He leaned back against the sturdy bark of one of the massive trees by the edge of the forest, overlooking the sunlit meadow across the mossy ledge. The sounds of childish laughter that echoed across the valley were complemented by a faint buzz of the waterfall on the far right. It made for a peaceful atmosphere that set his usually tense body at relative ease.
He didn't bother to acknowledge the towering, ancient presence that slowly walked up beside him, adjusted its staff and settled its hunched, seven feet figure against a tree right beside him. After all, was it even necessary to do something like that…? For a being that existed above his own reality, it seemed inconsequential to acknowledge a single instance of his presence amongst an infinite.
A series of satisfying pops followed as the old giant straightened up, stretching his spine in the process, before finally giving the young man a curious look.
"Hmm, it seems like you've figured out who I am-" the older of the two mused, throwing him a somewhat lopsided grin.
"What you are, to be precise," he responded, cutting him off. It felt strange, honestly. The man's body had been genetically modified to an extent where he was able to outlast a war spanning over two entire centuries. He had, to a degree, experienced almost every conceivable immoral act that humans were capable of. He had seen the entire world go nuclear. He had seen The Great Cataclysm fuelled by an antimatter bomb, and consequently, the natural disasters of immeasurable proportions that followed it. He - and a relatively small group of brave yet weary souls - had essentially been through hell and back - even redoing the trip a few more times. Yet even after everything had ended - even after having his soul being utterly exhausted by that disaster-filled life of his, he could instinctively feel that this old man posed a threat greater than anything else he'd encountered so far.
He was too fed up to deal with it though.
"I know what you are," he repeated dryly. "But that doesn't mean I care about your presence. If there's been an… omnipresent being between us during all the crap the past few centuries have thrown at us, then their lack of involvement probably means that it was for the better." he paused. "Or maybe for the worse, and they just wanted to enjoy the show…"
The unnatural gold eyes of the old man bore into him with a strange intensity. Eventually, though, the elder chuckled.
"And why is it you're not surprised? It's not like you have ever met someone like me in your entire life."
The dark-haired man gave the giant an annoyed look.
"I'm not going to answer that." he shrugged. "You're the one that knows everything. Stop asking me questions you already know the answers of." he leaned his head back against the trunk to look at the horizon painted by the blooming hues of the sunset; the warm gold, in particular, stood out at that moment.
Unperturbed by the dismissive attitude, the ancient individual shook his head.
"I'm occupying a human body," he answered in a gravelly voice. "Spiritually projecting myself into a third-dimensional entity limits the use of my senses somewhat."
"So, what exactly has mankind's near-extinction event been to you?" the younger man asked lazily. "An experiment? Some form of entertainment? An evening meal?"
The Old laughed openly this time.
"You seem to be taking the revelation about my existence awfully well, boy." he snorted. "Most of the beings I've met from your plane of existence haven't been this calm when I've talked to them as a sixth-dimensional entity… Granted most of them were rendered so hopelessly paranoid by the end of their lives that they refused to believe a single word coming from me." he trailed off, rubbing his chin. "Still, someone like you; a war hero and a survivor of the deadliest series of events your race has ever seen, seems to be accepting and even predicting my origins to an unbelievable degree. You seem to know a lot more than you let on…"
The said war hero raised his eyebrows.
"Sixth? Not fourth?" he flicked a disinterested glance towards the hunched figure. "There's more you can do apart from going back and forth through time?"
The Old gave him a shrewd look.
"Case and point."
"I'm more than two hundred and fifty years old, Old man." he sighed. His subconscious nudged him to place a strangely significant weight behind the title 'Old', but he decided to ignore it. "I've been a lot more than just a freedom fighter." he spat out sarcastically. "Dabbling in quantum physics was nothing new in the twenty-third century, there's a reason why there were colonies established on Mars; everyone was desperate for a solution at that time. The warp drive was ahead of its time… until the war wiped it out along with everything else... " he added as an afterthought.
A moment of silence.
"This reality…" The Old answered his previous question thoughtfully. "Amongst an approximate sixty-four trillion others that I have visited so far - has been the most… unique to say the least." he sighed deeply. "A lot of things have happened. I was a human at one point too, you know. Every dimensional jumper has a basic capacity for emotions just like your kind."
"I will not lie; your reality has been entertaining to watch." the giant continued with a shrug when he did not get a response. "But then again, we jumpers do tend to become rather desensitised at one point or another."
The younger man sighed.
"Things would have been so simple… I'd have lived, fought and then died. First those damn experiments on me. Then the war. And now your multidimensional ass. Honestly, I'm not surprised it took you that many realities to come across something as fucked up as mine." he grumbled.
There was a long pause. One in which only the blanketed sounds of nature sung out around the two.
"Well? How do we do from here on out? Does our future differ from any of the other realities?" the man asked suddenly. "Do we learn from our past this time?"
The Old frowned, focusing into the distance as he tried to ignore the headache from using his eleventh sense. Flashes of the future hammered his limited senses.
"Well this is a first," he mumbled, blinking dazedly. "I… think it's best to not tell you right now." he received a puzzled look in response.
Right now? he thought.
"It's far from perfect." he continued with a somewhat subdued smile. "But it's something I'm looking forward to seeing."
"Yeah… that isn't exactly comforting to hear…" he deadpanned, making the pseudo-god laugh once more.
"Don't worry. Amidst the trillions that I've visited so far, this is one of the better ones by far, and that's saying something…"
Draven, Survivor of the Final Frontier, a man belonging to the highest superhuman class... and someone simply tired of the clusterfuck that was his life, merely shook his head at the giant's words, before proceeding to get up.
"I'm finally beginning to taste the life that I've always wanted. No wars, no killings, no politics." he paused again. "If anything else happens to ruin the peace that I've bloody well earned, then I promise you there won't be much left for you to enjoy watching." without giving the giant second glance, he started his way down the hill, back towards the orphanage.
The elder tapped his cane against the mossy earth, a nostalgic smile on his wrinkled face.
Well, at least he didn't try to outright murder me this time...
After all, The Old was meeting yet another version of his past self… although this was the first time he experienced a parallel instance that grew up just like his own…