“The Creators fashioned the Astrolabe mainland fifty thousand years ago,”
Editor(s): namio, jelly
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The youth picked out a piece of chocolate, before feeling around for A-Ka’s hand and placing the chocolate in the center of his palm.
“This is for you,” Percy said to A-Ka. “It’s very tasty, Feiluo gave it to me.”
It was with this that A-Ka finally realized: Percy was blind.
“Are you Feiluo’s son?” A-Ka asked.
“Adopted child,” Percy said. “My birth father and mother both died, so Feiluo adopted me.”
“Have you been with him for very long?” A-Ka asked.
“Two years,” Percy said. “Thank you for saving my dad. When I heard headquarters’ news that the revolution failed, I always thought that he died. I never expected that he would still be living… when he came back, I was so happy I couldn’t speak… I also… don’t know how to repay you… Thank you, A-Ka… I… Just now, when I got onto the boat, I wanted to say this to you… but I felt that since you and your friend separated… you weren’t in a good mood…”
A-Ka hadn’t expected that his own careless actions had actually given this human orphan living within the clone army a ray of sunshine and hope in his dark existence.
“You’re welcome.” A-Ka began to smile as he pulled Percy into his embrace. In that instant, he could almost sense the limitless hope and joy overflowing from Percy’s heart, and this intense surge of warm emotion even influenced himself, leading him out of his confusion and perplexity.
The moonlight turned peaceful and serene, and the two youths in the cabin snuggled up against each other. Tired, A-Ka closed his eyes and calmly fell asleep.
On the fifteenth day of the first month, the region of Martha Town was enveloped in a typhoon. The seawater swirled towards the land, and all the humans waiting for aid on the plains scattered towards the mountains. After the typhoon passed, no one knew how many of them died because of a lack of food, drinking water, and medical aid.
Within the darkness of the storm, a line of people was currently walking single-file along the muddy mountain path. Heishi wore a hooded windbreaker as he stood at the head of the squad on the summit of the mountain, looking into the distance. The sea was vast, with no far shore in sight, and only lightning strikes slashed across the sky, connecting the heavens and the earth.
“Heishi!” Feiluo shouted.
Heishi leapt down,rejoining Feiluo and his line of people as they moved forward step by step. Feiluo said loudly beside his ear, “There won’t be any problems!”
Heishi shook his head. His lips moved a little, but the wind and the thunder drowned out all human voices. Feiluo scooted a little closer to say, “I said! They’ll definitely be able to arrive safely!”
“I’m not worried about the ship!” Heishi said. “I’m worried that after those two arrive in the new mainland! That they won’t be able to make a living!”
“They’ll be able to do it!” Feiluo smiled. “My friends will take care of them! A-Ka and Percy will live a comfortable life!”
Heishi nodded. In front, another clone officer turned back and said unhappily, “Commander Feiluo! Are you sure this is the place?!”
Feiluo called loudly, “We’ll be there right away! Hold out a little longer!”
The wild wind was so strong it almost seemed like it was trying to blow this squad of people off of the cliff. In front of them was the end of the path, and Feiluo took a few steps back, roaring, “Open up your hang gliders!”
With this strong tempest, as soon as they opened their hang gliders, they would certainly be blown into the cliffside by the wind and break all the bones in their body. But Feiluo led the way and leapt off the cliff, opening his glider with a huala. In that short instant, Heishi hesitated for a moment, before he too bowed and leapt into the darkness.
In that instant the violent wind gusting by his ear paused for a short moment, and the glider shook open. In the quiet night, he flew towards the distant other edge of the cliff.
This was actually a dead wind zone.
Heishi opened his eyes, only to see that on the other side of the gorge, Feiluo had lit a fluorescent lamp. Over there was a cavern situated high up on the cliffside.
Five special forces troops protected Heishi as they flew towards the cavern.
It wasn’t until they landed solidly on the ground that Heishi let out a breath, folding up the hang glider.
This mountain cave led deep into the darkness. It seemed to have been left unused for many years, and two guards were stationed outside. When they saw Feiluo, they saluted towards him.
Feiluo told Heishi, “We’re here, it’s this place.”
“The Primeval Heart.” Heishi stood in front of a set of doors, lifting his head to look at the strange symbols over the doorway. The center of the doors even had a large chunk of a glowing gem.
“According to the investigations of the Rebel Alliance in this place,” Feiluo said, “this is a historical relic from almost fifty thousand years ago. In the entirety of the Astrolabe mainland, there aren’t any ancient sites from earlier periods than this. And it was just three thousand years ago that this relic was activated for a short period of time. Our people tried to use explosives to open it, but the material of the door...”
When he got to this point, everything grew quiet.
Everyone saw what was strange -- on the door was a small hole that was no more than three centimeters in diameter. From within the hole came a glow of light.
“Last time I came, this hole wasn't there, commander,” a clone said.
“I… I don’t know,” one of the guards said. “When we were stationed here, the door already had this hole.”
Heishi asked, “When were you guys stationed here?”
“Three months ago,” the guard responded.
“This isn’t right,” Feiluo murmured. “Who would punch through the main doors here? What is the purpose of this small of a passage?”
In an instant, Feiluo shot Heishi a look of disbelief.
“It was the mechanical lifeforms.” Heishi had guessed it too. “Before we arrived, there must have been robots who already came here.”
Feiluo said, “That’s impossible! With the troops standing guard, who could have used a laser to pierce through…”
Heishi shook his head very slowly, signaling for Feiluo to stop talking. Feiluo took a look at the guards standing to the sides, and he understood.
Heishi pressed his hand against that gem. The doors let out a loud rumble, before they slowly began to open.
All of the clone troops seemed to sense something in that instant and they all grew alert, pulling out their respective weapons as they stood to either side. With the opening of the doors, a brilliant, eye-catching ray of light shot out from inside. Floating in mid-air behind the doors was actually a humongous astrolabe, radiating a gentle glow.
“What is this place…” Feiluo mumbled.
“The Primeval Heart, the laboratory of the Creator.” Heishi’s voice echoed within that large hall. “There’s no danger, you can all come in.”
The guards walked into the great hall. Heishi and Feiluo craned their necks up to look: the Astrolabe mainland in the center was like a huge model of an islet floating in the air. Feiluo asked, “Why is this place so big?”
“Because of the Creators’ physiques,” Heishi said. “They were all giants who came from the Void.”
Feiluo glanced at Heishi, his gaze filled with both suspicion and shock. He then turned to his subordinates and commanded, “Please, for Heishi’s sake, keep this a secret.”
The guards all nodded, and they stood watch within the great hall.
Heishi climbed the huge staircase onto the tall platform, where he found a huge control stone. In here, all of the fixtures were ten times larger than what humans usually used. Feiluo followed behind Heishi, asking, “How do you know about this place?”
“‘Father’ told me,” Heishi answered.
This sentence caused Feiluo’s guard to rise, but Heishi then said, “Calm down, it seemed to not like me very much.”
Feiluo furrowed his brow but didn’t speak; there were too many unknown factors surrounding Heishi. Ever since this man appeared, his actions had been mysterious and discreet, and most of the time he didn’t even speak a single word. Even A-Ka couldn’t see through him.
Heishi studied the control sphere, before he placed a hand on it. The model of the Astrolabe mainland instantly lit up, and the light rays criss-crossed, projecting forth shadows of living lifeforms.
“The Creators fashioned the Astrolabe mainland fifty thousand years ago,” Heishi explained to Feiluo. “And within the laboratory they left behind are the models of the lifeforms that they once came up with.”
Countless kinds of living creatures: from cellular organisms to insects, then to mammals, appeared one by one within the light. Feiluo quietly watched; what was happening before his eyes had far exceeded all of what he understood about the world.
“The living creatures on the Astrolabe…” Feiluo said, “I recall, were nurtured by nature.”
“Within the limits of your knowledge, that is correct,” Heishi said. “But in reality that’s not the case. Records from humans of ancient times show that humans created clones… but see here.”
Heishi lifted his head, flicking an eyebrow up, and within the stereographically projected hologram appeared a diagram of a human cell.
“Heavens…” Feiluo mumbled. “This is…”
“The first cloned body,” Heishi answered. “This is one of the techniques that the Creators tested out, using the cloning method to incubate even more life, but afterwards, for reasons unknown, they gave up on this method. And there’s this…”
And with Heishi’s voice, within the hologram appeared countless sets of matrices. Feiluo knit his brow and said, “And what are these?”
Heishi gave Feiluo a look. In that instant Feiluo thought of something, and his entire body began to tremble uncontrollably.
Feiluo, “These are the mechanical lifeforms’...”
Heishi, “Right, their soul matrices. If they were coded according to this method, then the mechanical lifeforms would be able to have their own souls.”
Feiluo instantly turned around, grabbing Heishi’s collar and looking at him as he asked, “How did you know these things! Tell me!”
Heishi pushed Feiluo aside, saying quietly, “Don’t get excited, there’s still more to come.”
The images appeared in succession as Heishi controlled the light sphere, saying earnestly, “I got these from ‘Father’’s database, and they differ from the conditions that you all know. After the Creators made humans, they sealed up this laboratory. And three thousand years ago, numerous human explorers discovered it, stealing away the soul matrix technique and the method of creating clones.”
“After that, clone civilization flourished. As for how the cold robots also gained the ability to think and to have emotions, one of the explorers in the group had ignored the warnings of his peers and programmed in the soul matrices, and after that came…”
Feiluo’s voice shook as he murmured, “The revolution of the machines.”
“Your world changed from that point onwards,” Heishi answered. “But one of the explorers, who became known by the later world as one of the new gods, a member of the ‘Thunderbolt’ squad, discovered an emergency mechanism left behind by the Creators. And now, what I want to find is this emergency mechanism.”
“Will it let the Rebel Alliance gain the ultimate victory?” Feiluo answered. “We’ll use all of our resources to help you in this effort.”
Heishi said quietly, “But the key information inside has already been taken away by ‘Father’. I don’t know how it found this place… this is within your kind’s territory.”
Feiluo was silent for a long time, before he said, “Small-scale mechanical lifeforms are unable to be equipped with high-powered lasers, especially ones that can pierce a hole through these doors. My guess is that within our camp, there are spies. And the revolution failing might also be related to them.”
Heishi asked, “Who do you think is most likely to be colluding with ‘Father’?”
“I don’t know,” Feiluo shook his head. “We have too much information in too disorganized of a manner. Only very few of the higher ups within the army know of this place, and including myself, there are no more than seven.”
Heishi said, “Then, it must be one of the seven. Recently, has anyone else come here?”
Feiluo glanced at his subordinates, and one of them responded, “General Mackenzie came before. Back then, the guards who were in this place were two other brothers.”
Feiluo’s forehead furrowed. “Heishi, let’s put aside who stole the information for now. Right now, if we can find the information that was stolen, how will it help you?”
Heishi shook his head and said, “This is the destiny I was born for, and it’s of vital importance. There’s a section of code that can completely stop the operations of ‘Father’...”
“But ‘Father’’s central processing unit is connected to the nuclear core of the entire Astrolabe,” Feiluo frowned.
“Correct,” Heishi nodded. “So, to restart ‘Father’ means that the entirety of the Astrolabe will be reborn.”
In that instant, because of Heishi’s words, everyone was thrown into a state of great shock.
“After the entire Astrolabe is reborn, what will happen?” Feiluo asked in disbelief.
“Many changes will happen in the world, but… I forgot… I’ve forgotten too much inside information. Too much time has passed, and I’ve also slept for too long…”
Heishi narrowed his eyes and shook his head forcefully, as if he was trying to dig out that section of memories from his own mind and capture that fleeting desire. The clones dumbly watched the holograms that the light and shadows created and stared at the magnificent light emitted from the Astrolabe mainland. But no matter how hard Heishi tried, he couldn’t recall that segment of memory that had already been wiped clean.
“I can’t remember…” Heishi murmured, his forehead covered with cold sweat. Feiluo knew that this matter was one of great importance, and he said quietly, “Don’t rush, Heishi. Think carefully, are there any matters that have any connections to these matters?”
“My first memory was seeing A-Ka,” Heishi said, narrowing his eyes. “That time on the beach, A-Ka saved me…”
It wasn’t until this moment that Feiluo knew about the connection between Heishi and A-Ka.
“Would he know anything about your background?” Feiluo asked, concerned.
“The probability is very low,” Heishi said. “The only clue is that… I slept in the ocean for three thousand years.”
At this moment in time, A-Ka was currently resting in the ship’s cabin. The sound of the waves caused him once again to think of the day that he rescued Heishi, and the words that Heishi had spoken to him that day in the bathing chamber.
“What are you thinking about, A-Ka?” Percy asked gently. “Are you thinking about your friend?”
“En,” A-Ka said. “When I met him, it was also on the sea. You’ve woken up? Do you want to drink some water?”
Percy said, “Thank you, I can do it myself.”
Percy felt along until he opened the water bottle, drinking a mouthful.
Percy was only twelve years old, and his blindness was congenital. According to him, one day a robotic squadron had wanted to capture and kill all of the people in his village. The villagers fought back in self-defense, but they were still met with slaughter. Just as they were fighting, the division that Feiluo led had rushed to the scene, and in the wreckage Feiluo had discovered him and taken him with them.
Percy was very mature. He didn’t cry or throw tantrums, and he would often try to guess at other people’s intentions; having such a travelling companion was indeed a blessing. The ship’s journey was long and slow. Every day the clones would come down and hand out food and water twice, and during set hours, they were allowed up onto the deck in shifts to breathe in the fresh air, but the rest of the time they had to squeeze in the lower levels of the ship. Like this, two months passed on their journey.
And after chatting with the compatriots in their cabin, A-Ka learned that these people were all equipped with special skills. Some of them were masters of design, some of them were familiar with production, some knew how to cook, and some were even artists. Life within the cabin was comparatively happy. A bard would play the harp for the children, and according to him, long before the revolution in the City of Machines broke out, there had been quite a few people wandering about on the mainland.
His compatriots’ experiences seemed to open up a completely new door for A-Ka. He gradually learned that the City of Machines was not the entirety of the world, and all this time, humans and clones had always been thinking of ways to destroy this country of demons that influenced the entirety of the Astrolabe world and caused the residents of the mainland to live in abject poverty.
“‘Father’’s power is about to collapse,” one man said to the crowd. “This is a path that is inevitable for history to flourish, and the robots that have no ability to create will never be able to be considered intelligent living beings…”
This was the first time A-Ka had heard such words. He was very curious, sitting there and listening with a great deal of interest, but the other listeners all expressed their boredom. One small child said, “I’ve heard the revolutionary manifesto a hundred times now.”
“I’ve also heard it two hundred times now,” another child said. “I want to hear Uncle Moran tell history stories.”
This wandering bard had curly brown hair and a pair of azure eyes, and though he was not young anymore, he was kind and amiable, and was the person the little children on the boat liked the most. When he heard those words he began to smile, and he plucked the strings of his lyre twice, which let out crisp sounds. The youths all clapped, and the bard then began to sing a lilting melody of a ballad of history.
“In the depths of those faraway stars, the Creator activated his Astrolabe…”
The song detailed the tens of thousands of years of change that had happened in the Astrolabe world. A-Ka combined the knowledge that he had before with the story that this bard was telling. And gradually, he began to understand even more -- the legendary Creator had abandoned his destiny in the depths of the universe, and past legends had dubbed it the “Astrolabe”, which was also the world that the Creator had used to test and grow countless living beings.
Within the depths of the Astrolabe, God had left behind the Room of the Stars, which watched over the trajectory of the development and movements of the Astrolabe. This entire world was built from countless combinations of gears, both large and small, whose teeth ground together underneath the layer of land covered by the ocean, causing the mainland to slowly spin.
The entire world was like the internal mechanisms of a huge pendulum clock. All of the mainlands and islands were inlaid on its bedrock, and this chunk of bedrock was called the “Astrolabe”. In the prehistoric era, the Astrolabe flourished with abundance. There was no war or carnage, and humans and other species lived in harmony.
At the end, the Creator, for reasons that the humans were unclear on, left behind the world it had made with its own hand, leaving behind this country of God. And when the power of the robots rose, aside from taking over the Third Mainland, which was both the largest in area and most vast in territory, they raised ‘Father’ as their new man-made god. The other mainlands, both large and small, began to pray to the Creator, eagerly awaiting its return.
But this was only one belief. From that experienced bard, A-Ka learned about other faiths. He really liked the stories that this bard told, and the bard also looked favorably upon him and Percy.
“Though you cannot see the world,” Moran used his fingers to gently caress Percy’s eyes, saying earnestly, “but you have a pair of eyes in your heart, and they seek the light in every moment.”
“Thank you.” Percy began to smile.
A-Ka said, “Uncle Moran, say, if you believe that the Creator is only an artifact of a faith, then what is faith?”
Moran explained to A-Ka and Percy, “Faith is born of humans, and it is the power that supports someone moving forwards. Under the light of faith, the shadows brought about by death and horror will dissipate…”
“Teacher Moran,” a young person said amusedly, “I don’t think that believing in the God of the Stars will bring about salvation. Haven’t you seen how many people have risked their lives, but they were all atheists?”
A-Ka didn’t understand his point, and he shot that youth a look. He knew that there were many young people about his age on the boat, and all of them were eager for a fight, preparing for when they arrived at the Second Mainland to use their own two hands to build their new lives from the ground up.
The bard smiled and responded, “Faith is not the same as worshipping a deity. The people that you have pointed out are those that have faith in themselves, but there are others who believe in the existence of a god. At the root of it, this is so that they can believe the moral compass they have in their own heart. Young ones, when you grow up, you all will slowly begin to understand.”
The youths in the cabin didn’t debate with Moran any longer, but it was obvious that they didn’t wholly agree with him, and A-Ka could only keep these words within his own heart. He really liked this environment. Though every day was spent waiting and they didn’t know exactly when they would approach the shore, the entire ship was like a huge classroom. Everyone had their own knowledge, and from this knowledge, A-Ka learned a lot.
One night, the boat met with a storm. The lightning raged across the sky above the sea, and the large ship was as small as a leaf on this deep ocean. Large amounts of seawater sloshed in from the windows, and the people closed the windows as their terror grew insurmountably.
The violent jolting of the ship caused many people to throw up, become dizzy, or feel hopeless… under the grip of horror, that bard called Moran knelt in the middle of the cabin, praying in a low tone.
“The god of the stars who created everything, your light guides the destiny of this piece of mainland…”
“May you look favorably down upon us, and guide us to the bank filled with light…”
His voice traveled through the entire cabin. The people within slowly began to calm, and more and more people knelt down on the ground, joining Moran in prayer.
The thunder grew softer, and though the lightning still lashed out rampantly, it no longer seemed like it wanted to destroy everything. As A-Ka observed these happenings, he discovered that Moran’s prayers seemed to carry the power to soothe human hearts. Under his prayers, the wind and rain gradually lessened, and everyone slowly sank into sleep, no longer fearing the struggles out at sea.
But still the lightning flashed, and within his dream A-Ka seemed to sense something -- a kind of change within his soul. Within the flashes of lightning and the rumbles of thunder, he seemed to clearly see the essence of the world. Under the thunder and lightning, the seawater was split into protons, neutrons, and electrons; within the darkness, countless gas molecules collided together and split again.
He seemed to possess a pair of eyes created from spirit, and as he looked at his surroundings, the segments of the ship, the creases on the sails, and even the dowels holding the wooden buckets together… Percy was sleeping soundly by his side, and when he looked at that water purifier with a complicated structure in Percy’s shoulder bag, countless precisely oriented parts came together to form it...
He saw the principles that were the foundation of the world. Another bolt of electricity slashed down, and A-Ka suddenly jolted awake. His surroundings returned to their normal state, and within the dark cabin, a lantern glowing with white light swayed gently in the tempest.
Moran hadn’t slept yet, and he lifted his head, looking at A-Ka in askance/A-sKance. A-Ka’s face was covered in cold sweat, and he shook his head.
“What did you see?” Moran came over, placing one hand on A-Ka’s forehead.
“I…” A-Ka mumbled. “I had a dream.”
Moran smiled slightly. “Dreams are the eyes of humans, through which they see the world and themselves. Sleep, child.”
A-Ka’s breathing evened out, and he once again fell into a deep sleep.
On the second day, excited shouts rang out from the deck, and the refugees within the ship cabin all rushed up there. A-Ka went along with the crowd and saw land in the distance. This journey had finally reached its end, and every person was cheering loudly and crying.
“That’s Kurlovich,” Moran said. “A port city of the Second Mainland, but it’s still a good distance to Phoenix City.”
From afar came the chimes of the belltower, and A-Ka began to smile. Under the sunlight, a port city filled with vitality appeared on the horizon.
“There are many seagulls,” A-Ka let Percy come stand by the prow of the ship, describing the scene around them to him. “Under the sunlight, all of the houses are white, it’s beautiful, very beautiful…”
Percy closed his eyes, feeling the slight breeze that blew from the west, and he nodded. “En!”
moon: the astrolabe clown circus strikes again
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon.