Transmissions from the Wayang Spaceship: A Light to Night Special

During the day, Ming Wong’s Wayang Spaceship is seemingly dormant, its own inactivity interrupted by the occasional stray radio transmission relayed from another dimension. Throughout its occupance at Empress Lawn, from 19 Jan10 Mar 2024, decode these transmissions and access the memories of the scholar-warrior, a time-travelling consciousness and custodian of the Wayang Spaceship.

Interpreted as aural compositions accessible through a playlist (via scanning a QR code) onsite, commune with this solitary figure at the artwork in the day, before Wayang Spaceship awakens with an operatic symphony of light, sound and image at dusk.

The respective texts written by Ng Yi-Sheng, nor and Diana Rahim, can be found below. They serve to complement your listening experience whilst viewing the Wayang Spaceship. Expand the respective tab(s) by clicking on the ‘+’ sign at the rightmost of the page, to read the full texts.

As part of the experience, aural compositions can only be accessed onsite:

19 Jan–10 Mar 2024
Empress Lawn (10 Empress Pl, in front of  Victoria Theatre/Concert Hall)
10am–midnight(19 Jan–8 Feb), 10am–10pm (9 Feb–10 Mar)

Sound designs by Wu Junhan, featuring voice narrations by Kamini Ramachandran and Amy J Cheng.

Bookmark the Wayang Spaceship on our website to view it in the map.

Wayang Superstar by nor

Wayang Superstar: Encounter with the Man-Tiger

by nor

 

Tiada ku sangka kau sungguh kejam
Kau rampas segalanya yang kau dendam
Namun takkan bahgia kehidupanmu
Bila bunyi bersatu
Kau milliku
– Pulangkan, 
Misha Omar

 

Act 1 Scene 1
26 October 1930. Singapore. Wilderness. Night time.

Man-Tiger
(whispers) Bila hari mau malam, harimau jadi.

Narrator
With the flow of history, one may easily argue that correlation does not equate to causation. But how else does one explain the curious extinction of the panthera tigris jackson in Singapore… if not for the meddling hands of the British colonialists? We all already know the story. Stamford Raffles and William Farquhar landed on Singapore’s shores on 28 January 1819. A month later, Singapura came to be Singapore, a trading post for the British East India Company. Southeast Asia is known to be a treacherous place, but there was one problem that the British did not know were coming their way. The island of Singapura, once covered with virgin jungles, was home to pigs and deers, the perfect hunting ground for tigers…

Concurrently, in the Nusantara and the Malay World, more often than not, the men practised the act of “merantau”, leaving one’s place of origin to make a livelihood in another. Along with their movement, sometimes they brought with them ilmu, or knowledge, that allowed them to survive wherever they go. The were tiger, more colloquially known as the Harimau Jadian, is a phenomenon that happens throughout continental and maritime asia. Within the Malay archipelago, the were-tiger is said to originate from Gunung Kerichi in Sumatra. The Javanese, believes that the ability to shapeshift is inherited knowledge, to be activated and embodied through fasting and feats of willpower. While many understand the were-tigers to be figures of protection, the misuse of this shapeshifting ability can also bring demise to their enemies. Some believe that when transformed, the were-tiger is unable to recognise the people it knows unless he is called by his name.

In Singapore, there have been reported sightings of were-tigers with green eyes along the coast of Pasir Panjang. Pasir Panjang, coincidentally, witnessed the last major battle between the Japanese and the British armed forces, which resulted in the fall of Singapore. Since Singapore’s independence, the coastal area of Pasir Panjang has also been extensively reclaimed as the Port of Singapore.

As the colonial project sank its claw into Singapore, gambier and pepper plantations required swaths of jungles to be cleared, exposing plantation workers to tiger attacks. It was estimated that tiger attacks took about 200 lives a year by the middle of the 19th century. In 1857, it was believed that more than 350 people lost their lives due to tiger attacks. The last wild tiger in Singapore was “killed” on 26 October 1930.

But I am here to tell you. That “tiger” was
not killed. I will now like to take you to
the night of 26 October 1930.

 

Act 1 Scene 2
26 October 1930. Singapore. Wilderness. Night time.

Narrator
Night time is no time for any person to be in a jungle. Still, a thickset man sprints through the otherwise impenetrable wilderness of southern Singapore. Occasionally, glints of the gibbous moon turn his sawo matang skin a calming blue. The state of his being, however, is far from that. His gasps for air, though filled with amok, is in perfect harmony with the night orchestra of crickets, the metronomic calls of the nightjar and the frightening shrieks of the malayan colugo. Earlier in the day, this man was shot near north of the island. He is no ordinary man. He was no criminal either, at least not by the laws of mankind. However, a hunting party mistook him to be a wild beast, more specifically the tiger, the panthera tigris
jackson.

Each step he takes, searing pain shoots through his body. Just as fatigue sets in, the man-tiger collides into an obstacle. During his collision, the surface of the unidentified object ripples with the reflection of its surroundings.The impact sends him flying. His gunshot wound oozes once more. Before him, an unearthly sight awaits him. Unbeknownst to him, a vessel from the future has hidden itself in the heart of
the wilderness. The man-tiger’s crash into the vessel has activated its exterior, revealing its surface to be mirrors. They turn inwards to reveal a panggung of sorts. Smoke fills the atmosphere. A figure makes its way to the centre stage wanting to reveal itself to the were-tiger. This figure is bathed in a soft, otherworldly purple light. With the stricken were-tiger before them, the time traveller takes a breath and begins to sing, the words taking on a Javanese-tinged melody, drawing inspiration from the lands they visited right before landing into Singapore.

Scholar-warrior
(singing) Aku… Wayang Superstar

Narrator
The man-tiger, eyes now glowing emerald green, becomes entranced by the music of the
stranger.

Scholar-warrior
What is all that racket? You! What are you doing here? What’s your name?

Narrator
The man-tiger remains mum.

Scholar-warrior
Arrogance? I see you. I can match that too. After all, it is I! SCHOLAR-WARRIOR of the ages. The legend, the icon. Immortal in time memorial . For one night, and just one night!

Narrator
The man-tiger winces in pain.

Scholar-warrior
Dearest, why are you looking so petrified… ah… it must be my face. I apologise that my transformation is only half done. But you only have yourself to blame, isn’t it? Crashing into my hiding place one night too early before the performance day.

Narrator
The SCHOLAR-WARRIOR awaits response from the man-tiger. The man-tiger remains mum.

Scholar-warrior
You truly have no idea who I am, don’t you? Well then. My first audience member of 1930 Singapore. I’ve written this new monologue. Would you be my guest and let me know your thoughts?

 

Act 2 Scene 1
26 October 1930. Singapore. Wilderness. Night time.

Scholar-warrior
I am SCHOLAR-WARRIOR.
The stage is my home ground
and my melodies they flow like water.
From the future
I come to you.
My steel bird in the air burning through time
with solar power.
When it is time to land,
my bamboo stilts make root
Deep into the earth were it once came from

In your need, I’ll be at your beck and call
Over the ages, I’ve graced your stages
Across the waters, across shores
My feet is light and nimble
My armour twice my weight
Never tire!
Though I sense your fatigue
Don’t worry my dear,
I am here to make your worries disappear!

From dusk to daylight
Your applause fuels
This body
Feels like I can be anybody
You want me to be!

Narrator
The entire time the SCHOLAR-WARRIOR performed their new monologue, the man-tiger kept his gaze to the floor of the SCHOLAR-WARRIOR’s spaceship.

Scholar-warrior
Not your cup of tea, huh?

Narrator
A sharp pain shoots through the man-tiger. Unknown to him, he lets out a deep growl.

Scholar-warrior
Well, no need to snarl at me.

Narrator
This time, the man-tiger roars as he presses down to suppress a pain on his abdomen.

Scholar-warrior
Wait a minute. You’re wounded, no wonder.
Look at me.

Narrator
The man-tiger looks up to the SCHOLAR-WARRIOR.

Scholar-warrior
Those eyes. I’ve seen those eyes before. Come with me.

 

ACT 2 SCENE 2
Inside the wayang spaceship.

Narrator
The SCHOLAR-WARRIOR rushes into the backstage area of the wayang spaceship, supporting the man-tiger on their side.

Many years ago, the SCHOLAR-WARRIOR sat in front of a mirror. After hours of sitting
around and gazing into their own reflection,
they discovered that…sometimes the mirror can offer an antidote when you least expect
it. This time, the SCHOLAR-WARRIOR wants to see if the mirror is able to do the same for
the injured man-tiger.

Scholar-warrior
What if I told you? The remedy for your pain
lies within yourself. Still your breath. Look
in the mirror. No, really look. Why are you
so afraid of your own reflection? You early
humans devote yourselves too much to fear.

Narrator
Taking the cue from the SCHOLAR-WARRIOR, the man-tiger gazes into his own reflection. The SCHOLAR-WARRIOR gently applies a coat of orange face paint to the man-tiger’s face.

Scholar-warrior
Night and day merely exist as one
But you separate them into light and dark
Good and evil
Man and woman
Man or animal
Then later you separated science from faith
Technology from nature
For better or for worse
Our ancestors cursed us
The day they left their caves, no longer
wanting
to hide from the very beasts that might tear
them to shreds
Craving for water, they saw their reflections
for the first time
Seeking perfection, in their very image
In time, only seeking what is familiar
Leading to millenia of bloodshed
Becoming the very beasts they once hid from
But you. You and I. Our nature isn’t of the
divide.
Look in the mirror.
Don’t you know who you are?
For me, the mirror is a portal of
possibilities.
When you know who you are,
You can be whoever the world needs you to be.

Narrator
In the mirror, the man-tiger begins to see his own face transform as fur populates his skin. As his eyes glow green, his human features begin to shift. As his gunshot wound throbs, his teeth grow sharp and pointed. The SCHOLAR-WARRIOR can almost taste the wilderness in the air. Tears well up in the eyes of the man-tiger. His pain is no longer. The SCHOLAR-WARRIOR smiles.

Scholar-warrior and Narrator
Remember. Remember.

Man-tiger
(slowed and with reverberation, chanting)

Kini kala dan waktu silam
kan kedua duanya turut hadir di masa hadapan
Terlepas, semua masa kan turut terkandung
pada yang lalu
Jika semua waktu sentiasa hadir dan abadi
Waktu takkan bisa ditebus

Scholar-warrior
Time makes us all prisoners

Narrator
Forever transitioning from our own past into the unknown future.

Man-tiger
Sentiasa merantau dari masa lalu ke masa
hadapan yang tidak akan dikenali.

Scholar-warrior
You need to leave now. The future needs you.

Narrator
You need to live now. The future needs you.

Natural Possessions by Diana Rahim

Natural Possessions

by Diana Rahim

 

I stretch and meditate, grounding myself by placing my bare feet on the wayang spaceship, our beloved stage. Sometimes I bring my bare palms to the floor, my knees on the ground, and close my eyes, feeling myself melding with the energy of the structure. The stage that has been built and rebuilt over our countless journeys is a being in itself. Soaked with the trembling of our movements, the repeated tenors and vibratos of our voice, the applause of audiences, the energy of unseen phantoms. Maybe you feel it too, standing here, encircled in its fractal light, the wood mildly groaning under each step.   

Something indescribable happens to me each time I prepare to take the stage. With each step that takes me closer to my performance, I can feel the world of the dead inch closer, anxious to welcome me in its temporary embrace. When I finally set foot on stage and turn my eyes towards the audience, towards you, I no longer know if I am dead or alive.   

The dead pulse through me, and I pulse through time. But it is never humans that yearn to fill my body, but other beings. The wood of the stage has spoken through me many times, pulling my soul through the wormhole of time to view its home in Sumatra from which it came from. In those moments, I can feel the blood in my legs thickening to a stop and my toes dissolving and fraying as it threads itself through the soft, fecund soil, inching deeper to drink deep from the teat of mother earth. I can feel myself stretch, my muscles hardening and building, my skin cracking into bark, and my hair lifting itself to a copious, dancing mass of green where birds make their home, raise their young, and eat their meals. I feel the mycelium as it lives, dies, and revives amongst the roots; I feel the health of the forest and the trees in need of nutrients; I feel time pass through the thick humid forest air and the song of birdcall. This was the life I was uprooted from, the one I had before I gave my life for the wayang spaceship, the wood tells me. I experienced the felling, the clearing of the body as the pure centre of dense wood was caressed by a trained hand that understood both the strength and pliability that it provided.   

Death is a portal to another kind of life. The tree dies to become wood to become the body of the stage. My ego dies in order to enter the sacred pulse of the universe and experience the life and language of the land, its creatures, its jinns.

The wayang spaceship troupe has been to this island 3 times, and each time, the land’s very soul courses through me, insisting on being heard. It receives the plunge of our stage’s foundations, carries its weight, and requests our attention in exchange. The first time we came, war was fresh and the land was soaked with the blood of the innocent and the damned, though the former took the heavier toll. The moment I moved onto the stage I felt my body vanish as I experienced the body of the land, spread out and omniscient. Just like many of our performances when the spaceship takes us to that period of time, the experience was punishing. The land forces my mind’s eye to the experience of detonation after detonation, the digging of trenches, the violent uprooting and destruction of her floral and faunal children, and the unnatural burials of her human children. Each violence was experienced by her body as a severe betrayal, and I feel the gargantuan struggle she makes to ensure the survival of other creatures within her body, every worm and each blade of grass. Every cry of a parent for their child and every cry of a child for their parent, has been stored by the land within the memory of her own body. On the day she finally dies, when not a single creature is left to drink from her body, she will release the cries into the ether of the universe. Where will they go? I ask. To the ones who are to come, she replies. 

Once the experience is complete, once I feel that my body has returned to my own ownership and no other beings’, I begin my performance proper. I am weighted with the responsibility as a scholar-warrior to ensure that this gift of radical witnessing would be honoured through the movements of my own body. For the performance, my job is to evoke to the audience the sensations I had been privy to. It is perhaps the delusion of empathy, the desperate appeal to humanity, that if you feel what I feel, you would save me. But the grief of the land and her beings is an inscrutable, awe-inducing monument. For a human, who only has one heart, sometimes too much emotion at once is a bullet to their empathy, a moment that kills their faith in their species instead of invoking the will to love and action that is asked of them. And at a time of war? Who was I, a person flung through time, to claw emotion out of them? But shifting my feet on the stage, I feel the land course through me again, insisting upon itself. Can one heart take so much? Yes, yes it must.  

