“If you could sacrifice yourself to let everyone survive, would you go?”
On one side of the temple, the bright, warm sunlight scattered down, coating the earth below, its rays giving the humans that soaked it up a sense of languid comfort. Upon seeing Uncle Moran, A-Ka immediately remembered that period of time when they had first left the City of Machines, spending their days together on the ship, all of them in the same boat. In his surprise and happiness, he let out a loud shout and rushed up to hug Moran.
Angus and Huixiong were each standing on one side behind Moran. Before this, it seemed like the two of them were disagreeing over something, but they had been interrupted by A-Ka’s arrival. A-Ka, his hands pressed against his knees, bent over to look at Percy’s eyes, before raising his head to ask Moran, “Can you cure him?”
“I will do my best,” Moran answered, after a period of pondering. “Percy was born blind, so my plan is to first have him recover a little bit of sight. If he is able to sense light and dark, then that is basically the first step to success.”
Percy closed his eyes and smiled gently. “Actually, I’m not that urgently wishing to see things. As long as everyone is well, then it’s alright.”
“Yes,” Moran smiled back. “But if we don’t treat your eyes, then very easily, you’ll have even more problems to deal with… Alright, it’s good for now.”
A disciple carried a tray over, and with A-Ka helping Moran, they tied bandages over Percy’s eyes. A-Ka asked curiously, “Will this alone make his eyes able to see things?”
“No,” Moran smiled. “It’s just a preliminary preparation. If I could use herbal salves alone to treat his blindness, then I wouldn’t need to be the pontiff anymore. I could just change professions and go cure people of their illnesses.”
“You’re the pontiff!” A-Ka and Percy shouted surprisedly at the same time.
“You are too humble, Your Majesty,” Archbishop Igor replied. “The medical skills of the pontiff are renowned throughout this entire mainland. I believe that curing him will not be difficult.”
No matter what, A-Ka would never have imagined that the wandering bard he met on the ship was actually the pontiff of the entire continent. In his eyes, his perception of Moran grew quite a bit better. The corners of his mouth twitched; this was the first time in his life that he had met such an important figure, and he was suddenly overcome by a feeling of vertigo.
“You-you-you… Uncle Moran, you’re actually…” A-Ka hadn’t recovered from his shock yet.
“I’m just the caretaker of a small city,” Moran said warmly. “How many people do you think still believe in the Star faith right now?”
Moran rubbed A-Ka’s head, before leading him and Percy to the long table, indicating that they should sit down there. Heishi walked over towards them. Moran pressed one hand against the left side of his chest in a salute, but Heishi only responded with a single nod. Moran then said, “Everyone, please partake of the midday meal. No need to stand on politeness, my honored guests.”
The guests took their seats and enjoyed a sumptuous meal. Heishi said mildly, “You guys keep talking, no need to pay attention to me.”
But Moran responded, “I believe their rage has already completely died down.”
Huixiong put down his knife and fork, but just as he was about to speak, Angus said, “Your Majesty, Phoenix City is not as peaceful as you imagine it to be. The humans and our brothers have already reached..."
“I assure you that after this matter is settled,” Moran said patiently, “the conflict in Phoenix City will no longer cause any more problems for you all. If everything goes smoothly, then the current situation which is causing despair for all of the inhabitants of the mainland will be changed for the better.”
Huixiong suddenly spoke. “Place that hope on their shoulders. I myself am more than willing to go do battle with ‘Father’.”
“You will get that chance,” Moran said mildly. “The humans and the clones must be united. After this long, difficult battle, this is the single chance that will bring about the final outcome.”
A-Ka asked, “Uncle Moran… no, Your Excellency the Pontiff, I would like to ask, about ‘Father’...”
With a glance, Moran indicated that A-Ka should not say any more. A-Ka then adopted an expression of intense concentration on his next words, but Moran began to chuckle, saying, “I would rather still have you call me Uncle.”
A-Ka smiled. “Alright.”
Just at this point, Feiluo came over and took his seat, nodding at him. “Thank you for watching over them on the ship, Your Excellency the Pontiff. It was a temporary oversight on my part, I hope you do not mind.”
“Hello,” Moran replied politely. “I’m only a traveler who wanders the edges of the world. I’m very honored to be able to offer my services to Percy, Lieutenant Colonel Feiluo.”
A-Ka felt that there was some kind of tacit agreement between Moran and Feiluo, and from there he connected it back to that day, when they were on the ship drifting over the ocean towards the Western Mainland. What Moran had done in the ship’s cabin - this meant that perhaps they had met before.
Heishi seemed to be able to guess A-Ka's suspicion, and he asked casually, "What were you going to the City of Machines to do?"
"To take a look," Moran replied easily as he took the bread he was handed. "I entered the City of Machines and witnessed your revolution."
A-Ka was surprised. "You've also been inside?"
Moran nodded. "Originally, my goal was to rescue Professor Callan, but unfortunately I was one step too late, and something changed in my travel plans as well, which caused my entire plan to be entirely overturned."
Feiluo answered, "No matter what, I should still thank you for saving Percy."
"It was as simple as lifting my hand," Moran said easily. "Percy's power caused me to be very surprised, since his dreams often foretell the future. Percy, have you been having that dream lately?"
"Not anymore," Percy answered lightly.
A-Ka's entire body shivered once, uncontrollably, and even Heishi was very taken aback. He asked, "You can see the future?"
Percy nodded, and Feiluo's gaze held a slight bit of blame as he looked towards Moran.
A-Ka thought of the days when he and Percy had been travel companions on their journey away from the City of Machines. Percy indeed accidentally told him many things about the future. The deepest impression he had was that day when they were sheltering for the night in the tunnel, Percy had figured out the identity of Shahuang who had come to search for them.
"No need to worry while you are in the Curia," Moran said.
But Commander Angus said, "Feiluo, your adopted child can actually see the future?"
"Only sometimes," Moran said not very politely. "It's not a good thing. Commanders, everyone, I would rather Percy not need to say anything."
Huixiong then asked, "In this war, is there a chance of us attaining the final victory?"
Percy didn't say anything, and Moran replied, "Let's stop here, everyone."
Moran nodded politely. Clearly, he was unwilling to let Huixiong ask any more questions, and when he rose, he added, "I believe that after Percy's eyes are healed, he will no longer be visited by these kinds of prophetic dreams any more."
"This isn't fair!" Angus protested. "Why aren't you letting him tell us the final outcome? If he really can see, and his dreamscape can predict a destined future…"
A-Ka suddenly interjected. "If his prediction told you that you would lose, then would you no longer fight this war?"
No one said anything, and after a long while, Huixiong began to smile.
"Interesting," Huixiong said. "Then we'll act according to the previous plan."
Angus said, “I need to gather the opinions of my troops.”
Moran said, “I will give you three days to prepare. Archbishop Igor, please send them back to Phoenix City right now.”
Huixiong nodded, and under Igor’s lead, he and Angus left the Hall of Faith. Moran was silent for a long time, before he said, “Everyone, I need a formulated plan to follow for the general offensive on the City of Machines.”
A-Ka nodded. He knew that Moran must have had his own things to worry about, so he bid his farewells and left the table. When he passed through the hallway, he and Percy stopped in their tracks. He had some questions he wanted to ask, like what exactly Percy’s dreams looked like, or if he had hidden anything from them, things that he hadn’t said yet.
“Percy,” A-Ka said. “Your shoelace is untied.”
“Huh?” Percy turned around. In the hallway, there was only the two of them. He sat down on a bench, and A-Ka took a knee as he helped Percy tie his shoelaces, patting his shoulder, saying, “You seem to have never mentioned your dreams to me before.”
“Uncle Moran told me not to,” Percy responded lightly. “Ever since I was small, the villagers treated me like a demon. They were terrified of me seeing their deaths.”
“Could you see them?” A-Ka tied Percy’s shoelaces for him, before sitting down next to him. Sunlight streamed down from the clear sky, turning the flower garden into a sea of golden splendour, and the golden flower sea swayed slightly under the faint breeze.
A-Ka asked, “How did you and Uncle Moran meet?”
Percy replied, “When daddy went to join the war, he left me in the care of the human habitat in the army camp. I had a dream, and I dreamed that they lost the battle. There was a very large ship that slammed into a pointy tower. Daddy’s ship crashed on the barren plains and turned into a ball of fire. He led the humans to escape as they all ran into a valley, before they were mowed down by an airship’s machine guns.”
A-Ka’s breathing seemed to almost stop, and in that instant he felt that the blood coursing through his veins was like ice.
“Then what?” A-Ka asked.
“Later, he appeared in a laboratory in the City of Machines,” Percy said. “His body was opened up, and a chip was retrieved from his brain. He died. But after the chip was removed, I dreamt again that he turned into a ball of fire.”
A-Ka remembered the first time he had seen Feiluo. That time, he and Heishi were resting on the mountain, and they happened to run into Feiluo, who was leading a bunch of humans. He comforted Percy, “Your dream wasn’t accurate, Feiluo didn’t die.”
