It began as it always had. Or perhaps ended would be a better way to put it.
He called, in the year 1993 of the New Calendar, to this era’s Karen Travers. Not in the form of a brain message or a brain talk, but rather a presence in Karen’s brain — a tingling awareness, something akin to the headache brought on by an SAS connection, but not quite so easily described. And it wasn’t so easily ignored, either, so he decided to humour him.
He travelled to where he was called, where that presence led him, all the way to Sumeragi Tomb. After teleporting in and giving up attempting to locate him with clairvoyance, Karen resorted to shouting. It had worked well enough, though.
A man teleported before him, his posture weak and frail, all too reminiscent of an elderly person with ancient bones. It suited him, as he was dressed like the ancient founding father Yakumo Sumeragi himself. Ridiculous, but at least the costume matched the location.
He introduced himself as Karen Travers, of a different time axis. Unbelievable as it was, it was true.
It was true. And he hated it.
Something fiery and molten flared up inside him as his head split open with the memories he’d been shown, as if the pain of the grief now strangling his heart wasn’t enough suffering.
He saw Alice metamorphose into an Other. He saw her die. He saw Fubuki die, all earnest and noble and self-sacrificing. He saw it all over and over and over again, the differences between histories so slight it was negligible, the memories playing like a rogue projector reel on replay inside his mind, unable to be turned off. Unable to look away.
And he felt all of it over and over and over again, the way the losses never lightened, the way the burden only ever grew. The way the pressure built with each failed axis, with each new time travel, until it felt like his body was a dam on the brink of bursting — all of the grief and fury pressing up against his skin from within, writhing and burning with a terrible, vicious intensity.
Just like all the other times, in the memories and lifetimes before him, with his mind already set in that fiery rage of disbelief, he knew that this time he’d save them both.
Only, in all of those memories splitting my mind open, in the axes experienced by all the Karens before me at the time, there’s something missing. Or rather, in this axis, there’s something new.
But I didn’t know it yet. And I wouldn’t know until three years in the future.