“As early as a year ago, the day when I left Dragonmaw City..."
For some reason he didn’t know, A-Ka’s horror and fear towards death was already no longer as intense as it had been in the beginning. After going through that struggle to escape annihilation with Heishi, and after leaving the City of Machines and arriving in Dragonmaw City, everything that he had seen, without a single exception, was displaying what little life force was left in this world.
If it was up to him to choose, he would not be willing to live in a world like this. Instead, before he left, he would rather leave behind a beautiful world, just like the world that he had always wished for, so that everyone who would continue to live would be a little happier and be able to enjoy a good life.
“I also would,” Percy smiled. “As long as Daddy is able to live well, I would be willing.”
A-Ka thought of Heishi, and his heart throbbed once with pain.
“But without you,” A-Ka responded, “He wouldn’t live well. Thankfully, you also do not need to shoulder this duty.”
But Percy responded, “I feel like it is easy for changing variables to appear in my dreams. Before Uncle Moran met me, I kept feeling like I was a person who brought misfortune to those around me. But slowly, I began to realize that the future that the dreams foretold could be changed.”
“Because your dreams didn’t have Heishi in them,” A-Ka answered. “Now, I believe that the future can be changed.”
“Hopefully,” Percy said readily.
Feiluo hurried over along the hallway, asking, “What are you guys talking about?”
A-Ka rose. Percy didn’t say anything else. Feiluo spread his arms and hugged Percy, rubbing his head and asking, “Do your eyes feel uncomfortable?”
Percy smiled. “They’re cold. Uncle said, after a few days, he’ll operate on me. He says that after the surgery, I’ll be able to see.”
Feiluo nodded, before saying to A-Ka, “His Excellency the Pontiff has something to say to you.”
As A-Ka left the flower garden, he turned his head and looked back into the distance, only to see Feiluo hugging Percy, the two of them sitting on the bench, quietly talking to each other as they gazed at the sea of flowers.
Even if he finished walking down this path to perish alongside ‘Father’, if he could let everyone live happily, then perhaps it was worth it, much like how Percy and Feiluo were just then.
When A-Ka walked into the Pontiff’s study, he saw that Moran was currently mixing a bottle of medicine, while Heishi stood to one side, raising his head to study the books on the bookshelves.
“... This kind of path you’re traveling is in fact of great concern.” Moran only nodded towards A-Ka, before continuing to explain. “I imagine, no matter who it is, they would have no way to change a fate that has already been destined. This is indeed something that is difficult to accept, it is an unhappy experience.”
Heishi answered, “What would happen if fate was changed?”
Moran responded, “As soon as fate is changed, then the moment that you guys return, you will find that the butterfly effect will have triggered all the following outcomes… Perhaps, the next time you see Dragonmaw City, it will have already become ruins, or perhaps… I will have already died.”
A-Ka stood there, completely lost, as he listened to the two of them talking, and he dimly felt a sliver of unease.
Heishi didn’t say any more, and the study fell into a peaceful silence.
“What medicine is this?” A-Ka asked curiously.
“Anesthetic,” Moran answered. “For surgeries.”
Heishi said, “What did you want to tell A-Ka? Say it ba.”
“Please sit, A-Ka,” Moran said. “Feel free to serve yourself some coffee. Do you remember, when you arrived here, your difficult problem that I mentioned?”
A-Ka walked to the side of the table to pour himself some coffee. He was still thinking about the dream prophecy that Percy had told him about, but he didn’t know how to express that to Heishi. If Percy’s dream was to become reality, and that was to say, the day that ‘Father’ was annihilated, when Heishi restarted the entire Astrolabe, he himself would return to nothingness with ‘Father’.
When he heard Percy say it, A-Ka was very composed. He only felt that this wasn’t anything special; dying like this was much better than being slaughtered by the mechanical guards in the City of Machines that didn’t differentiate between black and white. But, without knowing why, the moment he saw Heishi, he felt a little sad, and that small bit of unwillingness to part grew.
“What’s wrong?” Heishi observed A-Ka and discovered his strange attitude.
“Nothing much,” A-Ka managed a smile as he shook his head. His eyes were aching a little, but he said to Moran, “We only found two portions of the code to enter the Central System, and there’s still one section on General Libre, but Libre is already dead.”
Moran nodded. A-Ka then asked, “I was wondering, perhaps there is a backup in Dragonmaw City?”
