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Translator: Wu Wang
Editor: Cherry Blossoms
Chapter 6: The Steam Wings (2)
Dong! Keshawa kicked open the door. He shook his dishevelled hair, eyes smouldered with rage. He shouted, “Boy, how are you going to compensate for my valuable sleep? You should know, you had taken two years and still couldn’t find the rule between a pair of stars. If ‘have an apprentice’ wasn’t one of the essential conditions for an Astrologer to level up, you would still be catching insects with your farmer of a father in the alfalfa fields!”
Jonah said reverently with his head down, “I’m sorry, tutor, but I need to go.”
“Go? Where?” Keshawa paused and asked.
“The Cherry Ferry. I’m sorry but I can’t tell you the reason. And, my tutor, I’m glad to see you are still yourself.” Jonah murmured and stared at his tutor’s shoes. He felt a bit sad.
Keshawa touched his cluttered beard and asked reflectively, “Are you sixteen years old?”
“I’m seventeen years old today.” Jonah answered.
“All right. Every Astrologer’s apprentice has his right to travel. The starry sky is beautiful, but we can’t lock ourselves up in the tower for life. Besides, spring is the season where most living things are in heat.” Keshawa noded and grumbled, “However, I have to say, this isn’t a good time to travel. After I woke up, I got two pieces of bad news from the Communication Star Circle of the Astrology Association.”
“First, after the fall of the Red Castle, the offices of the Astrology Association in this country has been moved along with the new Queen, Queen Wenger IV. She is Wenger III’s aunt and Wenger II’s sister – I don’t know if you understand. She and her loyal defenders are retreating to the south, the Empire Bazelaire. Which also means, if you want to get help from the association, you would have to travel to the Empire Bazelaire.”
“Second, that stupid tyrant of the Empire Zave, Jeiezavestan, tore up the “Amnesty Laws” unilaterally, and declared that the members of five associations would no longer have any privileges in his empire. The big shots of five associations are discussing these matters and are trying to find some solutions. It is said that many Magic Towers and branches of the Mathematical Society has lost touch with the five associations. What a shame! The associations has always focused on academic evaluations and we have lost that deterrent due to the countries!”
“If you wish to travel alone,then there are only two results awaiting you: First, you will be killed by the hungry farmer’s pitchfork, and then hung on the gate of his farm as his ready-to-use food. Second is, you will be killed by the earth-dragoon’s lance, and your head will be hung next to his saddle as a spoil of war. Trust me, neither of them are good choices.”
Jonah was dumbfounded when he heard the tutor’s words, as sweat started to soak through his back.
Keshawa looked around, smiled and said, “However, since the world is so dangerous, our Astrology Tower isn’t a safe place either. Maybe tomorrow, Jeiezavestan will come with his gold earth-dragon cavalcades and level our Tower to the ground. So, boy, just go – with your homework – I think it’s enough for you to calculate for a whole year. Oh, right, I need to prepare a parting gift for you.” Jonah didn’t get a chance to say a thing before Keshawa had already grabbed the steam puppet. He disappeared outside the door with amazing speed.
Jonah stood in his room and didn’t know what to do.
Half an hour later, he heard Tutor Keshawa’s voice, “Boy, bring your luggage and come here.”
Jonah picked up his deerskin handbag and package. He walked along the stair and arrived at the tutor’s laboratory. He knocked on the door, but it was unlocked.
“This way.” Jonah heard his tutor’s voice. He passed by the large telescope and went to the top of the tower. There was a large open platform. Behind it laid a bunch of messy and weird laboratory equipment, Tutor Keshawa sat on the edge of the platform. His loose coat was swaying in the morning breeze of the Red Plain.
“Here is your homework.” Keshawa pointed to several hand-written pages on the ground, “They are all calculations. Your computing power is way too bad. I’ve never seen any Astrologer dumber than you – except maybe me. You would be Number two.” Then he pointed to a pile of strange irons and said, “This is your parting gift. Don’t mention it. You should thank the master of “Lame Henry”. That old bastard, probably saw this day coming.”
Jonah strenuously recognized the pile of strange irons. The core of it was his steam puppet, but now, there were many skew iron plates, iron pipes and leather belts wrapped on it.
The old tutor let Jonah sit beside him and as he spoke with his blurred voice, “I’m getting old, and always forget things. I can’t even remember my face when I was as young as you. However, I still remember that I had a best friend at that time, and his name was Henry. He was a farmer’s child, but both of us liked to play with machines and we often observed the running of the water pump all day.”
“However, one day, we broke up because we had a quarrel about: if humans could fly. I said that since stars could fly in the sky, so humans could as well; he said that it was illogic, and only a pair of iron wings could let humans fly in the sky.”
“Later on, we went to different cities to study. He entered into the Association of Steam Puppeteers. While I was chosen by my tutor, and became the observer of the night sky – an Astrologer.”
“Time passed away in a hurry. We contacted each other irregularly but it was often just quarreling.”
“Finally, at the year when we became old and wrinkled, he created a giant steam aircraft, with six pairs of great steel wings; and I solved the question of floating by creating the Balance Star Circle. At that year, we had risen to the peak of our lives, and all the five associations were watching us. He was the “Master of Power, Henry”, and I was the “Master of Rules, Keshawa” – we had a competition.
Keshawa stared at the vast plain and said, his eyes filled with memories.
Jonah held his package and as he continued to listen beside his tutor. He asked, “Then?”
“…Then? Then the reality proved that both of us were wrong. The steel was too heavy and the Star Circle was too weak. He fell to the ground and I fainted due to turbulence. The Association found the both of us and saved us from the people of Colombo. Fortunately, both of us were alive, but his right leg had been broken.”
“After a year, when the associations almost forgot us, we made the Nimbus “Lame Henry”. The core of the Nimbus was a Balance Star Circle. I used the biggest black crystal in the world to create it. The dynamical systems were designed by him, which including six pairs of steam wings. The answer was so damn simple. If we hadn’t split up, maybe we would’ve achieved success many years ago.”
“…You rarely tell me things like this.” Jonah said softly as felt his tutor’s gentle and weak side.
“I’m a bit shy,” said Keshawa, “I also don’t really know how to talk with young people. Besides, I always forget your name. Anyway, “Lame Henry” is a souvenir. We are already unable to make such a giant machine again. However, he left his backdoor open with this gift for you.”
As Keshawa said that, he pressed down on the machine. The steam puppet’s belly opened and there laid a shiny black crystal, buzzing.
“Old Henry said that traveling around the world was a lifelong dream of his, but I thought that he still wanted to fly higher. Well, this is the only “Lame Henry II” in the world. I thought that I may never get another chance to cooperate with him. Look, it’s your parting gift. Do you like it?”
Keshawa said and let Jonah wear his coat, he put the homework into Jonah’s package and held onto the staff. He thought for a while, as he then took off Jonah’s apprentice emblem and stuffed it in the deerskin handbag.
“Look, you can control the direction by pulling this strap, and this valve can control the output power of the Star Circle. You can control the flying speed and angle by pull the five controllers. Don’t worry, it’s not as difficult as your homework. You said that you wanted to go to the Cherry Ferry, right? The energy in the black crystal should be enough for flying to that place. Remember to stay away from the cavalrymen of Empire Zave as well as the mobsters, go to the west-southwest. You should know the way. Though I can’t walk with you on your road, boy, but I pray the starry sky will help light up the way of your future. Good luck!”
Jonah carried the “Lame Henry II” and stood on the edge of the platform. He looked back. Keshawa seemed to have smiled, but it may also have been a cough.
Jonah felt a big push behind his back. His feet suddenly lost support as he felt the wind growing stronger and stronger. He looked rattled around and he found that he was floating in the air. The vast Red Plain was extended under his feet, and he could almost see the smoke rise from the ruins of the Red Castle.
“Go. We had a good talk today. I hope I can stay alive till the day I see you again. Besides, what’s your name? Jorge? Okay, Jorge. In fact, I’m missing that beautiful landlady in the tavern of the Red Castle. It’s true, and I’m not afraid of being laughed at.”
Six pair of wings spread from the two sides of the “Lame Henry II”. The steam puppet increased its speed and erupted white smoke with a zizzy sound. Jonah felt the wind blow on his face, it felt like he ran straight into a wall. He turned back laboriously and his tutor seemed to look like a black point on a far away column.
He wanted to ask loudly, “Tutor, don’t you feel like some evil things have descended unto the world and a great catastrophe will happen?” But he didn’t ask. Jonah just looked at the Astrology Tower and flew away. Under the sun, there was the vast Red Plain. Except for the smoky scorched earth, there was only the view of a cavalcade rushing to the Astrology Tower.