Chapter 7: Phoenix City
Translated by Vivian of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
The ship docked, and the android army here didn’t guard the city as heavily as the one in the eastern mainland. After getting off the ship, the friends from the journey all said goodbye to one another.
This was a brand new world, and just the seaport was enough to make A-Ka dizzy from looking around so much. Fortunately, he had held Paixi’s hand tightly the entire time, just in case he got lost. This place gave him a lot of surprises, resulting in him discovering that most of the information he had heard before were wrong. They said that the second mainland was the androids’ home, but in reality, it wasn’t——there were even more humans than androids here, and they did their business on the streets. Some sold cakes, some sold mechanical products, and some even sold alchemy products.
A-Ka walked along the road in the seaport, and it was only in the afternoon that he passed through less than half of Karoyek. In ancient times, during the Golden Age, this place was the central port of foreign trades, so the people around here also called it the Golden Port. People were happy and were living good, affluent lives.
“Get out of the way!” shouted the owner of a fruit stall roughly. “You outsiders!”
After being roared at, A-Ka flinched a bit. He was filled with curiosity towards everything, but he was also scared of violating the rules of this place. Paixi couldn’t see, so he worriedly asked A-Ka, “Brother, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” A-Ka had originally wanted to ask the owner if he could give him an apple for Paixi to eat. But it seemed that without money, it would be impossible to get by on this mainland.
He had to have money first by earning some, in order to survive. Although earning money was very hard, A-Ka was extremely confident in himself. He asked the passersby about the direction of Phoenix City and decided to complete the mission Feiluo had assigned him to first, which was to bring Paixi to Phoenix City and then think of a way to make a living.
However, they didn’t have any money for travel expenses, and he could see that the sky was gradually darkening, so A-Ka started feeling a bit helpless. Or, he could find a job here first, and after earning enough money to travel, he could bring Paixi and set off on the journey? He watched a watch shop from the outside for a while, and he was just about to go in to ask the people inside when he suddenly saw a familiar figure.
The traveling poet, Molan, had just walked out of a building, and there were several people following him.
“What is it?” asked Paixi.
A-Ka said, “I see the traveling poet, Uncle. He seems to be…”
Paixi said, “Uncle Molan!”
A-Ka hurriedly placed his finger on Paixi’s lips, wanting him to stop shouting, but Molan had already heard and turned around to look at them.
“Well, if it isn’t Paixi!” Molan smiled and said, “What are you two doing here?”
Paixi said, “Brother is looking for a job, and he wants to earn a living himself to buy some food. What about you?”
A-Ka saw that among the people behind Molan, there were even androids, so he was immediately surprised. He wasn’t as naive as Paixi, so he faintly guessed that Molan had quite a few connections. After all, they had talked on the ship before, so Molan remembered that their destination was Phoenix City, and guessed that the two youths didn’t have any money for travel expenses on them. Molan issued a few orders to the people in his entourage.
One person of his entourage immediately fished a stack of thin gold cards from his shirt pocket. Those were the universal coins of this mainland. Earlier today, A-Ka had seen the residents use copper and silver cards to exchange for goods.
Molan handed the cards to A-Ka, and A-Ka understood his meaning and said, “This… won’t work. I can’t accept them.”
Molan smiled. “I’ll lend these to you two. It’s a shame that I’m about to set off for Dragonmaw City. Otherwise, I would have brought you two with me along the way.”
A-Ka said, “Later, can I come find you at Dragonmaw City? I will return this money to you.”
Molan laughed and said, “Of course.” He thought for a moment before flipping open his travel journal. He took out a bookmark in it and handed it to A-Ka, saying, “If you get the opportunity, come to Dragonmaw City, and you can find me at the Star Castle.”
“Sir,” reminded someone in his entourage, “it’s getting dark.”
Molan nodded and bid A-Ka and Paixi farewell, kissed Paixi gently on the forehead, turned around, and left.
A-Ka had obtained the money for their travel expenses and immediately sighed in relief. He and Paixi caught up to a steam locomotive that was going to Phoenix City. He was extremely curious about everything, and he went out of his way to describe them to Paixi. One boy with another younger boy were just like two dimwits, and along the way, they received help from quite a lot of kind people. Finally, they stumbled into Phoenix City.
When they walked out of Phoenix City’s train station, A-Ka finally had a feeling of having returned home. However, Phoenix City wasn’t like how his travel companions had described it as on the ship, a paradise where humans could be happy and live safely. Instead, it was very dirty.
It was a huge industrial city, and mechanical cars came and went on the streets. Houses were dark yellow from the pollution from the factories. Plumes of steam and black smoke rose to the sky, and noise flooded the entire world around them. However, everything was energetic, and the hustle and bustle of people seemed to be welcoming their arrival.
“Don’t block the road!” a person shouted roughly.
“What are you being so fierce for?” the train station manager said angrily. “Can’t you see that that kid is blind?”
A-Ka said hastily, “Sorry, sorry.”
Along the way, there had always been people discovering that Paixi was blind, and no matter whether they were good-intentioned or ill-intentioned, every time he was asked about it, A-Ka felt a bit sad and guilty, as well as scared that Paixi would feel hurt. However, Paixi was extremely optimistic and smiled, saying, “Sorry, we’re newcomers here.”
A-Ka held Paixi’s hand as they got off the train. He was dizzy and only knew to follow the crowd. These days, he had always been missing Heishi and thinking that if Heishi was here, then they would be fine. He was at a loss when facing the unknown world, and he felt a bit unsafe. He was even scared that he wouldn’t be able to protect Paixi.
If Heishi was next to him, then at least he could feel safer.
“Brother, where are we going to go now?” asked Paixi.
A-Ka recalled Feiluo’s orders to bring Paixi to a shelter for human survivors after they got to Phoenix City. For a while, A-Ka was a bit unwilling to let Paixi go.
“Let’s first go to the shelter to take a look,” said A-Ka.
A-Ka had already spent most of the money for travel expenses Molan had given him. Along the way, he had always been buying food for Paixi. The two of them had suffered through too much before, so they wanted to eat everything, and didn’t consider problems they would face in the future. As A-Ka realized the difficulty of money, he was afraid he might have to stay in the shelter, too.
It was approaching night in Phoenix City, and the sunlight that shone through the dark clouds sprinkled a thin afterglow as the mechanical sounds that had flooded the entire city gradually quieted. A-Ka bought a map and studied it carefully, and it was only then that he knew that the city was split into the zone of humans and the zone of androids. These two districts were east and west of the city, respectively. By asking people for directions and looking at their map, they finally reached the human shelter center. However, it was already closed, the main door shut tightly.
A worker came out and after hearing A-Ka’s explanation, he pointed out the way for them. “The shelter is in the inner ring of the city. You two can go in and rest for the night, and you can come here to take care of the formalities tomorrow.”
A-Ka asked, “Do we need to pay?”
The worker shook his head. “No, you don’t need to pay. Keep walking along the main road and you’ll get there. You’ll probably need to hitchhike, or else you won’t be able to get to the shelter before it gets dark.”
Paixi said to him, “Thank you, sir.”
A-Ka nodded and led Paixi away. They walked along the river that was full of polluted water. Perhaps because they would have to say goodbye soon, A-Ka’s mood was gloomy and he was silent. Paixi suddenly asked, “Brother, what kind of things are there around here?”
A-Ka looked around him, seeing the river that was filled with wastewater from the factories and the ground that was littered with household waste. He thought for a moment before describing to Paixi, “Mn, this is a very great city… Specifically…”
A-Ka described their new home to be very beautiful, yet he sighed inwardly. He brought Paixi into the inner ring of the city to search for the human shelter. The sky was dark as they walked to an abandoned factory, and a rusted sign hung on the door. On it were the words, ‘Human Orphan Shelter,’ and a barbed-wire fence surrounded the building.
“Come in,” said the guard after hearing A-Ka’s words, as he opened the door in the fence. At the same time, a truck that was carrying a large load of cinder sped into the refining area that neighbored the shelter. The shelter gave A-Ka a feeling that it was like a prison, but he didn’t tell that to Paixi. He merely explained, “We’ll sleep here temporarily for tonight.”
Paixi nodded and the two of them were given number plates. They weren’t even questioned at all as they settled in. The children in the corridor were getting their dinners, and a woman said to A-Ka, “You’re already over the age of sixteen, so you can’t stay here anymore.”
“I know,” said A-Ka. “I’ll leave first thing tomorrow morning.”
The woman led A-Ka and Paixi to a room and said, “At nine in the night, the room doors will be locked.”
A-Ka looked around. The room wasn’t full yet, and above him, there was only one light. There were four bunk beds in the room, and two of them seemed to belong to people already, though they weren’t here at the moment. Paixi sat down on the lower bunk of a bed.
The children from the other two beds returned. They were both around ten years old and they glanced at the two of them. Among them, there was one that was even taller than A-Ka, and the tall one asked, “Where’d you come from?”
A-Ka smiled and said, “I came from Mechanical City. This is my little brother.”
Paixi said, “Hi there.”
The tall boy understood and nodded, saying, “Refugees from the east.” After saying that, he didn’t comment further and went to his bed and laid down.
It could be seen that the slightly younger child was very scared of the tall one. The two of them didn’t speak to each other, and the younger one didn’t dare to strike up a conversation with A-Ka, either. A-Ka’s mood became even more somber. He went out to get some food for Paixi. Glancing around, he saw that the shelter’s dinner was some grayish, mixed porridge. He sniffed the air and could tell that it was oat, wheat, and a few types of whole wheat, so he didn’t get any for Paixi. Instead, they ate the snacks that they had bought.
At nine in the night, all of the lights in the shelter were extinguished, and it started to drizzle outside the window. Harsh, white lights lit up the streets, and there was the occasional roar of a huge truck speeding by. The other two children lay on their beds doing nothing. A-Ka looked out the window for a while, at a loss, and an uneasiness rose in his heart.
Winter nights were very, very cold, but compared to that cold, the loneliness in his heart was even harder for A-Ka to bear. He dove into the ice-cold covers and hugged Paixi, hoping that he could be a bit warmer. Up until now, he hadn’t had entirely processed the fact that he had already returned to human society——after all, this was way too far from the new life he had imagined.
Paixi took out a small mechanical device and used his hands to lightly press the send button repeatedly. A-Ka knew that it was a transmitter, so he asked in a whisper, “Who are you sending messages to?”
“My dad,” whispered Paixi. “I’m telling him that I’ve already settled down. The transmitter can use a secret code to send my words to the rebel army’s transit centers in every city, and they will contact him.
A-Ka was a bit astonished that Paixi could remember such a complicated code; it seemed that he was very smart. A moment later, a green light flashed, and a series of messages came from the other side. Paixi smiled.
“I’ve contacted them successfully,” said Paixi.
“Ask them if Heishi is there,” said A-Ka.
He hadn’t gotten his hopes up, but as for now, Heishi was his only friend, and he might even be counted as someone he cared deeply about. Paixi sent out the message and after he received the reply, he said, “He is. Heishi is with my dad right now.”
That was a piece of good news that he hadn’t expected. A-Ka asked, “What did he say?”
“He said that we should take good care of ourselves,” Paixi said to A-Ka. “He heard that… Phoenix City’s situation isn’t as nice as people had imagined, but at least we still have freedom.”
Along with the transmitter’s beeping, Heishi’s words seemed to have turned on some switch in A-Ka’s heart, and in an instant, it pulled his thoughts and feelings indefinitely far away from this rainy night, making him make a decision. In the end, Paixi turned off the transmitter and whispered into A-Ka’s ear, “They’re going to go rescue some hostages of the rebel army. I hope it will not be too dangerous.”
A-Ka nodded and said blearily, “Let’s sleep. We’ll talk about it tomorrow.”
In the distance, on another mainland, Feiluo turned off his transmitter and silently sat down in the weaponry warehouse with Heishi. Heishi’s hands fiddled with a chip reader, disassembling and then assembling it again.
“You should not have told them,” Heishi said in a low voice.
“I’m used to telling Paixi everything,” said Feiluo. “That kid had always had a… special ability, you know?”
Feiluo glanced at Heishi with a warm smile and explained, “Although he cannot see with his eyes, he can see different things than a normal person sees.”
Heishi frowned and said, “What can he see?”
“He can foresee danger,” said Feiluo thoughtfully. “I don’t know if you humans all have abnormal abilities, but once, the mech army was close to where our troops were sleeping, and he happened to be there. At the time, we were leaving the central region and proceeding to the rainforests up north. In the middle of the night, he woke me up and said, ‘Dad, in my dream, I saw those icy big guys coming.’ Fortunately, our troops discovered them early on and only three people were killed in action. It was a small price for us to withdraw from the marshy lands,” said Feiluo. “So, whenever I have to make an important decision, I’m used to using the transmitter to ask for his opinion.”
Heishi smiled, but by his expression, it could be seen that he disagreed. Feiluo didn’t explain further and said, “I know that you don’t believe me. Forget it.”
Heishi said, “If Paixi really has the ability to predict things in his dreams, then you should tell him to see who copied the crucial piece of information in the Ancient Core.”
Feiluo laughed helplessly and said, “I don’t think that would be possible. He can only create dreams about things personally related to me and him.”
Heishi had disassembled and reassembled the device in his hands three times already, yet they were still in the warehouse, waiting for nightfall. At night, Heishi would join Feiluo’s team to rescue a group of the hostages that the mech army had imprisoned. Among the group of hostages, there was a guard that had been guarding the Ancient Core three months prior.
“If your guess is right,” Heishi said as he lifted his eyes to look at Feiluo, “and General MacKasey really is colluding with Steel City’s army, then what will be the result?”
“It’s hard to say.” Feiluo shook his head slowly, saying, “MacKasey’s position as brigadier general is very important. He is one of the three organizers of the revolution, so if this was revealed to the public, it would create an upheaval in the higher ranks of the army.”
Heishi gradually learned of the android army’s system. Libre, the leader of the rebel army that had sacrificed himself, Angus, the admiral who was currently in Phoenix City, and MacKasey, side by side, were the main decision-makers in the android regime.
One of the highest officials in the army was actually sent by Father, and was lurking undercover in the rebel army. Once that information was spread around, the result was practically unbearable to even think about. Feiluo felt he had encountered a large, troubling matter. Starting from when Heishi had entered the Ancient Core, one mystery was wrapped around another mystery, and he couldn’t even tell anyone about this matter.
“Where is General MacKasey right now?” asked Heishi.
“In Phoenix City,” replied Feiluo. “He’s having a meeting with Angus. Because Libre sacrificed himself, they have to formulate a new strategy in order to defend themselves from Steel City’s army’s counterattack. He’ll come back here around a month later. Since we’re going to take action, we should do it as fast as possible. Otherwise, once he returns, he’ll know that we entered the Ancient Core soon after.
Heishi nodded and got up to glance outside the window. The sky was already completely dark. Feiluo brought a firearm that his subordinates had finished assembling, pushed the door open, and advanced into the pitch-black mountains.
The night passed, and on the opposite shore, Phoenix City was flooded with sunlight. Early in the morning, A-Ka led Paixi out and went to the shelter office. He explained their situation to the person in charge.
“I’m going to go find a job,” A-Ka said to the man that was sitting with his legs crossed. “As long as we can keep ourselves alive, then my little brother won’t need to stay in the shelter.”
“Okay.” The man said absentmindedly, “Go on then, I wish you two success.”
A-Ka held Paixi’s hand and exited the shelter. After the rain from last night, the clouds and haze gradually dispersed, and sunlight spilled from then holes in the clouds. Paixi stood in the sunlight, and tears flowed freely from his eyes.
“What is it?” A-Ka said, startled.
Paixi smiled as he wiped away his tears and shook his head. “N… nothing.”
“Let’s find a place to live first.” A-Ka swung his shoulder bag backward and transferred it to his other shoulder as he walked into the bustling world of Phoenix City.
“We’re not accepting technicians,” said the person in charge of some repairers as he sized up A-Ka with a strange look.
A-Ka was holding Paixi’s hand as he said, “That’s okay. I’ll try my luck at another shop.”
A-Ka led Paixi out. This was the fifth shop he had found, and all of the factories weren’t accepting technicians. The money Uncle Molan had left them only had a little left. He used the rest of their money to buy two hot dogs and squatted at the side of the streets with Paixi as they ate.
“Is finding a job very hard?” asked Paixi worriedly.
A-Ka replied, “Don’t worry, I will find one.”
A-Ka’s request was simply for food and lodging, and for them to take in Paixi as well. However, most bosses didn’t believe that A-Ka could repair equipment, no matter how he explained the things he had done before. He even tried to apply at a repair station that had been opened by androids. However, when they saw Paixi, they inquired where Paixi came from.
A-Ka replied that he was Feiluo’s adopted son, and Feiluo was an android. Everyone who heard his explanations laughed loudly.
“Adopted son?” The android owner called, “Hey! Come and see! This kid is an android’s son. We better keep him here.”
“Which one are you?” someone asked.
“What’s your serial number?”
Everyone had crowded around them, and A-Ka instinctively felt that it would be dangerous. However, Paixi tugged his hand and said in a small voice, “Don’t be scared, A-Ka.”
Paixi fished out an army emblem and handed it over. On it was Feiluo’s military rank, troop, and serial number. This time, everyone believed him, but what followed was a long period of silence.
“Your father owes us a lot of money. Lots of lots of money…” said an android after a while.
“What are you trying to do?!” A-Ka placed Paixi behind him protectively, not letting the androids bully him. Paixi was at a loss and didn’t know how to respond. A-ka said, “Regarding anything between you and Feiluo, wait for Feiluo to come back and then find him by himself.”
“You two will be taken away,” An android smiled and said, “and your human organs will be taken and sold.”
“Don’t scare him!” A-Ka said angrily to the android.
A-Ka didn’t want to speak with them further, so he led Paixi away. They went to a few more places, and he discovered that Feiluo’s reputation was very bad. Towards the end, he didn’t even dare to bring it up anymore, and they returned to the human assembly point to try finding a repair factory.
Paixi said, “Should we ask Feiluo for help?”
“No,” said A-Ka, “let’s not make them worried.”
At least they still had freedom. A-Ka remembered Heishi’s words very clearly, and he didn’t have much to complain about as he walked with Paixi from dusk to dawn. Today, it started raining again, so Paixi said, “Let’s spend the night nearby.”
A-Ka saw an abandoned factory ahead of them. They were in the eastern outskirts of Phoenix City, so he stopped and hid in a huge cement pipe with Paixi to stay in temporarily for the night.
In the debris across from them, a beggar was starting a fire, and he lifted his head to glance at them.
A-Ka was scared that he would come over and rob their things or scare Paixi, so he kept an eye on the beggar the entire time. A moment later, in the rain, a person wearing a trench coat and holding a black umbrella walked over and chatted with the beggar. A-Ka suddenly felt that something wasn’t right.
“What is it?” Paixi said softly.
“Nothing,” whispered A-Ka.
They were hiding in the cement pipe in the construction site from the sulfur rain that fell from the sky, and there was a dirty beggar across from them——that was all normal. However, there was now a man of unknown origins that had come looking for the beggar. That made A-Ka become alert at once.
“Let’s sleep.” A-Ka hugged Paixi and let him lean into his arms. He didn’t look at the beggar in the distance anymore, and he closed his eyes.
The man seemed not to have left, and he was still chatting with the beggar. A-Ka couldn’t hear what they were saying, but he couldn’t help but pay attention to them. However, Paixi gradually began to move restlessly. Cold sweat soaked him, and he was suddenly startled awake.
“Paixi?” asked A-Ka. “Are you sick?”
A-Ka felt Paixi’s forehead, and Paixi was coming back to his senses, panting lightly.
“I had a dream,” Paixi said in a small voice. “Is there someone near us?”
A-Ka was surprised. “Did you hear footsteps?”
Paixi said, “They’ve noticed us.”
A-Ka was shocked and lifted his head to gaze into the distance, and saw that the man that had been chatting with the beggar had stayed there for half an hour. A-Ka didn’t have enough time to ask Paixi why he would say that, so he said, “Get up, let’s go.”
It was already late at night, and the streets were devoid of people. A-Ka wasn’t sure where he should go, and he didn’t know if, on the streets, he and Paixi would encounter danger in this unfamiliar city. Unexpectedly, Paixi said, “I think that we should wait here.”
“Why?” asked A-Ka.
Paixi didn’t reply. However, the man in the distance had finished talking and had noticed them, so he turned around and walked towards them. A-Ka’s heartbeat started racing at once, and he remembered what that android boss had told them earlier today——this city was extremely dangerous and chaotic. What if he was…
“Go with him,” Paixi said in a low voice next to A-Ka’s ear.
“Who are you two?” The man was wearing a trench coat, fully dressed in black. He looked A-Ka up and down.
A-Ka protected Paixi, who was behind him, and asked, “What does that have to do with you?”
Paixi tugged A-Ka’s sleeve, reminding him without making a sound. The man said in a low voice, “If you don’t want to die, then don’t stay here. Come with me.”
A-Ka hesitated for a moment. The man didn’t give him the chance to consider it too much before he turned around and left. A-Ka looked at Paixi, and then looked at the receding back of the man. In the end, he gathered up his things, held Paixi’s hand, and got up to leave the abandoned construction site.
The man in the black trench coat fished out something from his coat pocket with a practiced stroke. A-Ka thought it was a gun, and he was about to tense up, yet he heard a soft click, and a flame leapt up. The man held a cigarette in his mouth, and the light at the end of it glowed dimly.
“Who… are you?” asked A-Ka.
“Shahuang 1,” answered the man.
A-Ka lifted his head to observe him, and he could only see that the man named Shahuang had coarse skin. The hood of his trench coat covered half of his face in shadow, and he had an aquiline nose. He had an earring studded into his ear, and there was an inch-long scar on the side of his face.
There was a badge pinned onto his trench coat that read, “Team Iron Blood”.
“What is Team Iron Blood?” asked A-Ka.
Shahuang pulled up his shirt collar uncomfortably and used his arm to cover the badge.
“Name,” Shahuang said coldly.
A-Ka frowned and replied, “My name is A-Ka, and his…”
“I know his name is Paixi,” said Shahuang.
“I’ve heard your voice before,” Paixi said softly. “It was at the energy source store.”
A-Ka suddenly remembered that in the shop run by the androids who scared him by telling him to be careful of getting taken away and then having his organs sold that he had went to in the morning with Paixi to find a job, this person seemed to have been there, though he wasn’t wearing a trench coat.
“Your eyes cannot see, but your heart is very clear.” Shashuang threw away the cigarette end. “Are you that bastard Feiluo’s son?”
Paixi stopped in his tracks and said unhappily, “You insulted my dad, so I’m not going to go with you.”
Shahuang smirked and looked at Paixi from under his hat, saying, “You may look small, but you’ve got a lot of fight in you. Forget it, pretend I didn’t say anything.”
It was only now that A-Ka and Paixi continued following the man forward. In the night’s darkness, the eaves in the small seaport dripped with water. One building’s back door was lit up by a light. Shahuang pushed the door open, walked in, and said, “On Feiluo’s account, I’ll take you two in.”
“I don’t need someone to take me in,” said A-Ka. “I can work.”
Shahuang turned on the light, and the dim light lit up the room’s interior. A-Ka was impressed when he saw that it was a weaponry repair shop. Terrific!
“I’ll work for you!” said A-Ka joyfully. “You only need to give us food and lodging!”
“You can? Don’t break my things.” Shahuang took off his hat and looked at A-Ka doubtfully. He started taking off his trench coat and asked, “Do you understand firearms?”
A-Ka let Paixi sit down before he went to the counter to look at Shahuang’s firearms. He grabbed one and tried it out, pushing and pulling as it emitted mechanical sounds. His movements were skilled and professional. Shahuang glanced at A-Ka and nodded.
A-Ka said, “These are all old-fashioned.”
“A knife from medieval times can kill a person all the same.” Shashuang said casually, “Taking a life has nothing to do with the weapon’s age.”
A-Ka was keenly aware that this person in front of him was either a killer or at least someone who used firearms often, as there were bullet holes and scars on his wrists. Shashuang said, “You can sleep behind the counter, and the kid can sleep under the stairs. Starting from tomorrow, you can help me look after the shop.”
A-Ka had finally found a place to stay. Although it wasn’t exactly what he had envisioned, as long as he had somewhere to settle down, it was, at present, the best thing. That night, Shahuang threw two beddings at them, and the blankets had a damp, musty smell. A-Ka laid his out on the floor and smiled at Paixi, saying, “Good night, Paixi.”
“Mn. Good night, A-Ka.”
A-Ka tugged the light’s pull chain switch, and the room was plunged into darkness. There was only the sound of Shahuang’s snores coming one after another from upstairs.
It was then, late at night, that in the quiet corner of the room, the transmitter suddenly emitted some beeping noises.
A-Ka immediately found Paixi’s transmitter in his bindle, connected it to the data line, and a line of words appeared on the screen.
This was a decoder that he had assembled using the simple components he had had on hand. Although the frequency’s waveband wasn’t steady, it could more or less receive a position of the messages.
Paixi, I am Heishi. I am looking for A-Ka.
A-Ka immediately lowered his head and entered a message.
I’m A-Ka. Heishi, what’s the matter?
There was no reply from the other side, so A-Ka continued to enter a line of words.
Heishi, do you have any voice input equipment over there? I can try to see if we can use the transmitter’s radio frequency to talk.
Heishi’s message came.
There is no need.
A-Ka didn’t understand.
What is it?
A-Ka found the intercom device and connected it to the small transmitter. He began to use frequency modulation, deathly silence fell from the earpiece.
A-Ka said in a low voice, “Heishi? Where are you? Can you hear me?”
A-Ka started talking to himself. “Is there something wrong with the earpiece? Heishi… ah?”
“I hear you,” said Heishi on the other side.
A-Ka smiled and withdrew into his covers, asking, “Where are you?”
Heishi said, “Still on the eastern mainland.”
A-Ka asked, “When will you come back?”
Heishi didn’t speak. He sat on the pitch-black shore and looked at the rolling waves. A breeze brought a slightly salty taste with it as it blew past him.
“Do you remember the day you found me?” said Heishi.
“What about it?” A-Ka was a bit baffled by his question, and he didn’t know why Heishi would suddenly contact him in the middle of the night.
“Nothing,” said Heishi in a low voice. “I suddenly had a strange feeling, so I wanted to chat with you.”
A-Ka’s smile grew gentle as he lay under his covers, on his side. He asked in a whisper, “What kind of feeling?”
“I cannot describe it clearly,” replied Heishi, as he gazed off into the distance.
A-Ka murmured, “What gave you that feeling?”
“My father,” replied Heishi.
“‘Father’?” frowned A-Ka.
“Not ‘Father’, but… the person who created me,” said Heishi. “My father.”
A-Ka’s heart leaped and he asked, “Did you remember your past?”
Heishi didn’t answer so A-Ka inquired, “Who created you?”
“Why did you save me?” asked Heishi.
A-Ka recalled the day he had saved Heishi and said, “There’s… there’s no why. I saw you on the beach, so… Say, your temper feels a lot better now, did something happen?”
“My temper is very bad?” asked Heishi.
“I still remember the first day I saw you.” A-Ka smiled and said, “You nearly throttled me, and you were very impatient with me.”
“Hormones.” Heishi in a low voice. “The disorderliness of my memory, rational thinking, and aggressive behavior all conflicted.”
“What do you mean?” asked A-Ka.
Heishi avoided the topic and asked, “That day, when the mech guard almost killed me, why did you step forward?”
A-Ka said, “I found you, so I can’t just let you die there, because my conscience wouldn’t allow it. What about it?”
“Nothing,” said Heishi.
A-Ka said, “Did you find any clues about your father? Who is your father?”
Heishi said, “He does not have a name, and he has already left this place.”
A hush fell over the communicator. Heishi said, “My master is not here anymore.”
In that instant, A-Ka understood what Heishi was feeling. He had a lot of things on his mind, yet he didn’t have anyone to tell them to, so he was probably very confused. And after going through such a long period of confusion, he finally couldn’t bear it any longer, and needed to find someone to speak them out loud to.
A-Ka whispered, “The feeling in your heart is called loneliness.”
“Is it?” Heishi said absently, “This feeling is very strange. I just want to find someone and sit together with them.”
“What about Feiluo?” asked A-Ka.
Heishi replied, “He is not here.”
A-Ka asked, “When are you going to come back?”
Heishi said, “As soon as I can.”
“Will you come and live with us?”
“Live?” repeated Heishi.
A-Ka said, “We’ve already found someplace to settle down in. I’m in a person called Shahuang’s store.”
Heishi seemed to be thinking and he said, “Do you know the chairman of the Merchant Association, Huixiong 2?”
A-Ka was nonplussed. “Who’s that? Is he your friend?”
“Feiluo helped me get in touch with him. Tell me about your current situation.”
And so, underneath his covers, A-Ka told him of what they had gone through in a low voice. On the other side, Heishi was silent for a long time and merely listened quietly. When A-Ka had talked for nearly ten minutes and had gotten to the part where they had arrived at Shahuang’s repair shop, he had nearly fallen asleep himself. He asked, “Heishi?”
“I am listening,” replied Heishi.
A-Ka made a “mn” sound, and Heishi could tell from it that A-Ka was tired, so he said, “I will come back very soon. Before I come back, try your best to stay there.”
“Okay,” said A-Ka. “Heishi, be careful, and don’t do anything dangerous.”
Heishi cut off the communication, and A-Ka gradually fell asleep to the static from the transmitter.