Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 161: The Edge of Memory
Tang Yibu’s disappearance was expected by Ruan Xian, but he didn’t expect the other party to do it so quickly. The iron bead that suddenly fell from Tang Yibu’s shoulder probably had a psychological shadow and refused to go on by itself. It burrowed deep into Ruan Xian’s arms. Ruan Xian couldn’t argue with this little thing and could only reluctantly hold it in his arms.
Being people who had experienced chaos, Yu Le and Ji Xiaoman didn’t panic, but instead showed a thoughtful expression. Xiao Zhao and Kang Ge were even more carefree. Seeing that there was nothing dangerous inside the door, the couple smiled and opened a row of doors in the corridor.
Ruan Xian thought it was hard to say whether they were in reality or a dream right now. The scene behind those doors had no repetition. Some were connected to other rooms, while many led to trees, wastelands, or darkness. Compared to reality, this was more in line with a joint dream.
The feeling in the corridor was extremely real. Ruan Xian adjusted his breathing for a moment and thought quickly.
Regardless of whether the other Professor Ruan was real or fake, he would inevitably presume Tang Yibu’s condition by observing them. In reality, they could still be wandering around in the forest near the management area, and Tang Yibu was probably taken away a long time ago. A seamless dialogue could also be achieved if they monitored and interfered with the situation on both sides at the same time.
The question was, how far was the other party willing to go?
While he couldn’t be classified as “human”, Yu Le and Ji Xiaoman were natural humans. Professor Ruan may not be obsessed with saving them, but it was unlikely he would take the initiative to kill them maliciously. Since Professor Ruan could live under the pursuit of the Mainbrain for so many years, he wouldn’t do worthless things and, at most, would push them to their limits.
Now the chess game was dominated by Professor Ruan and Tang Yibu that what they could so was relatively limited.
Ruan Xian didn’t think that Tang Yibu would really treat the people on his side as companions. The most useful bargaining chip in his hand was the S-type Prototype, which he gained new inspiration from π. If there was a chance to verify it, it may become a good negotiating card…
He didn’t know if it was because of the temporary loss of dominance of subconsciously thinking Tang Yibu as an opposing third party, but even if he had sufficient confidence in his ability to survive, Ruan Xian still felt annoyed. He hugged the iron bead in his arms tightly, causing the latter to let out a trembling gwah.
Forget it. Let’s see what Professor Ruan intends to show them.
Ruan Xian left the wall and looked into the door beside him. For a second, his brain became blank.
This was the hall of the Institute. The floor light was discernible, and the light screen display in the center of the hall was still working. The ornamental plants placed on the edge of the hall were vibrant; their bright green leaves seemed to glow in the light. Many figures in research suits solidified in the air. Their outlines were blurred, like an overexposed photograph.
Bizarrely, the clock hanging on the wall of the hall was working. The passage of time blended strangely with the stillness.
This was once the edge of his own world. Since entering the Institute, Ruan Xian had never left this gate.
According to Tang Yibu, Su Zhao herself was a famous explorer during her lifetime and was active in various dangerous natural areas for many years. The Institute where he was located had very strict requirements for visitors, so it was unlikely these were memories relevant to Su Zhao. Kang Ziyan’s status as a senior executive of a major company with a competitive relationship was at best received elsewhere, and he wouldn’t have been allowed to enter here.
The source of this memory wasn’t from those two people.
Neither Yu Le’s nor Ji Xiaoman’s brains were cybernetic, nor were they equipped with perceptual augmentation equipment. This wasn’t purely an artificial illusion. Then the source of the memory…
In theory, this was most likely Tang Yibu’s memory.
It was just that the current scene was completely contradictory to the statement given by Tang Yibu before. If he was created by Professor Ruan after the end of the world, it was impossible to have memories of the Institute—at the beginning of the Great Rebellion of the 22nd century, technical support institutions such as the Institute were the primary target. It was estimated that the Institute would be in ruins that day.
Tang Yibu was very sensitive about his identity and was also very secretive about his past experiences. Considering that he wouldn’t be stupid enough to tell everyone everything about himself, despite his curiosity, Ruan Xian didn’t care too much about it at first.
And now, a certain conjecture that couldn’t be suppressed surfaced from his heart uncontrollably.
[My maker thinks I am a failure. Once, I failed to complete my project on time, and he never came back. I have been waiting, thinking that he would continue to improve my shortcomings as usual, but in the end, I only waited for his written destruction order.]
Ruan Xian clutched the iron bead in his arms tightly, causing its shell to clatter.
He had thought that Professor Ruan had gone through great lengths to lure Tang Yibu inside because the android possessed some important data. Now it seemed that the situation might be simpler than he had thought.
Exposing Tang Yibu’s most important identity forced the other side into a situation where he had to make a choice. At the same time, it gave their own side a crisis, which was a good opportunity to collect data… If this was switched to himself, he would definitely do the same.
‘Endure.’ Ruan Xian kept repeating this to himself, trying to press all his emotions down from his heart.
Until he saw the real evidence, he couldn’t waver. Although less likely, this may also be Professor Ruan’s own memory as a test for him. After all, the name “Ruan Lijie” had been exposed, so the other side wouldn’t give up such a subtle doubt. If his survival had nothing to do with Professor Ruan, it was also possible the other party to do so.
He must determine the core of this memory.
He could play dumb and explore the place slowly with Yu Le and the others, acting as if he was completely ignorant of the matter, but driven by a certain possibility, he didn’t want to wait… Even if this would increase Professor Ruan’s suspicions.
Assuming that he wasn’t something created by Professor Ruan himself and knew everything about the Institute… From Professor Ruan’s point of view, his intelligence could only be obtained from the Mainbrain. After all, MUL-01 owned all the data of the Institute.
Then Professor Ruan should know that in order not to arouse suspicion, “obediently exploring with others” was the most correct approach. This became a cycle of contradictions, and the other party would certainly have doubts about their motives.
What was more, with this joke of a curse in place, he wouldn’t die so easily. Ruan Xian grinned.
Are you watching, Tang Yibu?
Then take a good look.
He straightened the holster under his white jacket, put the iron bead that was loudly protesting on the ground, and held the blood gun used for attacking tightly in his hand. The rattle of the iron bead provided a perfect sound reflex, allowing him to confirm that he was actually holding his gun and that they were still in a relatively vast area.
“Xiao Ruan!” Seeing Ruan Xian rushing into the hall first, Yu Le let out a tsk and followed quickly. Unfortunately, the young couple running around apparently still had self-preservation in mind and followed playfully, with no intention of acting separately.
“This is the edge of memory,” Ji Xiaoman whispered as she followed Yu Le.
“The edge of memory?”
“Usually memory data will be concentrated within your field of vision.” Ji Xiaoman looked around carefully. “Lao Yu, let me ride on your neck.”
“What are you doing?!”
“Confirm your status at any time.” Ji Xiaoman moved her prosthetic limbs. “The other party didn’t leave us a vehicle. I guess that it’s also based on this consideration. If the person whose perception interference is the one we think it is, he certainly doesn’t have much experience in feeling contact between people, so it’ll be difficult for him to simulate.”
“…Alright. In case I can’t avoid an attack, that’s gonna be on you.” Yu Le leaned down slightly.
The little girl jumped up lightly. Her three prosthetic limbs were likely made of special alloy, as she was surprisingly light. Yu Le had no intention of fixing the other party’s legs as he held onto his weapon tightly. “Watch yourself. I won’t care if you fall. Just don’t strangle me with your legs.”
“Nn.” Ji Xiaoman skillfully maintained her balance. The shooting weapon on her prosthetic limb made a crisp loading sound.
The young couple behind them tried to imitate them, but their body shape wasn’t up to standard. When Xiao Zhao’s weight pressed on Kang Ge, he couldn’t even stand up straight, so the two gave up.
“What is the edge of memory?” Yu Le retracted his mocking gaze of the two people behind him and tried to follow Ruan Xian. His voice was a little muffled under the cover of the gas mask. “It’s true that this place is quite evil.”
“Do you remember what we ate at the apartment in The Glass Conservatory?”
“Most of what you only remember are the things that change within your attention span, such as what you were cooking in the kitchen. But during that period of time, your mind simultaneously remembers the condition of the living room… This part of memory is biased towards static cognition. If you restore it to an image, it shouldn’t be much different from this hall.”
“Awesome, little profiteer.”
“I just read the relevant theories.” Ji Xiaoman only replied after a long time. “In short, this is at most an ‘impression of a certain period’. Ruan Lijie must be looking for the core of this memory—that is, the dynamic details in the observer’s memory.”
“I only care about one thing—hey, keep your head down. Don’t bump into the door frame—is there any danger here?”
“It’s hard to say. These are all perceptual data in the final analysis, so it’s easy to add something.”
“…Xiao Ruan is really desperate. As soon as the opponent made their move and took away the best fighter among us, he still dared to rush in so fast.”
“I don’t know the details, but if it’s that one, he won’t really kill us… right?” Ji Xiaoman’s voice was getting smaller and smaller. “Let’s talk about it first.”
“But it’s also very interesting.” Yu Le accelerated his running speed. “Xiao Ruan seems to be very familiar with this place. Do you recognize this place?”
“Me neither. Now I’m getting more and more curious. Those two boys are definitely not simple.”
Ji Xiaoman didn’t answer.
Ruan Xian ignored the two people following him and rushed straight to the computer room where NUL-00 was located. As he ran closer, the sense of reality of the surrounding scenery became stronger. After running to his destination, Ruan Xian panted against the wall, raised his head, and looked at the two people outside the computer room.
The crystallization of his own efforts was randomly placed on a waste cart and was being pushed outside the computer room.
The cybernetic brain half the size of a coconut lay quietly in the pile of parts. It had its own energy reserve structure, and it was still in operation. Out of the soaking of the heat sink, the cybernetic brain of NUL-00 faintly showed signs of overheating. The miniature camera installed on the cybernetic brain was spinning around in horror, trying to look at the surrounding situation.
The artificial intelligence that had been with him for five years was confused, and perhaps a little scared. He knew very well that at that time it had learned how to distinguish those emotions.
Ruan Xian subconsciously stretched out his hand to touch the cybernetic brain, trying to snatch it from the waste cart. But his fingers ghostly passed through the casing covered with heat dissipation fluid and touched nothing.
He opened his mouth and tried to call out to someone, but he knew in his heart that everything was in vain. No one could change the illusion, and no one could change the past.
The iron bead that followed Ruan Xian seemed to notice something abnormal, and although it was still shivering, it tried to rub gently on his trouser legs.
If this memory was specially forged to test himself, Ruan Xian didn’t mind giving Professor Ruan some physical harm.
Right now, Ruan Xian almost had to thank himself for his emotional disorder. Even with the stormy waves in his mind, he could still continue to look at it almost coldly, trying to find clues from the details.
He thought the authenticity of this memory must be determined as soon as possible.
The person pushing the cart wore a mask, so he couldn’t see his appearance, but his body shape looked a bit familiar. However, Ruan Xian didn’t have the energy to recall further—as soon as the person walked up the corridor, the cellphone in his pocket rang.
The other party seemed very surprised by the fact that the phone rang. He hesitated for a moment, picked up the phone, hung up after listening for a few seconds, and turned the phone to silent mode.
On the second step, the phone rang again. The man’s body stiffened, and he connected to the call again, listening for a few seconds longer than the last time. However, this time he still didn’t respond. After a few seconds, he hung up the call in silence, and then turned off the phone.
The man pushed the cart forward for a few meters, and the phone rang again.
“What the hell do you want?!” The third time he connected to the phone, the man remembered to lower his voice, but his tone was a little unstable.
This time, Ruan Xian had enough time to hear the conversation clearly.
[…I want to live.]
The voice was very weird, like an AI voice that came with the phone.
[Let’s make a deal, sir.]
The author has something to say:
Tang’s vest is crumbling XDDD
Ruan already have a guess√
For those confused, the edge of memory refers to the memories in one’s mind that are not too vivid but still exist. Taking Ji Xiaoman’s example, our brain usually remembers vividly the things that actually change as we’re doing them. Like if you’re cooking eggs, you would remember how you cooked them in more detail, but such things that weren’t touched but exist would still be recorded by the brain, but it won’t be as vivid. Like if your kitchen had a spice rack or fruit tray with bananas on them (but you didn’t actually use any of that during the cooking process). They would be there because your brain registered them into your memories, but would be hard to recollect down the line.
What they are seeing now is the edge of someone’s memories (i.e. the fruit tray) and Ruan Xian is trying to get to the more vivid details (the core i.e. the eggs). Hope that makes sense.