The first day of Jiangyuan College’s entrance examination was a written test and the second day was an interview.
There were many subjects in the written test and time was very tight. It took place one after another. Once the last test was over in the evening, the high school students who could finally bring their bags home were exhausted.
Everyone left the classroom one after another and walked to the school gate. Many parents waited at the door. They saw that their child had come out and immediately beckoned. There were many noisy sounds for a while.
In the dark crowd, Pei Qingyuan saw Ji Tong instantly.
He was wearing a beige sweater and a dark blue scarf embroidered with a white mushroom. He looked like a miniature version of Pei Qingyuan.
The moment Ji Tong saw the host, he immediately jumped up and beckoned to him. “Are you thirsty? I bought a drink!”
Behind him stood a tall adult man, blocking others who might crowd over. He wore a pair of sunglasses on his face and gave off an air of being unable to approach. However, he held three drinks in his left hand and two boxes of egg tarts in his right hand.
The moment Ji Tong spoke, he cooperatively raised the snacks in his hand and showed them to Pei Qingyuan.
The other students couldn’t help looking envious when they saw how well prepared these family members were.
After the exam, there were drinks, desserts, a cute brother and a tall and mighty… bodyguard?
Pei Qingyuan walked quickly toward the two and couldn’t help thinking that when Fang Hao didn’t speak, he still looked quite presentable. This was very consistent with the identity of the bodyguard arranged by a mysterious rich man for his young son.
But as soon as he spoke…
He walked to Ji Tong’s side and heard Fang Hao whisper, “Shall we go home directly? My building blocks aren’t finished yet.”
Ji Tong gave him a mushroom scarf as a gift for the arrival of winter and also gave Fang Hao a set of assembled building blocks that looked exquisite.
This caused Fang Hao to abandon flying chess and to sit in front of the coffee table in the living room every day, obsessed with building blocks. A variety of parts were laid out on the table. In addition, Pei Qingyuan was recently studying circuits and mechanical welding so he bought a large number of parts. The whole house was suddenly filled with the atmosphere of an underground factory.
Like all parents concerned about their children’s grades, Ji Tong was worried the moment he saw the host. “Brother, how do you feel after the exam?”
He knew that Pei Qingyuan would do very well in the exam but the necessary process had to be followed. If other examinees had it then the host must also have it.
Pei Qingyuan nodded. “The results should be good.”
The people around them were having similar conversations. Pei Qingyuan pulled the soft scarf around his neck, took the drink from Fang Hao’s hand and held Ji Tong, who was imitating his movements and tossing the scarf. “Let’s go home.”
He became more and more accustomed to this once unfamiliar phrase.
On the winter day when dusk was approaching, each family walked home with laughter.
There was still the interview the next day. For this occasion, Pei Qingyuan wasn’t nervous and there was no special preparation. He was still studying the assembly of the jelly bean robot as usual and would go to the forum for help when he encountered problems.
The only strange thing was that two netizens seemed particularly enthusiastic.
Not long after Pei Qingyuan asked the question, someone replied seriously.
Pei Qingyuan finished thanking them and asked a very unconstrained and imaginative question.
[Hehehe: No need for thanks. Big shot, can I ask you a question?]
[Netizen 6391323: I’m not a big shot. You can ask.]
[Hehehe: I want to ask, what is your home like?]
[Netizen 6391323: ……?
[Hehehe: I don’t want to spy on your privacy, but can you describe how your everyday environment makes you feel?]
Pei Qingyuan looked blankly at Ji Tong, who was joining in the fun beside him, and Ji Tong stared blankly back.
“Generally, this type of enthusiast will have a special workshop in their home full of tools and parts.” Ji Tong tried to analyze it rationally. “It is probably to know how obsessed the host is with this hobby.”
Pei Qingyuan felt that it made sense.
He turned to look at Fang Hao, who was still working hard in the living room to put the building blocks together. He looked at the building block parts and mechanical parts everywhere in the house and answered honestly.
[Netizen 6391323: Like a factory.]
[Hehehe: !!! I understand!]
[Netizen 6391323: What do you understand?]
[Hehehe: I understand what you want me to understand!]
[Hehehe: Big shot, if you have any more questions then you can ask me directly. I will definitely answer them well!]
Pei Qingyuan: “……”
Ji Tong: “……”
In the confusion of the two people looking at each other, the night passed peacefully.
The afternoon of the next day, Pei Qingyuan continued to go to Jiangyuan College to participate in the interview according to the set time.
