Chapter 14: The Journey Against Time
Translated by Vivian of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Rolling black clouds engulfed the sky, and a restless tremor sounded from afar. A-Ka was spat out of the huge, roaring mouth that was made up of layers of cloud and lightning.
“Ahh——” A-Ka shouted over the fierce gale.
“Prepare to receive the impact of the fall——” Huixiong’s voice sounded.
Huixiong was aloft as he spread out his arms and his big figure appeared under the layer of clouds, hurtling towards the ground. Shahuang also shot out of the unstable rift in time. He was carrying a large machine gun on his back, with the scope propped onto his shoulder, and he seemed to have changed into someone else. His hand was still stuck in the pocket of his trench coat, and his slender figure was like a straight, sharp sword plummeting down.
“Countdown until impact. Twelve, eleven…” Shahuang fished out a small metal tube from his pocket and pointed it towards Huixiong as he pressed the button on it. With a buzz, a huge, spider web-like net caught him, and Huixiong turned around midair. The lustrous net opened into a parachute.
Shahuang flipped gracefully and flew towards A-Ka. A-Ka was still shouting, as he hadn’t expected to fall from so high in the air, although his shouts were drowned out by the wind. Shahuang roared over the fierce wind, “I got you!”
The force of the wind was practically impossible to withstand, and A-Ka was nearly pulled away several times. Shahuang clutched his wrist tightly, and was just about to open his parachute when a golden light flashed, and Heishi brushed past them, bringing A-Ka with him.
“Ahh——” A-Ka shouted loudly.
“I am going to go deaf.” Heishi said coldly, “Can you not be a bit more quiet?”
After saying that, the metal wings on Heishi’s back expanded, and it was like a hang glider as it brought A-Ka and Heishi flying towards the dark and gloomy horizon. They spun midair, and the mountains, rivers, and land passed by from underneath them. In the distance, Father’s tower was surrounded by electric light and purple clouds, forming an eddy.
At that moment, A-Ka was stunned as he looked at Father. It was like the vast land had connected to the faraway satellites in the universe, as well as a pitch-black grim reaper, with thousands upon thousands of intelligent mechs flying around it like worker bees of a beehive.
Heishi’s eyes reflected the scene of Mechanical City and said, “It is not the same as I remembered it to be.”
“Isn’t it?” A-Ka turned and asked Heishi, “What’s different about it?”
Heishi merely made a “mn” and didn’t say anything else as they dove towards the ground.
They were west of Mechanical City, and neurotoxins were diffused across the marshy plains to inhibit people who tried to pass through here. Father had chosen to situate itself on the eastern shores precisely to prevent humans from escaping.
Heishi hugged A-Ka as they descended slowly, and the white parachutes in the sky were like dandelions as white as snow. Huixiong and Shahuang flew towards the forest at the edge of the plain, and Feiluo opened his hang glider, trailing Heishi in a circling descent.
A-Ka finally saw who it was on the ground, waiting for them; it was Molan from the past!
The gem on Molan’s ring faced his palm, and his palm was directed towards the horizon. The ring emitted thousands of strange particle rays, forming a bright line of connection to the time tunnel in the sky.
“Is there anyone else?!” Molan shouted over the wind.
“No!” Heishi said loudly.
A-Ka said, “Uncle Molan!”
Molan smiled and nodded towards him. Inexplicably, when A-Ka saw the Molan from the past, he felt that intimacy with him, but it was also very strange. After they landed on the ground, Shahuang and Huixiong went to climb onto the trees near the edge of the forest to scout out the area.
Half an hour later, they all stood by a lake on the muddy plain, surrounding Molan. After Molan counted everyone off, he said seriously, “Merchants, androids, those of you with unclear origins, and warriors that came bringing prehistoric weapons, I believe that your identities must be unusual, as well as this… young friend. Now, isn’t it time for everyone to introduce themselves?”
“Your Majesty.” Feiluo said, “I’m General Libre’s subordinate and the second troop’s major, Feiluo.”
Molan looked at Feiluo and nodded, asking, “Were you part of the people in Mechanical City before?”
“I used to be a spy.” Feiluo pointed at his own head and said, “This chip allowed me to contact the other allies during the android revolution.”
“I know you,” Molan said to Huixiong. “Chairman, as well as this one… Shahuang of a Hundred Battles.”
Shahuang smiled and Huixiong nodded.
“I am Heishi,” Heishi said simply.
“A-Ka.” A-Ka smiled as he introduced himself. At first, he had been a bit confused, but he realized now——The Molan from the past clearly didn’t know him, and it was only until they boarded the ship to the western mainland that they had met for the first time.
“I’m just an ordinary human.” A-Ka said, “I came here to help and to bring them into Mechanical City because I used to live here.”
Molan smiled and said, “Humans themselves aren’t ordinary. My dear friends, tell me about your plan. I’m not even sure what you all have come to do. I only received a message from the future me, who told me that General Libre was going to launch the attack the day after tomorrow. I believe that we still have quite a bit of time left.”
Molan clasped his hands between his back and walked slowly on the plain. Huixiong and Shahuang were like two bodyguards as Feiluo explained their approximate situation to Molan. When he got to Heishi’s identity, Molan couldn’t help but glance at A-Ka a bit more.
“So I am the representative for the android regime.” Feiluo said, “General Angus sent me here to assist in completing this task.”
Molan didn’t comment. A-Ka said, “Uncle Molan… no, Your Majesty.”
“I like that name very much.” Molan smiled. “Calling me Uncle is fine.”
A-Ka asked, “What did you come here to do?”
“At Libre’s request, I came to purify Father. They told me to wait here, but since you brought the most recent news from the future, I believe that the outcome revolution has clearly already been predetermined.”
He lifted his head and gazed at the horizon. At this time, Heishi was still sleeping in the nutrient pod, and A-Ka was resting in the human district of Mechanical City. Libre still hadn’t led his fleet to crash into Father, and everything was still proceeding systemically, presenting a strange tranquility.
A-Ka was thinking about how, just a day later, there would be several hundred thousands of androids driving their mechas and battleships, rushing at Fathers like moths throwing themselves into a flame, who would then be buried in a sea of fire in the huge city. A-Ka couldn’t help but feel an inexplicable sadness.
At this time, Molan turned around and bowed to Heishi, saying, “Please allow me to represent the humans in expressing this meager show of gratitude, Son of the Gods.”
“There is no need.” Heishi said dully, “Saving you is not because of the entire species.”
Feiluo, Huixiong, and Shahuang all looked at Heishi, and A-Ka couldn’t help but smile. He knew that Heishi was always a bit of a killjoy, kindling a fire in people’s hearts.
Molan said, “Tonight, we need to sleep in the forest, and tomorrow, we can wait for an opportunity to sneak in. I still haven’t obtained the map for the inner city, so let’s discuss it after resting.”
Night befell the land gently, and in the depths of the forest, they started a small fire. Molan, Huixiong, Shahuang, Feiluo, and A-Ka sat together, preparing the food. Molan had brought quite a lot to eat, and he distributed the food to everyone generously. A-Ka told him about everything that had happened in the next year, after they had arrived at Phoenix City and Dragonmaw City.
Heishi sat casually on a tree, leaning his back against the trunk. He stretched a leg down from the tree branch and rocked it in boredom.
“Are you done talking?” Heishi said from afar. “You are wordy and noisy.”
A-Ka concluded everything in a sentence as he stood up. “That’s it, don’t tell anyone else.”
The others laughed. Huixiong looked at A-Ka and then at Heishi. He said, “Heishi, if it wasn’t necessary, I would have never chosen to work together with you.”
Feiluo said casually, “He’s just a rogue that’s intolerant of everyone else’s opinions.”
“Don’t say that.” A-Ka walked to the tree Heishi was sitting in and turned back around to say to the others, “Heishi is a very good person.”
“I am not a person,” Heishi said listlessly.
Everyone was speechless. Heishi reached his leg down and let A-Ka grab onto it so he could climb up the tree.
“You aren’t a good thing,” said Feiluo.
“You are right,” Heishi said casually.
Feiluo said, “But you’re like a person now, so you should thank A-Ka.”
At that moment, A-Ka saw that Heishi’s expression seemed to change, as if he was embarrassed. He didn’t continue the topic, and A-Ka was a bit surprised; Heishi could even feel embarrassed?
Heishi pretended nothing happened and scooted to the side, making a little space for A-Ka to sit. A-Ka, who was holding the food Molan had given him, gave Heishi most of it. Heishi looked A-Ka in the eyes and said, “You can eat.”
“You eat.” A-Ka said, “You didn’t have a happy life in Phoenix City, and you haven’t even tried gourmet food yet.”
“Gourmet food.” Heishi discovered that he could never connect his thought process to A-Ka’s. He had originally been about to ridicule A-Ka, but had a change of mind and changed to asking seriously, “Gourmet food?”
“Paixi really likes to eat that stall’s coconut bread that’s fresh out of the oven.” A-Ka said, “He also likes the coffee jelly outside the Merchant Association’s building.”
Heishi couldn’t understand at all so he just made a casual “mn”. A-Ka said, “When the war is over, I’ll take you to some places, and we can go together. Can we?”
“Go where?” Heishi asked, “Go eat again?”
A-Ka said, “I’ve read, in the books, that this world has a lot of steep mountain peaks. There’s also islands with beautiful sunshine, and you can see the sand under the water in the clear seas. There are also forests that can sing, as well as strange wild animals in them. There’s also a lot of places with people, where Father’s power hasn’t reached them yet.”
Heishi made another casual “mn” as his reply.
A-Ka finished eating the hardtack and showed a piece of paper to Heishi. Pictures of the transparent, snowy lakes behind the eastern mountain ridges were printed on it. “This is a nice place. When I was young, I always wanted to go and take a look at it.”
“Do you know of these from educational materials?” asked Heishi.
A-Ka nodded and said, “Teacher Crankos was a human teacher that taught us about the general subjects. After he died, we could only read the books by ourselves. When I was in Mechanical City, a few good friends and I even agreed that if we had the chance to go out later, we had to go take a look at these places. These mountains, oceans, and prehistoric buildings used to be the homes and temples of humans…”
“I remember that you had human friends.” Heishi said, “The place you used to stay at was the human concentration camp.”
“Concentration camp?” asked A-Ka.
Heishi didn’t reply.
A-Ka was silent for a while.
“When we go back, can I go see them?” A-Ka said, “As well as the children in my living district.”
Heishi said, “As long as there is enough time, it is up to you.”
A-Ka said, “What would happen if I save them?”
Heishi said, “I do not know. You should go ask Molan.”
A-Ka glanced at the chief, who was in the distance, sitting in front of the fire. A-Ka was perturbed, yet Heishi guessed what he was thinking and said, “You are not asking him because you also know that it is not possible.”
A-Ka was dejected and silent.
“You can save one person, but you cannot save several.” Heishi said, “And it is even less possible for you to save everyone in Mechanical City. Right now, Father’s power is still the strongest, unless you help Libre destroy Father. But that is not possible, because when we left Mechanical City, Father hadn’t been destroyed.”
“If I could,” A-Ka murmured, “then I’d rather stay in this battle… and do my best to eliminate Father. That way, it could stop so many things from happening…”
“But if you do that,” said Heishi, “then the world would collapse, and even the rules of time would be violated. You had best consider things carefully. When you get the code to open the door, leave immediately, or else Molan will also get involved because of you.”
A-Ka didn’t say anything. He sighed and leaned into Heishi’s arms, entering dreamland. At dawn the next day, Heishi shook him awake. Molan distributed breakfast, and the transmitter in his hand beeped, using an irregular code to deliver the news from the androids.
“When we approach the city walls, it should be the western district.” A-Ka used a stick to draw out an approximate outline of Mechanical City. The city was in the shape of a crown, and one of the core areas had been built by humans several thousand years ago. In the center of it all was Father’s tower.
“The western district extends from here… to here.” A-Ka circled a large range and said, “That is where the mechs stay.”
“Wait.” Huixiong said, “I don’t mean to interrupt you, but I have to ask, how are we going to get in?”
A-Ka looked at Huixiong and then at Molan, yet they were all at a loss.
“Continue talking.” Heishi said, “Do not think about the problem of getting in for now.”
A-Ka could only continue explaining, “Let’s assume everyone has already entered the city. I don’t care how we get in… Now, we’re in the western district. This is the mechs’ charging area, their collection terminal, as well as where they exchange information. There are about two hundred thousand androids gathered in the outer city, and they perform various services for the mechs, just like a small community.
“The mechs without any tasks will standby in the inner parts of the western district.” A-Ka said, “In order to save energy, Father will sometimes wake them up. No matter what, we can’t go through here aboveground. We have to avoid that place. If we continue walking along the border of the western district, there’s a gap.”
“Is it here?” Molan used his long scepter to point at a spot in A-Ka’s drawing.
A-Ka nodded. “Yes. This is the parts assembly plant, and under the mech guard’s control, there is a conveyor belt inside. It ships metal boards and other semi-processed goods to the molding field. We can follow the conveyor belt to the molding field. There, there is a refining and processing area for metal ore.”
A-Ka drew a line towards the northern part of the city. “From the surface of the molding field, we can find a path from the biomaterial synthesis area and go to the eastern district. The eastern district is where the humans are, and when we arrive there, we can use the central lifting motor well to sneak into the underground pipelines. From there, we can wait for the energy pipelines to turn on, and then we can go back to the surface and wait for General Libre at Father’s core area.”
“That makes sense.” Shahuang said, “The presentation sounded pretty good. It was organized and clear. Although I’m only a bodyguard, so I don’t care about how you sneak into the mothership, I still want to ask, how will you contact General Libre?”
Huixiong and Molan looked at Feiluo.
Feiluo said, “General Libre’s hiding place cannot be told to any of us, or else it would be very easy for Father to intercept us. But, I can use the chip in my head to contact him when the battle starts.”
“Mn.” Huixiong said, “And then do we shoot him? Or do we let him use some device that can allow you to see his brain as well as ask him to hand over the chip?”
Feiluo had also been thinking of that extremely serious matter. “Or, we can ask him to make a copy of the chip…”
Heishi said, “I will be in charge of that matter, and I am very glad to be. We should go now.”
Feiluo said, “This is the task that Angus gave me, so there’s no need for you to intervene.”
Heishi signaled that there was no need for him to say anything else, so everyone picked up their weapons. With his scepter in hand, Molan led them through the muddy plain as they began to sneak into Mechanical City. The city walls weren’t very tall——after all, most of the mechs could fly, and the only use for the city walls were to prevent humans and androids from leaving.
“There aren’t any sentries,” said Huixiong. He was in a tree, monitoring the distance.
“No.” A-Ka stood in a gap in the forest and looked quietly at the city walls that spanned across thousands of miles. “The entire city wall is a huge sentry.”
There seemed to be a special weapon inserted into the black wall. A-Ka walked out of the forest, and Feiluo immediately said, “Wait!”
A-Ka waved him off, signalling that it was fine, and walked towards the wall under Heishi’s protection. A shocking sight appeared in front of him: in an instant, the wall that was over ten meters tall separated into countless steel structures, and those structures separated into single components, which then transformed into particles. The particles of energy formed thin, bright beams that flowed inside the entire wall.
“Infrared surveillance.” A-Ka said, “We need to camouflage ourselves. Shahuang, do you have a ray jammer?”
Shahuang threw a small infrared jammer to him. The jammer was supposed to be installed onto a gun so one could disguise themselves and get past the mechs during a battle. A-Ka dropped down onto one knee and refitted it.
A moment later, A-Ka threw the small altered jammer to the side. The mechanical structures flew in an arc towards it, spreading out their wings and buzzing as they flew back and forth on top of the wall. A-Ka led the way, as he could see that the wall wasn’t a simple wall anymore, and was instead a mesh of intersecting red laser beams.
“Follow me,” whispered A-Ka.
“You can see the traps?” asked Huixiong.
A-Ka nodded, and the group of people followed in A-Ka’s footsteps, forming a line as they walked towards the wall. Heishi lifted his head and said, “I do not see any guards, so what would happen even if we were discovered by the wall?”
“The wall can connect directly to Father.” A-Ka said in a very low voice, “We mustn’t alert it.”
The wall was like an inky monster that was asleep, and the wind brought a drizzle with the stench of oil. A-Ka found a hole and motioned that Heishi could start. Heishi took out a length of rope and used it to climb onto the wall, and then pulled A-Ka up.
“Flying up here would have been a lot easier,” Heishi said casually.
“The wingspan of your wings is too large,” said A-Ka. “It would’ve touched the infrared surveillance beams that sweep around.”
“Where are they?” said Heishi.
“Everywhere.” A-Ka looked at the ground and motioned for them to wait for a bit as the intersecting laser beams that couldn’t be seen with the naked eye swept across the ground.
Heishi pulled Huixiong up, and immediately after, the rest of them got up the wall one by one. After they turned around and jumped off to the other side of the wall, everyone stood still. A-Ka motioned for them to follow him, but when they turned the corner, everyone stopped abruptly.
In front of them was a square that occupied over ten thousand square meters, and the square was packed with three-feet-tall mechs that were lined up in rows. They all had a golden luster underneath the sunlight, and the red lights at their chest areas were on, meaning they were currently in standby mode.
At the same time, several small mechs were rushing across the square, overhauling the bigger mechs. The flying mechs were like a colony of ants as they bustled back and forth. Huixiong and Shahuang were both shocked.
“Follow me.” A-Ka whispered, “As long as we don’t set foot into their guarding range, they won’t attack. Be careful.”
The line of people walked fearfully along the edge of the western district, and the small mechs flew right by them, as if they would catch the group of uninvited guests at any time. Heishi followed closely behind A-Ka until A-Ka stopped outside an assembly plant.
“I can only lead up to here.” A-Ka said, “I don’t know how to get past the guards the rest of the way.”
Outside the center of the loading and unloading area, there were mechs everywhere, and they could communicate with each other, making it so that it was usually impossible to tell what they were saying to each other. Shahuang and Huixiong exchanged looks.
Shahuang asked, “Should we force our way in?”
“No,” A-Ka said decisively. “Here, a mech will alert Father if we attack. They can directly deliver urgent messages to Father.”
“Maybe luring them away would work.” Feiluo said, “My identity is special, so if I lure them away, then I only need to pay a small price. I can pretend to accidentally get lost and wander into the assembly area, and then you guys can enter the factory.”
“How would you escape?” asked A-Ka. “The identity verification will expose you, and then, there would be two Feiluos that are exactly the same. Things would become even more troublesome.”
Feiluo replied, “I’ll escape before then.”
“They’re going to perform the identity verification on you first.” A-Ka said, “Because you’ve also lived here before, you should be even more clear on the might of the Steel City’s army. I’m not scared of unforeseen events occurring in our plan. It’s because I promised Paixi that you would return safely.”
Feiluo was silent. In reality, he was clearer than anyone else on how, when the revolution first started, the war mechas they had used were barely enough to withstand the mech army, and in the end, they still lost.
Shahuang and Huixiong glanced at each other. Huixiong said, “I don’t have an identity in Mechanical City. Let me go, I’m not scared of bumping into me from the past.”
However, Molan said, “I can go. I am responsible for getting you all inside.”
“After the battle is over,” Molan said, “go to the westmost pier and meet in the canyons of the Ancient Core.”
“Chief!” A-Ka said, “It’s too dangerous. You don’t know what Mechanical City is like! Even if you were caught, you wouldn’t be able to escape!”
Molan touched A-Ka’s forehead and said, “I do not know what the future me chose to do, but I believe that since even A-Ka has taken the risks and showed courage, then naturally, the chief can’t stand behind the protection of his people forever, right?”
A-Ka drew a deep breath, about to think of another way to get in, but he saw Molan’s serious expression and was assured.
“As the chief,” Molan said to everyone, “trust that I will be able to protect myself. Everyone, prepare to sneak into the assembly factory. Good luck.”
After saying that, Molan, with his scepter in hand, walked towards the area where the small mechs were gathered. A-Ka held his breath, and thousands of small mechs discovered Molan’s whereabouts at once. Immediately after, all the large mechs that were on standby mode lit up with a green light and turned around.
“I represent the chief, and I have come to pay tribute to the man-made god, the omnipotent Father,” Molan said leisurely. He switched on his scepter, and a device that flickered with a blue light appeared. At the same time, something deep underground seemed to be distrubed, and the entire city began shaking. A beam of light that came from the top of the tower in the distance broke through the clouds and shot towards the western district, and all of the mechs around them closed in on the light!
“Chief.” A heavy voice reverberated in the western district. “Why has the human offspring of Sibelius come here?”
Molan immediately rammed his scepter into the ground.
“I have come to judge you,” Molan said.
In the blink of an eye, a dazzling white light emanated from where the scepter met the ground, and an arc of electricity spread from it. Under the effect of the electromagnetic force, all of the mechs lost their ability to move. It was a reverse magnetic field. A-Ka didn’t hesitate any longer and hissed, “Quick, let’s go!”
Heishi turned around to glance at the people behind him, and they all took the opportunity to rush into the assembly plant. Under the effect of Molan’s scepter, all of the mechs malfunctioned briefly, and the buzzing sound grew louder and louder. The magnetic force was like a fierce gale as it engulfed nearly half of the western district. Molan stood in the center of the western district and looked up at the flickering blue light in the sky.
This was the first and the last time that Father and the leader of the theocracy conversed. Father stood steadfast in the brilliance of the blue light and rumbled coldly, “You do not have the right to judge me. I only answer to the Creators.”
“There are no Creators left in this world anymore.” Molan said, “The faith of every being is what causes Astrolabe to continue operating.”
“Foolish human.” Father said, “You must pay for this provocative behavior.”
Immediately after, the tower let out a windstorm that canceled out the power of Molan’s scepter. Tens of thousands of flying mechs rushed over, and like the dark, heavy clouds that blotted out the sky before a storm, Molan’s barrier collided with Father’s electromagnetic beam, causing an explosion.
The tremors spread to the assembly plant. The mech workers inside the plant flashed, as all of them had already been neutralized. A-Ka led them as they ran towards the depths of the factory. They found the conveyor belts that were currently off. A-Ka tried to think of a way to start them up again when Huixiong said, “There’s no time, get on! We don’t know how long the chief can keep it up for.”
Feiluo asked, “Which conveyor belt?”
Still conveyor belts were tightly packed all over the place, and there were boxes piled on the rubber of the conveyor belts. For a while, A-Ka didn’t know which one it was.
“It’s either the leftmost one or the rightmost one…” A-Ka’s eyebrows creased as he looked back and forth between them.
“Take a guess.” Heishi said, “The left one.”
When all of them got onto the transporting conveyor belts, another explosion sounded outside, and all of the equipment started moving again. In these few short minutes, the western district returned to normal. A-Ka was startled as he was brought into a truck by the conveyor belt. Still, he couldn’t help but look outside, worry written all over his face.
Feiluo pressed him back down into the empty box, motioning for him not to look outside so as to not attract any guards over.
They were in a conveyor belt that went the other way; Heishi had guessed right. They hid into three empty boxes. Heishi got into the first one, A-Ka and Feiluo were both in the middle one, and Huixiong and Shahuang were in the last one as they were all transported to the northern part of the city.
A-Ka let out a sigh of relief, but his heart was still full of worry.
Feiluo had clearly relaxed, as he leaned against the corner of the box and took out a bullet from his pocket, inserting it into his gun.
“Sometimes, I really admire you.” Feiluo said, “I never know how you manage to survive.”
A-Ka sat cross-legged in the box and fished out a small device from his bag. He glanced down and said self-consciously, “Am I very reckless?”
“A little.” Feiluo said, “Even without a plan, you still dare to sneak this many people into Mechanical City.”
“Even the most thorough plan will have unforeseen events happen.” A-Ka laughed and said, “I barely survived. Several times, I thought that I would die, but in the end, I’ve always escaped safely. So, where I make it to is where I make it to.”
Feiluo didn’t speak as he inserted his index finger into his gun’s trigger guard and spun it in a circle. “Is that courage or rashness? I heard that when you found Heishi, you chased after him all the way from Phoenix City.”
A-Ka didn’t reply and his eyes showed a hint of a smile. “You think I am rash, but you still entrusted Paixi to me?”
“That’s because your luck has always been pretty good,” Feiluo said casually.
“Your reputation in Phoenix City doesn’t seem to be that good,” said A-Ka.
“Mn, yes.” Feiluo said, “I am in too much debt. Sorry for not telling you at the beginning. It was because I was scared they would bully Paixi, so I could only hand him over to you.”
A-Ka nodded. “This time when we return, you shouldn’t come with us.”
Feiluo suddenly entered a long silence, and after a long while, he said, “Sorry, A-Ka.”
“Hm?” A-Ka was baffled and asked, “Why?”
Feiluo replied, “You shouldn’t have to shoulder such a heavy burden. Paixi said that after we enter Mechanical City, you will… sacrifice yourself. Is that true?”
“Mn.” A-Ka thought for a moment and said, “It’s possible that I don’t make it out, so in that case… please take care of Heishi.”
Feiluo smiled bitterly. A-Ka patted him on the shoulder and said, “Relax, Feiluo.”
Feiluo looked up, his eyes rimmed with red as he looked at A-Ka. A-Ka said, “You’ll all be fine and alive, because Paixi never dreamed about your death.”
“But you.” Feiluo choked out, “Exactly what are you thinking? You clearly know that you’ll have to end your life, yet you’re still this… this indifferent.”
A-Ka didn’t speak. He fiddled with the small device in his hands and said slowly, “Because I don’t like that.”
“I don’t like seeing this world like this.” A-Ka said very deliberately, “Sacrificing myself is fine, although surviving would be better. I heard an ancient rumor before about how if a person devotes their life to Mechanical City, then Father’s extraordinary powers would bring that person to Astrolabe’s Nucleus and let them become one with the Nucleus forever.”
“That person would watch over this world.” A-Ka laughed a little and said, “Of course, that’s just a fallacy that was fabricated in Mechanical City to brainwash the humans into dedicating their lives to Mechanical City. But I think that there will always be some things that can make people… disregard their lives in order to change everything.”
Feiluo smiled and gazed at A-Ka. After a long time, Feiluo shook his head and said, “You are the real Son of the Gods.”
“No, Heishi is.” A-Ka laughed awkwardly. “My mission is only to help him. If it were anyone else who found Heishi, they would also do the same things I did.”