Chapter 10:

Questions, Queries, and Answers


“Why aren’t you wearing your uniform?”

It was my first day of actual classes at the Academy. The stained glass windows of the lecture hall let in a rainbow of differently colored beams of light that painted the white walls and wood tables on each tier of the room. An oversized crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling. I was seated at the very front of the room on the lowest tier.

My first class was going to begin, and I continued to hear the whispered curses directed towards me from the other students. The teacher, a scrawny old man with glasses wearing a button up and slacks, left the lectern at the front of the room and walked up to a tier behind me.

He stepped up to a student around my age who, instead of wearing the school uniform, was in a djellaba with an intricate pattern of blue and gold horizontal stripes. The robe’s hood was up, so it was hard to get a look at the student’s face. Their leg was bouncing up and down, and their arms were crossed.

Upon being asked why they weren’t in uniform, the student responded.

“Uniforms are dumb,” the student quickly said.

“Excuse me?” The teacher leaned back.

“Uniforms are dumb.”

“You must wear your uniform while in class. It’s a school rule.”

“It’s a dumb rule.”

“And what makes it dumb? Uniforms create a sense of unity among the student body and promote school pride. Not only that, but uniforms can help prevent bullying due to how you dress. You can’t feel out of place if you're dressed the same way as everyone else. Also, it encourages a sense of professionalism that you will need once you enter the working world.” The teacher held up a finger as he spoke.

“They don’t do any of those things for me.” Everything the student said rushed out of their mouth so fast it was hard to tell what they were saying.

“Well, I’m sure they do and you simply don’t realize it. It doesn’t matter, the point is that you need to wear your uniform. Go to your dorm and change.”


“Excuse me, but you have to, it’s a school rule.”

“I don’t follow stupid rules.”

“Do you want me to call the Disciplinary Committee?”

“No, but I’m not gonna change.”

“Then I’m calling them. What is your name?”


That name hit me like a slap to the back of the head.

I leaned myself back enough that I could see a little more of what was under the rebellious student’s hood. Their face was adorable, with magenta eyes even bigger than mine, and her hair was cyan.

That cinched it. This was a character from the anime.

Not only that, but she was Morgiana, a member of the protagonist’s harem and Scheherazade’s main rival for his affections. She was the big boobed, shy, yamato nadeshiko, and the protagonist’s childhood best friend. Out of all the waifus, she was the most popular with Al-Kimiya’s fandom, but I always thought she was boring.

The Morgiana from the anime would never have been as defiant as the Morgiana in front of me was, so she had been another victim of the changes to this timeline. The alterations had to have been pretty big for her given she wasn’t even supposed to be enrolled in the Academy yet.

In the original anime, Morgiana didn’t enroll until the first year of college. This was because the protagonist, Daud, didn’t manage to enroll until that year, and Morgiana didn’t want to be away from him, so she held back on entering until Daud could.

This was despite the fact that Morgiana was Headmaster Ali Baba’s granddaughter. She was also the heir to the Alchemy martial arts dojo that Ali Baba founded. There was a whole storyline about the pressure Morgiana felt over having to carry on her family’s legacy, which made her insecure because she believed she was unworthy.

I was surprised that the teacher didn’t have any kind of reaction to hearing Morgiana say her name given who she was related to. In the anime, she was like a celebrity, but it appeared this Morgiana’s status wasn’t as well known. Only then did it occur to me that, throughout my time Underworld up to that point, I hadn’t heard anything about Morgiana online. It was likely that either her family wasn’t putting the spotlight on her like they did in the anime, or she was choosing to avoid attention.

So many questions were raised by this Morgiana’s presence and behavior, but the one at the forefront of my mind was, “Where was Daud, the main character, in this timeline?”

Two members of the Disciplinary Committee marched into the lecture hall less than a minute after they were called. They were older students, both in Sulfur. Besides the normal uniform, they wore blue armbands on their left arms to signal they were members of the Disciplinary Committee.

The teacher gestured towards Morgiana, the Disciplinary Committee members walking up to her.

“Please, come with us.”

Morgiana took a slow, slow breath.



Morgiana got up from her seat. One Committee member led her out of the room while the other followed behind her.

“No hoods inside.” Right before they left the room, one of the Committee members pulled down Morgiana’s hood, revealing her cyan hair. In the anime, she had a hime cut, but apparently she was straightening it. Here her hair was Afro-textured and was styled into two little puffs atop her head. It made sense given she was Afro-Arab coded like her grandfather.

Once Morgiana and her escorts left, class began. I wanted to one hundred percent focus on the lesson, even if it wasn’t much of a lesson given it was the first class, but I was distracted thinking about Morgiana. I had so many questions, but I didn’t know what to do about them.

Trying to get close to Morgiana would either lead to rejection given I was hated by nearly everyone, or it would cause Morgiana to be bullied like I was. Secretly snooping into her life would be creepy. Given I usually screwed things up, it would probably be best to just let Morgiana be. Some mysteries could stay mysteries.

Morgiana returned to class, now in uniform. She even wore the suit jacket properly, with all buttons done up. The white shirt of the Salt dorm was yet another surprise, as she was a Sulfur student in the anime. Apparently she wasn’t as strong as she was in the show, or maybe she was hiding her full combat ability from the public for some reason.

It would be easy to assume that Morgiana’s rebellion towards the dress code was a sign she was some stereotypical delinquent who didn’t care about paying attention in class.

The opposite was true, which became obvious with a single glance at Morgiana’s razor sharp eyes as she paid attention to the teacher’s lesson. Her focus made her feel like a black hole for information.

When class ended and students began to filter out of the lecture hall, a handful went over to Morgiana as she was standing up.

“It was pretty ballsy of you to talk back to the teacher on day one. I half expected you to throw hands with the Disciplinary Committee guys when they came in.”

“You were pretty cool. Do you wanna hang out?”

“No.” Morgiana walked out of the room without another word. Her steps were quick but even, and her hands were balled into fists.

“Wow. Seriously?”

“I guess she’s just a bitch.”

“She’s definitely got resting bitch face, so I guess that tracks.”

My curiosity kept increasing. I wanted to follow Morgiana and see if I could learn more about her, but I stopped myself. My fear of acting impulsively cropped up again. Besides, tailing Morgiana around would be creepy.

Then again, following Hussain had ended up being a good idea.

But that didn’t outweigh all the times I made choices that ended poorly.

Hussain said that doing nothing was still making a choice though.

My inner turmoil was expressed by my ahoge becoming a tangled ball.

I eventually realized that I had spent so long mulling over what to do that Morgiana was likely long gone.

My indecision had made the choice for me.

With slumped shoulders and a drooping ahoge, I left the lecture hall for my next class.

I decided to text Hussain to get his two cents on the situation.

“Hussain, you free to talk?”

“I’m free to talk! What’s up? How was your first class? Did you get bullied? I did! Balls of paper kept getting thrown at the back of my head! It was kinda funny!”


“No sorries! You didn’t do anything wrong! Anyway, how was your first class?”

“Good. I’ve got a question.”

“Ask me anything! I’ll even tell you my three sizes!”

“No, thank you. I noticed this one girl who seemed interesting. Morgiana.”

“The Headmaster’s granddaughter?”

“You know her?”

“I’ve heard of her. What’s she like?”

“She refused to wear her uniform until the Disciplinary Committee came in. Before that she kept talking back to the teacher.”


“What’d you expect?”

“I dunno, just not that. So she’s a rebel?”

“I guess, but she doesn’t fit the stereotype. She was super focused in class.”


“When some of the other kids tried to talk to her afterward, she walked away, which pissed those kids off.”


“I wanna know more about Morgiana.”

“Interestingest! Why are you so curious about Morgiana? Do you have a crush?”


“Well, I’m curious too! Let’s try talking to her!”

“She’ll say no, like with the other kids.”

“But she might not! It’s worth a shot and it can’t hurt!”

I knew as soon as I thought about texting Hussain that this would be how the conversation would go. Despite thinking his idea wouldn’t work, I couldn’t help but get swept up in Hussain’s positivity.

“Let’s talk to her.”

“Excellent! Let’s look for her after classes are done for the day! What dorm is she in?”


“Really? I would have expected the heir to the biggest dojo in the country to be in Sulfur.”

“How'd you know that?”

“Know what?”

“That Morgiana’s the heir to her family dojo.”

It took a while for Hussain to respond this time.

“It was something I heard at a party back when the nobility was still a thing.”

I supposed that was possible, but it seemed strange that Hussain’s family would know about Morgiana, yet mine, the Sultan’s, wouldn’t hear about her. Maybe Shahryar knew and never mentioned it around me. But there probably would have been some party for the announcement of Morgiana being chosen as heir to the dojo, and my sister and I would definitely have been forced to go.

The common public didn’t seem to be aware of Morgiana’s connection to Ali Baba or his dojo, so how did Hussain know?

I had honestly gotten so swept up in Hussain’s positivity that I forgot about all the questions raised by his actions before.

He was following me on the first day of school, which was weird. Also he decided to record what was going on in my room between me, Abriza, and her henchmen, which worked out for me as Hussain used it to get Abriza to back off, but it was strange that he was recording us at all. In battle he wielded a katana, a kind blade that did exist in Underworld, but is used by a foreign nation, not by the people of Alf-Laylah wa-Laylah. Hussain acted completely differently from his anime self, and his point of alteration seemed to stem far back, to the point that he disagreed with the cruelty of the noble class he was a part of long before I made any major changes. That could have been the result of the butterfly effect created by minor actions I made early on in my second life, but it was still suspicious. Now Hussain demonstrated knowledge of things that were odd for him to know.

An explanation that accounted for all these mysteries came together in my head, but I didn’t want to jump the gun and assume it was correct.

I had to test Hussain first.

Hussain and I finished texting and we headed to our next classes.

There’s not much to say about any of my first lessons. They were all explanations of what the classes would cover throughout the year. I was bullied a bit by the other students, and even some of the teachers. It ranged from finding garbage on my seat after coming back from the bathroom, to a teacher giving me detention for talking in class when we both knew it was the student next to me who was talking. A student tried to pick a fight with me at one point, but I just flew away.

Once we were done with our classes, Hussain and I went to the Salt dorm, trying to see if we could find Morgiana. We went to the front desk which was being manned by a plump woman in a skirt suit.

“Excuse me. We’re looking for the room of a girl named Morgiana. Could you tell us her room number?” Hussain said.

The receptionist looked at me and scowled.

“Apologies, but I can’t give out that kind of personal information willy-nilly.”

I had a feeling this would happen, so I came up with a lie for Hussain to recite.

“It’s important we talk to Morgiana. She stepped out of one of her classes, because she needed to change clothes. The syllabus for the class was passed out while she was gone, and the teacher forgot to give it to her when she came back. We’re here to give it to her on the teacher’s behalf.” Hussain pulled out my syllabus, implying it was Morgiana’s.

The receptionist’s expression didn’t change. I worried she wasn’t buying it.

“Go to room 8001 on balcony 50,” the receptionist said dispassionately.

“Thank you!” Hussain pumped his fist. He and I headed for room 8001. We didn’t know if Morgiana was there at the moment, but it was a good starting point in our search.

“Bfppt bfptttt puh puh puh vvvvvvvv kssshhh puh puh ksh!”

Hussain was beatboxing.

It would probably be more accurate to say Hussain was trying and failing to beatbox. His arms flailed in random directions as he walked next to me through a curved hallway. He was merely making noises. There was no rhythm, the sounds didn’t come together to create any kind of cohesive whole, and the sounds themselves weren’t anything your average person couldn’t make.

“It’s a good start. You just gotta practice,” I texted.

“I have been practicing!” Hussain grinned and slapped his chest. “For decades, actually!”

“Neat.” Anything else I thought to text was too mean.


“Wait, how could you have practiced beatboxing for decades? You’re twelve.” My head tilted to the side.

“I was being hyperbolic! Exaggeration is the spice you put on the truth!”

I went ‘hmmm’ at Hussain’s explanation.

We arrived in the cylindrical common area and got in an elevator, taking it to the highest balcony. It was the same balcony that my room’s entrance was on.

Going to the entryway to room 8001, Hussain didn’t hesitate to knock hard enough that I expected his fist to punch through the door.

Said door opened to reveal Morgiana. She was still in uniform, though she had removed her tie and jacket, as well as untucked her shirt. Her brow was furrowed and her jaw was clenched. The expression was the same as the one she wore in class. This was her natural expression.

Morgiana said nothing, though she squinted a bit at me in particular.

“Hi! I’m Hussain! This is Scheherazade! Wanna hang out?” Hussain’s teeth sparkled as he grinned.


The door closed.

“Now what?” I texted Hussain.

Hussain knocked again.

The door opened to reveal Morgiana once more.

“Do you wanna hang out some other time?” Hussain gave a thumbs up.


The door closed.

Hussain knocked again.

“This is gonna count as harassment soon,” I texted.

The door opened to reveal Morgiana yet again.

“Go away.”

“Can I ask why you don’t wanna hang out with us?” Hussain pinched his chin.

“I like to be left alone.”

“What could we do to persuade you to spend a little time with us? We wanna get to know you.”


“Because you’re the granddaughter of the Headmaster. Who wouldn’t be cu-”

As soon as Hussain began saying the grand in granddaughter, Morgiana let out a growl from the back of her throat and began to slam the door. Hussain threw his hand in the way, grabbing the door to prevent it from shutting.

“Go away.” Morgiana said through clenched teeth.

“Did we do something to upset you?”

“You talked about my family.” Apparently Morgiana’s relationship with her family was different from what it was in the anime.

Morgiana kept pushing on the door, beginning to overpower Hussain’s attempt to keep the entryway open.

“Wow, you’re strong! You must train hard!” Hussain began to sweat, but his smile endured. “Sorry for bringing up a touchy subject. How can we make it up to you?”

“You. Can. Go. Away.” Morgiana continued to overpower Hussain. The door was millimeters away from crushing Hussain’s fingers against the door frame.

“Is there any way-” Hussain stopped when I put a hand on his shoulder.

“Let’s leave Morgiana alone,” I texted. “We’re just bothering her.”

Hussain’s smile finally disappeared. The lower half of his face hung loose, and he let go of the door which slammed shut.

“That went about as poorly as it could have.” I chuckled.

“Aw, come on, it could have gone way worse! We got her to talk at least! Also, she didn’t try to kill us!”

“We need higher standards.” My eyes became covered in shadow.

“Aw well!” Hussain shrugged. “Let’s try again another day!”

“We should probably let Morgiana be. She doesn’t want to talk to us, so let’s not force it.”

“Why are you giving up so soon? You’re the one who wanted to talk to her in the first place!”

“I was just curious about her. Why are you so invested in this?”

“I get invested in anything that interests me!” Hussain oscillated between several exaggerated poses. “I’m a man of passion, a man who does everything with gusto! I don’t give up no matter what! I wanna be Morgiana’s friend, so I’m gonna give it my all to make that a reality!”

“But what Morgiana wants should factor into this.”

“Of course! I’d never force her into anything! I just wanna convince her!”

“But what if you can’t? What if all we do is hurt her?”

“You’re too pessimistic!”

“I’m being realistic.”

“You gotta forget realism sometimes if you wanna make your dreams come true!”

I facepalmed at Hussain’s unyielding optimism. At times it was nice to be around someone so positive, but at other times it was exhausting.

“I suppose we could try one more time to get Morgiana to open up.” I texted.

“Excellent!” Hussain clapped his hands together. “Trust me, we’ll win her over, it’ll just take a bit.”

Hussain’s statement inspired me, not about winning Morgiana over, but about how I would test my theory about Hussain.

“You’ve got a point,” I texted. “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

“Exactly!” Hussain said.

“Rome.” I repeated.



“Rome.” Hussain squinted and his mouth hung open as he went quiet. He stared at nothing as gears turned in his head.

“You know what Rome is.” I put a hand on my hip which I cocked to the side. “There isn’t anything called Rome in Underworld.”


Ellipses appeared above Hussain and I.

“You’re from Earth.”

“Uuuuuuuuuuuhhhhh.” Hussain’s brain shut off.

“And you watched Al-Kimiya. That’s why you knew things about Morgiana that aren’t common knowledge here, because they were plot points in the anime. You use a katana because you’re a weeb, and you act differently from the anime version of Hussain, because you’re a person from Earth that’s been reincarnated in Hussain’s body.”

“Uuuu-Wait! How do you…You’re from Earth too!” Hussain pointed at me and jumped.

I held a finger to my lips, Hussain covering his mouth in response as he landed on his feet. We were getting stares from almost everyone on the balcony we were on.

“How about we talk somewhere more private?” I texted.

“Good idea.”

Since my room was on the same balcony, we went there to talk. We opened the door to find that my room had been ransacked. Hologram projectors that once showed images of my loved ones were smashed, or were hacked to present pictures of phalluses and gore. My clothes, futon, books, and scrolls were shredded, and my makeup had been smeared on the walls, floor, and ceiling. Any jewelry of real value had been stolen, and the cheap pieces were bent or cracked apart.

The only things that had been untouched were my pet snake, a Malpolon moilensis to be specific, his tank, and the mini-fridge full of frozen mice meant to feed him. Apparently the hooligans who wrecked my room drew the line at animal abuse.

There was no reason to wonder why my room had been targeted.

“Woah.” Hussain scratched the back of his head.

I slowly, slowly breathed in, and slowly, slowly breathed out.

“I’ll deal with it later.”

“Are you sure?”

“It’s fine. Feel free to sit wherever.” I kicked some scraps of paper out of the way and sat down cross legged next to my snake’s tank.

Hussain cleared a space in front of me and sat down seiza style.

“So you’re from Earth? Like, the one with the Philippines, and America, and Japan and stuff?” Hussain said.

“Yes. I was from New York City. I had seen Al-Kimiya, and eventually I died and spent a hundred years or so as a ghost, and then I woke up as a newborn in this world.”

“Same here, but I’m from the Philippines! My old name was John Mark Villanueva!”

“I was Eve Scharfmann.”

“Were you a fan of the anime? I loved it! It was my tenth favorite series! The world’s so cool! Hell, I don’t need to tell you that, we’re living in it! Also, the action was so good! There was sakuga all over the place! And do I even need to get into the comedy? Every joke landed perfectly! I wish I could have read the original light novels or the manga adaptation, but neither ever got translated into any of the languages I knew, so I couldn’t! Such a shame, right?”

“I hated Al-Kimiya.”

“What?” Hussain grabbed his head with both hands. “Why?”

“It wasted a cool setting and concepts on a generic and poorly told story that played into the worst tropes of its genre.”

“You’re too focused on the negative! Yeah it’s tropey, but those things exist to set the groundwork for the unique stuff!”

“But it barely takes advantage of its unique elements. It’s yet another story of a reborn demon king, who people look down on for not being strong or special, curb stomping boring villains because he’s secretly the strongest, specialist guy.”

“You can oversimplify any story like you just did! Romeo and Juliet was just about two teeneagers dating and then killing themselves because they’re stupid!”

“Let’s get back on track. Both of us got isekai’d to this world that mirrors that of an anime we both watched, and as characters from the show. Do you have any ideas as to what could have caused this?”

“Nope. It’s pretty crazy! We’re living out an actual isekai plot!”

“And we might not be the only ones. If we were reincarnated, other people could have been too.”

“Since we were both reborn as characters from the anime, it’s possible other characters are secretly from our world too. Maybe that’s why Morgiana’s so different from how she was in the anime.”

“It’s possible.”

“All the more reason to get closer to Morgiana!”

“I still don’t get why you’re so serious about befriending her.” I leaned back until I was lying down on the floor.

