Happy 5th Year Anniversary! It is by far one of my favorite Matthia novels to date, so PLEASE check it out! This was a joint effort by everyone in ExR for our 5th Year Anniversary. Thank you, Addis, Rikko, Aphelios, Ceti, KarateChopMonkey, gaeatiamat, and Rara.
Chapter 11: Start of the countdown
Translated by Rara of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
When I was a teenager, I didn’t believe in the words “fate” or “destiny.” I thought they were the stuff of romance novels. Gradually, I began to believe.
It wasn’t Gods or spiritual beings that I believed in. It was that, somewhere in this materialistic world, there were elements that would unknowingly drive one’s life path. They were like natural phenomena, chemical reactions, mathematical formulas. They weren’t random but with cause, effect and theorems.
My relationship with Fang Yuan was like that.
I spent more than 20 years doubting him, but in the end, I couldn’t help but put my trust in him.
He wasn’t human. At least, not in the way we normally think of humans.
The first time I met him, we were both very young, and I didn’t remember much.
My mother met him on a rainy day. She was startled when a child seemingly appeared in front of her out of nowhere. My mother took him home, and reported it to the police. After multiple searches, she still couldn’t find his family. Therefore, she took him to a welfare institution.
He was already a few years old at the time, and wasn’t easy to adopt. Even though my family wasn’t eligible to adopt him, my parents still took him in, in the sense that they paid for his schooling and other things together with the welfare agency. They often visited him, and took him out to play. He was their semi-adopted child.
My father named him “Fang Yuan.” Yuan because he seemed to come from a faraway land, and my family’s last name was Fang. 1
We weren’t together in elementary school. The first time I talked to him was in junior high, when we were already in the same class at the same school.
He told me that he was going to die in the future.
Everyone at that age tended to have a lot of strange ideas, and many were childish ramblings of sentimental nonsense. I thought he was the same. I even followed up by saying that, of course, people were bound to die someday, and that the world after death was the ultimate mystery of mankind.
He interrupted my words and corrected me very seriously. “No, I don’t mean the end of life. What I mean is, my emergence here is so I will die. The day is still far away, but I will know when it’s near.”
It was only later that I realized at that moment he used the word “emergence,” and not “birth.”
Fang Yuan was a strange, yet outstanding person. He had very poor interpersonal skills. He didn’t talk much and was never an easy person. He had trouble making friends. Yet, he was a very good learner, and could do well in anything he did.
By the time he was in high school, it became more and more obvious that he might have been my family’s best son, while I was the complementary extra.
In reality, he was never adopted into my family. Even his registered residence wasn’t in the same household. At that time, I was jealous of him but not for worldly reasons such as fortunes or career aspirations, but simply out of unwillingness. I reassured myself that he was just a nerd. Even if he was better in all aspects, it didn’t mean he would make it in society.
He was indeed a nerd. He lived in a school dorm, and only came back to my house on weekends. There was only his bed in our room. When I visited his dorm, his personal space had a lot of books. All kinds of books.
I used to think, reluctantly, that he mustn’t be very knowledgeable, because they were basically novels, story books.
In my senior year, I worked hard every day to solve tests, while he continued to read stories every day. Even so, he still scored higher than me on the mock tests.
I decided to put aside my petty jealousy, sorted out my feelings, and asked him how he did it.
He told me that he was born with this knowledge, he wasn’t smart.
I got a bit angry when I heard his answer. He didn’t seem to mind that I was angry, and continued with an inexplicable statement. “When I met you and your family, I already was who I am now, so I know a lot. I need to use a child’s identity to slowly walk down this path. When I finish this, my mission will be accomplished, and I’ll be gone.”
All I felt was that he should check in with a therapist. I told my parents about it, but they didn’t really care. They thought Fang Yuan was just joking.
I knew it wasn’t a joke. I had seen many sides of him at school, but he never joked around. He had always been a serious person, so serious that his words were so sharp it hurt.
After the college entrance exams, many people in the class went out to dinner together. When a bunch of newly young adults got together, we would pretend to be full-fledged adults and outdid ourselves with alcohol.
