Until now, he had yet to completely accept the truth that he had returned to a human society.
Editor(s): namio, jelly
The boat docked. The clone troops of this place were not defensive and wary like the ones on the Eastern Mainland, and the friends that they made along this journey said their goodbyes as they disembarked.
This was a completely new world. Even just within the port city, A-Ka was already dizzy and had lost all sense of direction. Thankfully, he had been tightly clutching Percy’s hand all this time, to prevent them from losing each other. This place had given him too many surprises, and many of the rumors that he had heard before turned out to be incorrect. They said that the Second Mainland was the home of the clones, but that wasn’t the case -- there were more humans here than clones, and they were scattered along the streets as they opened stalls and did business, selling cakes, robotically produced parts, and even parts for alchemy.
A-Ka travelled down the road alongside the harbor, and it was after noon that he finally passed through less than half of Kurlovich. In ancient times, this was a port where a large portion of the gold trade had taken place, so it was called the Port of Gold by this group of mainlanders. The humans lived in peace and ran their businesses, their lives fulfilling and happy.
“Shoo!” The owner of the fruit stall called coarsely. “You outsiders!”
After A-Ka had been shouted at, he cowered a little. He was filled with curiosity towards everything, but he was also afraid of breaking the regulations here. Percy couldn’t see, so he anxiously asked A-Ka, “Big brother, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” A-Ka originally wanted to ask the boss if he could get a fruit for Percy to eat. But without any money, it seemed like eking out a living on this mainland would be very difficult.
They needed to have money first, and after earning money they could keep surviving. Though earning it was difficult, A-Ka was still filled with confidence. He asked for directions to Phoenix City from a passerby, planning to first fulfill the directive that Feiluo had issued him to send Percy there, before figuring out a way to make a living.
But, they had no traveling expenses, and as the sky slowly began to darken, A-Ka began to feel a little bit at a loss for what to do next. Would it be better to find a job here and earn some money to travel before taking Percy on the journey? He stopped outside a watch store and looked for a while, but just as he was about to go up front and ask, he suddenly saw a familiar silhouette.
The bard Moran was currently walking out from inside one of the structures along the street, with many people following behind him.
“What’s wrong?” Percy asked.
A-Ka said, “I just saw the bard uncle, he seemed…”
Percy said, “Uncle Moran!”
A-Ka hurried to press his index finger to Percy’s lips, wanting him to not shout, but Moran had already heard. He turned his head to look at them.
“Isn’t this Percy?” Moran smiled and said, “What are you two doing here?”
Percy said, “Big brother’s finding a job, so that he can use his own skills to get something to eat. How about you?”
A-Ka saw that Moran had many people following him, some of them even clones, and he was very surprised. He wasn’t like Percy, ignorant of everything; he had guessed dimly that Moran came from an extraordinary background. After all, they had interacted on the boat. After recalling that their destination was Phoenix City and guessing that these two youths didn’t have any traveling expenses on them, he turned and said a few words to one of the people beside him.
“Yes, Your Excellency.”
The man then immediately pulled out a stack of thin golden cards from the pocket of his shirt. This was the money that this mainland used. Earlier, A-Ka had seen the residents using bronze and silver cards to exchange for goods.
Moran handed the cards to A-Ka, and A-Ka understood his meaning. He said, “This… no, I can’t accept these.”
Moran smiled. “I’m lending these to you two. It’s a pity that I have to travel to Dragonmaw City. Otherwise, I would be able to take you two along with me.”
A-Ka said, “In the future, can we go to Dragonmaw City to find you? I’ll return this money to you.”
Moran smiled and said, “Of course.” He thought for a moment, before flipping open his travel journal and pulling out a bookmark, handing it to A-Ka, saying, “If you have the chance, when you come to Dragonmaw City, you can find me in the Palace of the Stars.”
“Your Excellency,” one of his attendants reminded, “It’s getting late.”
Moran nodded and bade A-Ka and Percy goodbye. He warmly kissed Percy’s forehead, before turning and leaving.
Now that A-Ka had obtained traveling funds, he let loose a breath, and together with Percy they got onto a steam coach heading towards Phoenix City. He was extremely curious about everything, so he didn't mind describing them to Percy at all. A young man leading another half-as-old youth, like two little idiots, received the help of many kind-hearted people along the way, and finally they managed to stumble their way to Phoenix City.
When they walked out of the Phoenix City steam coach station, A-Ka finally felt that he had come home, despite Phoenix City being nothing like what their traveling companions on the boat had described, a haven for humans to live and work in; it was actually very dirty.
This was a huge industrial city, and robotic cars came and went on the streets while the houses were dyed a dark yellow by the pollution from the factories. Steam and black smoke billowed into the sky, and the noise seemed to envelope the entire world around them. But everything seemed to carry vitality, with humans bustling about busily as if they were welcoming their arrival.
“Don’t block the road!” someone shouted coarsely.
“Why are you this fierce?” the station attendant raged. “Can’t you see that kid’s blind?”
A-Ka hurried to say, “Sorry, sorry.”
On their journey, people kept finding out that Percy was blind. No matter whether their intentions were good or evil, every time they asked the question, A-Ka always felt a little sad and a little guilty; he was afraid that Percy would be hurt. But Percy was very positive, and he smiled. “Sorry, we’re newcomers.”
A-Ka held Percy’s hand as they came down. Immediately, he was lost, only knowing to follow the crowd. In these few days, he missed Heishi, thinking in his heart that if only Heishi was here, then everything would be alright. In this unknown world he faced, he was filled with confusion, and a little bit of insecurity; he was even afraid that he might not be able to protect Percy.
If Heishi was by his side, at least he would be a little less worried.
"Big brother, where are we going now?” Percy asked.
A-Ka thought of Feiluo’s command. After arriving in Phoenix City, he was to send Percy to the human orphanage, but he felt a little unwilling to part.
“Let’s first go to the orphanage to take a look,” A-Ka said.
The travel funds that Moran had given them had already been basically spent by A-Ka. On the journey he kept buying things for Percy to eat; the two youths had experienced too much hardship before, and now they wanted to eat everything, sparing no thought for their future. When A-Ka realized the issue with their depleting funds, he was afraid that the only way he would survive was to send himself into the orphanage as well.
It was nearing evening in Phoenix City, and the sunlight pierced through the dark clouds, scattering a thin layer of evening glow, as the sound of the machines that enveloped the entire city slowly began to grow weak. A-Ka bought a map and began to study it closely. Here he learned that the city was split into human and clone districts, dividing it into the eastern and western regions. As they walked, they looked at the map, before they finally arrived at the human residents’ community center. However, they had already closed up for the night, and the great doors were shut.
One worker came out, and after hearing A-Ka’s explanation they gave him directions. “The orphanage is within the inner ring of the city, you guys can go in first at night to go rest, and tomorrow you can come back to fill out the paperwork.”
A-Ka asked, “Do we need to pay for it?”
The worker shook their head. “No, you don’t need to pay. It’s straight down the main street, but you may need to get a ride, otherwise you won’t be able to get to the orphanage before it gets dark.”
Percy said to him, “Thank you.”
A-Ka nodded, and he left clutching Percy’s hand in his. They traveled along a river flowing with polluted water, and perhaps it was because a farewell was imminent that A-Ka’s spirits were low and he was silent. Percy suddenly asked, “Big brother, what’s around here?”
A-Ka turned his head to look, only to see that the ground was covered with wastewater from the industrial processes and refuse. He thought for a bit, before describing to Percy, “En, this is a very good city… as for the specifics…”
A-Ka portrayed their new home as a very beautiful place, but in his heart he sighed. He brought Percy with him as they entered the inner ring of the city to find the human orphanage. It wasn’t until the sky grew dark that they arrived outside of a waste processing factory, and on the door hung a tarnished plaque, on which was written the words “Human Orphanage”. The entire place was fenced off with a layer of wire netting.
“Come in ba.” After the guard listened to A-Ka’s words, they opened the door of the wire fence. At the same time, a truck loaded with a large amount of coal drove into the refinery next to the shelter. This orphanage gave off the impression of a prison to A-Ka, but he didn’t say that to Percy. He only explained, “We’ll stay here for the night.”
Percy nodded his head, and the two of them were given numbers. They didn’t even receive any sort of questioning before they settled down. In the hall, the children were getting dinner, and a woman said to A-Ka, “You’re already over sixteen, you can’t live here any longer.”
“I know,” A-Ka said. “I’ll leave first thing tomorrow morning."
The woman brought A-Ka and Percy to a room and said, “After nine o’clock at night, we lock the doors.”
A-Ka looked around at his surroundings. The room was devoid of people, and overhead there was only a single light. There were two bunk beds in here, and the other set seemed to have occupants who were not here at the moment. Percy sat down quietly on the lower bunk.
The kids in the other bunks came back; they were both ten odd years old, and one of them was even a little taller than A-Ka. They gave the two of them a glance, before that older one asked, “Where’d you come from?”
A-Ka smiled and said, “We’re from the City of Machines, this is my little brother.”
Percy said, “Hello.”
The larger youth understood and nodded. “Refugees from the east.” And after saying this, he passed no more judgements, climbing onto the bed and lying down.
It was obvious that the smaller kid was very afraid of this larger one. The two of them didn’t chat, and the other kid didn’t dare to strike up a conversation with A-Ka and them, and A-Ka’s emotions grew heavy again. He went out to get food for Percy, and as he swept his gaze over the assortment, he saw that the orphanage-provided dinner was a kind of grey mixed-grain gruel. He sniffed it, and could tell that there were oats, wheat, and several other kinds of grains in it, so he didn’t get any for Percy, instead letting him eat the snacks that they had brought.
Nine o’clock at night, and all of the lights throughout the entirety of the orphanage were extinguished. Outside the window, a light rain began to fall, and the bright white lights shone down on the street below. Once in a while a large truck would rumble by. The other two kids laid on their beds idly. A-Ka stared out of the window for a while, and a sense of confused unease began to rise from the depths of his heart.
The winter night was very, very cold, but compared to the icy chill, the loneliness in the depths of A-Ka’s heart was harder to bear. He slid into the icy blankets, hugging Percy, hoping that he would be a little warmer. Until now, he had yet to completely accept the truth that he had returned to a human society -- after all, this was far too different from the new life that he had in mind.
Percy pulled out a small mechanical device, using his hand to press lightly and non-stop against the keys. A-Ka knew this was a transmitter, and he asked quietly, “Who are you sending messages to?”
“Daddy,” Percy answered quietly. “I’m telling him that we’ve already settled down. The transmitter uses a code to send our words to every transfer center in the rebellion troops’ headquarters in every city, and then they connect it up to him.”
A-Ka was a little surprised; Percy being able to remember this complicated of a code meant that he was also very smart. In another moment, the green light flashed, and as a series of messages came back, Percy began to smile.
“I’ve gotten in contact,” Percy said.
“Ask if Heishi is still there,” A-Ka said.
He didn’t hold out much hope, but to him, Heishi was his only friend, or perhaps he could even be counted as the person he cared about the most. Percy sent out the message, and when the reply came, he said, “He’s still there, Heishi’s with my daddy.”
This was an unexpected piece of good news, and A-Ka asked, “What did he say?”
“For us to take care of ourselves,” Percy said to A-Ka. “He heard that… Phoenix City’s condition isn’t as good as he expected, but at least we still have our freedom.”
And with the clicks of the transmitter, Heishi’s sentence seemed to flip some switch in the depths of A-Ka’s heart, instantly causing his thoughts to be pulled far away from this rainy night as he came to a decision. Percy closed the transmitter, saying quietly by A-Ka’s ear, “They’re going to save the rebel hostages, I hope there won’t be danger.”
A-Ka nodded and comforted him, “Sleep, if there’s anything else you can talk about it tomorrow.”
Far on another piece of mainland, Feiluo closed the transmitter, sitting with Heishi silently in the armory. Heishi’s hands turned a chip reader over and over in his hands as he disassembled, then reassembled it.
“You shouldn’t have told them,” Heishi said darkly.
“I’m used to telling everything to Percy,” Feiluo said. “That little one, ever since he was small, has had a kind of… special power, do you know?”
Feiluo lifted his eyes to look at Heishi, showing a warm smile, as he explained, “Though he’s lost the sight in his eyes, he can see something different from what normal people see.”
Heishi furrowed his brow. “What can he see?”
“He can predict danger,” Feiluo said, as if he had thought long and hard about it. “I don’t know if you humans all have this kind of strange ability. Once, a robotic patrol was approaching us when we were all sound asleep, and coincidentally it turned out that he was in the troop. We were in a rush to leave the Central District and head towards the rainforest in the south, and in the middle of the night he woke me up, saying ‘Daddy, I dreamt that those icy cold big fellows are coming’.”
“Thankfully our troop discovered them early, and only three people were lost. With such a small price, we left the swamp,” Feiluo said. “That’s why, every time before I make an important decision, I’ll always ask for his opinion through the transmitter.”
Heishi smiled a little, and that expression seemed to be a little disapproving. Feiluo didn’t explain any further, saying, “I know you don’t believe it, whatever.”
Heishi said, “If Percy’s dreams really do have the power of prediction, then you could let him try and perceive who was it that replicated the important messages stored in the Primeval Heart.”
Feiluo smiled helplessly, saying, “I don’t think that’s possible. Only things that involve him and me that are of personal relevance can cause him to dream about them.”
Heishi had torn apart and reassembled that anti-bomb casing three times, and yet they were still in the warehouse waiting for night to fall. After night fell, Heishi would join Feiluo’s troop and go forth to save a few of the hostages that had been detained by the Iron and Steel Corps. And within this group of hostages was one soldier that had been standing guard over the Primeval Heart three months ago.
“If your guess is right,” Heishi lifted his eyes to look at Feiluo, “and General Mackenzie has been plotting with the Iron and Steel Corps, then what will be the result of that?”
“It’s difficult to say,” Feiluo shook his head slightly. “Brigadier General Mackenzie’s position is very important; he’s one of the three founders of the revolution. If this matter is exposed, then it’ll definitely arouse movements within the high levels of the army.”
Heishi was gradually understanding the structure of the clone army, which, including Libre who had lost his life leading the revolution that had failed, and Commander Angus who, to this day, still sat in Phoenix City, both of whom were at the same level as Mackenzie, made up the three decision-makers within the clones’ forces.
For one of the top-level executives to have actually been sent by “Father”, subsequently hiding in the rebel forces as a spy — if this matter was to be leaked out, then the results would be unimaginably catastrophic. At this moment, Feiluo felt as if he had collided head on with a huge problem, and ever since Heishi had walked into the Primeval Heart, one enigma had followed after another. This matter was not one that could be revealed yet.
“Where is General Mackenzie right now?” Heishi asked.
“In Phoenix City,” Feiluo responded. “He’s meeting with Angus; because Libre was sacrificed, they must settle on a new battle strategy to prevent the Iron and Steel Corps from fighting back. He’ll probably return here in about a month. Since we want to make a move, we’ll have to do it quickly. Otherwise, if we wait until he returns, then very quickly he’ll learn of the matter of you and me entering the Primeval Heart.”
Heishi nodded, before getting up and taking a look out of the window, where the sky was already growing dark. Feiluo picked up the firearms that his subordinates had prepared as he pushed open the door, walking into the pitch-black mountain range.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon.