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Chapter 5.1 - The Spine of the World

Astrolabe Rebirth


The revolution of the clones was actually started for the sake of the humans.


Translator(s): moon
Editor(s): namio, jelly

Content Warning:
brief mentions of bodily functions

This was the sixth day that A-Ka and Heishi spent walking in the snow.

Their surroundings were devoid of any human habitation. They first passed through a small grove of trees, before coming out of it and entering a huge mountain range.

The satchel on A-Ka’s body had already been transferred to Heishi’s hands, but even with this, A-Ka was still a little short of breath, and he had no way to bear their travels during the day. When they came to a fissure in the mountain range, he was almost tempted to lie down on Heishi’s back and have Heishi take him as they clambered over the mountains.

“This is the entire ridgeline of the Astrolabe,” A-Ka said, “Jingchuan.”

As usual, Heishi listened to him with a chilly expression. As they sat in front of the fire, A-Ka finished eating the wild fox that they had caught. The meat was both foul and smelly and there was no salt, so he almost vomited it back up as he ate it.

“The Astrolabe is our world,” A-Ka explained to Heishi. “A huge astrolabe, guiding along seventeen smaller astrolabes. Every mainland is its own separate island, like gears in a machine, nestled together because of this.”

Heishi unconcernedly en-ed, before asking, “Are you done resting?”

“No,” A-Ka said a little helplessly. “I’ve slowed you down, very sorry for that.”

This sentence of A-Ka’s had really come out of the depths of his own heart -- Heishi was really too sturdy: he didn’t dread the cold, his strength was extraordinary, and he could walk for a whole day without resting. Of course, to make up for that, he also ate a lot. After all, he was a human from three thousand years ago, and back then, the genes of humankind were of the highest quality; hence, it was known as the Golden Age. He was unlike A-Ka and the rest of humans of the Black Iron Age, struggling under the control of the machines with their fragile constitutions.

All along the journey, A-Ka had been observing Heishi, trying to figure what exactly he was. Finally, one direct piece of evidence had A-Ka convinced that Heishi was indeed human: excretion.

If he was human, then he would have to eat, and of course he would have to excrete. Heishi could sweat, and he sometimes wanted to bathe. The way he bathed was to take off his clothes, standing wholly naked in the snow, directly using the snow to wipe down his body. Sometimes he would also excrete, but most of the time he would avoid A-Ka when he did so. This kind of shame seemed to be inborn.

One day, A-Ka watched Heishi from afar. Heishi had just finished wiping down his body, and after he finished taking his bath, he knelt in the snow, unmoving. Under the shining sunlight, his bronzed skin made him look like a perfect statue of an ancient male god. A-Ka had only seen people squatting or sitting before, and this was the first time he had seen someone kneel while they peed. After he left, A-Ka went over to go take a look, but he was dragged back by Heishi and tossed into the snow.

Even A-Ka felt that he was being a pervert, so he could only admit defeat and flee.

Finally, A-Ka thought, aside from Heishi’s temper not being very good and him being a little prone to violence at times, overall he was a very good companion.

“Have you seen humans from the Bronze Age?” A-Ka asked.

Heishi raised an eyebrow. A-Ka realized that he might have made him mad, so he stuttered out an explanation. “I didn’t want to… ask about your past. I was just curious.”

“No,” Heishi responded. “I don’t know what that is.”

“The Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Iron Ages,” A-Ka said. “I am of the fourth kind of human. It was said that before the Golden Age, there was an even more ancient, original humankind.”

Heishi listened silently. During these past few days A-Ka would tell him about some things every now and then, and though Heishi looked as if he wasn’t paying attention, A-Ka knew that he had probably taken it all in.

“The original humans created everything on this mainland,” A-Ka said, “including the cloning techniques, computers and artificial intelligence. Fourteen thousand years later, their bodies evolved to become more and more strong.”

Heishi said, “And the generations afterwards called them the Golden Age of humankind.”

A-Ka nodded. “That was the most splendid age of man. I don’t know if there are any more humans from the Golden Age like you, maybe there are more in the imaginary country or the Curran People’s Confederation.”

Heishi said mildly, “If there are, then so what?”

A-Ka said enthusiastically, “Maybe they can figure out your mission?” He picked up a tree branch and drew a map on the ground. “After passing through Jingchuan and flipping over the mountain range from this patch of highland here, we’ll arrive at the Aijia Strait. Maybe there we might be able to wait for a ship that’s going towards Curran.”

Heishi said easily, “Or we might be captured by the robots and shot full of holes like a wasp nest. This is the sixth time I’m listening to your plans.”

A-Ka shrugged helplessly. Suddenly, Heishi’s expression changed minutely, as if he had heard something.

“Stay here,” Heishi commanded, before he lifted up his greatsword and slid down the slope, raising a flurry of snow in his wake.

The sounds grew clearer, until even A-Ka could hear them. That was the roar of airship engines and the sound of machine guns firing, along with the shrill screams of women and the confused, panicked cries of men.