He was walking toward the two seniors who came to help when he vaguely held their excited discussion.
“…He must be a maverick Frankenstein with gray hair, but full of childlike innocence. He likes to play tricks on people and has a huge basement or lives in an abandoned factory. There is a dim green light flashing everywhere and countless strange robots placed on display shelves…”
They seemed to be talking about a science fiction movie.
It sounded like a story that Ji Tong would enjoy.
Pei Qingyuan thought like this and calmly passed by them.
The interview went smoothly. His psychological quality and cultural level were very good and his knowledge and involvement in artificial intelligence greatly exceeded the expectations of the teachers present. Looking at their amazed and appreciative eyes, there was no suspense about the result of this interview.
In order to avoid suspicion, Xiao Jianping didn’t participate in the interview. However, once Pei Qingyuan finished the interview and was about to go to the school gate to pick up Ji Tong, Xiao Jianping rushed over.
The moment they saw him, the teacher of the school of artificial intelligence who just walked out of the examination room laughed. “I said that you couldn’t be idle and you would definitely come.”
“There is no class today. How is it? Is Xiao Pei’s performance good?”
“I can’t say it is good.” The teacher deliberately paused while looking at his nervous eyes. “I can only say that it is too good.”
“Say, Old Xiao, where did you find all these seedlings? It is really great. High school students can’t escape your eyes…”
“That’s good.” Xiao Jianping sighed with relief and smiled. “Luck, it is all luck.”
“Hello, Professor Xiao.” Pei Qingyuan stopped and took the initiative to greet him.
“The exam was hard. You can have a good rest tomorrow and on the weekend,” Xiao Jianping said with a smile. “Are you ready to go home?”
Pei Qingyuan answered truthfully, “I made an appointment with a friend to go to the cafeteria of Jiangyuan College for dinner. Now I am going to pick him up at the school gate.”
Fang Hao’s building blocks had reached the most critical stage and he was like an old monk. Ji Tong decided not to disturb him and to come to the host alone to eat.
He searched around on food websites and learned there was a special dish in the cafeteria of Jiangyuan College that was very delicious. There was no time like the present, so he simply took the opportunity of the host doing the exam to come and taste it.
Xiao Jianping understood as soon as he heard this. “You guys are going to eat the fried egg yolk shrimp, right? There is a limited amount every day and you have to line up. You can’t eat it if you go late.”
Pei Qingyuan nodded. Then he heard Xiao Jianping say proudly, “You must as well come to my house to eat. I know how to cook this dish.”
Xiao Jianping saw Pei Qingyuan’s surprised eyes and explained, “My wife likes this taste so I went to learn from the cafeteria. She said that what I make is better than the cafeteria.”
“Go. Pick up your friend and come to my house. I’ll go buy some shrimp and other dishes. It is just in time for Xinchen to come back home from school for the weekend.” Xiao Jianping made a decision. “My home is in the staff dormitory of the school and it is very close. My wife has also long said that she wants to meet you.”
Xiao Jianping often called and sent messages to Pei Qingyuan to discuss academic issues. Xiao Xinchen also mentioned the white cat with the black heart called Mushroom that Pei Qingyuan had picked up from time to time. This made Shi Yuelan, the only member of the family of three who had never met Pei Qingyuan, curious about him.
Hearing Xiao Jianping mention his wife, Pei Qingyuan no longer hesitated and nodded. “Then I will trouble Professor Xiao.”
Pei Qingyuan thought about taking advantage of this exam time to thank Xiao Jianping for all his help and invite the other person to a meal. However, he was a foreign examinee after all and Xiao Jianping was a teacher of the school. He was worried that it would have a bad influence on the other person.
Since Xiao Jianping didn’t care, he naturally couldn’t refuse.
“What trouble? It isn’t troublesome. I’ll go grocery shopping and you go to pick up someone. I’ll see you at the door of the staff dormitory in a while.”
Nevertheless, Xiao Jianping couldn’t help being surprised when he returned with a bag of vegetables and saw the friend that Pei Qingyuan picked up.
“Your friend… is quite small.”
Pei Qingyuan and the child beside him were wearing the same sweater and scarf. They looked like a pair of brothers with a huge height difference, which was very eye-catching.
“Yes.” Pei Qingyuan’s expression didn’t change. “He is a child I know through tutoring.”
“Hello, Uncle Xiao.” Ji Tong greeted Xiao Jianping very politely. “Thank you for inviting me to dinner.”
“Hey, you’re welcome. You are really polite and sensible.”
Xiao Jianping was instantly captured by this cute little friend. The moment he entered the house, Shi Xuelan in the wheelchair was also quickly amused by this strange little guest and directed the robot Xiao Ming to get him candy snacks.
Soon after, Xiao Xinchen came back from school and it became even livelier.
Xiao Jianping was busy in the kitchen while Xiao Xinchen told the rest of the people waiting for dinner about what happened at school today in an exaggerated tone. Shi Yuelan kept laughing and Pei Qingyuan’s expression was much softer.
He found that Ji Tong was very curious about the humanoid robot designed by Xiao Jianping to accompany Shi Yuelan.
When Xiao Ming didn’t receive any instructions, he would lower his hand and stand respectfully aside.
The adults were chatting so Ji Tong took a stool and sat next to it, talking to it with blinking eyes.
“Hello, what is your name?’
Xiao Ming was awakened. It opened its eyes and looked at the close Ji Tong, voice clear.
“Are you calling me?”
“Oh, hello. My name is Xiao Ming, the Ming of tomorrow.”
“Xiao Ming, what can you do?”
“I can do a lot of things. You can tell me what you need me to do.”
Ji Tong couldn’t think of what to do for a while. He supported his chin with his hand while his bright eyes focused on the body that was completely modeled off a human design.
“It is nice that you can walk and carry things.”
Xiao Ming seemed to understand his instructions. “Do you need me to take a few steps to see? Okay.”
The robot stepped forward immediately. Its legs thumped and it walked back and forth twice to show him in a serious manner. Ji Tong smiled with curved eyes.
Shi Yuelan watched from the sidelines and found it really cute. “He is so cute, even cuter than when Xinchen was a child.”
The compared Xiao Xinchen didn’t refute it. He just pondered on it for a while. “I think this child looks a lot like the cat called Mushroom.”
Pei Qingyuan was about to be surprised by his keen intuition when he heard Shi Yuelan say, “Here it is again, you silly child. Last time, you pointed to the chow chow on the TV and said it was like Mushroom…”
Pei Qingyuan paused and contained his surprise in time.
They were surrounded by warm and simple decorations, the aroma of food permeated everywhere, there was the rumbling noise of the range hood and the unconcealed laughter in the house.
Xiao Jianping, who was idle while waiting for the water in the pot to boil, poked his head out of the kitchen and curiously listened to what they were saying. He occasionally interjected coldly and was driven back to the kitchen by his wife not long after.
This was the most ordinary and distant home.
Pei Qingyuan saw the picture frame on the table. The younger Xiao Jianping was sitting next to Shi Yuelan, holding a small baby in his arms and laughing heartily. His facial features and the slightly silly smile were very similar to Xiao Xinchen right now.
Xiao Xinchen was very similar to Xiao Jianping. The enthusiastic warmth and chuunibyou temperament was almost carved out of the same mold.
Most of the time, people’s every move would be marked by family or close people.
He couldn’t help being distracted as he wondered what level of technology was in the world that sent the system that they could create AI systems full of personality like Ji Tong and Fang Hao.
Ji Tong said that he was the first host Ji Tong had bound to.
So what did the system do every time before it came to the host?
How did such an intelligent and advanced artificial intelligence ‘grow up?’
Pei Qingyuan looked at Ji Tong, who was full of curiosity as he tried to shake hands with Xiao Ming. He just didn’t know how to ask.
The meal was enjoyed by the guests. Xiao Jianping’s craftsmanship was very good. Shi Yuelan was gentle and kind while the lively Xiao Xinchen had endless words. There was also a somewhat clever and somewhat clumsy robot Xiao Ming waiting quietly on the side, ready to serve everyone.
Pei Qingyuan and Ji Tong almost reluctantly said goodbye to this family.
They walked on the street at night. The moonlight on a winter night was bright and cold and the cold wind was fierce. Ji Tong surrounded most of his face with a mushroom scarf and only revealed a pair of bright eyes.
“Ruan Ruan, are you happy today?”
“I’m happy too.”
After he finished speaking, he turned to look at the way home. Pei Qingyuan could only see the faint moonlight falling on top of his head.
It was strange that the unknown depression and sadness once again surged in his heart.
Along with this complex emotion came a white dream.
