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 5: A Certain Space-time
Translated by Ceti of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Hai Feng passed away not long after that.
In the weeks before his death, he heard people talk about how to catch more QuanXian, talked about the internal structure of his body, talked about how his fishtail had disappeared…
The researchers knew the lifeguard really wasn’t lying, and through a series of examinations, they discovered that the internal structure of Hai Feng’s body was different from any known species.
In the days before his death, he had been screaming in a laboratory. These people didn’t try to kill him on purpose, but he was slowly walking towards death due to his injuries and the stress from all the experiments.
A few hours before his death, he remembered a certain rumor of his ancestors. QuanXian must not yearn for land, nor abandon the ocean. Those who break the taboo will turn into sea foam.
Hai Feng didn’t know that there were similar stories in other worlds. It was just a female who sacrificed herself for love then turned into sea foam, unlike him who had met with betrayal.
In the minutes before his death, Hai Feng couldn’t think of anything.
All that remained in his consciousness was fear and pain, until the darkness completely engulfed him.
As he told his tale, the already resurrected Hai Feng curled up into a ball, and cried loudly.
A person who was crying bitterly till they lost their voice wasn’t beautiful, unlike the lovely and pitiful scenes in movies. He shouted himself hoarse, and his face contorted, which left the other people at a loss.
Legend had it that the tears of the QuanXian would turn into pearls. It was obvious that Hai Feng didn’t have such a wealth-generating ability.
The Landlord and Parral gave each other meaningful looks, as each urged the other to go ahead and comfort him. Finally Parral, who was closer, reached out and patted him on the back, then let him lean into his embrace.
After he took in these two (tentatively considered as people), the Landlord’s days became a little more exhausting.
Parral came from a technologically advanced world, so he always followed behind the Landlord, and asked about this and that, as he tried to figure out what the space-time gap really was. The Landlord couldn’t answer. After all, he himself didn’t understand what it was.
The Landlord remembered some of the people he had received before. The male imperial consort who was killed by the emperor. The beautiful woman who drowned herself in the river with her precious jewels. The superpowered hero who died after being attacked by an evil organization while changing his clothes…They didn’t care much about the reason the gap formed, because they identified this place as “paradise,” “heaven,” “the power of the underworld,” or “demiplane,” et cetera. In short, they would comprehend it as something from their common knowledge of the past.
Parral was different. He was extraordinarily curious, and had a lot of patience. As a former pioneer, patience was something he had in abundance.
He spent his days studying and observing. He lived like a college student busy with his dissertation, as he did his best to dig out all the books and images hidden in the Landlord’s living room, and he often invited the Landlord to discuss them with him.
Hai Feng would practice walking in the long hallway every day. After he practiced walking, he practiced running, then practiced jumping rope. When he was thrown a basketball, he began to practice dribbling. The QuanXian race had a very strong learning ability, and within a few days, he even learned to cartwheel.
In a relaxed and safe atmosphere, Hai Feng became very close to Parral and the Landlord. He seemed to be touch-starved, and especially liked hugging people. Like just now. He had imitated a video and beautifully completed a set of gymnastic moves. His body as he leapt into the air was as nimble as a fish swimming in water. He excitedly jumped down from the Landlord’s five-drawer dresser, and hugged Parral from behind.
Parral was reading, but he didn’t mind being disturbed at all. He pulled Hai Feng towards himself, pointed to a certain passage in the book, discussed it for a while, and started to chat and laugh again.
The Landlord had never left the space-time gap in his life, but he had met many people. He could see that something warm and sweet was sprouting between these two.
Usually, the Survivors who lodged in the space-time gap would stay from about three days to three months. During this time, they would adjust their state, and gradually yearn for a new world. Guided by unknown forces, they desired to find the right door for themselves.
In contrast, Parral and Hai Feng were very special. First, they appeared one shortly after the other, and second, according to the electronic clock and calendar, they had been living in the space-time gap for five months.
In the words of the Landlord, “After five months, I could have given you all an end of term exam. Previous tenants have never stayed this long.”
There was basically no need for exams. These two good students had already taken the initiative to gain a lot of new knowledge. They were now a far cry from what they were like five months ago.
Five months ago, their conversations basically went something like,
“Your name is Hai Feng? I also knew a person named Hai Feng. In fact, he was not human… What a coincidence, you are also not human.”
“Was that Hai Feng a friend of yours?”
“No, he betrayed me, and the rest of our comrades-in-arms. He even got me killed.”
“What a coincidence, I got killed by someone too…”
The Landlord was an expert at putting up with these kinds of negative conversations. In the past, he would have a heart-to-heart chat with the Survivors, but this time it was good that there were two Survivors at the same time. They could have a chat about the issues that weighed on their minds with each other, which saved the Landlord a lot of effort.
He couldn’t help remembering a saying. If you want to raise kittens, you might as well raise two at a time. The two cats would quarrel and play with each other from childhood, and would know how hard to scratch with their claws, then they wouldn’t come and bite you when they were bored.
Five months after their arrival, the Landlord told Parral and Hai Feng about the analogy. Little did he know that it would lead to an unprecedented discussion.
“I have a question,” asked Parral. “Mister Landlord, you said you never left this place and that you’ve been here since you can remember?”
“Of course.” To the Landlord, it was indeed a matter of course.
“You haven’t seen such a thing as a kitten. Even if you have books and videos in your room… How could you gain a profound understanding of the creature called a ‘kitten?’ Just looking at pictures and books, or watching a documentary is insufficient to transform that information into a tangible experience. Therefore, you should know what the creature called a ‘cat’ is, but don’t really, genuinely understand what a cat is. Just like how I have told you about Sierrans, and you’ve seen pictures of Sierrans, yet you don’t understand such things deeply.”
The Landlord’s expression became complicated for a moment. Parral continued, “You know a lot of things, and I can feel from your words that you really understand them, not just know them. So, why do you understand them if you have never left this place? What are you really? Why have you never left this place?”
Hai Feng sat next to Parral and continued his words, “Parral and I have talked about this before. You would be omniscient if you were something like a god or artificial intelligence, but you aren’t. You seem to know a lot about certain worlds. You have all kinds of information at your fingertips, and you can joke about certain topics. At the same time, you don’t understand the worlds we come from, and aren’t familiar with the worlds behind those doors.”
The Landlord stared at them blankly.
It used to be that he was usually there chattering away, and the Survivors sat around as they listened and asked questions, but now it seems to be reversed and the Survivors were actually analyzing the Landlord.
Moreover, Parral and Hai Feng were right. The Landlord didn’t understand their worlds.
When the Landlord closed his eyes, his mind ran through a myriad of known information, or ‘memories.’ These memories regularly took place in one or several worlds, rather than in the entirety of space-time.
For example, the Landlord knew that there were dragons in mythology, but he had never seen one. He once received a certain female Survivor who was wearing layers of muslin. She came from a world with dragons, and had even described how she was killed by a dragon. At that time, the Landlord was enthralled as he listened to her story.
Also, the Landlord knew that there were creatures called merfolk, shark people, or QuanXian, but his knowledge was conceptual. He had to ask Hai Feng about a lot of details before he was convinced that Hai Feng came from a world that really had merfolk.
If the Landlord’s knowledge covered all of time and space, he should have known from the beginning that there were real merfolk, just as he could recognize a human.
He was equally ignorant of the world from which Parral came from. He hadn’t heard of the war between the humans and the Sierrans, and it was hard for him to imagine what the details of an interstellar invasion would be like.
“So we couldn’t help but wonder,” Parral said, “which world are your memories and your common sense based on? It looks like you are above all of time and space, but you seem to belong to only a certain space-time.”
The Landlord was still in a daze.
“You guys seem to have a point,” The Landlord said as he licked his dry lips. “But I don’t know how to respond. I really haven’t left this place before, so for you to suddenly ask me ‘why am I me’ is as hard a question to answer as me asking you ‘why are you human?’ Ah…”
Parral and Hai Feng stared at him together, then turned their heads to look at each other at the same time. These two seemed to have developed quite a tacit understanding.
Parral sighed and spoke, “Maybe our questions don’t mean anything to you…we’ll probably never be able to understand this at all.”
“So why are you guys asking about this?” The Landlord asked.
“Because we’re starting to feel it,” Hai Feng replied. “I can feel a certain door in the hallway, and every day in my dreams I walk down and open it.”
“It’s the same for me,” Parral echoed. “We may be leaving here soon, so we wanted to take this last chance to talk to you.”
“Congratulations to both of you,” The Landlord said, “It’s just a shame that you two are going to be separated.”
The two entwined their fingers together. “We’re not. We both chose the same door.”