Oobleck was silent even as emotions flurried off his body. He didn’t show any strange body language, his mouth wasn’t hanging open or anything comical. Instead he just sat there quietly as the sun continued to set and eventually the sky went from orange, to purple, to finally a deep dark blue as the broken moon continued to shine overhead.
I’d known as soon as I’d properly seen the shattered moonface, but I double checked the star formations to be sure. I referenced the star charts and the similarities had been massively outweighed by the differences. Really it should have been obvious since I had arrived, so many things hadn’t added up but I mean, could you have really blamed me? I appeared in this world concussed and confused. Why would I automatically assume I wasn’t still in the Naruto world? There was a lot of weird shit there, and also simply a lot of that world I hadn’t seen. The vague continent with asian aesthetics couldn’t be the limits of all there was and it wasn’t that much of a stretch that hate monsters and societies with more advanced technology existed elsewhere.
I mean, I’d seen way weirder stuff than all of this.
But the stars weren’t something that could be faked. Even if being in a geographically different place altered the view, there would always be some rough areas where stars are. Otherwise different cultures wouldn’t have different names for the various constellations.
And yeah, I’d been disappointed when I figured it out, but I wasn’t without hope. I’d gotten here after all, so I should be able to get back. Though it would be harder than I initially thought, which meant I’d need more help, which also meant I’d need at least one other person to know what it was I was going for.
So here we were, sitting alone, in silence.
Which kind of sucked.
Oobleck had a really complicated haze of emotions he was going through as he sat there, hand on his chin. But the emotions didn’t immediately trend towards very negative. So he was thinking about it like he was trying to line up threads that would make my story seem more plausible.
Or maybe he’d decided I was crazy and trying to figure out the best way to proceed.
I really hoped it wasn’t the latter. Well, I’d have to deal with it.
After what seemed like half an hour of him just thinking he finally spoke. “You speak of this world and this moon, but do you have any other proof?”
“Proof.” I said, “Okay, well what about fucking everything I can do.”
“No need to curse. I’m just trying to see if your assertion matches the data presented. Another world is a stretch, but at the same time we’ve never thoroughly been to space. We’ve only been able to observe through telescopes and there are many theories about that.”
I blinked for a few moments, “You think I meant another world, I came here from another physical planet?”
“Is that not what you purposed? That you came from a world with a different moon?”
“I, um,” I closed my eyes, how did I put this, “I didn’t mean, that doesn’t make any sense. Even if I came from another world, why would I be even remotely humanoid? Planets have vastly different ecosystems and humans come from a very specific set of evolutionary circumstances. Why would someone from another planet look human?”
“You can change your form.”
“Not permanently.” I countered, “Plus why would I be? I meant another dimension. A different plane as it were, a parallel universe. Somewhere like here, but different, like a splintering branch in time.”
“Oh, so multiverse theory.” Oobleck looked off, “I’ve heard some rumors of that possibly being the reason for the existence of grimm. That their existence in this realm is because they come from a different plane of existence, which is why the moment they die they leave no body behind. Still, it’s all theoretical. Just like the thoughts about the existence of an afterlife. Also, while you yourself are very skilled, most of what you can accomplish can likely be created by a semblance.”
I rubbed my eyes, “But that’s the thing, it’s not the same, not really. Semblances are usually pretty specific. Even with aura, there are things I do that just don’t fall under that purview.”
“Like?” Oobleck offered a hand.
I let out a breath, like what. What could I show? Well I suppose the basics. “There are elemental semblances, right? They only use that element in particular.”
“Unless augmented with dust.”
“Right.” I held out my hand and my clothing, “So I have no dust on me, none at all.”
“Well, there can be dust woven into your clothing. Or hidden in those wraps you use.”
“What? Why, why would, nevermind.” Standing up I walked over and put a hand over Oobleck’s arms, “Catch this, I don’t want it in the sand.”
“What? Do you mean…”
I didn’t let him finish as the wraps snaked up my body and pulled by my arm before sliding off into Oobleck’s hands. I didn’t remove my shirt or pants, but I had no more wraps on me. “So, no wraps, no dust. Now just, just watch.”
Doing a quick hand gesture I whispered under my breath and the flame immediately appeared as a ball in my hand.
Oobleck blinked and stared. Standing up on his own, his hand reached out and touched the flame. A moment later it pulled into his aura, “It’s real.”
“Of course it’s real. Why wouldn’t it be?”
“Well Ume, you are quite skilled with illusions from what I’ve seen. After all, is that not what you have on right now?”
I looked from him to the darkened skin from my seal. Right. That was fair, “Okay, but yeah, it’s real. No fire dust. Also.” I did a gesture and this time pulled up a bit of sand from the ground as a bump before letting it drop. I then did a quick bit of shock that I discharged into the rock. It left the area blackened. Then I did a quick burst of wind from my palm which knocked a bit into Oobleck’s face, his glasses went a bit askew but he adjusted them,
“So, four elements, no dust.”
“I can also pull water out from the air, but there’s no water in the air here.”
“Well, that is… something.” He frowned as he put a hand under his chin and tried to think. “I’m not really sure that supports your claim. One could think that you simply have a very powerful or versatile semblance to explain all of that. They do exist, like telekinesis.”
“Really? Telekinesis can create lightning and fire?”
“If one can do it at a small enough scale, disturb the atoms as it were.”
“I,” Putting a hand on my chin I thought about it, “That’s actually a good point. It could explain pulling water out of the air too. If someone could really go that small.”
“You see my dilemma. What you claim isn’t backed up by any notable proof, and if I in theory believed you how would I convince anyone else?” Oobleck let out a breath, “This isn’t a matter I’ll dismiss out of hand because I am a man of science and history. Information is information, facts are facts, when people try to adjust either simply because it doesn’t fit their current world view is how you get bad history. But all sources have to be checked, verified and catalogued. One person’s view does not an absolute truth make.”
“I, I get that.” I stumbled on the words, “I do but, you know I’ve memorized star charts and they don’t match. Before I came here I’d never seen grimm before. Never heard of these hunters or the academies or dust. Plus, aura, that’s not a thing from my world.”
“Is that not what you have?” Oobleck pondered, “To use those abilities you used aura.”
“It’s chakra.” I corrected, “And it’s not the same. It’s similar but definitely not the same. For one thing it’s internal, not external. I don’t even think I could have my aura awakened, because my chakra runs through my body like blood. It reinforces my skin, it makes me stronger, but it isn’t a shield like yours is, the healing isn’t automatic. It has to be directed, controlled and it takes a lot of practice to do that.”
“It takes practice to control and use aura. The protection from harm is also not so automatic, hunters can be surprised or hit with attacks that go through aura because they aren’t prepared.”
“But still, there’s too many differences even if they share some surface level attributes.” I rubbed my nose, “I don’t really have much else I can say, but that’s the truth. It’s the only truth I have that makes sense.”
“But not the only possible one.” He replied. Taking in a deep breath he then knelt down. My wraps were still in his hands, “This isn’t what you want to hear, but I think this bears more research on both our parts. You say this is another world but are you actually certain? A hundred percent certain this is the case.”
“Well, no.” Because I couldn’t be a hundred percent. Just because I thought this was odd didn’t mean that was the only explanation. “I’m never a hundred percent certain of anything. But this doesn’t make sense otherwise.”
“And being from another world does?”
Well, it did to me. But I couldn’t tell him why it did. Saying I’d come from another world was one thing, and I wasn’t sure he wasn’t just humoring me right now. But saying I came from another world after coming from a third even more different world by dying and being reborn, that was another can of words that pushed this into full unbelievability. The only reason I even thought that this happened at all was because it had already happened before and Oobleck wasn’t privy to that knowledge.
“It’s the only thing that fits, for now. So, it’s how I’ll go forward.” I said.
“So if we find evidence to the contrary, you’ll consider it. What you claim is interesting, but it feels like you’re jumping to a conclusion which, considering what you’ve said, isn’t completely unreasonable. But it’s still something with very little evidence you can readily provide. Unless you have some star maps I can look at.”
“I mean, I did.” I shuffled, “But they sort of got destroyed by the whole washing machine incident.”
“Ah, so I’m assuming that was discarded with a lot of the other things that were broken.”
“Yeah.” I rubbed my head, I hadn’t really thought that through. But then I hadn’t known I’d need them. Other things had seemed more important to get unburied and reclaimed, like my clothes and truck.
“Well there’s no getting those back, paper goods are either recycled or burned. Still, I won’t dismiss you out of hand. This current theory seems to be the one you have the strongest attachment to.” He handed back the wraps and I just grabbed one of them. I didn’t bother with subtlety anymore, instead controlling them with my chakra to make them wrap into place. The entire time he watched the process intently before speaking again. “Despite everything this is quite more than I expected you to tell me and it leads me to question why.”
“Two reasons,” I said as I adjusted the wraps a little with my hand, “One: We’re on a mission and I may not have the luxury of holding back. I think you probably learned a bit of what I was capable of healing wise when I had to help do surgery on Tukson. That was unavoidable.” Well more like, avoidable but only with significant risk. In theory you could use drugs or genjutsu to wipe short term memory, in practice I knew neither the dosage to do so safely, nor had the skill at inner perception jutsu. “Two: I have run out of options for me to pursue my goals by myself. It’s been months and I’m about as close to being able to get home now as I was when I first arrived.”
“You want to return.” He nodded, “That much I understand, that is where your life was after all. Though I’m not sure how I could help besides research.”
“Yeah, I figured that but I needed someone else to know and all things considered you seem at least the most likely not to dismiss me outright.” I knew after all, that this sounded crazy, for all the reasons he brought up and more. Besides my varied skill set, I really didn’t have proof another world even existed, let alone that I was from it.
“I don’t think I would be the only person who would do so. There’s a lot of strange things in this world, mysteries, lost knowledge, there is evidence of entire civilizations we keep seeing fragments of but never get the whole picture of. We only have a small percentage of the truth of this world because so much makes no sense. So even without proof, there are others who would take your word.”
“Others like Ozpin,” I looked him dead in the eyes when I said this and his aura flickered.
“He is very well traveled. A huntsman of considerable experience who’s seen more of Remnant probably than anyone else.”
“Maybe, I’d still rather you not tell him.” I said. Which caused another flare.
“Why not? He could be of significant use to your quest. He has many more resources, powerful allies and connections that would make it more feasible.”
“And absolutely no reason to help me, or let me go if he knew how useful I could be.” I rubbed my face, “He’s a headmaster Oobleck, not a teacher, not another student, a headmaster. Which means, he may not be working towards my best interests if I could be of better use here.” I let out a deep sigh, “I understand why, I get it. I saw the way that doctor and nurse looked at me at the surgery, the way some people looked at me even when I was home. When you get to a certain place of power, a certain position of authority, individuals aren’t just people, they are assets to consider, resources to tap,” my voice trailed off as my fist tightened, “Tools to use.”
Oobleck didn’t immediately dispute the statement and there was a flickering in his aura. There was surprise in there, but it faded pretty quickly. “You could come to some sort of deal, a reasonable arrangement that benefits both of you.”
“You don’t make deals from a position of weakness.” I said with a sigh, “And reasonable is only reasonable until it’s inconvenient. I think he’s a good man, but people in power stay that way not by luck, but by efficient resource management. I know my value Bart, I’m not sure anyone would give it up if given the chance to keep me.”
“And what will you do if he knows, and tries to keep you?”
“I walk.” I said simply. “I may not know how to get home, but I understand the world enough to survive now.”
He nodded, “I think I understand.” He adjusted his glasses and stood, “Not fully, but your autonomy is something you value greatly so I will not seek to infringe on it. It makes me glad you were willing to come on this trip with me.”
“I came because I’m also curious.” Turning towards the dig site I let out a breath, “Because, you’re right a lot of this world doesn’t make sense and history is important because it’s cyclical. The more we don’t know, the more blind sided we become when it repeats itself.”
“History repeats.” Oobleck said, “I suppose that is always a concern. In the world, and in people.” He took a deep breath before starting towards the dig site. “I have to think a bit about what you’ve said, everything you’ve claimed and what it all means. Hopefully I will give you an answer on how I intend to proceed before this trip is over. Whatever consensus we come to though, I’m glad you trust me enough to talk about this. Right or wrong, I can tell this is what you believe to be true.”
“I just,” I followed behind him, “I can’t do this alone and really, it’s lonely here.”
The words rang into the night air and I had to catch myself from making too much of an expression but in the end that was really what pushed me to this point. I didn’t just need help, I needed someone to actually talk to. Danny was there sure, and the Beacon teams were nice and accommodating, but I couldn’t talk to them about this. I’d had this same problem back at home, when I was keeping secrets from everyone, but at the same time we still had shared history by that point. I kept one life secret, but I was still a part of the unit, a part of the group.
But here I was an outsider, in the most literal way possible, and it hurt so much with all the things I couldn’t say.
There was a softening in Oobleck’s face, as a tinge of sorrow entered his aura. “I’ll always be willing to talk with you Ume, you don’t have to be alone.”
I nodded and held back the tears that were starting to well. Breathing in deeply I wiped my nose and followed as Oobleck started towards the site. There was still work to be done.
When Shyam awoke from his nap, the site they’d first arrived at was mostly transformed from just the side of a dried up river to several rows of tents and equipment set up. He had to blink a few times to get his bearings about him, but mostly he scowled at the positioning. While some of the tents leaned into the nearby stone for cover some had been pushed too far off to the side and with strong enough winds would go flying, weights or no. Rubbing his eyes he sighed deeply and walked over to get a good look at everything.
This wasn’t the first time he’d done this sort of job, it wasn’t his favorite type of work but it paid the bills. Academics always claimed to be intelligent, but throw them anywhere into the real world and their learnings always tended to come up short. Not to mention a lot of them tended to forget to take care of necessities. He didn’t expect much different from most of the people here, with the exception of Doctor Oobleck, who was also a huntsman. Not a desert huntsman, not like him, but a huntsman all the same and perfectly willing to take shifts watching the civilians.
Walking over to the furthest tent a quick spot check had him find the tent poles unusually upright for what looked like something just pushed into sand. Grabbing the pole and giving it a shake he found it surprisingly stable. There was definitely a heft to it that wouldn’t easily be jostled. As he did so the tent flap went up and out came the strange small girl that had been traveling with them.
“Oh you’re awake, that’s good, Oobleck’s about to crash.” The brown eyes that matched her skin and hair met his own dark eyes, and he looked from them to the pole.
“This is unusually stable.” He stated.
“Of course it is, it’s a floating post rod.” Ume said, looking a bit puzzled.
“Floating in what?”
“Concrete.” This time it was the Doctor, “About two feet of it at the pole’s base. It was quite a clever way to go about it. I did not know that Ume was so knowledgeable about construction enough to set it in such a way.”
“I didn’t see any bags of concrete out here? Or a mixer.”
“Of course not, it was in storage. I put it up when we were done so it wouldn’t dry out.” The girl shrugged.
Shyam gave the pole another shake, “It feels too firm to be dry and I was not asleep for that long.”
“I used my thermos as a torch to do the drying. It’s not a setting I use often, but you would be surprised how handy it is to have one for spot welding. Though if you excuse me.” The Doctor walked back into the tent, which proved to be a small living space with a large tarp laid over the sands and climbed into a sleeping bag. “I’ll be starting my own sleeping shift.”
Taking off his glasses the Doctor seemed to go straight to sleep, leaving Shyam with the girl once more who closed the curtain and sighed. “Thank god, he’s been up for a day and a half already. I thought he’d never get to sleep.”
“Academics are known to keep strange hours.”
“There’s strange, then there’s unhealthy. Well come on, I’ll show you where the perimeter is set.” The girl led him out of the tent and he followed, curiosity peaked. He knew something was off about the girl, she didn’t hold herself like a child. Her voice was too level, stance too steady and gaze too calculative. Even now she didn’t move like one either, despite her odd sandals the desert sands barely left any evidence of her passing, a trick that took years to master for a non native. Yet still she was obviously not from here. Her speech and cadence lacked the slang and the questions she asked made it clear.
As they walked away from the other tents she pointed at a row of wooden stacks set in a circle around the dig site like a fence without connecting boards.
“Alright, this is the inner perimeter and the warning for everyone else. Once you get ten more yards that way, that’s where the traps are.”
“Traps? Did you bring dust mines?” Shyam asked.
“A couple, though they’re pretty spaced out. No, instead there are these.” She reached into the sleeve of her shirt and pulled out a stone wrapped in a piece of paper.
“What are these?” He weighed the stone. There seemed to be nothing special about it besides the white paper on it that seemed to be penned in some sort of language he didn’t recognize.
“They’re flash bangs, that one isn’t active but if it gets knocked or something shifts the ground too much it’ll explode. There’s a couple dozen of them buried on the outer perimeter so if there’s any ground based grimm it should notify us of their general direction.”
He hefted the rock and stared at it for a few moments before looking at the girl, “You are being serious about this.”
“Why would I joke about this sort of thing?”
“I do not know, some people have very strange senses of humor.” He certainly had seen dangerous pranks pulled by people of his tribe. Children always thought the oddest things were funny.
“Fine,” Taking a few steps back past the inner perimeter she tied some of the wraps over her ears and cuffed her hand over her eyes. “If you don’t believe me, push some aura into the paper and toss it, see what happens.”
He frowned as she stood there for several seconds before he surged some aura into his hand and threw the rock out. A few moments later a surge of light and sound hit him and he staggered for a moment, his ears ringing and spots in his eyes. Cursing, he held his head as the girl ran forward and grabbed his arm. Warmth spread from where she touched him like warm water, moving upwards it reached his head, ceasing both the ringing and the spots. He whipped his head down at the girl once more, who was staring up at his face. For a moment he just stared before looking back where he threw the rock without seeing it.
“That was very loud.”
“It has to be, we have to be able to hear it from anywhere in the camp.” She said, her voice more dry than anything.
Staring at her then back towards where she said the outer perimeter was he straightened up and met her gaze. “I have a lot of questions.”
The girl met his gaze and after a few moments, shrugged and turned away from him, “You can go ahead and ask, but no guarantee I’m going to answer.”
She then headed back to the camp. The people who had started gathering were probably curious what that explosion was. Blinking a few more times he found his composure again and followed.