When he got to this point, a thought flashed through A-Ka’s mind. Since Moran had gone to the City of Machines as early as the time of the revolution, then could it be that he had a backup copy of the code as well?
He watched Moran with anticipation, but Moran had guessed his thoughts. He smiled slightly as he looked at A-Ka, saying, “It’s a great pity that I have to let you down. Though I knew, from Percy’s dreams, that that total mobilization would end in failure, I did not obtain any backup copy from General Libre.”
“Is that so,” A-Ka said dejectedly.
“Allow me to first ask you two a question,” Moran said. “If, after this is over, the two of you are to be parted, and everything that you have done so far is not for yourself, would you two be willing?”
Heishi looked at A-Ka with a question in his gaze.
A-Ka was a little lost, and Moran continued, “To restart the Astrolabe, perhaps… It’s just a possibility, but it may cause you two to encounter a mishap. Not only would it change the future, but the bigger possibility would be related to the past.”
Heishi answered, “I’ll listen to A-Ka’s response. He entreated me to give you humans and clones a new world. A-Ka?”
“I…” A-Ka’s eyes turned bright red, and when he heard these words, he was no longer able to control his own sorrow.
He walked forward, hugging Heishi tightly, burying his head in between his shoulders as he sobbed quietly.
Moran put down the medicine in his hands and walked towards A-Ka, stroking his back.
“It seems like you are not yet prepared,” Moran said lightly. “Rest another day ba, we still have a lot of time.”
“The general offensive is going to start three days later, right?” A-Ka asked, wiping away his tears. “I am willing, I can do it.”
Moran watched A-Ka, as if he had long since known that he would respond in that way.
“The world will remember the price you two paid,” Moran said solemnly, placing one knee on the ground. “Son of mankind, please allow me to express my greatest respects.”
A-Ka hurried to lift Moran up, saying, “No need for politeness, Your Excellency. Is there any way to obtain that section of code that was General Libre’s?”
Moran returned to his position in front of his desk, explaining, “As you know, after the materials from the Creator’s Laboratory went missing, one human created ‘Father’ and the City of Machines, one human created the Country of Clones, and there was one more person, who founded the Faith of the Stars.”
A-Ka responded, “Yes.”
Moran said, “The first pontiff of the Faith of the Stars, likewise, brought back a portion of the Creator’s heart. We call it the Wish of the Tides.”
“What… what’s that?” A-Ka asked, confused.
Moran replied, “Technically, in our universe, time does not always flow forward. Elementary particles can be found everywhere, and through their back-and-forth vibrations, they generate a kind of energy. This energy pushes all physical objects to brush through time, and from there they reach the other shore… I imagine, perhaps I’ll let you see this first. You’ll be able to have a little bit more of a concept then. Please come with me, you two.”
Moran opened a hidden door in the bookcase and led them through a silent corridor as they walked towards the lowest level. This road was very different from the rest of the splendid structures of Dragonmaw City’s Curia, entirely different from the standard.
The rotating stair led towards the depths of the earth. Moran took off his pontiff’s necklace, which was a shining five-pointed star that lit up a small patch of ground in front of the three of them.
“This is the Curia’s sacred ground,” Moran explained. “Only by using the key that ignites the stars can we enter this place.”
Along the first segment of moving stairs that they walked through, in the darkness, the various stars of the sky began to shine. The galaxy covered the silent darkness like gems shining from a goose-feather down bed. They then began to flash in surges, sending thin threads of white light towards them.
Squinting his eyes, A-Ka responded, “These are lethal lasers.”
“Yes,” Moran answered. “The first pontiff set up this place, and he accompanies me at my side. Be as careful as possible in everything you do.”
A-Ka saw the lasers cross as they headed towards them, moving towards their bodies. But Moran’s pendant seemed to have a strange power which deflected the dense laser beams. It generated a warm, golden protective sphere that reflected back all the light that came towards it.
In A-Ka’s eyes, though the lasers were densely packed and laid out complicatedly, it was not impossible to pass through them. Of his own accord, Heishi took his hand and said, “There are gaps in this laser array.”
“Only to you two,” Moran said very politely. “A-Ka’s eyes can see the structure of everything in this world. That shot that Professor Callan gave him caused him to become the offering that would enter the center of the planet. Everything and every object is within his ability to willfully deconstruct.”
A-Ka jolted fiercely, thinking, so that’s how it was.
“An offering,” A-Ka murmured. “So that’s to say, I am an offering for God?”
“An offering for the Son of God,” Moran responded. “The ties between you and Heishi are made up of unseen connections. It was because of you that he awoke, and likewise…”
“That’s enough, Pontiff.” Heishi interrupted Moran’s words.
Moran smiled. A-Ka, however, wanted to know what Moran was going to say next, and he said to Heishi, “Let him finish!”
The hand that was wrapped around A-Ka’s own fingers tightened a little, and the gaze that was turned on him held a little reproach. A-Ka could only say nothing else.
Moran said, “In the future, I’ll tell you, A-Ka. Right now, let us go take a look at the Wish of the Tides. I trust that you’ll be able to figure out its intended purpose.”
Moran stopped in his tracks. They had already arrived at the center of the laser array, and when they walked into an unseen perimeter, all the stars in the sky winked out in that very instant, revealing the walls all around, which began to shine with a clean white light. The ceiling and floor as well also began to glow with a milk-white light, like a white room devoid of any decorations. The 360-degree light was everywhere, and it enveloped their bodies.
In the middle of the room was a cryosleep chamber, which looked brand-new. A-Ka exclaimed, surprised, “This was the same chamber that Heishi was in when he arrived on the beach!”
“Yes,” Moran said. “If you take a closer look, is it exactly the same?”
A-Ka bent over to inspect the chamber, and he saw that on the outside of the chamber was a shining plaque which was carved with the words “Heishi Z9925”.
“I can confirm that it’s exactly the same,” A-Ka said, pressing his hand on the lid of the chamber. “Heishi, this is his name.”
But Heishi responded, “I originally had no name. It was A-Ka who, according to the writing on the chamber, gave me a name like humans have.”
A-Ka focused his gaze on the interior of the chamber, and in an instant, the structure of the chamber appeared in front of him: the oxygen supply, the sleeping system, as well as the internal circuitry. This cryosleep chamber used a matter and anti-matter energy supply that humans had no way to use, and it was enough to supply the chamber with the power it needed to sustain life for a hundred thousand years.
But the pity was that its energy supply had already been drained, and it had no way to work again.
Moran explained, “The first pontiff left the Primeval Heart inside it, escaping from the lava passageway underneath the ground, passing through the deep sea and the seafloor of the Western and Eastern Mainlands, before finally being brought to the shore.”
Moran pressed the five-pointed star necklace on the outer lid of the chamber, and the chamber lid slowly opened, revealing the young boy sleeping soundly inside.
Heishi also felt a little taken aback as he asked, “He’s the…”
“Yes,” Moran replied. “He is His Excellency, the first pontiff. He has already passed away many years ago.”
That little boy’s features were still as vivid as if he was alive, and clutched in his hand was a ring-shaped object. Moran first knelt down on one knee in front of the chamber, quietly saying a prayer, before plucking that ring from his hand and closing the chamber.
Moran handed the ring to A-Ka, who took it silently and held it up to the light to observe it. This ring had a very complicated internal structure, and for the first time in his life, he felt dizzy and befuddled as he looked at it. The power routing within the ring was wholly dependent on the strange particle of light found in the microcosmic world of the gem inset into the ring, which flickered.
“It’s like it’s living,” A-Ka murmured.
“Indeed,” Moran nodded approvingly. “In this, there exists a city.”
Heishi furrowed his brow slightly, and A-Ka exclaimed, surprised, “No wonder! There are so many lives that exist in this single gemstone?”
“They are a kind of lifeform completely different from we humans,” Moran said as he plucked off the five-pointed star necklace. “Or perhaps, the Creator made the world within the gem and left it on this land. This gemstone has too many mysteries within it, and we are unable to pry into them.”
A-Ka said, “In this gemstone, there is a kind of… one…”
A-Ka stared at that bright red gem, which had a crack in the middle. When he looked closely however, he found that it was a strange structure.
“An emitter,” A-Ka murmured. “A particle emitter.”
Moran smiled and nodded. A-Ka returned the ring to Moran, saying, “A kind of helical particle emitter, which can cause particles to generate their own spin as they circle around the tower.”
Moran put the ring on as he took them away from the underground chamber. A-Ka asked, “But what use does this emitter have? You need another one, one that is completely akin to it, an identical receiver, to communicate with each other and create the energy needed to jump. Or perhaps, in this world, there is another ring that is exactly like it?”
Moran answered, “You guessed right. This ring can shoot out energy, which can be received by the other identical ring.”
Moran brought them out of the underground chamber and closed the secret door. A-Ka then said, “I can’t figure out what this has to do with us obtaining that section of code that Libre has.”
Moran replied, “It’s entirely the same thing, A-Ka. There is nothing in this world that is exactly the same, especially in the microscopic world. The only thing that is completely identical in structure to it is itself.”
A-Ka instantly understood. He exclaimed, “The it of the past!”
“Yes,” Moran nodded. “Use its power to jump, so that you two can return to the past. Do you still remember the instant that we met on the boat?”
A-Ka immediately remembered it. When he had first met Moran, he had been wearing this ring on his finger as well.
Moran explained, “As early as a year ago, the day when I left Dragonmaw City and headed towards the Eastern Mainland, I was not comfortable with leaving the sacred relic in the Curia, so I brought this ring along with me. This ring’s power is to be able to fix its own position, so the you of the present can travel to the past and then find the Libre of the past and attain his section of the code.”
No matter how exaggerated the words were, A-Ka had no way to express the shock in his heart. He stood there for a long time, not making a single sound, as Moran continued, “Now, I must converse with the lifeforms in the gem to confirm that they are willing to send you guys back. In the span of this day, how about you and Lord Son of God first rest?”
Heishi asked, “When will we begin to carry out the mission?”
Moran thought for a bit, before answering, “We still have a lot of time left. After all, interacting with the flow of the past will not be recorded in the current time. You two can leave in the small hours of the last day, but I do not recommend that you do this. Of course, you do not need to set off today. Today is the Festival of Spring’s Dusk, a night where all the beings of this world flourish and grow. I suggest that you two take a stroll around the city.”
Heishi said, “Then tomorrow ba.”
Moran nodded, satisfied, before he made a “please” hand gesture. A-Ka’s brain was a patch of blank white, and no matter what, he would never have guessed that Moran would use this kind of method to resolve their problem for them.
Heishi followed behind them. As A-Ka walked, he came to a stop in the long hallway, raising his eyes to look at Heishi. As usual, Heishi maintained that cold, calm expression on his face - no matter who he was facing or what he heard, he always bore this poker face.
“You don’t want to go?” Heishi asked.
A-Ka fell silent for a long time, before he walked forward and hugged Heishi, leaning on his body as if he couldn’t bear to part. In that instant, the light in Heishi’s eyes changed to something different than what it was before. Complicated emotions gathered in his eyes, and he lowered his head as if he wanted to say something, but he was unable to find the words.
Finally, he only placed his hand on A-Ka’s head, just like Feiluo did to Percy.
“What happened?” Heishi asked. “From a little while ago, you were a little out of it.”
A-Ka searched his thoughts for a long time, before replying, “No, nothing.”
He mustered up a weak smile, and Heishi asked, “Are you afraid that it’ll be dangerous when we return to the past?”
A-Ka said, “Uncle Moran said that he was afraid we would be met with a mishap.”
The corner of Heishi’s mouth quirked up a little, and he seemed to be trying to hide something as he said, “Since you are afraid of mishaps, then you shouldn’t have agreed with him in the beginning, isn’t that right?”
“That isn’t a way to resolve the issue at all, alright?!” All of the grief of parting that A-Ka felt was gone now, but Heishi continued solemnly, “This isn’t like you.”
“This isn’t like me?” A-Ka didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. He asked, “Then what am I like?”
Heishi walked to A-Ka’s side, turning his head to give him a look, saying, “That day, when you stepped out of the crowd of humans, do you remember?”
A-Ka and Heishi stood face to face in front of each other. Heishi’s gaze was as familiar as always, and it was no different than the expression that he bore that day when he stood on the platform, the guns of the mechanical guards pressed against his head.
“I remember,” A-Ka began to smile.
Nonchalantly, Heishi used his thumb to point at himself, then used his index finger to poke A-Ka’s shoulder, saying, “Believe in yourself, and believe in me.”
A-Ka’s dark mood vanished like fog under a rising sun, and he began to smile, saying, “Alright, Heishi.”
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon.