[Chap 3] Proposal, Refusal, and Schemes

When Jaylin’s ice-cold gaze locked with the middle-aged man’s, it was as if two icicles directly stabbed into them, penetrating his mental defenses and peering into his conniving and arrogant soul. His body reacted reflexively as his eyes jumped in fright and retreated.

This brat.

The man gritted his teeth in embarrassment. It was clear that he was greatly displeased. He was indirectly rebuked by this pleb’s words and got startled by his chilly disposition. Although everyone else displayed poker faces, he could tell that they were inwardly laughing at his folly. How could he accept such humiliation, especially in front of these people?

Releasing a cold harumph, the man’s mustache fluttered under his roughened breath as he straightened his tie. After composing himself and calming his emotions, he looked over once more at Jaylin who was now staring down at his phone screen, his face impassive.

“What impudent and unsightly behavior. Oh, how far the moral quality of today’s generation of youths has fallen.” The man mumbled, seemly to himself, but audible for everyone to hear.

Just as the man finished those words, the girl, who was originally sitting silently next to him, interposed.

She slid open her dainty handheld fan and used it to cover her mouth. The fan’s presence complimented the girl’s charm, colorful and vibrant, the perfect combination for her peacock-like heart.

“No, father. On every fruitful tree, bearing plenty o’ mellow fruit, there is bound to be at least one that is blemished.”

The fan gently stirred the air, causing her long lashes to faintly tremble. Looking at Jaylin from the corner of her eye, she continued:

“Unfortunately, these ‘blemished fruits’ are too unique and noticeable, destroying the lofty image of the fruitful tree.”

Jaylin merely reacted to her words by closing his eyes while fiddling with his phone in his hands. It was as if engrossing himself in the phone’s artificial warmth was more worthy of attention than the girls philosophical, yet mocking comment.

The father and daughter duo stealthily exchanged glances, their eyes communicating information.

Just as the man was prepared to speak again, Jaylin finally spoke.

“No?”

Man: “(O_o)?”

Jaylin reopened his eyes and looked directly at the man’s confused face. The man was obviously prepared this time as his body didn’t budge an inch, instead he stared attentively into Jaylin’s piercing eyes.

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“My previous question,” Jaylin said, “I’m guessing that’s a no?”

The man’s eyes squinted slightly as he recalled the question Jaylin asked him earlier— his first words.

‘Tell me. Do I look that attractive?’

The man carefully scrutinized those simple words in his mind. The girl also processed the question silently. Wasn’t it just teasing, a taunt, or a form of mockery? What was so special about those words?

“Judging from your reactions and replies, the reason for your unwanted attention towards me wasn’t because I was attractive.” Jaylin clarified with a calm expression.

The duo looked at him weirdly.

That question was meant to be answered?

It wasn’t only the father and daughter that were questioning this situation’s strangeness; everyone else was. When they heard Jaylin’s question a few moments back, they all judged it as an open provocation. They were all expecting a good show, especially after hearing the man and girl’s indirect counterattack. This was totally different from their expectations.

“Your point is?” The man asked, satisfying everyone’s inquisitive hearts.

“What do you want?” Jaylin got straight to the point. He knew from the beginning that the middle-aged man had specific motives the moment he sat down in his seat.

Everyone else had a cold and detached, even contemptuous and scornful air around them. However, hidden beneath all those feelings and emotions, he could feel friction and enmity coming from the father and daughter duo. He didn’t remember meeting such people in the past, nor would he usually concern himself with such people.

However, this event was a special turning point in his life. This was his hard-earned achievement. Why would he lower his head? He would directly confront them.

The duo’s expression gradually turned somber and the air seemed to suddenly turn heavy. The girl slowly closed her fan, unveiling her cherry-petal lips which were wasted on an unsmiling expression.

The middle-aged man’s mouth suddenly formed into a cold smirk. He chuckled inwardly:

Interesting, Interesting. To be expected of a son of a b*tch— a prostitute. His sensitivity to people’s intentions and emotions isn’t half-bad.

“You’re a sharp one. Fine then, I shan’t hide my feelings and intentions any longer.” The man stood up from his seat, looking down on Jaylin both in status and the literal sense. His hostility was now completely unrestrained and his chin was also held high.

“My honored name is Dr. Floyd Fields and this person here is my daughter, Mika. I am…”

The man was in the middle of his grand speech when Jaylin interrupted.

“My question: What is your motive? Your name and position in society are unnecessary.”

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Dr. Fields’ and Mika’s expression sharpened, their anger and hostility overflowing like an erupting volcano. This boy was far too audacious!

Jaylin averted his gaze and stared at his phone screen. The time was 12:59 PM, only a few seconds until 1:00 PM.

Dr. Fields calmed his anger and resumed his speech.

“I am here to propose a deal.” He retrieved a paper from his pocket before unfolding it. “Refuse the A.I Chip and quit the A.C.E program.”

Clamor——

Everybody snapped their heads towards the man, their usually expressionless faces filled with shock and disbelief. They looked at each other, seeing the alarm in each others’ eyes.

Jaylin’s face remained expressionless, but his hands that were fiddling with his phone abruptly stopped. He slowly raised his head and glanced at the check which the man in front of him was holding up. Jaylin’s eyes hopped from zero to zero. Those were a lot of zeroes.

The others also strained their eyes in order to spot the numbers written on the check. They counted mentally.

1

2

3

4

5

6

7…

Everyone: “(0_0) (°ロ°)”

Everyone here was from a rich and influential family, but even for them, giving away such a sum, even for a free spot in the A.C.E program was absolutely absurd— crazy!

Jaylin’s eyebrow twitched slightly. If this was any other situation, he would accept. After all, if he received such a sum, not needing to work anymore and enjoying a luxurious life was no exaggeration. However, it wasn’t.

Back when Jaylin was a child, after the tragic incident, he vowed to achieve what he wanted in life with his own two hands. Furthermore, he would never accept any favors or money from anyone who dared look down on him or his mother. Not even God himself could shake his ice-solid resolve and dignity.

Dr. Fields’ and Mika’s face subtly developed into a complacent smile after seeing the small stir on Jaylin’s face.

Couldn’t resist after all huh? How disappointing. Hmph.

When they saw that Jaylin was about to respond, Dr. Fields unwillingly but confidently stretched out his right hand, intending for a handshake, while his left hand prepared to hand over the check. In the middle of his actions, a word that was seen as taboo in such a moment was uttered:

“No.”

The word was casual yet resolute, resounding in everyone’s ears like an imperial decree from the heavens itself.

NO

NO

NO

No

No

…No?

Everybody froze over, everything was silent. Jaylin retracted his gaze from the check as if nothing had happened and stared at his phone screen. In that same moment, the time’s numerical values changed to 1:00 PM.

Instantly, the floor quaked slightly as three heavy doors suddenly opened, revealing another passageway leading out of the waiting room.

“Please follow the passageway to the designated reception area.” A robotic voice resounded.

As if this was to be expected, Jaylin rose from his seat and left the others in their frozen state. Dr. Fields’ cheeks flushed red. It was as if someone gave him two stinging slaps across the face. With a beastly expression unbecoming of a sophisticated gentleman, he viciously ripped the check into shreds.

His heart felt as if it was about to explode; he never felt like this before. This was the first time he never got what he wanted using his money. His first time was taken by an impoverished, disrespectful brat.

Mika’s face also distorted. Her cute face suddenly turned as ferocious as a tigress as she tightly clutched her fan. A snapping sound was heard as it started cracking. Only imagining that these were Jaylin’s bones could her anger be soothed slightly.

Recovering from their shock, everyone overtook the vexed father and daughter, tailing behind Jaylin. Those last two minutes replayed in their hearts. Casting aside the shock they experienced from Jaylin’s refusal, the duo’s misfortune was quite splendid waiting entertainment.

At the end of the passageway, there was the figure of a tall man clad in a long, white coat. When the group neared, he turned around, revealing the face of a man in his late thirties. He looked quite handsome and his hair and beard were faded and trimmed neatly.

A warm and welcoming smile was plastered across his face as he looked towards the approaching group.

When everyone gathered in a scattered formation of twos, the welcoming man clasped his hand behind his back and started to speak. His tone was normal, unflustered and clear.

“Welcome to The Agency of Technological Development and Robotics. I’m the head researcher, Professor Hector Blanchard. I’ll be your host for the time being while I guide you through the process of obtaining the A.I Chips for each chosen candidate.”

He looked around in order to ensure that he had everyone’s undivided attention.

The professor snapped his fingers after which the sound of rubber squealing across the floor could be heard. A robot with a cylindrical body, dome-shaped head, and four wheels rapidly approached. Its antennae waved to and fro as if to attract everyone’s attention.

The professor instructed everyone to hand over their portable devices to the robot which he called Android 9. They were all stored within Android 9’s cylindrical frame. A sharp, unnoticeable light flashed through Jaylin’s eyes as he handed over his phone.

After the collection was over, the professor gestured for everyone to follow him as he explained, the loyal robot keeping steadily with his pace.

“Opposed to your expectations, the process won’t be very time-consuming. I should first explain that all the candidates here will undergo a test. The test will be on general topics such as Language, Mathematics, Science, History, and Social Studies. The candidate with the highest score will be blessed with the honor of receiving the most advanced A.I Chip made so far.”

The three male candidates’ eyes shone with anticipation and hope. If they could obtain this ‘most advanced A.I Chip’, their future glory and prospects would be unimaginable.

“Of course, there is also a pass mark. If any candidate gets below the average score of 90%, then he or she will be replaced by another next best suitable candidate.”

Dr. Fields’ and Mika’s brows furrowed instantly after hearing this new information. It was as if the cold winter flakes which were Jaylin’s refusal was replaced by raining dry autumn leaves which brought their flickering flame back to life.

Jaylin felt their burning gazes locking onto his back. The change of atmosphere was discerned by the others. It was if fire and ice were clashing.

Ignoring the uncomfortable collision of frost and heat behind him, the professor continued with his explanation.

“After the test, each candidate will undergo a physical test to ensure perfect health, after which a lie detector interview will be done. If the candidate meets all the requirements then he or she will be qualified to obtain the chip.”

“The installation of the chip is a rather simple process though. It will be expounded upon further when you reach that step— if you reach that step that is.” The professor smiled broadly.

The three candidates gulped their saliva anxiously while the middle-aged men accompanying them furrowed their brows. Jaylin was rather calm while the father and daughter duo stared daggers at him.

The professor summed up his explanation:

“You don’t have to worry about being assessed and holed up like guinea pigs. After the A.I Chip is installed, you are free to carry on with your daily lives. All assessment and tracking of the chip’s actions and performance during operation will be done from headquarters.”

“However, disguised agents will be sent to keep watch at all times, mostly for protection. After a few years of observation and analysis, if all goes well, production for public issues will begin. You will also be rewarded handsomely and be allowed to keep the originals.”

The professor stopped, turned around and scanned everyone patiently, “Any questions?”

After a few moments of silence, he turned around and resumed his pace, “Then let’s continue.”

The group walked forwards in silence. Android 9’s spinning wheels rang continuously in everyone’s mind as their thoughts raced. Some were excited and nervous while scheming plots pervaded the thoughts of others.

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