Editor(s): namio, jelly
brief mention of cannibalism
The airship dragged trails of smoke behind it as it rushed towards a desolate plain. It first skimmed a mountainous object, before, with a series of violent shudders, it fell off a cliff and sank into a large river.
With a huge boom, the water wildly rushed in. A-Ka dazedly got up, grabbed Heishi’s hand, and flipped the escape pod switch. But the escape hatch was stuck.
“Heishi!” A-Ka shouted.
Heishi remained unconscious.
“Damn it!” A-Ka kicked at it a few more times, but the water flow grew heavier and heavier. He put Heishi on his back, searching for an exit. Heishi was too heavy; he was as dense as a piece of steel. The two of them were trapped in the fighter as the water level rose higher and higher. As Heishi was splashed by the water, he suddenly opened his eyes, and he turned his hand and hugged A-Ka’s waist before lifting his foot. With a leap and a dull thud, an entire section of the metal sheet flew out under the water.
The two of them rushed to the surface, washed about this way and that as they completely lost their sense of direction, before finally, with great difficulty, they crawled onto the shore.
Bedraggled, A-Ka coughed out a few mouthfuls of water, before meeting Heishi’s gaze. The two of them couldn’t resist, and began to laugh loudly.
“Hahaha --” A-Ka didn’t know why, but he laughed until he was completely out of breath. Heishi also couldn’t resist a smile, and he wiped the water off his face before sitting down on a rock.
This was a desolate plain, but they were still within the borders of the Country of Steel. A-Ka observed the direction of the sun and confirmed their position. The two of them stood up high, looking at the road in the distance.
To the eastern side of the plains, plumes of thick smoke rose from where “Father” and the clones’ mothership had their final confrontation, which had twisted time and space for an instant, sending them some four hundred kilometers away from the City of Machines. It had also brought along quite a few robot weapons that flew like meteorites, each embedding themselves in the rocky earth.
A-Ka picked through the debris of the robots to find a few useful scraps, and after melting them with a nuclear reactor-powered furnace, he turned them into a new small wrench. He thought of the robot K, and he had so many questions that his brain almost exploded.
Why was K in that place?
There was a person in K! A-Ka recovered his wits and recalled the few sentences it had said to him, so there was definitely a person inside steering it. But this person, why did they know them? Or was it because of the battle that someone unknowingly stumbled across K in that cave, before climbing into it and directing it into battle, unknowingly saving himself and Heishi?
No matter how A-Ka thought about it, he couldn’t figure it out, so he could only put it aside for now. Before, the only desire in his mind was to find a fusion engine for K, but now when there were fusion engines scattered about everywhere, he no longer had a need for one.
“I’m going,” Heishi said suddenly.
“Where are you going?” A-Ka asked. He predicted that the next words would be something like “it has nothing to do with you” again, and A-Ka was going to explode from anger because of this person. He never should have saved him in the first place.
“I rescued you from the ocean!” A-Ka said. “And I saved your life again in the living quarters! Can’t you be a little nicer to me?!”
“I’ve also saved you quite a few times. Now we’re even!” Heishi said.
A-Ka said, “How have you? If I hadn’t brought you out…”
Heishi and A-Ka stood on two ends of a needle before A-Ka suddenly realized that arguing had no point. Just now, on the journey here, if Heishi wasn’t there, A-Ka would never have survived under his own power. But without himself, Heishi wouldn’t have been able to find the path out.
“Whatever, let’s not talk about this,” A-Ka said helplessly. “Where are you going?”
“I have a mission,” Heishi said evenly.
A-Ka’s heart jolted, and he asked, “What mission? You’ve remembered your own identity?”
Heishi hesitantly stared off into the distance, before finally shaking his head slightly. A-Ka questioned, “What did you remember?”
Heishi said, “Nothing, I only know that I have a mission.”
A-Ka said, “Then isn’t that the end? You also don’t know what the mission is, so where are you going?”
Heishi seemed a little annoyed. A-Ka went over to go pat his shoulder, but Heishi turned his body to the side and avoided it.
A-Ka was also too tired to continue talking with this maniac. He hopped off the rocks and picked through the fallen scraps of robots on the plains. After a while, he saw that Heishi had also come down, wandering about on the desolate plain without a purpose.
“You’re not even remotely familiar with this world,” A-Ka shouted, “and you don’t have a destination in mind, so don’t walk about randomly! If you get lost then you’ll have no way out!”
Heishi picked up a rock, hefting it in his hand, before hurling it into the distance, letting out an outraged, furious roar.
A-Ka vaguely understood a little of Heishi’s emotions.
One person, without a past, without a future, without knowing what he was called; that kind of confusion and frustration, if it was constantly being suppressed in the depths of his heart like a demon, would have a person feeling extremely bitter.
“Hey, old bro,” A-Ka walked over and said, “Don’t be like this.”
The muscles of Heishi’s body were all tensed up tightly, but after hearing A-Ka’s voice, they slowly relaxed. He shot A-Ka a cold glare.
“Where are you planning on going?” Heishi asked.
“I don’t know,” A-Ka smiled. “At least we’ve escaped, isn’t that so? The world is so big, there will always be somewhere to go. Plus, you still owe me two lives, so why don’t we travel together.”
Heishi said coldly, “I don’t owe my life to anyone.”
A-Ka persevered. “I saved you twice.”
What he didn’t expect was for Heishi to instantly reach out a hand, and with his palm he cupped A-Ka’s head.
Heishi said mildly, “One time.”
Heishi pulled his hand away, before bringing it back again.
“Twice, now I’ve saved you twice.”
Heishi walked away, and A-Ka said wildly, “What does that mean?!”
From afar, Heishi turned his head back. “Just now I could have killed you!”
A-Ka was completely speechless.
Three hours later, A-Ka managed to strenuously disassemble a mecha. Heishi was still nearby, drifting about aimlessly. He didn’t come over to help, nor did he go too far. A-Ka shouted, “Can’t you come here and help me out?!”
Heishi said, “Say ‘please’.”
A-Ka said tiredly, “Please.”
Heishi casually lifted a hand and tugged the entire arm of the mecha off, throwing it on the ground. A-Ka sized up Heishi, thinking in his heart, this person has so much strength. But he wasn’t a clone, and he wasn’t a robot… the blood of the clones would not be red, and robots didn’t even bleed.
This time Heishi didn't keep going. He stood to one side, watching A-Ka picking through the scraps. He didn’t ask any questions, nor did he speak, until A-Ka put together a laser gun, handing it to Heishi, saying, “Keep this on you for protection.”
Heishi looked at that laser handgun for a while, before taking it and mimicking the attire of those clones as he pinned it against his waist.
“After we leave here, we need to pass through the influence of the City of Steel, heading west,” A-Ka said to Heishi. “Getting to the New Mainland is how we’ll survive.”
“When will we go?” Heishi asked a little impatiently.
A-Ka explained patiently, “We need to make the proper preparations, or we’ll die along the way.”
Heishi said, “You’ll die, but I won’t.”
A-Ka said nastily, “Since you won’t, then you go on your own.”
Heishi sniffed haughtily through his nose, before he suddenly asked, “Did they die?”
“Who?” Immediately A-Ka realized the current condition of the City of Machines. “Father”’s condition was not one he could pinpoint, but from the knowledge he had amassed over the years, “Father” was all-powerful. The Computer Tower that rose from the ground was only one portion of “Father”, and the even more colossal mechanical body laid buried under the earth.
A-Ka really couldn’t say for sure, so he could only vaguely explain it to Heishi. He also remembered the chip that that old professor had given him, and he pulled it out and studied it carefully for a while. Of course, both of them couldn’t see anything special about it, and Heishi had absolutely no interest in this chip, so A-Ka could only carefully put it away again.
Night fell, and in the shelter of the robotic debris they turned on the nuclear stove, huddling by it to stay warm. Heishi returned to the riverbank, using the laser gun to shoot a few oddly shaped fish to death. Due to them growing within wastewater, the bodies of the fish contained a large amount of heavy metals. A-Ka only ate a little, and he didn’t let Heishi eat too much either, to prevent either of them from being poisoned. Afterwards, they ducked inside of a broken robotic shell to sleep.
In the middle of the night, a great snow began to fall on the plains. The north wind gusted over the desolate plain, and A-Ka was so cold that he couldn’t stop shivering, but he didn’t know where Heishi had gone. He shrank into the robotic shell a bit more, trying his best to hide in a spot sheltered from the wind. He was so cold he couldn’t bear it anymore, and he felt that he was almost frozen stiff.
Just as A-Ka was freezing almost to the point of hallucinating, a warm body pressed in, spine against him.
“Where did you go…” A-Ka asked, voice garbled.
“It has nothing to do with you,” Heishi responded in a cold voice. A-Ka was so cold that his teeth chattered together, and he had no way to bear it, so he snuggled into Heishi’s embrace. He felt that Heishi’s chest was like a hot nuclear furnace, and after a long time, he slowly grew warm again and peacefully fell asleep.
The next day, A-Ka was woken by the cold, and when the sun hung directly overhead in the sky, Heishi came back.
A-Ka shivered as he climbed out of the pile of robotic debris, where he found that Heishi was dragging along a clone corpse by the leg, bringing it back to camp before tossing it in front of him.
A-Ka, “Don’t joke around! How could we eat people?”
Heishi, “He’s not the same kind as you.”
A-Ka knew that compared to humans, clones were basically just a collection of proteins, and a dead clone even more so. But as he watched that clone’s face that had been frozen to a greenish purple color, he really had no way to eat a living creature that had the same shape as a human, with the same features.
“I… I won’t eat,” A-Ka said.
“Then I’ll eat it myself,” Heishi said.
A-Ka said hysterically, “If you’re going to eat this clone, then don’t talk to me ever again!”
Heishi said, “Why are you this troublesome?”
A-Ka huffed. “Anyways you can’t eat clones.”
A-Ka had no way to accept the process of Heishi standing in front of him, sawing off a “human” leg before roasting and eating it. Heishi hesitated for a moment, and finally he let go of that clone’s body as he went in search of other food.
What had been swept onto the plains was not just them, but the unfortunate thing was that all the living things, all the clones inside any mechas had all died. Heishi pulled off an arm from a mecha and swung it around experimentally; it was a little too strenuous to swing.
A-Ka said, “Don’t bring too many things. Do you like heavy weapons?”
Heishi didn’t speak.
A-Ka was between embarrassment and laughter, as he helped him peel off a long strip of metal and weld on a handle. Heishi tested it, and when he waved it around the wind went hu hu around it, before he slung it against his back, just like a broadsword.
“Let’s go.” A-Ka organized his own hastily gathered satchel. Inside it there was a compass, a box of healing supplies that the clones used, a few injections of stimulants, a portable energy stove, a wrench, an assortment of screwdrivers and other tools for fixing broken electromagnetic equipment, and a set of magnetic field generators.
"What did you bring these for?” Heishi asked indifferently. “You can’t even carry them.”
A-Ka had brought so many things that it was a little taxing, but he persisted. “The repair tools of a mechanic are like a soldier’s gun. In the future they’ll be of use.”
On the flat plains, the large pieces of snow that fell were so white they stabbed the eyes. Heishi put on a pair of sunglasses that he had gotten off the clone’s body as he and A-Ka stepped out into a new, unknown world.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon.