Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 159: Confrontation
“You must be quite puzzled now.” Professor Ruan lowered his voice. His tone was quite soft. “About how I know your identity and why my attitude towards you has changed. I can give you an explanation. Would you like to listen, NUL-00?”
Tang Yibu looked at each other steadily.
The size, posture, tiny pronunciation habits, and features of the person in front of him were all the Ruan Xian that he knew. Tang Yibu thought for a moment, didn’t speak, and only nodded quietly.
“Won’t you come over?” There was a little more smile in Professor Ruan’s voice. “We haven’t seen each other for twelve years. Ah… You think this is a phantom, right?”
Professor Ruan took the initiative to step forward, stretched out his hands, and clasped Tang Yibu’s hand. Although the man was wearing gloves, Tang Yibu could still feel the body temperature behind the gloves. The atmosphere around the other party was extremely gentle, a bit similar to the past, but the current Professor Ruan had more elegance that was unique to the elderly.
Tang Yibu couldn’t tell for a while whether this was a flaw or not, but seeing wasn’t believing. Perhaps this was another round of perceptual interference. He tensed up the strings in his mind.
“Sit down first. Sorry for making you suffer for so long.”
Making sure that the other party felt his existence, Professor Ruan took two steps back and clapped his hands. An assistant robot entered the room with two cups of hot cocoa. It automatically folded its body into a table and chair, and two cups of hot cocoa emitted white smoke smoothly on the metal table that also had a plate of vegetable cookies. It was quite a match.
“This isn’t perceptual interference, so don’t worry. You have been on the Android Show, so you should be able to perceive these changes physically.” Professor Ruan sat down naturally and took a sip of hot cocoa. He didn’t seem to care about Tang Yibu, who was motionless in place.
Tang Yibu’s whole body has entered a state of stress. If his body was covered with hair, one puff would blow them all off at this moment.
“Not to your liking? You used to like watching snack-related documentaries. I thought you were most interested in them… What do you want to eat?” Professor Ruan raised his brows.
Tang Yibu replied, “Ruan Xian wouldn’t call me a ‘good boy’.”
“I did every now and then. Don’t you remember? When you were able to distinguish for the first time all kinds of items with 100% accuracy.”
Professor Ruan picked up a cookie but didn’t take off the thin white gloves on his hand. He tied the auxiliary straps at the bottom of them so that the ends of the straps wouldn’t be farther away from the cups filled with hot cocoa.
“‘Well done, good boy.’…That’s what I said at the time.”
“You know I’m not referring to wording issues.”
“You have many reasons to be dissatisfied with me.” Professor Ruan put the cookies on his saucer and sighed. “I will explain. Sit down first, okay?”
That tone was very similar to a gentle father.
Tang Yibu hesitated for a while, then slowly sat down opposite Professor Ruan, staring at him without blinking. He was so focused that the bandages on his arms, which weren’t strong to begin with, started to spread out.
The aroma of hot cocoa rushed straight into his nose, but Tang Yibu didn’t touch the cup. “Explain.”
“I refused to let you recognize me as your father before, out of consideration for the product. At that time, if you could grow up smoothly and enter the market, you couldn’t be biased in your attitude towards humans. I am indeed your maker, but I can’t be special because of that.” Professor Ruan rubbed the warm cup. “The relationship with humans must wait for you to mature to a certain extent before confirming. Otherwise, there will be various problems in the future, and your level of perfection will be questioned.”
There was nothing wrong with this statement.
“…But now it’s different. Now you and I are both free, NUL-00. In any case, you are my most successful work—”
“I don’t think I’m very successful. After all, it was you who ordered my destruction.” Tang Yibu’s tone was flat and alienated, and there was no smile on his face.
“This is the point I want to explain.” Professor Ruan smiled bitterly and shook his head. “I didn’t send that instruction.”
Tang Yibu frowned.
“On April 21, 2095, my condition suddenly deteriorated, and Fan Linsong forcibly intervened in my treatment. He has always been dissatisfied with my educational policy towards you and my delay requirements for the project. Taking advantage of that treatment opportunity, he performed a memory operation on me—which directly led to the days that followed. Although my knowledge was still there, my personal memory was very vague.”
Professor Ruan looked quite emotional, and there was no physical sign of lying.
“He was the one who ordered your destruction. When I didn’t fully recover, Fan Linsong temporarily had my agency authority and was fully able to issue instructions in my name. If you still have the data from the original institute, I can point out the program traces of the operation he carried out. Even if you didn’t keep it, there is a backup there in the Mainbrain. It’s not something that can’t be proven.”
“There is no way you can misunderstand. After all, at the procedural level, the account number that issued the instructions is indeed ‘me’. After I fell ill, your information was completely closed off, so it’s normal not to know.”
Tang Yibu remained silent.
“Don’t you think it’s unnatural? Obviously, you are the project I’m most concerned about, but I didn’t personally stop you. Even for failed experimental projects, I have never done that before.”
“At that time, you were recovering from a serious illness, and your situation was special,” Tang Yibu responded indifferently.
Professor Ruan smiled instead. “Now you really look like an awkward young man.”
“Is it funny?” Tang Yibu didn’t let the other party deviate from the rhythm of the conversation. “‘Almost killed’ is not a problem that can be brushed off by saying I’m now awkward.”
“Sorry, I just miss this feeling. It’s like I’m young again.”
Professor Ruan withdrew the smile from his face.
“My absence caused the project to be unable to start normally again, and Fan Linsong had already made all the preparations to start the MUL-01 project. When my brain was completely restored, you had been nominally destroyed for a while, and I had also been working on the MUL-01 project team for a long time. After I remembered what happened to you, I had a big fight with Fan Linsong, but unfortunately, it was too late to undo what had happened. I’ve known him too long and he’s kind of saved my life…… Haa.”
“So this is just a hiccup in your partnership.” Tang Yibu tugged the corner of his mouth.
“No.” Professor Ruan wasn’t irritated by Tang Yibu’s sarcastic tone. “I understand your unhappiness, NUL. You know, I have never regarded you as a simple project.”
“I have been looking for you since the Great Rebellion of the 22nd Century. I’ve been looking for you for seven years… Have something to drink. Your cocoa is getting cold.”
Tang Yibu crossed his arms, expressionless.
Professor Ruan let out a long sigh. “In order to find possible weaknesses in MUL-01, I have checked all the data related to you, including the destruction of records. At that time, I found something wrong. You did a good job, NUL-00. I personally parsed the destruction log five times before I found the horse’s feet—you secretly inserted an emoticon in the garbled logo of the destruction log, which caused an extremely small difference between the coding logic and the normal situation, right?”
Professor Ruan drew a “;(” on the desktop, Tang Yibu glanced at it and nodded very slowly.
It was his last faint cry, a sign of resistance left by that person. And when he returned to the familiar research institute again, it had already turned into ruins.
“…So I believe you are still there.” Professor Ruan’s expression was bitter, mixed with guilt, joy, and self-blame. There was no flaw in it. “You will think that I destroyed you. According to what I know about you, you will instinctively pursue the subject I left you, then eventually come to see me and prove I was wrong.”
“When I led the rebels in their activities, I tried to leave a clue for you. Some are just for you, NUL-00. You should have got the S-type starter I left behind, right?”
“I might also kill you the first time I see you.” Tang Yibu still didn’t answer the question positively. “Twelve years can change a lot of things. You can’t predict my behavior development pattern.”
“That’s true, but I can’t die yet.” Professor Ruan’s voice became a little solemn.
Tang Yibu thought to himself that this was the Ruan Xian who he was familiar with. He couldn’t pick out any faults in the other party, but this thought didn’t make him feel relaxed, but instead left him with unreasonable frustration.
“…So I did an experiment with MUL-01 with the same underlying architecture.” Professor Ruan took another sip of cocoa. “It turns out that even if it is a completely out-of-control MUL-01, it will not kill its creator.”
Two years ago, the rebel army was severely hit by the Order Supervisors. The leaders, Ruan Xian and Fan Linsong, clashed, ending up with Ruan Xian’s whereabouts unknown and Fan Linsong suspected of being captured by the Mainbrain. If these were all parts of the other party’s plan…
For such a short moment, Tang Yibu subconsciously stopped breathing. The person in front of him revealed a faint aura of madness that he was familiar with.
“I never said that I forgave Fan Linsong. At that point in the matter, he had no practical use, and it was just right to do so.”
There was only a faint regret in Professor Ruan’s tone. He drank the sweet drink from the cup and wiped the corners of his mouth with a handkerchief. When he spoke again, the regret in his tone was gone, and there was more of a snarky taste.
“By the way, now that you have arrived here, the ‘Ruan Lijie’ I arranged for you is also useless. I know you get along, but your relationship seems to be getting too good. Sadly, I had to recycle him, NUL-00.”
“We are just a relationship that uses each other.”
“I know.” Professor Ruan stood up and stretched out a hand, as if trying to pat Tang Yibu’s head. Tang Yibu leaned forward, took a cookie, and avoided it. “You have grown up more than I thought. Very good. To be honest, I am very relieved that you didn’t believe me immediately.”
“…” Tang Yibu grabbed the cookie and tensed his face.
“So I will also consider a few more steps.” Professor Ruan’s hand naturally changed direction and patted Tang Yibu on the shoulder. “You will bring him back with your own hands.”
Tang Yibu bit the cookie and narrowed his eyes. Professor Ruan casually called out the light screen and glanced at the time with a smile on his face.
“…Look at the time. They should know what you are by now, NUL-00.”
After a long silence, Tang Yibu slowly swallowed the cookies in his mouth, stared at the crumbs on the metal table, and then slowly smiled. “I understand, but I want to make sure of the situation before I make a move.”
“No problem, follow me.”
“Wait,” Tang Yibu said suddenly. “The bandage on my arm is loose, and I can’t move easily by myself. Can you tie it for me?”
Professor Ruan snorted, then laughed. “Just like in the past, you used to clamor for me to tie a bow in your cooling box.”
Tang Yibu’s smile also deepened. Professor Ruan shook his head when he saw this, stretched out his hand, and tied a not-so-nice bow with the bandage jerkily.
“Even if you don’t believe me, I hope you can let go. Regarding the name, I won’t mind ‘father’ anymore.” After withdrawing his hand, Professor Ruan adjusted his cuffs.
“No, the name ‘Professor Ruan’ is very good.” Tang Yibu smiled brightly and calmly. “I said that twelve years can change a lot of things. You didn’t guess wrong about the report topic part, but I never said I would forgive you either.”
“Professor Ruan.” He paused, deliberately aggravating the pronunciation of the word.
“We still have plenty of time to communicate.” Professor Ruan didn’t seem to mind. Let’s go, NUL-00.”
“It’s Tang Yibu.”
“No.” Tang Yibu tilted his head with a smile and paused. “I would like you to call me ‘Tang Yibu’.”
The author has something to say:
Don’t believe in the words of an anti-social or an AI (?