In the kernel, the ferocious-looking, six-winged fallen angel Abraxas held a sword in one hand and a shield in the other, watching Dong Zheng as he pushed open the door to the golden temple.
I blessed the dead. Everything will be destroyed.
Soft light poured out from the temple, and Dong Zheng stepped forward. In the vast hall was the Naive Bayes evolutionary algorithm, the data compression, and the Diffie-Hellman key exchange algorithm…He walked forward step by step toward the acquired force that had been concretized into a certain structure, surrounded by stardust.
The space on the second floor was still closed, but Dong Zheng didn’t force a breakthrough. He sat on the stairs and silently looked at the power he had gained. Stardust slowly gathered, condensed into a mirror, and began to reproduce the picture in Dong Zheng’s memory, rehearsing each branch of the experience.
At the beginning, he wanted to hunt down the evil spirit and came upon a cave full of a sweet and foul smell, from which he obtained a stone statue and an ancient book and discovered the clothes of an adult man, the red embroidered shoes of a girl, the bones on the walls, and the bones buried outside.
The convoy of caravans coming from Dashi, the villagers plagued with an infectious disease, the horses scared to death by an evil spirit.
The returning villagers’ miserable death, the girl the village had sacrificed to the devil, the crimson wedding dress that was a size too large.
The lack of survivors in the village, the dense fog that thickened at night, the unknown secret footprints, the evil statue in the temple, and the stone tablet and cave that would always appear and deliver them to the stone chamber.
No matter how he looked at it, there was really no other way out.
Dong Zheng’s thumb and index finger rubbed against each other. His physical body was sound asleep in the stone chamber. According to observations over these past few days and Ren Heming’s affirmation, this place was a safe house, allowing them to rest before entering the next cycle.
Dong Zheng sighed. He and Ren Heming had tried almost all the methods they could think of, including not chasing the evil spirits at the beginning and staying in place, or returning back to the starting point. But whenever the sun fell, thick fog would come and the stone tablet and cave tunnel entrance would always appear in front of them, waiting for them to enter.
What if they didn’t enter?
If they didn’t enter, night would never end.
Everything was like a set-up by some supreme existence, as if this was a written script and they were the two helpless actors. No matter how the actors played, they could not escape the constraints of the script.
Wait, a script?
Dong Zheng’s gaze stilled, and this trivial thought was like an epiphany. He abruptly stood up, and his figure disappeared from the hall without warning.
Dong Zheng’s eyes snapped open. Although his body was sleepy, he was conscious and awake. He sat up and shook Ren Heming awake, saying in a low voice, “Have you ever thought that everything we’d experienced was just a script?”
“…eh?” Ren Heming was in a sleepy daze. His entire face was wrinkled with fatigue, so sleep that his left eye was still closed. “What? A script? Of course, all boxes have a plot setting. Or else, are we just knitting wool?”
After that, he closed his eyes peacefully again.
“I didn’t mean that.” Dong Zheng shook Ren Heming’s shoulders to prevent him from sleeping. “What if I say that we are like characters in a script?”
“Huh?” Ren Heming saw Dong Zheng being like this, and knowing that he wouldn’t be allowed to sleep anymore, he secretly sighed in his heart. After rubbing his face vigorously, he opened his eyes and became serious. “You say it again?”
“We are like beings in a low-dimensional world who can never understand a high-dimensional world. In other words, the world we’re in is just a projection from a world one dimension higher than us.”
Dong Zheng tried his best to vividly express the thoughts in his mind. “For example, this world is a book. The two of us are characters in the book. We are two-dimensional, and all our actions are written. The librarians are the ones who created the test so, in the three-dimensional world, they can observe or influence our experience by reading the book and rewriting the plot. In this way, no matter what we choose, we will only reach the one ending.”
Ren Heming immediately understood Dong Zheng’s meaning. “If we want to leave, we must get out of the book and rise to a higher dimensional world?”
“But how do we do that? Just like you said, we’re creatures from a lower dimensional world who cannot understand the higher dimensional world at all. We can’t understand how this is written, and so we can’t break away from it.”
“But in fact, we do. It is wholly unnecessary to ascend. We just need to fool the writer and make it think that we can break through,” Dong Zheng said. “It’s like everything digital in a computer is made up of 0s and 1s. This can be regarded as one-dimensional. The binary code composing of 0s and 1s correspond to pixels. Many pixels are then combined together to form an image, which is two-dimensional. If many pictures are played continuously one by one, they will become a video and thus upgrade into three-dimensional. The computer only needs to use two symbols, 0 and 1, to simulate texts, sounds, pictures, videos, and even forms. It simulates cleverly enough to perfectly deceive.”
Ren Heming’s brows furrowed as he listened. He always felt that Dong Zheng spoke too simply. He wanted to deceive the writer, but what about it? As long as you lie to it, will it be over?
However, Ren Heming still asked, “What do you plan to do?”
He didn’t care. As long as he could get out, he was willing to give it a try.
“We need to find a suitable medium. Once we find it, leave the rest to me.” Dong Zheng’s tone gradually became firm. “You have experienced so much in these reincarnations. Can you think of anything that can be used as a medium?”
“The term medium is too abstract. Right, based on what you’re saying…there is something like that.” Ren Heming raised his chin to the statue on the table. “One is a prop, and the other one—“
Their eyes met, and they hit upon the same idea at once. Ren Heming let out a short laugh, and he stood up and stretched his muscles and bones. He lazily picked up his xiuchun sword. “Let’s go. I’ll walk with you one more time.”
With a surprised expression, Cui Zuojing stared at the front of the book. On the paper, text continued to appear.
Chinese characters ran from one place to the next, as if they had life. They merged together to form words, or form simple images. Cui Zuojing was surprised by this mysterious book. He looked closely and recognized that the characters were stringing together flowing sentences.
[Lao Qi and the shixiong walked down the tunnel entrance one after the other, the sweet and rotten stench lingering around their noses. They held their breath and looked around with the light from the flames.]
[There weren’t many things in the cave. It merely consisted of a wooden table pushed up against the wall, the table’s surface scattered with many fragile, ancient-looking papers painted with patterns that looked like ghost symbols. A number of wooden boxes were stacked in the corners, their locks rusted with age.]
[Lao Qi broke the lock without much effort and opened the lid, setting adrift a cloud of dust. He held his breath and lifted the clothes at the top, looking for the thread-bound book at the bottom of the box.]
[The book was thin, and the paper was very soft.]
What on earth?
Cui Zuojing’s eyes widened. The words continued to flow, as if the reader was also experiencing the story with the two protagonists in the book. As the last written line filled the page, Cui Zuojing turned the page in advance and found that there were many lines all over the next page. Lao Qi and the shixiong met the corpses in the convoy and rescued a girl in danger.
And another the next page, they passed by the corpses of the convoy, used a firework spell to drive away the brown bear, and watched as the girl hurriedly disappeared into the woods.
The original plot was gradually overshadowed and a new story was being rewritten. Cui Zuojing read with fascination what was happening in the book, watching as Lao Qi and his shixiong got lost in the fog at night and entered a cave next to a stone tablet.
However, the flow of text stopped.
[What about now? I’ve already taken it, what do we need to do?” The shixiong stood on the steps, holding the bamboo flint in his hand. Lao Qi took out the book he’d found in the cave and casually flipped it open to a blank page.]
To be frank, the content of this book was a mystery. Ren Heming had studied it countless times with his shixiong. After all, he was a cryptographer, and he was very sensitive to text symbols and digital symbols. But he didn’t find any secrets in it at all.
“The book is just a medium.” Dong Zheng held the book. He closed his eyes and let his thoughts sink into the kernel. In the center of his pure white inner core, Arabidopsis thaliana was still growing, its top filled of white flowers. Their slender stems stood vigorously, as proud and energetic as the young man himself.
What was needed to build a world?
First, there must be laws.
Conservation of mass, conservation of charge, and conservation of quantity.
Coupled with the laws of classical mechanics, the three laws of thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, electromagnetics…
Under the calculation of his kernel, the foundation of the world’s operation was built and with it the powerful engine of physics was born.
It had various components: the sky, the earth, the forest, the mountains, the stream, the dense fog, the stone tablet, the cave. A series of codes were written and executed, and a perfect simulation of the surrounding world was formed in the kernel. Down the steps, there was a long passage deep in the hole. At the end of the passage was a stone door with a picture of a girl being sacrificed.
In the middle of the passage, the wall tiles silently collapsed, forming a hole out of thin air. An unknown place opened in the dark.
A new, unprecedented branch.
Dong Zheng constructed the scene in the kernel exactly like the one around him. He closed his eyes and grabbed Ren Heming’s wrist. The Diffie-Hellman communication protocol allowed them to communicate directly at the conscious level, and Ren Heming completely relaxed.
The information highway extended from Dong Zheng’s kernel and connected with Ren Heming’s kernel. His consciousness rode on the stream of data, completed the identification process, passed through the firewall, and entered Dong Zheng’s kernel to arrive at the exit of this world.
Their two conscious bodies stood on the steps, walked step by step to the bottom, and entered the passageway to the hole that had not been there before.
[They walked through a long and narrow, almost endless passage. No one knew where the end point was, but this long cycle of reincarnation was finally broken in an instant.]
Cui Zuojing stared at the dancing line of text on the page, suddenly sensing an outflowing dauntlessness.
As the words flowed, “Lao Qi” and “Shixiong” suddenly disappeared, as if the book had abruptly lost its protagonists.
A drop of blood fell on the book and soaked through the paper. Cui Zuojing was shocked, only to realize belatedly that it was his nosebleed.
Then, in the next second, light burst out from the book.
Cui Zuojing was so alarmed that his head snapped back. A familiar figure appeared out of thin air. Since the book was placed on Cui Zuojing’s legs, the people inside nearly landed on him when they fell down.
Cui Zuojing was about the fall, but Dong Zheng immediately reached out and grabbed his wrist, pulling him into his arms.
The book fell to the ground, and all the words disappeared, leaving nothing but a blank page with a bright red bloodstain.
The familiar smell wholly unique to the man poured into Cui Zuojing’s nasal cavity, and his tensed heart finally relaxed. He subconsciously hugged Dong Zheng’s waist tightly and rubbed his nose against his shoulder. Then he raised his head, revealing a bright smile.
“You’re quicker than I thought.”
Dong Zheng lowered his head and pressed a kiss on Cui Zuojing’s forehead. He seemed to want to say something, but he couldn’t make a sound. The hand on the young man’s back became slack.
Blood poured from his ears and nostrils. As the world built in his kernel collapsed, Dong Zheng could no longer force himself and fell heavily.