I didn’t drink much, but I wasn’t a good drinker, so my body gave out quite early. On the way home, Fang Yuan carried me on his bicycle. When I saw that the root of his neck was red, I guessed he was also a little drunk.
In the night wind, he suddenly said to me, “Less than eight years left.”
I was dazed, my comprehension was diminished, but my memory was still very clear.
I remember that he said, “In less than eight years, I will leave you guys. Uncle and Auntie have been very good to me. I don’t know how to express it, but objectively speaking, they are very good, and so are you. I’ve only ever said these things to you.”
I asked him, “What do you mean?” I was worried that I had missed something.
He repeated what he had said, “My emergence here is to die in less than eight years.”
I soon fell asleep when we reached home. When I woke up, the more I thought about it, the worse it seemed. Fang Yuan definitely needed to see a doctor. Maybe a psychiatrist wasn’t enough, he might need to visit the mental hospital.
My parents weren’t particularly sensitive to Fang Yuan’s abnormal state of mind. I only noticed it because I had read a lot of scientific articles about it.
I rolled over, and Fang Yuan was sitting in front of the window reading a book. Just like before.
He was sitting on the cushion in front of the window reading a thick novel. Under his feet and around the corner were all his books. My room had almost been taken over by him, and although the books were shared between us, basically those that he was reading now were bought by him, and he never stopped buying more.
I approached him, and decided to have a talk with him. I was no longer jealous of him. He was my friend, but first and foremost, he was my non-blood family.
I spoke calmly about my doubts, and questioned his health as gently as I could.
He listened quietly and then smiled. He pointed to the book in his hand and those in the room, and asked me, “Do you think these are true?”
I replied, “Some are, some are not.”
Fang Yuan put down the book and said earnestly, “Actually, as long as the stories feel real to you, they are real. They exist in different universes. For example, when you hear a fictional story, and you cry because of its details and sorrows, those feelings were heavily synchronized to yours. As if you were there. Or maybe, when you try to write something, and you inexplicably “see” the saga, it’s not under your control. It’s as if it started playing itself, and even you as the author have no control over the characters and the story. That’s because they’re all real. Your soul resonates with events in other universes. You feel them, and they affect you.”
I was dumbfounded. The words were so absurd, that I couldn’t find a point to refute. I said dryly, “So…What does all this have to do with what you said about ’emerge to die?’”
He said, “Do you remember what your mother said? About how I suddenly appeared in front of her and she didn’t notice it?”
I nodded. My mother wouldn’t talk about it nowadays. She always thought it was strange, but she just didn’t want to think about it.
“I’m not really human,” Fang Yuan said. “I’m here for these intricate and complex stories, these overlapping, different four-dimensional universes. I can see the rift…It’s tearing through space and time, causing things to be dislocated, things to be pushed by the torrent into worlds that don’t belong to them, and I’m like a zipper. I can close those cracks and put things back in place. The way I do this is that, as a derivative of the multiverse, I emerge into this world and live a life as a human being. I am a collection of knowledge, characteristics, and structures of several worlds. In this life I will encounter various problems, participate in various events, and through this method, the unpredictable element in me will be released and dispersed until the cracks are closed. Then my mission will be complete, and I will disappear.”
I was so confused. I just followed him and asked, “So you mean that, for example, this book; the story and the characters are actually real?”
“In your world, it’s fake. It’s fiction. But in another dimension, it’s real.”
“Dimension? You mean the weeaboo’s 2D?” 2
He didn’t get my joke, and replied seriously, “No. Not two dimensions, but a different four-dimensional universe.”
I asked again, “But it doesn’t make sense. Why is it you? This country. No, this planet, the whole world…there are so many people. Why does it have to be you?”
“You’ve got the logic of cause and effect wrong. It’s not that there was me first, then there was a space-time dislocation, and someone picked me and made me this way. Rather, the space-time dislocation created an objective being like ‘me’ in the first place. I have no family and no birth record. I appeared in the world out of nowhere.”
I was stunned. Or to be more precise, I was so frightened by his self-awareness, that I completely forgot about the whole mental hospital business.
Fang Yuan’s problem was more serious than I thought.
I kept thinking about it, testing him every now and then to see if he had changed his story.
More importantly, I began to suspect that there was more that he hadn’t told me. For example, if what he said was true, then what was so serious about this “Space-time displacement?” Would the story in those novels be altered? Was it that important?
“Seven more years.” He said it again on our next birthday, just after midnight.
He had no date of birth, and he spent his birthday with me every year.
I suddenly realized something. Back in 12th grade, he mentioned “Less than eight years,” and now he was saying exactly “seven years.”
When I asked again, he explained. “Seven more years…Now it’s less than seven years, and I’m going to finish my mission and disappear.”
I said, “You were found by my mother on a rainy day in July, but it’s August now. So if what you said is true, why did you use my birthday at the start of the countdown, instead of the day you appeared in July?”
Fang Yuan suddenly looked up from his book, and stared straight at me.
He had been lacking in expression since he was a child. Everyone said he wasn’t the type to show his emotion, but I had been with him for such a long time, I could see a glimpse of grief in his eyes.
After a while, he said, “Because, I am destined to be with you. My mission is tied to you.”
“You’ll be the turning point of a dimensional rift disaster,” he said in a way that was hard to understand. That made me shudder. “I didn’t think about telling you this before…But now I don’t know how to keep it from you while asking you to understand, so I have to tell the truth.”
I waited for his truth. And I kept telling myself not to believe it, but to be selective in my understanding.
Unbeknownst to me, in the shock of those words, perhaps I had already begun to believe.
He got a piece of paper, drew a line with “birth” at the beginning and “event” at the end, then wrote the words “early childhood,” “adolescence,” and so on, in the middle of the line.
He said this was my life timeline.
“Last year, I said that a huge rift had torn through time and space, and I was like a zipper that closed the rift through individual activity. Try to imagine this. There’s an earthquake out there in the sea. It has happened, but it’s so far away that you can’t feel it on land. Even the waves haven’t pushed the tsunami through yet. But when it comes, the land will suffer too, right?”
“Yeah, I can imagine that.”
“Well, I’ll start with the conclusion. In less than seven years, you’ll be gone from this world.”
He didn’t even tell me to prepare myself mentally. It sounded like a threat, but of course, I knew he was serious.
He said, “You are the key point of the consequences of the displacement. In less than seven years, one day you will be wiped from the world because of it. Not killed, but completely erased. All derivatives of your existence will also disappear, such as your personal belongings, and other people’s memories of you.
“Then, the ‘shock wave’ will push upward along your time, causing things to change retroactively along the way. For example, instead of just losing your parents’ memories of you, there is a chance that their relationship will become one where they’ve never met and bonded with each other.
“I don’t know if you get it? Their union is not the beginning of everything, so instead of assuming that they must have met, and then picking the ‘didn’t have you’ option from a list of options, we have to extrapolate back as far as we can depending on the outcome. Just like the biggest possible impact of an explosion. They could be backtracked to the point where they never met, or one of them was never born…Their lives are each extrapolated back, then to your family’s ancestors, or to something in distant history.
“Also, anyone you have met in your life, such as a relative or friend, or even a stranger who asked you for directions, their destiny will be pushed by this ‘shock wave’ and backtracked. This is ultimately devastating for your world, and for the universe in which we now live.
“In the end, this giant rift doesn’t just hurt your world. After it tears the world apart completely, it will continue to crack like a web of broken ice. The consequences are unimaginable to anyone.”
I couldn’t digest this information…In fact, I didn’t fully believe them at that time.
I didn’t say a word, and listened to him go on.
“My mission will be completed in less than seven years, and that is the end of me. But if I don’t show up, then that will be the beginning of the tragedy.”
He looked me straight in the eye.
“It’s because I love you guys, your family and you, that now I’m telling you the truth. Whether you believe it or not, isn’t up to me. In less than seven years, we’ll see what happens.”
- Yuan(远) means far, distant.
- “Weeaboo is a mostly derogatory slang term for a Western person who is obsessed with Japanese culture, especially anime, often regarding it as superior to all other cultures.” https://www.dictionary.com/e/slang/weeaboo/