Featured Translator: Tofu
Who am I?
Where am I from?
Where do I go?
They say these three questions are the ultimate questions philosophers have been pondering ever since the times of the ancient Earth. Even up until the age of interplanetary civilization, these questions still have no answers.
If an average person were to take these words at face value, they could easily respond to these three questions. But the me who stood in tribunal dressed in a prisoner’s uniform, the me who was a criminal, had no way to answer.
Six days ago, I opened my eyes and found myself in a desert spotted with withered shrubs.
As I stood gazing at the vast, barren expanse, dressed in only a filthy dress, my memories a blank slate, I found I couldn’t remember anything at all.
I didn’t know who I was, or where I’d come from, let alone where I’d meant to go.
“Hey! Is anyone there?” I desperately shouted.
There was no other sound except the rustling of the wind blowing through the shrubs, as if I was the only person left in the world.
Terrified and left with no other option, I chose a random direction and began to walk, praying I would glimpse another person.
But even after walking for three days and three nights, I came across no one.
I was starving and thirsty, frightened and in despair, when I suddenly saw an apple tree on a mountain slope. Though the trunk was thin and craggy, the leaves a withered yellow, ripe red fruit hung from the branches.
I stumbled towards the tree and plucked the fruit, devouring it whole.
I’d just finished half of an apple when I heard the roar of an engine.
A ship hovered up above, and an entire platoon of soldiers pointed their guns at me.
With my mouth still stuffed with an apple, and my hand holding another, I raised my hands in surrender.
Because I had stolen valuable genetic material, I was locked up in prison.
They told me that apple tree was a lifeform that originated from the ancient Earth, its genes still completely pure. In an attempt to replicate Ancient Earth’s environment, the Aerdes empire built a genetic research facility on planet G9737 specifically to study ancient lifeforms. Hence, as this area was of extreme scientific importance, it was kept under lock and key.
I was caught red-handed, so I could only plead guilty.
If my crime was only the theft of genetic material, my sentence would be about a hundred years of imprisonment. Given the average human lifespan of three hundred years, this wouldn’t be the most devastating punishment.
However, I had no identification, no identity to speak of.
Every resident of Aerdes is genetically tested at birth and then given a unique identification number and a tiny chip that is implanted into their bodies. Reading, work, every facet of life requires this ID chip—and I had none.
The judge ordered for me to undergo a genetic test to determine my identity; ultimately, the only response the system could produce was, unable to find this person.
What could possibly explain how a person who never even should’ve existed in Aerdes appeared in its most closely guarded research facilities?
My status as an unknown individual quickly devolved into that of a spy, sent to steal Aerdes’ technological secrets. My crime of theft grew into endangerment of the safety of the entire nation.
“The female convict is sentenced to a painless and humane end…”
As I listened, I belatedly realizing that I’d been given the death penalty.
Objectively speaking, perhaps this was a fair and just sentence. However, as the person in question that would soon be put to death, I found it unjust beyond belief.
The guards walked me to a room, different from the one that had been my prison for days. Greenery and plants were arranged around the cream-colored room, and in the center, there was a small dining table. Atop the table there were warm plates of delicacies.
A handsome man in a white uniform politely gestured to the table: “Hello, I’m Dr. Mu. This is the dinner that was prepared for you; I hope you enjoy.”
Without uttering a word, I sat at the table and began to woodenly eat. Despite the explosion of flavor, I couldn’t register any taste. I thought of my impending execution, the fact I would die not even knowing who I was. In my despair, tears began to fall uncontrollably.
Dr. Mu walked over and sat across from me.
I couldn’t help but blurt out: “I truly was starving and just wanted to eat two apples, I never knew that they were so precious.”
Dr. Mu’s lips curled into a mocking smile. “You know they’re called apples, yet don’t know how precious they are?”
I wiped at my tears, unsure of how to respond. After several days of questioning, I’d learned that the apples I’d eaten would never be found at a market. Apples as they are known today are completely different from the apples of Ancient Earth—only someone who had studied ancient lifeforms would be able to recognize the fruit I’d stolen.
Dr. Mu leaned forward; his bright gaze fixed on me. “Who you are, how you trespassed into the base, your objective—I don’t care; I only came to propose a deal.”
Perplexed, I asked, “Who are you?”
He smiled and leisurely said, “I am Dr. Mu, the one responsible for ensuring your peaceful, painless, and humane execution.”
I couldn’t help but shudder. “What kind of deal?”
“I save your life; you substitute for my girlfriend and marry her fiancé in her stead.”
Is he not his girlfriend’s fiancé? Does he want me to marry him?
I stared at him, stupefied. Dr. Mu wrinkled his brow at my expression.
So the fiancé wasn’t the boyfriend! Was this not the “girlfriend must marry, and the groom isn’t me” archetype?
I could only fear that he would retract this life-saving stroke of grace. “It’s a deal!”
“Don’t you need to understand more about the situation before making your decision?” Dr. Mu asked.
“Do I have a choice?” I bitterly asked. “One choice is death; the other is marriage. No matter how ugly or cruel my spouse may be, at least I will live.”
Dr. Mu gracefully rose and extended his hand. I politely grasped it back. “Here’s to a fruitful cooperation,” I said.
As I was about draw back my hand, Dr. Mu abruptly tightened his hold and yanked me forward.
His gaze was sharp, and his words were cold, and it almost felt as if his grasp would break my hand. “If you mean to deceive me, you can trust that the way I end your life won’t be peaceful or painless.”
I pushed down the unbearable pain and looked at him with my most sincere expression. “If you cooperate by upholding your end of the deal, I will do so in turn.” Dr. Mu’s expression warmed, and he formally shook my hand. “Here’s to a fruitful cooperation!”
Only after a night of looking through the information that Dr. Mu left me did I understand the predicament I would face. Dr. Mu’s girlfriend was Ying Xian Luo Lan, a princess of Aerdes.
In the past few months of conflict over resources, the Aerdes empire conceded to the Odin Federation and requested peace.
The Odin Federation agreed to the ceasefire and even conceded in leaving a resource planet for Aerdes. The condition was Aerdes would offer a princess as a marriage tribute to one of Odin’s dukes. With no means to continue the battle, Aerdes could only accept the pledge for “future fruitful cooperation between the federation and empire.”
Odin Federation was an independent republic comprised of seven autonomous regions. Although Odin hadn’t been established long, it was famed throughout the galaxy for its military prowess, a worthy adversary to the long established Aerdes.
But, Odin’s stance in the galaxy was extremely special, and no one truly believed this exchange was truly a “cooperation.”
The humans of Ancient Earth first used genetic research on plants to improve their crops, increasing crop yields and improving flavor. Slowly, genetic research began to focus on animal life, including the human genome. Research on human genes continued under limitation due to ethical concerns.
Eventually, as the earth’s environment deteriorated and resources dried up, mankind had no choice but to venture into space.
In a new world of danger and life and death, the locked doors to gene editing were forcefully opened. To reap the benefits of a stronger body and thus a greater chance of survival, mankind began to edit its own genes. Cosmetic procedures were once a trend on Ancient Earth; reforming one’s genes became the trend in the first age of galactic civilization.
Humans had shifted from reluctance and hesitance to widespread usage of gene editing, and all different kinds of ways to improve one’s genes emerged, encouraging people to reap benefits such as beauty, power, health, and even a longer life.
As time went on and edited genes intermixed and produced progeny, problems hidden deep within genomes emerged, and mankind realized that though gene editing could improve physical attributes, it also brought unknown dangers. The gene pool became unstable, and even the healthiest of individuals could abruptly fall victim to terrible genetic diseases. The human fertility rate dropped, and producing offspring became far more difficult.
Many nations in the galaxy began to regulate gene editing. Those whose genes bore those of animals other than humans and had different characteristics as a result were named “human carriers of mutant genes.” These humans grew to be on the receiving end of an increasing amount of prejudice, especially those whose mutation was easily visible—they were deemed “mutants.” Discriminated against, their status lower than that of humans, mutants could only work in the lowliest and most dangerous of jobs.
Six hundred years ago, a group of mutants rebelled and declared their independence, establishing an independent government and military. This would become the central ruling region of the Odin Federation. Another two hundred years of conflict, and the seven autonomous regions were established. The seven regions and the ruling body united in the interest of the welfare of mutants, banding together to become a powerful federation. Amongst the hundred odd galactic nations, Odin’s incredible might not only changed the dynamics of the galaxy, but also impacted how mutants would be treated, letting mutants receive at least a semblance of respect.
Aerdes, in comparison, boasted an extensive history, with the Ying Xian imperial family able to trace their bloodlines back to an Eastern race on Ancient Earth. (tofu: wow, good to know that we Asians are still vibing many millennia into the future.) Throughout the many years, because of their pride, the imperial family maintained the purity of their genes. Due to the rarity of “natural, uncorrupted” genes, the imperial family’s genes were the most desired genes for marriage and procreation.
Now, Aerdes’ government officials believed that Odin’s proposal of marriage was not that of joining between a man and woman, but a pretense to seize hold of the princess’ genes. Odin would attempt to research the princess’ genes to produce ways to cure problems within the mutants’ gene pool.
No “normal” woman would agree to marry a mutant, let alone become a test subject. Aerdes’ princesses all desperately tried to avoid this potential decree. In the end, the mild-tempered Princess Luo Lan was the unlucky chosen one.
The unfortunate princess’ greatest fortune was to have a good man. To escape her fate, she didn’t hesitate to spring her plot…and I’ve been left to borrow her light!
No matter what happens, to be a locked-up test subject is far preferrable to wholesale death!
In the morning, the guards brought me to the execution chamber. Dr. Mu, having prepared everything, was waiting for me, garbed in a white uniform and mask. I looked around at the numerous gleaming machines of death. Terror welled in my heart; with the countless eyes watching, would Dr. Mu truly be able to save me?
A guard motioned for me to lie down upon the death bed.
Death loomed before me, yet I still had so many questions and regrets…I beseechingly looked towards Dr. Mu. Once I lay down, would I face my end, or a rebirth?
The cold mask covered his face as well as his expression. In this moment, he looked like the god of death in old legend, mercilessly collecting human lives.
“Please cooperate to ensure this goes smoothly,” Dr. Mu said, and I heard a subtle emphasis on the word “cooperate.”
I slowly calmed down and lay down on the bed. I stared at the sky-blue ceiling.
They say that in the hour before death, one relives their entire life. Yet my life’s memories spanned back only seven days. As I awaited the end, my mind kept recalling the judge’s questions.
“Who are you?”
“For what reason did you trespass into base G9737?”
“Do you have any accomplices?”
I suddenly felt a bite of pain in my neck, and I sank into unconsciousness.
When I opened my eyes again, I was already Princess Luo Lan, sitting in a ship bound for the Odin Federation, with Dr. Mu accompanying as the platoon doctor.
The story went that the princess was so resistant to her marriage that she tried to disfigure herself, and Aerdes’ emperor had no choice but to order her sedated and directly sent aboard the ship. After all, the long journey offered plenty of time for the doctors to fix her face before she arrived at Odin.
Current cosmetic procedures would be able to change my face into Princess Luo Lan’s, but Dr. Mu resented the thought of me using the face of his beloved woman. Hence, I could keep my own features. To the public it was announced that in her anguish, Princess Luo Lan requested to change her appearance to what I looked like now.
I was pleasantly surprised that I would be able to masquerade as the princess even without any cosmetic procedure. After all, I’d already lost my memories as well as my identity. If I lost my face, I’d lose my only remaining connection to my past.
“Where is Princess Luo Lan?” I curiously asked.
Dr. Mu warningly stared at me. “You are Princess Luo Lan, and as for who she is, it isn’t a matter you should be concerned with.”
I am Princess Luo Lan, I am Princess Luo Lan, I silently repeated to myself. Suddenly, I recalled something. Princess Luo Lan bore the most rare, pure genes. With my uncertain origins, a simple genetic test would reveal our ploy. As Odin’s true objective in seeking a princess’ hand in marriage was for the pure genes of the Aerdes imperial family, I would be unable to delay exposure for long.
I gingerly said, “Odin wants to utilize the princess’ genes to perform research. What will they do to me once they realize I’m a fake?”
“Your genes are pure enough to satisfy their requirements.” Dr. Mu’s expression was peculiar and almost perplexed. “As long as you make no mistakes, no one will doubt you and make you undergo an identifying test. You can live forever as Princess Luo Lan.”
I stared at him in shock. I’d never thought my own genes would be rare and prized.
“It’s apparent you truly don’t know anything about yourself.” Dr. Mu’s laugh was deprecating. “If your genes weren’t of a particular type, why would I risk my life by saving you?”
Of course! If it weren’t for my rare genes, Dr. Mu would have no use for me, and with his ability, finding a woman to masquerade as the princess would be of no great difficulty.
“I’ve already saved your life.” Dr. Mu said.
I formally went through the motions: “Thank you for saving my life; I will certainly honor my promise.”
I pretended that I was feeling unwell throughout the journey. In this way I stayed in my room every day. The only person able to see me was Dr. Mu.
Under his tutelage, I learned how to act as a princess.
Thankfully, the princess never had much of a public presence. Luo Lan’s father died suddenly when she was seven, and her mother passed due to illness just after Luo Lan came of age. Her uncle the emperor never paid her any attention, and so she lived her life quietly. The public’s impression of her was near nonexistent.
Because of the princess’ immature resistance to her marriage, the emperor, fearing she would continue to make a fuss, didn’t allow any of her personal maids aboard the ship. All those escorting her were strangers who held no attachments to her.
Dr. Mu said, “You’ll be safe as long as you don’t cross any lines. If anyone grows suspicious that you are different from who you once were, you can use the excuse that you’ve undergone a huge upheaval, and naturally changed as person. In this way you can continue to maintain the ruse.”
I dutifully learned from Dr. Mu for one more month before he decided I’d finally become fitting of a princess. Once his instruction stopped, my leisure time dramatically increased.
I figured that I should use my time to ponder how to best meet the uncertain future. However, with my memories a blank slate, I could think of nothing.
On the hologram of information about Odin before me, I’d absentmindedly drawn countless question marks.
Every person draws upon their memories and past experiences to face the future and its decisions, be it to pursue one’s happiness, avoid one’s woes, clutch onto one’s comforts, or to distance oneself from pain.
And then there was me, with no memories, with no attachments. I didn’t know what I liked, or even what I hated; I didn’t know who I loved, or who once loved me.
How does a person with no past navigate their future?
The sound of an alarm pierced through my chaotic thoughts. The captain announced: “We’ve encountered galactic pirates, prepare for battle! For all those not part of military personnel, please remain calm. Stay seated and buckle your safety belt; do not move around as you please.”
Pirates? Was this truly just an unprecedented surprise? I wondered as I buckled up my safety belt.
The ship continued to steadily fly without one bit of turbulence. It seemed it was just a minor skirmish.
After an hour, the door opened, and the supreme military general General Yue Se walked in. “Princess!”
I unbuckled and stood, politely greeting him: “General.”
General Yue Se solemnly said, “The pirates have already escaped, but Dr. Mu’s team was killed in action.”
“What about the others?”
“They’re all safe.”
General Yue Se bowed and left.
I silently stood there.
Dr. Mu had left with the true princess. He’d known that there were too many eyes watching, and so he’d picked the perfect time to escape. From now on, the galaxy would have one more pair of lovers, and I…
I am now Princess Luo Lan.
I looked out the window. In the vast expanse of space, millions of stars glittered in all their glory.
Which planet held my past? Which held my future? I had no way of knowing.
But one day, I hoped. One day, like Dr. Mu and the princess, I’d be able to find my way even in this endless galaxy of stars.
Tofu: Hey everyone. Here’s the first of the few chapters I have translated. I almost certainly won’t be able to finish translating this absolute monster of a novel (four volumes, 890k words), but I’m releasing what little I have in the hopes that more people will stumble across this wonderful story.
The prologue is the shortest chapter by far, but still opens with plenty of mystery. Next chapter drops the first-person narration for third person.