ASSASSINATE (刺杀)

PROLOGUE

I opened the window in time, closed my eyes, and smelled all the moisture in the air that hadn't yet dispersed.

It seemed like it was going to rain, and the weather was a bit hot, but he was about to arrive.

His hair was a sleek black that resembled a raven's feathers, his face pale. He did not lift his head very much while walking, and his left hand had a scar that was about half an inch long. On such hot afternoons such as this, he would unbutton his shirt to his chest, roll up his sleeves, and with his neat, wet sideburns, he would arrive leisurely...

I heard the sound of footsteps, counting backwards silently in my head along with that rhythm. I opened my eyes to see the person that had been in my imagination, thus creating the illusion of "a dream come true" for myself.

Ah, he had brought along a bunch of dried fish, lingered briefly in the cramped alley, and fed a group of wild cats.

Like a true coward, I hid in a remote corner and quietly asked myself, "Shall I compare thee to a bright summer's day?"

He seemed to feel something, raising his scarred left hand and rubbing the head of the wild cat, smiling, as if he had given me an answer.

Once again, I experienced the feeling of "a dream come true".

P / S: If I can give you a flower, I will go confess to you.

- The eighteenth love letter was hidden, Lander wrote it on an afternoon in the middle of summer.

I

"I don't understand why you have to be so stubborn!" The Police Chief combusted in anger. His face had turned red like a roasted chicken that had just been applied with oil, his saliva splashing while questioning the young man on the sofa.

The young man gave a calm smile — Lord Lander could refuse to answer any question in the world, there was not a single family who did not know he was a mute man.

"You cannot be like this!" The Director advised with all he had, his rough veins collectively swelling up. Fortunately, as his skin was thick and firm, the veins of his neck could not pierce his skin, "Your life is not only a personal item, it belongs to the empire!"

The young man indifferently lifted one eyebrow, with visible mockery, as if he could not believe such a stupid person could make it to the position of Head of the Police Department.

"Forgive me for not being able to accept your decision. This time, the ones preparing to strike against you are the AS party, those evil bastards whose bad reputation runs far, who can do anything for their purpose. Accepting protection from the police is essential, how can you...Ah, damn it!"

The Chief sitting on the sofa suddenly jumped up a meter like a fat cat who had its tail stepped on.

On the sofa, there was a gap, like a gaping mouth, with countless steel bars like sharp teeth inside, almost clamping on the large bottom of the Director.

The thin steam from below the sofa slowly raised, as hazy as heavenly clouds. The alarm clock on the wall rang out on time, the wooden door opened, and a mechanical bird poked its head out, shouting as if wanting to ruin its vocal pipe, "Cuckoo, Three o'clock! Three o'clock! The time for entertaining the stupid guy has finished! Cuckoo! "

The angry Director roared: "It is the AS party, you will regret this!"

The polite young man stood up, making an "as you please" gesture to the guest, and went upstairs without turning back.

At the same time, the venerable Lander answered quietly in his heart: "The AS Party will never dare to touch me, idiot."

The Director's face turned from red to green, from green to black, then went in an entire circle of red, orange, green, blue, purple, as if he was kissed by the rainbow goddess Iris, he then left the house of this bizarre creature.

Before leaving, the Director left a sincere blessing from his heart and soul: "Well, may your precious skull be shot open by those violent anti-science bastards."

Mr. Edward Lander — was such a cold, selfish and arrogant bastard, who put no one in his eyes. At the same time, he was also a great scientist. This was truly a great misfortune for the empire.

No one could tell what was happening, it seemed that in just one night, the damn Industrial Revolution had begun. The iron and steel machines emitting white steam changing every day appeared in a horde. At the beginning, they were only bulky objects, using simple mechanisms, replacing workers to do some mindless labor. Except for some old people losing their jobs due to them voicing their dissatisfaction when drunk, in general, it did not lead to anything chaotic.

But very quickly, the situation became increasingly abnormal — within one night, steam monsters had occupied the entire Earth, chaos was in the air and rivers, and a madman by the name of Babbage* also created the "Difference Engine" monster, evoking fear in everyone, seemingly wanting to push it all to the climax.

*Charles Babbage was the inventor of the mechanical computer.

The Difference Engine, the iron fellow — was very great — with just a few chips, it could do all the work people could and couldn't do, only Satan knew what kind of evil scheme was brewing in its stomach.

It was incredibly intelligent, knowing everything, it could cause even the rats in an underground sewer to have no hiding place.

If saying the birth of this monster led to a crisis unrelated to them, then Mr. Lander's sudden appearance had pushed this crisis up to a level that people could not bear.

This young man who could not even speak, loudly declared that he would stand on top of a mountain built by his predecessor, tiptoeing and pushing the sun up with his hands, so that it would never go down. This freak locked himself in the lab for more than three years and fulfilled his extravagant promise — he took advantage of the principle of the computer Difference Engine to create an even more terrifying monster, a steel Difference Engine tank!

It was too much, it was all too much.

The Difference Engine was as tall as a two-storey building, spewing hot steam, with a tough and fierce outer shell. Its inside was based on the evil chips running its evil program, it could think and calculate like humans, but much faster. With all the weapons that a human could think of equipped on two sides, within seconds, it could explode a body it identified as an enemy into a pile of flesh.

This object had just appeared, the nation instantly exclaimed, and now, this mad scientist, who had a bad reputation, publicly claimed that he would study and build a humanoid Difference Engine.

Throughout the controversy, there were people who said he would open a great age for the empire where the sun never set, and some people said that he was basically a devil, putting "the souls that should be in hell" into metal — Edward Lander, he was the scum of the world.

The AS Party, the leader of anti-science organizations, also inevitably watched the mute scientist standing at the head of this storm.

II

Lander did not pay attention to the angry Chief of Police leaving. He went upstairs, opened the window, peacefully waiting for the person at the end of the alley to appear.

No one knew that the reason this mad scientist moved to the square that was not in a very good condition two years ago, settled in a house that did not attract much attention in front of a small alley, was just so he could see a person.

The black-haired man was good-looking, but his background was not very honorable — he was a gang member.

Sometimes, the world of Lord Lander's spirit was just as difficult to understand as the mind of the Difference Engine he had built.

But to be honest, how normal could the person who devoted themself to researching this monster be?

It was not surprising at all.

Upstairs, there was a small table, covered with a thick stack of drawings, but they were not drawings of the Difference Engine, nor a complicated programming chip — it was of a flower.

Lander wanted to create a rose that would bloom forever — when he opened the goat skin sheet, he didn't dare to believe he had come up with such a stupid idea, but, fact is, he did.

Today, Lander was a bit unhappy, the conversation with the stupid Chief of Police had wasted half an hour of his time, and the other person, due to some unknown cause, did not return on time today.

Perhaps he and his group of bad friends were in a cheap little pub cursing loudly, maybe he was taken home by some prostitute.

Maybe...

Due to a series of assumptions in his head that became increasingly noisy, Lander's eyes darkened, and he crumpled the failed goat skin sheet, suddenly a thought entered his mind: "Why can't I talk to him?"

Immediately, he used the same satirical self-denial to refuse himself: "Come on, you basically can not even let out a single syllable."

He treated himself with the same cruelty he treated others with.

Although he thought this way, his legs moved as if possessed by demons, betraying his great brain. Lander put on his coat, turning back after walking two steps, then looked in the mirror. Feeling that his collar was a bit wide, he opened the dresser again, changed into a dark coat that looked basically no different, put on a hat, and respectfully took out an old quill pen, shoving it in his pocket.

The quill pen had started to leak ink... or rather, this pen, from the moment it was created, had already been leaking ink. Lander, in the material aspect, was someone who would not force himself to endure things even a little, but for some reason, he did not have the heart to change it from beginning to end.

Having done all this, he then stepped out with a serious look.

A mechanical dog with metal skin operated its limbs, running to him, its tail waving, its back spraying a string of steam.

"No, you can't follow me, if I take you with me, he will see me as a monster." Lander stopped, staring at his loyal dog.

Unfortunately, the mechanical dog did not know how to read minds and could not understand his thoughts.

Lander raised his head to look at the gray clouds; the sky of this city was always like that, as if it was already abandoned by God, filled with hopeless suppression and vicious chaos.

"Alright." Lander shrugged, opened the door and led the mechanical dog toward the small back alley.

A wandering Romanian dressed in robes looked at his robotic dog in fright, struggling to get up, running away like smoke, as if the handsome man was an evil witch.

At first, feeling unnatural, Lander pulled his hat down. The outside world always made him feel uncomfortable, the defiant, stubborn crowd always argued that machines and steam had ruined everything —— just stop, it was stupidity that ruined everything.

But just thinking about what he was out to do, Lander felt even more nervous. His palms were cold with sweat, he could not help but loosen his collar.

"Damn it, you're not going to propose, just wait there, when he comes, just smile and say hello to him!" Lander rudely scolded himself without holding back at all. "Enough, you mute bastard who always thinks he's right."

He kicked the mechanical dog's tail with his leg, let it hide in the corner of the alley, and waited there.

The normal clothes stuck to his body made Lander unable to breathe, he had to pull slightly at them from time to time.

"I'm such an idiot," Lander thought, "maybe ... maybe I should finish that flower, maybe he'll feel this is too sudden ..."

At this time, the corner of the street echoed with the sound of footsteps. Lander stiffened his spine at first, his ears reddened uncontrollably, but soon, his spirit stiffened, too— this was not right, these footsteps did not sound right!

Immediately, Lander jumped by instinct, avoiding a fatal bullet. He turned his head around, seeing a cloaked man standing at the other end of the alley, a black muzzle pointing at him.

The sound of footsteps increased, disorderly without concealing themselves, blocking him in the middle of the small alley. The long cloak of the assassin swirled into dense, black mist-like waves. Lander nestled close to the corner of the wall, hearing the sound of bullets grazing past him.

A bunch of nobodies...

Starting from the day the Difference Engine was born, Lander had been experiencing non-stop assassination attempts. The people of the church and the heretics who normally started fighting as soon as they saw each other both agreed on this external problem concerning him — they were determined to handle this spokesperson of the devil.

Lord Edward Lander had the eccentricity that everyone expected, who was not very enthusiastic with England being full of fog and fools. Perhaps, in a situation where no one interfered, one day he would grow tired of this world without reason and let go on his own, but the assassins swarming back had effectively provoked his naturally-born rebellious nature.

Now, he decided he had to live to be seventy, eighty years old, so that those lowlives could watch carefully, how he claimed to live to the end of his life.

The robot dog in the place where he was able to reach by raising his hand, was actually also a Difference Engine tank. In its head, there was a series of complicated chips, inserted right into the back of its neck. As long as he cracked open the mechanical dog's mouth, entered a simple command, those assassins of the anti-science and technology organization could turn into "self-assassins" in the blink of an eye.

"Come here, the land of the times needs your bodies as fertilizer."

On the handsome face of the evil genius, there was a smile full of malice. The back of his hand behind him slowly raised towards the dog-shaped Difference Engine.

Suddenly, at the end of the small alley came a round of horse's hooves.

The assassins were suddenly disturbed. A man standing at the end of the alley tried to turn his head and was suddenly knocked over by a shot that nobody had any idea where it came from. This sudden surprise caused the assassins to be unable to react. Lander's movements stopped, he coldly glanced at the direction of the shot.

Outsiders? He thought nonchalantly, They'll be dealt with altogether, just see it as you were unlucky.

He was not even grateful that the sneaking gun shot just now had indirectly helped him.

The one who came was a man. He was laying low on his horse, one hand holding the reins, the other holding a gun, relying on his high speed to dodge the bullets that shot at him while retaliating strongly — he was also an amazing marksman, every shot landed without fail.

Lander's long, pale fingers were already inserted into the mouth of the robot dog, he intended to kill everyone regardless if they were friends or foes — he hated the world anyway, there were almost no creatures he could put in his eyes. At that moment, the rider on horseback lifted his head, his eyes accidentally met with the young scientist. Lander's hands trembled, blood rushed up to his face.

Oh my God, why is it him?

In the next second, Lander was embarrassed to discover that he had entered the wrong command, the mechanical dog thought that the owner wanted it to stay away, so it backed into a deeper corner, escaping his control.

The scientist was completely unaware of how dangerous such a situation was. He opened his eyes wide, standing still on the spot, falling into the anxiety and worries of a surprise and awkward encounter. A bullet had even managed to hit his leg.

Lander staggered to the ground, discarding his most pathetic self-esteem and rebellious spirit in the blink of an eye.

"Just shoot me to death," he thought, "this is too humiliating."

But he normally disdained God. In a situation like this, of course, there was no god who heard his prayers. Following the sound of hooves approaching, the other man rode his horse, eventually charging towards Lander as destined.

The black-haired rider on the horse fired three shots at once, using up all of the bullets, then he bent down, reaching out his hand and told Lander: "Come up here!"

Lander held that hand as if he was possessed. The palm of the other was warm and dry, it seemed to have some kind of strange electricity, running through his entire body in the blink of an eye, thus he had forgotten the pain of the shot in his leg, strongly jumping onto the horse.

The brown horse rushed across the chaotic square, the fallen assassins along the road and the dangerous Difference Engine in the shape of a dog were all left behind. Lander tried raising his hand, hugging the small but powerful waist of the black-haired knight, and soon after, he could not help but take a mile after being given an inch, squeezing a little tighter.

"My God..." Lander thought as if he was sleepwalking. "I must be dreaming."

They rode on horseback for a long time. The scientist who did not go out very much quickly lost his sense of direction, thus he did not bother to evaluate the situation of his surroundings anymore, focusing on staring at the back of the person in front of him.

The back he missed and longed for day and night.

From what Lander knew, he should now think about why the other had appeared here, why he saved him from the hands of those people, and where he was taking him.

But in the blink of an eye, all these problems had difficulty entering the superhuman brain of the scientist. He glided past them, his thoughts running astray, not even paying attention to the leg that was shot and had been bleeding all this way.

He had no knowledge of how long it had taken before the black-haired rider stopped the horse in the backyard of a small pub.

"Come," said the black-haired knight, jumping off the horse first.

Lander followed closely behind, about to jump off the horse with a dashing gesture. Without paying attention, his knees softened, almost falling face down, and the black-haired knight raised his hand to support him: "Be careful."

Lander smelled a faint scent of tobacco on his body, suddenly producing a dizziness that was hard to describe.

"Is it because I lost so much blood?" He thought in a daze.

"Sorry," said the black-haired knight, "I should have appeared sooner, I was hindered by a mob and was unable to leave, are you alright?"

Lander's answer to the other was a smile — he had finally given this smile as he had always wanted.

It seemed that the black-haired knight thought that he spoke too fast, he stopped for a bit, at a slower pace, he seriously repeated: "I say, are - you - okay?"

Lander only pointed at his throat, using an expression to convey that he could not speak.

The black-haired knight was a bit surprised: "Sorry, they did not let me know who needed to be assisted ... um, I mean, you're Mr. Merck, right?"

Lander's bright eyes darkened, and he pondered for a moment, asking in sign language: did you recognize the wrong person?

The black-haired knight stood silently in front of him, exchanging a wide eyed glance with the lame scientist for a moment, and after a while he said, "Sorry again, I don't understand sign language."

Lander caught his left hand, the one with the half-inch long burn scar - the scar that his fingers just touched.

The black-haired knight closed his hand slightly, casually brushed it away. His hand was cold, his charming black eyes drooped down, with the right amount of indifference and politeness, he said, "I don't know how to read, neither do I know how to write."

Lander was speechless.

In that moment, the arrogant scientist was like a lost sheep, looking at the black-haired knight in front of him, appearing a bit pitiful.

The black-haired knight avoided his eyes, slightly giving way: "In any case, please go inside first before talking."

He reached out and pulled Lander. The other was a little wobbly, slowly starting to feel the pain. His pale fingers could not control themselves from trembling.

Only now did the black-haired knight notice his injured leg. Hesitantly, he stooped down and said: "I'll carry you."

Lander felt his heart was about to jump out of his chest, he did not know how he managed to climb on the other's back, the piercing pain all but vanished in the blink of an eye, both his body and his heart had gone numb.

"Looks like I haven't even introduced myself, my name is Arno, Arno Hall, the one who was sent to assist you."

Arno.

Lander silently repeated the name in his heart once, staring at the black-haired knight's back with an extremely gentle gaze: "I naturally know you're Arno ... but, do you no longer remember me?"

He said with an inaudible sound: "My name is Edward, Edward Lander, did you not remember?"

The whole street was engulfed in the cheap Christmas atmosphere.

Lander hated Christmas.

He hated all the holidays that appeared lively, hated the noisy roaring crowds, hated the mixed smell of food in small restaurants, hated the feeling of being crowded with stupid people dressed in red.

But now, lying on Arno's back, he suddenly felt the out of tune hymn from far away was so warm, the old quill pen hidden in his coat pocket seemed to be radiating a hot temperature.

Arno piggybacked him through the bar, with good and bad people combined, going straight to the backyard, gradually, the noise of the commotion and the singing of the synagogue became distant, only the sound of boots on the snow-covered street was left, pulling Lander back to thirteen years ago.

It was also a winter day.

III

Everyone said, God had taken this child's voice, and instead given him incomparable talents.

Twelve-year-old Lander was not yet a cold-hearted arrogant freak at that time, he was just an introverted, impulsive little boy, even a bit childish.

"Edward, can't you help me a little?" Lily brushed her long, curly hair, standing on the chair, tiptoeing, trying to hang the mistletoe on the wall.

But she was really short, her tiny legs always making her fail just as she was about to succeed. She angrily looked towards the boy who was comfortably curled up on the sofa, reading: "Edward! Don't pretend you can't hear!"

Edward Lander did not bother to lift his eyelids, he did not have even a little bit of brotherly affection.

"I'll tell Dad!" The younger sister Lily hugged the mistletoe, tears had begun to swell up in her eyes.

Perhaps Lander's nature was not very bad, but indeed, since he was a child, he was already a cold-blooded person. His special skill was that he could block out all kinds of spoiled acts or asking for favors. His sister's tears would not be able to move him no matter what. The young boy moved his gaze slightly from the page, glancing at the girl who was on the verge of crying, seemingly using a nonverbal expression to say "whether you want to cry or to tell on me, feel free to."

"Santa won't give you even one single gift, you're a bad kid!" Lily cried softly, very quickly turning from acting spoiled to crying out loud.

Bipedal creatures in this world, yet there was still one who believed in Santa...oh my God, where lies the pride of the animal walking upright?

Lander took two cotton balls from his pocket and stuffed them in his ear, allowing himself to turn into a deaf and mute child.

"Girl with a brain full of fluid," he thought, immersing himself in his book, blocking the noise outside of the earplugs.

It was the last time in this life the boy heard Lily cry.

A band of robbers broke into Lander's house on the night of Peace, the boy's soundless world turned over.

Many years later, Lander knew, it was just a bunch of assassins and thugs that were hired.

Lily was beaten to death against the wall like a dog. When she was alive, there was not a moment where she would not make a fuss, but at the last moment of life, she could not even let a groan past her lips.

Under the dark skies of London, in the increasingly fierce anti-scientific struggle, unemployed workers protested in masses, environmentalists and religious extremists accused all scientists, calling them "hordes of people that should go to hell".

There were also the shameless capitalists who saw the opportunity for business, embraced the mindset of fishing in troubled water, using the changes to take up all the advanced technology at that time.

Just like how Bruno was burned alive and Copernicus was imprisoned, every time an upheaval came, there were always loads of sacrifices for the greater cause.

*Giordano Bruno was convicted of heresy by the Holy See and put on the stake. Copernicus or Kopernik was the one who proposed the Heliocentrism that refutes the theory that the Earth is the center of the universe.

But should the sacrifices of the flow of time be them? Didn't God say everyone in this world was born equal? Weren't they the children of God? Was their existence not to make people's lives better?

Lander's father threw him out the second-floor window, and before the man could turn around, he was shot in the chest by a gun.

The cotton earplug on one side that claimed to separate Lander's world fell out, and he heard his mother's screams roaming around the house, until it all stopped.

The boy that fell and broke his leg struggled to crawl, his hands holding the book were soaked in the muddy water on the snow-covered ground. He staggered, begging every one he could find, but from the moment they heard the first gunshot, the passers-by had all run away and scattered. The front door of the neighbor's house was covered with fresh blood, oozing out of the boy's fingers. No one opened the door for him.

Lander's heart filled with hatred. When he was covered with fresh blood kneeling in the snow, the boy's heart was swept by a flame of hatred, he hated it all, hated the whole world.

Why wouldn't the fools complaining that machines would rob their job opportunities just go and die?

What right did the creatures that do not possess the minimum intelligence of a human have to stay on this earth wasting sunlight and air?

It was then that he suddenly heard the voice of a woman saying: "My God, a child, what happened? Was it a robbery?"

Resentment, coldness, and pain enveloped Lander's terribly numbed nerves. He dazedly turned his head. In a hazy sight, he seemed to see a fat woman, then heard another voice that he wouldn't forget for his entire life.

"Mom, let me."

Lander found himself being lifted up by the other. The hatred in his eyes had not yet faded away, piercing through the tears, and saw the black-haired, black-eyed teenager. Arno was also a teenager at that time — although he was thin, he had the bone structure of an adult, and the shoulder blades lacking in muscle made him appear like a bird that had not yet grown its full wings and feathers.

The boy's fleece jacket rubbed against Lander's face, there was also the dampness of the special fog in London, wet and cold. He was alone there, almost like a world made of mud.

Waiting until Lander had returned to his senses, he discovered he had been staring at the boy's chin all the way.

The black-haired teenager carefully avoided his injured leg, as if carrying a wounded, wandering wild cat. Lander heard the fat woman complaining that life was no longer the same. The boy did not speak much and was indifferent, only listening without opening his mouth, occasionally stopping to adjust Lander's posture, his movements very gentle.

His slender fingers wiped the messy hair falling all over Lander's face. Arno had eyes like obsidian. Staring into it, it could suck in all the darkness and all the mud of London.

"Is it really painful?" Lander finally heard the boy's voice, and the dam of hatred cast in his heart collapsed without any defense left, floods swept through all of his teenage armor. He suddenly turned his head, buried his face in the dark-haired teen's chest, bringing the tears that had never fallen down in his entire life onto his dark brown jacket.

Many years later, Lander still remembered the feeling of that fabric clearly. It seemed that in all of London, there was only one embrace such as this left.

Like the last place of refuge for his naturally born distorted soul, growing to become evil.

IV

"Today is Christmas, do you want to drink eggnog?" Arno asked politely.

Lander stared silently at him, his eyes dazed and distant, as if it was not only one person in front of his eyes, but countless past and futures with bright colors. As he stared at Arno, his heart suddenly and unbelievably softened, as if there was still a real one pumping blood inside his chest.

It took a long time for Lander to shake his head, as if he had just come back to his senses.

"How about whiskey? Coffee? Black tea?"

Lander still shook his head.

The young scientist's eyes were gentle. Arno could not control himself, tilting his head to avoid the eyes of the other.

Lander supported himself with the table and stood up slowly, finding a stack of ragged goatskin and ink. He took the quill from his pocket, carefully dabbed the ink — very good, this thing had not yet been made into a block.

This is the pen you gave me, remember?

"I'm not Merck," Lander wrote on the paper, decisively and graciously, appearing extremely pleasant to the eyes, "my name is Edward Lander."

"Sorry." Arno averted his gaze from the writing, his expression unmistakably unchanging, unmoving, as if he really did not know how to read.

Lander stared at the paper. At that moment, his expression became lonely.

He did not pay any mind to Arno's "illiterate" excuse, the pen stopped, then he continued writing on the paper: "I like your eyes, the reason I moved to that square was to see you every day. Every day, if I can see you once, I feel that I can calmly and peacefully live another day with this world. "

The handsome black-haired knight indifferently looked at the writing on the goatskin, his black eyes did not waver even the slightest.

Arno: "Is your left leg okay? Does it still hurt?"

There was no answer, and much like the numerous "love letters" he'd written that had never seen the sun, it forever remained in his monologue.

Lander truly did not dare to recall those colorful words, but after ridiculing himself, like a trained dog, every day at the right time and place, he would climb to the balcony and sneak a look at the secret in his heart — the story of Lord Lander, the most horrible, the coldest, the ugliest person in the world. Even his heart that had turned to stone, for many years, had silently vowed not to change and would always long for a person.

Thirteen years ago, the poor woman and her son brought Lander home. They lived in a small attic, and when sprawled on the bed, one could see through the window the London that was forever without sunlight. The fat lady who made a living by baking bread by hand and knitting ugly things, and his black-haired knight who left early and came home late, used twisted grass to braid tiny animals, plugged them into the windows to make him feel less sad.

Those grasshoppers were for children to play with. Lander had never been purely a child in that sense. He dragged around his injured leg, every day leaning on the window, just to wait for the sunset to come, for the other to get off the horse and come home.

They used a quill pen to exchange conversation. Back then, Arno never coldly told him "I don't know how to read".

Until half a year later, the Landers' old friends heard the news, and tried to find him with all means necessary.

They must pick him up, he was "Mr. Lander's son" after all, he carried the cursed blood and the cursed expectation of this country. The compassionate higher-ups were willing to pluck a feather and let him study, give him something to eat, waiting for him to repay them handsomely, as if he was a chicken that knew how to lay golden eggs.

Lander knew the other had recognized him, and was just unwilling to admit it. The tension of the nation's coldest scientist gradually dissipated, he held the quill pen leaking ink, sat under the gloomy light, feeling like the small spurt of blood in his heart that had always been preserved because of this person, was thrown away like an old shoe by said person. The weak heat dissolved in the air, but the pain dully took root.

"When a person loses their hopes and dreams, even if he has the power to destroy the world, he will often feel like his hands are empty, he will not be able to feel happy no matter what," Lander quickly wrote, "once, I gave myself a morphine injection..."

He stopped the pen, bowed his head for a long time, as if he were ashamed of his impurity, but Arno's expression remained the same, always that expression of indifference. Lander's heart began to grow cold slowly, like falling into a ditch of frozen, dirty water, the surroundings were so dark he could not see his own fingers, all that was left was the word — "cold".

He doesn't care.

*(He here was referring to Arno, as in Arno doesn't care)

Lander lowered his long lashes. The quill pen began to spill ink again, leaving a stain on the goatskin, and even on his fingers: "The drug gave me a temporary calm and false happiness. Then what was waiting for me afterwards was endless emptiness and suffering, what I could count on, was only..."

He feared he turned into a real madman.

He was afraid that when he caught the sunlight, he was already a blind man.

Why was it Arno? Sometimes Lander also had to ask himself, why was it only a person... that he met when he was young?

Come to think of it, that person seemed to be the only fulcrum that pulled him up when his life was about to collapse, he definitely had to rely on this little hope to overcome the ever long years, sunken deep and crazy.

Everyone needs a fulcrum, the lifespan of the people Lander had met had not been long. Except Arno, there seemed to be no one worthy of this fulcrum position.

Lander thought, how nice it would be if he truly was a cold-blooded madman, so that he could draw energy from the suffering of others, without the need for any stupid fulcrum.

Lander stopped the pen, his deep blue eyes peering at Arno for a long time.

Arno casually looked at him. Between the entire exchange of mystery or fierceness just now was an invisible barrier, blocked by the other without hesitation.

Arno averted his gaze, grabbed half a glass of cheap wine with three fingers, took a sip and finished it. There was no telling if he was happy or miserable. He frowned, and his features appeared even deeper.

He was in front of the stove of the old, shabby pub. He dragged a medicine chest from under the bed and rolled up his sleeves: "Let me look at your legs."

It hurt, but it was not life-threatening. For Lander, all wounds were not life-threatening, this was his secret.

Inside his body, there was the most advanced Intelligence Difference Engine in the world, in which there were only two program chips. This priceless item with the highest accuracy was dedicated to its work, running only these two programs. One of the two would detonate itself in a split second when the host dies, the radius of attack range could be over ten meters.

And one would send a specific signal — once the signal was emitted, all the Difference Engine tanks in this world, regardless of whether it was in vehicle shape, animal shape, or humanoid form, they would consider all creatures in front of them as the enemy and proceed to attack.

That's right, Lander was this kind of mad dog. If he died without reason, he would stir up the entire island of Great Britain so that not even chickens or dogs could be left alone.

People from the AS Party all knew this secret, which was why Lander knew they would absolutely not touch him easily. Only the irrelevant lowly bunch would use the name of others, creating threats and causing a lowly assassination.

Arno had the hands of a surgeon, seemingly possessing the pain-relief function by nature. Lander sat there silently. If not for the cold sweat on his forehead, he truly appeared like a wooden man who had lost the sensation of pain.

"I want to be close to you." The young scientist silently muttered this sentence in his heart countless times, each reeling was like taking out a spurt of blood in his heart. God had taken his voice, all of this sentiment had to be expressed only in wordless silence.

"I want to give you a hug."

"I want to let you look at me two more times."

When someone's hope was placed on a person instead of a specific task or goal, he would become vulnerable and cowardly; when he yearned for the gaze of another, it was like opening his chest wide, revealing a feeble heart, and everyone around the world could come and give it a kick.

This love was ugly like a thorn.

Lander gazed at Arno, suddenly leaning over and grasping the pen, writing: "If I was given another chance, I would go for morphine, I will forget you."

"What did you write again, 'poet' buddy?" Arno knelt on one knee on the ground. Thanks to half a glass of shoddy alcohol, resorting to his great acting skill, asking even when he knew full well, he lifted the corners of his mouth, pointed and thin, showing a slightly mocking smile. He used the tweezers to grab the bullet in Lander's leg, threw it on the ground, then did a second round of disinfection around the wound.

The wounds ached so badly that Lander could not control himself from shivering.

Arno: "Hold on a bit, it's just ... um ..."

The mad scientist suddenly leapt off his wooden chair and dived into Arno's body. The black-haired man staggered and fell on his back, unable to take precautions and was pressed down to the ground by an injured madman.

"Hey, you..."

Lander pressed his lips with two fingers, gentle like a feather falling. Arno suddenly lost his voice, and in the blink of an eye, he seemed to sink into those deep blue eyes.

Lander used a respectful manner resembling pilgrimaging, touching his own lips with the fingers that were just now placed on the other's lips. There seemed to be a scent that still remained on them, bewitching his mind, lingering all around creating a dream he would never want to wake up from.

While Arno was at a loss, he lifted up the black-haired man's hand, writing word by word: "How is Mrs. Walson?"

Arno's expression finally changed.

The 12 o'clock bell rang, shattering the illusion.

"She's dead." After a long time, the black-haired man said.

The shrewdness and coldness on his face no longer remained, his irises were black like a bottomless abyss.

"Died from a mechanical accident," Arno added with an emotionless face, "She didn't expect you to be a young master with people coming to take care of you. Afraid that the conditions in the house were not good, making you suffer, she wanted to go looking for a job fit for women. Making one wrong movement, half her body was swept into the machine, on the same evening you were picked up."

Lander was startled at first, the light in his eyes suddenly darkened. His eyes frantically avoided his gaze, as if he could not look into the other person's eyes filled with calm hatred.

"Only one wrong operation, one wrong operation is punished to death? In you people's eyes, the lives of us ordinary people are all worthless, aren't they? We are not intelligent, we have not studied much, thus we deserve to be thrown away, right?"

Arno pushed him away, the scientist with his injured leg, stumbled and fell back.

Lander clenched his fingers on the ground.

Arno: "No need to probe, you know what kind of person I am."

Yes, the nation's largest anti-science party, AS, was not like the mobs who followed others. They were large scale, had fast information, had official members and higher ideals than these mobs. They knew the secret of the implant of the Difference Engine on Lander's body. In such a situation, for the sake of the so-called "innocent" people, of course, they must pinch their noses to protect Lander's life.

Even if they were the ones who hoped Edward Lander would disappear from this world the most.

For a long time, Arno stopped, staring into Lander's eyes. That moment, not knowing if it was Lander's illusion or not, his voice was almost gentle.

"Edward Lander," Arno asked, "Why? You people are so intelligent that we mortals can hardly imagine, yet you used your intelligence to engulf this world in a miasma, could you tell me your reason?"

Lander was dumbfounded and stared into the dark eyes he longed for, feeling as if there was a hand up high clutching his heart, enveloping him in the pain of not wanting to live.

He could not answer this question, no one could.

Lander wanted to say, "When the old and new eras — like the mainland floating on the surface of the sea — collide, so many people in the crevice will die before the light can shine through, only then can they welcome a true new era."

But he could not say it, it would mean betraying the hatred he had relied on for so long for survival.

The Lander family had filled the gaps of time, and Mrs. Walson had also filled in the gaps of the times ... was all of this just an ice-cold, objective truth?

Him, Arno, Mrs. Walson, along with ... this painful emotion, not yet born but already dead, perhaps, had he not been born at the right time in some sense?

V

A long stretch of footsteps resounded behind him. Arno knew who the footsteps belonged to. He did not answer, the organization only asked him to temporarily not let the damn scientist die, not to serve the guy like a god.

The footsteps stopped, Lander stood behind him for a long time.

The look in his eyes made Arno uncomfortable, and in the end, the black-haired man, with his expression steeled, one by one setting out the cleaned glasses, turned around and ignored Lander's sad gaze, preparing to leave.

Lander grasped his hand.

Before Arno could even pull himself away, a bare-feathered quill was stuffed into his hand.

This was the pen he gave to that boy that year. Arno was dumbfounded, he could not help remembering the short friendships of his youth. Every old image came rushing through time, but immediately, he forced himself to gather his overflowing thoughts.

"Still want to use cheap memories to garner sympathy from me?" Arno thought coldly.

Lander held his hand, twisted open the pen handle. There was a steel ring on it, it was attached after the fact, but it was not a decorative ornament. After unscrewing it, a small button could be seen hidden in the quill pen.

Lander placed Arno's finger on the button, holding out a goat skin with words already written beforehand: "This is a switch, just a single press — it can turn off the Difference Engine computer that you all fear the most that's installed in me. "

Arno was startled.

Lander gently grabbed Arno's fingers, lingering, not wanting to let go, taking a glimpse of the quill pen he handed to the black-haired man.

It was the most precious item in his life, well, in all sorts of meanings.

After that, the cold-blooded scientist tried to force a smile. It was very difficult for him. All these years, he only laughed miserably and mockingly, he truly did not know how to make his cold and gloomy face become happier.

Lander pointed to his chest, turned the goat skin around to reveal the back, where there was another line: "Do you have a gun now? If you want — my heart is a bit to the right. "

VI

Edward Lander, carrying his evil inventions, eventually no longer appeared in this world.

He ended up not being able to finish the immortal flower in the attic. Perhaps it was the truth that never existed.

FINALE

"It can make clothing by itself? Is this a scam?" In the alleyway, a group of teenagers in baseball caps circled in front of a strange-looking sewing machine.

The young man behind the sewing machine said nothing, he smiled and raised his hands, and with a finger pressing the program button, in the black box hidden beneath the bulky sewing machine, steam rose and the Difference Engine computer began to read the program chip that had been written and preinstalled.

A piece of cloth on the desk was pushed up and down by the machine, cutting and oversewing, the threads neat. Right in front of the teenagers with their mouths wide open, a lovely scarf had started to take shape.

"Wow..."

"Can I ... can I touch a little bit?"

"Can I, too?"

The young man at the sewing machine pulled out an old bird feather pen and wrote on the board: "2 pounds, thank you for stopping by."

A large drop of ink oozed out, seemingly wanting to make the handwriting darker.

The whistling of the teenagers arose: "That's too expensive, bro!"

The young man didn't say a word, just shrugged silently. At this moment, he saw a girl selling flowers. The girl was carrying a basket woven from bamboo full of flowers, her clothes were torn. She was trembling in the cold wind, but still curiously tiptoeing to look over to this side.

The young man jumped up, grabbed the scarf on the desk and ran in front of her. The frightened flower girl took half a step back, her pale cheeks could not help but turn red.

The young man lowered his head to look at the flowers in her basket with blazing eyes, and very slowly used sign language: "Can we trade?"

The flower girl was stunned for a long time, awkwardly giving the entire basket of flowers to him: "For, for you."

Those bad boys started whistling loudly.

"Hey, handsome, who are the flowers for?"

The young man did not answer, not being stingy, and gave a bright smile, wrapping the scarf "made by the computer Difference Engine" rarely seen around the neck of the flower girl, packing up without hesitation and leaving with the flower basket.

He had large and small machines on him, pockets stuffed with program chips, like a street vendor walking through every street and alley, but his footsteps were joyful.

The two sides of the road were filled with towering factories, white steam rose straight to the sky, the crowd was noisy, there was also a stench of sewage.

The shadow of the young man carried the Difference Engine computer on his back, fresh flowers in hand, resembling a start, but also an ending.

He could finally give that bouquet.

This is the best era, and the worst era.

This is the age of wisdom, and the era of stupidity.

(A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens)