In the Battle Artifact Channel.
Lu Wu and Bei Li were looking at Number One who was restrained mid-air while checking out his body condition.
[Kui Di (Experiment Subject)]:
Character Details: A transformed human from the Jie De Corporation’s underground technology laboratory. Possesses strength beyond an ordinary human after his body was cleansed with soul energy. Labeled as Number One in the organization.
Character Status: Brainwashed and comatose.
“Who would have thought that the Jie De Corporation would be developing the utilization of soul energy?” Bei Li was astonished as she stared at Number One.
“Will they succeed?” Lu Wu asked curiously.
“Impossible. Soul energy in this entire world is already thinning and rare. I’m guessing that they found a way to cultivate some of them from some ancient literature. The rarefied soul energy is extracted from the experiments and injected into Number One’s body. Then, experimental equipment is forcefully operated within his body, resulting in a change in his physical nature. As an overview, it is forced cultivation with the aid of special equipment. Such a method would inevitably damage a human body’s foundation. Even if he gained great strength from that, it would only be temporary and he wouldn’t survive for long.”
Lu Wu nodded after understanding the theory.
However, the fact that the Jie De Corporation had been transforming humans and had an underground laboratory was far beyond his expectations.
Lu Wu frowned at the thought of what the Jie De Corporation representative said on the phone to him, claiming that he was too naive.
“Little Li, please encrypt my phone, they can apparently locate me through GPS. Although I’m not afraid of them, they can be a real pain in the ass!”
Bei Li nodded, “By the way, do you want to return this test subject with a huge present?”
“What huge present?”
Bei Li pointed at Number One and said, “They can transform humans, but I can, too. With the artifact here, I can brainwash him easily and we can send an enhanced version of Number One back to them!”
Lu Wu smiled at her idea and nodded.
Research and development were Bei Li’s forte. She was an incredible person who believed in science and in the cultivation world, after all.
A villa in Qiyun City, Dragon Nation.
Yin Xiaoqi, who was sleeping soundly on her bed, was woken up by the alarm clock.
She stood up and glanced around in confusion, before fixing her gaze at the ringing alarm clock.
After a few seconds of silence, Yin Xiaoqi slightly regained her alertness and went to snooze the alarm clock slowly, before plopping back to bed again.
“Yin Xiaoqi, you’d better wake up!” the bed started vibrating, followed by an electronic voice.
“Little Guai, five more minutes, just five minutes!” Yin Xiaoqi shut her eyes and hugged her quilt, as her body was vibrating along with the bed.
“Commencing the second stage of the wake-up procedure. All your equipment will start self-destructing in five minutes. The countdown starts now…”
When she heard about the self-destruction, the slothful Yin Xiaoqi widened her eyes and jumped out of bed instantly.
“Little Guai, we can talk it over… don’t do it!”
Then, a flying blue cube floated to Yin Xiaoqi slowly and hovered above her with an angry expression on its screen, “Start solving the puzzle right now! You were the one who set the rule, you can’t go back on your words!”
Yin Xiaoqi waved her hand sadly as she heard that, “Fine, I’m getting out of bed now.”
She still seemed sleepy even after dressing up.
Warm sunlight filled the room as Yin Xiaoqi drew the curtains open. She stretched lazily, her curvy figure seeming rather attractive under the sunlight.
“Little Qi, your breakfast is ready.”
With the voice of Yin Xiaoqi’s smart butler called Little Guai, a dining cart was pushed in and stopped right in front of her.
She was finally filled with bursting energy after breakfast and said, “Little Guai, I might be able to solve the puzzle today! I’m really looking forward to the reward!”
“You can do it! You’re the best!” Little Guai rocked around mid-air.
When she heard it, Yin Xiaoqi chuckled and paced toward the bedside, before pressing on the wall.
A green ray of light was cast and scanned her body. The wall automatically separated and revealed a secret passage. Without any delay, she casually stepped into it.
As the lights illuminated automatically, the whole interior within the walls became visible.
There were all types of mechanical equipment inside, and some of them were running by themselves. With the rattling sound of gears and flashing lights, the area resembled a mysterious laboratory in a science fiction movie.
With an expectant look, she sat down in front of the console as the screens in front of her lit up instantly.
[ZZZX Treasure Plan, prove it if you think that you are extremely intelligent. Solve all the puzzles and you will get my treasure!]
A familiar interface appeared in front of Yin Xiaoqi.
The interface transitioned after the text dimmed.
[ZZZX Treasure Plan, Level 258 (Final Chapter): Start now?]
Looking at the words, Yin Xiaoqi held her fists in excitement.
The ZZZX Treasure Plan was a difficult puzzle that she had been trying to solve for the past few months.
She originally discovered it on the dark web, which had caused plenty of sensations in her circle of friends. Many people have tried to trace the person behind this puzzle, trying to find out if there was a real treasure hidden in it or if it was just a prank.
However, Yin Xiaoqi had no other clue aside from knowing the creator of this puzzle was someone who claimed to be Bei Li. Yin Xiaoqi could not find anything even after searching several times.
That was also the reason why the treasure plan had piqued her curiosity.
Believing that her IQ was in the top one percent of humans, she wanted to challenge the puzzle to receive the final reward.
However, Yin Xiaoqi couldn’t help but admire the creator of the puzzle after attempting it.
The puzzle started with an image with the text ZZZX Treasure Plan written in white on a black background. There were no other clues given to her.
Of course, the first level did not daunt her. After studying the image carefully, Yin Xiaoqi tried to zoom in and out of the image to find secret clues to no avail.
She then opened the image with a text editor instead and tried to crack it using the Caesar cipher technique. This time, she obtained a link to enter the next puzzle.
However, these were only the beginning.
All the puzzles were linked together and the difficulty level constantly increased.
The puzzles ranged from cryptography to Mayan numbers. They even had religion, occultism, and art involved. The clues to answering the puzzles could be found on the Internet or on the streets of the cities in various countries around the world. The coverage area was outrageously wide.
There were several times that she was on the brink of collapsing and wanted to give up while solving the puzzle. However, she persevered in the end due to her stubborn character.
She was finally at Level 258, the last level of the puzzle. She would finally obtain the coveted reward after solving this one.
As the black text faded, the final puzzle emerged:
[Hello to the smart person who’s reached the final level. This shall be the last test. Now, here’s a link. Open it after putting on your virtual reality headset. Pass this level and the treasure will be yours!]
A charming smile appeared on Yin Xiaoqi’s face as she chanted, “Treasure! Treasure!”
After putting on her virtual reality suit and helmet, she clicked on the link to the final test.
Suddenly, a faint blue light passed through her vision and she was enveloped by a white ray.
Yin Xiaoqi’s head suddenly ached, as she realized that she had lost control of her own body.
The sudden change made Yin Xiaoqi feel uneasy, so she tried to exit the interface immediately.
However, to her horror, no matter how hard she tried the forced exit measure, the virtual interface never appeared.
She tried very hard to open her eyes and control her body. However, she completely lost her sense of these parts, as if she was completely paralyzed.
In the sepulchral silence, Yin Xiaoqi began to panic.
All I did was open the link. How could I lose control of my whole body? Even the emergency exit system of the virtual device is not working.
This is too unsettling.
Yin Xiaoqi forced herself to calm down, consoling herself that she was only in the process of solving the puzzle. She would definitely be released, whether she succeeded or not.
In the moment of fear, an image appeared in front of Yin Xiaoqi suddenly.
It was a fixed image, like a screen on a monitor. The image was static and out of her control.
Within the image were a bulky computer, with many drawings scattered around it on the table. The chair beside the table was broken. The cotton of its backrest was coming out from the leather, and the chair looked like it would break at any time.
The still image remained static for some time and made Yin Xiaoqi even more uneasy.
Everything in front of her was wildly bizarre, she simply couldn’t understand what was going on.
After an unknown period, the image finally displayed some changes.
A white-haired old man, who was wearing a white coat and thick glasses, abruptly appeared in the image.
He stretched by the desk, picked up a drawing, and examined it closely, before casting his gaze on the computer. He pressed the keyboard a few times and the image shifted. A group of garbled characters then appeared on the computer screen.
After scrutinizing it for some time, his expression changed drastically. He immediately turned around and laid his eyes on Yin Xiaoqi, as if he could see her through the static image.
“You’re actually out?”
He seems to be talking to me?
Yin Xiaoqi could still think, but she had lost total control of her body. Even though her mind was filled with questions, she was unable to answer the old man.
While Yin Xiaoqi was deep in thought, another set of strange characters appeared on the computer again. She had never seen such distorted characters, and didn’t know what they meant.
The old man glanced across those characters and sighed, “You are the first to escape… I really didn’t expect you to solve all the riddles. Congratulations! You have succeeded!”
Yin Xiaoqi was extremely smart. She immediately realized that her thoughts seemed to be able to be converted into the weird characters on that shabby computer.
Thus, she swiftly thought about something. Consequently, another series of characters popped up on the computer again.
She was asking about where she was and why was she there.
Looking at the series of characters, the old man frowned and went into deep thought. After a moment, he looked like he figured something out and took out a remote control-like item from his pocket to press a button.
To Yin Xiaoqi’s surprise, the image shifted slowly and soon froze again.
The image in front of her caused her pupils to shrink abruptly from shock.
Inside a huge cylindrical bell glass was a brain soaked in some light green liquid. A number of small tubes were inserted into the brain, which looked rather terrifying.
The old man appeared again in the image. He spoke to Yin Xiaoqi while pointing to the brain.
Yin Xiaoqi thought that the old man was crazy for telling her that she was there, left with only a brain.
The old man seemed to know that Yin Xiaoqi could not process what he said. He kept silent while waiting for her to regain herself.
Did anything happen after I clicked on the link? Could it be that my laboratory exploded, blasting every inch of my flesh and leaving only my brain?
She dispelled the thought immediately because it would be impossible for a brain to survive and function alone with the current technology.
The old man glanced at the characters on the computer screen and shook his head.
“You have always been like this since you were born, because you are created by someone.”
Yin Xiaoqi thought that she was daydreaming when she heard such a nonsensical statement.
She had 23 years of life experiences, but the shabby old man in front of her informed her that she had always been a manufactured brain. This is simply ridiculous.
“Since you’re already out, it’ll be okay to tell you. Actually, everything that you experienced is fake, including your world. The final treasure is to tell you the truth and you will be removed from the virtual world,” the old man continued the mind-blowing revelations.
Sensing that Yin Xiaoqi did not believe him, the old man adjusted his glasses and continued, “Your brain neurons are connected to the computer next to me by top neurologists. Everything you experienced was computer-simulated, including your senses of touch, taste, feelings, and emotions. They are all transmitted to you by this computer through your neurons, hence giving you the illusion that everything was real.”
Oh, do you think that I will believe anything you just said? I would rather believe that everything here is an illusion instead.
Yin Xiaoqi thought coldly in her mind. All of these were unacceptable to her. Even if the old man was speaking the truth, she still refused to believe it.
Her parents, friends, and everything else had really existed. They were all living flesh and blood, how could that be fake?
“This is an experiment. This computer had simulated everything you experienced. You can’t deny the truth even if you don’t believe it. As the person who has solved all the puzzles, you are qualified to know the truth!”
Tell me that all of these aren’t real! Yin Xiaoqi roared furiously in her heart!
The old man glanced an eye at the computer screen and laughed, “I know that all of this seems unacceptable, but it’s the truth!”
Yin Xiaoqi could not calm her emotions for some time. As she was about to refute the old man again, a thought suddenly emerged. If my world is fake, why did everything feel so real? Can that old, bulky computer really simulate the whole thing?
Could it also simulate the vast universe beyond the earth?
The old man read Yin Xiaoqi’s thoughts and shook his head, “Where did your universe come from?”
The universe was born after the big bang. A thought appeared in her mind without hesitation.
“From nothing to something. Don’t you find it peculiar? The real world has no boundaries but everything in your world is quantifiable. Space can be quantified, time can be quantified, everything can be quantified.”
Although Yin Xiaoqi was not familiar with this topic, she knew that her world was exactly like how he described. Even light was quantifiable.
Noticing Yin Xiaoqi’s confusion, he continued, “It’s just like a photo on a calculator in the virtual world. You’ll notice that the photo is composed of pixels when you zoom in.”
That doesn’t mean anything.
“Here’s another example, there is a sandbox game in your world called Minecraft. There are limits to all the settings in it. Taking buildings as an example, the tallest a building can go is 250 blocks and one would not be able to build it taller than that.”
The old man chortled suddenly, “Now, who invented this rule?”
Yin Xiaoqi was astonished. Humans, of course.
“Also, why does it rain in your world?” the old man continued to ask.
Water vapor rises to a certain height and condenses into small water droplets when it cools down and forms clouds. The collision of clouds forms larger water droplets, which fall as rain due to gravity. Yin Xiaoqi answered without hesitation.
“Oh?” the frown on the old man’s face relaxed.
“Then, why does water transform into water vapor? Why are small water droplets formed? Why can’t the air support the water droplets? Why is there gravity? Can you tell me the answers?”
