"The sleeping A-Ka bore a tired expression as he slowly opened his eyes."
Editor(s): namio, jelly
One year later.
Dragonmaw City welcomed the Festival of Spring’s Dusk in this new life. Percy stood on the platform, holding the sacred relic for Pontiff Moran. Moran closed the volume of scripture; the prayer was complete, and the gathered crowd of citizens let out cheers of celebration that rang out like an ocean.
Percy looked towards the splendor of Dragonmaw City under that golden sunlight.
“Sometimes I feel that everything is beyond comprehension,” he said quietly. He followed behind Moran as they walked into the hall. Gentle, light music began in the distance as Moran slowed his steps and said, “Today, the climate of the land is already suitable for planting seeds and growing crops. I feel like that is also beyond comprehension.”
“I’m talking about this world,” Percy smiled warmly. “If only A-Ka and Heishi could see it, then that would be good.”
“They will return.” Karna took Percy’s hand, bowing towards Moran, who smiled gently. “Go ba, take a walk around, the weather is beautiful today.”
All the defenses had already been removed from Dragonmaw City, and the clear sky stretched above for thousands of miles. White clouds drifted by, and a golden sea of tulips were in full bloom, creating a vision of splendour.
“Has Heishi written back?” Percy asked Karna.
“No, he hasn’t,” Karna replied. “Last time when I got word of him from Huixiong, he was in Phoenix City, but he only stayed there for three days before he left for the Western Shore.”
Percy said, “Is he still trying to find a way to enter the Nucleus of the Astrolabe?”
“Wu,” Karna said. “He is not the same as us. Let him be. Darling, where do you want to go?”
“I want to go take a look at the memorial monument, can we?” Percy asked.
“Of course.” Karna led Percy onto a carriage, and they headed towards the memorial monument outside of Dragonmaw City. There, a pointy tower some tens of meters tall had been erected, pointing straight to the heavens. On it was carved all of the serial numbers of the clones who had perished in the battle.
Percy placed a single blossom in front of the monument, while Karna stood silently behind him.
“I don’t know why,” Percy said, “but recently, I’ve often been dreaming about the past.”
Karna said, “And so?”
He knelt down by Percy’s side, one hand wrapping around his waist. Percy closed his eyes and leaned his head on Karna’s shoulder.
“Everyone’s hard work has finally paid off,” Percy said quietly as he opened his eyes, looking into Karna’s azure blue ones. “Everyone has done incredible things, so I must also continue to live properly.”
Karna said, “I’ll let you accompany me to join the carnival, how about that?”
Percy began to smile, and before he could open his mouth, Karna had already lifted him up by the waist. Getting him to sit on his shoulders, Karna strode rapidly towards the crowds participating in the revelry of the Festival of Spring’s Dusk.
Phoenix City had already dismantled its clamoring factories, and the new City Hall rose from where they had once stood. Its shape was like a phoenix’s wings spread in flight; the eastern wing was the headquarters of the human mercenaries, while the western wing had become the living quarters of the clones.
“President.” A mercenary knocked on the door and came in, saying, “We’ve found Heishi’s whereabouts.”
Shahuang propped his legs up on his office desk, his hat covering his face. Huixiong was currently signing off on a stack of documents, and without lifting his head he said, “Is he still willing to return?”
“He is still all by himself,” the mercenary replied. “This is the telegraph that he sent. He’s currently in the shore region of the Eastern Mainland.”
“That brat.” From underneath the brim of his cap, Shahuang revealed a hint of a smile. He drawled, “How much longer does he want to stay away? Doesn’t he like to eat the coffee jelly from that one stall outside the Central Government Tower? Why doesn’t he come back and eat his fill?”
Huixiong replied, “I see that he’ll never give up. Whatever, let’s prepare to celebrate the Festival of Spring’s Dusk. Does General Angus have no other requests?”
Shahuang said, “He should be preparing to be inaugurated, he’ll probably release his resignation speech today.”
In the afternoon of the Festival of Spring’s Dusk, Angus stood in the central plaza, saying solemnly, “With this, I hope that our races will be able to integrate into this new world. A new page of history has been turned, and I hope that this world will also be able to accommodate all of you.”
Applause resounded across the plaza, before Angus continued. “Beginning today, the Rebellion of the Black Plains hereby is dissolved, but the status of each individual in the organization will be maintained. I believe that every one of you brothers will all understand each other and be able to unite. Please remember and engrave in your hearts our brethren who offered up their blood and their lives for us…”
More and more humans and clones chose to leave Phoenix City, dispersing across the entirety of the continent, starting new villages, tilling new ground for crops, or becoming wandering shepherds.
The harbor city that A-Ka and Percy had first seen when they arrived at the Western Mainland, Kurlovich, had become the center of commerce for the region. Meanwhile, after Father had been destroyed, the waters of the ocean had thunderously swallowed up the City of Machines. Humans migrated to the Primeval Heart, and here they established their first political state on the Eastern Mainland.
