Chapter 6: The Ancient Core
Translated by Vivian of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
The boy picked out the piece of chocolate, felt for A-Ka’s hand again, and placed the chocolate into his palm.
“This is for you,” Paixi said to A-Ka. “It’s really yummy. Feiluo gave it to me.”
It was only now that A-Ka discovered that, surprisingly, Paixi was blind.
“Are you Feiluo’s son?” asked A-ka.
“Adopted son,” said Paixi. “My biological parents both died, so Feiluo adopted me.”
“How long have you known him for?” asked A-Ka.
“Two years,” said Paixi. “Thank you for saving my dad. When I heard the news from headquarters that the revolution failed, I thought he was dead the entire time. I didn’t expect him to be alive… When he came back, I was so happy I was speechless… And I… don’t know how to repay you… Thank you, A-Ka… I… When we boarded the boat, I wanted to tell you that… I can feel that after you were separated from your friend… you seemed to be in a bad mood…”
A-Ka hadn’t expected that his unintentional actions had actually given this human orphan in the android army, who had been stuck in the darkness, sunlight, and hope.
“Your welcome.” A-Ka smiled and embraced Paixi in his arms. At that moment, he practically felt the fierce warmth from Paixi’s heart that was overflowing with happiness and hope affect him, letting him walk out from his confusion.
The moonlight turned serene and poetic, and the two youths snuggled against each other in the ship’s cabin. A-Ka was exhausted as he closed his eyes and peacefully drifted to sleep.
It was January 15th. Places near Masha town were caught in a storm, and the ocean waves swelled towards the land. Every human on the plain that was waiting for rescue withdrew to the mountains. After the storm was over, countless people died because of the lack of food, fresh water, and medicine.
In the rainstorm in the night, a team of people were walking on foot up a muddy road in the mountains. Heishi was wearing a hooded windbreaker, and he was located at the front of the team. He stood on the mountain peak, gazing into the distance. The ocean was vast, and he couldn’t see the opposite shore. There was only the lightning that connected the sky and the ground.
“Heishi!” shouted Feiluo.
Heishi jumped down and followed Feiluo and the rest of the group forward on the uneven path. Feiluo said loudly next to his ear, “They’re going to be fine!”
Heishi shook his head and moved his mouth, but the sounds of the wind and thunder drowned out everyone’s conversation. Feiluo moved closer and said, “As I was saying! They’ll definitely arrive safely!”
“I am not worried about the ship!” Heishi said loudly to Feiluo, “I am afraid that when the two of them reach the new mainland, they will not be able to survive!”
“They will!” Feiluo smiled, “My friends will look after them! A-Ka and Paixi will both have a good time!”
Heishi nodded. Another android officer in front of them turned around and said unhappily, “Lieutenant Colonel Feiluo! Are you sure this is the right place?!”
Feiluo said loudly, “We’ll arrive soon! Persist a bit longer!”
The wind was so strong, it practically blew the entire team down the cliff, and there was no more road ahead. Feiluo retreated a few steps and roared, “Spread your hang gliders!”
With the gale and rainstorm, once they spread their hang gliders, they were bound to be blown off the cliff by the wind and dashed to pieces. However, Feiluo took the lead and jumped off the cliff. With a flutter, he spread his hang glider. In that short instant, Heishi first stopped in his tracks, then bent over, shut his eyes, and sprung towards the darkness.
In an instant, the sounds of the storm stopped briefly as he shook his hang glider open. In the silent night, he shakily flew towards the opposite side of the cliff.
Unexpectedly, there was no wind there.
Heishi opened his eyes and saw that, opposite to the cliff, Feiluo had lit a fluorescent lantern and was in a cave on the side of the mountain. Five soldiers from the special forces protected Heishi as they flew towards the cave. Only when he stepped onto solid ground again did Heishi sigh in relief, folding up his hang glider and putting it away.
The cave was dim and led into the distance, and it seemed to have been abandoned many years ago. Two guards stood outside of the door, and upon seeing Feiluo, they saluted him. Feiluo told Heishi, “We’re here. This is the place.”
“The ancient core,” read Heishi as he stood in front of the door and lifted his head to gaze at the bizarre words. There was a large, shiny gemstone in the center of the door.
“According to what the rebel army alliances found here in their investigation,” said Feiluo, “this is a historic site from nearly fifty-thousand years ago. In all of Astrolabe, there aren’t any remains of civilizations older than this one. And, three thousand years ago, these ruins were excavated briefly before. Our people have tried to use explosives to proceed, but the material of the door is…”
As he said that, everyone suddenly became silent. Everyone had discovered a peculiarity——there was a small hole that wasn’t over three centimeters in diameter on the door. Light streamed in from the hole.
“The last time we came here, this hole wasn’t here, sir,” said an android.
“I… I don’t know,” said a guard. “When we were assigned here, this hole was already on the door.”
Heishi asked, “When were you assigned here?”
“Three months ago,” said the guard.
“This isn’t right,” muttered Feiluo. “Who would put a hole in the large door here? How is a passageway as small as this useful?”
Feiluo instantly looked at Heishi disbelievingly.
“It was a mech,” guessed Heishi. “Before we came, a mech must have already come here.”
Feiluo said, “That’s not possible! Under the watch of the guards, who could’ve used a laser to penetrate…”
Heishi shook his head extremely slowly, motioning for Feiluo not to continue speaking. Feiluo glanced at the two guards and understood.
Heishi pressed his hand onto the gemstone, and the door rumbled as it slowly slid open in two directions.
Feiluo was speechless.
All of the android soldiers felt something instantly, and became alert, pulling out their weapons as they guarded the two sides of the door. As the door opened, a bright, dazzling streak of light shone at them. In the emptiness behind the door, there was actually a huge astrolabe that shimmered.
“What is this place…” mumbled Feiluo.
“The ancient core. The Creators’ laboratory.” Heishi’s voice reverberated around the large hall. “It is not dangerous, you can all come in.”
The soldiers walked into the hall. Heishi and Feiluo tilted their heads up to see the astrolabe that was in the center, which looked like an enormous floating island. Feiluo said, “Why is it so big?”
“Because of the Creators’ size,” said Heishi. “They are like giants that came from a void.”
Feiluo glanced at Heishi in hesitation and shock. He immediately ordered his subordinates, “Please keep Heishi’s secrets to yourselves. Tell no one.”
The soldiers all nodded and they guarded the room.
Heishi walked up the huge stairs to a platform and found a huge control rock. All of the objects here were ten times bigger than what humans were accustomed to seeing. Feiluo followed behind Heishi and asked, “How do you know this place?”
“Father told me,” replied Heishi.
That sentence made Feiluo on his guard immediately so Heishi said, “Relax, it does not seem to like me very much.”
Feiluo frowned and didn’t speak. Heishi had too many unknown mysteries. Ever since the man had appeared, his behavior was secretive and he was silent most of the time. Even A-Ka couldn’t see through him.
Heishi gazed at the control ball and placed his hand onto it. The model of Astrolabe lit up at once, the beams of light intertwining, and it projected the figure of a biological form.
“The Creators created Astrolabe fifty-thousand years ago,” Heishi explained to Feiluo. “They left behind this laboratory, and these are the biological models they have conceived of before.”
Countless species, from unicellular organisms to insects, and then to mammals, appeared in the light, one by one. Feiluo watched quietly; everything that was happening in front of them was practically beyond all of his understanding of the world.
“The organisms on Astrolabe…” said Feiluo. From what I remember, they were naturally bred.”
“That is what your knowledge system says,” said Heishi, “but in reality, that is not true. In ancient times, humans recorded that it was they who had created androids… but look.”
Heishi lifted his head and raised an eyebrow as a diagram of the structure of a human cell that appeared on the three-dimensional holographic projection.
“Oh my god…” mumbled Feiluo. “This is…”
“The first android,” replied Heishi. “This is a technique the Creators had tried to use before, using the method of cloning to breed even more lives. Later, I do not know why, but they gave up on that plan. There is also this…”
Following Heishi’s voice, countless sequences of matrices appeared on the holographic projector. Feiluo frowned and said, “And what is this?”
Heishi glanced at Feiluo, and in that instant, Feiluo thought of something, causing him to tremble uncontrollably. Feiluo said, “This is the mechs’…”
“Yes, their soul matrix. With this type of written code, mechs are able to acquire their own soul.”
Feiluo instantly turned around and grabbed Heishi’s shirt collar, sizing him up as he asked, “How do you know these things?! Tell me!”
Heishi pushed Feiluo away and said in a low voice, “Do not be so agitated. There is more.”
The pictures appeared one by one as Heishi controlled the ball of light. He said seriously, “I obtained this information from Father’s databases. The situation is inconsistent with everything you all know. After the Creators created humans, they sealed off this laboratory. Three thousand years ago, several human adventurers discovered it and stole the technique of the soul matrix from this laboratory, as well as the method of cloning.
“Later, the android civilization flourished for a time. To make the icy mechs have emotions and the ability to think for themselves, one of the adventurers wrote the soul matrix despite the others’ attempts to stop him. After that, it was…”
Feiluo’s voice quivered as he mumbled, “The mech revolution.”
“Since then, your world was changed,” said Heishi. “One of the adventurers was known as one of the new gods by future generations. He was a member of the small group called ‘Thunder,’ and he discovered an emergency mechanism left behind by the Creators. Right now, I need to find that emergency mechanism.”
“Can it make the rebel army alliance obtain the final victory?” asked Feiluo. “We will do everything in our power to assist you.”
Heishi whispered, “But a crucial piece of information has already been taken away by Father. I do not know how it found this place… This is the camp of your androids.”
Feiluo was silent for a long time and said, “Small mechs have no way of carrying such a high energy laser, much less one that can penetrate the door. My guess is that there is a spy in our camp. The failure of the revolution before has something to do with that too.”
Heishi asked, “Who do you think is most likely to collude with Father?”
“I don’t know,” said Feiluo, shaking his head. “We have too much information, and it is too disorderly. But, there are very few people that know about this place. They are all from high ranks in the army, and including myself, there aren’t any more than seven.”
Heishi said, “Then it must be one of those seven. Who else has come here recently?”
Feiluo glanced at his subordinates, and one of them answered, “General MacKasey. At the time, it was a pair of different androids guarding this place.”
Feiluo’s eyebrows creased. “Heishi, for now, let’s forget about who stole the information. If you found the stolen information, how would it help you?”
Heishi shook his head and said, “This is the mission I was tasked with upon birth, and it is extremely vital. There is a section of code in it that can completely stop Father’s functionality…”
“But Father’s core is connected to the entire core of Astrolabe,” frowned Feiluo.
“Yes,” nodded Heishi. “So, rebooting Father will also reboot the entirety of Astrolabe.”
In an instant, everyone was shocked by Heishi’s words.
“What will happen if we reboot Astrolabe?” asked Feiluo disbelievingly.
“The world will undergo a lot of changes, but… I forgot… I forgot a lot of inside information. It has been too long, and the time I have been in a coma for was too long…”
Heishi squinted and lifted his head abruptly as if he was trying to drive a memory out from his mind, but at the same time, wanted to catch that fleeting thought. They stared, stunned, at the fluctuations of the lights and shadows on the holographic projector. Heishi looked at the dazzling light that emanated from the model of Astrolabe, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t remember the memory that had been wiped away.
“I cannot remember…” mumbled Heishi, his forehead covered in a cold sweat. Feiluo knew that this was vital, so he whispered, “Don’t be anxious, Heishi. Think carefully, is there anything that is related to this?”
“My first memory is seeing A-Ka,” said Heishi, scrunching his eyes. “At the time, A-Ka saved me on the shore…”
It was only now that Feiluo knew how Heishi and A-Ka were connected.
“Does he know something related to your past?” asked Feiluo worriedly.
“The possibility of that is very small.” Heishi said, “The only clue we have is that… I was in a coma in the ocean for three thousand years.”
A-Ka leaned against the wall of the cabin, and as he heard the sounds of the waves, he recalled the day he had saved Heishi, as well as what Heishi had said to him in the shower room.
“What are you thinking about, A-Ka?” asked Paixi softly. “Are you thinking about your friend?”
“Mn,” said A-Ka. “When I met him, it was also in the ocean. You woke up? Do you want to drink some water?”
Paixi said, “Thanks. I can do it myself.”
Paixi opened his canteen clumsily and drank a sip.
Paixi was only twelve years old, and he had been born blind. According to what he had said, one day, the mech army wanted to capture and then kill everyone in his village. The villagers resisted, but they were still massacred. During the battle, the unit led by Feiluo had rushed over. They discovered Paixi among the debris and brought him along.
Paixi was very sensible, and he never made a fuss. He was also empathetic and would try to figure out what someone was thinking. Having a companion like this along the journey undoubtedly made A-Ka very blessed, as the voyage was long and to a very distant place. Every day, the androids would come down and distribute food and drinking water twice, and in a set period of time, they could take turns to go above decks to breathe some fresh air. The rest of the time, they were cramped in the lower deck of the ship for the two-month-long voyage.
Based on his conversations with the others, A-Ka learned that these people were all people with special abilities. Among them, some knew the plan very well, some were familiar with manufacturing, some were good at cooking, and some were artists. Relatively speaking, life in the cabin was happy. A traveling poet would play his harp for the children, and according to what he had said, long before revolution in Mechanical City had occurred, quite a few people had already traveled on the mainlands for a long time.
The other people’s knowledge opened a brand new door for A-Ka. He gradually learned that Mechanical City wasn’t the whole world, and the entire time, humans and androids had all wanted to find a way to destroy that devilish country that affected the entire world and made citizens unhappy.
“Father’s regime is about to be toppled,” a man said to everyone. “This is the inevitable course of the development of history, for, without the ingenuity of mechs, we would never have been known as intelligent beings…”
This was the first time A-Ka had heard this speech, and he was extremely curious and listened with interest. However, the rest of the audience all expressed their boredom. A young child said, “I’ve heard the revolution declaration over a hundred times.”
“I’ve heard it over two hundred times,” said another child. “I want to listen to Uncle 1 Molan tell us stories about history.”
Although the brown and curly-haired traveling poet with dark-green eyes wasn’t young anymore, he was kind and genial, and on the ship, he was children’s favorite person. Hearing this, he smiled and plucked the strings of his harp twice, emitting a crisp sound. The children all applauded and the poet sang a melodious and tactful song about history.
“In the depths of the faraway stars, the Creators opened their astrolabe…”
The song told of the changes in the world of Astrolabe in the past thousands of years. By connecting what he knew before with what he heard from the poet’s narrations and stories, A-Ka gradually understood even more——in the legends, the Creators abandoned their disk of destiny in the depths of the universe, and the legends from the past called it ‘Astrolabe.’ It was the world that the Creators used to experiment with and raise countless organisms in.
The gods left behind a means to monitor Astrolabe’s development and tracks of movement in the depths of Astrolabe, between the stars. The world was like the synergy of countless gears of different sizes, and at the bottom of the continental shelves that were concealed by the oceans, the gears connected, making the mainlands spin slowly.
The entire universe was like the inside of a huge pendulum. All of the mainlands and islands were embedded on its cornerstone, and the cornerstone was called “Astrolabe”. In ancient times, Astrolabe had abundant materials and products, there were no conflicts, nor was there any killing. Back then, humans coexisted peacefully with other species.
Ultimately, for an unknown reason, the Creators left the world they had created themselves, abandoning this magical nation. When the mech regime rose, they occupied the largest territory, the vastest third mainland, and made Father the new man-made god. The other mainlands of various sizes began to pray to the Creators for them to return.
However, that was only faith. A-Ka learned about things related to faith and religion from a traveling poet and his extensive knowledge. He liked to listen to the traveling poet’s stories a lot, and the poet favored him and Paixi.
“Although you cannot see the world,” said Molan seriously as he used a finger to caress Paixi’s eyes, “your soul has a pair of eyes, and they are always chasing the light.”
“Thank you,” said Paixi, smiling.
A-Ka said, “Uncle Molan, you said that believing in the Creators is only a type of faith, so what is faith?”
Molan explained to A-Ka and Paixi, “Faith differs from person to person. It sustains a person’s strength to act. Under the light of faith, the shadow that comes from death and fear will disappear…”
“Teacher Molan,” said an interested young person, “I don’t think that believing in the stars, or God, will mean one is saved. Haven’t you seen how many atheists have risked their lives?”
A-Ka didn’t understand what he meant, so he glanced at the young person. He knew that there were a lot of youths on this boat that were around the same age as him. They were all rubbing their hands in anticipation of paving a new road when they arrived at the second mainland.
The poet smiled and replied, “Faith isn’t worshipping a god. The people you mention are the ones that have their own faiths. Other people believe in the existence of gods. In the end, they are all trusting their own moral compass. Young ones, when you all grow up, you will gradually begin to understand.”
The youths in the cabin didn’t debate any further with Molan, but it could be seen that they didn’t agree with him completely. A-Ka could only remember these words in his heart. He liked his surroundings a lot; although they were waiting every day, not knowing exactly when they would reach land, the entire cabin was like an enormous classroom, where everyone had their own knowledge and opinions. And from that knowledge and opinions, A-Ka was able to learn a lot.
One night, the ship encountered a storm. Thunderbolts raged in the sky above the ocean, and at the deep sea, the huge ship was as tiny as a leaf. A large amount of seawater poured into the cabin from the window, so they closed it. Fear spread across the cabin like a wildfire.
The violent jolts of the ship made several people throw up, get dizzy, and lose hope… Amid the panic, the poet named Molan kneeled in the center of the cabin, mumbling a prayer.
“Oh Lord who has created all of the stars, your light guides the destiny of this mainland… I implore you to help us with your kind hands, and bring us to the opposite shore that is filled with light…” His voice floated throughout the entire cabin, and everyone began to gradually calm down. Then, more and more people kneeled down on the ground, following Molan’s prayers.
The sounds of thunder quieted, and the lightning continued to flash, but it didn’t show any signs of destroying everything anymore. A-Ka gazed around him, and discovered that the prayers seemed to have the power of calming people down. Under Molan’s prayers, the wind and rain lessened, and everyone gradually drifted to sleep, no longer fearing a shipwreck.
However, the lightning flashed repeatedly, and A-Ka felt something in his dreams——it was a change in his soul. In the lightning and thunder, it was as if he could see the essence of the world. Under the thunderbolts, the seawater was split into molecules, atoms, and then electrons. In the dark sky, countless gas molecules bumped into each other and separated from each other.
It was as if he had a pair of eyes in an illusion from his soul, and he could see his own surroundings, the structure of the ship, the patterns on the sail, and even the dowel-nails on the wooden bucket… Paixi was fast asleep next to him, and he saw the complicated structure of the water purifier in Paixi’s shoulder bag, which was made up of countless, precise instruments…
He saw all of the principles in the world, and another bolt of lightning struck, abruptly startling A-Ka awake. His surroundings returned to normal, and in the pitch-black cabin, a lantern that emanated a white light rocked lightly in the wind.
Molan hadn’t slept yet. He lifted his head, looking at A-Ka with a questioning look in his eyes. A-Ka’s head was covered in a cold sweat and he shook his head.
“Did you see something?” Molan walked over and placed a hand on A-Ka’s forehead.
“I…” A-Ka mumbled, “I had a dream.”
Molan smiled and said, “Dreams are the eyes of humans when they see the world, as well as themselves. Sleep, my child.”
A-Ka’s breathing slowed and he drifted off into deep sleep.
The next day, excited shouts sounded from the deck, and the refugees in the cabin all rushed above decks. A-Ka followed the crowd and saw land in the distance. This journey had finally come to an end, and everyone was cheering and crying tears of joy.
“That is Karoyek,” said Molan. “It’s a seaport of the second mainland, and it’s still very far from Phoenix City.”
Bells sounded from the bell towers in the distance, and A-Ka started laughing. Under the sun, a seaport that was full of vitality had appeared on the horizon.
“There’s a lot of seagulls.” A-Ka led Paixi to the side of the ship and described to him, “Under the sunlight, the houses are all white. It’s beautiful, it’s very beautiful…”
With closed eyes, Paixi felt the breeze coming from the west and nodded, saying, “Mn!”