Chapter 13: The Night of Grace
Translated by Vivian of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
That night, A-Ka gathered his things, and put them into a small bag, which he then carried on his shoulder. He asked Heishi, who was lying on the bed, “The chief said that today’s a holiday, so I want to go out and wander around. Do you want to come with me?”
Heishi was silent for a moment before nodding, and so he and A-Ka went out to tour Dragonmaw City.
Dragonmaw City was drastically different from Phoenix City, as there were humans everywhere. Molan had given A-Ka some money, so A-Ka bought some things that he liked to eat. He really liked to eat the buttermilk pancakes on this mainland, but in Phoenix City, he had always thought that they were too expensive. Thus, he would often buy them for Paixi, and was too reluctant to eat any himself.
He bought some pancakes at a stall, his mouth watering, and when he passed one over to Heishi, Heishi only glanced at it, baffled.
A-Ka stood in front of the stall and wolfed down the pancakes, as well as some fresh fruit. The sunset spilled onto the long street, and he thought that if, in the future, he could spend everyday like this, then that really would be very blissful.
Heishi said, “You really like to be around people of the same species as you.”
“That’s called liking liveliness.” A-Ka smiled as he explained, “Before, I thought that once you returned to Phoenix City, I had to go wandering around with you. Actually, Phoenix City isn’t bad, although it’s not as nice as Dragonmaw City.”
Heishi was wearing sunglasses, and he walked shoulder to shoulder with A-Ka. As they passed through the city, there were quite a few peddlers shouting about their goods. A-Ka stopped to observe them curiously, and also bought some things for Paixi.
“Do you like living like this?” asked A-Ka.
“It is okay.” Heishi thought for a moment and said, “You like them because you are the same as them, but I am not.”
Heishi seemed to have quite a lot more things to say today, and A-Ka laughed as he explained, “If you regard yourself as a human, then you might not feel so lonely anymore.”
“Perhaps.” Heishi wore a strange expression as he looked at a girl who was selling flowers on the side of the road, as if he couldn’t understand why someone would pick off the reproductive units of wild plants and then charge them at a fixed cost when they sold them to people of the same species. A-Ka bought a small tuner and a signal transmitter, then looked up to see Heishi sizing up the girl who was selling flowers.
The girl blushed upon being looked at by Heishi and smiled. “Mister, do you need to buy a bunch of flowers?”
Heishi answered, “No.”
A-Ka thought, He really is a boring guy. He was haggling with the owner of a stall when Heishi kneeled down on one knee before another stall, which sold bracelets.
“Do you need them? Sir?” The owner smiled and said, “They’re only seven silver coins!”
Heishi lifted up a bracelet and held it up to the setting sun to look at it. A-Ka squeezed his way over and asked, “Do you want it? I have money, I can buy it for you.”
Heishi waved him off and fished out a small box from his jacket pocket. Inside it, there were several golden bullets of different lengths.
“Can I exchange this with you?” Heishi said, “I only want one bracelet.”
The owner said, “These bracelets come in pairs. I don’t sell them individually!”
Heishi replied, “I only want one.”
A-Ka said helplessly, “Let’s get two, if you don’t want the other one you can give it to me.”
Heishi glanced at A-Ka and threw the golden bullets onto the counter, picked up two bracelets, and threw one of them to A-Ka.
A-Ka felt that the guy’s character really was too strange, but he hoped that later, if he got along with humans, he would change gradually.
They weren’t familiar with the area, and Heishi and A-Ka didn’t know which way they should go, so they walked forward through the market. When the setting sun left behind a smudge of lavender on the horizon, the noise in the market reached its peak. On the streets of Dragonmaw City, colored lanterns started being brought out, and there were more and more people. A-Ka had to hold onto Heishi’s hand so they wouldn’t get separated.
A-Ka suddenly thought of Heishi’s character, and he seemed to not like dealing with too many people, not to mention squeezing around here. He hastily asked Heishi, “Sorry, you don’t really like lively and noisy places, right?”
Heishi took off his sunglasses, glanced at A-Ka, and replied, “That is not true.”
A-Ka said, “Let’s go back then.”
Heishi replied, “It is really fine. If you like being here, then I am fine with it.”
A-Ka was a bit upset and asked, “Is there anywhere you want to go and see?”
Heishi answered, “No.”
A-Ka didn’t know how to respond.
Actually, A-Ka had really yearned for this type of warm city scene, and it filled him with happiness and rich vitality. However, Heishi obviously wasn’t interested in any of these at all, and only wanted to accompany A-Ka in going shopping.
“Actually, you can’t be like this,” said A-Ka, “or else if we’re not together, then how would you live?”
Heishi’s eyebrows creased in a good-looking way, as if this was the first time he had thought about that problem. A-Ka smiled and said, “You’ll have to deal with humans eventually as long as you live in this world, right? I keep getting the feeling that you’ll never like them.”
“No,” replied Heishi. “To me, humans are basically the same as trees, birds, or insects.”
A-Ka said, “So that’s not right. You’re actually the same as humans, right?”
Heishi said, “Whatever.”
A-Ka was defeated and said, “Are you hungry? Should we go eat dinner?”
Heishi had always not cared one way or the other, although he had become a lot more gentle compared to when they had first met. At least he didn’t always have an unapproachable hostility to him anymore. A-Ka found a restaurant on the terrace and sat down with Heishi.
“What do you want to eat?” asked A-Ka.
“Anything.” Heishi stared off into the distance towards the view of the colorful streets, giving the problem of what dishes to order to A-Ka without thinking twice.
A-Ka could only help him order the same thing he had ordered for himself. Before, in Phoenix City, he had always wanted to go out to a restaurant to eat, but had always been very poor, and he didn’t have any opportunities to do so anyways. He frequently thought that, once Heishi came, he had to bring him outside to see the human world and experience things he had never experienced before.
Now, he finally fulfilled that wish, albeit in this helpless and ridiculous situation.
The waiter served them some wine, lit the candles, and A-Ka used his knife and fork to begin cutting up his steak. Heishi watched him for a while before using his finger to pick up his steak, and was about to put it into his mouth like he was eating a pancake.
A-Ka was speechless.
Heishi was confused.
A-Ka motioned for him to put it down, and used his knife and fork to help Heishi cut the steak into small pieces. Heishi looked outside while he carelessly picked up the small pieces of steak and put them into his mouth to chew.
A-Ka said, “Sometimes, I’m curious about how you rarely say anything. Are you thinking about something?”
“I am thinking about what you told me just then,” said Heishi.
A-Ka asked, “In your eyes, am I also no different from a tree or a bird?”
Heishi turned around and glanced at A-Ka. A-Ka seemed to get his answer and was deflated. “Okay.”
A-Ka had always thought that he was different to Heishi; after all, ever since that day he had discovered Heishi in the ocean, they had been together most of the time. They had walked for so long, and Heishi’s attitude towards other people seemed to be different than his attitude towards A-Ka.
A-Ka said seriously, “For the God’s Son, the Savior, I didn’t expect to get any different treatment from flowers and trees… I just think that I might die one day.”
At this time, Heishi began to look directly at A-Ka.
“You will die, yes.” Heishi nodded.
A-Ka said, “I’m not really clear about your body’s composition, but because of who you are, are you immortal?”
Heishi thought about it and replied, “I do not know.”
A-Ka said, “If you don’t try to make some friends, then… after I die, there won’t be anyone to take care of you.”
A-Ka was a bit sympathetic as he said, “Or, if I die from sickness or… I sacrifice myself. I don’t matter much, if I die then I die, but you might feel a bit lonely.”
Heishi was also sympathetic as he said, “You should take good care of yourself.”
A-Ka really wanted to throw his napkin and not play with him anymore. However, when he thought about it, Heishi indeed was very obtuse towards human emotions, so of course he wouldn’t understand the entanglements between humans. In the end, A-Ka thought that it was best not to bother too much with him.
Heishi’s hand was covered in the sauce from the steak, and after a while, he said, “I will not eat anymore. It tastes too strange.”
“The taste practically can’t get any better, right?” said A-Ka.
Heishi said, “I do not like to eat raw food.”
A-Ka saw that the steak was medium rare, and asked, “This type of taste is really good, why won’t you eat raw food?”
“Raw means that there is still life on it,” replied Heishi.
Sometimes, A-Ka really didn’t understand Heishi’s logic. “If you’re not going to eat it, then give it to me. Don’t waste it.”
Heishi picked up a piece of steak and fed it into A-Ka’s mouth. A-Ka was about to get up to pay the bill, but when he ate that piece of steak, he sucked Heishi’s finger for a moment to lick off the sauce, and in that instant, Heishi stiffened.
“You…” Heishi’s breathing suddenly quickened.
“I’m going to go pay the bill,” said A-Ka.
Heishi’s expression looked a bit off, and he seemed to be shocked. A-Ka was baffled and waved his hand in front of Heishi. Heishi immediately came back to his senses and snapped his fingers.
A-Ka grinned. “You even know how to do that?”
Heishi replied, “I saw Huixiong and the others do it.”
A-Ka paid the bill. On the streets outside, the crowd of humans became even more packed, and nearly tens of thousands of people swarmed down the street, as if they were participating in a grand ceremony. Under the night sky, melodious flute music drifted by; it was a very famous ancient piece, “The Shepherd’s Spring”. People sang along and danced to the music, following the surge of the crowd as they rushed towards the huge square in front of the temple.
“Feiluo——” shouted A-Ka.
Feiluo was very tall, and Paixi was sitting on his shoulders. Paixi’s eyes were still covered with bandages, so Feiluo must have been scared that Paixi would be squeezed by the crowd.
“A-Ka!” Paixi keenly heard A-Ka’s voice and shouted, “Where are you?”
He inclined his ears and identified A-Ka’s position. They were extremely far away from each other, so A-Ka hastily said, “Carry me on your back, Heishi!”
Heishi turned around helplessly, and A-Ka climbed onto his back. He shouted, “Feiluo! You two also came!”
Feiluo, who was still carrying Paixi, replied, “Don’t come over here! A-Ka! There’s too many people!”
There were more and more people. Heishi carried A-Ka on his back and upon being pushed and shoved by the crowd, he couldn’t help but walk forward. When they arrived at the center of the square, all lights went out.
A-Ka shouted out in surprise and whispered, “Put me down, Heishi!”
Heishi and A-Ka held hands as they stood at the edge of the square. Immediately after, the sky was lit up by the vast galaxy, and the crowd cheered loudly. There seemed to be some strange magic outside the temple, and the stars spun, forming various patterns. Then, they dimmed again.
“My people, happy Spring Festival.” Molan appeared on the high tower of the temple, his hands pressed onto the railing as he looked downward.
“May the wind blow, the sun shine, the rain shower, and the thunder roar. May all creatures and people on these lands grow…”
“May the clouds gather and disperse, just like our lives…”
Everyone took out a small cup and lit the candle inside their cup. The square was silent, with only Molan’s voice reverberating over the mellow music.
“May life thrive and prosper…”
Molan prayed in a low voice, and the tens of thousands of candles in the square illuminated everyone’s faces as they raised their heads to look at the chief.
A-Ka looked around. Not buying candles before and coming to participate in such a grand ceremony really was unwise, yet Heishi said, “Hug me, A-Ka.”
A-Ka was confused.
Heishi extended his arms, so A-Ka hugged him. Immediately after, with a flutter, Heishi shook open the metal wings on his back and flew towards the sky. They spiraled around the temple and floated down lightly. Heishi and A-Ka sat down on a railing at the top of the temple.
“It’s so beautiful!” admired A-Ka.
Looking down from the building that wasn’t that tall, the candlelights blurred together, and Molan stood in the light of the stars, murmuring his prayers.
“Mn,” Heishi casually replied. He propped a foot onto the railing, not even looking down, and lowered his head to fiddle with the bracelet he had just bought.
Molan’s voice floated to them from far away, and A-Ka listened for a while before shifting his attention to Heishi’s bracelet. He saw that Heishi was trying hard to insert a black object onto the bracelet.
“Do you want to decorate it?” asked A-Ka.
Heishi didn’t lift his head and made a vague “mn”. A-Ka said, “Where’d you get that?”
A-Ka inched closer to look at it, and saw that Heishi’s slender fingers were holding a crystal that looked like obsidian. It seemed to be in the shape of the black iron feathers that were on his wings.
“Get out of the way,” said Heishi. “You’re blocking the light.”
A-Ka was speechless, and could only stand to the side, overcome with boredom. Heishi lifted his gaze to look at A-Ka, didn’t say anything, and then went back to concentrating on his bracelet. A-Ka watched him for a while. Molan’s faraway prayers were already indistinct, so he took out his bracelet from his bag and used a simple welder to weld a button-sized transmitter onto the bracelet.
“Let me borrow that,” said Heishi.
A-Ka gave the welder to him, and Heishi’s finger was pressed against the welder as he directly turned it on. A-Ka said, “Be careful!”
A-Ka could even catch a whiff of the burnt smell and he hurriedly pulled Heishi’s hand away. He saw that a black scar had been burned onto Heishi’s index finger, so A-Ka hastily placed Heishi’s finger into his mouth and sucked it. Heishi was startled at once and then tried to withdraw his finger, still confused, yet A-Ka didn’t let it go.
A moment later, Heishi withdrew his finger, his face tinged with red. He asked, “Is that some kind of expression that humans do?”
“No, it’s just because you got hurt,” said A-Ka.
Heishi said, “I can heal myself.”
A-Ka said angrily, “You still can’t be like this, doesn’t it hurt?!”
Heishi motioned for A-Ka to look at his finger; it had already healed, good as new, and A-Ka was defeated by him once again.
“I finished adorning it.” Heishi was like a child, as he looked at the silver bracelet he had made in satisfaction. He seemed to be a bit surprised and said, “I can actually create something.”
A-Ka huffed, “Of course you can create things.”
“Only you humans can create,” replied Heishi. “Besides humans, all other species cannot create, so the Creators have always been searching for beings that have creativity.”
“Is that so?” A-Ka was vaguely aware of something and asked, “All other species can’t do it?”
“They need to be given creativity, or spontaneously create some opportunity for themselves.” Heishi gazed at the square and said, “I do not know that much either. The gods have never left behind that information in my memories. Perhaps, even they do not know why only intelligent beings have the ability to create.”
“Is it because of love?” asked A-Ka. “In ancient poetry and classic literature, I’ve read that love can stimulate a person’s creative desires.”
Heishi didn’t reply. A moment later, Molan’s prayers ended, and the crowd began cheering. The ceremony seemed to have ended, and the lights in the square went out again.
“This is for you.” Heishi and A-Ka said in near unison.
At that moment, A-Ka’s and Heishi’s expression contained practically the same surprise as A-Ka held his bracelet and Heishi held the other.
A-Ka couldn’t help but laugh, yet Heishi was extremely serious as he handed his bracelet to A-Ka.
A-Ka said, “Let me help you fasten it.”
A-Ka pulled Heishi’s hand towards himself and was about to fasten the bracelet onto his robust, strong wrist. However, at this time, a clear sound sliced through the night sky.
A firework that left behind a bright trail rose into the night sky, and its sharp noise instigated the tens of thousands of people’s cheers!
With a loud bang, the firework bloomed, shining on their faces. A-Ka raised his head to look at the sky, dumbfounded and ecstatic.
Heishi fastened the bracelet that A-Ka made onto his own wrist. The two of them lifted their heads and watched the gorgeous, colorful fireworks bloom, one after another, in the night sky. A-Ka murmured, “They’re so beautiful.”
There were more and more fireworks, and they occupied the pitch-black sky. The sky flashed like it was a dream, and as A-Ka watched the sky, he fell into a brilliantly blooming reverie.
Heishi inadvertently turned his head around, watching A-Ka’s face. A-Ka watched the fireworks for a while and then discovered that Heishi was watching him, so A-Ka smiled at Heishi and said, “They’re so pretty! Have you seen them before? They’re just like… just like…”
“Like the stars are separating. Like this is how the universe was born,” Heishi finished for him. “The gods gave me this memory before.”
“Yes!” A-Ka said excitedly, “What a perfect simile!”
A-Ka and Heishi sat shoulder to shoulder, the fireworks that lit up the long night blooming in front of them. A-Ka couldn’t help but turn and gaze at Heishi.
“If, one day, we separate,” A-Ka said in a low voice, “would you be unwilling to let me go?”
Heishi looked at A-Ka as if he had something to say, but he didn’t say anything. A-Ka looked into his black eyes as well as his pupils that reflected the gorgeous, colorful lights. He felt that this was just like a grand, spectacular performance.
A-Ka’s heart fluttered, and even he could not say what thought had driven him to close his eyes, feeling Heishi’s soft breaths wash over him.
That night, there was a myriad of fireworks, one after another, lasting for an entire hour, illuminating Dragonmaw City, turning night into day. At the end, everything returned to silence, and the fluorescent birds of late spring swirled and flitted about the city. The entire city gradually drifted into sleep, and all was quiet.
At the top of the temple, A-Ka leaned against Heishi, asleep.
In the pale light of the early morning, Heishi walked through the corridor, and Feiluo, who was behind him, stopped.
“I’m not sure if you’ll be fine,” said Feiluo. “But… hang in there, Heishi.”
Heishi was wearing a long trench coat, and his hands that wore fingerless gloves were casually stuck in his pockets. He turned around and held out a hand, on which the silver bracelet that A-Ka had given him rested.
“Thank you,” said Heishi.
Feiluo high-fived Heishi and squeezed his hand.
“Come back alive,” said Feiluo.
Heishi nodded and said, “I have now discovered that humans are not so bad after all.”
Feiluo laughed and said, “You are indeed different from before.”
Heishi whistled and turned around, walking towards the temple.
Meanwhile, A-Ka put on his hat and walked out of the room. When he walked through the corridor, Paixi ran out from the side and hugged A-Ka tightly.
“A-Ka.” Paixi said, “You have to come back safely!”
A-Ka embraced Paixi tightly. He was wearing a shirt and long pants, and he rolled up his sleeves, revealing the bracelet Heishi had given him. There was a black, droplet-shaped gemstone welded in the center of the silver bracelet that had a faint purple glow.
“You hang in there too,” A-Ka said in a low voice.
He and Paixi parted. A-Ka walked towards the temple, and saw that Heishi was waiting for him.
A few people walked into the temple, and Molan had been in the center of the temple, awaiting their arrival. Assistant Chief Igor closed the large door.
Molan said, “Feiluo, Shahuang, and Huixiong have already been sent to the past. Five minutes later, you will be sent to November of last year and arrive next to me. At that time, there will still be three days until the android revolution. The past me will assist you two in entering Mechanical City.”
A-Ka had waited a long time for this moment, and there was an inexplicable shock in his heart. In the magnificent hall, the sunlight sprinkled down. He and Heishi were standing before Molan, as if they were about to commence on a solemn and grave ceremony.
A-Ka drew in a deep breath and nodded. “I’ll do my best.”
Molan said, “Because the past me isn’t familiar with the layout of Mechanical City, nor do I know any of the passwords to get into the passageways… everything depends on you, A-Ka.”
Heishi asked, “Is there anything we should pay attention to?”
A-Ka said, “Can we ask the past me and Heishi for help?”
“No.” Molan’s expression changed minisculely and he immediately said, “Besides the past me, you cannot be too conspicuous. Recall the day you escaped Father’s city. Did you know that you from the future would come?”
A-Ka immediately understood; he hadn’t known about this, which meant that his future and past self hadn’t even seen each other before.
“Not only can you not ask for help from the past you,” Molan said seriously, “you cannot even let him see you. You must avoid him, as well as take precautions against all factors that may lead to the failure of the revolution. Everything you do in the past will cause a series of butterfly effects. Those effects are very likely to cause everyone in the present to stray from their original paths.”
A-Ka nodded. “If I accidentally get seen, what will happen?”
Molan said somberly, “It would likely produce an annihilation, or two currents flowing in the opposite direction will collide and destroy the entire world.”
A-Ka drew in a deep breath and said, “I understand. Please start… Wait, hold on!”
According to Molan’s explanation, A-Ka had drawn a conclusion: the present Molan and the past Molan both wore the ring, and after A-Ka and Heishi returned to the past, they would meet the past Molan… which meant, before now, Molan had already known that they would return to the past!
“Before you boarded the boat… you’ve already met me,” A-Ka said shakily.
“Yes.” Molan smiled and said, “Before we boarded the boat, we were already friends.”
A-Ka’s surprise had peaked. He asked, “Then did we succeed in our mission?”
Molan said, “Whether or not you succeeded in your mission doesn’t mean you don’t need to work hard. On the contrary, if you fail, then it will change time or everyone will be destroyed. No matter when or where, you must do your best, A-Ka.”
“I got it!” replied A-Ka. “Please start!”
Molan said, “In the process of getting sent to the past, you might feel a bit sad. You can do it, A-Ka.”
Molan twisted the ring and a bright light enveloped A-Ka. With a buzz, A-Ka disappeared.
Inside the temple, only Molan and Heishi were left, standing facing each other.
After sending A-Ka away, the light from Molan’s ring dimmed as it recharged for next time.
Heishi gazed silently at the ground. After a brief silence, Molan said, “We need to wait three minutes until we can send you back, Son of the Gods.”
Heishi nodded and said, “Will this affect A-Ka’s health?”
“Hard to say.” Molan said, “I haven’t tried using the Wish of the Tides before.”
Heishi lifted his gaze to look at Molan. Molan was silent for a moment before smiling and saying, “I’ve always been curious about something, can I ask you a question?”
“Ask,” Heishi replied concisely.
Molan said, “According to the records in the books of the stars, the day the petri dish, Astrolabe, is nearly completely polluted, the Creators will send their son to carry out a purification… So in other words, your mission is actually to…”
Heishi said, “To eliminate everyone in this petri dish.”
Molan replied, “Yes. Last year, when I arrived at the eastern mainland and met you for the first time, I was very surprised. Logically, in your memories, the gods left behind the order to kill all people and to end this experiment.”
“Well,” said Heishi, “what is the problem?”
Molan said, “What made you… decide to protect us humans and androids? My apologies, I have interrupted your thoughts…”
Heishi entered a long period of silence.
Heishi lifted his hand, and in an instant, all rays of light in the temple converged, intersecting to form gorgeous, colorful scenes.
Before the flowerbed of tulips, the moonlight projected through the window and into the room, where Heishi was lying on his back, and A-Ka was lying on his stomach next to him, laughing as he said something to Heishi.
“Is it because of A-Ka?” Molan asked quietly.
Heishi didn’t speak and swiped a hand in front of him, and the scenes changed rapidly——
—In the night of Dragonmaw City, thousands of fireworks bloomed in the sky. A-Ka smiled as he handed a bracelet to Heishi.
—In the dusk of the Spring Festival, A-Ka stood on the street, wolfing down buttermilk pancakes.
—Under the dark, gloomy sky of Phoenix City, A-Ka chased after Heishi and started up his propeller. Among dozens of mech guards, A-Ka hugged Heishi’s waist and brought him crashing headfirst into the glass of a tall building and burst out the other side, the sky flashing with fragmented glass shards.
—In the sewers of Phoenix City, A-Ka laid weakly in Heishi’s arms, clutching his hand tightly.
—In the long night, the black ocean was like a stirring behemoth’s roaring mouth. Heishi sat on the rocks, alone as he spoke into the transmitter, his trench coat fluttering in the ocean breeze.
—That day in Mechanical City, on which Heishi stood on the high platform, sweeping his gaze over the unfamiliar humans below the platform. Everyone’s expressions were indifferent, their eyes filled with fear.
“Wait!” A-Ka said loudly. “It’s me! The person this stranger wants to find is me!”
Molan silently watched the scenes.
—The tides of the black ocean ebbed and flowed, the clouds gathered and dispersed, and the hatch of the nutrient pod opened. A-Ka wore a surprised expression as he carefully picked up Heishi.
—There was a vast expanse of blue light, as if the sea had submerged him. A-Ka’s lonesome voice entered the sea of Father’s thoughts.
“I wish there was a person who can keep me company,” murmured A-Ka, “and make me less lonely.”
Heishi glanced at Molan and walked into the blue light. The blue light that was like the ocean turned into a gentle purple, and Molan’s ring shot out a beam of light that enveloped Heishi.
“Because I like humans. Among the humans, there are individuals like A-Ka,” replied Heishi, and he nodded once at Molan. Molan pressed a hand to his own shoulder and bowed towards Heishi.
Heishi’s figure faded gradually in the light before disappearing completely.
—The fireworks exploded one after another, spreading and blooming in the sky. Under the fireworks, A-Ka’s eyes were closed, and Heishi kissed him gently.