Chapter 23: Evening Maple Song
The extravagant banquet hosted by Chi Yexing was held in the largest private room on the second floor. Young people from affluent families tended to favor extravagance. Although there weren’t many people in attendance, the private room had to be the grandest, and the dishes had to be the best, no matter the cost.
A plate of Australian lobsters was just placed on the table, large and imposing, surrounded by crushed ice and positioned in the center. A young lady sitting nearby had never seen such a massive lobster before, and she exclaimed with a “wow,” taking out her phone from her bag to take a picture.
Li Zhao moved his teacup away from the edge of the table, afraid that the young lady might accidentally knock it over.
The young lady noticed his gesture, blushed, and apologized, “Sorry.”
Li Zhao smiled at her and shook his head, saying, “It’s okay.”
The girl smiled back at him, her cheeks even redder, and put her phone away without taking any more pictures.
Li Zhao inadvertently captured the heart of a young lady with a simple interaction. Chi Yexing patted Li Zhao’s shoulder and asked, “What’s up with you, kid?”
Chi Yexing sat on Li Zhao’s other side, and he had been drinking quite a bit, but he had a good tolerance for alcohol, so he was only slightly flushed at this point. He had invited Li Zhao to help prepare for the engagement ceremony. He had even invited several of the bride’s close friends, all in an effort to surprise her. Little did he know that after a few drinks, Li Zhao was already exchanging flirtatious glances with one of the bride’s friends.
“What can I do?” Li Zhao made a clicking sound with his tongue. He could tell from Chi Yexing’s expression what was going on. “What are you thinking, my friend?”
Chi Yexing didn’t want to waste too much time on small talk. After filling Li Zhao’s glass with wine, he began discussing the main topic of the day, “This engagement is quite important to Shanshan’s parents, so both the engagement and the proposal ceremony need to be special. Shanshan likes romance, so we can’t make it too ordinary. You need to come up with some ideas.”
Chi Yexing had entrusted Li Zhao with planning the engagement ceremony because Li Zhao had a wealth of experience in matters of the heart. He knew that Shanshan favored romantic gestures, and he believed Li Zhao could deliver.
“I think nowadays, girls like a more free-spirited kind of romance,” Li Zhao suggested. “Shanshan often posts scenic photos on her social media, so she must enjoy traveling. You could plan a trip together and propose during the journey.”
“That’s not a bad idea,” Chi Yexing pondered for a moment. “But I’ll need to do a lot of research for the trip. Shanshan is quite picky.”
“Girls, you know,” Li Zhao chuckled. “You’ll be marrying her, so putting in some extra effort is worth it, right?”
Chi Yexing nodded in agreement, seemingly accepting Li Zhao’s suggestion.
Back in their university days, Chi Yexing and Li Zhao had been aware of each other’s existence but had never really interacted. Rumors had circulated about each of them. Chi Yexing had heard that Li Zhao was a spoiled and rebellious young master, while Li Zhao had heard that Chi Yexing was a cunning schemer who had returned to the Chi family to compete for inheritance. These rumors had created a certain level of distrust between them.
Their first significant interaction happened because of a senior student who was interested in both of them. Chi Yexing had broken up with the senior student after learning that she was also chatting with Li Zhao. Li Zhao, being the type to swiftly move on, immediately ended the relationship as well.
This incident had brought them closer, and Li Zhao had realized that Chi Yexing was not as calculating as the rumors had suggested. In fact, Chi Yexing often took the blame for things he didn’t do just to avoid conflicts.
Chi Yexing, on the other hand, had learned about Li Zhao’s straightforward personality and his aversion to complicated relationships. This made Chi Yexing more comfortable around him.
Since then, they had become friends, although they still held a certain level of wariness toward each other. But they had both matured, and their priorities had shifted. Chi Yexing was focused on his career, while Li Zhao had set aside his romantic pursuits to help his friend plan an unforgettable proposal.
Li Zhao took a sip of his drink, the fiery liquor burning down his throat and making him feel slightly numb. At some point, the waiter had brought dessert, and the young lady next to him was enjoying a small cake.
Li Zhao’s gaze landed on the cake, and he remembered that Tan Xilu liked this particular kind.
He asked the young lady, “Do you find this cake delicious?”
The young lady, taken aback by the sudden question, choked a bit on her cake, coughing a few times. She then blushed and nodded, replying, “It’s very delicious.”
“Do you really like it?” Li Zhao inquired further.
Her cheeks flushed even more as she nodded again.
When the girl lowered her head, Li Zhao suddenly noticed that she had a mole on her earlobe, in the exact same spot as the one on Tan Xilu’s ear. His heart couldn’t help but flutter, and before he even realized it himself, he blurted out, “Are you free tonight?”
Li Zhao was someone who didn’t discriminate between men and women, but in recent years, he had avoided getting involved with girls to avoid complications. He was still young and wanted to have some fun for a few more years. If he could settle down and marry Tan Xilu, that would be fine, but otherwise, he would still be subject to arranged marriages within his family.
At the end of the second-floor corridor, there was a large balcony where you could enjoy a panoramic view of the city. Li Zhao leaned against the railing, smoking a cigarette. It was dusk, and the sun had gradually dipped below the horizon, casting lingering sunlight through the balcony’s glass windows.
The orange spark of a lighter flickered on and off as Li Zhao exhaled a deep breath. He remembered that after he had spoken those words, the young girl had widened her eyes, stared at him for a moment, and then slapped him. He couldn’t help but chuckle.
He had underestimated the girl, thinking she was the type he could casually invite out as he used to at parties. Little did he know that the girl was from a respectable family and Lin Shan’s junior from elementary school.
The slap had instantly sobered him up, leaving a bright red imprint on his face. It was then that he learned the girl was no ordinary person.
Before leaving, Li Zhao had brought a bottle of ice-cold mineral water with him. He had to admit that the girl had quite some strength; his face still stung, and it was probably a bit swollen.
With one hand, Li Zhao pressed the mineral water bottle lightly against his face, massaging it gently. As the bottle’s coldness melted, his cheeks soon became wet. Li Zhao had no choice but to put the bottle down, take a tissue from his pocket to dry his face, and then dry the water bottle. He then resumed massaging his face, repeating the process.
When you were alone and quiet, it was easy to think about various random things. Li Zhao found himself thinking about the scene he had witnessed at the research institute that day.
He had visited the institute once, entering through the back door. As he entered, he happened to see someone coming out of the laboratory and walking to the front door. He also saw that person standing by the fountain for a while, tossing something in and then picking it up. Later, when he saw Professor Bowen, he mentioned it casually.
The day before, when he had mentioned his visit to the professor, they had arranged to meet today because the institute was on holiday.
Little A didn’t seem to like Li Zhao much. When he entered, Little A had growled at him in a hostile manner, unlike his friendly behavior towards Tan Xilu. But Li Zhao had developed a liking for this AI puppy and would often squat down to pet its fur.
This time, Li Zhao had come to inquire about 059’s situation and how he was doing now.
Professor Bowen said, “059 has been working as a training instructor recently. The new AI models that have just come out still need adjustments, such as refining their body language and facial expressions, making them more natural. He’s responsible for helping them with that.”
“Sounds like he’s doing well,” Li Zhao teased Little A. “But what I really want to know is, did his memory truly get erased? I’ve heard that these new AI models have powerful memory capabilities. What if he regains his memories someday?”
“That won’t happen. You’re talking about the latest AI models,” Professor Bowen explained. “059 was independently developed by Xiao Zhou. He’s different from the latest AI models, which are designed to mimic humans completely. They can’t be distinguished from humans in terms of appearance or actions, and they can even have a certain level of independent thinking. 059 can also have his own thoughts, but he is still subject to Xiao Zhou’s control. Compared to the latest models, he’s more obedient.”
Li Zhao asked, “So, Professor, are you saying that the latest AI models are even more advanced?”
Professor Bowen became excited as he talked about it. “Absolutely! They are truly remarkable.”
With a hint of pride, Professor Bowen continued, “But don’t tell anyone this: the latest AI models were actually developed by the previous generation of AI. It’s a program creating another program, isn’t that amazing?”
He went on to explain, “AI has precise data and programs; they don’t make mistakes. So, the AI models developed by machines are more advanced than those developed by humans. Their systems rarely encounter errors.”
“But, you know, no matter how advanced research technology is, there are always drawbacks because machines are cold and emotionless. Regardless of replicates…”
T/N: Wishing you all a good September and welcome to Bad End month! 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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What about the perfect, most non-toxic male lead ever? Laws of Love
How about MC nursing ML back to health? Forced into the Deep
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