"The world that I hope for is just like this."
Editor(s): namio, jelly
A breath of fresh air washed over them, and the glass shield around the airship dissipated as they slowly entered the territory of Dragonmaw City, coming to a stop at an empty port on the outskirts. This was a world frozen in time, and many mechanisms and transportation devices were ones that A-Ka had only seen before in books.
The road was paved with cobblestones, and of all the buildings in the city, not a single one was taller than two hundred meters. The most grandiose of them was the temple in the center of the city, and there was even a huge bell at its top.
This strange style caused A-Ka to feel, upon entering a new country, that everything was very new and exciting. A horse carriage came to a stop at the empty port to pick them up.
When Angus arrived here, he had become extremely quiet. The entirety of the city had an awe-inspiring tranquility and sanctity about it, enveloped as it was in the last weak light of the day before night fell. Igor brought them to the side of the temple, walking along a path. The passing clergy all bowed to them in greeting, though their gazes all stopped on Heishi’s face.
“It is already very late today,” Igor explained. “Everyone, please get a good night’s rest. Tomorrow the pontiff will invite everyone to dine together for lunch, and at that time he will also discuss the situation at hand.”
A-Ka was still a little worried, but Heishi used his gaze to indicate that he shouldn’t be too nervous. After all, so many days had passed already, and if the world was going to be destroyed, one night wouldn’t make a difference. To that, A-Ka could only nod, his heart heavy. Igor showed them to their rooms, and after informing them that their dinners would be brought to them, he saluted Heishi.
“May the God of the Stars protect all of you,” Igor said elegantly, before turning and leaving.
A-Ka laid on the bed and let out a long sigh, before sitting up again. Taking his satchel off and putting it to one side, he clambered onto the chair in front of the window, peering out. In the calm, night had already fallen, and the garden was filled with blooming calla lilies. Gentle music drifted out from somewhere unknown, echoing melodiously.
A-Ka only felt that this was far too comfortable, and he laid on the bed. When he saw Heishi sitting on the side of the bed, mind distant as he watched A-Ka, A-Ka used his bare foot to poke Heishi’s waist.
“What is it?” Heishi turned to look at A-Ka.
A-Ka said, “If we can live here for our entire lives, that would be very nice. The world that I hope for is just like this.”
Heishi thought for a moment, before saying, “The world you humans used to live in was exactly like this. There weren’t any robots or computers back then, so why did you all need to create them?”
“It may be good, but this kind of a lifestyle is pretty inconvenient,” A-Ka thought for a moment, before smiling. There is no tap water, so they need to get water from the river, and there is nothing to do for entertainment. Industrialization has its own merits as well.”
Heishi then said, “If you like this kind of an environment, I can tell the Curia this and get them to permit you to stay within Dragonmaw City.”
“Will you stay as well?” A-Ka scrutinized him.
Heishi didn’t respond.
A-Ka then said, “Having a flower garden to plant some flowers in and make a few small things is pretty good as well.”
“We can talk about it later,” Heishi said easily.
The nights in Dragonmaw City were a little chilly, and A-Ka and Heishi laid on the same bed, wrapped in blankets. Through the window, A-Ka watched the starry sky outside, saying, “Heishi, do you have memories of your childhood?”
He thought that perhaps Heishi didn’t have many memories of his childhood at all; after all, after he had been made by the Creator, he had always been kept in that place. But unexpectedly, Heishi responded, “I remember a little.”
A-Ka was a little surprised, and he turned his head to look at Heishi. Of his own accord, Heishi stretched out his arm and let A-Ka pillow his head on it, and the two of them laid there quietly in this position.
“What was it like?” A-Ka asked.
“How about you?” Heishi didn’t answer, replying with a question instead.
A-Ka said, “I… Actually, since I was old enough to understand, things were the way you saw. We took in the training, studies, and nurturing that the robotic lifeforms enforced, but there was one thing that left me with a deep impression. It’s related to ‘Father’.”
“Related to what about ‘Father’?” Heishi’s voice was even, but it didn’t hold any emotions at all.
“All of the humans, on the last day before we came of age, we had to connect up with ‘Father’ to confirm our loyalty. That kind of feeling was very uncomfortable,” A-Ka reminisced. “It was like a monster was forcing itself into your brain.”
Heishi said, “This is also one of the special functions that ‘Father’ has. Ever since the petri dish was started, it was equipped with the power to investigate all of the thoughts of any living being. As long as it was able to connect up in a mental link, it could read any of the thoughts in your mind.”
“Yes,” A-Ka said. “Actually, in the beginning, I never had the idea of opposing ‘Father’.”
Heishi said, “I do find it a little strange. Technically, humans like you would definitely not be able to survive under ‘Father’s gaze. You would have been destroyed by it before you came of age.”
A-Ka had to admit that Heishi was right. The lax regulations in the City of Machines itself didn’t mean that “Father” was foolish. Allowing him, a human, to secretly sneak out was not an oversight on “Father”’s part, but rather, under normal circumstances, something that would never be able to happen.
Because for the humans living within the City of Machines, their thoughts had once, or were destined to be, exposed to ‘Father’s inspection. It would single out any human with any iota of a desire for freedom that might grow into escape attempts for pre-emptive elimination. This was also the reason why, in the end, the clones created the Alliance and employed methods of gaining people on the inside by having those from the outside interact with them.
“The clones also undergo a mental inspection by ‘Father’,” A-Ka said. “It’s just that their inspection isn’t as frequent as us humans’.”
“How frequent?” Heishi asked.
A-Ka responded, “Approximately once every ten years. I now understand that though it’s called an inspection, in reality it’s to kill the humans that have had a seed of escape planted in their hearts.”
When A-Ka was small, he had heard that many people would disappear in the process of the regularly scheduled inspections, but he had never thought about it in this way. Now, he could finally slowly begin to deduce the general gist of things.
Heishi said, “The clones have no logic to speak of, and they act on their emotions alone. Humans, on the other hand, cling desperately to living and are afraid of death, so they became ‘Father’’s slaves. There’s not too much difference there.”
“It’s not like that.” A-Ka turned over and shook Heishi slightly, whose eyes were still closed, but Heishi didn’t open his eyes as he replied mildly, “Continue, I’m listening.”
A-Ka began to smile, using his fingers to pry open Heishi’s eyelids, looking at his dark, deep, gem-like pupils. Heishi said, in a dark voice, “Three.”
A-Ka immediately pulled his hands back, afraid of being on the receiving end of one of Heishi’s beatings. He recalled the day he had undergone the mental inspection, when he saw a vast sea of blue light.
“That kind of feeling is very hard to describe,” A-Ka murmured. “It was very uncomfortable, as if someone had dug through every nook and cranny of your soul…”
“I know,” Heishi said. “A pair of god-like eyes take you in from head to toe, which is why ‘Father’ is able to strike such fearful awe into your hearts. You humans have a saying, which is ‘When you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes back at you’.”
A-Ka said, “But this was not a provocation that I deliberately began…”
“What did you see within ‘Father’’s thoughts?” Heishi asked.
“How did you know?” A-Ka was taken aback. Heishi actually guessed what he was going to say next.
That day, within “Father”’s mental sea, he had indeed felt something out of the ordinary. That shaky uneasiness seemed to come from some core section, but it also seemed to come from some secret place that his own soul yearned incomparably for. From the start, his brain felt like it was being scorched by some bright light, causing him to feel like he wanted to retch, but very gradually, the discomfort disappeared.
In the depths of “Father”’s thoughts, he found a soul hidden very deeply away. Its voice sounded by A-Ka’s ear, as if it was saying something to him, but A-Ka’s expression was filled with confusion, and he had no way to answer.
“What did it say?” Heishi asked mildly.
“I don’t know,” A-Ka said, smiling a little bitterly. “It’s not like I could understand it.”
Heishi said, “What did you say?”
A-Ka said, “I… I said I was very lonely, and I took it to be a ‘Father’ that would be able to do anything. You know, in the City of Machines, the humans’ rumors all said that ‘Father’ was a god that could do anything. So, I made a wish to him.”
Heishi said, “What wish?”
“I wished…” A-Ka thought for a moment, before continuing, “that there would be a gege who protects me, because growing up, I had always been kicked around and picked on by the clones.”
Heishi opened his eyes, looking at A-Ka. His gaze was bright and warm, and the corners of his lips quirked upwards as he began to smile.
In that instant, A-Ka grew bug-eyed. He said, “You… you’re smiling? Heishi, you’re smiling!”
Heishi’s smile vanished as quickly as it had come, and he said solemnly, “Sleep ba.”
A-Ka had forgotten himself a little there, because in that instant, Heishi’s smile was extremely handsome, and he couldn’t help but praise him in his heart. In the span of a moment, that smile caused the entire night to grow bright. With the fragrance of the flowers and night music, it was as if countless things had crossed paths in his soul, before erupting in an instant in the depths of his heart!
A-Ka dumbly stared at Heishi, but Heishi turned over, indicating that A-Ka lay behind him. A-Ka however, said, “When you smile, you look really good, Heishi.”
Heishi en-ed, and A-Ka couldn’t resist adding, “I feel like I’ve fallen a little bit in love with you, that kind of a feeling.”
At this, Heishi grew a little awkward, and he said, “Don’t say stupid things!”
A-Ka had just laid down, and he hurried to clamber upright, explaining, “I didn’t mean that… my meaning was… like what the textbooks described, between people… Just like how I love Percy, Feiluo also loves Percy, and Percy says he loves Feiluo.”
A-Ka felt that the longer he went on, the deeper he dug himself into this pit, so he could only stop speaking and lie quietly behind Heishi. In the darkness, Heishi opened his mouth. “You can take me as your gege.”
“Thank you, Heishi,” A-Ka said, comforted. From behind, he hugged Heishi’s waist and turned his head, resting it against his sturdy, powerful back.
“I will protect you,” Heishi said. “But that’s limited only to you.”
A-Ka en-ed, and in the fragrance of the sea of flowers, he fell asleep. This was the most comfortable night of sleep he had since they had left the City of Machines, and it wasn’t until the sunlight came shining through that the sound of knocking woke A-Ka. He thought he had only slept for a few short minutes, but Heishi had already gone off to who knows where. The blankets still had a faint scent of him.
“The pontiff requests your presence in the Hall of Canonization to partake in the midday meal,” a young archbishop said very politely. “Please bathe first, as there is much time left. Your clean clothes are placed here.”
A-Ka nodded. “O-okay.”
A-Ka took a look at the clothes. They were a very simple set of technician pants and a jacket. With that, he took off his clothes and walked around in the room before pushing open the door of the bathing room, only to see that the large bathing pool had already been fully filled with water so hot there was steam rising off it.
A-Ka walked into the bathing pool, but he didn’t expect to step on something soft, and he immediately let out a loud shout.
“Waaah!” A-Ka was so frightened that he jumped up, only to fall into the water and swallow a mouthful of the warm water. Heishi immediately grabbed his wrist and pulled him into an embrace, and with that, A-Ka was once again greatly startled, this time by Heishi.
Heishi asked impatiently, “What?”
A-Ka was still jittery from the shock as he asked, “Why are you here?”
“I’m bathing,” Heishi responded casually. His hair had grown much longer, and after it had been soaked, the strands stuck to his forehead. When he stood up, his muscles were sturdy and his arms were powerful as he hugged A-Ka. Their skin pressed against each other as he had A-Ka move into a sitting position by the side of the pool.
“You wash first…” A-Ka was still a little out of it, and Heishi interjected, “Come in ba.”
A-Ka stared dumbly at Heishi as Heishi rose from the water, walking to one side to get the soap. He understood; just now, Heishi had been lying in the water, but A-Ka hadn’t seen him at all, and with one step he trod on Heishi’s thigh… the part at the base.
“I can do it myself.” A-Ka couldn’t resist sneaking glances at Heishi. His physique was very beautifully complete, just like a human built with the Golden Ratio in mind. The places that were supposed to have a lot of muscle were not many, but the places where there weren’t supposed to be a lot of muscle had just the right amount. His height was also exactly 182 cm, the very epitome of the ideal human.
His physique was more well-proportioned than the clones, and compared to the clones that were mass manufactured, Heishi had an air of cordiality that was unique to humans. It was the whiff of a man’s skin, and it was also the feeling that his body warmth gave to those around him.
A-Ka said, “Were you nurtured according to the Golden Ratio model?”
“I don’t know,” Heishi said. “But I can confirm that my father’s features and physique were all different from mine.”
“I feel that the Creator must have highly favored humans,” A-Ka smiled. “Or perhaps, it was even partial to them, so it made you in the shape of humans.”
“Perhaps,” Heishi replied. “But I cannot confirm whether or not my father’s world also experienced this era with humans.”
“It should have,” A-Ka responded.
