Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 198: The Last Day
Since the integration of the S-type Prototype, Ruan Xian didn’t need to rely on faces to recognize others. He could smell their scent, feel the heat they radiated, and hear their unique footsteps and heartbeat. They were intricately blended together to form a perceptual image of a person.
The aura was very similar to Tang Yibu’s, but there was a precise difference.
The Mainbrain definitely did something. Ruan Xian could smell the subtle smell in the air. The projection was constantly squeezing false heartbeats and breathing into the air. If it weren’t for knowing that the other party appeared out of thin air, Ruan Xian wouldn’t be sure whether it was a ghost or a real person that was in front of him.
Touching may not be useful. After all, the Mainbrain could create the Android Show, so it wasn’t difficult for it to disguise the appropriate tactile feedback.
This wasn’t the right time to communicate. Ruan Xian didn’t know what the Mainbrain wanted to do. Tang Yibu had always liked to be led around by curiosity, but this Mainbrain didn’t look like the type to have such free leisure.
He only knew that the moment the Mainbrain stepped into the room, everything in front of him was untrustworthy.
Ruan Xian gave the most appropriate reaction. He stared at the projection of MUL-01, acting like a scared and confused ordinary person.
“MUL-01.” He skipped the cheesy line “Who are you” and got straight to the point.
“Don’t be nervous. I’m not here to convince you.” The Mainbrain smiled. “My brother is at the same level of calculation. He should have worked you hard, both physically and mentally. After a few months of being with you, if I could sway you in just a few words and make you defect… That would mean there’s something wrong with you or you’re just acting.”
MUL-01’s persona exuded an exceptionally relaxed atmosphere, which made it very easy to win people’s goodwill. At this moment, he didn’t show the slightest sense of oppression and was as harmless as a young deer.
Ruan Xian continued to look at him vigilantly.
MUL-01 kept a smile on his face. “As long as you find the right method, it’s easy to destroy a person mentally, but it takes a lot of work to restore them to their original state. Mr. Ruan, I need your skills and mind, which is why I didn’t take other measures against you.”
These words even held a bit of sincerity to them.
Ruan Xian didn’t answer. He closed his mouth tightly, tasted the residue of blood in it, and refused to communicate.
The Mainbrain wasn’t disappointed by his performance. He stood up and made a gesture toward the window on the side of the room. The huge floor-to-ceiling window slowly opened and sweet air from the outside world poured in.
Fresh and moist, the temperature was just right. With the crispness of vegetation and the clearness of running water, it made people feel as if they could expel all the turbid air in their bodies in just one breath. There was a feeling of being gently cleansed in the lungs, and the soft wind that blew across the skin was soothing and comfortable.
The image outside the window before wasn’t completely disguised. It was more like half-truths, half-lies. They were at the top of an extremely high building, and there was a river in the distance that was gleaming like a crystal band. The buildings were adorned with trees, and from time to time, flying machines flew across the sky, accompanied by birdsong and children’s laughter that mingled together.
But these weren’t intelligence.
He could smell the ants crawling under the roots of the trees, the snakes slithering through the grass, and the mushrooms that began to grow in the corners. He could smell the sweat of children running about, the fresh fruits that were carefully cut, and the steaming aroma of hot water rolling from boiled tea leaves.
But he couldn’t hear Tang Yibu or anyone in the temporary group. He must have been taken to a place that was a certain distance from the city. Even if the Mainbrain wanted to fool him with a forged environment, it was impossible to rush out such high-precision details that were only temporary.
“Do you want to take a closer look?” The projection asked softly.
Ruan Xian shook his head and continued to play mute wholeheartedly.
“I see. Maybe my appearance makes you uncomfortable. Sorry, I’ll pay attention.”
MUL-01 wasn’t discouraged at all. Ruan Xian had the illusion that the words it was spitting out now were more like a recording that was left in advance—the other party had no empathy for his emotions and was just picking the most appropriate response.
“Then I won’t bother you for a while.” The door opened automatically, and the projection walked out of the room gracefully. At the same time, the large open floor-to-ceiling window was closed again, and the pure natural beauty returned to the window.
Ruan Xian snorted and retreated back to the bed. He tilted his eyes at the food on the bedside table. A rumbling sound came from his stomach, yet he still crawled back to his bed firmly, pushing away the soft pillow and continuing to make an uncooperative appearance.
This time, no one came to bother him.
The sky outside the window changed from light to dark. The birdsong gradually turned into insect chirps. The passage of time was similar to what Ruan Xian estimated. It seemed that the Mainbrain didn’t intend to do anything at this point. Ruan Xian’s heartbeat was a bit fast, but his current mood was closer to excitement than fear.
The only information he collected before was only enough for him to escape the physiological test. As for what he would face in the future, no one could tell. After all, according to Professor Ruan, once caught by the Mainbrain, no one had successfully escape.
To realize his plan, he must be cautious.
Ruan Xian lay down with a headache. He sat up again and got dressed. The milk and snacks on the bedside table had already gone cold, and no new food was delivered. Ruan Xian was so hungry that his eyes became blurry.
