"Everyone, today, everything will be up to you."
Editor(s): jelly, namio
None of the gathered people spoke, before Karna said, “He won’t see through it. I’m very familiar with him, just like Feiluo. In the past, when Feiluo wasn’t there, I helped him out by pretending to be him and chatted with Percy. He couldn’t tell our voices apart.”
The clones' voices were exactly the same, and since Percy hadn't been able to see since he was small, he had never seen Feiluo's visage either. But A-Ka knew that Percy would definitely be able to tell - not because of anything specific, but rather because human instinct was the keenest thing in this world.
A-Ka said, “If Percy learns of this, you must tell him the truth.”
Karna’s deep-set eyes scrutinized A-Ka, before he nodded.
Moran said, “The other side has sent the signal, so let’s begin. Everyone, after you return to Dragonmaw City, there is still a large battle awaiting you. I wish you all the best of luck.”
A-Ka took a deep breath. Karna’s arrival had more or less cancelled out a bit of his despair and sorrow, but now was not the time for either of those. Accompanied by gorgeous lightning from the sky, the space-time tunnel once again enveloped them. All of them slowly rose into the sky, flying into the distant future.
In Dragonmaw City, all of them were sent back one by one. A-Ka was tired beyond belief, and Moran managed to catch him first and support him.
“Where’s Percy?” Karna asked anxiously.
“I didn’t notify him,” Moran replied. “Change into this military uniform, as quickly as you can.”
“I’ll go… rest.” A-Ka didn’t have the courage to face Percy. They all left, with Moran going to help Karna change into that uniform. Karna tugged on the collar and glanced himself in the mirror, before mussing up his hair a little more.
Percy sat in the hallway, facing the gentle breeze that came in from the outside. His eyes were still covered with white cloth. Karna quietly came up behind him, like a silent panther, his military boots landing on the ground.
While Percy was silent, Karna began to smile and hugged him from behind.
“Daddy!” Percy said, smiling from the unexpected joy.
Karna said warmly, “I’ve come back, Percy.”
Percy hugged his waist, sobbing. “I thought I would never be able to see you again.”
Karna said, “They all came back safely.”
Percy hugged Karna’s neck, grinning and hopping around. Karna then said, “Though we were only parted for a few days… I imagine your eyes are almost healed, right?”
“En,” Percy said. “There’s still one more day.”
“Tomorrow at noon,” Karna said, picking up Percy’s hand. “Everything will get better, I promise. There might still be one more battle, but I will specially request the Pontiff to give us a little more time to be together.”
Percy nodded. Karna then picked up his adopted son in a horizontal carry, bringing him back into their room.
“Alright, don’t cry anymore…”
“Everything’s over now.”
“I promise you, Percy, after everything is over, we’ll stay together for good… I promise you…”
Tonight, every bone in A-Ka’s body was steeped with exhaustion. Feiluo’s passing had caused all of his strength to leave him, and he couldn’t even find the courage to face Percy. Even now, he hadn’t said hello to him -- and his dreamscape had already held up to the test.
That was to say, even A-Ka himself would experience what Percy had seen in his dream; he would sacrifice his own life to change this world.
“Are you still down?” Heishi pushed open the door and entered the bathing room. He was wearing a bathrobe, holding a bottle of fruit juice in his hand. He handed another bottle to A-Ka, who lifted a hand to take it.
“Not anymore,” A-Ka said matter-of-factly. “I just feel a little uneasy, I don’t know how to face Percy tomorrow.”
Heishi untied his bathrobe, his handsome, well-sculpted body revealing itself under A-Ka’s gaze. He then walked into the hot water, sitting directly across from A-Ka. He pressed his feet against A-Ka’s, and the press of their skin caused A-Ka to grow a lot more calm.
“Human lives are very fragile,” Heishi replied.
“Yes,” A-Ka said quietly. “But they are also very powerful. Every person, including my people who perished in the City of Machines.”
Heishi pulled A-Ka into his arms, stroking his head.
That same night, A-Ka began to merge the three passwords, borrowing Moran’s laboratory to unlock the lock. Angus, Huixiong, Heishi, and “Feiluo” gathered in the study, anxiously watching A-Ka place Libre’s chip into the decoder as volumes of densely packed information flooded out.
Moran said, “Retrieve his memories that have to do with Father.”
A-Ka said, “There’s too many. That includes the military movements that involved Father…”
“Search by keyword,” Angus said. “The password to the Central Core, the twenty second of the eleventh month last year.”
According to the keywords Angus had provided, A-Ka began to search. In an instant, 99% of the messages were eliminated, and Angus said, “Circular ring-shaped memory injection, cellular structure, destruction of the original chip.”
Once again, a large portion of the messages were removed. Angus continued, “Keyword, Doctor Melendez.”
