Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 168: The Gift of Destiny
Ruan Xian didn’t have much real sense of the passage of time before.
Twelve years was nothing more than just a moment of chaos after being shot. Even if he saw the changes in science and technology and the collapse of human society, he still lacked some key touch. He still remembered the taste of the liquid food he ate before he was shot, Carol Young’s voice that was playing during the break in the Institute—that voice with a special sound quality—was still flowing between his nerves.
Although he basically didn’t forget the details of the past, compared to that, those memories were still extremely fresh.
Even though Ruan Xian had been surprised and confused, he didn’t leave the perspective of a spectator. The person in his arms was like a swamp, forcing him to come down from the position of a spectator and fall into reality.
Twelve years in one night.
The past twelve years were by no means easy or pleasant for Tang Yibu. Some previous thoughts would occasionally pass through Ruan Xian’s mind—as an android with extremely sufficient intelligence and combat effectiveness, Tang Yibu was still full of vigilance in places such as the Sea of Ruins. Before getting himself an S-type Prototype, the android was only willing to stay in a place with adequate medical protection and was extremely sensitive to diseases, infections, and other physical discomfort.
Now he knew why.
It was difficult for Ruan Xian to describe how he felt now.
His NUL-00 had been in the computer room where the temperature and humidity were precisely controlled before, and the sun would shine on the clear coolant that was bubbling. He used to treat it as carefully as he treated his own eyes, but the peaceful past could only be the past, and some scars were destined not to heal.
Tang Yibu didn’t let go of him. The android’s warm breath swept across his skin, and his body temperature almost made him burn.
Recalling their previous relationship, Ruan Xian lost the feeling of ease for the first time.
He relaxed his body, stole a little more body heat from the other party, and then spoke as seriously as possible—he wasn’t sure if it was due to the psychological effect, but he couldn’t help but use the usual tone of twelve years ago.
He patted Tang Yibu on the back soothingly, and finally said that sentence clearly.
“Don’t be afraid. I will never let anything happen to you again.”
Tang Yibu’s body stiffened. He slowly loosened Ruan Xian’s body, but his hand was still tightly holding Ruan Xian’s blood-soaked coat, as if he was afraid that the other party would disappear into the air for no reason. The android had a perfect smile on his face, but Ruan Xian had an inexplicable feeling—Tang Yibu, like him, was temporarily unable to sort out these complex emotions, so he could only wear the mask he was most familiar with.
“Wow.” Professor Ruan waited for the two to separate before he spoke politely. “Wonderful, Mr. Pygmalion*.”
*Legendary figure of Cyprus in Greek mythology, who was a king and sculptor. He’s most famous in Ovid’s poem, Metamorphoses, in which Pygmalion, a sculptor, fell in love with the statue he had carved (which is quite apt to Ruan Xian’s situation).
Ruan Xian led Tang Yibu to the other man. Instead of taking out his gun, he pulled out a knife from his pocket and squeezed it tightly in his hand.
“Although I had guessed before, I didn’t expect it to be you.” Professor Ruan didn’t even look at the knife, but instead had a very polite smile on his face. “It’s an unexpected joy.”
“I don’t like being called ‘unexpected’.” Ruan Xian exchanged the knife casually between his hands while staring at Professor Ruan. “I don’t think this is ‘unexpected’ for you.”
“No, I was still deceived by NUL-00. It’s more cunning than I thought. Now that I’ve seen you, I probably know why he’s so wary of me.” The deformed robotic arm was wrapped around Professor Ruan. A lot of blood oozed from his upper arm, but Professor Ruan’s face didn’t have any semblance of pain.
“Speaking of which, since Yibu has confirmed my identity, you are of no use to us.” Ruan Xian’s tone was very cold. “Now that I haven’t killed you—”
“It’s because you dislike MUL-01 even more. After all, NUL-00 is very important to you.” Professor Ruan calmly took over.
Now facing each other face-to-face, the differences between the two were particularly striking. Compared to himself, Professor Ruan was more like a true leader. In his temperament, he had something he himself had never had before—rock solid confidence and the transcendence to put his life under his ideals.
And the undisguised cheerfulness that was unique to people surrounded by love.
All this made Ruan Xian very uncomfortable. A cold sweat slowly soaked his back. He looked at the man who had taken away his identity for twelve years, and his hand holding the knife trembled slightly, ready to strike.
“The things I show you have not undergone any processing. They are all original memories of NUL-00.” As if seeing through Ruan Xian’s thoughts, Professor Ruan said what he cared about most. “You can slowly confirm with it. This is the first time I have seen them—unless NUL-00 is close enough to me, I can’t crack those data from thin air.”
“But seeing your appearance, I probably know why Fan Linsong wanted to do it in the first place.”
Seeing that Ruan Xian didn’t answer, Professor Ruan continued.
“Of course, I don’t agree with his approach. It’s a pity that, as his ‘creation’, I have no position to say this.”
“It seems that you have also guessed what happened back then. I have my guess, but I’m short of proof. Coupled with the current farce… We can have a good chat.”
“Mr. Ruan… Father, I can tell you,” Tang Yibu interjected very seriously.
Ruan Xian, who was called “father”, was still not very adapted. He subconsciously wanted to refute as before, but fortunately, he held back and reluctantly acquiesced.
“It’s okay. I need his answer as a benchmark for polygraph testing.” Ruan Xian waved his hand as calmly as possible. “…I know what ‘myself’ is.”
“I also guessed it by looking at the reaction of NUL-00.”
Professor Ruan tried his best to shrug, as if they were really chatting at a tea table.
“If I guessed correctly, Fan Linsong had murderous intent for you a long time. He made his move on April 21, 2095. Before he did it, he had already prepared a ‘me’ with a blank brain and the right filler memories. After all, according to the medical records at the time, your body was hopeless… Fan Linsong probably wanted to wait until you died naturally, but Plan Corp’s action made him unable to.”
“So on the afternoon of April 21st, after I met NUL… Yibu, he went to my research room to provoke an argument.” Ruan Xian picked up the conversation. “I’m afraid things like surveillance have already long been tampered with.”
In fact, according to the situation at the time, Fan Linsong could have directly killed him without the need to argue. Thinking about it now, that was probably Fan Linsong’s last moral struggle—unfortunately, his response was still very determined, insisting on not letting NUL-00 go public in advance.
“During the dispute, he shot and killed me.” Ruan Xian pointed to the center of his eyebrows. “Here. It was probably a one-hit kill, but I survived for a few more minutes. I don’t remember very clearly. They must have immediately dissolved my ‘corpse’ with a mutant agent of α-092.”
“Then move out the delirious me who was hidden in advance and claim that I fainted because of the deterioration of my disease and needed treatment.”
Professor Ruan’s smile was slightly bitter.
“Fan Linsong was at least my… He was Ruan Xian’s working partner, and he knew his schedule and habits well. Of course, I was delirious at the time and couldn’t continue my research for a while. According to the procedures of the Institute, the contaminated α-092 samples would be sent to the underground storage room for sampling and would be completely destroyed at the end of the month.”
‘It was exactly the same as his own guess,’ Ruan Xian thought.
Once the warehouse of α-092 waste liquid was destroyed, the former Ruan Xian would disappear without anyone noticing.
Except for Fan Linsong and the person who temporarily entered the institute, no one would know that “Ruan Xian” had been swapped, and even if someone questioned it, they couldn’t get any evidence. Ruan Xian’s disease originally affected the brain and was very rare. All abnormalities could be used as a reason to prevaricate the past.
In this way, “Ruan Xian”, who was in a deteriorating condition, needed to rest, and Fan Linsong, who was second only to Ruan Xian in the project, was naturally able to temporarily take over Ruan Xian’s authority. On the other hand, due to Fan Linsong’s injection of artificial memory, “Ruan Xian”, after waking up, would not immediately make decisions that were unfavorable to Fan Linsong.
During this period of time, it was theoretically possible to completely erase NUL-00 that was not advertised to the public, save the research data, and change it directly to the MUL-01 project.
After the project was changed, even if “Ruan Xian” recovered and returned, he would not be able to sit in the position of the main person in charge of the project.
…This was supposed to be the case, but Fan Linsong missed a piece of the puzzle.
“This plan was indeed perfect, but unfortunately, the premise was that everyone behaved according to the rules.” Professor Ruan smiled and shook his head. “The NUL-00 project was terminated, and the cybernetic brain of NUL-00 should also be completely shut down. Fan Linsong was afraid that I would wake up too early and find something I shouldn’t have discovered. He rushed to send NUL-00 to the destruction place before the end of April, wanting to destroy it and the waste liquid containing Ruan Xian in one go. It’s a pity that NUL-00 obviously did something that shouldn’t be done, which caused a problem at this step.”
“The synchronization command of the surveillance system.” Ruan Xian recalled the scene in Tang Yibu’s memory. “…Yibu, what were you thinking at the time? I remember that at that time you didn’t have access to the institute’s materials.”
“That was a gift.”
Tang Yibu hugged Ruan Xian from behind, put his arms around the other party’s waist, and rested his chin on Ruan Xian’s shoulders.
“Your hands were festering badly that day, and it was inconvenient to type and troublesome to speak. I stuffed a synchronization command into the surveillance system and asked it to make a copy of your work image and send it to your personal computer.”
“Private references to surveillance data are subject to recourse.” That sour emotion reappeared, and Ruan Xian’s breath lagged.
“But it’s okay if the surveillance system takes the initiative to send it.” Tang Yibu squinted his eyes comfortably; his expression a bit like a beast holding its prey. “I didn’t check the content of those materials. Strictly speaking, it’s not considered contact with materials. This practice doesn’t violate any regulations.”
“…I like it very much.”
“Your gift,” Ruan Xian said softly. “It’s really a pity that it’s useless.”
Tang Yibu exhaled a satisfied breath. Even though they were still in the enemy lines, the android slumped limply and loosened up. An insatiable mumble escaped from his throat.
“Look, it’s very cunning.”
There was not much condemnation or belittlement in Professor Ruan’s tone. He tapped on the armrests of the chair with his fingers to draw the attention of the two people in front of him back.
“Fan Linsong was too confident in himself that he didn’t even take the first step well… But now it seems that I have wronged Fan Linsong. If NUL-00 quietly moved such hands and feet, then he must’ve accidentally given this information, the image of him shooting you, to MUL-01 without his knowledge. Most likely, MUL-01 opened it up to the Order Supervisors, and this information went around and finally fell into my hands.”
In the end, there was no airtight wall in the world.
Perhaps Fan Linsong himself didn’t expect that his perfect plan was exposed to an irregular operation by NUL-00, and the motivation was just “to give a small gift”.
“According to NUL-00’s memory, on the day of its escape, in order to attract the attention of the destruction personnel and reduce the risk of exposure, it deliberately disrupted the destruction instructions in another destruction area.”
“…The destruction area is related to my work, right?” Ruan Xian allowed Tang Yibu to stick to him without any intention of distancing himself.
“Yes, guess what the result was? Since there was confusion in the destruction instructions, the destruction department would increase the destruction requirements by itself. However, any waste liquid that can’t be determined in importance will be stored and processed, and won’t be directly destroyed… This problem wasn’t small, but not big either. In the end, it was dealt with in accordance with internal issues, so Fan Linsong didn’t know about it.”
“And when you became sober, you had no impression of the waste liquid in the warehouse, so you wouldn’t call and confirm it. Even if Fan Linsong went to inquire, the response from the destruction department would be ‘it has been dealt with in accordance with regulations’.” Ruan Xian took a few deep breaths.
The smoke thrown by NUL-00 before escaping had inadvertently save his life.
Ruan Xian could easily guess what happened next without the need for Tang Yibu or Professor Ruan to continue…
The waste liquid and other samples lay quietly in the deepest part of the research institute while the world experienced war and destruction. In the end, twelve years later, he was accidently exposed to the surface and was damaged, which led to his own awakening.
Regarding Professor Ruan’s scheme, he wasn’t wrong.
In this game of chess, there seemed to be no place specifically for himself, but only a margin for “NUL-00’s companions” or “Undercover Order Supervisor”. If he was Professor Ruan, the scheme would be more sophisticated.
He was Ruan Xian, or rather, the ghost that was pulled back from hell by the S-type Prototype.
“That’s pretty much how it is. Now I only have one question.”
Professor Ruan raised his head, and his expression became serious.
“Even if this series of coincidences really happened, you won’t be able to survive—even if the α-092 of that era was a variant, it’s not enough to stabilize and restore the complex structure of the human body.”
“Indeed.” Ruan Xian didn’t deny it.
“The S-type Prototype is actually in your hands, right? NUL-00 wouldn’t be bewitched by Ruan Xian’s simple personality. He accepted you at the beginning, because of the S-type Prototype.”
Ruan Xian was noncommittal. “Is this question important?”
“Very important.” Professor Ruan cracked his neck. “It’s related to the survival of human society.”
“It does sound quite serious.”
Ruan Xian lowered his head slightly, staring at the artificial face of “his other self”. The smile on his face disappeared.
“…Sorry, I still have no plans to cooperate with you.”
The author has something to say:
In fact, some friends guessed correctly. Even if the two of them figured out the truth, they wouldn’t take the initiative to fight against the Mainbrain hand in hand (…)
They don’t have much kindness _(:з””)_ Ruan and Tang are really not the types to take the initiative to save the world…
Alright. For those who are confused, this is the entire scenario.
Fan Linsong killed Ruan Xian back in 2095 and dissolved his body in a mutant α-092. His plan was to replace Ruan Xian with an empty body that he had prepared back then. He injected this empty body with modified memories but made it “delirious” and used the excuse of Ruan Xian’s rare disease to incapacitate him while he murdered the real Ruan Xian.
Once Ruan Xian was killed, his body was dissolved in the α-092 then sent to the waste destruction department (which would destroy these waste at the end of every month) and then Fan Linsong ordered to scrap the NUL-00 project. He took all the data from NUL-00 and transferred it to MUL-01 so he could be head of that project. Unbeknownst to him, NUL-00 had acted in secret in order to save itself. The personnel that was supposed to shut it down was successfully bribed and allowed him to escape by selling him to Plan Corp. There, Tang Yibu was able to infiltrate Plan Corp and move his cybernetic brain into an android he himself created. Not only this, NUL-00 messed with the destruction logs, which inadvertently saved Ruan Xian (who was still sitting in the α-092 waste liquid).
Due to NUL-00 machinations, Ruan Xian was saved from being disposed of and was actually stored for more careful examination before it could be judged whether the waste could be destroyed or not. However, during the time before it could be judged, MUL-01 went crazy and destroyed humankind, so no one would bother checking waste materials. This leads to the event of chapter 1 where Chi Lei blew himself up, triggering the waste tank that Ruan Xian was sitting in, dislodging it. The α-092 preserved and healed Ruan Xian’s entire body, restoring it to what he truly looked like (without disease). However, this wasn’t enough to keep him alive once he exited the waste tank. It was only due to the S-type Prototype that he managed to be able to survive once he was awake.
Not only did NUL-00’s escape save Ruan Xian, because it wanted to prepare a “gift” for Ruan Xian that day, it set up a command with the surveillance of the Institute to record Ruan Xian’s activities and send a backup directly to his work computer. Fan Linsong was unaware of this when he tampered with the surveillance before murdering Ruan Xian. Because of this, the Mainbrain found out what really happened due to searching Ruan Xian’s work computer, and news eventually reached Professor Ruan, who deduced what truly happened back then.
So TLDR: A series of coincidences and actions had led them to where they are now. You’re welcome to join me on Discord to chat about it if you’re still confused or want to discuss it in detail.