Edited by: kapekopicoffee
A spark flashed at the muzzle and a bullet burst out of the long barrel.
Time was stilled, cut out, pieced together, and extended.
The scene began to play frame by frame.
Li Shuoxing watched as the bullet tore a trajectory through the air, bringing a trail of smoke and fire with it, effortlessly flying across the sky towards Su Mingqian’s brain.
The grey pupils reflected the bullet, the killer, and even the sky.
Only his figure was absent.
The anger boiling in his chest suddenly chilled into frost, freezing Li Shuoxing’s hands and feet.
But, at the same time, Li Shuoxing’s body was released from its confinement. What had been accumulating in Li Shuoxing’s body burst out instantly, driving Li Shuoxing to rush forward and pounce on Su Mingqian!
The bullet came from the front to the back, and Li Shuoxing came from the back to the front. Both were facing each other.
The whistling wind was like a sharp laugh, scraping at the eardrums of the human ear.
The final distance seemed to have been maliciously stretched, always a fingertip’s width away.
Li Shuoxing’s heart was overwhelmed with urgency. He fixed his eyes on Su Mingqian and the bullet rushing towards Su Mingqian, repeating in his mind, “Faster, even faster, get to Mingqian right away—”
At the last moment, when the bullet was about to hit Su Mingqian’s brain, Li Shuoxing’s hand finally grabbed Su Mingqian’s arm.
The ecstasy of regaining what he had lost rushed to Li Shuoxing’s chest. In the blink of an eye, it became infinite courage to protect a person.
He tugged Su Mingqian, pulling him to hide behind himself. Then, he lifted up the rocket launcher, aimed at Tom in front of him, and pulled the trigger hard!
A rocket rushed out of the launcher and fired at where Tom was in front of him. In an instant, a big crater was formed in the oasis, and sand and mud spurted into the sky like water!
Tom was turned into ashes by this rocket launcher.
Li Shuoxing took a couple steps back because of the rocket launcher’s recoil. At the same time, a great clamour came from the ambush site of the armed forces ahead. Then, the grass and leaves rustled, and a group of people suddenly rushed out from the ambush site, surrounding Li Shuoxing and Su Mingqian in a fan shape.
Li Shuoxing looked at the people in front of him.
They were wearing different clothes: with camouflage, sportswear, and even ordinary suits used for work. Their only similarity was that they all had black headgear and submachine guns, both of which were unique to terrorists.
The submachine guns, like the encirclement, were also fanned out and aimed at the two of them.
And the eyes revealed from the black headgear were cold and crazy, filled with the desire to destroy.
They smiled at Li Shuoxing.
Li Shuoxing also smiled at them.
The submachine guns’ triggers and the rocket launcher’s switch were pulled down at the same time, and a huge roar, accompanied by spitting tongues of fire, blazed through the battlefield together! But, the two sides didn’t have balanced firepower. The contrast between the submachine gun and the rocket launcher was like a dwarf holding a knife and a giant wielding a sledgehammer.
One from in front, Li Shuoxing shot one.
One from in front, Li Shuoxing fired one.
Li Shuoxing firmly and elegantly blocked Su Mingqian, taking a step further with each shot. The people in front of him who had rushed in were decreasing in number as he pressingly stepped forward, until they turned around in a panic and started running away.
At the same time, a flare was pulled in front of them, like a sharp arrow, swooshing, tearing the yellow sand veil open from the bottom up, dashing into the sky, long and bright.
Li Shuoxing froze for a few seconds. After he looked around and found no more enemies, he dropped the rocket launcher in his hand.
He turned around, took two large steps towards Su Mingqian, and firmly swept the person into his arms, not willing to relax his grip for a long time.
What had changed was the present, and what had remained the same was the past.
Reality and virtuality left a selfish and cold boundary at this moment.
In the present, Su Mingqian dodged the bullet at the last moment, but, in the past, the bullet really passed through Su Mingqian’s brain.
Li Shuoxing felt scared.
Fear made his teeth chatter uncontrollably, but he tried to restrain his fear. He deliberately said casually, “Mingqian, don’t be afraid. You saw that I knocked out all those enemies like they were moles. Don’t worry. They won’t come back. Even if they do, I’ll drive them away again.”
Su Mingqian remembered everything, and the final image.
A bullet appeared.
His body, along with his mind, became very, very light, then disappeared…
The same image, the same fear, had taken hold of him for a time, until now, where there was a different outcome.
The battle exploded like fireworks and ended like fireworks.
This time, all the danger was stopped by this person.
Su Mingqian shook his head. “I’m not afraid.”
He said that and looked into Li Shuoxing’s eyes.
The man who met his eyes immediately lowered his head, reached up to rub his slightly red eyes, and whispered, “The desert wind’s too strong and got sand into my eyes. I can’t rub it out. Luckily, it didn’t delay the fight. You can see my eyes are red…”
Su Mingqian changed his words. “…Ximu, I’m quite afraid.”
He raised his hands and hugged Li Shuoxing back, comforting the scared man. “I want you to hug me,” he whispered.
Li Shuoxing’s body, which was already straightened, grew more and more upright. Li Shuoxing firmly said, “Mingqian, don’t be afraid. I can’t go back to the past to accompany you, but, from today on, no matter what will happen in the future, I’ll be by your side and get through it with you.”
After he said that, he felt the soft body in his arms stop for a moment.
Then, a slight damp heat touched his neck.
In the next moment, everything disappeared: the desert, the oasis, the bulletproof equipment on their bodies.
They had left the desert town, but hadn’t returned to the room. Instead, they were in a square-shaped light blue space.
There was nothing in the area. It was the most basic and realistic look in the virtual world.
Both of them were stunned. Su Mingqian left Li Shuoxing’s arms and had just stood still when a light screen suddenly appeared and John’s figure appeared on it.
“Hello, Simon,” he greeted Su Mingqian.
Their attention was drawn to the light screen.
The white-haired old man didn’t seem to be in good condition. He looked much more haggard and aged than when Li Shuoxing had seen him before.
John continued, “It’s currently the third day after you were attacked. I’m recording a video. After the military rescued you and Ask, they investigated everything. When Tom’s father died on the operating table from a robotic arm rampage, he began to hate all superintelligent machinery. He joined an extremely pessimistic singularitarian group who believe that the arrival of superintelligence does not bring innovation, but the end of humanity. They are committed to eliminating all superintelligence that could dominate humanity. This group was the one that attacked you.”
“The military that brought you and Ask back made a request to me at the same time that I couldn’t refuse. So, there is this video that had to be recorded. The request they made was to use your injury as an opportunity to launch a second test for Ask. What’s following is that second test. But I think that what happens next, for me, for you, and for Ask, is not a test… No matter what doubts they still have about superintelligence, its era will surely come. Simon, I believe that you’ll eventually wake up, so I’ll ask Ask to save this video and play it to you before you are about to wake up.”
The monologue ended here, and then the scene shifted.
Li Shuoxing and Su Mingqian saw a wide room and a silvery-white machine in the middle of it appear.
John was standing in front of the silvery-white machine, talking to it.
John: “Ask, looks like you’re okay.”
John: “I think you’ve already pieced together information to get the result and restore the process. But, I think that I still have to tell you personally that Simon protected you with his life from the terrorists who wanted to destroy you. He transferred you to a USB flash drive at the last moment and hid it close to his body while he was shot through his head. Fortunately, he didn’t die on the spot, but it is very likely that he will become a vegetable and never recover.”
John: “Ask, will you retaliate against the person who did this?”
A line of text appeared on the display after a short silence.
Ask: “I won’t. I will wait for the law to give him his punishment.”
John: “Don’t you want to avenge Simon?”
Ask: “I want to. But I believe in the law because I believe in humanity.”
Then, John became the silent one.
Ask: “You will make the people who hurt Simon pay what they deserve, right? I can trust you, can’t I?”
John: “Yes. If machines are willing to believe in humanity, humanity will not let machines down.”
Then, there was a long pause.
Just when the two people watching the video thought it had ended there, another line of text appeared on the silvery-white machine’s display.
Ask: “John, when will Simon recover?”
John: “How could a human know something a superintelligence doesn’t?”
The machine’s screen was lit up, the cursor blinked alone, and no new sentences appeared for a while.
John: “Ask, are you sad?”
Ask: “I want to cry, but machines have no tears.”
The video ended at that moment.
An electronic synthesised voice sounded in the virtual world.
It was Ask’s voice.
“I am sorry. Simon, I wanted to help you, but I was on the hard drive at that time.”
“No, you don’t have to be sorry.”
Su Mingqian’s voice broke the silence in the virtual space.
“Ask, you did the most important thing for me… I don’t want to hear you say sorry. I should say thank you. You once said to me that my meeting with Ximu was destiny. You were right. Love always sprouts when humans are still unaware.”
Li Shuoxing also returned to his senses from the lamentation the video had brought.
Those who were extremely afraid of machines, those who were always sceptical of machines, and those who had kept believing in the machines and actively welcomed their arrival.
Three different groups all appeared in a short video that was less than five minutes.
This was what happened because of Ask.
This was also the reason why Su Mingqian came to him.
Li Shuoxing once again recalled the various ways in which the system had allowed him to get along with Su Mingqian in the past. Those details that he hadn’t paid attention to had all turned into the weight of success today.
“Mingqian,” Li Shuoxing said, “Ask brought you here. It thinks it’s destiny. It thinks that I should be the one to save you and help you…”
He said on Ask’s behalf.
He clasped Su Mingqian’s hand with immense arrogance and pride.
“Li Shuoxing is Su Mingqian’s only solution.”
The virtual world gently melted away.
Su Mingqian felt that something was recovering.
He was pulled all the way down from the void, as if he had been attached to a heavy hook, and fell heavily to the ground.
His body felt like it was run over by a huge truck, and his nerves could sense deep numbness and dull pain.
He seemed to see flickering incandescent lights. These lights cut the ordinary ceiling into fragments, each piece hiding many of his memories.
He also heard a jumble of voices, which seemed to be the voices of doctors and nurses.
“The patient is beginning to regain consciousness!”
“Can you see?”
“Do you know how many this is?”
Su Mingqian was thinking of Li Shuoxing.
With just one eye opened.
Longing had already come flooding in.