A-Ka began to feel that humans were a very special species. Their emotions, their joy and rage and their intelligence, were different from any other living being in this world. Perhaps it was exactly because the Creator highly favored humans that caused Heishi’s friendliness towards them - at least, it wasn’t like his interactions with the clones.
A-Ka hugged his knees, sitting in the warm water. He and Heishi each sat at one end of the bathing pool, sitting there quietly just like that. A-Ka suddenly had a strong urge to move up and lean on him.
Last night, that feeling of leaning against Heishi’s body to sleep was very good. His back was just like a father’s broad back. Though A-Ka had never had a father, he felt a similar sense of dependability from Heishi.
“Can I hug you?” A-Ka asked.
Heishi didn’t say anything, and A-Ka also felt that would be a little awkward. Because of this sudden, strange desire, he couldn’t hold back his smile, and he said, “Don’t take it seriously, I was just joking.”
“Alright, come over,” Heishi said.
A-Ka scooted over, and Heishi opened his arms. The two of them came into contact in the warm water. A-Ka shivered a little, and when his fingers touched Heishi’s arm, he couldn’t help retracting them. But Heishi grabbed his hand, pulling A-Ka towards himself, letting him press that hand against his own chest.
In that spot, there was a heart that undulated rhythmically, and it was currently beating powerfully and firmly. This was the first time that A-Ka had touched someone else’s body just like this, and a strange feeling rose in his heart.
His breathing quickened as he stroked Heishi’s muscular arm in the water. His shoulders, arms, abdomen, and legs were all touched by the silky feeling of flowing water, but his muscles were firm and powerful. A-Ka approached him, hugging his waist, leaning on his body.
They pressed together, naked, and in that instant, A-Ka felt that sudden, unexpected feeling of safety, as if he had found some sort of a home to return to in his life.
“Father,” A-Ka murmured.
Heish didn’t speak. This was the second time that A-Ka had felt it. The last time was in the depths of “Father”’s thoughts, when he was facing that silhouette of light.
“It’s father…” A-Ka’s breathing almost stopped.
Heishi responded quietly, “You’ve felt it.”
A-Ka raised his head in disbelief, but Heishi reached out a hand to rub his hair, saying, “This was bestowed by the Father of All Things, and through the male hormones, heartbeats, and the flow of blood, it has the effect of calling humans.”
“What is it used for?” A-Ka murmured while watching Heishi’s eyes.
“It doesn’t have any use,” Heishi said. “It’s just a scent that he left on my body. It has nothing to do with me.”
“Will you let me hug you like this for a while?” A-Ka asked.
“I will,” Heishi responded calmly.
A-Ka hugged him quietly, and Heishi pulled his arms to the side, leaning slightly back. Placing his elbows against the side of the tube, he allowed A-Ka to lie in his arms in that embrace like a newly-born infant.
A moment later, Heishi dabbed a little mixed flower balm from the scent box to one side onto his palm, spreading it, before holding A-Ka with one arm, pressing his other hand against his head.
A-Ka’s heart was filled with peace. He didn’t say anything, merely feeling Heishi’s warm palm rub over his neck and back, spreading the flower balm all over his body. A moment later, Heishi, still hugging him, sat up, before shifting A-Ka so that he sat in Heishi’s embrace in front of him.
A-Ka’s breathing quickened, and his skin grew bright red as he leaned on Heishi’s body, panting harshly. Something seemed to be germinating and sprouting in his heart.
Heishi cleansed his entire body for him, before beginning to rub his fingers through A-Ka’s bangs.
“Thank you.” A-Ka already felt a little dizzy, and Heishi lifted him up out of the water, saying, “When blood rushes upwards, it’s easy to get dizzy.”
A-Ka was carried out of the bathing room. Heishi tossed him some clothes, letting him put them on, as he put on his own.
When they left the hallway, traces of that warm feeling were still left in the depths of A-Ka’s heart. He turned his head to look at Heishi, trying to hold hands with him. Heishi let his fingers relax, allowing him to hold his hand. When they came to the end of the hallway, Heishi curled his fingers up slightly, grabbing A-Ka’s hand as he pushed open the door.
Music began to sound. Within the large golden hall, Moran was currently administering treatment to Percy’s eyes, and when he heard the music, he lifted his head and smiled. “We welcome you, Son of God.”
moon: the entire tl team: DADBLOCKED DADBLOCKED
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon.