Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 188: Change
Professor Ruan was silent for over ten seconds because of the word “our”.
Ruan Xian waited quietly for him to continue. Right now, he was in a good mood. After all, even if they understood each other’s thoughts, actually putting them into words was still a different effect. Tang Yibu’s confession of “I love you” was like a warm knife that deeply penetrated into his skin, passing through the ribs and pierced directly into his heart.
Part of his mind was quite lucid, able to continue to deal with Professor Ruan; another part was fluttering, like an open wound soaking in a warm dead sea, enjoying both pain and relief.
Ruan Xian had never been so patient before. He wishes Professor Ruan would remain silent longer so that he could have more time to engrave these wonderful feelings into his memory.
“…I don’t know what she really looks like.” After a moment of silence, Professor Ruan replied.
“I do have parents in my memory as well. Now that I think about it, it was a very standard setup. We were middle-to-upper class. They weren’t wealthy, and both were civil servants of low status, but they looked gentle and attractive. Whether it was the education policy or their relationship with me, they had all done everything right, so people couldn’t pick out any faults.”
Ruan Xian raised his eyebrows. “Are they still around?”
“Died when I was still young. My father died to protect the people soon after I was sensible. My mother raised me and took good care of me when I got sick. She was a perfect mother. Unfortunately, when I got older, her body collapsed. That’s why I… Well, I should say that ‘the me in my memory’, wanted to work in this field.”
There was a bit of a wry smile in Professor Ruan’s voice.
“My mother entrusted me to her friend Meng Yunlai before she died. My situation was special, and Ms. Meng’s authority wasn’t small, so I was able to enter the Institute in advance. This is all I remember.”
For the first time, Professor Ruan’s voice became a little unsteady.
“In my impression, Fan Linsong is like a caretaker… A friend of my mother’s. After my father died, he helped my mother a lot. For example, in order for my mother to have time to take me to the amusement park, he would take the initiative to help my mother find part-time work.”
“But I think the mother in my memory shouldn’t be my real mother. She may be the perfect image Fan Linsong created from collecting information. In fact, if you delve deeply into my parents’ account, you can find some omissions—they are the ‘perfect parents’ pieced together from the descriptions and experiences of countless people. Everything is true, but it doesn’t belong to me. You should have tasted the memory cocktail in the Glass Conservatory. I guess I am the first to experience that kind of technology.”
“But you didn’t immediately dissolve the rebel army or seek revenge on Fan Linsong.” Ruan Xian laid out the facts.
“Some things can’t be given up immediately, even if they are ‘known to be fake’.” The cube in the liquid expressed like so.
“Even if someone tells you now that all the beautiful things in your memories are fake, you can’t immediately… get rid of their influence. I still remember the taste of popcorn and ice cream in the playground, the broken loudspeaker and the music it played.”
“For ‘me’, that was probably the best thing I could get.”
“Indeed,” Ruan Xian agreed softly. “I, um, our biological mother’s name is Ruan Yuchan, who’s a very ordinary person. As for my father… Not long after I was born, he found that my illness couldn’t be cured and ran away. They weren’t married at the time, and I never heard of him again.”
But Ruan Xian had seen a photo of his father from his mother. She only left a single photo of them, unsure whether it was intended as a memorial or possible evidence.
He was a fairly young and handsome man, but there was a frivolous air between his brows, and his personality didn’t look like the steady type.
When he was young, his mother had hoped that his father would come back one day and face the heavy reality with her—Ruan Xian remembered her words. They had known each other for many years; they were childhood sweethearts and planned to come to a prosperous city together to work hard. She just couldn’t face reality at the time.
Later, she stopped talking about this and gradually his mentioned slowly decreased.
“…Even until now, I still don’t know his name. He never came back.”
Professor Ruan listened quietly.
“Our apartment is small and dirty, but it was the best place my mother could rent. At first, she didn’t want to move away, because she was afraid that my father wouldn’t find anyone when he returned… Later, she probably accepted the truth. All the money she made was thrown into a bottomless pit, and she couldn’t afford to rent a better place.”
“After all, the prevention agency judged me as a potentially dangerous person, and my illness wasn’t within the scope of conventional assistance so we couldn’t apply for social benefits. You should be able to guess what happened after that.”
Professor Ruan still remained silent.
Love, faith, loyalty, and warmth from the past could hardly beat true poverty and despair. They didn’t kill with one blow but preferred to empty a person’s conscience and hope from the inside, and slowly wore people down into a terrible appearance.
“She also died very early, I think,” Professor Ruan said softly. “The best lies are mixed with a bit of truth. Fan Linsong followed the script.”
“Suicide, actually. She was almost crazy at that time,” Ruan Xian said calmly. “She found that her love couldn’t heal me, a monster, and her persistence made her lose the opportunity to live a good life again. I was destined to drag her to the bottom of the pit, but she didn’t have courage to kill me with her own hands.”
After each beating and scolding, she would hold him tightly, crying and apologizing, but he didn’t know what appropriate reaction to give—whether it was when he was kicked or hugged.
“…In front of you?” Professor Ruan reacted quickly.
Fan Linsong wasn’t inherently evil or bloodthirsty. They all knew this. The old man was radical and stubborn, but he wouldn’t kill people due to a little contradiction.
“Yes. According to the judgement of the prevention agency, I am indeed not suitable to undertake dangerous world-class projects. Since I entered the Institute, Fan Linsong has been evaluating me on their behalf. Now, it seems that he thinks you’re more suitable to be ‘Ruan Xian’ than me.”
What had happened couldn’t be erased, and the damage that was done couldn’t be recovered. Those memories were destined to follow him for the rest of his life and push him towards the darkness.
Ruan Xian knew this and so did Fan Linsong.
They were like timebombs placed deep in his soul. According to the assessment of the prevention agency, Ruan Xian himself was like a barrel of dry and unstable explosives. Given his condition, there was no worse combination than this.
Ruan Xian couldn’t help but smile.
The NUL-00 project was the last straw, and it forced Fan Linsong to make a decision, but Fan Linsong wouldn’t know that the five years he spent with NUL-00 were perhaps the most peaceful years of his life. The dry gunpowder keg was slowly losing its effectiveness, and he didn’t want to leave anything behind or destroy anything.
The long-term depression disappeared in those funny projections. He just wanted to die near the warm computer room.
“…Although it may not be appropriate for me to say this, judging from the results, Fan Linsong’s plan isn’t a success. You’re right. A strong AI at that time wasn’t suitable to be put on the market.”
Professor Ruan’s electronic voice pulled Ruan Xian back from his memories.
“But I guess you don’t want to talk about me,” Professor Ruan continued. “Why are you talking about these things suddenly?”
“Because I saw my mother tonight.”
Ruan Xian leaned his back against the abandoned machine. The cold touch penetrated his clothes and climbed up the skin of his back.
“I kissed Yibu, so he will definitely not give up analyzing my physical condition. Since he didn’t give me a warning, there’s nothing wrong with my body itself. The Mainbrain didn’t find us, and in theory it’s impossible to specifically give me such a perceptual interference… Most of what I see isn’t an illusion. Since you don’t know what she looks like, it might be difficult to describe.”
“Is it this one?”
An image of a woman was projected in mid-air. The woman in the image was indeed extremely beautiful. This picture was probably taken when she was young, as there was still light in her eyes.
“Yes.” Ruan Xian nodded.
“All cases will have official records, including suicide cases,” Professor Ruan said. “According to your description, I just checked… The one who’s most eligible is this one. Her child witnessed the whole process, but because he was too young, the information was sealed. The special thing is that her child’s birth records, and social history were all deleted, leaving everything blank. Generally speaking, that child either died during the protection period, or—”
“In order to make ‘you’ exist without loopholes, Fan Linsong entrusted the prevention agency to change the information.” Ruan Xian took over.
Then no one spoke.
They all knew what this meant. From making a clone, to editing memories, to changing relevant data in the system, Fan Linsong couldn’t do this by himself.
The prevention agency acquiesced in the “treatment” of Ruan Xian, so there must be many helpers in the Institute who agreed with his approach.
“…I’m sorry,” Professor Ruan said.
“It’s not your fault. You don’t need to apologize.” Ruan Xian gave a low chuckle. “But looking at your current approach… I think if it were you standing in Fan Linsong’s position, you would do the same thing, right?”
Professor Ruan remained silent, neither giving affirmation or rejection.
“I know that all cases will have official records. At this point, I don’t want to pursue how many people wanted me to die.” Ruan Xian waved his hand. “Since there’s an official record, it means that my mother’s body was tested by a public institution that year, leaving a sample of genetic data.”
“Then what I saw was indeed not an illusion.” Ruan Xian touched his chin without the slightest frustration. “This is very interesting—according to our current inference, the Mainbrain didn’t crack Fan Linsong’s head and extract the information. Based on digital records before the doomsday, it was very likely that it didn’t know that ‘Ruan Yuchan’ was my mother, but it still made a copy of her… Are you sure your genetic information hasn’t been compromised?”
“I’m sure. When MUL-01 wasn’t yet put to market, Fan Linsong was very sensitive to related matters and asked everyone to pay attention to genetic safety. He may be… Well, not as calm as he thought about killing you.”
The brain in the liquid tank sighed quite humanely.
“On the day of the Great Rebellion, Fan Linsong and I were giving a speech in a foreign country. At his insistence, we took DNA jammers for the first time… At that time, I left some normal tissue samples of my own, but I have been carrying them with me, so I’m pretty sure they aren’t lost.”
“I’m also quite sure that my appearance and information aren’t in the system. Even if we compare the facial similarity and age, the files don’t match,” Ruan Xian said. “It shouldn’t be aimed at us, but…”
“I know what it is.” Tang Yibu poked his head out from the door frame.
The android had been there for a while. Besides, they had already finished talking about the S-type Prototype, so Ruan Xian didn’t bother to expose his eavesdropping. Sure enough, after they hadn’t talked for long, Tang Yibu popped out himself.
Those golden eyes glanced at Ruan Xian a few times with mixed emotions. However, the android was rarely affected by emotions for longer than three seconds—after a few seconds, the expression on Tang Yibu’s face became smug. He glanced at Professor Ruan again with an explicable sense of triumph in his eyes.
“Only I know what it is,” he stressed.
“Gwah!” The iron bead in Tang Yibu’s arm barked arrogantly.
“…Then tell me.” Ruan Xian rubbed his forehead, both tired and amused. God knew how long it had been since his emotions had fluctuated this much.
“I will.” Tang Yibu slowly retracted his outstretched head and moved to the door with a serious expression. “But I want information in exchange—just the thing you were talking about, in more detail, Mr. Ruan.”
A few floors down, the mood of the other group of people was nowhere close to the word relax.
Since Zhong Qing’s words “there are a few bodies missing”, the temperature of the basement seemed to suddenly drop by a few degrees. Ji Xiaoman swallowed down her spit as her metal fingers operated the light screen.
She wasn’t afraid of corpses, blood, and internal organs, but she still couldn’t accept the fact that the dead couldn’t move again.
“Don’t gasp when you speak,” Yu Le hissed.
“It’s the people who were put in here with me. Aren’t I also a corpse?” Zhong Qing whispered. “The Mainbrain will leave some rare data for storage and research, so their situation is similar to mine. But… But there are a few missing. It shouldn’t be like this.”
“Maybe they were just transported away.” The word “rare data” obviously made Ji Xiaoman feel a lot better.
“Then there’s no need to just take part of them?” In contrast to Ji Xiaoman, Zhong Qing’s fearless aura disappeared, and he looked quite scared. “No… It shouldn’t be like this. They should have counted carefully. I’ll be discovered.”
He tugged at his hair and the smugness unique to a young man was gone.
“I don’t know,” he murmured. “I don’t know what’s going on. It’s not safe here anymore. Let’s leave now, okay?”
The author has something to say:
He doesn’t mean to let Fan Linsong go, but his approach is similar to Professor Ruan in a sense.
And in every sense, Ruan was saved by Tang √ Tang was also saved by Ruan’s cultivation… I always like it when they save each other (?
Today is a happy day for the iron bead~