The robots had chased them down! A-Ka fell into a panic. He followed the small path down, until within the snow-covered valley, he saw a group of humans sprinting for their lives and trying to hide, as two robotic patrols hovering in midair pursued them, shooting bullets as they chased their quarry.

Up on the cliffs, a human figure leapt from cliff to cliff. It was Heishi.

Heishi spread his arms, his greatsword in one hand, leaping down headfirst from up high.

“Be careful!” A-Ka roared.

Heishi didn’t say a single word in response as he landed on one of the robotic patrols. The hovering killing machine turned, and the bullets changed directions. A-Ka decisively flipped his bag over, dumping out all the things inside with a huala, and as he lifted his head, his hands never stopped as he swiftly put together that magnetic field generator.

The fleeing humans rushed up the slope of the mountain. Heishi pressed down on one of the robotic patrols, as if he was controlling a particularly hard to tame bird of prey, and the robotic patrol collided with the mountain. The second robotic patrol turned its head and flew towards Heishi, opening up its gunports, taking aim at him and preparing to fire.

With a kacha, A-Ka put the last screw of the magnetic field generator’s external cover in place, before wrapping a rope around it. Speedily tying a knot, he picked up the other end of the rope and spun it in rapid circles, before letting it fly out and up.

The electronic box flashing with the grey gold of metal flew up high with a shua, before it sensed a metallic object nearby and was attracted towards the other robotic patrol. With a light sound, it stuck to the body of the robot.

And right after that, with a weng, the blue light of the magnetic field shone forth. Heishi turned his body and pushed off, leaping towards the steep slope, as the second robotic patrol’s anti-gravity engine lost effect and it slammed into the cliff, letting out an earth-shaking boom. One part of the mountain range collapsed - it was an avalanche.

“Run, quickly!” A-Ka shouted.

Heishi was swept down the mountain by the collapsing snow. The humans rushed towards the high ground as the two robotic patrols sizzled with electricity before letting out sounds of explosions, once again starting a chain reaction. Under the snow that covered the entire ground, the mountains stood tall, reflecting the bright sunlight. After the sky-splitting booms, the world regained its stillness.

“Ack, ack, pei!” A-Ka climbed out with great difficulty from the snow. Heishi hurried over to him, lifting him up by the collar with one hand and dragging him out of the snow field.

One by one, the escaping humans clambered out of the snow, barely escaping with their lives, each of them still in a state of shock.

A-Ka nodded towards them. He saw that seven of them had climbed out - two women, four men, and one small girl.

Everyone sat under the sunlight in the snow field, all of them exhausted beyond belief.

“When did you guys escape?” a woman asked A-Ka.

“Seven days ago,” A-Ka said. “I’m called A-Ka, he’s Heishi.”

“Thank you,” a man said gratefully. “We were chased our entire way by these two fellows…”

Heishi said coldly, “I was only protecting myself.”

A-Ka felt a little awkward, and he smiled. “Don’t put it like that. Everyone’s a human, and since we’re all humans we should help each other out.”

The gathered people began to smile, but Heishi walked to one side. In the distance, there were a few more men digging in the snow.

“Friend! Come help us!” a man shouted in the distance. “There’s still a guy here, get him out!”

A-Ka went over, and he bent over to look, but after helping them pull the person inside out, he froze.

It was a clone.

The clone’s face was covered with chips of ice. As he staggered to his feet, a punch from the human standing next to him landed squarely on his face.

“You lied to us!” that man said angrily.

“Hey! Wait! If you have something to say, then say it nicely!” A-Ka was greatly startled, seeing that the clone had been pushed to the ground as soon as he got out.

The men surrounded them. One person held a gun, pressing it against the clone’s head, saying coldly, “Why did you send a signal to the robotic soldiers?”

“I didn’t!” that clone responded angrily.

The leader of the men roared in fury, “You were contacting the soldiers! You wanted them to capture us!”

The clone said, “I only wanted to listen to the news from headquarters…”

A-Ka said, “Don’t… Let him first speak clearly.”

“It has nothing to do with you, bro,” the leader of the men reached his arm out to block A-Ka, trying to get him to go away, and with a shuffle A-Ka backed away. Heishi originally just stood to one side, observing the small girl that was traveling with them, but at this time he suddenly and keenly felt the tension, and he turned and walked towards them.

“What?” Heishi asked icily.

Everyone watched Heishi, before their gazes traveled down to the broad blade in his hand. No one dared to speak.

The leader said, “I’m called Tapp.”

Heishi nodded his head. A-Ka indicated that they first let go of that clone, and he asked the assembled group, “What crime did he commit?”

Tapp said to Heishi, “Along our journey, we kindly took him in, but he actually dared to secretly send a signal to the robotic patrol squad as he traveled with our group…”

The clone said angrily, “I didn’t! I helped them escape from the City of Machines with good intentions! I only wanted to listen to the news from headquarters along the way! Even if we forget that they destroyed my transceiver, they even forgot their debt to me and wanted to kill me! You ungrateful humans…”

In that moment of heightened emotions, that clone wanted to fight with Tapp, but he was stopped by that group of men.

“What did he use to contact the patrol squad?” A-Ka asked Tapp.

Tapp turned and made a gesture, and another person brought out an electric signal transceiver.

A-Ka took a look, before explaining to them, “This one can only receive, it can’t transmit messages. He didn’t deceive you.”

“But it was also him who lured the robotic patrols over,” one man said recalcitrantly. “He was receiving a message when his signal was tracked.”

A-Ka said patiently, “It can’t send messages, which means that the robotic patrols can’t figure out where the signal came from, so they couldn’t have been lured over by him.”

The clone watched them, and everyone felt very awkward. After a short silence, Tapp said, “Bringing him is too dangerous, let’s kill him.”

“You all!” That clone could hardly believe it, but A-Ka broke in. “Wait! Why do you need to kill him?”

Tapp said, “The clones and us aren’t on the same side. Who knows what tricks he's up to?”

A-Ka said angrily, “You can’t kill him!”

A-Ka looked towards Heishi, but Heishi was noncommittal. Tapp and them seemed to be a little fearful of them, and finally A-Ka said, “Hand him over to me, I have questions to ask him.”

A-Ka held out a hand, and the clone grabbed it, using it to help him up. A-Ka walked away with that clone and Heishi.

“Wait!” Tapp shouted from behind.

“What else do you have to say?” A-Ka turned and asked.

Tapp sized up the three of them, almost as if he was estimating Heishi and A-Ka’s fighting capacity, and finally he gave up on some plan of his, saying, “You’d best be careful of that guy.”

“Thank you for the reminder,” A-Ka responded.

Night fell, and A-Ka, Heishi and that clone sat in the cave. They lit a fire, and the rest of the humans stayed within the valley to rest temporarily, lying down in an area sheltered from the wind.

“General Libre has died,” the clone said. “The revolution failed, and “Father” is currently rebuilding the City of Machines. It has also sent out robotic patrols to track down the humans and clone brothers that have escaped.”

This was a piece of news that was as bad as it could get. A-Ka asked, “What news is there from headquarters?”

“You seem to be very clear on our movements,” the clone said casually. “The humans that participated in the Patricide Plan were no more than ten, so how did you know about it?”

A-Ka said, “It was a coincidence. So have they all been defeated?”

“Not yet.” The clone shot a glance at Heishi. “Headquarters had the rest of the wounded troops escape past the Aijia Strait to Andoria to form an alliance with the humans of Curran, before thinking of more plans to counterattack.”

A-Ka pondered deeply, before nodding.

Heishi said, “Have all the people in the City of Machines died?”

The clone sighed and said, “Well, it can’t be counted as a total defeat. At least now, “Father” needs at least ten years to repair itself. Our main body of troops bought us quite a bit of time in the end.”

“What is Andoria?” Heishi asked coldly.

“The country of clones,” the clone answered. “There lives our clones’ ancestors, three of those who gave us their forms. Originally, we clones had four earliest ancestors, but one of them was involved in a scheme many years ago. After the plan failed, he was captured by “Father”. It was he who stayed in the City of Machines, instigated rebellion within all of the clones there, and started this war.”

A-Ka sucked in a breath. The clone’s words had revealed a very important piece of information - at least for now, they were still in the midst of danger.

The clone repeatedly toyed with that small mechanical device, saying tiredly, “I can’t connect with headquarters, the transceiver was broken by those idiotic humans.” After saying this, he realized that A-Ka and Heishi were also humans. “Sorry, I wasn’t talking about you.”

A-Ka nodded and asked, “Why don’t you have a serial number?”

“When the revolution began, all of the clones no longer acknowledged the serial numbers that the robotic government gave us. We all gave ourselves unique names,” the clone said. “My name is Feiluo.”

“I’m called A-Ka.” A-Ka nodded towards him.

“Heishi,” Heishi said.

With the addition of Feiluo, A-Ka finally didn’t have to face the slab of rock that was Heishi every day. When they set off the next day, the other group of humans came over to report to them, asking if A-Ka would go with them. And it was thus that A-Ka’s small three-man group was absorbed into this camp of human refugees.

They crossed mountains and forded rivers, heading to the Aijin Strait, hoping to travel across the ocean to a new mainland.


Translator's Note:

moon: so Feiluo almost became… Phyllo


This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon.

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moon

Translator, writer, avid reader. 吃刀群众.

princess qinghe enthusiast

namio

gege simp

jelly

yolk heathen

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xiao shan's emotional support lesbian
xiao shan's emotional support lesbian
10 days ago

thanks for the chapter! this is really interesting. and as expected from ck gege, the dynamics are very fun