When we returned to this island a second time, we found the stage had settled itself where once there was the sea. When I wailed in my performance, a southern island wept through me with ferocity, yearning for its inhabitants. It was deathly lonely to be deserted after centuries of human care and habitation and it felt distorted and deranged. The soul of the island, its semangat, that once pulsed strong and constant had waned. It felt suffocated by our waste, that had been stuffed into its soft body with deliberate and terrifying routine. It was facing death, and was only kept alive through the memory of a few. The island felt dysmorphic about its changed, enlarged body and even its sand wept through me, yearning for the homeland it had been dug and displaced from. The island was desperate for me to understand, and soon I found the spirit of a fish thread its way into my consciousness: The selar, ever present in Nusantaran waters. I found myself in the warm salty tropical water, dreamy and directionless in my swimming. But the experience was unsettling, for even as a short-lived fish, something of an ancient memory made me understand that the terrain was different—depopulated, and dangerous. There was land where once there was open water, schools of fish of other species were no longer present, and even the humans would stop their boats at certain boundaries, never crossing them. Though for a fish to meet a human often means meeting death, the widening distance between the two species was a greater source of distress and alarm. What alien world had I found myself in? Where was the beautiful, dense, aquatic world of my ancestors? Where were the humans and their kolek, racing between islands, their laughter generous enough to soak the sea? Where were the sudden entrancing pulls to the human’s net by the seductive call of a mantra. 

The performance after that journey into the spirit of the island was an onerous one. At the end of the show, the audience were enthralled and terrified at the sight of me drenched and doubled over, heaving and heaving as thick, black mucous of crude oil dribbled out of my mouth. The pain as it oozed out of me was excruciating, and I could feel my stomach seizing with every demand of yet another round of its exorcism. When I laid down, spent, the oil dripping between the narrow slats of the stage’s floor, I turned to notice a single fish looking me directly in the eye. I had purged that too, unknowingly. I turned my body to the side, asked the wisdom of the stage, and it showed me the island’s fury as furnace after furnace was built upon her body. They know that elsewhere, the seas are drilled for the dead matter of the creatures that came before us. It was a desecration of the dead to continue the desecration of the living. 

Being here for the third time, the land struggles to speak through me. She is exhausted with the effort of ensuring that life continues. Her anger is peaking, but her human children are distracted. She feels barren, with the trees that used to cover her having now been mostly cleared. Endless phallic structures of concrete now overlay her naked terrain, and snaking tunnels multiply within her body. She is exhausted at the effort of maintaining the balance. Maybe you feel it too. The increasing ferocity of typhoons. The fruits that are not as sweet. The rain that falls harder and longer. The sun’s heat bearing down with increasing power. The deserts expanding.  

Everything that lives will die, and all that have died are alive amongst the living. The further through time my wayang troupe travels, the more the land is bereft of its trees and animals. The waters warm, animals become extinct, the sky weeps acid. 

This time, the land has refused to seek me, so it is I who must seek her spirit. The ghosts and spirits refuse translation, perhaps because of our failure to listen, or maybe they are congregating elsewhere, building their power where we cannot see. So when I had put my ear to the floor of this spaceship and felt it request the presence of an audience, I see it as another boundary that needed to dissolve, not just between life and death, human and land, but also between audience and performer, stage and seating, performance and mundane reality. Either way, I abandon this stage momentarily and ask that you bear witness instead, that you try to listen to the pulse of this seed of time you’re burgeoning within, this slice of the land’s living memory.  

Many times I have stood here, I have felt sorrow upon sorrow. Can you feel it, standing here, as you take it all in? This subversion is especially difficult for me. Watching you move around this stage, I do not know when the performance began, who the artist is, or who amongst us is the dead and the living.  

The wayang spaceship trembles beneath you, and below it, trembles the land. Something has already begun to call us from the future.

The Fragrant Sky by Ng Yi-Sheng

The Fragrant Sky

by Ng Yi-Sheng

 

This aural composition contains some mature content. Listener’s discretion is advised.

 

It was here, my child. It was here, on the grounds of Moonbright Palace. This is where the Princess Cheungping and her Bridegroom held their wedding rites, joined by a crimson nanosilk sash. It was here that they bowed, first to the Celestial Vastness, then to the Holy Rock of the Planet Dai-Ming. And it was here, by the Phoenix Terrace, that they knelt one last time before the plasma of their nuptial candles.   

The palace is rubble now. Only this canvas-clad steel pavilion, ragged and rusty, stands as monument to that night. But I remember. My eyes may be blind, and my neural implants clogged with grit, but I remember.  

Sit with me, child, here on the iron steps. Take shelter where snipers cannot see us. I will tell you the tale of our people’s glory. I will tell you the legend of the Fragrant Sky. 

 

*** 

His name was General Abahai Elliot. For countless orbits, he had waged war on Dai Ming under the fearsome banner of the Interstellar Colonisation Corps. Wall by wall, he had broken through our defences, until nothing remained but the capital city of Bakging.  

As the shields on the Moonbright Palace warped and trembled, as the boots of the shock troops thundered through the crystal gardens, the Emperor lost all hope. Summoning his wives and his husbands, gathering his daughters and his sons, he bestowed on them each a three-foot length of nanosilk. As per the ritual, each fastened the fabric about their frog-buttoned collars; each blinked away tears as it crushed the life from their brittle throats. And as they fell, blood spilling into the woven circuitry, an electromagnetic surge coursed through their meridians, erasing all memory, rendering their data irretrievable to marauders and thieves. 

In a heartbeat, General Abahai stormed into the Dragon Mansion. Still armoured in his blood-rinsed exosuit, he planted himself on the throne and surveyed the bodies before him, both the lifeless stiffs of the royal family and the cowering mounds of the surviving eunuchs. 

“We have come not to slaughter, but to civilise,” he said. “Together, we shall build marvels. Now, tell me. Who here can engineer a spacecraft to reach the Fragrant Sky?” 

The eunuchs blinked at each other, puzzled.  

“You speak of a myth,” said one. “Had we such a machine, would we now be humbled, prostrate, at the mercy of distant stars? Surely we would have conquered galaxies and crushed rogue planets, in the fashion of your imperium. Rule over our rice fields, plunder our palaces and porcelain factories. But do not bid us to build a folly like this.” 

The General narrowed his eyes. “Search him,” he commanded. And a surgeon stepped forth with his cortical probe and bonesaw to unlock the truth from the eunuch’s skull. 

Thus went the months of Abahai’s rule. The people of Dai-Ming suffered punitive taxes and unrelenting drone surveillance. Gun turrets were mounted on pagodas, monasteries and teahouses were transformed into detention camps. And in the depths of the Moonbright Palace, surgeons laboured over the royal cadavers, hunting for rumours of the mysterious machine within the codes of their rotting flesh. 

Then came a day when a beggar woman arrived the throne room, bound in the titanium shackles of the military police. 

“My Emperor,” she told Abahai, for an emperor he had become. “You seek royal secrets, but have no royals to reveal them. I, however, can help you, for I know what no other soul knows. The Princess Cheungping is still alive.” 

“How?” asked Abahai. 

“She fled at the dynasty’s fall. Now she dwells in a snowcapped convent, sealed in a pearl of jade, eyes clasped in prayer, nanosilk laced about her throat. Disturb her slumber, the abbess says, and she will flee once more into death.” 

“Then that is useless!” Abahai snarled. “She is a slab of mere meat if I cannot master the mysteries of her mind.” 

“She will wake at my bidding,” said the beggar woman, “for I am her betrothed, the Bridegroom Saihin. Wed us according to rites of Dai-Ming, and we shall grant every desire of your hungry heart.” 

Thus, a deal was struck. From the convent, a palanquin bore the great pearl wherein the Princess Cheungping lay suspended in meditation. In the capital, Saihin directed the wedding preparations, commanding a banquet of a thousand tables, a retinue of officials and ladies-in-waiting, a dowry of holographic jewellery and preserved pork legs, a nuptial bed embroidered with threads of meteorite iron, a parade of golden parasols. Red paper packets were stuffed, urns of liquor and longan tea were brewed, a sleek white hovercar was adorned with pink rosettes. And at Saihin’s insistence, the royal family’s mouldering corpses were surrendered, ceremonially carbonized into ink-black altar stones, and installed in a steel pavilion, where incense burned from dusk to daybreak. 

At long last, the auspicious date arrived. In the palace grounds, Abahai presided over the wedding guests, who comprised all Dai-Ming’s aristocracy, as well as the top brass of the Interplanetary Colonisation Corps. Amidst a clash of cymbals and a dance of cybernetically enhanced lions, the great pearl was unveiled. And as the gathered dignitaries watched, Saihin laid a hand on the flawless surface, which instantly splintered into a fine iridescent dust.  

The Princess Cheungping rose from the cloud. Already, she was costumed in the scarlet robes of a bride. Already, her face was painted ghost white, her cheeks and lips stained mulberry, her hair a-glitter with a thousand gold pinpricks. Saihin bowed before her, whispering words in her ear, and the guests held their breath as a single tear coursed down her royal cheek. 

Then, she began to sing. 

At first, Abahai allowed himself a smile. He was not immune to the charms of Dai-Ming’s music. If the bride wished to whistle an aria or two, that was her prerogative, as long as she spilled her secrets. 

Then both sang: Cheungping and Saihin, Princess and Bridegroom, as they unfastened the nanosilk collar and stretched the fabric between them, twisting a cinnabar knot to bind their hands. Both sang as they kowtowed to the Celestial Vastness, to the Holy Rock of the Planet Dai-Ming. Both sang as they honoured the dead Emperor’s altar at the heart of the Phoenix Terrace. 

What did they sing? No-one knows. But it is said that Abahai found himself disturbed by the melody, by the concord and discord of two alien voices, looming above him on a proscenium stage of steel and candlewax. “Stop,” he said, or he would have liked to say, for he found himself mute and paralysed, teacup falling from his fingers, terrified eyes following the motions of the couple’s vermilion sleeves as their voices rang with love, with despair, with eternal promise. 

Finally, the song ended. And as the spell broke, Abahai leapt to his feet, as did the elites of the Colonisation Corps, guns to the ready, though the Dai-Ming nobles kept serenely to their seats. 

But it was too late. For Cheungping and Saihin had paused only to raise their goblets to a toast, then to toss the wine down their throats. Still joined by the nanosilk, they opened their lips once again to breathe— 

And then all was starfire, and all was blood. 

 

*** 

You know the rest, my child, from your history lessons. The occupation did not end. The Interstellar Colonisation Corps despatched a new governor, crueller than Abahai, backed by droids that shot on sight. A planetwide revolt ensued, and in the wars since then, our temples and teahouses have been crushed into dirt and cinders. 

But here is what you have not been told. It was not our oppressors who reduced the Moonbright Palace to ruin. It was the Princess. It was her decision to sacrifice her court, her Bridegroom, her own data and flesh, so that not an atom would remain to betray our people’s secrets. True, she could have ruled as a figurehead. But that was not her choice. Better to perish than to be a puppet of distant stars. Better to lose everything than to lose yourself. 

But there are some who say this is only half the truth. That what happened the night of the wedding was no simple act of self-annihilation. That it was in fact the activation of a great machine. 

The Fragrant Sky, they say, is not a dimension in space, but in time. Cheungping and Saihin’s desperate act was a performance of occult technology, meant to transport us there, to a moment when Dai-Ming is safe, is sound, is free.  

And maybe it worked. Some say they are voyaging there still, and their faces and voices haunt this pavilion. Not spirits of the past, but pilgrims towards a future, both unimagined and unimaginable, both impossible and imperative, inescapable, destined.  

Sit on the steps with me, child, and watch. Listen.  

Do you see? Do you hear? Do you believe? 

Close your mind to the rumble of gunfire, to the cries of your brethren trapped in the present. Cling to the pillars of this pavilion, bathe in the lights of the canvas. Witness the miracle for which emperors and generals have given their lives— 

It is here, little one.  

The Fragrant Sky. 

It is waiting for you.

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