“En,” Percy said, smiling. “Uncle Moran told me that too. He said that the future is undetermined, and the past is undetermined as well; the only thing that is determined is the present. That was a proverb of the ancient philosophers.”
Dimly, A-Ka felt that there was something not quite right with Percy’s dream. Was it because he wasn’t in it, or was it because Heishi wasn’t in it? That day, when they met Feiluo, if A-Ka and Heishi weren’t there, it was possible that the outcome awaiting Feiluo would indeed be getting captured and taken back into the City of Machines.
“What else?” A-Ka asked.
Percy thought for a moment, before replying, “When I was by your side, I also often dreamed of a young man who was fiddling around with some strange mechanical devices… I didn’t know what that was. The day that we spent crossing the great ocean on the ship, I also dreamt of the scene today, where we were sitting in the hall, eating lunch with Uncle Moran.”
“Were there any involving Heishi?” A-Ka thought of that mission that they were going to carry out, which was filled with changing variables.
“No,” Percy said. “In my dreams, he never appeared. But there was once, when I was awake, that I heard two voices, I felt that those were probably you two…”
“What were we saying?” A-Ka asked.
“It seemed to be something about a large airship,” Percy said. “A mothership, and ‘Father’, and a person called Libre.”
“General Libre?!” A-Ka asked. “We were actually that close to each other?”
Percy said, “I don’t know, that voice seemed to sound like you, but it also wasn’t very much like you. It was a little hoarse, and there was the sound of static.”
Percy continued, “The dreams that I have, most of them are extremely fragmented, and now there are many things that I can no longer recall. Actually, I’m most worried about daddy.”
A-Ka comforted him. “It’ll be alright. He’s already escaped that death, and he won’t be in any more danger. Did you dream of him again after that?”
Percy thought for a bit before responding, “Not anymore.”
A-Ka loosed a sigh and said, “Then that’s good. How about me? Did you dream of me?”
“I constantly have one dream,” Percy said. “In the dream, it’s a patch of glowing blue, and a person walks into that ocean of blue.”
“And after that?” A-Ka asked anxiously.
Percy leaned on A-Ka’s shoulder, asking, “Do you know what that blue light is?”
A-Ka held his breath. He knew that no one could be more clear on that than him.
“That is ‘Father’’s consciousness,” A-Ka said. “Was there anything afterwards? After the person went in, how was the blue light?”
Percy answered in a small voice, “After that, that person never came out again. There was a very tall, pointy tower that collapsed, and all of the clones collapsed, completely paralyzed. A great fire burned the entire city… Afterwards, it rained, and the rain extinguished the flames. Grass and trees grew from the ruins.”
“... And there were many humans. They walked out from under the ground, returning to the surface of the earth,” Percy said.
“That person, what did they look like?” A-Ka asked nervously.
Percy lifted his head. His eyes, covered with cloth, turned towards A-Ka.
A-Ka asked, “Was it a man with black hair and black eyes, very tall… with a really good build…”
“No,” Percy answered. “I didn’t know who he was because his silhouette was very blurry. The person you speak of, is it Heishi?”
Even A-Ka’s voice was shaking a little as he responded quietly, “Heishi wants to confront ‘Father’ to end all of this. I’m very afraid, afraid that he’ll sacrifice himself… I don’t know why, but I keep feeling that he’s made his preparations to never come back.”
“No, that person wasn’t him,” Percy smiled faintly. “A-Ka, don’t worry. Though I haven’t seen what Heishi looks like, I feel that that person shouldn’t be him. Because, in my dreams, Heishi has never appeared, you know? Even on that night, when the clones and the humans were battling, I had a dream, a dream of when Uncle Moran would come to save us…”
“... So it was that dream sequence that reminded you?” A-Ka smiled.
“Yes,” Percy answered. “After I woke up, I sent a message to Uncle Moran. I also dreamed that we all got on the airship, but of the people who climbed onto the ship, there was still no Heishi.”
A-Ka was silent for a while, before he suddenly realized that something wasn’t right.
“The person who walked into the blue light, was it a stranger?” A-Ka asked.
Percy didn’t say anything, and A-ka immediately understood.
A-Ka said, “That person was me, right?”
The medicine spread over Percy’s eyes was wetted by his tears. He hugged A-Ka, and in that moment, A-Ka couldn’t summon up any words at all.
“If you could sacrifice yourself to let everyone survive,” Percy replied, “A-Ka, would you go?”
A-Ka was silent for very, very long. He lifted his head, rubbed Percy’s head, and responded, “Yes, I would.”
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon.