Chapter 17: The Day Before the Final Battle
Translated by Vivian of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Everyone was silent. Carna said, “He won’t see through it. I’m close to him, just like Feiluo was. Before, when Feiluo wasn’t there, I would do Feiluo a favor by pretending to be him and talking to Paixi. He couldn’t distinguish my voice from his.”
The voices of androids were exactly the same, and Paixi had been blind from birth, so he hadn’t seen what Feiluo looked like. However, A-Ka knew that Paixi would definitely be able to see through it. There was no why; it’s just that humans’ senses were the most keen in this world.
A-Ka said, “If Paixi finds out, then you have to tell him the truth.”
Carna’s wise eyes gazed at A-Ka, and he nodded.
Molan said, “The other side sent a signal. Let’s start. Everyone, when you return to Dragonmaw City, there will still be one more battle. Good luck.”
A-Ka drew a deep breath. Carna’s arrival had more or less lessened his despair and sadness, but now was not the time to be sad. Along with the majestic lightning that bloomed in the sky, the time tunnel enveloped them once more, and they slowly rose up into the sky and flew to the distant future.
In Dragonmaw City, all of them were sent back one by one. A-Ka was extremely exhausted, and Molan helped hold him up.
“Where is Paixi?” Carna asked nervously.
“I haven’t informed him yet,” replied Molan. “Put on this military uniform, quick.”
“I’m going to go… rest.” A-Ka didn’t dare to face Paixi. Everyone dispersed, and Molan helped Carna put on the uniform. Carna pulled up his collar, looked closely at himself in the mirror, and ruffled his hair a bit.
Paixi was sitting in the corridor, facing the breeze outside. White cloth was still covering his eyes, and Carna walked in with light steps like a silent cheetah, his military boots tapping on the ground.
Carna smiled and hugged Paixi from behind.
“Dad!” Paixi smiled in surprise and happiness.
Carna said gently, “I’m back, Paixi.”
Paixi hugged his waist, crying, and choked out, “I thought I wouldn’t see you ever again.”
Carna said, “They’ve all returned safely.”
Paixi embraced Carna’s neck, giggling and bouncing around. Carna said, “Although I was only gone for a few days… your eyes are almost cured, right?”
“Mn.” Paixi said, “There’s one more day.”
“Tomorrow at noon.” Carna clasped Paixi’s hand and said, “Everything will get better. I promise you, although there might be another battle, I’ll specially request the chief for us to get some more chances to see each other.”
Paixi nodded, and Carna carried him into a room.
“It’s okay, don’t cry…”
“Everything is over.”
“I promise you, Paixi, that after everything is over, we’ll be happy together… I promise you…”
That night, A-Ka was very worn out. Feiluo’s passing had made him lose all of his strength, and he didn’t even dare to face Paixi. Even now, he still hadn’t gone to greet Paixi; moreover, Paixi’s dreams had become a reality.
In other words, A-Ka would also sacrifice himself to change the world, just like Paixi’s dreams foretold.
“Are you still feeling sad?” Heishi pushed open the door and entered the bathroom. He was wearing a bathrobe and holding two bottles of juice. He threw one to A-Ka, which A-Ka deftly caught.
“No.” A-Ka said, “I’m just a little uneasy, and I don’t know how to face Paixi tomorrow.”
Heishi undid his bathrobe, and A-Ka watched as his handsome figure walked into the hot water and sat in the bathtub so that they were facing each other. Heishi rested his feet against A-Ka’s, and the touch set A-Ka’s mind at ease.
“Human lives are very fragile,” replied Heishi.
“True.” A-Ka said in a low voice, “But they are also very mighty. Every one of them, including the ones that sacrificed themselves in Mechanical City; they’re my people.”
Heishi embraced A-Ka and caressed his head.
That night, A-Ka began to put the three chips together and decode them in Molan’s laboratory. Angus, Huixiong, Heishi, and “Feiluo” were gathered in his study, watching A-Ka tensely as he inserted Libre’s chip into the chip decoder. A dense mass of information surged out from it.
Molan said, “Extract the memories related to Father.”
A-Ka said, “There are too many. There’s even information about Father’s military plans…”
“Search for keywords,” piped up Angus. “Nucleus password, November twenty-second of last year.”
A-Ka began to search according to the keywords Angus had provided. In an instant, he had filtered out 99% of the information. Angus said, “Chain of memories, special injection, destruction of the original chip.”
More than half of the remaining information was filtered out. Angus said, “Search ‘Doctor Merlandes’.”
“I found it.” A-Ka lifted his head and saw the contents of the three-dimensional holographic projection flicker, filled with strange symbols. He copied the symbols onto another chip, and finally inserted all three chips into the decoder.
When he hovered his hand over the button, A-Ka’s heart was about to leap out of his throat.
This was a historic moment. The chairman of the Merchant Association, the chief, God’s Son, and the king of the android empire were crowded around such an ordinary human, waiting for him to switch on the new chapter that humans, androids, and mechs would face.
At that moment, they had undoubtedly created a brand new course of history, a glorious era, that came into being as Heishi placed his hand onto the back of A-Ka’s hand and pressed the button.
The chip decoder projected a complicated polyhedron. The first section, the second section, the third section…
99%, 100%, completed.
The red light of the polyhedron suddenly receded, and everything was still. Then, a light blue glow emerged, and a ring-shaped symbol appeared and spun slowly. A muffled voice spoke, “Termination program of Astrolabe’s Nucleus. Please connect to Labelle.”
Everyone shouted in excitement, and A-Ka slumped against Heishi, and began crying again, this time in joy.
“Tomorrow at noon, we will start fighting.” Angus said, “I will mobilize all of the remaining forces at hand to protect you when you advance into the center of Mechanical City.”
A-Ka nodded and said, “I am responsible for assisting Heishi in arriving at the Nucleus.”
Huixiong said, “The other merchants and I will coordinate our guerilla soldiers and scatter the enemy’s firepower.”
Molan said, “My mission has already ended, so I will be praying for you all.”
“We will succeed for sure.” A-Ka was teary-eyed as he hugged everyone. Carna smiled and patted Heishi’s arm, saying, “Well done. I will go to keep Paixi company, and set off with you tomorrow.”
That night, A-Ka couldn’t fall asleep at all. He sat on the swing in the garden and looked at the clear night sky and the bright galaxy. He knew that tonight would be his last.
Heishi stood in the corridor, his hands pressed on the railing as he gazed at A-Ka.
“I want to see it again.” A-Ka raised his head and gazed at the distant stars. “Heishi, didn’t you say that your father’s spaceship is sleeping lonesomely somewhere distant in space?”
“Actually, I miss him very much.” Heishi said in a low voice, “It was you who allowed me to feel longing for the first time. I can feel that when I am far away from people that I am close with, my loved ones, and my friends, my soul will be very uneasy. It wants to be like you humans, searching for somebody to rely on and to lean against.”
A-Ka lowered his head and looked at the ground, murmuring, “And now?”
“Now?” Heishi thought for a moment and said, “Everything is well.”
“A-Ka.” Carna led Paixi over to them.
A-Ka smiled as Paixi ran to him and hugged him tightly.
“It’s great that you were able to come back safely,” Paixi said shakily.
“I’m sorry, Paixi…” A-Ka choked out, “I… I caused you to worry…”
“Shh.” Paixi’s childish face wore a smile as he pressed a finger against A-Ka’s lips and kissed him on the forehead.
“I don’t have dreams anymore.” Paixi said warmly and affectionately, “You all are well. My dreams aren’t that accurate sometimes, right?”
“Right.” A-Ka smiled and said, “Your dreams predicted wrongly. We’re all here, safe and sound.”
Paixi said, “Before you set off tomorrow, can you come keep me company?”
“Of course,” replied A-Ka. “By that time, you’ll be able to see me, us, Heishi, and the others with your own eyes…”
Paixi nodded and gave A-Ka a flower. A-Ka held it and smiled as Paixi turned around and left with Carna.
Heishi walked over and sat shoulder to shoulder with A-Ka on the swing.
“I don’t want to sleep tonight,” said A-Ka. “Can you keep me company?”
“Mn.” Heishi wrapped an arm around A-Ka’s shoulder. A-Ka pinned the flower onto the swing and the two of them leaned against each other, rocking lightly on the swing.
Tomorrow, this world will change. It was a pity that he wouldn’t be able to see it for himself.
How nice would it be if he had a pair of eyes that could help him see the new world.
“What are you thinking about?” asked Heishi.
A-Ka smiled, surprised that Heishi would actually care about what he was thinking about. Seeing Heishi gradually become more human gave A-Ka a strange feeling he couldn’t quite put his finger on.
“I’m thinking about my past.” A-Ka murmured, “I’m thinking about the earliest times I can remember, and the world that I know.”
What kind of world was it? A-Ka still had a vague memory from when he was three or four years old. It was the time when he and the other children had been in Ant Nest’s kindergarten, receiving human cognitive training. That day, they had sat together in a dark room, and the mechs played a movie for them.
There was a human in the movie who was exploring the barren world. He faced a lot of danger and fear, and A-Ka kept thinking that at that next moment, the protagonist was going to die. Fortunately, the protagonist had relied on the help of the mechs, and was able to just barely escape death.
His next memory was from when he was old enough to learn mechanics. He had always wanted to go out to the surface and see the world, so every year, he strived to get a job aboveground. However, his application never passed, and year after year, he was never competent enough to go to the surface. Later, when he was searching for scraps in the garbage chute, he had accidentally found the exit that led to the ocean.
His excitement caused him to tremble uncontrollably, and he tossed and turned in his sleep. From time to time, he would sneak out and look at the ocean and the reef. That small world was his everything. After that, he went about his studies eagerly, imagining that he would one day be able to leave this huge, icy cage.
Thus, he modeled and began to assemble K, piece by piece.
Human bodies were so fragile, yet they had the most adventurous spirits. Even A-Ka couldn’t say where the idea of escaping came from, nor when it gradually began to emerge in his mind. Was it because of the uncertainty he had had whenever he was lonely? He had always felt that there was a vast, new world at the other shore.
That day, when the mech guards informed him that it was his turn to undergo the coming of age examination, he had thought that his little secret would be discovered by Father, and that he would be executed.
But he wasn’t.
In the vast blue light, humans were able to make a wish to Father. There was a rumor in the human world that as long as one worked hard at their job for their entire life and dedicated their all to the mech regime, then their wish would be granted after they died. It was rumored that after everyone was probed by Father’s consciousness, they would completely lose their sense of self, and their wish would be their strongest desire.
A-Ka gradually recalled the day he had been submerged in the blue light.
“I wish… there was a person who could keep me company,” A-Ka had said, “and take me to change the world and seek… freedom…”
After that, he had left Father’s consciousness safely, as if nothing had happened at all. His mech and his secret exit wasn’t detected by Father. It was only later that he realized that Father’s program couldn’t read a human’s thoughts. Humans had the most complicated structure in this world, and even the omnipotent Father had no way of knowing what every person was thinking.
Then, A-Ka had continued his risky plan, so bravely that even he himself was surprised. Later, he met Heishi.
The clouds gathered and dispersed, the tide ebbed and flowed, and their current world and Father’s era were about to become things of the past.
In the early morning, a loud buzzing woke A-Ka up. When A-Ka opened his eyes, the dazzling sunlight blinded him momentarily. Humans, androids, and the chief were all gathered in the square, and Dragonmaw’s temple became the command center.
“Are we setting off?” A-Ka asked blearily.
“It is still early,” replied Heishi. “There is a lot of time to prepare.”
A-Ka walked down the corridor and into the temple to take a bath. After eating breakfast, the android captain, Angus, with ten of his officers, and Huixiong with the combat personnel from the Merchant Association, were all gathered in the temple. Molan smiled and said, “It seems that you didn’t sleep well last night.”
A-Ka replied, “Yes, but it was enough.”
“Well then…Everyone,” said Molan, “today, everything is up to you all.”
Paixi was sitting in a chair in the center, and Molan undid the white bandage that was covering his eyes, and used a wet cloth to gently wipe away the residue of the medicine.
“Paixi?” A-Ka said happily, “Can you see?”
Paixi opened his eyes, and Carna, A-Ka, and Heishi were standing in front of him. Paixi had just opened his eyes when he shut them again, and he blinked a few times until he had finally gotten used to the sudden brightness.
“Can you see me?” A-Ka asked worriedly.
Paixi’s eyes were lively, and his pupils were clear as obsidian.
“What can you see?” asked Molan.
“I see… light,” Paixi said, “and hope. A-Ka, I can see you. And Heishi. You’re both exactly how I thought you would look!”
Paixi shouted joyously and stood up to hug A-Ka. A-Ka was speechless in his excitement, and Paixi walked out of the temple. The sunlight was almost too bright for him to even open his eyes, and as he stood on the terrace outside the temple, there were aircrafts as far as the eye could see. Engines rumbled, and the shouting of humans and androids mingled under the sky.
It was a new world, and a door had opened in his eyes.