Heishi stood on a shore that stretched as far as the eye could see, wearing sunglasses. His black windbreaker drifted in the ocean breeze, and a mechanical limb occupied one sleeve.
Here, only boats came and went, and the fishermen smiled as they chatted loudly, asking about his origins. Heishi nodded politely towards them as he walked along the beach, leaving behind a trail of clear footprints.
“You’ve come again!” A small child with bare feet, raced across the beach towards him, saying, “Why did you come back, what are you looking for?!”
Heishi en-ed before continuing to walk. A group of small children gathered around him to ask all sorts of questions.
“I sensed it,” Heishi said. “It should be around here.”
“What did you sense?” the children asked.
“Cocoon,” Heishi responded simply.
“What is Cocoon?” The children laughed loudly, before they all went off to do their own thing.
“Big brother, will you attend the Snowy Mountain Festival with us?” One of the small children came over and asked.
“If I find the person I am looking for, I will.” Heishi took off his sunglasses and glanced at him, before rubbing his head.
“This is for you.” That child put a paper bag in Heishi’s hand, saying, “Mama says that you often come to our village, and you’ve helped us a lot.”
Heishi reached out his mechanical limb, gently taking the paper bag. When his metal fingers closed around it, they let out a series of soft sounds as they rubbed together. He nodded. “Thank you. You all should go back a little earlier, don’t let your families worry about you.”
The children ran far off, but they still glanced back at Heishi across the distance, waving to him in farewell. Heishi also smiled towards them and waved his hand.
A bonfire was started by the shore, and the warm, gentle night fell. A full moon rose from the horizon, casting its silver radiance over the ocean. Heishi leaned on a section of the rocky reef, pillowing his head on his own arms as he stared silently into the distance.
A-Ka, ever since we parted from each other, I did as you said. I went to Phoenix City and ate those shredded coconut buns and coffee jelly that you spoke of.
I passed through the northern section of the Western Mainland, and there I saw mountain peaks and islands out to sea, waterfalls and volcanoes.
At every stop along my journey, the sunlight always followed me. I passed through the forests you spoke of, the ones that could sing.
Right now, I am beside the great lake that is the Eye of the Creator. This is a clear, limpid snowmelt pond, and every year, around the Festival of Spring’s Dusk, the waters of the lake will melt from the ice they were encased in.
I went to all of the places that you spoke of, but I cannot sense you.
The sunlight, the wind, the rainwater, the snowflakes, the great land and its various inhabitants, they are all not you, and they do not contain your essence.
It wasn’t until the moment that you melded into one with the Nucleus that I realized, the last emotion that my heavenly father bestowed upon me would be such intense longing and pain, such a loss of direction.
Or perhaps, in my heavenly father’s thoughts, he had never imagined that I would also experience this kind of eternal, unchanging grief and regret that would never be able to be resolved in my entire life.
Did you know? A long time ago, the day that Karna returned, Percy already knew about the truth behind Feiluo leaving. It was just like you said; he knew Karna was not him. Just like how I know that the current world is not you.
But Percy didn’t say anything about it. He is living diligently and adamantly to achieve that happiness like before. This is also a lesson that I have learned from you humans.
So I will continue to search, though I am no longer grieving, because as long as I feel that you are living, there is still hope for everything.
Heishi closed his eyes. He was toying with a piece of crystal in his hand, and the crystal glittered with light, pulsing as if it was resonating with something. It was the melody of the ebb and flow of the tides, it was the beating of Heishi’s heart, it was that complicated state of mind borne of the meeting of grief and hope that lingered for a long time without dissipating.
When the morning light shone over the ocean, the gem seemed to tremble. Heishi was immediately startled awake, and he opened his eyes.
A red sun rose, and under its bright morning rays, the waters of the sea pushed the escape chamber to the surface, where it quietly grounded itself on the beach.
Heishi walked to the escape chamber and opened the lid.
The sleeping A-Ka bore a tired expression as he slowly opened his eyes. Under the early morning light, when he saw Heishi’s handsome face, he began to smile.
—— Astrolabe Rebirth · The End ——
moon: And with that, Astrolabe Rebirth is complete! Thank you all for following along and reading, the Astrolabe has now been reborn, and our CP is together again.
If you liked the scifi, please consider hopping on over to Star Knight, and if you liked the dynamic between A-Ka and Heishi, Dinghai Fusheng Records is probably your next stop (if you haven’t come from there already, that is).
(who’s that scheduling this last chapter to go up at sunrise website time? not me, surely not)
Before you go, here’s how the TL team was thinking things would end:
A-Ka opened his eyes and asked, “Who are you?”
With a sad smile, Heishi held his hands and said, “We’ll figure it out together. We have all the time in the world.”
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon.