Spring was in full bloom and there seemed to be transparent and fragrant particles floating in the air. The plump buds trembled and quietly bloomed among the treetops and leaves.
The bus drove across the wide stone bridge, the tires rubbed against the gravel road and the bodies swayed gently. When the endless fields on both sides of the road came into view, there was an exclamation from the car.
As far as the eye could see, the fields were full of rapeseed flowers. The rich golden and green colors merged into a grand picture that blew in the wind.
By the clear glass window, slender fingers pressed the camera shutter and the dreamlike scene was frozen in the lens.
The compact black camera was no longer a popular model. It was a classic of the early years but it was still clean and new. It was clearly well preserved.
Ji Tong took a photo and let go of his hand. The camera hung in front of him just as it did in the past. The black lanyard lay against his collarbone. He was wearing a blue and white short-sleeved shirt and light blue jeans. He looked youthful and full of vigor, like a student.
Today was the group building event at a farmhouse so it wasn’t suitable to dress too casually. But at his request, Pei Qingyuan next to him was wearing an elegantly tailored black shirt. He didn’t need a jacket and still had the temperament of a business elite.
The clear sunlight poured in from the window and the temperature of the sun warmed his soft hair tips. When it passed over the electric poles and trees beside the road, it burned dark shadows on the cool back of his hands.
The vehicle moved gently through the bright landscape, overlapping with the summer of a few years ago.
Ji Tong looked sideways at the person beside him, “Do you think this scene is very familiar?”
Pei Qingyuan reached out and tugged his windswept hair behind his ears, replying, “The high school graduation trip.”
“I am wearing the same clothes as I did that day,” Ji Tong specially emphasized. “Only one pair of glasses is missing.”
The reward they chose that year was a pair of plain glasses that made them look like a different person after wearing them. Thanks to the pair of glasses, Pei Qingyuan didn’t have to worry about being recognized by strangers after being famous for his interview after the college entrance examination. He had a summer of traveling with Ji Tong.
Later, the freshmen Pei Qingyuan and Ji Tong won the world championship of the robot competition together. In each subsequent year, their team would win several championships. So when they chose to focus on their career after graduating instead of further studies, many competitors sighed with relief.
With the advancement of science and technology, domestic awareness of the field of artificial intelligence was getting higher and higher. Everything related to it had become more eye-catching than in the past. The influence of the international event and start-up company made more people know Pei Qingyuan.
In daily life, this magical pair of glasses had become an indispensable travel prop.
After all, no matter how aloof and distant the president’s usual image was, Pei Qingyuan and Ji Tong would still go to the vegetable market to buy vegetables and go for a walk in the breezy night.
This was the ordinary life that Ji Tong had always liked.
“By the way, so many people are coming out to play together today.” Ji Tong looked around at his chatting colleagues and his tone was quite satisfied. “It is very lively.”
He still liked liveliness.
The bus stopped in front of the farmhouse and Pei Qingyuan helped him pick up a backpack full of various board games. “Yes.”
Those participating in the team building today were the management staff who knew each other well and some employees from various departments who were lucky enough to be selected.
The scale of the company was expanding every day. Except in the cafeteria, ordinary employees usually had few opportunities to meet the management. They were full of expectations about seeing a completely different side to their bosses during this team building.
Of course, what remained constant was the show of affection between the big boss and the bigger boss.
The moment they got out of the vehicle, everyone saw President Pei holding Chairman Ji’s hand and walking toward the farmhouse. They were like a couple who came out to play.
Only President Xie, who looked indifferent all year round, still had the look of a leader.
—Although his indifferent expression was very incompatible with the passionate red sweater he was wearing.
The back of the sweatshirt had black and white lines. The simple brushstrokes outlined a robot sitting on the ground and looking up at the stars. The tough mechanical shell was covered with a soft line of snow and it looked quite artistic.
Once Mr Lin, who was wearing a wedding ring on his hand, passed by Xie Yuchi, he deliberately looked over and said curiously, “This should be a derivative product with Mark’s image authorization. This pattern is very good-looking. Why do I feel like it is a bit familiar? Is it children’s clothing?”
Lin Rui had married his college girlfriend as soon as he graduated. He was the first among them to start a family and he had children.
“Did the brand send it?” Lin Rui thought for a while. “No, why didn’t we get it then? Did you buy it yourself?”
“I didn’t buy it,” Xie Yuchi said slowly. “It wasn’t sent by the brand.”
Lin Rui waited for him to continue, but before he finished speaking, the iceberg face showed small signs of melting.
Xie Yuchi’s hands were in the pockets of his sweatshirt as he said casually, “There is no such children’s clothing. This is the only one in this style.”
He raised his head for no reason, glanced at the tender green treetops and continued casually, “The weather is good today.”
Then he turned and walked toward the farmhouse. His steps were brisk and he seemed to be in a good mood.
Lin Rui: “……”
The bewildered Mr Lin froze on the spot and fell into deep thought. Cui Yinan, an expert of the R&D department who grasped both science and metaphysics, walked over calmly and said, “Winter is over, spring is coming.”
Manager Ouyang, who got out of the vehicle after them, sighed emotionally, “The master always speaks with a sense of Zen.”
The colleague next to him complained mercilessly, “You can also say that Old Cui is playing with riddles again.”
Ouyang Yu immediately tugged on his arm nervously. “Brother, can you keep your voice down? I lined up for Brother Cui to calculate my marriage. Once he finished calculating it for Xiao Huang, it is my turn.”
This was Ouyang Yu’s roommate and deskmate in college. After Xie Yuchi and Lin Rui graduated, he also joined their competition team and had now become a colleague.
“Huang Wen is considering a marriage.” Old Wang, the deskmate who still had no name, said in a mocking voice. “So miserable.”
“I’m miserable too.” Ouyang Yu sighed. “If you hadn’t joked with me on the first day of registration, perhaps I would’ve stopped being single earlier.”
He went further and further on the road of being gay and the culprit was Old Wang.
Old Wang laughed when hearing his words. “So do you like boys or not?”:
Ouyang Yu instinctively wanted to shake his head but froze again.
As a deep witness of Ji Tong and Pei Qingyuan’s feelings, after so many years, Ouyang Yu gradually felt that the difference wasn’t important at all.
What mattered was the soul that accompanied them every day.
As Ouyang Yu was in a daze, the friend who had known him for many years casually stretched out an arm, grabbed his shoulder and led him into this paradise-like manor. “Don’t think about it, don’t calculate it. Let nature take its course.”
The spring breeze blew through the door of the courtyard and the quiet mountains and wilderness burst with lively [people. The hares leapt lightly over the clear stream and burrowed into the bamboo forest.
Here, they could experience farmhouse activities such as fishing and fruit picking. They could also enjoy classic group entertainment games such as chess, cards or board games. Or they could laze around on a chair to bask in the sun, breathing the fresh country air and relaxing.
In the pictures transmitted by the drone, their colleagues started to be busy. It looked down from the mid-air position at the figures moving over the colorful ground. It was very interesting.
Huang Wen set up a lounge chair by the pond, comfortably operating his newly purchased drone. He habitually observed the surrounding buildings while taking photos of his colleagues from an aerial view.
“The design of this roof is quite interesting.” Huang Wen asked Mark on the next recliner, “Do you think it looks good?”
Huang Wen often spent time on construction sites and not much time at the company. He wasn’t too familiar with Mark so Mark’s answer was quite polite, “It is good-looking.”
The robot that stood or sat all year round wasn’t very comfortable with this lying posture and was trying to adjust his posture.
Mary was also being upgraded in the laboratory so only one robot participated in this team building event.
There was already the clear sound of mahjong tiles colliding in the small courtyard behind them. The tanned Huang Wen remembered something and said casually, “Aren’t you going to play mahjong?”
With the continuous training and optimization of the AI, Mark’s mahjong level was enough to defeat any human being and he could be called a god. Of course, when playing with ordinary people, he would adjust the level required to those at the same table.
Mark was polite. “There are many opportunities to play mahjong but there aren’t many opportunities to talk to engineers. Long time no see, Mr Huang.”
Huang Wen immediately turned his head to look over with shock in his eyes. “Your upgrade this time is really good. Awesome.”
He looked at the robot whose posture was getting closer and closer to a real person. Combine this with the bionic material skin that Xie Yuchi and the others were developing and he always felt that some type of future was imminent in front of him.
Huang Wen, who had no relationship luck so far, looked Mark up and down. He imagined the robot girlfriend who could only appear in movie and television dramas in the past and there was a hint of longing in his tone. “It seems that falling in love with an AI isn’t bad.”
Could the fortune teller of the physics department deduce his marriage to an android?
Mark, was stared at by him, rolled his camera eyes and moved his body subtly to the other side. “First of all, I’m not…”
The moment these words came out, Ouyang Yu felt his blood freeze as he was carrying a bucket to the pond. The man holding a fishing rod next to him laughed.
Ouyang Yu turned around and let out a wail. “Ji Tong!! Why is this sentence in Mark’s database?!”
Pei Qingyuan followed closely behind with fishing equipment while Ji Tong had an innocent expression as he held a bowl of cherries in his hand. “Mark’s current database is very large and there are all types of sentences.”
Ouyang Yu still wanted to say something but he saw Ji Tong generously hand over the bowl and change the topic in an upright manner. “It was just picked. Eat it?”
He took one himself and ate it first. The cherry released a sweet taste in his mouth and his clear eyes immediately curved into a crescent moon. “It is delicious.”
“…I will eat it.” Ouyang Yu succumbed to the power of instinct and smiled with tears in his eyes. “I gained another catty last week. Can you not eat in front of me? It is too much, from college until now.”
Ji Tong snorted and continued to eat happily. “No.”
He divided the cherries in the bowl to those around him. Then he took the in to pick the best looking one and handed it to Pei Qingyuan. “Is it sweet?”
Pei Qingyuan ate the cherry attached to his fingertips. “It is very sweet.”
Ouyang Yu, who was repeatedly abused, silently looked away. “Fishing. When fishing, my heart remains calm.”
Mark, the only robot who couldn’t eat cherries, corrected sternly, “It should be ‘a calm heart naturally becomes cool’.”
Huang Wen, who was full of a robot girlfriend, found the weakness of AI and explained, “This is the flexible use of human standard sentences. Ouyang means that he is hurt by this type of couple behavior and the single dog has a cold heart. That is why he can fish quietly.”
Mark nodded in understanding.
“Hey! I can hear you, okay!” Ouyang Yu shot back. “You are speaking as if you have a partner! Except for the two of them, aren’t we all single? Why are we hurting each other…?”
Mark turned to look at him, tone casual. “I don’t count. I have a partner.”
“……” Ouyang Yu’s expression was gloomy. “Okay, my heart is cold now.”
In the midst of the laughter, ripples spread on the surface of the pond and fish swam rapidly.
The temperature in spring was just right. In the fresh air, everyone chatted casually.
After the first fish was hooked, other colleagues came over and watched them fish.
Huang Wen was teaching Mark how to operate a drone. He took this opportunity to ask Xie Yuchi. “Will we make a type of bionic shell robot that is exactly like a real person, just like in sci-fi movies? I remember that your department’s technological breakthrough is quite big.”
Xie Yuchi held a plate of melon seeds and admired his friend’s fishing. “At present, it is still a single part and it is mainly for the medical field. There is no such big plan for the time being. You have to ask them in the future.”
The core employees all knew that Pei Qingyuan had set up a brain science laboratory while researching bionic shell robots. This sounded like the grandest wild project, but he had never publicized these things. It seemed he wasn’t going to bring all the research results in these two fields to the market.
Due to this, even the old friends who had known him for several years were quite curious.
Young and talented scientists or businessmen often had a vision to change the world single-handedly, but Pei Qingyuan, who had both identities, had never shown similar intentions.
At the annual product release meeting of Two Trees, the media flocking to it always thought they could hear some exciting and grand blueprints or see some products that could completely subvert human life. As a result, Pei Qingyuan could be heard announcing in a calm tone that the AI of the jelly bean robot had been optimized to the next generation and several game modes had been added to the first version of the entertainment robot.
In addition to research in medical treatment and public welfare, every commodity robot produced by this company seemed to be just to bring users a type of happiness of being accompanied.
This was also the biggest difference between Two Trees and the competing Zart.
Huang Wen looked at Mark, who was gradually able to operate the drone freely, and sighed. “Our company’s AI is the smartest on the market.”
“But recently, their new models are selling like crazy.” Ouyang Yu sighed. “There is no breakthrough in technology. It is just the previous best-selling universal model that added a few data packages, turning it into a learning assistant. However, parents particularly fall for this.”
“If we use Mark’s AI for an assisted learning version and give it a suitable cost, it will definitely be better than theirs.”
“I don’t think that is necessary. Our current route is quite good. In fact, the user side isn’t the same. Even if I didn’t come to our company, I wouldn’t buy any learning assistant or work assistant. Just listening to it makes me feel numb.”
“That being said, at this stage, we still have to try to win over users in order to establish an advantage…”
His colleagues chatted casually. Ouyang Yu’s bucket was empty. On the contrary, Pei Qingyuan’s bucket had several fish in it.
Ji Tong silently listened to everyone’s conversation. He observed the small fish that occasionally jumped out of the water and said to himself, “Is there crayfish in this pond?”
Pei Qingyuan, who was holding the fishing rod, looked at him and replied, “No.”
“Oh.” Ji Tong replied and looked down at the loot in the bucket. “Then I’ll search to see how to cook these fish to make them delicious.”
In this event, colleagues would sign up to cook by themselves. Colleagues who didn’t know how to cook could help out. This was a way to enhance their understanding of each other and bond.
Pei Qingyuan looked at his expression that was obviously starting to think about whether to braise or steam it and the fleeting disappointment. This caused a smile to flash in his eyes.
Just as Ji Tong arranged the aftermath of the loot, he saw Pei Qingyuan put away the fishing rod.
He asked with surprise, “Aren’t you fishing?”
“It is time to go to the kitchen,” Pei Qingyuan said. “The crayfish has just been delivered and has been cleaned.”
Ji Tong was stunned for a second. Then he immediately got up happily with a tone of showing off in his voice. “I’m going to the kitchen to cook!”
Seeing the backs of the two of them leaving side by side, Mark skillfully corrected, “It is going to the kitchen to watch the cooking.”
Ouyang Yu also skillfully gulped. “Finally, there is dog food again… Ah, no, spicy crayfish.”
Following the pond, the kitchen soon became the next holy place for colleagues to visit for sightseeing.
These ordinary employees who were lucky enough to be selected heard that President Pei, who usually wasn’t easy to approach, was cooking and collectively showed an expression of disbelief.
“What is President Pei going to do? Vegetable salad? Fruit salad?”
“Why is it all salads? Does President Pei look like a vegetarian?”
“That’s not it. The main thing is that there seems to be no way to associate President Pei with that type of pyrotechnics…”
But when they saw the scene with their own eyes, the unreachable coldness and pyrotechnics really merged into one.
Perhaps it was due to the young man next to President Pei. He picked up rosy and plump cherries in front of the sink, washed them and put them on a porcelain plate. Then he handed one to President Pei, who was cooking crayfish.
Near noon, the sunlight spilled into the kitchen and parked at his fingertips. The cherry seemed like the sweetest one in the whole world.
Ji Tong turned his head and saw the excited, starry eyes of the employees.
“Does Chairman Ji also want to cook?”
“President Pei is cooking crayfish. What is Chairman Ji going to cook?”
Ji Tong didn’t know how to cook. Pei Qingyuan cooked every time they were at home and his craft was more in line with Ji Tong’s taste. Ji Tong gradually became too lazy to learn it himself.
In fact, he also had a time when he wanted to learn to cook. Pei Qingyuan promised to teach him but he ended up teaching a strange thing every time. Then it gradually stopped.
“I’m not cooking.” Ji Tong thought about it and felt that he should show the identity of a chairman. “I came to the kitchen to guide President Pei’s work while also washing some fruits by the way.”
Everyone let out a long sigh, expressing that they believed it.
A thick aroma wafted from the pot. President Pei started to chase people away, saying concisely, “The kitchen is hot.”
The weather was obviously cool.
Everyone let out an ‘oh’ again and disappeared sensibly.
They wouldn’t disturb the chairman instructing his subordinates.
The kitchen door was carefully closed and Ji Tong was a bit embarrassed. He still stood in front of the sink, cleared his throat and prepared to talk about work. “Are we going to make a learning version of Mark?”
Pei Qingyuan asked him, “Do you want a Mark like that?”
Ji Tong shook his head. “It isn’t fun.”
The spicy soup was boiling in the pot, making a gurgling sound. Pei Qingyuan closed the pot lid again, his voice normal. “Then don’t do it.”
Ji Tong was a bit surprised. “Is it because I don’t think it is fun?”
Pei Qingyuan nodded. “We must respect the opinion of the chairman.”
Ji Tong couldn’t help laughing. “I was joking just now.”
But Pei Qingyuan was serious.
He didn’t care about the world and didn’t want to change anyone except himself.
He only cared about the red cherries scattered in the snow-white porcelain bowl.
Ji Tong washed cherries until another bowl was full. In the brilliant day, the beautiful fruits shimmered with a rich luster like oil paintings.
Pei Qingyuan came to his side and rolled up the cuffs of his black shirt. His exposed arm crossed Ji Tong’s waist as he reached out to turn off the faucet.
The sound of running water stopped and their heartbeats were close together. Ji Tong instinctively looked out the window. Fortunately, it was a bright and deserted mountain forest in front of them.
The fragrant mountain wind blew through the window. His lover lowered his head and wrapped Ji Tong in his arms. “I said that I serve the chairman.”