The old man continued without waiting for Yin Xiaoqi to answer, “Similar to gaming rules, the rules in your virtual world are also preset, unlike the real world where rules cannot be defined. They exist similarly to what you see as chaos.”
“Your world is completely bound by regulations, like the rules of a game. There is a limit to everything!”
What if you exceeded the limits? Yin Xiaoqi was getting scared.
The old man adjusted his glasses again.
“In the virtual world you’re in, the greatest speed is the speed of light. Its surrounding space will become distorted if the speed of light is exceeded. This is similar to a computer, where it will hang when the output is overloaded.”
Yin Xiaoqi fell into silence when she heard his explanation, finding herself unable to refute the old man’s words.
However, she was still determined to think that the world she lived in was true. After all, everything felt so real for her.
“You thought that a bulky computer can’t simulate such a real world because you have fallen into the faults of human mentality. After all, the virtual world you lived in had limitations, but I live freely for I live in the real world! Even a computer the size of a finger can simulate the entire universe in the virtual world that you’re in without difficulty.”
Yin Xiaoqi lost interest in continuing the debate with him anymore. Can you send me back please, even if that world is fake!
The old man laughed, “Your thoughts have already leaped beyond the virtual world and it’s impossible for you to go back. Being the puzzle solver, congratulations on entering the real world!”
To continue living in this form? Bastard, you might as well kill me! Yin Xiaoqi’s emotions once again roared, resulting in a long string of characters to appear on the computer screen.
“This is the real you. Isn’t it good to return to your true self?”
The old man was unexpectedly calm as he gazed at the screen with a smile. He then pulled out the remote control again and pressed it.
The image in front of Yin Xiaoqi began to shift again and rows of cylindrical bell glasses appeared within her vision. As expected, the bell glasses were filled with brains.
“You are not the only one! However, they don’t exist in your world. I have simulated a world for each of them independently!”
Why are you doing this?
“No reason, I just want to prove something!”
Don’t be too pleased! Perhaps the world that you’re in is also fake and you’re just another brain soaked in a nutrient solution!
The old man was stunned for a moment when he saw the characters appearing on the computer, but he swiftly regained his smile, “I have suspected this before. However, my world has no rules, so I believe that I am real!”
Where’s your proof? Just because there’s no limit doesn’t mean it’s real! Who knows, maybe you’re just another rotting brain. There’s no difference between you and me, you don’t have to look at me with pity.
“Don’t be mad. Your tumbling feelings are stimulated by this bulky computer and it’s not you who developed it.”
Damn you, if you’re really that great, try and make me stop developing emotions!
“Everything that was given to you when you were created cannot be undone unless you completely disintegrated!”
The old man’s tone remained composed, but his words seemed to be imbued with non-committal opinions, causing Yin Xiaoqi’s firm beliefs to be shaken.
Suddenly, an idea flashed in Yin Xiaoqi’s mind. She remembered a sentence from Descartes idealism.
I think, therefore I am.
Even if everything isn’t real, my existence is real if my thoughts are true.
Yin Xiaoqi’s thoughts immediately appeared on the computer screen and the old man fell into contemplation after reading the text.
Can you explain this? Even if the computer really gave me my emotions, then how can you explain that I can think of this? Unless our conversation is actually between you and that bulky computer?
The old man fell into total silence. He could not think of an answer to Yin Xiaoqi’s question for a very long time.
Yin Xiaoqi’s remarks made the old man tumble into his own paradox.
If he replied that Yin Xiaoqi’s thoughts were false, it would mean that he indeed had been talking to a computer. However, if he agreed, that would mean that Yin Xiaoqi was indeed real.
What is it? You don’t have an answer? I would never believe your words that my thoughts aren’t real because I believe in myself. I believe that my world, my parents, and my friends are real and do exist.
I think, therefore I am!
“You are indeed a special individual,” the old man smiled in gratification and looked at Yin Xiaoqi with a face of satisfaction.
Yin Xiaoqi remained silent and did not utter a word.
“Congratulations, you have successfully passed the test. You shall receive a gift from me and return to your world!”
What do you mean? Are you saying that everything you said is fake? This is just the puzzle’s final test? Yin Xiaoqi was visibly agitated.
The old man smiled slightly, “I cannot answer whether you are real or not, because it’s just my personal guess. I will not be able to confirm it!”
With that, the old man took out the remote control, “Alright, I’m sending you back. You have succeeded!”
The image dimmed gradually.
Who are you exactly? Yin Xiaoqi posed a question that had been haunting her before leaving.
“You can call me Bei Li!”