“It’s because I loved Al-Kimiya. I love anime in general.” Hussain’s tone became soft, his voice quiet. I leaned my head up a bit to see Hussain’s contemplative expression. “Anime has inspired me throughout my life. Shounen anime especially. Watching guys work themselves to the limit to overcome any obstacle made me feel like I could do the same. My family was really poor, and I got bullied a lot growing up. I got through the toughest times in my life by thinking about the anime heroes I admired and how I wanted to be like them. They helped me never give up. Because of how they helped me, still help me even, I get easily attached to the characters from anime I like. Now that I’m living in the same world as some of those characters, I want to get close to them, and I want to make sure they’re happy. They help me, and so I want to help them back. That’s why I followed you when I first saw you, and listened in on your conversation with Abriza, and it’s why I want to learn about Morgiana. She seems unhappy, and I want to change that.”

“I see.” My head dropped back to the floor. While Al-Kimiya was a crap series to me, it meant a lot to Hussain. It might have meant a lot to other people too. I still hated Al-Kimiya, but I wouldn’t try and invalidate the positive emotional reaction anyone else had to the story. If it helped Hussain through hard times, then it was an anime that deserved to exist. “I guess that’s a good reason. Just don’t get all parasocial, okay?”

“I won’t.” Hussain’s smile revived. “What have you been up to since being reborn? Actually, what was your original life like?”

Oh boy. The real question was where to start.

Starting with my original life, I told Hussain my tale. He made about as many kinds of shocked expressions as were possible for the human face to create as I told him of my life as a transgender prostitute in New York City who died only to find out everyone she loved hated her or felt nothing at her passing. After that, I explained my life so far in Underworld, and how most of the changes to the timeline as compared to the anime were because of me. Hussain learned that I was the one who sparked the revolution, and the consequences that followed for both of my new families.

“Wow.” Hussain’s eyes were wide. “That’s, uh, a lot. No wonder things were so different from the show. I’m not sure what to even say. You went through a lot of horrible things, but the fact you managed to make it through it all is inspiring.”

“I don’t know how inspiring I can be when I’m such a fuck up.” I rolled onto my side, accidentally leaning into some nail polish. “Case and point.”

“You made mistakes, but you also saved Alf-Laylah wa-Laylah from the tyranny of the Sultanate! That’s gotta make up for anything wrong you’ve done!”

“Not when me ‘saving’ Alf-Laylah wa-Laylah also caused tons of people to suffer in the crossfire and aftermath of the revolution. You should know, your family’s one of the ones that my actions fucked over.”

“My family is a bunch of evil nobles, and I’d rather they get stopped while I have to suffer a bit myself than let them run free hurting others! There’ll always be dark parts to any revolution, that doesn’t invalidate that you took down Shahryar and the nobles! The world’s a better place now!” Hussain pumped his fists.

“New assholes took the place of the old ones, they just aren’t called nobles anymore.”

“But things have still gotten better! Baby steps!”

“There’s still slavery, and tons of homeless and poor people.”

“But it isn’t as bad as it was before! What you did was a net positive!”

“I guess so, but I still hurt people who didn’t deserve it, like my sister.”

“That…I can’t dismiss your sister’s pain. All I can say is that you’re not responsible for it. You could never have predicted what would happen when you kickstarted the revolution.” Hussain straightened his back. “Also, I want to say something to you that maybe nobody else will, because they don’t know the truth. Thank you, Scheherazade. Thank you, Eve. You saved Alf-Laylah wa-Layalh, and no matter how you may see it, I’m grateful for what you’ve done for this country.”

I moved my hand into a position where it would prevent Hussain from seeing my face. That way, he couldn’t see me cry. Despite the fact that I still felt I was at fault for any negative consequences of the revolution, I couldn’t help but get choked up at being thanked.

Someone was happy I started the revolution.

They were happy.

I didn’t ruin them.

And this was the second time Hussain thanked me. The first time was after I saved him in the forest.

Two times I had my actions validated, and not by either Dunyazade or Tawaddud. It had been years since that last happened.

“You’re welcome,” I texted Hussain.

We continued to talk, bonding over our shared experience as people of Earth reborn in Underworld. I didn’t feel as alone as I did before. Someone else understood what I went through, and knew what I had done.

I spoke with Hussain without having to hide anything. It was cathartic.

Even after everything that went wrong that day, I still considered it a good one.