Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 141: Defects
He couldn’t continue anymore.
The other party seemed to see that he was emotionally unstable and compelled one set after another. Tang Yibu skillfully used the countermeasures he had thought of before and decisively pushed the temptation back, but his Mr. Ruan didn’t have much intention of buying it.
Tang Yibu took a sip of the soup. The strong taste of the pepper broth swirled on the tip of his tongue. Before drinking this soup, he must calculate a comprehensive countermeasure.
The identity of NUL-00 must not be exposed now.
“As the main person in charge of NUL-00, I should be able to provide you with some useful information.” Mr. Ruan didn’t stop the terrible bewitching, apparently not accepting his previous explanation as it was.
His heart and mouth seemed to be pierced, and a peculiar pain spread slowly.
‘I want to know,’ Tang Yibu thought. He wanted to know very much at this moment. In the five years when he first saw the world for the first time, it was almost like a snap of a finger. How did that person see him?
It was a great opportunity to inquire. As Mr. Ruan said, it was difficult to completely falsify such memories. He could definitely find some gold from the sand and find the thread that was difficult to solve.
However, this subconscious thought made Tang Yibu choke even more severely.
Why did he care so much about the views of “Ruan Xian”? No matter what that person once thought, it was true that he had abandoned him.
Even if a miracle of all miracles happened, the Professor Ruan they were about to meet wasn’t the real thing, and there was a high probability that his Mr. Ruan wasn’t either—in theory, the S-type Prototype could repair abnormal lesions, but it was produced after he was abandoned. Mr. Ruan fused with it long ago, so what about the time before this?
And thus lay the problem—Leaving aside other contradictions, if he assumed that his Mr. Ruan was Ruan Xian himself, then the basic prerequisite would be that Mr. Ruan’s body was preserved.
If this was part of a formal treatment plan, out of all the information he had rummaged through, he found no such clue. Besides this, Mr. Ruan wouldn’t be so confused that he couldn’t figure out Tang Yibu’s own identity.
…Unless he had “disappeared” in an informal way.
If that was the case that it needed to be buried in the dark, it didn’t make sense to preserve Ruan Xian’s body.
First of all, the access of materials to and from the institute was strictly controlled, and it was impossible to take Ruan Xian’s body away. Secondly, even if Ruan Xian’s body was properly preserved, such technology absolutely needed to be hosted online by a system. Under the indiscriminate scanning at the time, Tang Yibu didn’t find a similar device.
However, this wasn’t the first time his Mr. Ruan had puzzled him.
A product and emotions that shouldn’t exist outside of logic. Most likely, Mr. Ruan was a fake, and he also hoped that Mr. Ruan was a fake.
“For the NUL-00 you made, you—” Tang Yibu still spoke strangely.
“There is a problem.” Yu Le suddenly raised his voice.
Ji Xiaoman, who was repairing the iron bead, stopped. Tang Yibu swallowed the rest of the words he hadn’t asked, causing Ruan Xian to frown.
“I cooked this soup using a special method,” Yu Le said as he sprinkled salt into the soup again. He smacked his mouth, and his expression suddenly turned a little ugly. “The taste doesn’t seem right.”
After that, Yu Le rushed back into the car. “Be careful, something is wrong! In order to prevent that kid, Tang Yibu, from stealing food, I hid the meat in the front row… It disappeared for four or five days!”
No one knew where Yu Le hid the meat, and they only left The Glass Conservatory for a day.
Ruan Xian subconsciously pulled Tang Yibu to his side and looked around vigilantly. The iron bead, which was turned over and being petted by Ji Xiaoman, also woke up. It stirred its little legs with great effort, bounced to Ruan Xian’s feet, and barked inexplicably.
“Go back to the car first. Now all back to the car.” Yu Le tightened his muscles. “Never mind the pot of soup alone. You two hurry over—”
Before he finished speaking, the rest of the words were all blocked in his throat. He felt his throat closing up.
Tang Yibu and Ruan Lijie disappeared.
The two young people who were still standing there completely disappeared within the next second. The bowl and spoon in Tang Yibu’s hand were placed upright in the open space, looking particularly creepy.
“Hold on to me, little profiteer.” Yu Le jumped back into the car, clutching Ji Xiaoman’s metal prosthesis tightly in one hand. “It’s so fucking heinous—”
“My right arm has been reduced by 80 grams.” Ji Xiaoman’s voice was also full of vigilance. “Although it looks intact…”
“We obviously haven’t arrived at The Android Show yet.” Yu Le directly abandoned the pots and pans and food outside the car, activated all the defenses of the vehicle, and started the car. “What the hell is going on?”
This was also spoken by Ruan Xian.
He wasn’t sure if Tang Yibu’s warning of “don’t get too close to humans” had turned into a curse, as Ji Xiaoman and Yu Le, as well as the car, had completely disappeared. The bonfire and the bubbling soup were still in place, exuding an uncomfortable sense of dissonance.
“We are already on the island, Mr. Ruan.” Tang Yibu suddenly opened his mouth.
“But the Struggler II show is about a five-day drive from The Glass Conservatory, and I don’t feel anyone else around.”
Otherwise, he wouldn’t talk about NUL-00.
“Temporarily suppressing memory and blurring the senses. One can’t feel how much time has passed if there’s not enough familiar reference.”
Tang Yibu lowered his voice.
“But according to my experience, they won’t rush to approach raw faces. It’s normal for you not to perceive it. Words with personal characteristics and things that cannot be observed can be fooled by them, but it’s easy to find something wrong, so…”
“So, so far, there’s no issues with our conversations, and the equipment and supplies have not been detected by the other side, so it can’t be faked.” Ruan Xian reacted quickly.
The environment near the island was much the same. They were in a dark and quiet place. The attacker should have spent time in a similar environment, so it wasn’t difficult to disguise it. Yu Le hid the meat in the car, and the attacker couldn’t figure out the structure of the car from a long distance, which meant the environment in the car was absolutely real.
As for the outside of the car…
Smell, taste, vision, and the most basic hearing; these perceptions that contain a small amount of information weren’t necessarily true. It could have been collected at random. Conversations were difficult to fake naturally and couldn’t be easily fooled.
In other words, they most likely had a conversation in an extremely realistic “VR chat room” just now. Fiction and reality were mixed so well that he didn’t see any flaws.
Ruan Xian didn’t speak again.
He closed his eyes and pushed the perceptual ability of the S-type Prototype to its limit. Countless messages flocked into his brain—this time he smelled the sea, the wet sand, and the damp forest; and he heard the distant heartbeat, the friction of clothes and human skin, and a conversation in low voices.
“It’s almost time,” that distant voice said. “Huh, they… Two of them seem to have found out.”
Ruan Xian opened his eyes abruptly and knelt on one knee. The long-lost sense of overdraft crept up his spine. The iron bead leaned forward anxiously, tugging at him with its teeth, as if to urge him to stand up quickly.
Without corresponding perception and machinery, they could only passively accept the influence and couldn’t resist it. This was undoubtedly the worst situation; they obviously knew it in advance…
Wait, they knew in advance that this kind of thing would happen.
“Yibu, is there a way to break the visual perception misdirection?” Ruan Xian kept his eyes closed and began to rummage around his body.
“Create a way of observation that the attacker cannot infer.” The smile in Tang Yibu’s voice disappeared, and he was obviously on full alert. “Mr. Ruan, we shouldn’t have been on the island for long.”
Ruan Xian understood what he meant; they wouldn’t be stupid enough to stumble into the pit twice.
…Just as they wouldn’t set foot on this island unprepared.
Ruan Xian felt two cold machines the size of playing cards, about half a centimeter thick, in his waist bag. He smoothly handed one to Tang Yibu. “Take it.”
It wasn’t a delicate piece of work. It felt like an old-fashioned cellphone that had long been eliminated with the introduction of electronic wristbands that could project light screens. However, these two objects were the things he still had an impression of among all their supplies.
This should be their preparation in advance.
Changing the way of observation, it wasn’t convenient to use glass-type machinery that was easily attacked and not flexible enough. If there were people who were good at calculations on the opposite side, their observation angle would be easily exposed, but old-fashioned cellphones were different—slight differences in angles, distances, and parameter settings could make the range of the scene that it captured vary a lot.
Tang Yibu didn’t ask much. They always had a comfortable tacit understanding in this situation.
The android flipped open the cellphone-like machine and turned it on. He started to observe the surroundings through the camera on the screen. Ruan Xian didn’t explain much and did the same thing almost at the same time.
‘It feels really weird,’ Ruan Xian thought.
Inside and outside the screen, the world was torn into two versions.
What they saw were ruins and deserts. Their feet stepped on the dusty wastelands, and they smelled spoiled gasoline and dry dust, but in the instant shot of the camera, they saw sea water that was barely up to their calves. Their surroundings were only sea water and the forest of an island, engulfed by the darkness of night.
“Their technology has improved a lot.” Tang Yibu kicked the water.
“Let’s go ashore first,” Ruan Xian said.
The sensory invasion was more troublesome than he thought. Whether it was the sea water that wasn’t all that high or the water droplets that were kicked at his body by Tang Yibu, he couldn’t perceive it at all. The sense of existence of the solid wasteland under his feet was all he could feel.
However, as soon as they walked ashore for four or five minutes, everything around them suddenly returned to “normal”. The warm sea water rolled over their skin, bringing the unique fishy smell of the ocean, and the forest rustled not far away.
Did they find out they couldn’t deal with them, so they gave up?
“Pay attention to the screen. There may be other hidden traps.” Ruan Xian didn’t let go of his vigilance so easily. He looked at the cellphone in his hand. “You wrote a description on the back. The battery life of this thing is enough to last for a week. Just remember to take it out and charge it during the day.”
“Understood.” Tang Yibu didn’t stop shooting. “…There’s a vehicle on the beach over there, it’s Yu Le and Ji Xiaoman.”
Ruan Xian sighed. “Their situation?”
“They started to drive into the sea, but it turned around in time. It should be fine.”
“Well, I can also hear a little engine sound, so it should be them, but it’s already quite far away. It’s not appropriate to rush to them to try and catch up.” Ruan Xian dug out the sand in his ears.
Things were still a bit troublesome. Although Yu Le made the proper judgment, they were successfully separated. Yu Le and Ji Xiaoman were both people who had fought their way through hell. They wouldn’t be killed so simply. The situation on their side was more troublesome—they had sufficient combat power, but they had a serious lack of resources. They didn’t even have fresh water.
Although they brought some supplies with them, they could also get fresh water from things in the forest. Unfortunately, both of them were large energy consumers, and they didn’t have much free time to collect resources themselves.
“There are coconut trees over there.” As if he had discovered Ruan Xian’s thoughts, Tang Yibu turned his camera. “First replenish some calories before chasing. The soup just now was definitely sea water. My mouth is full of salty and bitter tastes. Ugh.”
Before Ruan Xian could answer, Tang Yibu returned to the shore first and climbed up and down the coconut trees a few times to get a few coconuts.
“There are fish and crabs by the sea. Before we go deeper, we have to at least have a full meal.” The android pressed the coconut open with his bare hands and handed it to Ruan Xian. “It’s almost dawn. Let’s go find them after sunrise. With a good grasp of this island, we can also know how to avoid surveillance.”
Ruan Xian took the coconut. The sweet coconut juice moistened his throat, and his dehydrated innards seemed to be slowly unfolding. Tang Yibu used a knife to dig out the coconut meat and used the knife as a fork as he ate it. His eyes were staring straight at the shadows of fish in the sea.
The sky at the end of the ocean had begun to show orange, and the dark island began to become clearer with the gradual rise of the sun.
“Alright, let’s talk about it at dawn.” After drinking the coconut juice, Ruan Xian felt better.
His answer was already close at hand.
After he found the answer, what would he do next? It was better to find himself a new task, such as how to swindle Tang Yibu to spill the beans, or simply solve all the mysteries surrounding that guy. Along the way, he watched as the android started to become more human—although his thoughts and most of his behavior were far from those of human beings, the android had developed a wonderful sense of maturity.
Ruan Xian thought the feeling felt familiar and he liked it very much.
He remembered the computer room buried deep in his memory and NUL-00 that accompanied him day and night for five years. Ruan Xian hadn’t had time to verify whether it possessed a certain degree of emotion and perception, nor had he had time to determine whether its subtle behaviors came from imitation of self-thinking. It was the work he had devoted the most effort to, but it ended in a semi-finished state.
Did it suffer the moment it was destroyed?
Now that he could distinguish grief from chaotic anger, this strange freshness made him unable to help but start thinking and pursuing questions that he had never thought about before. Ruan Xian touched the scar on his left wrist and lowered his gaze.
Maybe it was the conversation that mentioned NUL-00 that he couldn’t help but start thinking about it again.
“About the question you just mentioned.” Seeing Tang Yibu with a fish in one hand and another fish in his mouth, Ruan Xian took out a lighter and dug up a pit and filled it with dead branches mixed with fuel as he continued the topic. “Are you still interested in exchanging information? About NUL-00.”
The fish in Tang Yibu’s mouth plopped to the ground, now covered in sand.
There was a bit of suspiciousness in the calmness of the android. He started to prepare the fish with a wooden face, and his hands were covered in blood. He didn’t formally ask the question until he had finished preparing the fish and skewered them with sticks.
An unblemished, very professional question. Ruan Xian thought Tang Yibu would ask more emotional things, but the other party was much more cautious than he thought. It seemed that he really didn’t want to exchange too much information about himself.
“As the designer of NUL-00,” Tang Yibu wiped the fish blood from his hand with a handkerchief and looked directly into Ruan Xian’s eyes. “What do you think is its biggest flaw?”
“…Why do you want to ask this question?”
“It’s said that the same set of core designs were applied to the Mainbrain and NUL-00, which means they should have relatively consistent weaknesses… This should actually be classified as free shared intelligence.” Tang Yibu’s expression was serious.
From an angle that Ruan Xian couldn’t see, he secretly clenched his fists. Weaknesses were important, but any other information was equally important. This was the most appropriate question he could think of…
Am I not doing well enough? It was just that one time when he didn’t finish the subject.
Why do you have to deny me and destroy me?
…Why did you leave me?
“I can’t answer you. I’m sorry.” After thinking for a moment, Ruan Xian sighed. “It may be a bit arrogant to say that… I haven’t found any fatal shortcomings in it. If you insist on an answer, I would say it’s a bit capricious at best.”
“…But you postponed the launch of NUL-00.”
“In my impression, that’s not its problem, it’s ours.” Ruan Xian shook his head, his tone serious.
“It wasn’t ready yet. It was tantamount to giving a child the most advanced gun. He will easily hurt himself and bring danger to others. In the event of a problem, isn’t it the adult who gave the gun that bears the most responsibility?”
“The truth, Mr. Ruan, the truth. I’m not here to listen to you preach.” Tang Yibu still stared straight at him. “According to what I know about you, this should only be part of the reason.”
Ruan Xian smiled.
“Yes. There was also a way to force it to work, enter countless guidelines for it, and pay attention to corrections all the time. Although it was very troublesome and the risk wasn’t low, it wasn’t impossible to do it. It’s just…”
“I used to live like that.” Ruan Xian took a step towards Tang Yibu. “Abide by all the rules that ’kind people’ need to abide by and interact with people in the most appropriate way. I will have my own judgments, but I will never be able to execute those judgments. Guess what life would be like?”
Tang Yibu stopped speaking. The fish by the fire smelled a little burnt, but he didn’t even look at it.
“It was hell. I never had a good time.” Ruan Xian spread his hands. “Since you’re the work of Professor Ruan, you know how dangerous I am to normal people.”
He wasn’t Frankenstein, but if one insisted on a definition, he was closer to that of Frankenstein’s monster.
But he also had the ability to create. Ruan Xian created a life. Even if no one agreed that it was a life, he still insisted on that point stubbornly.
It was just that, in order to be a normal person, he never made such relevant remarks.
In those five years, Ruan Xian gradually discovered one thing—he seemed to have created a “similar kind” of himself.
Then he had a wish, a small, not-so-great wish…
“So in the matter of directly instilling the norms of right and wrong… From a human perspective, I understand the dangers it may bring, and I have no interest in ruining human society. From a personal point of view, I hope it will not live as uncomfortable as I did.”
“In the end, you destroyed it,” Tang Yibu said softly.
“No, I don’t have that impression.” Ruan Xian shook his head very seriously. “And I will never do that.”
At the same time.
“NUL-00 is really still there.”
A man stood up from his chair and stared at the signal feedback on the light screen.
“…It seems that I didn’t wait in vain.”
The author has something to say:
Tang got his father’s (?) evaluation: A bit capricious.
I finally let them eat coconuts! (……
End of the arc. Summary below.
The team entered The Glass Conservatory in an attempt to find Ruan Xian’s whereabouts. Their target is Luo Jian, who was known as the best infiltrator of the rebel army. They located him at a prevention shelter, where he was locked up for having doomsday thoughts.
As it turned out, The Glass Conservatory is a sort of utopia created by the Mainbrain where society is dictated by it. People live in a relatively peaceful environment, with everything from job selection to entertainment consumption being controlled by the Mainbrain. Those who don’t conform are thrown into the prevention shelter for “treatment”.
To infiltrate the prevention shelter while not exposing his thoughts to the Mainbrain via mind scanner, Ruan Xian took a huge dose of a memory suppressant that gave him temporary amnesia. His plan was successful and proved that he was still human since memory suppressants shouldn’t work on bionic life.
While Ruan Xian was gone, Tang Yibu felt an uncomfortable feeling developing inside of him. Missing his Mr. Ruan, Tang Yibu infiltrated the prevention shelter early in order to meet with him and also address this bubbling feeling that he couldn’t process. He plans to extract the information about “Ruan Xian” from Ruan Xian after he gets it from Luo Jian, and then kill him and turn him into a blood bag, hoping that this will resolve his inexplicable feelings.
Meanwhile, Yu Le and Ji Xiaoman stumble upon Luo Fei, who introduced them to a memory cocktail. Here, they could go into a dreamworld where they could read explicit materials that are banned by the Mainbrain. They also discovered an organization called Pear Blossom that rejects the Mainbrain’s control and preached doomsday theories.
Ruan Xian managed to get close to Luo Jian. Feeling that he had gotten enough information, Tang Yibu enacted his plan to kill Ruan Xian. Ruan Xian, aware of the other party’s motive, also made his move. The two had a showdown, with Tang Yibu eventually coming out on top, but he was unable to kill Ruan Xian. Still unsure why, they had make-up sex and start to plan for the next step.
Tang Yibu convinced Gong Siyi, the doctor at the prevention shelter, to do joint therapy with Ruan Xian and Luo Jian. This basically pulled Ruan Xian into the dreamworld created by Luo Jian. Here was where they discovered the real truth. Luo Jian infiltrated The Glass Conservatory a few years ago and met with “Ruan Xian”. There he discovered the truth behind this petri dish. In an attempt to keep the rebellion alive, Luo Jian created a “joint dreamworld” that could connect everyone to it, mainly the rebels. They would hold their meetings here, and this would escape the notice of the Mainbrain. In order to keep his physical body safe, he pretended to be mad and put himself in the prevention shelter. However, the Mainbrain noticed the anomalies and the movements of Pear Blossom and sent programs to infiltrate Luo Jian’s dreamworld, essentially slowly destroying it until Luo Jian could no longer remember things in great detail. This would eventually collapse his mind and destroy the rebels’ meeting spot with it.
Eventually, they were able to deal with the Mainbrain’s programs, but Luo Jian’s world was exposed. To send him a warning, Pear Blossom was captured and sent to the prevention shelter. Luo Jian then decided to wipe his memory and thus end the dreamland. However, his son, Luo Fei, who was a clone created by the Mainbrain, injected Luo Jian’s real memories into himself and became the new spark for the rebellion and set up his own mind to be the next dreamland for the rebels.
The party then wreaked havoc in The Glass Conservatory so they could escape from it. In the process, they attracted the attention of the Commander-in-Chief of the Order Supervisors, Zhuo Muran. After a deadly confrontation, they managed to escape and head towards their destination, The Android Show.
Other important notes: Ruan Xian confessed his feelings to Tang Yibu, while Tang Yibu was still unsure of how he felt. As an android who had never had any kind of reference to human emotions, he couldn’t give a conclusive answer.
Luo Fei is the son of Luo Jian. As Luo Jian’s real son had died a long time ago, he was created by the Mainbrain using information gathered as a way to “correct” Luo Jian’s personality. At first, he joined Pear Blossom as a rookie who thought the organization was nothing more than a book club that was dedicated to reading and spreading texts that were banned by the Mainbrain. Eventually, he discovered the truth and became the new “joint dreamland” for the rebels.