Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 24: Under the Mask
Ding Zepeng opened his eyes and looked at the ceiling in front of him.
This wasn’t the medical ward. Mechanical parts were piled almost up to the ceiling, poured into his vision. The room was filled with the low sound of music. The rhythm was soothing and relaxing. Guan Haiming was sitting on the edge of the bed reading a book. His slightly longer hair was simply pinned up by a hairpin. His long eyelashes left a little shadow, adding to the bags under his eyes due to lack of sleep.
“You’re awake.” Perhaps he noticed that he was being looked at. Guan Haiming raised his eyes, and his voice was calm.
“……” The cold memories gradually overwhelmed his thinking. Ding Zepeng opened his mouth, but nothing came out. Holding back the sourness in his eyes and trying to suppress the pain, he only squeezed out a question. “Suitcase…?”
“Qiu Yue took it away. The internal organs inside are well preserved. Don’t worry.” Guan Haiming put the electronic paper in his hand aside and stared at the tip of his shoe. “I talked to Tian He, and he’s willing to undergo surgery—Tian He is stubborn, but now that things have happened, he won’t let your sacrifice be in vain.”
He was silent for a while, and his voice became a bit darker. “What’s more, Qiu Yue has been with him every day recently. Even if you know that it’s a clone, it’s not so easy to think clearly about it.”
Ding Zepeng’s eyes instantly flushed. Tears slid down uncontrollably from the corners of his eyes. “Haiming, you always knew.”
“Someone has to stay awake at all times to control the situation. Ruan Lijie sent you directly to me. I heard about what happened.”
Ding Zepeng instantly tightened his body. “What did he say?”
“Zhang Yazhe instructed you to go to the city to copy the internal organs and accidentally found the stored duplicates. You were then chased by the Mainbrain’s army. Zhang Yazhe explained the truth to you, and he will likely sacrifice himself to protect you and Chi Lei. You two were lucky enough to escape back to the refuge in time—and you were so emotionally volatile that he knocked you out.”
“Is that what he said?” Ding Zepeng sighed slowly.
“Nn. His condition doesn’t look very good either, so I didn’t ask much.” Guan Haiming picked up a syringe and took out a handkerchief. “Okay, stretch out your arm and I will inject you with a preparation potion.”
“What preparation potion?” Ding Zepeng didn’t move.
“It’ll relax your brain and clear your memory for the past 12 hours. Don’t be too surprised. This isn’t the first time. Hesitation will only make you suffer for a few more days.” Guan Haiming smiled bitterly. “If you have special information you want to add, you’d better speak now.”
“…You can’t view the memory content recorded by the black box?”
“I would need to have a huge analysis processor, at least the size of a building, and this is just a small refuge. Unfortunately, I can only erase it stupidly like this, or fill back in the entire backup.” Guan Haiming patted Ding Zepeng’s face lightly. “Why do you ask this every time?”
The white coat wrapped around the slim body, and artificial sunlight cast a deep shadow on Guan Haiming’s clavicle.
“Your next question will be ‘Am I your only friend?’—I can answer you in advance. Yes. So I hope you can live easily. You’re not suitable for this reality, Zepeng.”
“Then you will cry badly. Yes, just like this.” Guan Haiming wiped the tears from the young man’s face with his handkerchief.
“Stop crying. When you wake up again, Chi Lei and Zhang Yazhe will be there. You just accidentally hit your head. Everything will return to normal, and I’ll still be your bad-tempered, ill-advised, unlucky friend.”
‘Yes. They would still be friends,’ Ding Zepeng thought. His secret would be buried deep in the black box. He could still happily rush into Guan Haiming’s office and drag the other party out for a change of scenery. He had stuffed a few fruits found in the forest, knowing Guan Haiming had forgotten to take a break and would eat while working again.
He could still see the other party showing an unsuspecting relaxed smile. But…
“Haiming, I do have information to add. You—You come closer.” Ding Zepeng grabbed the hand holding the handkerchief and spoke through choking sobs.
Guan Haiming sighed and leaned down slightly. Then he was embraced by the young man lying on the bed.
“I don’t want to erase my memory.”
“You have hesitated before, but the final result is always the same.”
“I can guess what I was thinking before, but this time it’s different. I think people sometimes have to be… a little cruel.”
Ding Zepeng stopped crying. He still hugged Guan Haiming tightly. “I remember I told you that, except for a better physique, I haven’t done anything well since I was a child. I don’t like studying because I know I can’t study well and I can’t learn those things.”
“Yes, you said that.”
“But now, it seems none of those memories are true.” Ding Zepeng’s body trembled a little. “Haiming, I know who the Order Supervisor stationed in the city is.”
“Impossible. He never lets anyone stay alive. No, no, don’t you…”
“Maybe he thought this would be ‘more fun’.” Ding Zepeng finally let go of his arms that were hugging Guan Haiming. “I hope you know that there is one thing you’re wrong about. No one fits into this reality, including you, Haiming. No matter what you want to do to me in the future, I won’t have any complaints—I won’t run away anymore.”
“I’ll tell you his name now.”
At the same time, Ruan Xian tightened his luggage behind him and looked up at the towering dead wall in front of him—the artificial boundary of this forest.
He didn’t have much luggage; only a few changes of clothes, some daily necessities, and the smiley face food cannister without a label. He exchanged all the newly acquired contribution points for salt bean cakes and sweet potatoes and wrapped them in a small package.
“It’s more chaotic outside. We have to wait until the evening before crossing over.” Tang Yibu sat down in the shade of a tree and peeled a sweet potato intently as he spoke solemnly. “You should take a break.”
“Nn.” Ruan Xian didn’t say much.
“I thought you would want to say goodbye to the people in the refuge.” Seeing Ruan Xian sitting down not far away, Tang Yibu stuffed the sweet potato into his mouth.
“I thought your purpose was to get me to leave with you voluntarily, not be reluctant to,” Ruan Xian said indifferently, unscrewing the lid of the water bottle and pouring himself a glass of water.
“Now I don’t understand what Ruan Xian wants to do.” Tang Yibu’s voice sounded a bit vague, and Ruan Xian stopped pouring water.
“Using an old-fashion android to destroy the S-Type Prototype, up to this point, I can still understand. There should be three possibilities on the next logical step—one, have prearranged people completely destroy you. Two, infuse you with a personality included for self-preservation and hide among the survivors to be used by the humans if necessary. Three, arrange for you to actively help humans.”
“So you took me back to the shelter.”
“Yes, I needed to determine your personality tendencies and formulate a cooperation plan, but my judgement was wrong.”
“I thought it was situation three. Before, you meet all the characteristics—approaching humans with gestures, making plans from the perspective of altruism rather than self-interest, and your mild personality fits best for human acceptance.” Tang Yibu finished eating his sweet potato and licked his fingertips.
Ruan Xian held his breath.
“But if it’s situation three, you would have strong negative emotions about killing humans. However, after killing Major Ding, your reaction was too flat. With the case of MUL-01 looming, it’s impossible for Ruan Xian to make such a low-level mistake.”
After a pause for a few seconds, Tang Yibu turned his head blankly. Ruan Xian didn’t speak. He just slowly raised his hand and touched the fatal earring on his ear.
“If you ask me, you don’t quite look like Ruan Xian’s work.” Tang Yibu leaned closer; his eyes remained unblinking. “Chi Lei’s intuition may be correct. He knows human habits and emotional tendencies well and possesses an extremely high degree of intelligence, which allows him to hide his dark side well. For humans, you turn out to be the most dangerous opponent.”
An awfully familiar statement.
Ruan Xian’s nails dug into his palms and shrank cautiously, like a hedgehog trying to erect its thorns. The vulture that’s condensed by pain swooped again as the memories of many years ago suddenly flooded him.
[I’m very sorry, Ms. Ruan. This genetic disease is rare and cannot be cured with the current technology. However, with appropriate drug treatment, we can slow down the rate of deterioration. Along with the intelligence testing, we also came to the result… The patient has no intellectual defects. On the contrary, the disease has affected his brain structure so that he has an intelligence far beyond that of an average person.]
[But there is one problem we must inform you of—due to brain lesions, he has an extremely poor ability to deal with emotions, and the possibility of becoming a vicious criminal in the future is more than 99%. Extraordinary intelligence will only make him more dangerous. We have reported this situation to the Prevention Agency. Please understand.]
[No, you have no right…]
[You did not conduct a comprehensive birth inspection at the beginning. This situation could have been completely avoided. Patients have already placed an additional burden on society, and the potential danger is extremely high. We must report truthfully and withdraw all medical subsidies.]
[Doctor, Ruan hasn’t spoken at this age and is slow to respond. How can he be smart? Is there something wrong with the inspection result? My ex-husband and I are both ordinary people, and I have seen children who are smart and intelligent. Ruan Xian is…]
[Miss Ruan, you may have misunderstood what we said. To be frank, I suggest you don’t look at him by the standards of human beings. His intelligence is closer to another creature than us. We have a similar record. He’s too young and his lack of desire to communicate may be due to his inability to understand…]
[You just said he’s intelligent!]
[He can’t understand why the world is so “slow”, just like we can’t understand why children get problems like 1 and 2 wrong.]
[I don’t think you have the ability to pay the full medical expenses. Taking into account your situation, you can apply for social assistance, and we can take a more humane approach. Of course, we understand your feelings and suggest that you separate from the patient for a while…]
[He’s my son!]
[The intensive care unit is closed. If you insist on bringing him back, we will not stop you, but please understand that he’s likely to not have normal emotional function and will not be able to understand your “love”. Maybe living with him for a while will change your mind. In short, before this child turns five years old, you still have the chance to go back, and we’ll choose the least painful—]
‘But in the end, she regretted it,’ Ruan Xian thought.
What would Tang Yibu do? The android was cautious and calm, and there was no emotion between them. Would Tang Yibu leave? Or simply destroy his brain and turn him into the literal sense of a blood bag? In front of the opponent’s agile skills, he had no chance of winning.
Ruan Xian stared at those golden eyes that were motionless like stones, quietly waiting for the other party’s conclusion.
Tang Yibu slowly stretched out a hand…
And then he poked Ruan Xian’s cheek.
“…That means you’re more human than I thought,” the android announced, showing a smile. “Very interesting.”