanger handlebars. “Hop on!”

Hussain looked goofy enough that I started to laugh, but I nonetheless got on the motorcycle, sitting behind Hussain and wrapping my arms around his waist.

“Let’s roll!”

The motorcycle took to the skies, soaring over and between buildings. Hussain made us do loop de loops, aileron rolls, and barrel rolls.

“Woooooooo!” Hussain howled while I kept on laughing.

I finally met someone new who seemed to genuinely like me. Part of me still felt like it had to be a lie, that Hussain had to have secretly hated me, but I decided to pretend to believe Hussain’s appreciation of me was genuine.

What was definitely genuine was my laughter. I was having fun hanging out with Hussain.

My first day at Khalid Al-Kimiya Academy started off rough, but it had managed to end pretty nicely.