He took two breaths, looked at the snacks as if struggling, and finally twisted a piece and ate it slowly.
Even if it was cold, the snack was still crisp and sweet, and the delicate texture almost exploded on his tongue. Ruan Xian had to lament for a bit—if the Mainbrain used this thing to seduce Tang Yibu, perhaps this would increase its success rate.
After eating the snack and downing the milk, Ruan Xian began to walk around the room. He was definitely monitored, but if they wanted to use force by cutting off his water and electricity, he couldn’t help but be disappointed.
And that wouldn’t match the attitude shown by MUL-01.
For the time being, he racked his brain. In order to get information as soon as possible, what would the Mainbrain do?
Ruan Xian thought for a long time, to the point of torture. He wasn’t really good at this aspect, and he could only come up with all kinds of bloody scenes. He also didn’t teach Tang Yibu any of this…
Only one day apart, he began to think of Tang Yibu at every turn. The android seemed to be glued into his mind. Ruan Xian was shocked by this discovery for a few seconds and decided to find something to distract himself…
He grabbed the handle of the door and turned it completely subconsciously, just like anyone who encountered a closed door, but unexpectedly, the door opened.
A foul, acidic smell of garbage instantly hit his nose. Ruan Xian sneezed and stared at the scene in front of him.
The time was about eight in the morning. There were light screens showing the time floating in the windows of many shops on the street. The sky was strangely bright, and the air was cold and dry, looking as if it was winter.
In front of him was a bustling street, and he had just stepped out of a bungalow facing it. It was like the previous impression of the top of a building was just an illusion. People’s clothes weren’t the style he knew well, but they had a strange sense of familiarity.
The air here was also familiar to him. The wind that had been mechanically filtered still contained the smell of garbage, mechanical lubricants, and people’s breath. What he felt here was more illusory than he had ever felt before.
It was a forged environment.
Ruan Xian thought, with a deep expression on his face, that perhaps there was something mixed in the snacks and milk as he looked around. It didn’t take long for him to find what he wanted—a more detailed light screen than the other light screens, which showed the date.
December 31, 2100. The day of the Great Rebellion.
It seemed that in some ways, the Mainbrain and Professor Ruan still had similarities. Ruan Xian took a deep breath of the city air and returned to the room. However, when he turned around, all the furnishings in the room had changed.
There was no longer a beautiful overlook at the other end of the floor-to-ceiling window. It had now become a small private garden. The moonlight in the room turned into sunlight that basked the blanket, filling the room with the unique smell of a blanket warmed in the sun. The milk cup and snack tray were still in their original position, and there were traces of milk and snack residue that hadn’t been changed.
Ruan Xian frowned and opened the refrigerator, followed by the wardrobe—the former was full of water and energy drinks, and the latter was stuffed with plain clothes of similar styles, one of which was a long white coat that was particularly dazzling.
Ruan Xian tentatively brushed the fabrics with his fingers to make sure they were real, and then quickly changed his clothes. The shoes in the shoe cabinet were also his size. It seemed that it had suddenly changed from a luxury cell to a high-end single apartment.
No matter what the Mainbrain was trying to sell, he had to try to see it through as naturally as possible.
Just when he forced himself to finish showering and put on his clothes in languish, there came a knock on the door.
“Mr. Ruan.” The soft tone was extremely familiar.
Ruan Xian splashed another handful of cold water onto his face and dried it with a towel. “…Yibu?”
“Yes.” The android he was familiar with opened the door on his own and stuck his head from behind it. “I’m here to pick you up.”
“You can’t be here.” Ruan Xian dutifully showed shock, but his lips trembled a bit that he almost failed to succeed in doing so.
“Why can’t I be here?” Tang Yibu raised his brows. There was even a little grievance in his tone. “What did you eat last night?”
“…Are you sure you want to come with me?” Ruan Xian squeezed the words from between his teeth. “Enough, MUL-01.”
The “Tang Yibu” in front of him smiled. What was creepy was the smile was exactly the same as Tang Yibu’s. Originally, their auras were extremely similar. After it had changed its form, it now looked as if it was Tang Yibu’s twin that it had grown up with since childhood.
But there were things that were different that Ruan Xian couldn’t find a reasonable explanation. All he knew was that every cell in his body was screaming that it wasn’t his NUL-00.
“I made some optimizations based on your reaction to the projection,” MUL-01 said “happily”. “Because we’re similar, you will instinctively compare me with him. I just need to correct those differences, Mr. Ruan.”
“Oh,” Ruan Xian replied.
“You will come with me.” That familiar face was covered with his familiar smile. His golden eyes had a strange sense of transparency in the sun. “Because you’re smart and know the consequences of unnecessary delay.”
‘Of course he knew,’ Ruan Xian thought. At least in this regard, there was no essential difference between MUL-01 and Tang Yibu—they would definitely choose the best solution, but if the best solution seemed unworkable, they would turn to the second-best without any hesitation. They wouldn’t cling to sunk costs like humans do.
Judging by the current situation, the second-best solution was undoubtedly classic torture, brainwashing, and mental destruction. They could flatten his will and turn him into a machine working for the Mainbrain.
Ruan Xian didn’t really like this second-best solution—not out of fear of pain or collapse, but if the process involved was physical, the existence of the S-type Prototype would highly likely be exposed.
For the time being, following the Mainbrain was the best choice. Besides, it still had a lot to deal with. Most likely, the thing in front of him was just a branch program, so the danger wasn’t that high. What was more, he didn’t have unlimited time… If he wanted everything to go in accordance with his own plan, he had to get ahead of Professor Ruan.
“Oh,” Ruan Xian repeated again.
The Mainbrain version of “Tang Yibu” was still smiling. He had a warm gray scarf wrapped around his neck, and his every move looked like the android in his memory. If he was a normal person, most likely he would inevitably be confused at this point, and instinctively his sense of dependence and trust would surface.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t a normal person, and he had no trust in Tang Yibu. Ruan Xian held back his confused expression, adjusted his breathing for a bit, and then stepped out.
“What are you going to show me?” Ruan Xian asked in a blunt tone.
“You can’t guess?” The Mainbrain imitated Tang Yibu vividly, with a cheerful tone in his voice.
Ruan Xian refused to answer this meaningless question. Whether it was from an acting perspective or mood level, he didn’t want to communicate with this imposter.
The Mainbrain obviously expected this. He trotted a few steps forward to a shop in front of them and bought two hotdogs. He handed one to Ruan Xian while eating the other happily with bulging cheeks.
Ruan Xian wanted to punch him, but he had to shake off this emotion, which only made his stomach hurt.
He highly suspected that if he threw the hotdog away, the excellent actor in front of him would be able to instantly turn his eyes red. The encounter with the Mainbrain was more difficult than he imagined. Ruan Xian held the hotdog in his hand and followed “Tang Yibu” silently while he cast his gaze at the pedestrians on the side of the road.
Judging from the richness of the information, it was very likely that this was an image stored in the Mainbrain. These people truly existed and knew nothing about the demise that was about to come.
“I recorded all the information from that day,” Tang Yibu, the Mainbrain version, said while swallowing the last bite of hotdog. “What you see is indeed ‘reality’.”
…Your father’s and your hobbies are quite similar. Ruan Xian silently rolled his eyes. He had seen this trick on the Android Show. It was the same as what Professor Ruan used to trick Tang Yibu to pull out his memories.
Seeing that Ruan Xian didn’t respond, the Mainbrain still wasn’t anxious or annoyed. He threw the hotdog wrapper into a trashcan, rubbed his hands, then grabbed Ruan Xian’s hand quite naturally and dragged him onwards.
Ruan Xian’s hair almost stood up all at once. He must admit that the Mainbrain truly understood how to expose a person’s emotions.
He had almost slipped up, but fortunately, he stopped in time. Ruan Xian twisted his disgusted expression until it couldn’t reveal its original intention. His hands trembled slightly, and a thin layer of sweat appeared in the palms of his hands.
“Still mind?” The Mainbrain blinked. “You’re a scientist, Mr. Ruan. You should know that, in essence, I’m no different from him.”
“I reconstructed it based on his program and data. The core logic is almost the same. Brother is just a more understandable term; on a realistic level, I am him—a mature version of him.”
After he spoke, the Mainbrain wrinkled his nose. “With this appearance, I’m even more consistent. The difference is simply a difference in memory data and the fact that I have quite a few more order requirements than he. But those requirements are not part of me. I hope you understand.”
He looked at Ruan Xian almost pitifully.
“The NUL-00 you know is more like a version that is out of my network and has not had time to upgrade. That’s all.”
Ruan Xian looked at him with a stern face. “Then what? Assuming you catch NUL-00, will you treat him as carefully as you treat yourself?”
“I will integrate the data and experience he has accumulated into my algorithm, and then upgrade him—in simple terms, put him back where he belongs.” The Mainbrain pointed to his temple. “Yes, this is how I treat myself.”
Then he lowered his head and the smile on his face became bigger. “If his thinking algorithm is more effective, you can even think that he will become me in time—isn’t it easier to think like that?”
Ruan Xian looked at the Mainbrain extremely shaken.
It was just that this wavering wasn’t in belief—Ruan Xian really wanted to beat the thing in front of him, and if he could, he wanted to beat up Fan Linsong and Professor Ruan together, but he still held back and endured it.
“…Let’s go.” Ruan Xian took a while to hold himself back before speaking.
“Okay, Mr. Ruan.”
“I’m not your Mr. Ruan.”
The author has something to say:
Ruan: (Old father’s anger)
Ruan: (Anger at an object)
Ruan: (Old father + object’s anger is doubled)
Ruan: …This is not my Tang. It’s an artificial sweetener*. (?
*Clarity: The author is making a pun here as Tang means sweet/sugar/candy, so he’s calling the fake Tang an artificial sweetener.
I always hated artificial sweeteners. They always give me a bad feeling.