Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 203: The Dark Side
It was all retribution.
He must had fainted from hunger as he started to consider the stupid question of whether Tang Yibu had eaten. Ruan Xian thought for ten minutes and decided that even if the Mainbrain knocked on his doorstep, Tang Yibu could still manage to fight it with bread in his mouth, and perhaps even be able to squeeze out some time to apply a few layers of peanut butter.
Thinking of peanut butter, he became hungrier and grumpier.
The last bit of precious freedom was wasted on guessing what Tang Yibu would eat—if Ruan Xian could still manipulate his body, he would’ve punched the table twice.
But now he couldn’t.
Ten minutes ago, before he had time to finish his emotions about the blue sky and white clouds, the scene in front of him flickered and turned into a dim room. “He” was looking through information on an electronic paper with a cup of tea that had an unpleasant smell in his hand. God knew what was in it.
But there was also a plate of mung bean cake, which looked quite appetizing. Ruan Xian’s mind became more stable. He stretched out his hand to grab the mung bean cake, but instead he picked up the weird-smelling tea and poured it into his mouth.
Unexpectedly, the tea didn’t taste that bitter, nor was it too strong. The light bitterness spread in his mouth and Ruan Xian heard himself make two muffled coughs.
That voice wasn’t his, and the hand wasn’t his.
There was no need for a mirror. Ruan Xian could see it. That hand was full of wrinkles and cracks that one would instantly know belonged to an old man at first glance. He himself wouldn’t choose such bad-tasting clothes—this body was covered with exaggerated clothing, like a dirty Christmas tree. Even the pair of green plush slippers under his feet had turned gray.
The decoration was also the same, with scattered small objects on all sides, filling the originally small room full. Dust accumulated on the dirty pendants, plastic dolls had turned yellow and deformed, and gray cobwebs formed in the gaps like a dreamcatcher. That kind of scene wasn’t something that a designer carefully set up to exude warmth and excitement and was closer to an old hoarder’s storage room—flowers and greenery piled around, giving off a soft yet blunt feeling.
These were all that he saw with the remaining light from the corner of his eyes.
After being fed a second sip of tea by that hand, Ruan Xian quickly figured out his current state. The Mainbrain was more cautious than he thought. It didn’t leave him even an inch of space to play freely.
In the end, the influence of external objects such as images was limited, and people couldn’t fully understand each other. Directly using memories and feelings as weapons was theoretically more effective. At least if it was him, this was something he would definitely do.
However, Ruan Xian never thought that the Mainbrain could be so sinister—instead of imposing other people’s memory fragments in him, the Mainbrain directly threw his consciousness into other people’s bodies.
“This day” was an established fact that had already happened. As a certain piece of data, the original owner of the body acted as usual and wasn’t affected by Ruan Xian, an outsider.
In a nutshell, he was imprisoned in a body that he couldn’t use, and he could only be forced to watch in first-person with various emotional effects attached.
For a brief moment, Ruan Xian believed that his little trick had been discovered and that he was suffering from such a great loss—
He knew very well that the tragedies that had been poured into his mind day and night before might be a crueler and more practical “test” than any diagnosis. The Mainbrain established a judgement system based on his response and then performed appropriate processing based on the results.
Letting Ruan Lijie collapse in a decent manner was innocuous. If it really drove him crazy, there would be no benefit to reap. The Mainbrain would definitely ensure this.
After all, it couldn’t get the ability and memory of “Ruan Lijie” from cracking him like a chestnut, so it was better to make him submit sincerely. As the nominal “mechanical life expert”, Ruan Lijie could not only expose how armed Tang Yibu’s side was but also could continue his research with the support of better resources. The Mainbrain could then sit back and enjoy its harvest.
More ideally, perhaps he could play a double agent depending on the situation, and stab NUL-00 in the back when it wasn’t paying attention.
After Ruan Xian pitted Tang Yibu seriously in his heart for a few minutes, he had to face reality—Ruan Lijie was an ordinary scholar with acceptable values but was enticed by Tang Yibu. In the face of such an opponent, the customized plan given by the Mainbrain was still so extremely careful that it was irritating.
Now his mind was trapped in the shell of an old man, and he was forced to watch the old man’s daily life before the doomsday, and he couldn’t even get a bite of mung bean cake.
But since the Mainbrain forced him to watch this, this old man was definitely not some idler who lived a simple, leisurely life.
Ruan Xian was forced to swallow a mouthful of bitter tea, desperately digging for information from the old man’s vision.
The location was very high, but the building materials in the room were rough. It didn’t look like a building, but more like a homemade hut temporarily built in a high place. Through the thin glass, the bustling city was within easy reach. Ruan Xian was stunned for a few seconds—during this period, MUL-01 should’ve managed most of the rules of social operation, so its supervision techniques wouldn’t be so rough.
Ruan Xian couldn’t wait to put everything he saw into his mind. Even if he couldn’t move a single step by himself, he had to dig up some information from these details.
There was a very conspicuous space in the home. An old machine was covered with dirt and grease that extended all the way to the back. It was full of scorch marks and broken wires poked out from the breach. The indicator light on it was extinguished, but this thing should still be on.
The record of the Mainbrain was perfect. Ruan Xian could feel the numbness and suffocation in the old man’s heart, as well as the pain in his joints and chest. Fortunately, this was an area where Ruan Xian was particularly good at—suppressing his nature and tolerating pain. It didn’t add much pressure to the situation; he just became hungrier.
The old man sat there in silence, drinking tea while reading a book, until there was a knock on the door.
“Uncle Liang.” The woman was holding a child and was twisting his ears as she entered. “The usual.”
The child was so anxious that he scratched and bit at the woman’s wrist and arm. “Don’t! I had a hard time going out to play—”
“Pay first.” There was a dry pain in his throat. Ruan Xian knew now why the old man was desperately drinking tea.
The woman nodded and swept her wristband across the big mechanical card at the door. The old man stood up, patted the soil on his body, grabbed the child, and pushed him directly into the chair. The entire process was completed in one go, yet he still had a lot of strength left in his thin body.
“You came here three times yesterday,” the old man muttered. “It’s not good for the brain to keep doing this.”
“What do children know?” The woman raised her eyes. “Who remembers what they did 24 hours a day? Let him think that he’d taken a nap and fallen dead asleep and forgotten about it when he ran to the edge of the city to play by himself for fear that he wouldn’t be discovered. Okay, now that he knows that I’ve fooled him before and he knows the city is a good place, can I not erase some memories?”
“Then a nap it is.” The old man didn’t have much mind to chat with her. His full-hearted thoughts of ‘it doesn’t matter’ were about to seep into Ruan Xian’s mind. These negative emotions were extremely eroding.
The machine that looked like a half-box blew in and out, and the door opened and closed. The old man moved to the operation screen and started working it slowly. The little boy was firmly tied to the chair, and soon there wasn’t any movement of resistance. After a while, the mechanical door opened again, and the little boy was fast asleep in the chair; only the heaves of his chest were left.
“It’s done.” The old man had no emotions in his heart. “He’ll just feel as if he took a nap and didn’t go anywhere.”
The woman nodded, stopped talking, and walked out the door with the child in her arms.
As the sun rose, the old man’s place became lively. Ruan Xian suddenly felt that this place was a bit like an underground blood bank, but rather than blood, it was memories being bought and sold. Some people spent money to get them removed, while others wanted them to be copied. Most of them wanted to get them out, and it was rare that some were there to sell.
There were all kinds of people who wanted to throw away their memories. There were scantily clad men and women, patients on the verge of an emotional breakdown, and parents who used them to discipline their children. There was only one person who came to sell memories—Ruan Xian hadn’t eaten a single piece of the mung bean cake all morning. When he was on the verge of hunger that he was about to go insane, a man entered the door timidly.
“They say you can buy and sell memories here.” The man was well dressed, but unfortunately, he looked cowardly. “Isn’t this illegal…”
Ruan Xian could feel the tension in the old man’s facial muscles as well as his unhappy emotions that was like cold mud, which instantly overwhelmed him. “If the machine works, then the Mainbrain can find it. Those lofty people above are too lazy to take care of things like this. What are you going on about? Fuck off.”
“No, no. I didn’t mean it like that.” The man quickly waved his hand and wiped the seat from his forehead. “Hello, Uncle Liang. I… Uh, I just moved here…”
“I may be old but not blind.” The old man’s tone was still not good, and his cold emotions enveloped Ruan Xian. “Sell, right? What do you want to sell?”
“I’m an employee of Plan Corp… I used to be an employee of Plan Corp.” The man twisted his coat made of good fabric. “I…”
“I don’t care. Everyone who comes here is the same. If there’s no sickness or disaster, who would move to a place like this?” The old man interrupted. “Sell or not? Just say it.”
“I have very good childhood memories and a few high-quality love experiences,” the man said quickly. “I want to sell a copy for 10,000. I can get out of here as long as I can pay a portion of the violation fine first. Alright, won’t you do it as a favor.”
“10,000 for one copy? If I had that kind of money, I would have gone to the city to get a regular cocktail. Why would I want your insecure shit?” The old man spat. “I have plenty of childhood and love saved, so I need something more exciting. I can pay up to 1,500.”
The man froze on the spot, and several people behind him in line started to swear.
“If you don’t want to sell, don’t get in the way of my business.” The old man spat out.
“I… I’ll sell.” The man seemed to have thought of something, and his face turned the color of pig liver. “I’ll sell. Uncle Liang, I heard before that irregular memory operations may cause personality data to be mixed together. I want to sell a few copies at a time. Do you think there’s any way to avoid…”
“You’re still worried about this at this moment? It’s better to worry about the people who will buy your memory to relieve boredom,” the old man replied indifferently. “You, at most, will feel sad when the memory is dug out—but I have to remind you. My equipment isn’t good. Copying it will hurt your brain, and it’s like chewing on sugarcane. The first time it feels refreshing, but the second will feel like a chore, and the third time it’ll become tasteless. Even if you think about those things later, you won’t be happy.”
He bared his teeth at the man. “People can’t live without hope. If you want to sell it all at once for the money but don’t have any good ideas on how to support yourself, you will want to kill yourself as soon as you leave here. Let’s do this. I’ll copy ten segments and give you something good, so you can at least have some hope—10,000. 10 memory copies. One memory injection. No bargain.”
The man gritted his teeth and responded.
This was probably the only big event that happened in the morning. When noon arrived, the old man closed the door and was no longer open. He sat back in the chair by the window and finally pinched off a piece of mung bean cake and stuffed it into his mouth.
Ruan Xian, who was dizzy from hunger, finally breathed a sigh of relief.
A lot of information had been given to him in the past few hours. Obviously, in the era before the rebellion, although the social structure had changed, there would always be things that should be there would always be there.
It was just that, in the past, people would watch real life and death in the Colosseum*. Later, these experiences were put on stage and screen, and in the end, there was no need for real people to star in them, as long as the software was synthesized.
*Referencing gladiator battles in the Colosseum back in the ancient era of the Roman Empire.
In the end, everyone reached out to the final result—directly stripping away memories and experiences.
Ruan Xian still remembered the “dead agreement” mentioned by Tang Yibu, the last mnemonic method before the Great Rebellion. Since illegal memory transactions were on the table, there must be a rather unpleasant situation at this time.
Next, Ruan Xian quickly felt these “conditions” firsthand.
The old man took out a few metal cans from under the box, ran to the memory operation machine, sneered at a cup of liquid in the cans, and then threw a few dirty metal balls into it. Ruan Xian was familiar with this operation. He was going to make a homemade memory cocktail.
He could feel the excitement in the old man’s mind. Those memories were squeezed out of the mind of the Plan Corp employee and were completely fresh. The old man put his thin legs on the ottoman, slumped into the chair, and began to enjoy those memories.
Feeling the common situation, Ruan Xian immediately sensed that something was wrong.
If the memory cocktail they tried in the Glass Conservatory was clear juice, what the old man put into his head was more like unfiltered jam. They stuck to too many things. In addition to simple images and emotions, certain specific thoughts burrowed into the skull and turned the brain upside down.
For a moment, Ruan Xian felt pessimistic about everything in front of him; he was too lazy to move, and his strong self-denial was about to crush him. Only then did he realize that those thoughts weren’t his—part of the personality data was being integrated into the old man’s brain.
The latter was like an alcoholic, happily accepting them, feeling the collision of thoughts that were so intense that they almost divided people’s minds. It was a crazy influx of memories.
The stripped memories weren’t clean. The memories were mixed with recollections and themes that were roughly clear. Everything was foggy and strong, shaking the human brain. Fortunately, Ruan Xian had just gotten some satisfaction from eating, so he was able to hold on.
Then he found a thin silk thread.
Just as the old man half-opened his mouth and stared at the ceiling blankly, Ruan Xian fished out a small fragment from the memory of the former Plan Corp employee. It was vague and broken, not worth mentioning, but it is like a spark floating in an oil barrel.
Regarding how to better deal with MUL-01, Ruan Xian suddenly had an idea.
He saw the latest map on the light screen. In that memory, the man was driving a car towards a certain destination, casting a brief glance at the map cast by the light screen.
This glimpse was enough for Ruan Xian to grab the first piece of the puzzle.
He would not be sunk by this stimulus plan of “being confined in other people’s bodies and forced to watch a dark reality”. On the contrary, if the Mainbrain decided to shove these terrible fragments into him, he could find gold from it.
As a “mechanical life expert”, Ruan Lijie didn’t have this ability, but as the creator of NUL-00, Ruan Xian was familiar with the relevant characteristics of MUL-01.
December 31, 2100.
The core hardware of the Mainbrain was installed a few years ago. If it was to have the ability to influence the world, the hardware would have to occupy a large area, so the geographical conditions would be carefully selected. If he could gather enough information, he could calculate its location.
But that was on the premise that the Mainbrain had not moved its main hardware.
It would depend on the motivation of the Great Rebellion.
Ruan Xian was full of energy as he captured fragments of memory that would become blades. The sun arced across the sky and the Great Rebellion came with the night, plunging the world into chaos. The next moment, time reset, and the sun rose again. Ruan Xian woke up inside another memory trader. This time he wasn’t half confused, but calm and happy.
Since the Mainbrain wanted to wait for him to collapse, he would “collapse”, but before then, he had to take a dip in this tormenting but gold-rich sea of intelligence for a while.
When his “betrayal” would be discovered, he didn’t know how Tang Yibu would react. Ruan Xian’s mood became complicated.
……He hoped that Tang Yibu wouldn’t cry then.
The author has something to say:
The Mainbrain: Throw him into a chaotic area and lock him up. He’ll feel hostility over and over again and will eventually collapse.
Ruan: happy gold rush.jpg