Chapter 18: Mound of Devotion
Xu Huaiming had a good biological clock and woke up at six in the morning.
Perhaps because he had eaten and drunk his fill at the restaurant the day before, Tan Xilu had gone straight to bed and slept without waking up.
Christmas fell on a weekend, and following Tan Xilu’s law of weekends, he wouldn’t wake up before eleven.
After waking up, Xu Huaiming made a simple breakfast in the kitchen and then sat on the couch, reading a book for a while. When the clock pointed to nine, he got up, ready to leave.
He arrived at the entrance of the laboratory by bus at half-past nine. Since one of the lab’s projects had just ended yesterday, the professor had given the students a day off, as it was a weekend. When Xu Huaiming entered the lab, only Professor Bowen and Little A were present.
Professor Bowen was busy making coffee, and the lab was filled with the strong aroma of bitterness. Little A lay on the ground, panting with its tongue out.
Hearing Xu Huaiming’s footsteps, Little A perked up and ran over as soon as it saw him.
Xu Huaiming crouched down and petted Little A’s fur, which had become rough due to not being groomed for a long time. It seemed that it had been a while since it had last been brushed.
Professor Bowen was the kind of person who could easily get lost in his work and forget everything else. There was even one time when he hadn’t left the lab for three days. Xu Huaiming wondered just how long it had been since he last left to make Little A’s fur so rough.
“Isn’t it still less than a month? Why are you here for maintenance again?” Professor Bowen poured himself a cup of coffee, adding milk. He was someone who enjoyed the finer things in life and was quite indulgent. Otherwise, who would install a coffee machine in a laboratory like this?
He stirred the coffee with a spoon and looked up at Xu Huaiming. “Or is there a problem with your emotions again?”
Xu Huaiming hesitated for a moment, seeming a bit regretful. He spoke with uncertainty, “I feel like I’ve been acting strangely lately.”
Looking at Professor Bon, Xu Huaiming confessed, “I saw a video of him with another man, and it hurt me, it made me feel really sad. I know I shouldn’t be angry, he deserves to be happy, but I can’t help feeling reluctant to let go.”
“Do you… do you think I’ve fallen for him?” Xu Huaiming asked, his voice trembling.
Professor Bowen raised an eyebrow and looked at him. “Have you fallen in love with him?”
Xu Huaiming hesitated for a moment, then shook his head with uncertainty.
Seeing Xu Huaiming’s expression, Professor Bowen understood. He smiled and said, “Actually, no. 7 consulted me once. He asked me what to do if he fell in love with a human. I told him it’s difficult because, for an AI, having emotions like love is challenging. If he falls in love with someone, it’s likely due to a programming issue. I made a great effort to restore his program, but unfortunately, maybe that unrequited love in his program was too overwhelming. His program didn’t recover, and as you know, his destiny was destruction.”
“As for you… you’re like a replica of him in terms of emotions. Have you fallen in love with that human? Actually, you can’t be sure of yourself. Why is that? Because no. 7 copied you, and in your system, the senses are the most sensitive. You feel sad when you see him with someone else because your program subtly suggests that you should love him. Regardless of the outcome, whether he falls in love with someone else and you part ways or you stay together for a very long time, it doesn’t matter. Right now, you’re like a human, you have emotions, and you naturally feel pain. But you need to understand, you’re an AI, not a real human.”
In other words, all this pain was just an illusion.
The dog barked twice, and it bit at Xu Huaiming’s pants, as if trying to wake him up.
After pondering for a moment, Xu Huaiming said, “I understand.”
“Good that you’ve figured it out. You have to realize that you can never truly fall in love with a human. Everything you think you feel is fake,” the professor said, taking a sip of his coffee without sugar, giving it a bitter taste.
Xu Huaiming nodded. He had been convinced by the professor. Yes, how could he possibly love Tan Xilu? It was all fake.
After coming to terms with it, Xu Huaiming’s bad mood from the previous night seemed to have dissipated. When he left the laboratory, he felt much better, and in the laboratory’s lobby, he could hear the sound of flowing water from a fountain.
In the center of the lobby, there was a golden toad, and the fountain water flowed from its mouth. Xu Huaiming stopped in his tracks, paused for a moment, and walked toward the fountain.
The fountain pool was filled with coins, although everyone in the research institute believed in science, occasionally they still had some superstitions, thinking that tossing a coin in the fountain would bring wealth.
Xu Huaiming had no desire for wealth. He took a moment to think and then took out a red velvet box from his pocket. The ring that was originally hidden in the cake was probably no longer of use. It had been in the cake for quite some time, and it still carried the sweet scent of cream.
With a “splash,” Xu Huaiming tossed the ring into the pool.
Since Tan Xilu would have better options, there was no need for surprises or anything else.
Xu Huaiming turned to leave, but after a few steps, he seemed to think of something. He sighed, and in the end, he turned back and stepped into the water to retrieve the ring.
He was still somewhat reluctant.
After picking up the ring, Xu Huaiming finally left, perhaps because the water had made his system less sensitive, and he didn’t even notice that someone was watching him from behind.
Tan Xilu was still sleeping when he heard footsteps outside, followed by the sound of a door opening and closing, and then the splashing of water.
He turned over, covering his ears with the blanket, but still found it somewhat annoying. Finally, he shouted, “Xu Huaiming, you’re so noisy.”
Outside, there was some muffled response, which Tan Xilu couldn’t quite make out. Ten minutes later, the bedroom door opened again.
The blanket was pulled away, and Tan Xilu heard Xu Huaiming’s voice, “Aren’t you getting up yet?”
Tan Xilu was feeling a bit grumpy, so he tugged the blanket and grunted.
“It’s almost lunchtime, and you’re still in bed,” Xu Huaiming said, pinching Tan Xilu’s nose.
Xu Huaiming had just taken a shower, and his hands were still slightly damp. Tan Xilu initially felt a chill, and then his nose got blocked. He felt uncomfortable as Xu Huaiming pinched his nose, so he reluctantly opened his eyes.
Tan Xilu had always found Xu Huaiming attractive. The first time he saw him, even though his clothes were stained, he remained composed. Instead of blaming Tan Xilu, he offered to buy him a new one. Such a gentle and considerate man was hard not to like.
Seeing Xu Huaiming right after a shower still made Tan Xilu’s heart skip a beat.
“Why are you showering so early in the morning?” Tan Xilu sat up in bed. “Aren’t you afraid of getting cold?”
“I accidentally stepped in a puddle when I went out, got myself wet, and I was afraid you’d find me dirty. So, I wanted to take a shower when I got back,” Xu Huaiming explained.
“Nonsense, who would find you dirty?” Tan Xilu beckoned to Xu Huaiming, motioning for him to come closer.
Xu Huaiming instinctively leaned closer; he wouldn’t refuse any of Tan Xilu’s requests. Tan Xilu reached out, grabbing the back of Xu Huaiming’s neck, and then straddled him on the bed.
He gazed at Xu Huaiming with a mischievous smile and said, “We owe each other from yesterday, how about we make up for it in broad daylight today?”
Xu Huaiming hesitated for a moment but then met Tan Xilu’s lips with his own.
“Your wish is my command,” he whispered.
T/N: Hey there! There is plenty more where that came from, so stay tuned! And stay healthy! Straighten your posture, so some stretches and drink some water before continuing hehe~
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