“Found it.” A-Ka raised his head, only to see the contents on the vertical projector screen flashing at him, these strange lines of code. He copied the code onto another chip, and finally, the three chips were inserted at the same time into the prehistoric decoder.
The instant that he pressed down on the power button, A-Ka’s heart was beating so hard it almost leapt out of his throat.
“Heavenly Father, please protect us…” Several times, A-Ka couldn’t seem to find the courage to press it.
This was a historic moment, and the President of the Mercenary Association, the Pontiff, the Son of God, and the future King of the Clone Country passed down for millions of years, all gathered around this common, ordinary human, waiting for him to activate a fresh section of history that the humans, clones and robotic lifeforms would face.
In that moment, they unwittingly created a whole new section of history. A golden age, with the weight of Heishi’s hand on the back of A-Ka’s pressing down on that button, was born in that instant.
A complex polyhedron shot out from the chip decoder. The first section, the second section, the third section...
99%, 100%, complete.
The red light suddenly shrank in, and there was silence for a moment, before a light blue glow began to emanate as a ring of symbols appeared, circling slowly. Below the symbols appeared annotations and explanations, as a low, rich voice spoke. “The final termination sequence for the core of the Astrolabe surveillance system. Requesting a connection with Labere.”
All of the people present let out excited cries. A-Ka leaned against Heishi’s front, once again tearing up from excitement and joy.
“After noon tomorrow, we will begin our battle,” Angus said. “I will rally all the military power I have left at my disposal to protect you guys when you break into the City of Machines.”
A-Ka nodded. “I’m in charge of helping Heishi arrive at the Nuclear Core.”
Huixiong said, “The mercenaries and I will prepare to launch a guerilla attack from within, we’ll draw away some of the enemy’s firepower.”
Moran said, “My duty is already complete. I will pray for you all.”
“We will definitely succeed,” A-Ka said with tears in his eyes as he hugged the others. Karna smiled as he slapped Heishi’s arm, saying, “You guys have done well, I’m going to go back to keep Percy company now. Tomorrow, I’ll head out with you all.”
Tonight, A-Ka couldn’t sleep at all. He sat on the swings in the garden, watching the clear sky and the brilliant starry river above. He knew that this was going to be his last night.
Heishi stood in the courtyard, his two hands pressed against the railing, watching A-Ka in the garden.
“I want to watch it for a little while longer,” A-Ka said, lifting his head to stare at the sky. “Heishi, say, do you think the Heavenly Father’s spaceship is drifting alone, asleep in the depths of space right now?”
“Actually I really long to see him again,” Heishi said quietly. “It’s you who caused me to feel this emotion of longing for the first time. Now I’ve begun to feel that, when I am far from the people I am most familiar with, my friends, my loved ones, a strong sense of unease rises from my soul. I imagine that you humans are the same, so you search for support.”
A-Ka lowered his head to stare at the ground, murmuring, “What about now?”
“Now?” Heishi thought for a moment, before responding, “Everything is very good.”
“A-Ka.” Karna brought Percy over.
A-Ka began to smile, and Percy ran towards him, hugging him tightly.
“It’s so great that you came back safely,” Percy said, his voice quivering.
“Sorry, Percy,” A-Ka choked on a sob. “I… I made you worry…”
“Shh.” With his eyes still blindfolded and a smile on his youthful face, he pressed a finger against A-Ka’s lips, before pressing a kiss to his forehead.
“I no longer dream now,” Percy said warmly and affectionately. “You all will be well. After all, my dreams aren’t always accurate, right?”
“Yes,” A-Ka said, smiling. “Your dreams predicted things wrong. We’re all here, safe and sound.”
Percy asked, “Before you head out tomorrow, can you come keep me company for a bit?”
“Of course,” A-Ka answered quietly. “When that time comes, you’ll be able to see me with your own eyes. You’ll see us, Heishi…”
Percy nodded, before handing A-Ka a flower. A-Ka held it in his hand and smiled a little, before Percy turned and left with Karna.
Heishi walked over, sitting shoulder to shoulder with A-Ka on the swing.
“I don't want to sleep tonight,” A-Ka said. “Can you keep me company for a bit?”
Heishi en-ed, leaning against A-Ka’s side. A-Ka stuck that flower onto the chair, and the two of them leaned against each other, swaying gently with the motion of the swing.
Tomorrow, this world would no longer be the same. It was a pity that he wouldn’t be able to see it in person.
If there was a pair of eyes that could replace him to see this new world, how good that would be.
“What are you thinking about?” Heishi asked.
A-Ka began to smile, and Heishi even knew to care about what he was thinking. Watching him slowly become like a human gave A-Ka strange, miraculous feeling.
“I’m thinking about my past,” A-Ka murmured. “I’m thinking about the world that I’ve grown to recognize ever since I could remember things.”
What kind of a world was that? A-Ka still remembered a fragment of a blurry memory from when he was three or four. That was a day when he and many small children in the Ant Nest’s nursery had been undergoing human thought training. They sat together in a darkened room as the robots played a movie.
In the movie was a human who was currently exploring a desolate world. The dangers and horrors he faced were far too many, and A-Ka kept feeling that in the next instant the main character would die. Thankfully, with the help of the robots, every time, before he was about to die, he managed to escape danger.
His next segment of memory was when he was at the age of learning how to be a mechanic. He had always wanted to go take a look outside - every year he tried to get a job that would take him to the surface, but no matter what, his request would never pass. Even after many years, he had never once gained the opportunity to go up to the surface. In the end, when he went to the rubbish disposal to find scrap parts, he unexpectedly also found that exit that led to the beach.
With that, he was so excited his entire body began to tremble. It grew difficult for him to sleep at night, because from time to time, he would sneak out to look at the vast ocean and craggly rocks. That small patch of land and sky was his entire world. Even later, he absorbed knowledge like a sponge, planning for a day that he would be able to leave this huge, icy cage.
He designed, and began to slowly build K.
Though human bodies were so frail, they were the beings that had the most adventurous spirits. He couldn’t even explain clearly where this desire to escape had come from, or when exactly it had slowly taken root and grown in his heart. Was it because of the loneliness and hesitation he felt when he was alone? He kept feeling that at the end of the ocean lay an even vaster new world.
That day, when the robotic guards notified him that it was his turn to undergo the inspection, he had thought that without a doubt that his little secret would be found by ‘Father’, and that secret would end him.
But that hadn’t happened.
In the vast sea of blue light, according to convention, a human could ask ‘Father’ to grant a single wish. According to human legends, as long as they worked hard for their entire lives, giving their all for the City of Machines, then this wish would be granted after they died. Legend also had it that for every person, when their mind was being searched through by ‘Father’, they would lose all sense of self. The wish that rose then was the deepest demand in their heart.
A-Ka slowly began to recall. That day, he was drowning in the vast sea of blue light.
“I wish that… there was someone who would accompany me,” A-Ka said. “Someone who would take me to change the world, to search for… freedom…”
Later, he peacefully left ‘Father’’s consciousness, as if nothing had ever happened. His robot and his secret passageway were not found by ‘Father’, and it wasn’t until the end that he learned - ‘Father’’s programming didn’t allow it to read the inner hearts of humans. On top of that, humans were the most complex living beings in this world. Even the omnipotent ‘Father’) couldn’t tell what every human was thinking.
With that, he continued to carry out his plans to explore. His courage was so strong that even he himself was taken aback. And then, he met Heishi.
The clouds appeared and disappeared, and the tides ebbed and flowed. Today, they were here, and Father’s era had already become history.
In the early morning, the thunderous buzz of machines woke him. When A-Ka opened his eyes, the sunlight that encompassed the sky above Dragonmaw City was blocked out by humans, clones, and the Curia; everything that had life in it was currently gathering under this sky, with the Hall of Faith in Dragonmaw City becoming the central headquarters.
“Are we heading out now?” A-Ka asked tiredly.
“Too early,” Heishi replied. “We still have a lot of time to prepare.”
A-Ka passed through the hallway, coming to the Hall of Faith. He first went to bathe, and then he ate his breakfast. The commander of the clones, Angus, ten plus members of his clone generals, and Huixiong, with the members of his Mercenary Association Board, were all gathered in the hall. Moran smiled and said, “Yesterday night, you didn’t seem to sleep very well.”
A-Ka smiled. “Yes, but it’s already enough.”
“Then, everyone,” Moran said, “Today, everything will be up to you.”
Percy sat on the chair in the middle, and Moran gently untied the white silk wrapped around his eyes, tenderly wiping away the remnants of the paste from around them.
“Percy?” A-Ka asked joyfully. “What do you see?”
Percy opened his eyes. Karna, A-Ka, and Heishi were standing in front of him. Just as Percy’s eyes opened, they closed again. This repeated a few times, until they finally adjusted to the strong light that had appeared suddenly.
“Do you see me?” A-Ka asked, worried.
Light appeared in Percy’s eyes. He had a pair of clear eyes that looked like black obsidian.
“What do you see?” Moran asked mildly.
“I see… light,” Percy said. “And hope. A-Ka, I see you, and Heishi too. You guys are exactly the same as I imagined you to be!”
As he shouted loudly, Percy rose to his feet, pulling A-Ka into a hug. A-Ka was so moved that it was difficult for him to give voice to his feelings Percy walked out of the hall, the bright light making it almost impossible for him to open his eyes at first. Outside the platform of the Hall of Faith was a sea of battle airships stretching as far as the eye could see. Amidst the roar of the engines, shouts of humans and clones echoed under the vast sky.
In front of his eyes, a new world opened wide its doors.
moon: and next time, how it all comes together
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon.