Chapter 11: The Chief of Dragonmaw
Translated by Vivian of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
A-Ka couldn’t help but turn away, shut his eyes, and at that moment, Heishi embraced him tightly in his arms.
The flow of time seemed to become unusually slow, and in the noisy world, with a soft sound that was like the beautiful movement of a symphony, the safe sprung open, revealing the ancient chip inside of it.
The safe’s door had opened.
A-Ka opened his eyes.
Heishi reached out his hand and grabbed the chip, then turned around. He hugged A-Ka with one hand and used his other hand to shield his forehead as he charged at the French window, turned to the side, and used his shoulder to hit it.
A-Ka shouted loudly and roared, “Heishi, you’ve gone mad!”
The bulletproof glass, having been struck by Heishi, shattered into tens of thousands of pieces, with a whoosh, they shot outside, in midair. The fragments of glass drifted about in the first rays of dawn like a glittering spray of water. The guards rushed into the office, but Heishi and A-Ka had already jumped out of the building from a height of more than a hundred meters.
At that moment, it was as if everything had slowed to a standstill, and A-Ka’s only distinctive feeling was of his and Heishi’s slow heartbeats among the stillness and silence.
A second later, the two of them plummeted, like a kite with a broken string, from a height of over a hundred meters.
A-Ka couldn’t help but let out a scream. Heishi’s armband separated into layers upon layers of countless metal fragments before they assembled themselves into silver wings. He shook it open, and like a triangular hang glider, he and A-Ka flew into the distance.
“You’re too crazy! Ahhh!” A-Ka roared in agitation.
“Shut up.” Heishi said coldly, “You are too noisy.”
A-Ka lifted his head and saw that the corner of Heishi’s mouth was actually curved slightly upwards in an almost imperceptible smile as the two of them flew towards the radiance of the early morning.
At noon that day, the fighting had finally come to an end. The military song “Blacklands” sounded all over the city, and the defeated human prisoners were being detained at the square. Heishi was in a tall building, leaning over to look downwards.
“Did you get anything out of your examinations?” asked Heishi.
“Not yet.” A-Ka knitted his eyebrows and said, “This chip with the main program is very ancient, so if I haven’t guessed wrong, then it was probably taken directly from the Creators’ ruins…”
He pieced the chip from MacKasey’s head and the chip with the main program together, yet he discovered that besides that, there was still another port.
What was that port for? A-Ka felt a bit apprehensive. Could it be that there was another piece?!
“This is technology from over ten thousand years ago.” Heishi said indifferently, “Nowadays, all of the computer technology you humans and the androids have continued to use are stolen from the Ancient Core.”
A-Ka couldn’t afford to study another port, so he connected the main chip to the data cable and said helplessly, “I don’t really agree with how you said ‘stolen’…but okay… Let’s see what’s in here.”
He had just finished saying that when the decoder projected a huge, dense mass of code that looked like a ball with a red glow and two hundred and fifty-six facets.
Heishi said, “When we confirm that it is the right one, we must immediately go down to inform Huixiong.”
A-Ka’s pupils dilated slightly as he looked at the ball of code, and his breath hitched.
“Is something wrong?” Heishi had noticed that something was off.
A-Ka used his finger to swipe the ball of code, turning it to another angle. The ball of code that glowed red only had two-thirds of it completed, and the remaining one-third of blank space faced Heishi. Heishi also saw it and muttered, “What? There is a third piece?!”
“I suspect that it was another countermeasure that Father took.” A-Ka’s voice shook as he spoke, “The whole time, it has been scared of the termination password getting out, so it must’ve deleted this section.”
Heishi said, “That is not possible. How did General Libre not discover this blank space? If a section of it had been deleted, then the entire password would not be usable, so why would he mobilize the troops and attack Mechanical City?”
A-Ka said, “This is the original chip, and the one that Libre had was a backup. When he made a copy of it, the entire termination code must have been complete. As for where the last chip is… only the heavens will know…”
Heishi glanced at A-Ka, and the two of them seemed to have some mysterious tacit understanding. A-Ka became aware of something and frowned, “Could it be that the last piece is in Angus’s head?!”
“Quick!” said Heishi.
A-Ka immediately tucked the chip away and they ran down the stairs.
It was evening, and the sun shone on the ground that had been charred and blackened by the war. The captive merchants had been brought out, and they were kneeling in a row on the ground.
“Hand over our person.” An android officer used his gun to point at the back of one of the prisoners and said loudly, “Or else, after every minute, I will kill a person.”
The other merchants were gathered behind the line of defense and the crowd was turbulent, but for a while, no one stepped forward.
A moment later, Shahuang brought Angus out with his gun pressed to Angus’s forehead. Shahuang said, “If you kill a person, then I will kill him.”
The android officer ridiculed, “Even if you open fire, the androids have never had a leader. Do you still not know? We are one, so if you kill Angus, then any one of us can replace him.”
Heishi and A-Ka made their way past the debris and ran to the merchants. Some people saw them, and they began to whisper to each other. A-Ka looked at the opposing side and saw that among the people kneeling on the ground, Feiluo was there, using one hand to hug Paixi and his body to block him.
Paixi’s eyes were closed and he was leaning into Feiluo’s arms.
“Feiluo! Paixi!” A-Ka wanted to rush to them, but a merchant lifted his shirt collar and dragged him back.
The android officer that was issuing the orders said, “Those are the traitors that colluded against both us and the humans. Since you care about them so much, then I will kill them first…”
After saying that, the officer walked towards the father and son duo of Feiluo and Paixi.
“No!” roared A-Ka.
“Wait!” Huixiong suddenly said.
A commotion started in the merchant faction. Huixiong and Heishi discussed for a few moments before he said, “We accept your conditions, but give us a few more minutes.”
The android officer put away his gun and said, “Ten minutes. When the time’s up, if you still don’t hand over Angus, then I will kill ten of your people.”
A-Ka glared at him angrily before turning around and running back to his own faction. The people of high positions in the Merchant Association were gathered together, and Angus was standing upright among the crowd of humans, his expression indifferent.
“If you kill me now, it won’t have any use.” Angus said calmly, and he seemed to know that he was bound to die.
“Where is that deleted section?” Heishi said coldly, “I do not believe that you do not have a backup.”
Angus was silent. Shahuang put his gun away and stepped forward, pulling Angus’s collar towards him, about to fight.
“Don’t act rashly” Huixiong said anxiously, “Right now, no one is allowed to fight!”
“I suspect that the code is in this jerk’s head.” Shahuang pressed his gun arrogantly against Angus’s head and said bluntly, “Should we saw open his head and see?”
Heishi said, “It is not in his head.”
“I also think it’s not,” said the red-haired man named Gerd. “Hand it over, Angus.”
“I don’t have it,” Angus said slowly. “This world is doomed to perish. There is no hope left.”
Upon hearing that, everyone’s breathing stopped briefly, and Huixiong was wearing a strange expression. A-Ka’s heartbeat was jumping violently as he vaguely thought of the worst scenario possible.
“You can kill me now,” said Angus. “If you kill me, then you won’t be able to find the third chip. Input, output, and termination are the three major functions. We each kept one piece, so the last piece had been implanted into Libre’s head.”
At that moment, everyone was thinking, Damn it.
A-Ka’s mind was blank; Libre had already died in the battle when they attacked Mechanical City, so where would they go to find the third chip?!
Heishi was silent for a moment before saying, “Let us prepare our funerals as soon as possible.”
“No!” A-Ka said, “There is still hope. Let’s think about it some more…”
Everyone’s face was ashen, and for a while, no one spoke.
“There’s still five minutes,” said Huixiong as he glanced at his watch. “Should we give up?”
“There must be a way.” A-Ka said, “Think about it some more… Maybe, Libre hasn’t died yet…”
“He already died.” Angus said calmly, “Whenever a fellow android dies, through a sensor system, it will be transmitted through signals to Phoenix City. Halfway through the battle, the moment the mothership crashed into Father, General Libre died.”
A-Ka said to them, “I’m familiar with Mechanical City. I can go back and search. Maybe, I’ll be able to find the chip.”
The merchants remained silent, and Huixiong sighed.
Although A-Ka was insistent, he knew, deep down, that returning to Mechanical City to search for a chip was easier said than done. The final explosion had been like a hurricane of energy, and even the mothership was blown up into bits and pieces, so the chip might have already been destroyed long ago. And even if it had been preserved during the explosion, by now, Mechanical City must have already been flattened and rebuilt.
“Three minutes,” said Huixiong.
“Let’s surrender.” Shahuang put away his gun, let out a long sigh, and that sigh contained an endless amount of hesitation and despair.
The sunset dragged everyone’s shadow so that they became very long, and they fell onto the charred square.
“I will go back with A-Ka,” said Heishi.
“You won’t be able to find the chip.” Angus said, “Don’t hold onto your meaningless false hopes. The thing that accompanies hope is eternal despair.”
A-Ka’s eyes pooled with tears and at that moment, he found himself longing for a miracle to happen. He looked at Heishi, thinking that he must have an idea, but even Heishi was at a loss.
In the square, the android officer reminded, “You still have forty seconds.”
“Go, Angus.” Shahuang said, “Your mission is completed.”
Angus walked towards the center of the square. However, at that moment, a loud rumble sounded in the distance, as if something had broken through space and was rushing silently to Phoenix City!
“The mech army!”
“The mech army is invading!”
“It’s not the mech army! Be careful!”
An enormous shadow loomed over the entire square as a golden airship sped over. The androids all backed away, and there was no time to kill the hostages. They all pointed their guns at the sky and started shooting!
“Paixi!” A-Ka risked getting shot by bullets as he bent over, activated the rocket propeller in his boots, and flew towards Paixi and Feiluo. Feiluo roared, “Be careful!”
In an instant, the golden airship emitted an electromagnetic halo while it was being bombarded by the laser bullets that were like raindrops. With a buzz, the halo spread across the ground, and all of the noises from the electricity that the firearms emitted disappeared!
Heishi’s strong arm pulled A-Ka back, dragging him, Feiluo, and Paixi back to the human faction.
The androids all retreated, and Angus took the opportunity to run back to his own side. The golden airship stopped in between the two factions, and the hatch opened. A middle-aged man walked out and looked around.
The middle-aged man said, “General Angus, you have violated the Sixth Treaty.”
“This was because of a human provocation!” Angus roared angrily.
The humans were all extremely quiet and A-Ka asked in a low voice, “Who is that?”
“The chief has requested for all of you to cease fire immediately.” The middle-aged man said in a deep voice, “If you violate the treaty again, then we will recall all of the humans in Phoenix City to Dragonmaw City.”
Angus laughed coldly. “Tell the chief for me that I would be very happy for him to do so.”
The middle-aged man spoke again. “Angus, you should know who ordered the peace treaty. The ancestors in Phoenix City provided you androids with shelter. You should be very clear on what the result of starting a war would be.”
“We didn’t ask for a battle.” Huixiong, who had been silent the entire time, said, “MacKasey’s control chip has been activated by Father, so he became a spy for Mechanical City. Before the second battle that brought destruction onto ourselves, one of our people carried out an assassination operation to stop him.”
“The chief already knows of this.” The middle-aged man said, “The chief requested for General Angus, the leader of the Merchant Association, Huixiong, as well as everyone involved in this matter to go to Dragonmaw City and accept mediation. Everyone, please board the airship.”
The middle-aged man turned around and stepped back into the airship, and the two factions were quiet for an entire minute before Huixiong took the lead to step forward and say, “Let’s go.”
Paixi whispered in Feiluo’s ear, “Dad, let’s go. They aren’t bad guys.”
When he had been on the boat that was going to the western mainland, A-Ka had heard the traveling poet, Molan, mention that the chief believed in the Creators’ Religion, which was the faith that Astrolabe’s gods, the Creators who created this world, would return one day. With Heishi there, it probably wouldn’t be dangerous. Heishi walked into the airship, so A-Ka followed him in. Before Angus and Huixiong boarded the airship, they both ordered their own army to cease fire temporarily. The airship rose slowly into the air, speeding towards Dragonmaw City, which was in the southern part of the western mainland.
The airship flew at a low altitude the entire way, and from the port, one could see the devastated land underneath them, as well as Phoenix City, which was burning from fires started by the war. After Heishi boarded the airship, he went to stand on the deck and gazed at the land through the transparent glass.
“A-Ka,” Paixi said in a small voice.
“Paixi.” After the two of them had met again, A-Ka finally had the time to talk with Paixi. He looked down to examine the marks on his wrists that had been left there from when they had been tied with ropes. “Are you okay?”
Paixi smiled. “I just sent a message to Uncle Molan to tell him about what’s happening here. Before, he said that later, if we run into some difficulties, we can find him.”
A-Ka sighed in relief. Feiluo wiped Paixi’s face and said, “Did you two met an official of the chief on the ship? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I wasn’t sure what his position is,” said A-Ka. “He told us that he was only a traveling poet.”
However, when A-Ka thought about it more closely, Molan had boarded the ship to leave the eastern mainland during the battle to kill Father. Since he had been in the faction of the rebel army at that place and at that time, then maybe he was connected in some way to General Libre.
As to what the chief did, A-Ka didn’t really have any idea. He looked at Heishi, Huixiong, Angus, and the middle-aged man that had been sent here by the chief. They were conversing together, so A-Ka got up and walked over to them.
“…The last chip has already been destroyed,” said Huixiong. “It was in General Libre’s hands.”
“The chief has already received the news that General MacKasey betrayed us.” The middle-aged man politely bowed slightly towards Heishi, saying, “He sends his regards.”
Heishi’s expression was calm as he asked, “Does he have a backup disk?”
The middle-aged man thought about it and then shook his head, saying, “There might be another way. Don’t give up hope.”
Huixiong sighed and leaned against the railing, saying, “Judging from the current situation, the only hope would be to go and seek refuge from the chief again.”
A-Ka asked, “Are you all Uncle Molan’s friends?”
The middle-aged man turned around and said politely, “I am the chief assistant, Igor. The chief sends his regards, and he respects the courage and hard work of you all.”
A-Ka waved his hand, showing that he didn’t need to be so courteous. Heishi explained to A-Ka, “The chief’s predecessor was the original chief, and he was one of the four adventurers at the time.”
Only then did A-Ka understand that after the four adventurers that had entered the Ancient Core left the Creators’ laboratory, they had parted ways and each established their own power. Among them, Doctor Kalan had obtained the technology for androids, so he had cloned the species of androids from his own body, becoming the father of androids.
General Gelo had led the humans and used the Creators’ technology to build Phoenix City, which allowed the humans and androids to live in peaceful coexistence, as well as established the first republican regime. Professor Luca had brought out the technology of computers, as well as the Creators’ core program chip, so he had created the first computer. Through the program, it grew and developed, and that computer became Father.
The last adventurer had come to Dragonmaw City, recruited disciples, and spread the doctrine of the Creators’ Religion.
“Does the chief have a way to recover the third chip?” A-Ka’s heart was in his throat. He was at the end of his rope, but he had caught a glimpse of hope. However, Chief Assistant Igor sighed and said, “That would be very difficult. Besides a small amount of means for transportation, the chief doesn’t use any computer-related technology, so as to prevent Father from invading. However, the chief has kept quite a few documents, so we might be able to find another way to stop Father.”
A-Ka took out the two chips he had and showed them to Igor. Igor knew nothing about them so he could only reply, “Later, when you meet the chief, you can discuss it with him personally. We will arrive soon.”
The airship was nearing Dragonmaw City, and the ground was covered in fresh flowers. On the way from Phoenix City to Dragonmaw City, the barren and desolate land had gradually turned green; this was the true paradise. Feiluo whispered in Paixi’s ears, describing the view below them. Chief Assistant Igor explained to the people present, “Since the establishment of Dragonmaw City until today, we have never accepted any human or android that has grown up in the modern civilization of technology as a disciple. Welcome to god’s kingdom.”
A refreshing breeze blew on their faces as the airship’s glass cover lifted up. They slowly entered the domain of Dragonmaw City and docked at the airport on the outskirts of the city. It was an ancient world, to the point that A-Ka had only seen several installations and means of transportation in books before.
The roads were paved with slate, and in all of the buildings in the city, none of them were taller than two hundred meters. The most magnificent building was the temple in the center of Dragonmaw City, and at the top of the temple, there was a large bronze bell.
This strange style seemed to make A-Ka enter an unknown kingdom where everything was new to him. A carriage came to a stop outside the airport to pick them up.
When Angus arrived here, he had become extremely calm. The entirety of Dragonmaw City had a strange quietness and holiness to it, that was enveloped in the last soft glows before it would be night. Igor led them to the side of the temple, and they went in, following a path. The passing members of the clergy all bowed to them, yet their gazes all stopped on Heishi’s face.
“It’s already very late today,” explained Igor. “Everyone, please have a good rest tonight. Tomorrow, the chief will invite all of you to have lunch together with him, and to discuss the current situation as well.”
A-Ka was still a little worried, but Heishi’s eyes signaled for him to not be too anxious, and anyway, so many days had passed already and the world would be destroyed, so one more night wouldn’t matter much. A-Ka could only nod, his heart heavy. Igor allocated rooms for them and informed them that dinner would be brought to them. Then, he bowed to Heishi.
“May the deities of the stars bless us all,” Igor said elegantly before turning around and leaving.
A-Ka lay on the bed and sighed deeply. He sat up again and took off his rucksack, putting it to the side, went to the chair that was in front of the window, and gazed outside. The tranquil night had already fallen, and the garden was full of lilies. Gentle music from an unknown source flowed melodiously.
A-Ka felt that he really was too comfortable as he laid back down on the bed, looking at Heishi, who was sitting beside the bed. He saw that Heishi was staring into space, so he used his bare foot to touch Heishi’s waist.
Heishi was confused.
A-Ka said, “How nice would it be if I could live here my entire life. My ideal world is just like this.”
Heishi replied casually, “The past world of you humans was just like this. There were no mechs and no computers, so why did you construct those?”
A-Ka thought about it and smiled, saying, “Of course, life would be very inconvenient. There’s no running water, so we would have to go to the river to fetch water, and there isn’t any entertainment. Industrialization also has its own advantages.”
Heishi said, “If you like this environment, I can tell the chief to let you stay at Dragonmaw City.”
“Would you stay here too?” A-Ka looked closely at Heishi.
Heishi didn’t answer.
A-Ka spoke again. “There’s a garden, so planting some flowers and doing some small things would be pretty nice.”
“We can talk about it later,” Heishi replied casually.
Night in Dragonmaw City was a bit cold, and A-Ka and Heishi slept in the same bed, wrapped in the blankets. Through the window, A-Ka looked at the starry sky outside and said, “Heishi, do you have memories of your childhood?”
He thought that Heishi might not have many memories of his childhood; after all, ever since he had been created by the Creators, he had been there the whole time. Unexpectedly, Heishi said, “A few.”
A-Ka was a bit surprised and turned his head to the side to look at Heishi. Heishi took the initiative to reach out his hand, letting A-Ka rest his head on it, and the two of them laid quietly like that.
“What was it like?” asked A-Ka.
“How about you?” Heishi questioned back.
A-Ka said, “Actually… ever since I could remember things, it’s been like that. Receiving the mechs’ training, education, and upbringing. But there was one thing that gave me a very lasting impression, and it’s related to Father.”
“What about Father?” Heishi’s tone was calm and emotionless.
“The day before humans reach adulthood, we had to connect to Father so it can confirm if you are loyal or not. That feeling was very uncomfortable,” said A-Ka, staring into space. “It was like a monster forcefully invading your mind.”
Heishi said, “That is one of Father’s special abilities. Since the activation of the petri dish, it had the ability to look into every organism’s thoughts. As long as it connects with your cognition, it can read anything in your thoughts.”
“Yes,” said A-Ka. “Actually, at first, I didn’t have any thoughts about rebelling against Father.”
Heishi said, “I am indeed a little surprised. It stands to reason that for people like you, it is definitely not possible to do illicit things under Father’s nose. You would have been destroyed by Father before you even turned sixteen.”
A-K had to admit that Heishi was right. Guarding against malingerers wasn’t because of Father’s foolishness, and for a human like him to slip out wasn’t because of Father’s carelessness. On the contrary, it was because under normal circumstances, it would’ve been impossible.
Because the thoughts of humans that lived in Mechanical City had all been exposed to Father’s inspection regularly, it could easily pick out the people with even just a bit of free spirit or thoughts of escaping, and then kill them in advance. That was also why, in the end, the androids had organized the rebel army, and why the orders came from people outside Mechanical City to the ones inside.
“The androids also underwent Father’s cognition connection,” said A-Ka, “but just not as frequently as the humans.”
“How frequent?” asked Heishi.
A-Ka answered, “Around once every ten years. I understand now, it’s called screening, but in reality, it’s to kill the humans who have thoughts of escaping.”
In his childhood, A-Ka had heard of quite a few people disappearing during the periodic screenings, but he had never thought in this direction; now, he was finally beginning to infer what had probably happened.
Heishi said, “Androids are not logical nor affectionate at all, and humans covet life and fear death. As Father’s slaves, they are about the same.”
“It’s not like that.” A-Ka turned over and sat up, shaking Heishi, who had closed his eyes. Heishi didn’t open his eyes, but he said dully, “Continue speaking. I am listening.”
A-Ka smiled and used his fingers to open Heishi’s eyes, and he looked at his pupils that were abstruse and like a gem. Heishi said in a low voice, “Three.”
A-Ka quickly took his hands back, scared that Heishi would punch him. He recalled the day he had gone through the thought inspection, and the vast expanse of blue light he had seen.
“That feeling is hard to describe.” A-Ka mumbled, “Very hard. It’s as if someone is rummaging through the depths of your soul…”
“I know.” Heishi said, “The eyes of a deity can see every part of you, which is why Father can obtain so much reverence from people. You humans have a saying, that ‘if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you’.”
A-Ka said, “But that wasn’t something I did on purpose…”
“What did you see in Father’s thoughts?” said Heishi.
“How did you know?” A-Ka was a bit surprised that Heishi could actually guess what he was about to say next.
That day, he had indeed felt something extraordinary in Father’s vast mind. The core area had brought him shock and unease, and it was like some secret place that his soul yearned for. At first, his brain seemed to have burned from the glaring light, making him want to throw up, but gradually, that discomfort disappeared.
In the depths of Father’s mind, he had discovered a soul that was buried very deep inside. Its voice had sounded in A-Ka’s ear, as if it was saying something to him. However, A-Ka had been in a daze and couldn’t reply at first.
“What did it say?” Heishi asked dully.
“I don’t know.” A-Ka laughed a little in self-deprecation and said, “It’s not like I can understand it.”
Heishi said, “What did you say?”
A-Ka said, “I… I said that I was very lonely. I treated it as the omnipotent Father. You know, in Mechanical City, there is a rumor among the humans that Father is an omnipotent deity. So, I made a wish towards it.”
Heishi said, “What wish?”
“I wished that…” A-Ka thought for a moment before saying, “I had a big brother who would protect me, because my entire life, I had been kicked around and bullied by the androids.”
Heishi opened his eyes and looked at A-Ka, his gaze bright and gentle. The corner of his mouth curved upwards, and he laughed.
In an instant, A-Ka was dumbfounded. “You’re… you’re laughing? Heishi, you’re laughing!”
Heishi’s laughter was fleeting and he said in a low voice, “Sleep.”
A-Ka was a bit elated. Heishi’s instantaneous smile had been extremely handsome, and A-Ka couldn’t help but admire it. In an instant, that smile had brightened up the entire night. The aroma of flowers, the nocturne, and countless things seemed to interweave and bloom in the depths of his very soul!
A-Ka stared blankly at Heishi, but Heishi turned over, signaling for A-Ka to sleep behind him. A-Ka said, “You look so lovely when you smile, Heishi.”
Heishi made a “mn”. A-Ka couldn’t help but say, “I think I’m a little in love with you. That’s how it feels.”
Heishi was a bit embarrassed and said, “Do not say stupid things!”
A-Ka had just laid down but he got back up again and explained hastily, “I didn’t mean that… I meant… the textbooks said that between humans… It’s like how I love Paixi and how Feiluo loves Paixi, and how Paixi says he loves Feiluo.”
Heishi was speechless.
A-Ka sensed that he was digging himself into a hole, so he didn’t say anything else as he laid quietly behind Heishi. In the darkness, Heishi said, “You can regard me as your older brother.”
“Thank you, Heishi,” said A-Ka, relieved. He hugged Heishi’s waist from behind him, and turned his head to the side, leaning against Heishi’s robust and strong back.
“I will protect you,” said Heishi, “and only you.”
A-Ka made a “mn” sound, and drifted off to sleep amid the fragrance of the sea of flowers. Ever since he had left Mechanical City, he slept the most soundly that night. A-Ka still thought that he had only slept for a few short minutes when a knocking on the door woke him up. Heishi was already nowhere to be seen, and the blankets still had some residue of the faint scent on his body.
“The chief invites you to have lunch with him and the others in the hall.” A young member of the clergy said politely, “Feel free to take a bath, as we have ample time. Clean clothes have been placed here.”
A-Ka nodded and said, “O… okay.”
A-Ka glanced at the clothes and saw that they were simple pants and a jacket that technicians wore. He took off his clothes and paced back and forth in the room before pushing open the bathroom door. Inside the capacious bathtub, hot water with steam rising from it had already been set up.
A-Ka walked into the bathtub, but he carelessly stepped onto something soft and yelled out suddenly.
“Ahh!” A-Ka was startled and fell into the water, choking on the hot water. Heishi immediately grabbed his wrist and helped him up, and A-Ka was startled again, this time by Heishi.
Heishi asked impatiently, “What?”
A-Ka was still in shock and said, “Why are you here?”
“I am taking a bath,” Heishi casually said. His hair had already gotten a lot longer, and since it was wet, it stuck onto his forehead. When he stood up, his muscles were robust and his arms were strong as he held A-Ka, their skin touching.
“You can bathe first…” A-Ka still hadn’t come back to his senses yet, but Heishi said, “Come in.”
A-Ka looked, stunned, at Heishi as he stood up in the bathtub and walked to the side to get the soap. A-Ka understood that just then, Heishi had been lying down in the water the entire time and A-Ka somehow hadn’t seen him, and he seemed to have stepped on Heishi’s… thigh.
“I’ll do it myself.” A-Ka couldn’t help but sneak a few glances at Heishi. His figure was perfect, and he seemed to be proportioned with the golden ratio. Everything was just right, he didn’t lack muscles, and his height was the standard 182 centimeters.
His figure was more well-proportioned and good-looking than the androids’, and compared to the mass-produced androids, Heishi had that type of cordial aura that only humans had. It was a masculine aura that also came with a human’s body temperature.
A-Ka said, “Were you created based on the golden ratio?”
“I do not know.” Heishi said, “But I am sure that my father’s appearance and build are different from mine.”
“I think that the Creators’ really favored humans,” said A-Ka, smiling. “Or, it could be called favoritism, which is why they made you look like a human.”
“Perhaps,” replied Heishi, “but I cannot be sure if my father’s world had gone through the phase of humans before.”
“It probably did,” said A-Ka.
A-Ka had always felt that humans were a very special species. Their emotions, like joy and anger, as well as their intelligence were all different from any other species in this world. Maybe, it was precisely because the Creators favored the humans that Heishi was so friendly towards them; at least, it wasn’t like how he treated the androids.
A-Ka sat in the hot water, hugging his knees. He and Heishi were each sitting at one end of the bathtub, and so they silently sat like that. A-Ka suddenly had a strong impulse to lean on him.
Last night, leaning against Heishi as they slept felt very nice, like leaning against a father’s broad back. Although A-Ka had never had a father, he found an attachment to Heishi.
“Can I hug you?” said A-Ka.
Heishi didn’t speak, so A-Ka was a bit embarrassed. He couldn’t help but think that his sudden, strange thought had been quite ridiculous, so he said, “Don’t take it seriously, I was just randomly saying something.”
“You can. Come over,” said Heishi.
A-Ka scooted over, Heishi spread out his arms, and they made contact with each other in the warm water. A-Ka trembled a bit, and when his finger touched Heishi’s arm, he couldn’t help but withdraw it. However, Heishi grasped his hand and pulled it towards himself, letting A-Ka place his hand onto Heishi’s chest.
There was the rising and falling of his chest as his heartbeat was beating steadily and forcefully. This was the first time A-Ka had touched someone else’s body like this, and a strange feeling fluttered in his heart.
His breathing became rapid as he stroked Heishi’s arm in the water. His shoulder and arm were smooth to the touch from the water, yet his muscles were firm and strong. A-Ka inched closer to him and hugged his waist, leaning against his body.
They nestled up against each other, and at that moment, A-Ka felt a sudden sense of security, as if he had found a home in his life.
“Father,” 1 mumbled A-Ka.
Heishi didn’t speak. This was already the second time A-Ka had felt it; last time, it was in the depths of Father’s thoughts, when he had faced that silhouette in the blinding light.
“It’s father…” A-Ka almost stopped breathing.
Heishi replied in a low voice, “You can feel it.”
A-Ka lifted his head in disbelief, and Heishi reached out a hand to stroke his hair, saying, “This is what the father of all things endowed upon me through my masculinity, heartbeat, as well as my flow of blood.”
“What’s it for?” A-Ka breathed as he looked into Heishi’s eyes.
“Nothing,” said Heishi. “It is just an aura that he left on my body. It has nothing to do with me.”2
“Can you let me hug you for a while?” asked A-Ka.
“Yes,” Heishi answered calmly.
A-Ka hugged him quietly, and Heishi spread out his arms, leaned back a bit, and propped his elbows on the edge of the bathtub. With A-Ka in his arms, Heishi welcomed his embrace like a newborn baby.
A moment later, Heishi dipped his fingers into a mixture of various floral essential oils, spread it onto his palm, and used his other hand to massage A-Ka’s head.
A-Ka felt very serene and didn’t feel like saying anything as he felt Heishi’s warm hands rub his neck and back, helping him apply the essential oils over his entire body. A moment later, Heishi sat up and hugged A-Ka.
A-Ka’s breathing quickened and his skin flushed as he leaned against Heishi, panting rapidly. Something seemed to stir and bloom in his heart.
Heishi cleaned his entire body for him and then smoothed out his hair.
“Thank you.” A-Ka was a bit giddy, so Heishi carried A-Ka in front of him, stepping out of the water, and said, “You are having a head rush and are liable to get dizzy.”
A-Ka was carried out of the bathroom, and Heishi threw some clothes at him, letting him wear it before he put on his own clothes.
When they left and stepped into the corridor, there were still traces of that warm feeling in A-Ka’s heart. He turned to look at Heishi and tried tugging his hand. Heishi relaxed his fingers, allowing A-Ka to grab them. When they arrived at the end of the corridor, Heishi laced his fingers with A-Ka’s, led him to the door, and pushed it open.
Music was playing, and inside the golden main hall, Molan was currently treating Paixi’s eyes. When he heard the door opening, he lifted his head and smiled, saying, “Welcome, Son of the Gods.”
- This is not the computer ‘Father’, he’s just saying “father”, as in ‘dad’.
- In case you’re confused about what they’re talking about, I’d say it’s just a sort of aura that the Creators put on Heishi that makes him give off a sense of security and fatherliness. However, Heishi is NOT A-Ka’s father nor his father figure.