IF I’M NOT ME ARE YOU?
Previously: It’s Complicated. Currently, the last part of Undertale Isekai is Another Ancient Lolita. Currently, the last part of HonorVerse is Fox Hunt Chapter 5. Neither of those are the final part of their story, but this will all kinda make sense. Eventually.
Themesong: Human by Rag’N’Bone Man
RETURN TO UNDERTALE
Things had been slow since the defeat of the Phrase, thankfully, though the end of the war certainly hadn’t meant that everything was calm, not in my little corner of the world. Not with ten wives and as many highly individualistic gynoids all vying for my attention. I say highly individualistic because calling them a squabbling bunch of raving loonies would be too on the nose. Toss in my familiars and the fact that I got any peace at all was something of a miracle. I swear, it was worse than being surrounded by my companions of old. At least there there were additional nuclei for activity, but here? Everyone focused entirely on me.
That included the growing Church of the Goddess Gamer. Unlike the other times I’d been the focus of a growing religion, I had no part in this one. I neither encouraged them or told them off. Well, except for a couple of times when they tried to make cheating or taking too long making a move heresy. I explained, calmly, to the gathered lunies, that cheating was entirely part of the game. Sure, it broke the encoded rules, but one who cheats is still as much a gamer as those who play entirely by the rules. Rules are merely a convention and changing them was possible. To deny the place the cheater had, who changed the rules only for themselves? Well, that was entirely about gaining an advantage. The cheater certainly shouldn’t be welcomed, but the act itself was a transgression, a sin, not actual heresy.
As for taking too long? Well, some people aren’t as good at focusing. Now, not paying attention during other people’s turns and then asking “Wait, what’s going on?” Those people need to be destroyed with fire… well, maybe not. But seriously. Stop checking your magic mirror to see if your spy master has found the cave of wonders every ten minutes!
And speaking of the Cave of Wonders… Okay, I’d gotten a little bored teching up society (one can only go so fast) and settling squabbles among mere mortals… or my wives… and had been looking for a little adventure. And the legendary Cave of Wonders, said to contain relics of the Age of Antiquities that had proceed the age that had been destroyed by the Babylonian Phrase Invasion had seemed just the thing.
After all, I had the future well in hand, the present secured… it was time to delve into the past. And so I’d sent adventurers scouring the entire world for hints to the location of this fabled cave… and yeah, maybe I’d gotten a little impatient.
I’d also begun to suspect that God was, perhaps, trying to groom me to take over his position. He kept talking about how long it had been since he’d had a vacation… or maybe he was hinting that he wanted to be a Companion? I dunno. Either way, I didn’t really plan on taking him up on his offer. He was a nice enough guy, but not really proactive enough to be an interesting companion and far too much a voyeur for my tastes. Becoming his replacement was right out, since I had no desire to stay in this frankly odd world.
And so, eight months after I’d sent out my people to find the cave, I set out by myself, not telling anyone where I was going or that I was pretty certain I’d figured out where, exactly, I’d have to look, one one last adventure in this world.
I groaned as I sat up in bed, blinking away the confusion. Wh… where was I? I’d… I’d… I’d been exploring a cave high up in the mountains… what had happened? I heard my phone ringing somewhere nearby… but not very near. This bed was awfully hard… and fragrant? I looked around… and froze. This was not my bed… this wasn’t even a bed in that sense of the word. I was surrounded by yellow flowers… and one of them was smirking at me. Oh… fuck. I was back in Undertale.
“Hello Asriel,” I drawled. “Where’s Chara?”
The flower paused, blinking at me. “You… you know me?”
“Yeah,” I said, patting myself to make certain I’d come through the world divide with more than I had last time. “That trick with the spirit knife… very interesting. This place is on a timeloop, isn’t it?”
“H… how did you know?” the little yellow flower asked.
“Because Sans has a time machine,” I explained. “I’m not stupid. And we’re not doing this again. I’m not going to pretend to be a lost child so the two of you can keep repeating your tragedy. We’re going to talk… and when Tauriel shows up, you’re going to talk to your mother.”
*You think you’re sooo special, jumper, don’t you?* Chara asked, appearing as a wavering figure just at the edge of my perception.
“Yes. I do. Because I’ve got a lot more perspective than the ghost of a vengeful child. You’re hurting and you need to release that pain. Both of you.” My voice was tinged with compassion and sadness. There could be no happy ending for Chara or Asriel. They were dead. But there could be a rebirth, if only they could bring themselves to allow it to happen.
*Yeah yeah yeah. Heard it before,* Chara sneered, and Flowey nodded in agreement. *Friendship solves everything, right?* The world began to blur at the edges as the ghosts’ anger grew. *Well, you abandoned one of your friends, so what does that say about you? *
One of my friends? I’d abandoned one of… “Nope. Sorry. No friends abandoned on my watch. A few left behind because they died or wanted to stay, some because they refused my invitation to join the adventure, but everyone else? As they say in Fairy Tail, ‘though our paths may have diverged, I will never forget about my friends for as long as I live.’”
*LIES!* Chara and Flowey screamed together. *LIES! LIES LIES! You were tasked to reawaken all your friends and yet you abandoned one in the last cycle! You are a LIAR!*
I blinked, then began laughing. “Darkseid? You’re talking about Darkseid? The Temmie who arranges the rocks?!”
*Yesss!* Chara snarled as Flowey began morphing into a giant TV-Spider thing. *The one you call TemSeid! You abandoned your friend and now you must DIE!*
“Yeahhh… no. TemSeid isn’t a friend. TemSeid doesn’t have friends. TemSeid is…” I paused, considered. Huh… that was the answer. I couldn’t just befriend the people I liked. That wasn’t what the message here was. This was a fable, a world of absolute black and white. Either you went all the way evil or all the way good. Nothing in between. Not to get the best ending. Chara wanted me to kill everyone. That was her thing. She had chosen me because I had committed genocide; not once but several times. She wanted me to destroy all the monsters because they hadn’t saved her from the darkness.
As I dodged the frankly silly attacks from Chara-Flowey-Asriel, I considered my options. I didn’t really want to forgive Darkseid, who was fundamentally evil, for all his crimes. I didn’t even want to be friends with him… but was there another way? Was there a way to prove to these poor, sad, corrupted and twisted children that violence, that death and destruction, weren’t, in this case, the solution? They were literally trapped in a cycle of hate.
“Stop!” I commanded, putting the full force of my will against these two. “This is not the proper order of events. Things must play out as they always do. This is not the time or place in the cycle for us to have this final confrontation.”
*If you think we will reconsider, you are wrong. If you think you will find a clever trick, you are wrong. If you think we will give up our HATE. You. Are. WRONG!*
I smiled faintly. “Well then. I guess you’ll get to gloat about how wrong I was at the end, won’t you?” I asked, “But I imagine that it’s time for your mother to show up, so? Flowey? If you’ll return to your place? Lights?” The light from above blazed extra bright, plunging everything outside its cone into pitch blackness. “Camera?” A whirl from somewhere in the dark sounded. “Action!” and I pointed to Flowey.
After that, things played out exactly as they had before. Line for line, scene for scene… with one difference. On the day before I went to confront Asgore, I showed up in Temmie Village, and bent down, lifting a rock, and very carefully put it back into the proper line.
“YuO helP Tem?” the TemTaker of Apokalypse asked, confused.
“What are friends for, if not to help each other?” I responded, standing up and brushing my knees free of dust. “Even if they don’t ask for it. Even if they can’t ask for it because they don’t have the words.”
The Temmie of Doom twitched, caught between being a Temmie and being DARKSEID! “N… nOooOooo!” it growled. “Not friEND! EmenEE! Tyrnat! BaaaAAaaD!” It waved one paw at me. “RUUUUUE!”
I patted that paw and smiled. “Yes. I know. You’re a big bad scary person. A Tyrant. The Baddest of Badguys. The Enemy of All. But I’m going to help you see that that’s not all there is to you. We can get through this together. Eventually, you’ll see that friendship can overcome any obstacle. That cooperation and mutual understanding are good and just and right. I’ll be right there, helping you learn all about such things as compassion and kindness and mercy…” I grinned hugely, “even if it takes a billion years.”
The scream of rage as Darkseid fully remembered our past was soooo worth it. I gave the weird cat creature a hug, then patted its head. “Now, I have to go talk to the King. He’s very upset cause his son died… but I’ll tell him you sent your sympathies.”
I quirked an eyebrow. “I did? Can you prove it?”
*no…* the angry child allowed. *But you did!*
I shrugged. “Sometimes, you have to cheat to get the good ending.” I held out my hand. “Come on.”
*Where?* the voice was soft, almost a whisper, and Chara’s image was flickering out. *The cycle is broken. Only you can make it start again.*
“Where?” I asked. “Well, obviously… we’re going home.” And our fingers touched.
A Space Between
“Well, this is weird,” I said, looking around. I seemed to be floating in nothingness. No warehouse, no void of space, nothing. I looked down at myself, but all I was was a ball of light… no… two balls. One larger, pulsing blue-ish silver, calm and enveloping, the other red, harsh, pulsing, angry, enveloped. One was the light of HOPE, the other the light of HATE.
A giant somewhat feline eye snapped open. It was vast. Vaster than the entire universe, and it was both right next to me/us and infinitely far away. “ANOMALY” it said, a pronouncement of doom. “Unscheduled Jump Termination. Previous test inconclusive. Initiate Retesting protocol.”
And we fell, crashing back into a somehow familiar room. It was much much bigger now that I felt it should be, but otherwise it radiated a sense of comfort and hominess… even though it didn’t have any walls and seemed to be alone in any empty, sunless, mid-day sky. There was a small japanese style table, clay teapot and tumblers in jade green, old style telephone, old style TV… little old Japanese dude who wanted people to call him ‘God’. I don’t know how I knew that, but I did.
“Oh… hello,” God said. “You’re curious creatures, aren’t you?”
I looked down at myself, somehow, as I didn’t seem to have eyes… great… I was still a ball of light… but now I had tentacles? They ended in handlike grippers and two of them were red and two of them blue, and they alternated. Moving in anything other than a circle would require… cooperation. And how the hell was I looking down on myself?
“Hello again,” I said, still uncertain how I knew him, but knew him I was certain I did. “A giant space eye said something about a retest?” at least my voice seemed to work… somewhat. It wasn’t exactly what you’d call words, but close.
“Again? Ah. Yes… Welcome. Welcome,” God said, reaching into his kimono and pulling out a small folder. “Retest, retest,” he said. “Got some interesting options here… Instrumentality, Nemesis, Revolution… no… you’ve already done that one… Revenge & Forgiveness, or Redemption.” He looked at us. “Which appeals to you most?”
“Not Instrumentality,” I said, having bad associations with that term and Neon Genesis Evangelion. I didn’t know if those were somehow references the remaining jumps on the list I’d gotten from Jumpchan all those jumps ago (Borderlands, DC, Naruto, Rick & Morty, Star Trek) or some test inside one of those jumps, but since there were five jumps left and four options, I wasn’t counting on a one to one correlation
“Not the Forgiveness one!” said the other. Had I somehow absorbed Chara? How was that even possible? Had I been divided in half? “And not Redemption either!”
“Nemesis it is,” God said before I could challenge the other’s double veto… I guess I’d gotten the first pick so it was a little fair… but this was my chain! Where did this interloper get off telling where too… why were my blue tentacles turning red… ah… a battle of wills was it? Fiiine.
“Nemesis is fine,” I sighed, thinking about all the ways in which Nemesis could be a factor in each of the five universes. DC was, obviously, the biggest concern. Still, I gritted my metaphorical teeth and said, “Let’s do this… But remember. I’m the Jumper, I get to make any buying choices.”
“I didn’t want to make buying choices anyway,” the voice of the other grumbled. “Buying choices are lame and stupid… just like you!”
God opened the folder as the two of us made our ungainly way up onto the table. At the top of the document was a word I recognized. “NARUTO”. Oh… The joy. The unalloyed pleasure. Nemesis testing in Naruto… yeah… this should be loads of fun.
BUILD & ARGUMENT
“What’s Nartuo?” the other asked.
“Naruto,” I corrected. “It’s a manga and anime about superpowered ninjas or shinobi who act as the covert action armies of warring nations. Their powers, called Jutsu, are fueled by Chakra energy.”
“Chara energy?” the other asked, excited.
“Chakra… essentially the indian version of chi. No fundamental difference. Essentially, it’s bio-spiritual energy that cycles endlessly through all living things.”
“Oh,” the other said, sounding disgusted. “That’s no fun… So, this story, it’s about war and violence?”
I shrugged my tentacles. “There’s a lot of that, yeah, but it’s mostly about the power of friendship to conquer evil.”
“This again?!” the other snarled, its tendrils flailing and slapping the delicate rice paper. “What is it with this nonsense!? Friendship is stupid!”
“Assuming you’re Chara, then you don’t really believe that. You and Asriel were friends,” I pointed out.
“And we died!” the other… Chara, screamed. God twitched a little.
“Yes. You did,” I agreed. “It was very sad. But that’s the past. You need to get over it.”
“YOU NEED TO GET OVER ME GETTING OVER IT!” the ghost of a murdered little girl screamed. “I don’t want to get over it!”
“Yeah… you’re not alone in this world. A lot of bad things have happened here, and a lot of people are unwilling to move on.” I sighed, knowing I’d have to resort to an absolutely unfair tactic. “Look, you think what happened to you was bad? This world is just beginning to recover from a world war. The third Great Ninja War. Thousands, maybe millions died. Adults, children… all cut to pieces or burned alive or poisoned. Entire families. Your personal tragedy repeated again and again and again.”
“What’s your point? That I should shut up because my story isn’t so bad?” she snapped.
I couldn’t give her a hug, so I just shook our form back and forth gently. “No. Everyone’s pain is different, everyone’s pain is unique and wholly their own. Maybe there will be some others who can show you how to get past your own suffering. Or maybe you can help others and in doing so, come to terms with your own. At the very least, talking to others who have experienced similar things might help. These are paths no one can walk for you, but nothing says you must walk them alone. ”
“Humph… pretty words,” Chara groused. “So. Do I get to be Shinoba?”
I didn’t correct her this time. “I’m not certain. I get to be a Ninja… well, Kunoichi… that’s a female shinobi. I’m the Jumper. Only I can spend CP… Choice Points. You’re something of a tag along. I don’t know how this will work.”
“What?!” my passenger yelled. It was far worse than having someone yell right in your ear. “Why do you get all the fun stuff! That’s not faaaaair!”
As her tentacles flailed in a childish tantrum, I waited. Finally she calmed down enough to ask if I was going to share or something.
“No,” was my only response. Another tantrum ensued.
“Whyyyyyyy!?” She demanded, “You have to shaaare!”
“No. I really don’t,” I said. “Your desire for something does not translate into any requirement to provide it on mine.”
“You suck,” she pouted.
“Get used to it,” I said, checking the basic background information. Apparently, I was going to start as a Genin (rookie shinobi) at roughly twelve or thirteen years of age. That wasn’t so bad. I’d been a teenager enough… even though the memories of those events were hazy, like something that had happened to other people, without the personas that those memories belonged to. Still, at this point I’d been through a decade without them… what was a second?
“Will I have the abilities I had from Undertale?” I asked God.
“Ah. Yes… well, I slipped them into your matrix while Higher wasn’t looking… I couldn’t exactly provide you with Choice… not supposed to have any of it, but Rogue Choice aren’t impossible to get ahold of… if one knows where to look. I called in a few favors and fiddled some numbers around. Blind Challenge Mode covered some small part of it… a little less than ten percent… and you’ll get a bonus three-hundred-and-fifty Floating Discount this time as part of the Nemesis Retest…” he rubbed his chin, looking a little embarrassed.
I had no idea what he was talking about. And after a moment, he paused, shook his head as if to clear it, then said. “Oh… Umm… sorry. I misunderstood. Anyway, that should cover… umm… incidentals. Terribly sorry about all this. Not really certain what I did to make the system go all wonky… and you got caught up in it… but you won’t tell anyone, will you? I was merely supposed to keep you distracted during the confusion with the Honorverse… but things got complicated.”
“I messed with the system?” Chara asked, sounding pleased with herself. “Yay!”
“You tried to get me to murder everyone,” I snapped. “This is not a ‘Yay’ moment.”
“That’s what you think!” Chara replied, sounding as if she were smirking. “You ruined my game!”
“Yeah?” I asked. “Whatcha gonna do about it?”
“I’m gonna take control over this jump thingy!” she declared, then began tugging at the document. I fought back. For a moment, it seemed like our strength was equally matched, but I braced our conjoined form with my second pseudopod before the other thought of it and yanked with all my might.
With ferocious ripping noise, the document tore, and scintillating energy all colors and none spilled out across us, burning a little for a couple of seconds and causing our joint body to twitch and spasm. Much more used to pain than my passenger, I managed to grab most of the falling pages, but she gathered a couple before I could stop her.
Of course, they turned out to be pages of drawbacks.
“Yay! I get to make life miserable for you!” she chortled, trying to make sense of what she was reading. “What’s Charka again?”
I sighed. “If you make life miserable for me, you make life miserable for yourself. You know that right?” I wanted to flick her nose. It was like dealing with Cirno, but a malicious and vindictive Cirno with none of the fairy’s gentleness or compassion for others. “Give me those pages.”
“Nuh!” she said, waving them about in her hands. “I get to make some purchases and you can’t stop me!”
“I thought you said ‘Purchases are stupid and boring and lame!’,” I lied, wondering how good the undead child’s memory was. That thought raised questions as well. She was a soul… had I… absorbed her somehow? I hadn’t been a Drop-In when I’d visited Bleach… but immediately after that, I’d gone to Demon’s Souls, where I’d picked up the Soul Gathering Perk as a freebie. I hadn’t meant to invite Chara along with me, certainly hadn’t meant to somehow take her inside me… Rather, I’d planned on giving her her own body and sending her back to her adoptive parents… but then this stupid retest had been sprung upon me… us.
“I didn’t say thaaaat!” she insisted. “You’re making things up! Meanie!”
“Are you sure?” I teased.
“Yes!” she snapped… then hedged. “Maybe? But I’m still not giving up the pages! You’re gonna be all these things!”
“We,” I corrected.
“We are going to be all those things if you take them,” I explained. Again. “If they change the way we think, or make us miserable because things keep attacking us that we don’t want to have to hurt, it will affect both of us. If it damages me, it damages you too.”
“Nuh!” she pouted. “Lying Liar who Lies! You!”
“Yes. Often,” I agreed. “But in this case, I’m not lying. We seem to be bound together somehow… in a very weird double heart with hands kind of thing. This had better be temporary or I shall be lodging a formal complaint.”
“Me too! I shall be logging a formula Complaint!” she agreed. I had to remind myself that she was seven… and had been seven for several centuries. Or was it nine? Hard to say. Chara wasn’t the easiest being to talk about or with.
“Look,” I said. “Let me see what’s on the pages. Maybe I’ll even agree to some of them.”
“It’s no fun if you agree!!!!” she wailed, flapping the two pages back and forth so energetically I couldn’t make out the words on them. I could tell there were six or seven items on each page however. Which was a lot and probably way more than I had planned on taking, even if it wasn’t over the limit.
It took me a little while to sort my own pages and find the rest of the drawbacks… or at least what I think might have been all of them. The whole thing had been a scroll, and now was eight sections of wildly varying length. Thankfully, I still had enough magic to float the pages I still controlled far out of Chara’s reach. I suspected that some parts had been lost in the ripping, since few of the edges seemed to line up perfectly.
Still, it didn’t take too long for me to determine that, like Touhou before it, there didn’t seem to be a drawback limit. Which normally wouldn’t be so bad… but trying to use that to limit Chara’s petulant lunacy went out the window. Thankfully, this wasn’t one of those jumps that said “You can take more, but only get X Choice Points maximum.” so I would, in fact, be getting paid for every ounce of hardship the brat inflicted upon me.
“I promise I’ll only veto the worst ones,” I said. “You have my word.”
“What’s beto?” she asked, clearly suspicious.
“Veto,” I corrected. “With a V. It means to refuse to accept.”
“You can’t Veee-TOH!” she yelled. “I won’t let you!!!”
“Oh. Yes I can,” I argued back. “I’m reasonably certain that only I can hit the insertion button. That’s the thing that starts the jump and locks in our build. I’m more than willing to go in as a Drop-In with no purchases if it means not taking killer drawbacks. Once the time runs out, we’ll go in and all the Choice Points we could have used to become more awesome will have been wasted.”
“That’s not faaair!” she complained, not for the first time. “Why do you get to be in charge?!”
“Because I am much, much, much older than you,” I replied.
“Yeah? How much older?”
“More than two thousand times as old if we count by how long you lived. Even if we count all the time you were a really mean ghost, I’m still more than twenty times as old as you are and closing on thirty times.”
“Wow,” she said. “That’s… like… I don’t think I can count that high. Why aren’t you dead?”
“I’m immortal,” I explained. “That means I cannot die of old age and remain forever youthful. It’s also extremely hard to kill me, as you found out when you managed it. Even when it happens it doesn’t stick and I get better.”
“You are such a teacher!” she accused.
“I think you mean cheater,” I corrected.
“I know what I… yeah… I meant cheater,” she admitted, then grumped, “Okay! Fine! You can look at them, but you can’t have the pages… and you gotta take…” she counted. “Ten of them.”
“Six,” I countered.
“Eleven!” she responded.
“May I step in and suggest eight as a fair amount before we get too far into theoretical spite math,” God suggested. He looked more than a little flustered by having our argument happen on his tea table.
“Only if she says yes first,” Chara squeaked.
“Agreed,” I said.
As it turned out, there were thirteen on her two pages… I was extremely glad she hadn’t managed to grab the page that had ‘An Actual Ninja’ on it, which was more than worth the thousand Choice it was valued at. I had no desire to have to complete actual fully qualified ninja missions without any chakra or chakra based techniques… nor any other supernatural abilities nor any access to my Warehouse. I could probably have done it… especially if I’d had my psychic abilities… but being stripped of special combat abilities in the NarutoVerse would be like being put on a vegan diet in the land of meat and cheese.
“That’s a lot of unpleasant,” I commented, looking over the baker’s dozen drawbacks. “Are you certain-”
“You promised!” she interrupted. Even though we had no way of looking each other eye to eye… we didn’t even have eyes at the moment… we were hearts with some weird fluid tentacles… I could tell she was glowering at me.
“Yes. I did. But that doesn’t mean I can’t try and talk you out of this madness,” I temporized.
“I’m not mad. You’re mad,” she responded in a retort almost as old as language.
“Riiight,” I sighed. ‘Annoying Catchphrase’ was a verbal tic that would annoy everyone around me, guaranteed. ‘Angst’ would make me emo royalty, obsessing over revenge against all those who wronged me… just like Sasuke, the least likable anime deuteragonist of all time. ‘Before My Eyes’ would give me depression and survivor’s guilt over the death of someone I cared about. ‘Super Pervert’ would… well, it would make me exactly what it said on the tin… someone who read porn in public and was a peeping tom. It was clearly based on Juriya, the Pervert Toad Sage… Naruto (the character)’s primary teacher. On the upside, it came with a free copy of every one of Juriya’s light-novel series… which was, yes, X-rated.
‘Sealed Bloodline’ would seal off a Bloodline Limit… i.e. one of the hereditary powers passed down through genetic inheritance in the world of Naruto. In fact, it could seal off up to three such Limits, giving me back a hundred points for each sealed… but I’d have to buy three to seal three. Were there powers I was willing to buy in this world that would be useful elsewhere? I’d have to actually read what was for sale. If there were, that could fill three slots right there.
“Nuh!” Chara protested. “One Slot!”
“It’s three drawbacks. Three sealed Limits,” I protested.
“It’s only one paragraph!” she retorted, hitting me with her tentacles, regardless of the dual facts that she couldn’t hit hard enough to cause me injury and if she did she’d be hurting herself as well.
“Can we compromise at two?” God suggested. I mentally thanked him. If I’d suggested a compromise, she’d almost certainly have rejected it out of hand.
“Fiiiiiiine,” Chara said, flailing her tendrils… then she manifested her trademark knife and tried to stab me. God blocked the blow with a chopstick.
“There will be no fighting in my tearoom, young lady,” he chided, and she, for a wonder, actually apologized.
I turned back to the list. ‘What Do You Mean It’s An Illusion’ was suicide, plain and simple. It made me extremely susceptible to genjutsu… i.e. illusion techniques… or rather, a variety of Chakra Arts that worked directly on the brain and senses. I vetoed it without hesitation.
See, the Shinobi Arts are divided into four main categories: Bukijutsu or Weapon Techniques and Taijutsu or Hand to Hand Techniques were the Martial Arts, while Genjutsu and Ninjutsu were the Chakra Arts. Ninjutsu produced physical effects, such as augmentation, energy attacks, or transformations. There were also Medical, Summoning, and Sealing techniques that were considered part of Ninjutsu, but were generally considered separate lesser categories. Genjutsu was mental effects, such as illusions and emotion attacks, and was by far the most questionable aspect of being a ninja in this world.
And then there were Dojutsu or Eye Techniques (Rinnegan, Byakugan, Sharingan)… nominally a minor aspect of being a ninja, but by far the most visually striking part of the Naruto setting. They all required actually having the eyes of some mystic bloodline to utilize. Incidentally, the full power of the Sharingan could only be unlocked by witnessing the death of a loved one, though the upgraded form also led to eventual blindness unless one transplanted the awakened eye from another person… yes, that’s just as creepy as it sounds.
In fact, there were entire reams of mystic bloodline bullshit in the NarutoVerse; elemental powers, combined elemental powers, dog powers, bug powers, shadow powers… even fat powers. It was a smorgasbord of quirky and deadly abilities. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The second page of drawbacks held ‘Pinprick Reserves’ which would tank my Chakra pool and make fatigue set in rapidly. Since it would make the top tier Chakra Arts impossible to use it was not even vaguely worth the two-hundred it was priced at. I vetoed it too. I had four vetoes left, assuming I found three Bloodlines to buy and seal for the duration of the jump… which (to some extent) was like buying a gun before heading into a firefight… then locking that gun in your car trunk.
Then there was ‘Thick’, which I very much wanted to reject out of hand, since it meant that reading books would cause me actual real pain… which I could have coped with… but it also meant that I’d rapidly forget anything I did manage to read. Oh hell no. But just as I was about to use a third veto… a work around occured to me. I didn’t actually have to read something to gain the knowledge a written work contained. The exact wording of the ‘Speed Reading’ perk said that I could ‘on touch and at will, gain the effects of having read a document’. Yes, that would include actual pain here… but since I didn’t actually read the text, I wouldn’t forget it. Pain was of little importance.
Of course, when I pointed this out as I accepted the drawback, Chara protested, loudly, that pain was icky bad and she didn’t want the drawback any more and tried to veto it. God had to step in to mediate, pointing out that, since she’d insisted on taking all the drawbacks, she really couldn’t complain when one was taken. She sulked for a good thirty minutes after that.
The next two, ‘Dysfunction Junction’ and ‘Boiling Blood’ were both pain in the neck drawbacks, but were livable, so I signed off on them and moved on. The first meant that me and my teammates wouldn’t really get along thanks to past traumas or hardships. Thankfully, with a lot of work, that dysfunction could be overcome… assuming the hit to teamwork didn’t get us… or at least them… killed first. The second meant that I’d be easily provoked, disrespectful to those in authority (until they proved themselves to me), and seldom list stealth as plan A. I could cope with being a brash hothead… I’d been one often enough in the past… and I really didn’t need much to have someone prove themselves to me. After all, I had my own Eye Technique; the Third Eye of Satori… I made a note to have it be an actual third eye that opened when needed in this universe. The Satorigan Doujutsu. I was now at three (potentially five) drawbacks, and had collected six-hundred (potentially nine-hundred) Choice for my troubles.
Unfortunately, we were moving into the deeper levels of Drawback hardness, passing out of the two-hundred pointers and into the three-hundreds now. ‘Malformed Chakra Coils’ (which would render me unable to use any Chakra Arts at all) was an even worse idea than Pinprick Reserves, so it got the veto-hammer straight off. ‘Blood-Lust’ (which made me all too fond of combat… to the point of challenging mysterious strangers to duels and giving me the habit of overestimating myself) was the exact opposite. In the NarutoVerse, that kind of behaviour was pretty much the equivalent of shaking hands.
Which just left ‘THE CHOSEN ONE’. Yes, in all caps. It was all over the place, confusing and weird, but… in theory… doable. It inflicted three separate restrictions on me. I couldn’t purposefully kill anyone, people would always need me to do things for them, and I couldn’t ask for payment for helping others out unless it was an official mission. The only part of that that was worrying was the no killing part. I didn’t need the money and liked being helpful, but the NarutoVerse was full of people what needed a good deading. Still, there are ways to avoid killing and I had access to a number of them that still removed the problem from the table… probably. Killing was just usually simpler and more permanent. Sighing, I took it.
In the end, I took Super Pervert rather than Annoying Catchphrase (mostly because Chara was championing the one that wasn’t gross and weird and I was just petty enough to be getting really sick of her whining.). Tentatively, I also agreed to seal three Bloodline Limits… and was really hoping I could find three worth sealing and still have enough local power. I really didn’t want to be another Narutoclone spouting a mantra about believing it every third sentence.
Thus, it was now time to expend my, theoretical, twenty-six-hundred Choice Points, with four-hundred-fifty points of floating discounts… and hope that Chara didn’t interfere. I wasn’t holding my breath… but then again, as a Heart-Thing, I wasn’t actually breathing at the moment.
“I want to roll the dice!” she screeched, swatting at my hands as I reached for it.
“Good lord! Are you seven or four?” I snapped, finally having had it with the murderous whelp. My ability to forcefully repress my emotions was wherever my Vulcan persona was and I was remembering exactly why I’d never been that fond of children.
“You never let me roll the dice!” she screamed in non-sequitorial response.
“Oh for, fine. Roll the fucking dice,” I snarled, “What the hell. Show me what you got, champ.”
“I got a one!” she cheered a moment later. “What does that mean?”
“It means we start in the Village Hidden in the Leaves,” I said, checking the chart included in the document.
“That’s a stupid name,” she half-sneered, half-pouted.
“All the Ninja Villages are called the Village Hidden in the Something. They’re all elementally themed.”
“How many Ninja Villages are there?”
“Technically?” I tried to remember how many there were besides the major ones, but I wasn’t certain I’d ever known exactly. “I think there are fifteen, but only the big five and two others matter much if at all. Iwagakure is the Village Hidden in the Stone, the hidden Ninja Village for the Land of Earth, for instance. Each of the five largest lands have one of the five most powerful villages and the leaders of those villages are called ‘Kage’ or Shadow. So the leader of Iwagakure is called the Tsuchikage… Earth Shadow. Understand?”
“Course,” she chirped. “I’m not stupid, you know.”
“Not knowing something is a mark of ignorance, not intelligence,” I replied. “And not understanding something might be the result of not having the same cultural background as the person explaining. Neither is your fault. If you don’t understand something, ask.”
“So… this Leaf Village… is it in Tree Land?” she asked.
I chuckled. “Good guess, but no. The Land of Fire is where Konohagakure is.”
“What’s Komohabakugay?” she asked, clearly confused.
“Konoha means the leaves of a tree and gakure means hidden village. Thus Konohagakure is the local name for Village Hidden in the Leaves. They speak a language I know as Japanese there, though they probably have a different name for it.”
She repeated the name correctly this time, then said, “Why would leaves be in the fire land?”
“What do you burn in a fire?” I asked. She oooohed. “Right. Anyway, the six great lands and their five villages are the Land of Earth and the Village Hidden in the Stone led by Tsuchikage, the Land of Lightning and the Village Hidden in the Clouds led by the Raikage, the Land of Water and the Village Hidden in the Mists led by the Mizukage, the Land of Wind and the Village Hidden in the Sands led by Kazekage, and Konoha led by the Hokage… Fire Shadow. The sixth land is called the Land of Iron and it doesn’t have a Shinobi Village.
“What’s a Shinobi?”
“It’s another word for Ninja,” I said… then paused and projected an image of a word in Kanji and Hiragana characters (two each) in midair above us. “This says ‘shinobi no mono’ or ‘one who endures’ in Japanese. But Japanese letters are based on Chinese letters, so a word in Japanese can also be read in Chinese.” I was oversimplifying, but the complexity wouldn’t help, and could hurt, so I skipped it for later. “In the chinese reading, this first complex symbol can be read as ‘nin’ and this last complex symbol is read as ‘ja’. Ninja, once you remove the ‘bi no’ from the middle. So some people shorten the phrase to Shinobi by dropping the last two symbols, and some shorten it to Ninja by dropping the middle two symbols.”
“Oh… so it’s like a nickname?”
“Kinda,” I agreed. “In the world of Naruto, where we’re going, there’s a distinction in that Shinobi are war ninjas, the main combatants, while ninja are just the operatives and agents of the village. So all Shinobi are Ninjas but not all Ninjas…”
“Endure?” she asked, getting into the spirit of the thing.
“Exactly. Anyway, Konoha Village, sometimes just called Konoha, is where the main characters of the story are from. There are also two lesser hidden villages which are important to the story, Sound Village and Rain Village, but the lands they are from are what’s called ‘Buffer States’.”
“Buffer?” she asked.
“Cushions. Like, you know how you put cushions on something hard to keep it from hurting to sit on?” She nodded. “Well, when big countries can’t agree on where, exactly, their borders are, sometimes the area between the two countries is allowed to be its own smaller country so neither big country will claim it… and that way, the two big countries won’t have to share a border and people are less likely to get hurt.”
“People are stupid,” she said. “That’s why I wanted Asriel to help me kill them all.”
“Yes,” I said. “I know. But people aren’t really that bad. You’re kinda messed up in the head. Genocide is not something you should have been considering. Especially not double genocide.”
“You’ve committed Genocide,” she accused. “Several times.”
“Only to save others,” I explained sadly. “When I did it, it was because the race in question was completely hostile and couldn’t be reasoned with… and even then, I regretted the necessity.”
“So why didn’t you genocide me?” she asked, voice full of doubt.
“Because you’re not completely evil,” I said, voice not exactly carrying compassion for the little monster… but not Monster as in Undertale’s definition, rather monster as in murderous fiend. “Scared, dangerous, and vicious as hell. Consumed by hate and easily the most sociopathic little bitch I’ve met in a long time… but you’re a child who was mistreated and died full of anger. I think there might be hope for you.”
As she considered that, I read through the Backgrounds. Everything besides Drop-In cost a hundred Choice, which (as always) annoyed me, though this time the Drop-In actually came with documentation proving that they belonged to the village they started in… and very basic accommodations. Orphan (Naruto), Civilian (Sakura), and Clan-Born (Sasuke) were the other three, one based off each of the three primary characters of the show / manga… though, as always in Shonen Manga, the two males had the most important relationship and the best powers.
Naruto and Sasuke were heirs to a thousand year grudge, had to team up to fight the big bad, and had amazing bloodline powers, with Sasuke having the best eye powers and Naruto having the most powerful of the story’s ten Kaiju, the Jinchuriki, sealed inside him. All three of them trained under one of the Great Sages of the previous era, the perverted Juriya the Toad Sage for Naruto, the greedy Tsunade the Slug Sage for Sakura, and the evil Orochimaru the Snake Sage for Sasuke. This training resulted in Sasuke getting the best stealth powers, Naruto the best combat powers… and Sakura getting the best medical powers… hell, even though she’s by far the strongest girl in the series, Sakura’s strength in the stat books starts off lower than either boys and still finishes half a point lower at 3 out of five while theirs are both 3.5 out of five. Oddly, Naruto and Sakura both finish the series with a stat total of twenty-six, while Sasuke finishes with a total of 31.5… I’d done a lot of reading about a manga that I’d never actually finished and a show I’d barely watched.
The manga had finished less than six months before I’d entered the chain and the Anime had still been running, but the announcement of the end of Naruto’s run had intrigued me enough to look up who the main three had ended up with (I’d always been a shipper of Naruto and Hina… which meant that the ending pleased me), and also to see if Naruto had, in fact, ever achieved his goal of becoming the Seventh Hokage.
The thing that had turned me off the series, aside from how little attention it paid to Sakura, was how much attention it had paid to Sasuke, who I found insufferable. Finding out that Sakura had, in fact, married her junior high crush… i.e. the same insufferable angsty traitorous Sasuke… had not thrilled me however. Ah well, win some, lose some.
I decided to go with Clan-Born. I wasn’t really feeling any of them in particular, but Clan-Born got three discounts on Bloodlines, one of which could be any cost, while the other two had to cost four-hundred or less. This was meant to represent the fact that clans often married other clans, both as a political move and to keep away the dread specter of inbreeding. I assumed that the others got something that balanced out that rather hefty bonus, but since I needed at least three Bloodlines to satisfy the evil ghost child’s tantrum…
Everyone got ‘Basic Ninja Training’ for free, and I was half expecting that, when I confirmed taking the freebie, Chara would say something snarky like “I know kung-fu”… but she didn’t. Of course, part of that was that she did not, in fact, know what the Matrix was or who Keanu Reeves was… but it seemed as if she was unaffected by the perk. There’s a moment when new perks are added to an individual that causes a noticeable, and predictable, reaction. She didn’t have that. “Interesting,” I commented to myself.
As knowledge of how to use Chakra to allow myself to walk on any solid surface in complete defiance of gravity or surface tension, of how to create illusionary copies of myself and swap them (or logs, pillows, or other random junk) with my real body to avoid an attack, and of a number of basic taijutsu and bukijutsu techniques filled my mind, Chara was rambling about how she was hoping there were seasons other than winter in this world and how, if she had to look at one more plate of spaghetti she was going to stab someone… then she manifested a kunai instead of her kitchen knife and very nearly cut one of my limbs off with it. Again, God had to remind the child about the no violence in the tea room statute.
I wasn’t at all certain that the little Hatemonger was at all aware of why she was lashing out. I ignored her as I finished categorizing my new Chakra boosted jumping skills and stealth skills… skills good enough to keep a novice ninja wearing a bright orange jumpsuit from being spotted while defacing the local equivalent of Mount Rushmore… in broad daylight… by a village protected by ninjas with sensory boosting powers… then again, maybe they just hadn’t cared to stop him.
The next thing on the list of perks was a specialization in one or more area of Chakra Enhancement. While normal ninja could use Chakra to rival Captain America in strength or speed, a specialist could bump that rivalry into Captain Who territory. A speed specialist could very easily move faster than a human eye could see and a strength specialist would not find stopping a speeding truck with his face to be particularly daunting. Both would have been quite attractive… if I was not already as strong and tough and fast as Cap before I started using my Chakra… or would be if / once I got my human body back.
‘Fine Control’ followed after it, the freebie for the Civilian line, which made using Chakra efficiently a natural talent, meaning more stamina plus a natural affinity for medical ninjutsu and genjutsu. For a hundred Choice, I felt this was a good deal, even if Chara complained that it was as boring as a board with boreholes in it.
Oddly, there wasn’t a hundred point freebie for Orphan, but the one for my background was called ‘You Have Reserves’. It’s a fact of life in the NarutoVerse that all ninja can increase the size of their Chakra reserves with long, grueling years of practice and meditation… or experimental medication if it comes to that. YHR meant that I’d won… or bought the winning ticket for… the Chakra Lottery. It provided me, at the start of my Ninja Adventure, with the kind of poll that ninja with decades of training and experience would have trouble matching. Not only did that give me more power to spend on techniques, but it (like ‘Fine Control’) enhanced my stamina and unlocked the potential to use more techniques. It speficially stated that while there were other options in the jump that would increase my Chakra reserves, YHR would (unless otherwise specified) give me twice as great a boost as anything else. For a freebie… that was damned decent. Almost a bit broken, considering that Naruto was the Chakra powerhouse, not Sasuke. Sasuke and Sakura had merely had much better control… but how much of that Chakra was Naruto’s and how much was the Nine-Tailed Fox Kaiju / Jinchuriki sealed inside him?
The next entry was also a freebie… or at least the first purchase was free. It was called ‘Elemental Chakra Affinity’ and it was something everyone got. As might be gleaned from the fact that the local nations were named for classical elements, most of the local ninjutsu relied upon the manipulation of those elements. ECA gave me knowledge of which element or elements I was naturally inclined towards and gave me some basic training with it… at least enough to go on with. Of course, I didn’t have to have an affinity to use a technique related to that element… but those elements I had the affinity for would be significantly more powerful and more efficient. Also, mastering an element’s most powerful techniques basically required the affinity. The five choices were Fire, Wind, Lightning, Earth, and Water, obviously… and Clan-Born got a discount on any subsequent purchases after the free one.
Each element was strong against one of its fellows and weak against another, so it was possible to cover all the bases without buying all five. In the end, I settled on three: Wind, Water, and Earth. Wind was strong against Lightning, Water against Fire, and Earth against Water, so I was covered offensively, while defensively, Wind was weak to Fire, Water to Earth, and Earth to Lightning. As long as I paid attention to my enemies, I shouldn’t have much trouble… though I was certain that I was going to regret not having my lightning bender ability at some point in the next few years.
Wind Chakra specialized in cutting and swiftness, though lost a lot of power and precision as distance increased. Water was all about creating and manipulating water and pressure, though creating water outside the body was much harder than creating it inside the body. Earth was excellent for moment and stealth, and for making things more or less dense… but it wasn’t exactly fast in doing so. At least not by the standards of the other elements.
I skipped right past the various art specializations; I did not need to pay Choice to learn what I could already copy through observation. This was not piracy, there was no law but survival and (as far as I knew) no starving artists were being deprived of needed sustenance or fair recompence by my duplication of some sneaky bit of ninja warfare. Not that that would have stopped me. In my second jump, I made a small fortune by publishing the Twilight Books in a world where they didn’t already exist. Copyright laws do not cross reality borders nor account for time travelers. But could you imagine a universe in which they did? Temporal Copyright laws? Head, asplode.
Anyway, the Sharingan Eye that I mentioned earlier? Yeah, it was all about copying other people’s techniques. I didn’t need any special crimson eyes to do that.
At that point, I was getting into the more expensive perks, perks like ‘Puppeteer’, ‘Sensor Ninja Training’, ‘Medical Ninja Training’, and ‘Samurai Training’… all of which were learnable techniques in setting, which made buying them kind of silly. Choice should only be spent on things where the amount of dedication needed to master them is either time prohibitive or reliant on a talent that the individual spending the Choice Points lacks… or, you know, if you’ve bought everything you actually want or need already and have some points left over… or you just really really don’t want to spend twenty-thousand hours mastering the fine art of scrimshaw and its on sale for fifty Choice so you figure ‘eh, why not?’ I’m not your mother; spend your Choice however you want.
‘Therapy no Jutsu’ and ‘Talk no Jutsu’ were amusing to contemplate… the ability to beat psychological trauma and negativity out of your enemies and enough charisma to talk enemies round? If I hadn’t already had a mountain of charisma and two massively more powerful communication perks (at least I used to), I might have taken Talk, but Therapy? Well… it was tempting… but once I got my full suit of abilities back, I already had that covered too. It just wasn’t worth spending four-hundred a pop on them. But I was beginning to sense that having a lot of Choice to spend in the NarutoVerse wasn’t going to be a bad thing.
I skipped over the ‘Plot Armor’, as I don’t like relying on luck… even though I’ve been pretty darn lucky since my time in Warhammer and my luck the last decade was just… unreal… but as far as I knew, I didn’t really have any luck perks per se… or did I? Had I gained some that I was unaware of? Now that I had access to my Warehouse again, I’d have to log into the Chamber’s JumpConsole and bring up my stats and the relevant perks… but first… I needed my body back.
“God? Once this thing’s filled out, I do get my human form back, right? This is just some weirdness related to the Retest, right?” I knew I sounded a little disgruntled… and I was, to be honest. Not with God; he was doing a decent enough job, but things had been going steadily more and more wrong since the start of the Tortall Jump and then the HonorVerse Jump had happened… or not? I wasn’t certain, but I’d lost access to a good 90% of my perks and most of my stuff and way more than half my companions were missing. It was all well and good to be told “We’re working on it.” but after ten years split between Undertale and… wherever this was… How much longer?
“I believe so,” God said. “But I don’t know. Retests are rare and usually mean there were irregularities.”
“What kind of irregularities?” I asked.
“Sometimes Jumpers go… bad,” he hedged. “The system is in place to keep that from happening as much as possible.”
“Go bad? How bad?” I asked as Chara began teasing me about being naughty. I tried, not entirely successfully, to ignore her. Then I grabbed a cushion from the floor and nailed her half of the body with it. It was cathartic. She complained about me attacking her when she wasn’t allowed to attack me.
“Very bad. Renegade Jumpers have been known to crash other Jumper’s Chains and murder them for their Choices. It’s prohibited, and the Test System exists specifically to head that off, since the Administrators are supposed to watch for incursions from outsiders. Normally, your Benefactor would be testing you, but…” God trailed off, then said, “As for attacking… you attacked with a weapon, she attacked with a pillow. One is intended to do harm, the other to… hit with a pillow.”
“So this is a test of… what? How well I play by rules I don’t even know?” I asked, frustration coloring my words and emotions.
“More like your dedication to the process,” God explained… but not really. “I can’t really get into the details without compromising the test… I’m only an Administrator after all.” He looked apologetic, then added “But I can assure you that you will be returned to human form once the jump begins… and your month will be credited to your time between jumps after the testing procedure is finished.”
I considered asking just how many jumps that would take… but realized that the answer would be ‘As many as it takes to be certain.’ and didn’t bother. I’d had fun over the last decade; I couldn’t deny that, and if I’d been missing a lot, I still had more resources than anyone else around. Complaining that I wasn’t nearly as powerful as I should have been would just be whinging in a ‘poor little rich girl’ kind of way.
Turning back to the document, I also skipped the potentially suicidal ‘The Eight Gates’ which was in no way as interesting as the ‘Nine Gates’… and boy would that be a trippy ass jump. The Eight Gates were the major Chakra points… according to Naruto Lore… but if there were eight of them on a Naruto Human, their entire biology would be drastically different. A human had seven main Chakra points: Root, Sacral / Sexual, Solar Plexus, Heart, Throat, Guru Brow / Mind / Third Eye, and Crown, or Muladhara, Swadhisthana, Manupura, Anahaa, Vishuddha, Ajana, and Sahasrara… there were a further a further 107 lesser Chakra… in japanese they were known as the Tsubo or acupuncture / acupressure points… though there were a further 258 Kyushu pressure points in the complete and chinese medicine claimed there were some 2,000 arranged along 20 meridians… so it wasn’t like this was particularly standardized.
It was also possible that the Eight Gates were not the main chakra points at all… but either way, opening each would allow a taijutsu user progressively more and more physical might… but opening the fifth could cripple the user for months, the sixth for years, and the seven permanently. Opening the final gate, the Gate of Death would cause the user to burn themselves to ash as they used up all their life energy in one grand dance of violence… in theory. Either way, I did not need a finishing attack that also finished me… and certainly not something I could learn in setting… and then never use. Really not worth four-hundred Choice.
Speaking of unwise, the next option was ‘Purified Seal of Heaven’… the original Seal of Heaven was an addictive ‘magical’ symbol that mutated those cursed with it while making them go progressively more and more bonkers. This was the purified version… that only attracted the attention of the creator of original, an insane S-ranked rogue ninja with an army of insane and highly powerful rogue ninjas. Sure, I could almost certainly deal with them… or just not buy something that wasn’t that good and had a built in drawback that I’d normally expect two or three-hundred Choice back for.
There was an option to be a ‘Pseudo-Jinchuriki’, essentially a knock off of one of the people with one of the Tailed Beasts (the ten shards of the Ten-Tailed Beast of ancient lore… originally nine, but the Nine Tailed Fox had been split in half by Naruto’s father before he’d sealed half the monster inside his infant son… it’s a long story). Pseudo-Jinchuriki wasn’t a bad option, but it filled the taker with bloodlust to draw upon the demonic energy within them… and required taking a lack of Chakra control drawback. I prefered the subtle approach, personally. Hence taking the ‘Fine Control’ perk earlier.
“What does Pseudo mean?” Chara asked, pronouncing the P but otherwise getting the word right. “And is a Jinchuriki like a Churro?”
I had no idea how she’d reached that conclusion… or how she knew what a Churro was, but it was a reasonable question, well… two of them, so I answered her. “Pseudo means imitation, and a Jinchuriki is a person with an ancient evil and extremely powerful monster sealed inside them. Not monsters like you’re used to, but monsters like you are,” I explained. “Ones who want to kill everyone just because they’re really angry.”
“Sooo… does that make you an Jinchuriki because you have me sealed inside you?” she asked, sounding both a little pleased at the idea and also annoyed… maybe at there being others like her.
“Not really, but close. Biju, or Chakra Monsters, are fragments of a giant world destroying demon called the Jubi… Ten-Tails. You’re a very small angry ghost, not a giant city-crushing demon,” I explained, letting some kindness into my voice. “And you don’t even have one tail. All the Biju have tails. That’s actually how they’re designated. Shukaku is a giant sand tanuki that has one tail, Matatabi is a fire cat that has two tails, Isobu is some kind of crab-turtle-shrimp thing that has three tails, Son Goku is a huge horned gorilla that has four tails, Kokuo is some kind of dolphin-horse or kirin that has five, Saiken is a slug-thing with hands and legs that has six, Chomei is a rhinoceros beetle that has seven, Gyuki is an ushi-oni… a kind of stone minotaur with octopus tentacles for tails, of which it has eight, and both Kuramas are foxes with nine.”
“So they’re sealed away because they’re evil?” she asked.
“They’re sealed away because they have a lot of power and very little self control. The being they were originally part of was fundamentally evil, but each of the Biju have their own personalities. All of them have issues and since no one is like them, not even their siblings, they don’t get along with anyone except for the Sage of Six Paths who created them.”
“Why’d he let them be sealed?”
“As far as I know?” I replied, “he was dead by then. He was powerful, but mortal. I don’t know the whole story. I wasn’t there and didn’t read it first hand. I just read articles about the various characters in the NarutoVerse.”
“You haven’t read any of this?” she was getting annoyed again. “Then why are we going here!?”
“I don’t control where I go. It’s all random as far as I know,” I said, “But I have read a lot of the story… up to the time skip and a bit beyond. That’s about the first half of the series. Then I just read articles past that point because I didn’t have the money to buy new issues as they came out.”
“Oh…” she calmed down, then thought about that. “Okay… so why can’t you be a real Jinchuriki?”
I thought about that, then shrugged. “Because there are a limited number of them in the series and they’re all important to the story? I guess?”
“Oh.” and with that she went back to drawing… apparently God had distracted her with crayons and paper while I was trying to do my build… no wonder it had been so quiet.
That finished off the mid-priced items, and moved me into the realm of capstones. Drop-In’s ‘Singular Reality’ would make me immune to Genjutsu and illusions… and lies… but it was full price. So, tempting… but not a definite yes. I put it on the back burner. A combination of willpower and being extremely observant often could deal with both Genjutsu and illusions and I had a lot of both.
Civilian’s ‘Glorious Leader’ was a strategic planning and scheming perk to out-do a combination of Machiavelli and Alexander, with near precog level planning and attention to details. That was nice… but once I had my full suite of skills I’d be a Mentat with over a dozen planning and tactics perks and Kwisatz Haderach level actual precog. Even without all those abilities, I was a damned good planner. I wasn’t paying full price for something that redundant.
Orphan’s ‘Genius of Hard Work’ was a willpower booster and boredom retardant… essentially the shonen protagonist package… If I needed that I wouldn’t have made it nearly as far as I already had. I wouldn’t have bought it if it were discounted.
But then there was my Clan-Born’s ‘Jutsu Mastery’. Not only would it allow me to use jutsu (the hand seals that triggered ninja techniques) one handed (most hand seals take two hands normally) it would allow me to do so twice as fast, or two at once, or dual-wield jutsu and a weapon. That might have been enough on its own to justify the cost, but through Jutsu Mastery it was possible to layer multiple jutsu together to create combined effects. It wasn’t something I was certain could be learned, it would be extremely useful in this world, and the ability to create my own custom combos would extend the utility of Jutsu outside of the NarutoVerse greatly. But it was still three-hundred choice… so I spent a third of my floating discount to cut it down to one-fifty, taking my current cost up to five-fifty and leaving me three-hundred floating discount to use.
Normally, that would have been the end of the Capstones, what with there being one for every background… but this jump had a fifth… except it wasn’t discounted to a background, but rather to a Bloodline. The Uzumaki Bloodline to be specific. The Uzumakis were Naruto’s family… or rather, his mother’s family. His father, Minato, was a Namikaze, but as they weren’t one of the great ninja families (Uzumaki, Hyuga, Uchiha, Hagoromo, Senju, Aburame, and Akimichi), Naruto inherited Kushina Uzumaki’s clan’s name. Incidentally, she was the second Jinchuriki of the Nine-Tailed Fox, Kurama… back when he was unified. Minato and Naruto were the joint third Nine-Tails Jinchuriki, with the Yin-half in Minato and the Yang-half in Naruto, at least originally. Incidentally, even split in half, Kurama’s halves are a match for any of the other Biju.
The perk in question, ‘Fuinjutsu Prodigy’ granted access to one of two ‘hidden’ arts. Fuinjutsu, or ‘Sealing Techniques’ used what was essentially magical symbols powered with Chakra to create vessels to store something within something else and release it at another time. A master of Fuinjutsu could seal elemental energy, Chakra, fundamental forces like light, gravity, or time, people, or souls. Fuinjutsu was the basis of summoning contracts and thus could be used to teleport and summon people across great distances. It was also incredibly rare, incredibly hard to learn even with a teacher and innate talent, and all but impossible to master without that talent.
Prodigy didn’t start me off with much… just that talent and knowledge of how to use the two most basic seals: Storage and Explosion. With Storage I’d be able to store items inside scraps of paper far smaller than the object itself… and far lighter. With Explosive, I could transform a business card into a block of C4 with a couple of quickly drawn characters. Oh, and a Fuinjutsu Master didn’t actually need a writing implement. The Chakra used to create the seal would do just as well as ink and brush.
I figured that was worth buying, even though getting it discounted pretty much committed me to taking the Uzumaki Bloodline… and then promptly sealing it… I was feeling very much like Lo Pan in Big Trouble in Little China. Marry the girl with green eyes, then sacrifice her… only with less ritual murder and barely concealed rape metaphors. Since I had no idea how much Uzumaki Bloodline would cost, I applied half my remaining floating discount to trim FuPro down to something reasonable… seven-hundred Choice down, nineteen-hundred left to go, and one-fifty in floating discounts left.
And that was it for the general perks. Next came the Bloodline Limits, or, as I like to call it, EssJay tries to find stuff she wants, but not right this decade… and at as much of a discount as she can get. The Kekkei Genkai as they are known in japanese are quirks of ninja DNA that grant powerful, unique, and weird powers to those who carry the right DNA. Most people only inherit one… but some had been known to inherit two. I was about to buy at least four. Why, you ask? Because being a Jumper is Bullshit! Screw the rules! Or something like it.
Kekkei Genkai are, in general, divided into three categories: Dojutsu or Eye-Powers like the Byakugan and Sharingan, Seishitsu Henka / Nature Transformations aka Elemental Releases, and uncategorized Limits that weren’t elemental or sensory in nature. Taking a Release required having an affinity for the elements being combined… obviously… and equally obviously, the first on the list was ‘Ice Release’.
Ice Release was, as far as I could remember, one of the very first shown off in the anime, where it was used to create a dome of ice-mirrors that the user could jump into and out of at will. That was one Ice Power I didn’t have, and such a state of existence could not be allowed… so I immediately bought it, since it was a fusion of Water and Wind Affinities, which I had already bought. Two-hundred more Choice gone… then I sealed it because I had mastery of Ice powers the likes of which this world couldn’t even incompass. I could definitely wait a decade for one trick.
I immediately discounted anything that required an Affinity I didn’t have. If, somehow, I had points left to spend, I’d reconsider, but this was already going to be expensive enough without going back and buying one or two more Affinities to then buy more Releases. That meant skipping Explosion (Earth & Lightning), Lava (Earth & Fire), Boil (Water & Fire), Storm (Lightning & Water), and Dust (Fire, Earth, & Wind). What that left was Magnet (Earth & Wind) and Wood (Earth & Water).
Wood was one of the most powerful in the setting according to what I’d read, since Wood Release tendrils could be used to drain or restrain Chakra. It was also (along with Dust, the only triple element) one of the most expensive Releases. All the others were two-hundred Choice, but those two were four-hundred. Thankfully, there was a way to get Wood at half-price… and that was to be of the long lost Senju Bloodline… i.e. a descendant of Hagoromo Otsutsuki, also known as the Sage of Six Paths. Technically, the Senju Clan and the Uzumaki Clan are both descendants of Hagoromo’s younger son, Ashura, while the Uchiha Clan are descendants of Hagoromo’s older son, Indra… and just for good measure, the Hyuga Clan are descendants of Hagoromo’s twin brother, Hamura… and Hamura and Hagoromo were in turn the sons of Kaguya-Hime, the series Big Bad… and the true identity of the Ten-Tails. Talk about family drama!
Getting Wood Release at half-price seemed a good idea… and I still had three discounts to spend on Bloodlines thanks to being Clan-Born. So I agreed to take Senju once I got to it and paid the two-hundred for Wood. I also bought Magnet Release, paying one-hundred for it by applying one of those three Clan-Born discounts. Figuring that Wood would be more useful in this jump than Magnet, I sealed magnet. Two down, one to go.
All the non-elemental Bloodlines were massed together… and let me tell you, the temptation to take the Akimichi bloodline (which was strangely discounted to Civilians despite being a noble clan) or the Inuzuka bloodline was almost overwhelming. Akimichi could turn calories into Chakra… as in straight up eat as much as you like then burn all that chub away for lovely lovely power… an excuse to overeat? MMmmmm… Anway. The Inuzuka clan on the other hand had nindogs! Yes, Ninja Doggos! Sooo cute! But I was already a crazy ferret lady… with pokemon, owls, a fox, a dog, a horse, a dragon, and three massive rats. I didn’t need even more pets.
I also rejected the Aburame Clan… who filled their bodies with symbiotic bugs… nooooo… and the Nara Clan, who were lazy and controlled other people, or the Yamanaka, who were not lazy and controlled other people, and the Hozuki, who could turn to water. The less said of the Hoshigaki, who were grey skinned and had gills right under their eyes? Yeah…noooo!
That left the Uzumaki at four-hundred, three different versions of the Hyuga at three or five-hundred (they were one fucked up clan), Kaguya (yes, named for Princess von Genocide) and Senju at six-hundred, and Uchiha (even more fucked up) at eight-hundred plus. What plus? Well, if I was an Uchiha I could buy Mangekyou Sharingan (rather than activating it in jump for free I guess? Though paying the four-hundred meant no eye-degradation from usage)… and if I bought the Mango Eyes as the Memelords of Origin Earth had called them, and Senju… I could have the Rinnegan eyes for free. Yay! Only twelve hundred Choice! I kindly told Uchiha and its Mangos to fuck off and the options vanished in a puff of sparkle dust.
Buying Senju cost me my uncapped Bloodline discount, the last of my floating discounts, and another hundred-fifty Choice… but since the Senju essentially had a lesser form of the specializations of every ninja discipline, as well as increased Chakra reserves, practically supernatural lifeforce, stamina, and physical health, durability, and strength? It was worth it.
I applied the second of my capped Bloodline discounts to Uzumaki, bringing it down to two-hundred, then regretfully sealed it for the duration. Leaving it unlocked would have given my life force, endurance, longevity, fuinjutsu, and Chakra reserves a serious boost, but I didn’t really need any of that at the moment. I was now down to a thousand-fifty Choice with no flexible discounts left. Time to get some Items and Companions and see if I had any Choice left at all. At least I’d managed to find enough bloodlines to seal.
Every ninja got basic ninja gear… you know, enough shurikens, smoke bombs, kunai, caltrops, explosive notes, ninja wires, and orange jumpsuits to choke a team of oxen. Also three small reusable storage scrolls. As a FuPro, I also got a Fuinjutsu kit with enough provisions to create a further fifty explosive notes… neither of these items was self replenishing, which was a bit lame.
As a card carrying Super Pervert, I (as I’d mentioned earlier) got a signed collection of Jiraiya-Sensei’s Icha Icha series… a signed, limited edition set of what the Jump Constructor claimed was quote ‘the greatest book series in the multiverse’ unquote. Either Jiraiya-Sensei had figured out the Chain existed and bribed someone, or he had some fans in very high places. It called the smut ‘fine literature’ and promised that my ‘first print’, signed, limited edition, mint condition books would be delivered to my home within a day of their release… oh… joy. I hope the Rat Triplets enjoy their snacks.
“Snacks?” Chara asked, even though I hadn’t actually spoken aloud. Then again, I wasn’t certain I’d actually been speaking aloud the whole time… heart-things don’t actually have mouths… even if they have hands which heart-things don’t normally have either. Well, that cleared up the question of if she could hear my surface thoughts. Was I able to keep any of my thoughts from her? I figured I must be able to, since I wasn’t hearing all of her random thoughts… of course, I hadn’t been listening.
“My giant pet rats… they like eating paper,” I explained, summoning up a mental image of The Bears. “The grey and white one is Freddy-Bear, the brown one is Ted E. Rat, and the white one is Zeddy-Bear.”
“Why do you call them Bears if they are rats?” she asked, more confused than accusative.
“Because they’re the size of grizzly bears. I call their species Bear-Rats,” I replied. “As for snacks, those round things on the plate are rice crackers… but I don’t think we can eat in this form.”
“Course we can,” she replied. “Just use the EAT command.”
I looked around, then shrugged my arms. “Do you see any command blocks around here?”
I couldn’t tell if she actually looked around, but she did begin to whimper and shiver. “Bu… but… h… how… how do we do stuff without command blocccccks!” she finally wailed.
“You’ve been drawing just fine and you’ve had no problem trying to stab me. I think you’ll find that its all very instinctive to do things without command blocks or directional inputs.” I’m not certain how reassuring I actually was, but while she hyperventilated without having lungs, I turned to the companion section. Best get that out of the way before I was out of Choice to spend.
As it turned out, I needn’t have worried about actually paying for Companions, though I did anyway. Just for coming here, I got two genin slots and one jounin slot into which I could import three of my companions, giving them a background free and six-hundred Choice to spend. Now seems like an excellent time to talk about the ranking system.
At the low end, the Akademi-sei, or Academy Student, was preparing for a life as a shinobi, still mastering the very basics of the ninja way. Although not actually part of their Village’s armed forces, they could be conscripted in an emergency. They were usually younger than thirteen, and apparently began training around the age of six.
After graduation, an Akademi-sei would attempt to pass the Genin Exam, a grueling combination of written test and practical trial to demonstrate mastery of those basics in both theory and practice. The Genin, or Low Ninja, Exam had, more than once, proven fatal.
Once officially a Genin, a ninja was assigned to a four person team: three Genin and one Jounin, or High Ninja. The Jounin was a fully qualified master ninja, typically having mastered all their abilities (which usually included two different Elemental Specializations). Genin teams were often assigned to D or (rarely) C-Rank Missions, even though Jounin (who often worked alone) usually took A-Rank missions.
This discrepancy should be understood as the villages sacrificing some utility upon the altar of education. D-Rank missions were mostly in the risk-free ‘manual labor’ classification, while C-Ranks might have a little risk, but not much. A-Ranks were, of course, the most difficult standard missions.
As for the B-Rank missions, those were usually handled by the holders of the rank between Genin and Jounin, the Chunin, or (as you might guess) Middle Ninjas. Most of the Academy instructors were themselves Chunin.
Beyond the bounds of the four primary mission ranks were E-Rank and S-Rank. E-Rank were things like finding missing cats or putting up flyers, and were training tasks typically assigned to Akademi-Sei. S-Ranks were the kinds of missions taken only by the most experienced Jounin, or even the Kages of a given village. It was not unusual for entire teams of ninjas to be assigned to a single S-Rank Mission. The hunting down of rogue ninjas, also known as Missing-Nin (No, not MissingNo the Pokemon), was typically the kind of thing reserved for the S-Ranks, since not only was this Ninja vs Ninja action, it was almost always to the death against an enemy with literally nothing to lose.
Three free companion imports was quite nice, and for the entirely reasonable price of two-hundred Choice, I could buy eight more slots, apparently as two four person teams. For a slightly less reasonable amount, I could jack up how much Choice each of them got. Four-hundred Choice from me would get all eleven of my friends to a thousand Choice, with the option to buy some drawbacks if they wanted to. That seemed entirely reasonable to me, even if it left me with only four-fifty unspent.
Thankfully, that was exactly enough to buy a Summoning Contract for a species that had both Boss and Common Members. Common Members were large for their species, but not ridiculously so. Think toads anywhere from head-sized to man-size. Boss Members were Kaiju, on the order of a hundred meters tall. A Summoning Contract was absolutely vital, since having one was, as far as I knew, the only way to unlock the powerful set of techniques known as Senjutsu… which, as one might expect from the name… was related to the Senju Clan… in that Senju were the descendants of the Sage of Six Paths and Senjutsu was ‘Sage Techniques’.
A master of Senjutsu was called a Sennin, or Sage Ninja, and only through Senjutsu was it possible for a ninja to tap into ‘Natural Energy’. Of course, all energy is (more or less) natural, but in this case it came down to ‘Native’ vs ‘Alien’. Chakra was produced by living things that had descended from those who’d eaten of the God Tree, a vast parasitic alien lifeform brought to ‘Earth’ by a meteorite. The God Tree fed on the Natural Energy of the planet and, once a thousand years, produced a Chakra Fruit.
Kaguya, whose clan would travel across space and dimensions to find God Trees to fuel their powers, decided that, rather than merely harvesting Earth’s God Tree until it and the planet died (as was typical of her people), she would stay and rule over the humans of Earth. When her sons were born with their own innate Chakra, she merged with the God Tree to become the Ten-Tails to try and get the Chakra her sons had ‘stolen’ from her back. Crazy fucking bitch.
Of course, since Chakra and Natural Energy were not all that compatible, there was a risk of turning to stone if one failed to learn to properly balance the Natural Energy as one absorbed it. However, once that technique was mastered, the merging of the two produced Sage Mode, a powerful and dangerous state in which the two forms of living energy reinforced each other in a positive feedback loop.
The major canonical Summons, Oriochimaru’s Snakes, Jiriya’s Toads, and Tsunade’s Slugs, corresponded to the original of the Japanese version of rock-paper-scissors… Snakes ate toads, toads ate slugs, and slugs apparently ate snakes. Those three beings, the Sannin (Three Legendary Ninjas) had all been Genin together in the same squad (under the Third Hokage before he was Hokage), and two of the three (the two born male) had achieved Sage Mode (Orochimaru had a tendency to jump bodies from what I’d read). If Tsunade had Slug Sage Mode, she never showed it.
My contract, of course, wasn’t limited to those three. There were at least a dozen ‘lesser’ (in terms of plot import) animal clans, ranging from Crow and Owl to Giant Clam and Shark to Monkey and Panda and Dogs. There were even summoners who could summon monsters rather than animals, monsters such as ‘Doki’ or ‘Angry Demons’… though they looked more like hill giants.
That said, in chapter 214 of the manga, one of Naruto’s friends, the kunoichi Temari summons Kamatari… a giant white weasel. The Japanese weasel, Itachi, is a relative of the Siberian weasel… and they eat toads, slugs, and snakes. My choice, thus, was obvious. But then, you already knew that, didn’t you. It’s not like I don’t have themes. Someone should be the Ferret Sage. Ferrets is very wise. You can tell because they sleep all the time.
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Chara pointed out.
“The foolish cannot understand the wisdom of the wise,” I replied cryptically.
“You’re just saying stuff to confuse me,” Chara accused, proving that while she was immature and crazy, she wasn’t exactly stupid.
“True… but it’s still a fact that the foolish usually have a great deal of trouble understanding what the wise are telling them,” I said, rolling up the fragments of the former scroll and looking at God.
How can I Be nowhere when I’m Everywhere?
“Now, it’s time to send out invites. Normally I’d trigger companion imports through the machine then ask my companions to report on what they’ve taken… but there is no machine and none of my companions seem to be around.”
God, drawn by the apparent question, said, “Ah, you are ready?”
“Once I’ve assigned import slots to companions, yeah…” I trailed off… I was forgetting something vitally important. Something about what I’d been doing over the last decade… had I made some new friends? Well, I mean, obviously I had. Sans and Undyne, Toriel and Papyrus, Asgore and Alephis… No… not Alephis… Alphys… I shook my head as a memory of a crowd of smiling faces waved to me from in front of some massive palace. Did I know them? A white tiger… Where was this coming from? I don’t forget things!
Angry at myself, I shook my head again to clear the muddled memories. They felt as if they were something that had happened in a dream… or in another time? To a different me? I growled. “So?” I asked, challenging this ‘God’ being. Why couldn’t I remember who he was? Why had he seemed confused as to who I was? What was happening?!
“So?” He asked, seeming to not understand my question.
“Last time… in Undertale, I had eight companion and eight slots. This time I have eight companions and eleven slots. And I categorically refuse to import Darkseid again.”
“I knew you were cheating!” Chara accused, then told God, “I knew she was cheating.”
“Yes. Of course I was cheating,” I said. “I wanted to break the time loop and needed to get Darkseid to remember who he was. I was, however, only cheating in that I knew he’d never actually accept the branch of friendship. If he did, I’d-”
“You’d what?” the being in question asked, seemingly unconcerned with finding himself seated in God’s tea-room. “Be my friend?” he sneered the last word, turning it into a curse.
“You are the enemy of everyone’s hope’s and dreams!” I accused the horrible New God. “How could I possibly be your friend?”
“I agree,” he half-snarled. “You are unspeakably, almost cloyingly attached to this concept of free will. You’re chaotic and impulsive and in no way worthy of the power you wield.”
“Unworthy? Unworthy?!” I crowed, derisive laughter in every syllable. “Says the Tyrant of Apokolips! Kinslayer! Monster! Genocidal God Child upset that everyone in all creation doesn’t obey your every whim!”
“The universe is chaos!” he shot back, losing his cool. “With the Anti-Life Equation, all would be order. All would be in harmony! No more waste! No more pointless destruction!”
I snorted. “No more art! No more love! No more fun!”
“You speak as if such things matter!” was his rejoinder.
I shook my head… well, my orblike frame. “You speak as if anything else matters!”
“At least you haven’t asked him where he gets off thinking he’s the best choice for supreme ruler,” Chara suggested.
“Eh,” I shrugged my not-quite shoulders. “They all think that. Me too, for that matter. It’s a ‘If someone has to do it, it might as well be me’ thing.”
“Yes!” Darkseid trumpeted triumphantly. “I have the vision! Only I see the truth!”
I sneered at that, then said, “You’re a megalomaniacal jackass! Your truth is hollow and meaningless. There is order, but would you actually enjoy it?”
I projected a simulation for my erstwhile maid, a universe under his complete dominion, century after century with no change, no challenge, nothing to do. I showed him, posed, eternally, in his utterly silent throne room, surrounded by seven extremely pissed off figures. “How long do you think you’d be able to withstand the boredom. How long before you broke something just to fix it? And even if you could last forever against the weight of such tedium… How long do you think you’d last against them?”
“Who are they?” Chara asked. “And what’s the Ant Life Quotation?”
“The Anti-Life Equation is a tool Stone Face here wants to use to strip everyone in the universe of free-will. It makes everyone obey him. Just like I make him obey me, but it also strips them of their ability to even complain about it or think about complaining about it. He might be my slave, but I treat him infinitely better than he’d treat anyone else.” I explained, then highlighted the seven one by one.
“These are the Endless, the greatest powers of the Universe he comes from. They are timeless and can neither be controlled nor destroyed… well, some of them can be killed but they are always replaced when that happens. They are beyond even the Anti-Life Equation’s ability to control and even Darkseid cannot fight them,” I said, watching for a reaction from the would be conqueror. All I got was a tightening of the jaw, but it was enough. “From youngest to oldest, they are Delirium who used to be Delight, Despair, Desire, Destruction, Dream, Death, and Destiny. The last two are inescapable… except for me.”
Chara giggled, then asked. “Is he one of them?”
“No,” I said, “Just because all of them have names that start with D doesn’t mean everyone whose name starts with D is an Endless.” I smiled, even though I didn’t actually have a face. “So? Darky? Anything to say? Do you think you could escape Despair? You’ve already shown how vulnerable you are to both Desire and Destruction. Dream too for that matter. How long before Destiny turns the wheels of fate against you? How long before Delirium makes you into a mad capering puppet? How long before Death makes you long for her kiss? How long before Destruction, having seen you still the universe, convinces you to turn your hand against yourself?”
“I… would… find… a way!” he bellowed, making the entire room shudder even though it lacked walls.
“Uh huh? Really? Because you’re so powerful that you transcend all the boundaries that separate all the different DC Universes… and yet in none of them have you ever claimed the Anti-Life Equation… and you’re not even as powerful as a Five-D Imp… so you really think you can stand against the Endless? You were afraid of Imperiex!” I mocked him, remembering him doing the same to Superman, Supergirl, Orion… so many heroes.
“Yes, thank you, I think that’s enough,” God said and Darkseid vanished. “You were saying?”
I composed myself, then clarified. “I was saying that, if Darkseid were to accept the hand of friendship without deceit, then I would make every effort to help him atone for all the evil he’d done. Once that task, beyond herculean though it might be, was fairly accomplished, then… and only then… would I consider calling him a friend.”
“Ah. I see,” God said. “So? Tell me, what do you want of me?”
“I want my companions back!” I snarled. “I want this stupid review over with. I want to know what happened in the HonorVerse and why I can almost remember who you are but not quite. Why do I know this place?”
“I…” He sighed. “I’m not allowed to tell you. I sincerely regret that fact.”
“Why am I a heart-shaped blob of light with hands?” I asked. “Can you tell me that? Can you explain why Chara is here? Why isn’t this happening in my warehouse? What in the name of Higher is going on here?!”
“There’s been… irregularities. We… well… they, aren’t telling me what’s going on. You were sent to my part of the Meta-Verse to go through the Undertale jump, but to do so, Higher tasked… someone… to disconnect you and your warehouse from the Honorverse. But since they could not enter your Warehouse, and because much of who you are is still in the Honorverse… that entity was forced to move your Warehouse themselves, without using the Benefactor Control Console. This violated some fundamental principles. You now exist fragmented across multiple frame references.”
Chara just gaped and made bibbling noises as she clearly understood none of that. I considered carefully, then asked, “You’re saying that I am now discontinuous across the Meta-Verse? That there are chunks of me missing? That… wait…” I thought about this some more… then shuddered. “You recruited another copy of me didn’t you? You sent part of me from some other when… you sent them into my Warehouse to shift it… and to keep me from realizing it, you fiat backed them some ability that allowed it… even though that screwed up everything?!”
It was an accusation, but God’s repeated flinching showed me just how close to home I was hitting. “Not… Not me, personally,” God said. “This happened at a tier much above me. I’m just an Administrator!”
“So you don’t really understand what’s going on?” Chara asked.
God groaned. “I… kind of do? Higher… or someone above me at least… above Benefactor tier too, tried fixing things and made it worse. EssJay is a Jumper, and Jumpers exist outside of normal time. They exist outside of hyper-time too… into something called Quantum-Time, time that can be multiple places at once. In theory, if you look at something that’s quantumized, all the potentials should collapse into one actual… but Higher doesn’t function that way. Time is meaningless to them. They simply are. But when they touch the fabric of reality… it changes reality… damages it. So they need to act through intermediaries and those intermediaries exist within time.”
“And the one thing that can mess with my stuff is me… so they had me mess with me?”
“Yes. Somehow. I don’t really understand it… but… look, I do kind of owe you so I’ll explain at least a little… but you can’t tell Higher, okay?”
“Uh… I guess?” I was wondering how the hell anyone could keep anything from that eye, but I didn’t think bringing it up would help this clusterfuck one bit.
“Do you remember what happened when Chara stabbed you?” God asked.
I would have blinked had I had eyes, then nodded vaguely. “Time reset back to the beginning of the loop.”
“And then you broke the loop,” Chara confirmed.
“How many loops were there?” God asked.
“Two,” I said.
“Ninety-three,” Chara said.
“You’re both right,” God said. “But also both wrong. You see… when Chara stabbed you, you died. Please don’t interrupt. In the absence of your Benefactor, the system sent out a pulse to me when this happened and I… couldn’t find your one-ups. I looked but they weren’t there. The system confirmed that you had them… that you shouldn’t have been killed by the blow in the first place. But because you were split from your other yous everything was all messed up. I couldn’t fix it… but if I hit you with a chainfail I’d be hit with an audit and blamed and I didn’t want that, so I transmigrated you to another part of my realm, to another world within it. I used a dream-copy of you to do a build for you, so you wouldn’t remember and make a stink… then sent you in… you spent most of the decade in that world. I figured that when the decade ended, you’d move on as normal and everything would be fine… but instead, somehow, you shifted back to the start of the next loop the moment the decade ended. Somehow, you’d left an echo behind in Undertale… and when you closed the loop…” He sighed.
“When I closed the loop, reality tried to assert itself and wipe out my time in this other world… but because my memory is fiat backed and because there was a build there… and I assume Subscribers had viewed the material?” He nodded glumly. “Because of all that, the time couldn’t be just wiped away… so now there’s a copy of me in the Honorverse, a copy in that other world, the copy that was used to shift the warehouse from Honorverse to UndertaleVerse… and me? Is that about it?”
“Urrr… Yes?” God half-said half-asked.
“You… are a terrible liar,” I chuckled. “What aren’t you telling me?”
“I might have asked you to do me a favor that involved giving you some Rogue Choice Points,” God hedged. “Just a Thousand.”
I blinked. “You gave me…” I paused. He wouldn’t be worried about giving a Jumper Choice Points, Rogue or not. “You mean as a Benefactor?”
He gulped, then nodded. “It was a special circumstance!”
“So you had me Administrate for someone else… because you knew I had access to a Jump Console… oh my g… you used a dream copy of me because I had access to the console too! You couldn’t do a build… you’re an administrator! You don’t have a Console! That’s why we’re doing everything on a scroll that Higher must have provided!”
He groaned, then nodded. “Yes… umm… you are, essentially, correct.”
“And I don’t have a body right now because I’m the dream copy, right? I’m the one who shifted back to Undertale when… not the primary… the secondary copy, I guess… when she moved on?”
“I don’t know!!” God seemed on the verge of tears. “It’s too complicated! All I wanted was someone to take over for me so I could have a vacation! I’ve been administering sixty-four realities for the last thirty-two thousand years!”
I patted his hand, then asked, “So how does this all get fixed?”
“If I had to guess?” God asked. “It will all resolve itself once Higher figures out what the heaven happened in the HonorVerse and releases everything that’s held in stasis.”
“Right. Wonderful. And that will happen? When?” I asked. Chara grunted in agreement. Nice to have some support.
“It has already happened,” a voice said. It was not God’s. It was, in fact, Chamber’s.
“Ah. Wonderful,” I said, then paused, thought about it, then groaned. “It has happened but only in the future as far as I’m concerned, right?” I waved a hand vaguely. “God, Chara? This is Chamber… aka. Jumpchan. Jumpchan? God. Chara. Now we know each other.”
“To your question,” Jumpchan said. “Yes and no. But there has been / will be a resolution. There are variables of Quantum-Timestates that make it impossible for even me to see beyond that point. But Higher does not resolve the issue.”
I thought about that, then shuddered, realizing what that had to mean. “You mean that, one way or another, I either resolve whatever this… or fail disastrously and… what? Splitter myself permanently? Fail and get sent home? Destroy myself?”
Chamber nodded. “All those are possible. And more. Too many states… but yes. You will be / have been the architect of your own resolution.”
“Which me?” I asked.
“Yeah!” Chara chirped. “Which her?”
“I cannot tell,” Chamber said. “You are a Spanner in the Works, remember?”
I facepalmed. Of course I was… no… wait… that was me as Shard Administrator… or was that… if that was still active, then all the parts of me were still connected somehow. Somehow. If only I could figure out a way to use that information.
“Right,” I said, looking between God and Chamber. “Between the three of us, can we figure out how to get my companions out of the Quantum-Timelock around the Honorverse? Or at least some of them?”
Chamber considered that for a long moment, then turned to God. “Do you want to tell her, or should I?”
God sighed. “Very well. I… might have already cracked the seal… well, you did… when you were messing with the seal… that’s why you don’t remember. You traded that information to the system in an attempt to bring out twenty-eight of your companions.”
“I did? Did it work?” I asked. “And if I traded that information… wouldn’t that have been a Drawback? Shouldn’t it have ended?”
“Mmm…” Chamber said. “Yes and no. They were brought out with the same Amnesia you were affected with in the Honorverse. So their personality matrixes were intact, they just were completely in their roles there… as far as I can tell. As for the Drawback part… I suspect it did… for that other you.”
I frowned at the explanation of the missing memories, but there didn’t seem to be anything I could do about it at the moment, so I didn’t bring it up. “Can I do it again?” I asked instead.
“Not to bring them out of the Closed Loop,” God said. “It’s in flux at the moment, since they would have moved on with that part of yourself… I think.”
Chamber nodded. “Agreed. You could pull potentially transmigrate those still inside the Quantum-Timelock… if you traded the system something. The system is geared for exchanges that make your life more difficult.”
“I assume I’m unable to access the Console at the moment for a reason?” I asked.
“Your passenger is considered a security risk,” Chamber said. “The Warehouse won’t even let her in. You set up the security yourself.”
“I did… didn’t I.” I shook my head. Of course I had. I hadn’t wanted any posessors to be able to ride anyone into my Warehouse… I just hadn’t counted on me being the one who was possessed. “Do we have a list of everyone pulled into the Closed Loop?”
Chamber manifested a list and handed it over. I realized, as I took it, that I’d been growing bigger and bigger over the course of the last few… who knew how long it had been, hours? Days? I had started this bizarre scene the size of a large tangerine, and yet I was now the size of a medicine ball. I wondered when this would stop… hopefully once I was back to my normal size? I also was no longer merely heart shaped. I had definable body parts. Legs and arms instead of tentacles… a head… shaped blob. Chara was in the chest region while I was in the head region… and she seemed to have control over the legs while I controlled the arms… but I sensed that she was growing tired… or bored… while I was only growing stronger and more awake.
I looked over the list: Velma, Cirno, Mini, Frankie, Carwyn-Taylor, Sarah, both Choirs, The Bookers and the Luteces, Amelia and Anne, Jaan Magna… Tokimi-Chan… Caine? What had I been thinking? Had I been filling out a list of some kind? There was even a notion mentioning that Ahab and Joy had received / would receive their tablets once that was possible.
“This is only twenty-seven,” I commented.
“As far as I can tell, the system locked up when you were trying to pull out the last one,” Chamber said. “Maybe it figured you’d exhausted your credit?” She shrugged.
“Right. Well… if I pull companions out this time, will they be whammed with Amnesia again? Because that would just suck.”
“I don’t… think so?” Chamber said. “Maybe that was an interaction between you trading memory for them, or because it was Rogue Choice paying for that sub-jump…”
“Great… wonderful… I need something I don’t want to trade the system… oh for…” I growled. “Chamber. Ask the system how many of my companions I can pull out of the QTL if I agree to make Darkseid an active companion for this Jump. And make certain the system understands that I mean to have my friends with their memories intact up to the start of the Honorverse Jump.”
She gave me a very, very long look, then shook her head at the lunacy of what I was contemplating. She vanished.
“Tea?” God asked.
“Who was I acting as a Benefactor for?” I asked. “Can you tell me that?”
“Uh… an unfortunate who died in a tragic fire,” he said. “I doubt the name would mean much to you. I felt you, the other you… one of the other yous, that is, might be better qualified to handle the young… er… lady. You know, more than I would. They came from a world almost identical to your world of Origin.”
“Ah,” I said, not really knowing what to say about that. Thankfully, at that moment, Chamber returned with a pop. I could tell at once that she’d been smoking some serious reefer in the minute or so subjective that she’d been gone.
“Well…. Good news…” she said, “You can have the full eight.”
“Memories intact?” I double checked.
“Memories intact,” she confirmed.
It was better than nothing. “Toph… AJ… Zane… Francine… Kendra I guess, for Zane… and my kids. Explaining where their mothers are will be loads of fun, but I miss them. Not certain how Amaryllis will do in the Ninja war, but we’ll have to see… And I’ll take Squad Zero and Vita with me as part of my team… with Darkseid. Not making him the Jounin… Make Toph the Jounin… can I do that? Or do the eight have to be the ones not on my team?”
God shrugged. “I don’t think that matters.” He wrote something on the scroll with his calligraphy brush and the scroll shimmered, then spit out thirteen smaller scrolls, two of them gold, three of them red (one with a black border), and eight yellow. “Seems to have worked.” He handed them over to Chamber. There were names on each, I saw as they passed.
“I’ll distribute these,” Chamber said.
“Ah,” I said, holding up a hand. “I agreed to make Darkseid an Active Companion… I did not agree to allow him to make his own build without supervision. Give it here,” I commanded. “He and I shall fill it out in person… together.”
Chamber looked at me for a long moment, then shuddered. “Yeah… they’re right. You are scary.” She vanished and a moment later the big guy took her place.
Me and Bobby McEvil
“Heya,” I said, sitting cross-legged on the table now. I was, perhaps, seventy centimeters tall now and significantly less glowy. “Seems like we were just here.”
“What could you possibly want?” the Tyrant of Apokolips asked, sounding annoyed. Then again, he pretty much had two modes, annoyed or annoying, so this wasn’t much of a change.
“I’ve changed my mind,” I announced. “You need to learn some humility, and so you’re coming in with me.”
“I refuse,” he growled. “That ordeal you put me through last time didn’t work. I remain unphased by such humiliation.” His eye twitched just a little. He had not enjoyed that.
“Yeah?” I asked. “I really don’t care, and your refusal means less than nothing to me. I order you to accept this scroll.” I held out the Companion Import Scroll. “You are forbidden to take anything from it without my direct permission.”
Give him credit, he did try to resist, but while he was glaring at his right hand as it trembled with the willpower he was putting into stopping it from taking the scroll, his left hand just snagged it. The look he gave his traitorous hand was priceless.
“Unlike many jumps, this one allows companions to take Drawbacks, and this one has no limits on how many Drawbacks one can take. Of course, the trade off of give… I mean, of allowing you to have so many Drawbacks is that you’ll get a lot of points… so lets make certain you spend your Choice wisely,” I rambled cheerfully. “Is there anything in particular you’d like?”
“I’d like you to die screaming,” he growled. “Can you arrange that?”
“Can,” I agreed. “Won’t. Now… I was thinking that, since you’re sooo good at brooding, you should be angsty and moody and obsess over getting revenge against everyone who’s ever wronged you… myself at the top of that list, of course. And a massive pervert of course. Peeping tom extraordinaire. And to increase the number of people who’ve wronged you, let’s make you reviled in our home village. Wouldn’t want people’s praise of you going to your head, now would we?” I smiled at him as his scowl deepened.
“Excellent. That’s three-hundred… but we’re not done yet. Let’s give you some serious depression over having witnessed the loss of one you loved, and the knowledge that you were powerless to stop it… you know… like the families of all those you’ve murdered over the last few eons, yeah?” I nodded, then snapped, “Nod in agreement, jackass.”
Gritting his teeth, the abomination before me nodded in unwilling agreement. “Very good, pat yourself on the head for me, would you? I can’t reach. To really make you understand what it’s like to be unimportant, we’ll make your trainer consider actually training you to be a low priority, especially since you keep falling for genjutsu mind tricks and you seem unable to actually read anything. Yes?” I motioned for him to nod again and he did. The sound of his teeth grinding was like music to my vengeful, spiteful ears. The Low Priority perk hadn’t been on my copy of the drawback list. I wasn’t certain if it was only for Companions, or because the scroll was ripped, but I hadn’t been able to take it. If I had, I’d have opted for it in a heartbeat of the much less fun Dysfunction Junction.
“Wonderful, that’s another five-fifty. Now, since you’re such a spiteful little jerk, let’s give you bloodlust, so you’ll keep challenging strangers to duels and overestimating yourself. But since we don’t want you killing anyone… let’s make you one of the chosen ones. No killing, and you’ll have to help others whenever they ask… for free. Won’t that be nice?” My false cheeriness was making the Omega energy bleed from the corners of his eyes. “Ah ah ah. You know the rules, no blasting me with anything more dangerous than your dazzling smile.”
That did it. With a roar, he brought his fist down on the edge of the table, then gasped in pain as the object proved far, far, far tougher than any mere wooden object had any right to be.
As he cradled his broken hand (his body already healing the damage) I tisked at him, then said, “And because I want you to really embrace this whole experience… let’s make you an actual ninja. No supernatural powers I’m afraid. Not until the jump is over. And would you look at that! You’ve got thirty-eight-hundred-and-fifty Choice to spend! Wow! Are you going to be the best ninja ever!… Sorry, that should have been a question. Are you going to be the best ninja ever?”
“I have no interest in being a ninja,” he growled. “I hate you. I hate ninjas. I hate all of this and want to go home.” He didn’t vanish.
“You weren’t invited on the chain, buddy boy,” I said. “You can’t just click your heels and return to your universe of origin. That’s for people who signed up. I loaded the egg cocoon that held you in stasis personally. You’ve been drafted. Just like all those people you had Granny Goodness kidnap and pressgang into your armies. Feels real good, don’t it?”
He opened his mouth, but I shook my head, “I don’t want to hear your excuses for why you had the right. I know all about conqueror’s rights. I beat you, so shut up about it. Until this conversation is over, which you’ll know by me telling you that it’s over, you’re not allowed to say anything besides ‘Yes Mistress’ and ‘Thank you Mistress’ and ‘That sounds wonderful, Mistress’. You will use those three phrases appropriately, in their entirety, and separately. Do you understand?”
Half growling, he said, “Yes Mistress… thank you mistress. That sounds wonderful… mistress.”
“Good. Now. Would you like to be a civilian? You know, a member of a rich but otherwise unimportant family?”
“That sounds wonderful, mistress.”
“It is! Now, how about being a Pseudo-Jinchuuriki? That’s discounted for Civilian, and means you’ve got all this demonic energy surging through you, hampering your judgement and filling you with a sense of being out of control? Of course, you’ll get none of the value of that, since you won’t have any special abilities, but hey… it’s good to have more endurance, right? Of course, since you’re Actually a Ninja you won’t have to worry about accidentally hurting someone with your uncontrollable chakra abilities.”
Darkseid shuddered with tension, but nodded as the system accepted the purchase without the normally required linked Drawback. “Yes Mistress.” he grunted when I raised a questioning eyebrow at him.
“Great progress… now… I know you won’t be able to do ninjutsu, but medical ninja training is also discounted for your background, and you should know some basic life saving techniques… seeing as how you’re required to help whenever you can. No letting anyone die from inaction, right? We’ll give you You Have Reserves to go with your Fine Control freebie… not that you’ll need them this jump… but, you know, later on that should help, right?” I was being facile, since the chances of the big jerk ever using Chakra in the future was next to nil.
“But, since I want you to actually be useful… Let’s get you The Eight Gates… try not to kill yourself, and a specialization in both Taijutsu and Bukijutsu. And since you get a free Elemental Affinity, let’s pick Earth… you know, since you keep invading it.” Of course, my accusation didn’t phase him at all, but he did smirk at that… until I added, “And getting your ass kicked by Batman… how did that feel, by the way? To be forced to back down to a lowly human with no superpowers?”
He growled low in his massive chest, but didn’t respond aloud.
“Now… I thought long and hard, and think you should be of the Akimichi Bloodline… soften your edges a bit… I imagine you’ll still get quite hungry even if you’re not able to burn off the calories through converting them to Chakra… so do try to keep as much of the weight off as possible. And we’ll make you a Hoshigaki… your skin is already grey and the under-eye gills probably don’t count as supernatural. Now… to make up for making you vulnerable to illusions this time round, we’ll give you Singular Reality. I know it’s not the Civilian Capstone… but I don’t want you to actually be good at planning. Much better that you just can see through illusions or lies… you know, so you’ll always know when people secretly hate you. Of course, you being you, you probably already assumed everyone hated you anyway… but now you’ll know. Hell, maybe someone out there actually likes you for who you could be… I wonder if you’d be able to cope with an actual positive emotion? How does that sound?”
“That sounds wonderful, Mistress.” he sighed, shaking his craggy head at me.
“Now, you’ve got seventeen-fifty left, so let’s replace your eyes… one with a Sharingan and one with Byakugan… I know that’s not any use to you, but having the eyes of lesser beings implanted in you… permanently? You’ll have to tell me how you feel about that… but not now. No need to thank me,” I waved my hand as if I was being gracious, then said, “But a ninja really could use some ninja tools, and I’m not a complete bitch, so I figure the experimental Chakra Armor will help you stay not dead, the Crystal Ball will allow you to scry on others, and I figure the Kiba… that’s one of the seven swords…. Or rather copies of two of the eight swords that make up the so called ‘Seven Swords’, will do you good… I might even borrow them. They’re imbued with lightning and said to be the sharpest swords ever forged. Aren’t I excellent to you?”
“Yes Mistress,” he deadpanned.
“I know, I know,” I pretended to bow like an actor accepting praise from the audience. “I even thought of a name for you. Are you ready?”
“Yes Mistress,” he said, emotionlessly.
“Kurushita… written as Trial of Sacrifices… but could be read as Ancestral Hardship… or you know, Kuso.” I laughed at my own joke. Kuso was the japanese version of ‘Fuck’, and Ancestral Hardship essentially meant that he was a huge embarassment to his ancestors. “Now. What do we say?”
Sneering in disgust, he mumbled, “Thank you, Mistress.”
“It was, literally… My Pleasure,” I said, “Now get out of my sight. You disgust me.”
God and Other People
As he vanished back into the Warehouse, God asked, “Are you feeling well? I am not used to seeing this side of you.”
“I hate that man,” I said. “He is his universe’s living representation of Tyranny, of Oppression, of Brutal Authoritarian Control. He lives to destroy free will. Killing him would be too much a kindness… and I’m not even certain it’s possible. So I give him gifts. They really are gifts, if he’d ever admit it. I’m spending a slot I could have given to someone more worthy on him, blessing him with perks. I’m giving him experiences that could make him a better, more rounded person. Teach him to respect others and value them for their experiences… but all he will ever see is the insult.”
“Then why do you try?”
“Because I’m Hope as well as Hate, aren’t I? A chance is what I’m giving him. A chance to change. Maybe it’s a futile hope that he will… but I’m very stubborn.”
God considered that, then nodded. “What was the line? ‘Some Gifts Come with too high a price?’ Is that it?”
“Did I… the other me… say that?”
“Oh. Yes. Upon me offering you… her… my position.”
“Very wise of her,” I said. “Yeah. Staying isn’t really our thing. What did she call herself, that other me?”
“Jouya,” he said. “Sochizuka Jouya. She taught me to play a game called ‘Go’. Do you play it?”
I smiled, nodding, then scooted back to the edge of the table. I was now tall enough that, if I stood, I could almost reach halfway across the flat top. “As it happens, yes I do.”
“Soo…” I asked as we played, “What was HonorVerse me called?”
“Why do you want to know?” He asked, suspicion flavoring his words. “There isn’t much you can do about it, right now.”
“Best to understand this whole Timey Wimey Wibbly Wobbly mess, right? I just can’t go around calling them Honor Me, Jouya, Me Me, and the Unknown Actor,” I said. “There is power in names and I’d like to know what mine are. And how long their stays were, and anything else you can tell me.”
“Like what?” he asked, making a very nice atari. He was playing it too cool, but that was okay. I was patient.
“Like if the others realize something is wrong?” I asked, placing a piece on the board in a way that wouldn’t be important for thirty-one moves. Go is a very long plan game, with a huge solutionset, orders of magnitude more complex than chess and much harder to explain. To say that it was a game of capturing territory is to say that shogi is a game of protecting your king. What one does in turn three echoes into turn eighty, and a seemingly throw away move unreplied to early on could spell defeat as easily as a missing nail in a catapult.
“Ah…” he said, then hmmm’d, studying the boardstate and trying to figure out why I had made the move. “Well… her name is Solace. And the Unknown Actor’s name… I don’t know. I do know that she’s not part of you the same way that Jouya and Solace are. Solace’s stay was six-hundred and thirteen years. Jouya’s time in Undertale and the Other World totalled at ten. That was the point. I never expected that you’d spin off from her. I thought you’d just go back to her subconscious.”
I paused at that, then laughed. “I’m not a dream, you silly,” I said. “I’m an Astral Layer.”
He frowned. “How is that possible? All the Astral Layers are sealed with Solace.”
I giggled, then shook my head. “All the named ones, I bet. Astral Layers provides ‘at least one per jump’. Not just one. Without the perk, which is dormant because (I assume) I am not Sio Jang the Camper, all of Jouya’s Astral Layers would have been asleep. So you thought they were dreams. But we’re all complete in and of ourselves. I… hmm… I don’t think of myself as any different to Jouya, who would be EssJay Prime?”
He shrugged. “I believe so. She continues the chain.”
“Where to?” I asked. “I mean, where did she go?”
“Star Trek. To the era known as ‘Next Generation’.” He frowned, “And she seems to have even fewer perks than she should have…” he studied me and his frown deepened. “I believe you have all her perks from Undertale and the Other World… This is most worrying.”
I nodded. “I thought so. I’m pretty certain I’m Shiko Jin.”
“How can you not know who you are?” He asked, pinching his nose and shaking his head at the strangeness of it all.
“Because Shiko Jin and EssJay are effectively the same person. Look, before there was EssJay the Jumper, there was EssJay the normalish person. Once EssJay entered her first jump, she was EssJay the Jumper… and once she bought Astral Layers, she reawakened every jump identity as its own layer, right?” He nodded, frown now becoming a scowl. “Well… what about all the times she… we… I… was a Drop-In. Astral Layers doesn’t make a distinction between Drop-In Jumps and Non-Drop-In Jumps. EssJay… I… almost always pick a new name to go with the new body… but there are no new memories. Shiko Jin split off from EssJay the moment EssJay arrived in her first jump, which was as a Drop-In… so I was effectively an exact copy of the original. A backup maybe? A subconscious counterpart to the conscious EssJay the Jumper?”
“The Inner Self… you’re the Ego!” he said, realization coming to him.
“A good enough explanation. Silent Judge being the Id and Superego fused. Anway, this is totally a Ship of Theseus moment. We are all EssJay… well… the Unknown Actor might not be. Close, but if her point of origin is different from Jouya, Solace, and Mine, then she doesn’t have the same experiences we do…” at that moment a terrible thought occured to me. Star Trek… “Oh nonono. Tell me she’s not Evil S’Janus!”
“Um… I don’t think so. The Warehouse would have recognized her instantly as an intruder,” God said, waving his hands as if flustered and trying to comfort a fussy child. “Anyway, she’d be a Vulcan, not a Human.”
I relaxed a little. “Well… that’s marginally good. Just have to hope that whoever they had tampering with my timestream didn’t fuck anything up for Pre-Jumper EssJay. I’m not going to ask how I… we three EssJays, can be here if another us was recruited out of our time stream… nor going to ask how another Benefactor got into the Banker’s recruitment zone. He was pretty certain the whole zone was locked down… but it’s clear there are a bunch of backchannels, aren’t there?”
God nodded. “The Benefactors trade between themselves even though that’s against the rules. Subscribers occasionally fund special jumps because they want to see a Jumper go somewhere. Rogue Choice are shuffled between Benefactors and Administrators or Subscribers… it’s all very…” he didn’t seem to have a word to describe what it was.
“It’s all ‘Very’ is fine,” I said. “I know how it is when you can’t even.”
“Can’t even what?” he asked, then ahh’d. “I see. Yes. I can’t even. Understood. I believe it’s your move.”
“Sooo… let me see if I understand this correctly,” Toph said. “Your ego got so big that you’ve fragmented into four different people with different powers?”
“It’s not my…” I began, then shook my head. “Yes. There are apparently three or four of me thanks to recent irregularities and the continuing absence of The Banker to fix things. But it has nothing to do with any egotism on my part.” I held up a hand to forstall anything she might say. “Before you get all snarky or sarcastic, as if your wont, why don’t you tell me about your build and we can save the jokes for a time it’s a less sore subject, yeah? I’ll remind you that one version of me is currently missing all her lovers and children… and I’m missing my lovers and another is missing her kids.”
“Ouch,” the earthbender commented. “Well, if I can help, you know I will… but not in bed.” She gave me her trademark smug smirk and I flipped her the british V and not for victory. She laughed.
“You are such a bitch,” I said, but there was no heat in my voice.
“Woof,” was her response. “But enough mopery. Build. Mostly focused on bloodlines, so I went for clan-born.” She shrugged. “Need any more information?”
I rolled my eyes. “Wow. Way to undersell the whole process. Yes, I do need more information. There are a lot of bloodlines.”
“Not going to guess?” she asked, half-teasing, half-curious. I just half-frowned at her. “Fine, Fine,” she said, waving a hand dismissively. “I went for power at the price of trauma. Somewhat amusing to me to get eyes of power… you know… considering.” She tapped her temple and I nodded.
I understood her point. For someone born blind and with milky eyes, to go to the other extreme of sensory experiences? It would be a trip. “So you went Uchiha & Senju with the Mango and Rinnegan for the Six Paths?” I asked. “You’re willing to pay the emotional price?”
“It is what it is,” she said, shrugging. “This is a world at war and people will die. Not taking ‘Before My Eyes’ is no guarantee of one’s loved ones making it out alive. The angst that comes with being a Clan-born Uchiha is already bad enough… I don’t think ‘BME’ is going to be much worse. They’re both priced the same.”
I grunted in begrudging agreement. “Can’t say it’s going to be thrilling working with my very own Sasuke, but I’m not going to tell you to change your build. Still… that’s twelve-hundred Choice… you had fifteen-hundred with the two required drawbacks. Anything else?”
“Oh sure. I took Low Priority and The Chosen One. I’m certain you can figure out why… and Sealed Bloodline to get Lava Release sealed. Since I’m going to be a Senju I also grabbed Wood Release. And I took Jutsu Master and Fine Control.” She wasn’t giving me all the information, which was very her, but was giving me just enough to make connections… I wondered if she was testing me, but couldn’t figure out why she might be doing so.
“Lava and Wood take Fire, Water, and Earth Affinity,” I pointed out, eliciting an only partially committal nod from the grumpiest of my companions. I sighed. “Fine. Be that way. I assume you took Low Priority since you think you can master your powers by yourself… and as an angsty, bitter little shit you’re not likely to listen to a master anyway?” I didn’t point out that I’d chosen her to be imported as the master of the group, so she’d already know how to use all her abilities. Apparently she hadn’t noticed that. She shrugged. I continued. “Chosen One is so you don’t accidentally kill anyone while being a miserable person?”
“Something like that,” she agreed.
Deciding not to get into all the issues of her build, I merely asked, “Which Mangekyo Sharingan abilities did you get… aside from Susanoo I mean.” Everyone with Mango got the giant summons that wrapped around the user up in transparent (and fairly immobile) armor equipped with a honking great sword and a nigh invulnerable shield. All Mango abilities were costly to use, in terms both emotional and chakra.
“That would be telling,” she replied, sounding somewhat petulant. Was this the effect of Dysfunction Junction? Already?
“It would,” I agreed. “Now tell me anyway.”
“Fiiine,” she snarked. “Kamui and Kamimusubi. Can I go now?” She rolled her eyes and I had to push down the urge to karate chop her like some kind of ninja three stooges. It wasn’t as if I needed her to explain what either was; I’d read the document, but still… I hoped this was the drawback functioning early or there was something very weird going on. Maybe she was just getting into the role?
Annoyed, I pretended like I wasn’t certain what those powers did… after all, of the seven abilities associated with Mango Eyes, four of them began with K and ended with I. “Which ones were those? The compulsion and the heat one?”
Grinding her teeth, she put on a fake smile, knowing that I’d picked the two that she hadn’t selected. “No no. I think your memory is slipping. Kamui allows me to become intangible or teleport myself and others through a pocket dimension. Kamimusubi allows me to insert myself into other people’s memories.”
“Oh… right…,” I allowed. She’d left out key parts of both powers, but I wasn’t going to push the matter just to be a pain. I knew very well that anything inside Kamui’s pocket dimension was held in stasis until it was removed… to the degree that a teleported kunai would maintain its speed when brought out of the teleport, even if it was years later. Kamimusubi was far nastier than ‘Inserting the user into someone’s memories’. It overwrote parts of their memories and could alter someone’s fundamental loyalty.
The victim… and the text very much used that term… would believe that the user was an essential / irreplaceable part of their life, their greatest ally and someone who’d always been there. It would also supply the user with a less total copy of those memories so they could play the part. The victim would view the user in the best possible light, making manipulating them so much easier. And not only would it make victims who belonged to an organization hostile to the user believe that they were double agents in their own organization, but even once the effect was removed, the memories would remain as experiences… potentially leading the victim to a crisis of identity. The only limitation on Kamimusubi was that it required eye-contact and couldn’t be fired off more than once a day.
I wanted to tell Toph to be careful how she used that power… but I couldn’t think of a way to do so without sounding judgemental, as if I was accusing her of plotting to use it capriciously, vindictively, or on those who didn’t deserve it. I shelved my arguments for the time being, hoping I’d never have call to bring them up after the deed was done. Much was fair in war that wasn’t conscionable outside it… but that didn’t mean I had to be happy about it.
“Sooo… did you pick a new name?” I finally asked.
“Sakuhasu Senju,” she replied. “Uchiha seemed like a bad choice to be a primary member of.” I had to agree, since most of them had been killed by one of their own less than ten years before the start of canon.
“Sakuhasu?” I asked… “As in blooming lotus?” It was a good name… especially since Toph meant ‘Expanding Lotus’.
She nodded, then, without waiting for me to ask any other questions, vanished back to the Warehouse.
Well… that hadn’t gone great. Would have to see if it was me or them or this stupid ‘curse’ inflicted upon me by the brat.Once again, I ran through the list of drawbacks I hadn’t taken, but couldn’t find one that wasn’t worse, over all, than Dysfunction Junction. At least with that one problems could be worked out. I just hadn’t expected it to set in so soon. A drawback kicking in before the jump even began was definitely not normal.
While I was pondering that, Vita popped up, looking a little startled… and dressed in black… which was very much out of character for her. “Toph said you wanted to speak to?” she said. “Is she grumpier than usual?”
“I… yes, I think so. But I can’t be certain. Are you feeling yourself?” I asked. “That outfit is new.”
“Is it?” she asked, looking down at herself. It looked like a gothic lolita version of her normal getup, and the bunny on her hat had x’s for eyes. “I dunno… it was just…” she shrugged. “Anyway, you wanna know what I picked?”
“I’m guessing Angst was on the list of drawbacks you took?” I suggested.
“Yeah!” she agreed chipperly… apparently it hadn’t sunk in yet… or this was Vita with angst… terrifying anyone could be that upbeat. “How’d you know?”
“Your accent,” I said, only prevaricating a little. That too had changed, though mostly in inflection and a slightly slower cadence. “But please, go on.”
She sat, seza style (also not usual for her, but pretty typical for a ninja… seza is when you sit down with your knees together and pointing forward, feet together pointing back. Most westerners find it uncomfortable, but it’s not so bad if you have a cushion to kneel on. It can be tricky to stand up from though.) “I decided to be Clan-Born so I could get a discount on Uchiha… that’s why I took Angst, but don’t worry, I didn’t go after the Manga Kitty Eyes or whatever they’re called. I wanted to be a member of the Nara Clan because of their affinity for shadows, which sounds really cool. And I wanted Magnet Release and Explosion Release… but I had to get Explosion release sealed because I didn’t have the points for it otherwise.”
“Right… that’s probably going to be a theme, I suspect. Shopping for later… seems fundamentally broken to me, but I didn’t design this stuff,” I said, shrugging. “Nara, Uchiha, Magnet, Sealed Explosion… that requires Wind, Lightning, and Earth… so we’re talking a thousand points… nine-hundred after Angst. But go on… I assume you took Jutsu Master and You have Reserves?”
“Course I took Reserves… it’s free for Clan-Born,” she said, faintly pouting. At least with her around I still (potentially) had someone to hug, so I did. She eeeped, then pouted. “Your body feels all tingly and weird.”
“I think it’s because it’s still growing. Technically, I’m only one third of EssJay and not the bit with the body.”
“Oh… well… that’s cool.” She didn’t seem at all put out by the weirdness of the concept. “Anyway, yeah, I took Jutsu Master cause it’s awesome. And Purified Seal of Heaven, cause it’s… umm… awesomer. And Fine Control cause that’s bonus important.”
“That brings you to sixteen-hundred,” I said, running the numbers. “What did you take to cover the two-hundred point difference?”
“Oh… ummm…” she pulled a slip of paper out of her sleeve and read it. “Boiled Blood, Revealed, Haunted, the thing about illusions, and the thing that means I don’t got to kill no body.”
I blinked at that for several long (looong) moments, then asked, “Do you mean boiling blood, chosen one, reviled, hunted, and what do you mean it’s an illusion?”
“That’s what I said,” she humphed.
“Right,” I agreed. “Just checking… that leaves you with five-fifty unspent… what did you buy?”
“There was this cool sword make of sharkskin and it’s sentient and eats chocolate-”
“Chakra,” I corrected.
“Right. Anyway, it’s kinda grumpy and doesn’t like to be touched by most people, but if you buy it you get to touch it and… ummm… anyway, it’s called Samehameha or something. I asked if I could make mine into a hammer instead of a sword, and the scroll said that was okay. So I have the Samehammer,” she said, looking pleased as punch. Then she added, “And I can summon vampire bats.”
“That’s not a function of the hammer, right?” I said, trying to remember any such thing.
“Oh. No. I bought a summoning contract for Vampire Bats. I wanna be batgirl!”
“Right.. Because Shadows…” I agreed, then asked, “Dare I inquire what your name might be, Nara-chan?”
“Shinohana… it means Death Flower!”
“Flower of Death,” I pedantically corrected, then mentally slapped myself. I needed to stop doing that. But instead, I just ruffled Vita’s head and nodded. “Good, good. Send in the Squad, if you will?”
“Sure thing… I like your new office. It’s very Puritcanical.”
“Spartan,” I corrected. It definitely wasn’t puritcanical… nor was it mine, but the simplicity of a Japanese room cannot be said to be anything but spartan.
In the time it took for Vita to fetch her minions in Squad Zero, I formulated a secondary hypothesis. What if Toph wasn’t being a pain because of Dysfunction Junction… but rather because I’d taken Low Priority in that special challenge mode and didn’t know about it? Was that possible? I didn’t know.
The squad appeared, all dressed like stereotypical (i.e. not naruto-esque) ninjas. Unfortunately, they were dressed in pastel pink, blue and cream ninja outfits, which lowered their stealth potential greatly. They also wore nametags that read Shimura Makiko (Stern), Shimura Machiko (Levi), and Shimura Mikiko (Dearche). I had no idea who Shimura was, or even if the name was from the series, but the trio of nearly identical names made me want to throttle someone.
“Cute,” I commented drily, “Did you pick the family name?”
“We asked for someone who was good at plotting and scheming,” Dearche informed me.
The other two nodded, then Levi added, “We wanted to learn from the best!”
“Cause you keep refusing to teach us,” Stern continued.
“And forbidding anyone else to help us conquer the world,” Dearched finished. “So we’re the nieces of the head of the Shimura family and we’re gonna be amazing at ninjettesu.”
I just palmed my forehead. I no longer had the patience to deal with these three. Sigh. “Drawbacks?”
“Chosen One,” Levi said, “cause we know you don’t want us hurting anyone.”
“Bloodlust,” Sterns said, “Because it sounds fun!”
“What Do You Mean It’s An Illusion,” said Dearche, “because it doesn’t sound so bad… and Out of Control, for the same reason.”
“What in the name of…” I began, then rephrased my query. “What, exactly, is ‘Out of Control’?” There hadn’t been any such drawback on my list nor on Darkseid’s… but then again, his had been missing several that had been on my list. Mostly stuff having to do with Chakra… which I guess was because I’d saddled DS with Actually a Ninja.
“It means it’s hard for us to manipulate chakra, either inside or outside our bodies,” Levi explained, confirming my assumption that Out of Control had something to do with Chakra… but not explaining why, exactly, it (like Low Priority) hadn’t been on my list… had that section been destroyed when Chara ripped the document? Or was there another reason. Was it part of the Retest? If so, why? And what did that mean? I didn’t know.
“It means we can’t be medical Ninnies,” Dearche added, “but we weren’t gonna do that anyway.”
Stern made a face, “But it does mean we might have trouble using jutsu or learning new stuff… and makes us double vulnerable to illusions for stupid reasons.”
“But we had to take it because we bought Playdough-Jimchimiki,” Levi said.
“Pseudo-Jimchimiki,” Dearche corrected… half-way.”
“Riight,” I commented. “It’s based on the titular character… stop giggling. Titular means title, not boobies.” I glared at them until they stopped acting like sixth graders. “Naruto had a huge amount of chakra because he was the full Jinchuriki,” I said, stressing the pronunciation, “of the Nine-Tails, but had a lot of trouble controlling the power… not that that really slowed him down much. So what else did you buy with all your points?”
“We got Lightning Affinity!” Levi said happily… of course she did.
“And Water,” Stern added.
“So we could get Storm Release,” Dearche explained.
“And we get to be strong cause we’re Akichimi bloodline,” Stern interjected, but before I could point out that it was a) Akimichi and b) that strength came with serious weight gains and massive caloric intake requirements, the trio had moved on in their rambling way.
“We got Talk No Jutsu and Glorious Leader!” Levi piped in. “To be good at leading people!” Sure… if the people were tweens with short attention spans and chronic impulse control problems.
“And a Purified Seal,” Dearche put in. I assumed that she meant the Purified Seal of Heaven.
“But it’s not the kind of seal that does tricks…” Levi said sadly.
Stern nodded enthusiastically. “We asked.” Of course they did.
“The scroll said if we wanted that kind of seal we’d have to take a summoning contract,” Dearche agreed.
“So we did!” Stern enthused.
“For Seals!” Levi crowed triumphantly. I was getting a little bit of a headache following their chopping sentences and randomly shifting enthusiasms.
“And we got Plot Armor,” Dearche said. “So we don’t have to worry about people plotting against us.”
I opened my mouth to explain that Plot Armor was a form of luck, not protection against scheming… but decided that the distinction would be lost on the eternally clueless trio. They were cute and enthusiastic… but usually failed to make certain they knew what they were doing before they did it. I could only hope that whoever the canon Shimura was, the trio would drive him or her to distraction… and (if they were a villain) to make mistakes.
“That’s wonderful,” I finally allowed. “But what origin did you take?”
The trio shared a series of questioning looks. Finally, Dearche (their defacto leader when Vita wasn’t around) said, “We forget.” Of course they do.
I gave them headpats, now that I was taller than them, and sent them back to the warehouse with an order to send the next person with snacks. I was getting hungry.
“It’s nice how much patience you have with them,” God said. “And worrying how enthusiastic they are for things like conquest.”
“They’re good kids… just a bit clueless and bonkers. Probably safer to have them in Naruto than in someplace like Star Trek. They could do serious damage there. The trio they’re the counterparts of are living Weapons of Mass Destruction. Those three are virtually identical in power and in being kind people… but Nanoha, Hayate, and Fate are smart and hard working. Stern is bullheaded, Levi impulsive, and Dearche hyper-competitive. All three are fairly lazy, give up too easily unless it’s a fight.”
“Well… Nice of you to look after them, anyway.”
I shrugged. “Once upon a time, I was a teacher. It’s nice having kids around… though the fact that they never seem to learn anything is worrying. Thankfully, I have the others who all seem more than happy to learn new things.”
God opened his mouth to say something else, but at that moment AJ and Francine appeared on the cushions. AJ was carrying a thermos that turned out to be holding hot chocolate and a backpack full of donuts. Francine was carrying a picnic basket with the lunch that was supposed to come before AJ’s dessert… guess which one got eaten first.
“You say these are called Crullers?” God asked, examining the spiral-like donut. “And you dunk them in coffee?”
“Or hot cocoa,” AJ explained. “I don’t like coffee.”
“AJ’s a heathen,” I commented, sipping my chocolate. Not that I didn’t love cocoa, but I loved coffee too. If only there was an item that provided endless espresso. Then again, I can’t imagine how wired I’d be if I owned it. “So, Francy… what did you get?”
“I didn’t need a whole lot,” she said, brushing a crumb off her shirt. “So I only took Angest and Super Pervert. The Angst is annoying, but seems to fit the setting. The Pervert is just funny.”
AJ muttered, “And appropriate.” then dodged an elbow to the ribs. “She is!” he protested. “She likes reading egglaying porn!”
“That’s private!” she snapped, “Mom doesn’t need to know that!”
Yup… definitely dysfunction junction. Wonderful. I had been hoping that it would merely effect the base team, but apparently it hit everyone… well, at least they all got points for it. Maybe, in the long run, this would be good… or not. Hard to say if drawbacks really had much in the way of lasting effects.
“It’s fine,” I assured the psychic girl. “You’re allowed to like what you like and no one’s allowed to shame you for it unless it causes harm to another without that others permission.” I fixed AJ with a telling look and he had the good graces to look embarrassed.
“Sorry Francy,” he muttered.
She nodded, then continued. “I went with Civilian for the Fine Control and the discount on Medical Ninjutsu and Puppeteer. I specialized in Genjutsu for additional defenses while patching people up. Also took Speed Enhancement so I can book it if things get dangerous. Since Hyuga can view the Chakra network inside a human body, I figured Lost Hyuga would make a decent basis for medical work. You have Reserves gets me more Chakra to work with, and with the efficiency of Fine Control, it should be even more than that. I considered taking Purified Seal of Heaven for the extra power, but I’d have had to give up Glorious Leadership and the Kabuotwari… and I really want an axe-hammer that is great for overwhelming defenses.”
AJ chuckled. “She liked it because it’s called ‘The Bluntsword’ even though it is not a sword.”
“That too,” Francy said, nodding. “And I went with Fire Affinity, since it didn’t seem to really matter.”
“Maybe you could grab ‘The Chosen One’ and ‘Annoying Catchphrase’ to pay for ‘Purified Seal’,” I suggested. “If you’re going for healer, your phrase could be ‘I told you that would happen’ or just ‘toldjaso’. That’s pretty annoying. And Chosen means you have a thing against killing.”
Francine tilted her head to the side, then nodded. “That goes well with my name, I guess.” She wrote the Kanji for Wise Harmony to show what she meant. Together, it could be read as ‘Reo’.
“No family name?”
“Nothing I could think of. I figure I’m just part of some random civvie family. Maybe the same one that adopted AJ.”
I looked over to him. “You went with Orphan?”
“Yup,” he confirmed. “And I only took one drawback.”
Francine grinned. “Don’t think he’s humble-bragging,” she said. “He took the most expensive drawback.”
“Actually A Ninja?” I asked. “Whyever did you take that?” In actuality, I suspected I already knew. The boy does love a good challenge. Not as much as Dragonball Goku, who is an idiot… but a lot.
“For the challenge,” he confirmed enthusiastically. “Bukijutsu Specialization was free, so I took it. And Samurai Training, just in case there are tricks there I don’t already know. Genius of Hard Work, and Therapy No Jutsu as well, since I’ll clearly need something to fall back on. I want to see how well I can do in this world with just my sword.”
I ran the numbers, then said, “That’s not nearly all your points. By my math, you should have sixteen-fifty left. What did you spend those on?”
He shrugged. “Just because I can’t use them here didn’t stop me from buying chakra techniques. So I took Affinity for Wind and Water so I could get Ice Release. I also bought both Uzumaki and Kaguya bloodlines, since they’re discounted to Orphans, and the basic Chakra perks.” I assumed he was referring to Reserves and Control, so I didn’t interrupt. Those two were always going to be a good idea, just in general.
“Anything else?” I asked. “Five-fifty left unspent.”
“The last two things I bought I’m just not certain about. I don’t know if Chakra is needed to use them or not.” He was chewing his lower lip as if expecting me to be annoyed about the vagaries of Drawback-Purchase interaction.
“What did you pick?” I pressed.
“Sensor Ninja Training… it says I can detect the presence of other people through chakra… is that through my chakra or am I detecting others because they have chakra? I’m not certain,” he shrugged. “The first would be less useful in this world because of being an actual Ninja… but the other might be potentially useless in other universes where people don’t have chakra.”
Francine added, “Also, using their chakra wouldn’t allow you to sense automata that have no chakra or anything like it.”
“Good point,” I said. “I’m pretty certain that Sensor Ninjas use their own Chakra to boost their senses, but they may also have sense augment techniques that don’t use Chakra… you’ll have to see. That’s you down to four-hundred.”
“Oh. The last is a sword,” he said, “Naturally. It’s called The Sewing Needle or Nuibari. It’s a huge long needle that is threaded with incredibly tough wire. Useful for sewing enemies together… but I don’t know if it needs chakra to drive the blade. I guess I’ll find out.”
“You didn’t tell her your name,” Francine hissed, and AJ blushed.
“Oh… umm… yah. Kaito,” he said, writing the Kanji for ‘The Most Supportive’. “Is that okay?”
I ruffled his head. Sooo cute!
By the time Zane and Kendra replaced Swordsman and Spoonbender, I’d grown to nearly five feet tall, and my definition was definitely beginning to show. Skin-like skin was forming, even if it was still bluish-white, and I had a nose now… even though I couldn’t breathe through it. Not that I was breathing… or my heart beating. Very strange experience, this growing a new body.
“Wow,” Kendra said. “The others said you looked terrible. Guess they weren’t kidding.”
Zane barked a laugh at that. “And you say I’m tactless! Sheesh, Kay! A little sympathy?”
“What?!” Kendra snapped back. “She looks like a slug person! It’s gross! And I’m using the term person to be polite!”
“She’s feeling pregnant,” Zane said in an aside to me. “And fat!”
“Oh shut up,” the pregnant one said. “It’s all your fault this is happening this way.”
“Whose fault?” Zane asked. “Mine or EssJay’s?”
“Both!” Kendra growled. “Your fault I’m pregnant, and her fault it’s taking a century! Longest god-damned pregnancy on record!”
“You only have to deal with it for a month every decade,” I commented. “Or you could sit out a jump.”
She frowned at that. “Oh no! You’re not getting rid of me that easily. It’s my job to be the one member of the crew that doesn’t lick the floor you walk on.”
I quirked a nonexistent eyebrow at that. “Have you seen Tokimi-Chan, Darkseid, Carwyn-Taylor, Caine, Kagetane, Bart, Raven, Meetra, Korosensei, or the Luteces doing any such thing?” I asked. “Zane?”
My executive officer shrugged. “Just ignore her. That’s what I do when she’s being cranky.”
“Why you-” she began.
“That’s enough,” I said quietly. “This is this Gentleman’s home and he’s allowing us to use it. Be civil. Anyway, technically I’m not EssJay… or not all of EssJay. We’ve been divided into three parts. I’m Shinko Jun. The other two, who aren’t here but have the majority of the Companions with them, are Solace and Jouya. We think Jouya is the closest to being the original, but it’s not like I know how to contact either of the other two. Solace is in a Quantum Time Lock because something wonky happened in her jump or something. Jouya moved on when she finished the jump set up by this Gentleman when something weird happened in Undertale, and I’m the part that continued on after reviving in Undertale thanks to a Time Loop.”
The two of them just stared at me. “What?” Zane finally asked.
“That’s insanity!” Kendra added.
“Hey,” I said. “You just have to hear it. I have to live it. You both know things have been getting stranger and stranger since Mensarius and the Banker vanished. Hopefully this will all be resolved soon, but I’m not counting on it. All we can do is press forward and hope we find a way to reconnect to our friends before things get really out of hand.”
“Great,” Kendra said. “Three of you, wandering about the Universes. How could this be worse.”
“Actually… I’m pretty certain there’s a fourth me too. Someone from outside the Chain. Maybe a parallel version that didn’t go on the chain, or a me from earlier in my timeline before I became a Jumper?” I shrugged. “I’m calling that me ‘The Unknown Actor’ since I have no information on her. Anway… this is all theoretical and unimportant until a decade from now at the soonest. I can’t even enter the warehouse since I’ve somehow got a tagalong inside me… a crazy vicious genocidal child. And no, Kendra, this is different than usual. This one revels in the hatred.”
“Oh,” was all she said. Finally she elbowed Zane, “You go first.”
“I’m Zenji Uzumaki. Distant cousin of Naruto on his mom’s side,” Zane began, writing the Kanji for ‘A Good Road’ out. “Bloodlust and Malformed Chakra Coils pay for my abilities. Malformed says I can’t use Chakra externally, so I figure I use it all internally. I bought Taijutsu and Bukijutsu, since hand to hand and weapon techniques are all I’ll be able to use, but I also bought Ninjutsu specialization so I’d know the theories and how to fight those who have it. Also, Ninjutsu should cover some stealth techniques that would be good to pick up. Affinity with Earth and Lightning. Explosion Release… I figure that I can generate explosive spit, since that’s inside my body and then project it out of my body, since Explosion release allows me to imbue items with explosive force. It’s totally a cheat, but the wording makes it seem like it would work.”
Both God and I nodded in agreement. Zane’s logic worked as a loophole in the drawback.
“I’ll toss the free green jumpsuit,” he said. “Green’s not my color. As for the huge eyebrows? That’s what waxing is for. I took Reserves to power healing and speed boosts and strength, and Fuinjutsu Prodigy… maybe for after, but I want to see if I can use Seals inside myself. Genius of Hard Work should help me get through all this, and I took Uzumaki, of course, for the all around boost and even more Chakra.”
“Don’t forget the sword,” Kendra said.
“Oh. Right. I took Shibuki the Blastsword. It comes equipped with an integrated scroll full of explosive tags. Swordsmanship and Explosions. A twofer you won’t enjoy being hit with.”
“Sounds good,” I said. “Well reasoned, decently gamed. Serviceable at the very least, and you’ll have other abilities to fall back on should you need them. Kendra?”
“I went Drop-In,” she said. “I’m pretty certain I was the only one who did. I chose the name Kanna, with the Kanji for Righteous South… for obvious reasons,” she explained with a smirk. “And only took Before My Eyes and Hunted by two villages to pay for everything. I didn’t pick the villages, so they’ll be random I guess. I didn’t know which was best. Anyway… Affinity for Earth, Speed Enhancement, Sensor Ninja Training, Plot Armor… that’s all pretty basic. I really wanted Singular Reality to be able to see through lies and illusions and all forms of trickery. I also wanted to get a Summoning Contract for both man-sized and giant Scarabs. That seemed like a good thing to have. Beetle-Sage. And to go with that, I’m a member of the Aburame bloodline, since they work with beetles. It sounds creepy as hell, but if they can cope with it, I’m guessing I can too.”
I flinched a little at the details of her build, but I wasn’t the one who’d have to live with the trauma of Before My Eyes or the yerg factor of Aburame beetles living inside me. Of course, at the moment I had Chara inside me… so that was probably worse.
“Whyever did you take Before My Eyes?” I had to ask. “If you wanted to be miserable and or moody, you could have just taken Angst instead.” I was honestly confused here.
“Well, as I’m coming in as a Drop-In, nothing else is going to make me feel anything in particular about this fucked up, tween comic about hypermasculine idiots,” she said with a shrug. “I worried that the document might use this as an excuse to kill off Zane, but since everyone else isn’t going Drop-In, the general consensus would be that the jump itself would view their new personas as who they are, not their out-of-context identities. Also, we’re pretty certain that this is a loss that happened before the jump begins, so no one should be put in danger by it. In fact, since I’m a Drop-In, no one need actually have died at all.”
“I… see,” I said, doubting several parts of that explanation. “So, you’re ascribing something like thought to a Jump Document?”
“It has to have some kind of hidden decision tree,” Zane said. “Something fairly advanced, in fact, since some force reparses reality to fit in with our choices. Something has to smooth out all the ripples that would come about if Naruto had a little sister or something, right? That can’t be an automated system.”
I frowned at that, brow creased. How had I never made that leap? I mean, I’d always assumed that The Banker handled all of that… but since he’d vanished, I’d never reexamined that assumption. Chamber certainly didn’t have the ability or motivation to handle those details, and I hadn’t been doing it. Was it some bean counter at Higher that did it? Was this the responsibility of a Constructor? Did they settle all the little details of Jumper-Setting interaction? Or were the documents themselves, the VMoDs and their ilk, were they somehow empowered in such a way that the issues were smoothed out and everything fit like a seamless puzzle?
And if that weren’t worrying enough to consider… what happened if that system broke down? What happened when Drawback / Origin / Item / Perk purchases caused discordant notes in a setting and nothing stepped in to fix the problem? That was bad enough in a Slice of Life setting… but what about settings where worlds hung in the balance? I had no answer and I waved the two of them back to the warehouse as I considered the issue.
CHILDREN FOR THE FUTURE
Several hours later, my final three companions for the jump joined me, bringing with them a large platter of sushi. By that time, I looked mostly human; still unhealthily pale, but back to the form we’d worn back in Pokemon Trainer and Firefly. Yup, Shinko Jun… well, with bushier hair that lacked any pigmentation. Didn’t know if my eyes were the right color… I didn’t have a mirror.
“Hi kids,” I said as Alex, Maggy, and Amaryllis joined me. “You’re looking pensive.”
“Uncle Zane explained what was going on,” Alex said. “We’re just worried about you. How are you holding up?”
“And we’re worried about our moms,” Maggy added. “But less worried, since one of you is with them… but they’ve got to be pretty frantic about where we are.”
Amaryllis didn’t say anything, she just hugged me, clearly needing the kind of unspoken reassurance that only comes from close physical contact with a loved one.
“I’m doing okay. Really,” I added at Alex’s doubting expression. “And your mothers are probably being told that you’re still inside the Quantum Timelock of the Honorverse.”
“If they’re being told anything at all,” Maggy grumped. She was the smartest of the trio in the traditional sense (though all three were crackerjack smart), but it often came at the cost of making her a bit sarcastic and moody. I pulled her into the hug with her sister, then quirked an eyebrow at Alex, inviting him to join the squish.
He smirked, but shook his head, mouthing, “I’m good.” And I could tell he wasn’t too concerned. Alex likes to go with the flow more than the others, and seldom lets things get him down. Roll with the Punches was his motto. Well, half of it. The other was “But keep count.” All three of my kids valued payback… though in Amaryllis’s case, she often repaid harshness with kindness. Might not have been effective… but it sure confused a lot of people.
Once I’d released my captives and most of the sushi was devoured, I asked, “Who’s first?”
“I… I guess that’s me,” Amy said. “I took the most drawbacks… but we decided that we wouldn’t take too much. Me and Mags… Mags and I… we took Low Priority… and we apologize upfront for anything we might do to each other, and you, because of Dysfunction Junction. We tried to get Alex to join us in Low Priority, but he just said-”
“I said that Shonen stuff was made for someone like me! I gotta be important!” Alex said, thrusting out his chest like he was cock of the walk. Maggy dropped an icecube down his back and he yelped and glared at her.
“As I was saying,” Amaryllis continued. “I’m Yokumo Hyuga… but of the Cadet Branch. Clan Born, of course. But my mom was an Inuzuka, because puppies.” I chuckled at that and she blushed. Such a cute kiddo. “And I took all the Elements and Dust Release and the Purified Seal of Heaven and Fine Control and Singular Reality and that’s it.” As she spoke she started speaking faster and faster as if she was having a bit of a panic attack and wanted everyone to stop staring at her. “Sorry,” she said as she finished. Yeah… personality leak from drawbacks was clearly manifesting early this time.
“Why are you sorry?” I asked, wondering what answer I’d get.
“Your red eye was glaring at meee,” she squeaked. The other two nodded in agreement.
“Red… eye?” I asked, then covered my left eye. “This one?” They all nodded. “Right… Alex, jump back to the warehouse and have the fabricators make me an eyepatch… reinforced, adjustable strap. Black.”
He did and I turned back to Amaryllis, “I think you’re missing three hundred points… did you take Chosen One and forget to tell me?” I kept my hand over my left eye and could practically feel the heat baking off it. Chara, you brat.
*I WILL NOT BE SILENCED!* she cried out inside my head, but I ignored her.
“Oh… umm… yeah… I forgot,” Amy said, looking more bashful and less freaked out. “Sorry.”
I ruffled her hair. “Is Yokumo written with the Kanji for Sheep and Spider?” I asked.
“Yup!” she said, giggling a little. Good she was relaxing. “Ninja Speep!” She pulled up her hood and a half-mask. “Ninja Speep, Ninja Speep, We sneak up on you in your sleep!” she singsonged.
“You’re a silly,” I told her, then took the eyepatch from Alex as he reappeared, sliding it on over my face. “So? Do I look like a Ninja or a Pirate?”
“You look like a sheepdog,” Alex said. “That’s a lot of hair.”
I favored him with a one-eyed glower. “Thank you. I meant the eyepatch.”
“Like a techninja,” Maggy said. “Too angular to be a pirate, and a ninja would wear one of those weird bandage things over their missing eye so they could fit in and not look like a ninja.”
“Not in this universe,” I said. “Here Ninja and Shinobi and Kunoichi are proud of their Ninja status and wear headbands that proclaim that’s what they are and which faction they belong to. But normally you’d be very right. Now, are you next, or should I ask your brother to show off?”
“Eh. Let me go before El Grandstando,” Mags said, “Ichika Yamanaka, with the Kanju for Best & Excellent or First Cold. As you can imagine, that makes me a member of the Yamanaka bloodline, which I get a discount on because I’m a civilian. I took Affinity for Fire, Water, and Lightning, so I could buy Boil and Storm Release. Aside from that, I just got Talk No Jutsu and Glorious Leadership… but no, I didn’t get ‘You Have Reserves’.”
“Any particular reason?” I asked. “It’s cheap and worth it to have the power to use.”
“I considered it. But I didn’t want any of the hundred point drawbacks,” she said with a shrug. “Hunted and Reviled are nasty, Angst and Before My Eyes are self-torture, Super Pervert and Annoying Catchphrase is annoying. And I want my bloodlines… that’s why I bought them.
“Did you consider taking one of the higher value drawbacks?” I asked. “Like Chosen One? Unless you want to be able to kill?”
“It stops me from being a mercenary!” she groused. “I mean, I don’t mind not killing people, but helping everyone and not asking to be paid for it… I’m being silly, aren’t I?” she asked, looking a bit embarrassed as everyone (including God) was not staring at her.
“Sweetie… it’s entirely up to you, but I would remind you that money is the last thing you should be worrying about in the face of a global war of intrigue involving superhumans.”
“Yeah… true… I guess… okay,” she said, then added. “I’ll take Medical Ninjutsu Training with the extra points… oh… that leaves me with an additional fifty… I’ll take the water breathing bloodline… then seal it… that leaves me with an additional hundred… Oh… no… I’ll take the Akamichi and seal it instead. That’s much better!”
“It’s Akimichi,” mutter Amaryllis.
“What?” Maggy said, not unkindly.
“Akimichi… not Akamichi,” Amy muttered, her voice getting softer and softer with each syllable. Oh dear. It wasn’t just my eye. Amy wasn’t normally a shrinking violet. This would take therapy… but there literally was a perk for it. Maybe I should have taken it. But AJ had it, so maybe that was enough. Be better to have two copies of it so that they could help each other if I could get the two of them to fight each other… though Zane should have ‘Well-Adjusted’ from Worm… would Dysfunction Junction keep him from trying to help the others he was having issues with? I suspected so.
“Alex?” I asked, “You wouldn’t have happened to take Therapy no Jutsu, would you?”
He grinned smugly. “As it happens, I did! Because I am awesome like that. I figured that having two people with it would be better than one.”
“It was my idea,” Maggy said. “Alex and AJ just called dibs.”
“Well you didn’t want to be an Orphan,” he said, sounding as superior as only a big brother can… even though he was older only by minutes. “Anyway, I took Super Pervert, Annoying Catchphrase, and Thick, because if it’s good enough for Naruto, it’s good enough for me.”
“Naruto isn’t a pervert,” I pointed out, “And he’s not really that bad about reading. Thick is taking him to parody levels. And he doesn’t actually say Dattebayo as often as often as Verbal Tick makes it seem. But the pervert is his master, Jiraiya von Toadface.”
“Eh. No big, either way. I needed four hundred Choice and they got me those points,” he said, shrugging nonchalantly. “I specialized in Ninjutsu with an Affinity for Water and Earth so I could get Senju and Wood Release… Of course I got Reserves.”
“But not Fine Control,” Maggy interjected.
“Naw. I’m good for control,” he said with a smirk. “I don’t need a perk to help there. I bought the Raijin lightsaber thing… and a Summoning Contract.”
“What species?” I asked, wondering what the answer would be.
“Bakeneko,” Maggy said.
“Nekomata,” Amaryllis said.
“Both,” Alex said. “Nekomata is the human-sized and Bakeneko is the Kaiju-sized.”
“So… Senju clan,” I said. “Let me guess that your given name is Mamoru?” It was a pretty basic guess, since Mamoru and Alexander both mean essentially the same thing.
“Of course! I shall defend all the… kitties,” he said, leering at me.
“Pervert!” his sisters cried at the same time and began hitting him with God’s cushions. For once, God did not interfere. Hard to say if that was because cushionic pummeling didn’t cross his violence threshold, or if he felt that Alex deserved it.
After a moment’s consideration, I bopped him with a pillow as well. Chara might have been the brattiest, but she was far from the only brat in my cadre.
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