After saying goodnight to Ji Tong, Pei Qingyuan rarely lost sleep. He had a premonition and allowed himself to gradually sink into a familiar dream.
Pei Qingyuan’s frequency of dreaming had decreased after he returned from Chengde. The back of the unknown boy gradually blurred in his memory until it reappeared on this night.
He returned to the spotless room and the overflowing loneliness was still suffocating.
There was still the huge fairytale-like mushroom floating outside the window. The young man sitting by the bed held a book. His figure was infinitely elongated by the sunlight and fell on the nearby Pei Qingyuan. It was like a wall separating two walls.
He stared at this thin back. He didn’t know how long it took before he suddenly heard a knock on the door.
The illogical fragments of the dream were coherently spliced together.
After the knock on the door, a carefully wrapped gift appeared on the cabinet next to the boy’s bed.
The gift looked clean, as if it had been disinfected inside and out. The overly clean texture matched the boy’s pale and thin fingers as he opened the gift with extreme care.
Inside was a near-oval object with a black shell that was flat on the front and bottom. It could be placed stably on the table.
Pei Qingyuan quickly recognized that this was a smart product with a screen that was very common in the market. It could be used as a speaker to play music and could play videos. It was just that the quality usually wasn’t high.
After this only black color appeared, the intense loneliness started to fade.
He saw the boy quietly reading the instruction manual for a long time before pressing the power button very lightly.
The start up music sounded and a cheerful melody filled the space.
The screen turned from dark to bright and a fancy UI interface appeared. A small bean green robot animation jumped out of the center of the screen. It blinked its big eyes and said ‘hi’ in a slightly stiff, mechanical female voice.
The young man was startled and instinctively stepped back. It was an action that made Pei Qingyuan smile.
Voices and colors finally appeared in the lonely room and he felt happy for the unknown teenager.
He had never seen the boy’s face but he seemed to be able to imagine the other person’s surprised expression.
After hesitating for a long time, the boy spoke.
“Hello, what is your name?’
This was the first time Pei Qingyuan had heard the teenager speak.
Distinct from the silent space and thin back, this voice was clear and filled with careful anticipation. It was like the warm sunlight falling on his cheeks on a winter day.
In the ethereal dream, Pei Qingyuan actually had a sense of familiarity.
“Hello, Master. My name is Xiao Mei.”
The mechanical female voice answered him.
Pei Qingyuan was stunned when he heard this answer.
There was a lightness in the young man’s voice. “Xiao Mei.”
He called out a second time with faint joy. “Xiao Mei.”
The third time was with undisguised happiness. “Xiao Mei.”
It appeared that there were only two response modes.
The boy called out many times and listened to the two answers that constantly alternated. Finally, he stopped with satisfaction and changed the question.
“Xiao Mei, what can you do?”
He focused on the pure black smart product. The brightly colored little robot on the screen kept blinking its eyes as if looking at him.
“Xiao Mei can play videos, music and radio programs for the master. If the master is in a bad mood, Xiao Mei can also tell jokes to make the master happy.”
The mechanical female voice spoke one by one before slowly adding in a depressed tone, “Xiao Mei has many functions and is very smart, but sometimes my reaction is slower. I hope the master doesn’t hate Xiao Mei. Xiao Mei will study hard.”
Pei Qingyuan watched from the sidelines and thought this was a lie that sounded very gentle.
He now had a certain understanding of artificial intelligence. Through the function partitions on the screen interface and the fluency of the voice, he could judge that the intelligence of the product in front of him was limited. The AI itself wasn’t smart and advanced. It could only answer the simplest questions and operations. Only the present self-introduction content was more user-friendly.
But the boy listened carefully. Every time Xiao Mei paused, he would nod and seem to remember every word in his heart.
Xiao Mei finished speaking the preset sentences and asked a question in a rigid tone.
“Master, what do you need Xiao Mei to do for you?”
The young man thought for a while. He had too many things to do and couldn’t choose his priorities for a while. It wasn’t until the screen slowly darkened after not getting instructions and Xiao Mei’s animated smiley face was almost out of sight that Pei Qingyuan heard his somewhat anxious voice.
“Xiao Mei, I want to watch TV.”
He was in a good mood now and didn’t need to listen to jokes for the time being. If it was music and radio then there were no images.
He wanted to see the world where colors flowed.
Under the eager gaze of the teenager, the screen brightened again. Xiao Mei in the center of the screen smiled and small pink flowers appeared around the smiling face, blooming and disappearing.