. . . "Uncanny Valley" was a theory introduced by Ernst-Jentsch from 1906 in his work 'Zur Psychologie des Umheimlichen' . His perspective was cited by Sigmund Freud’s essay "The Uncanny", which became a famous theory . Irritated, Jiang Chen quickly flipped through the theory, as he tried to find a keyword among the lines of words .
"Because of our fear of death and diseases, empathy mechanism disorder, inability to sympathize with the . . . robots . " Jiang Chen murmured under his breath as his hands holding the book lightly trembled .
[What is this feeling?]
He suppressed the irritation in his mind as Jiang Chen searched for the answers among the old robot magazines .
Wanghai Sixth Senior High School had a massive library as countless numbers of books were arranged in the grand hall on the first floor even though not a lot of student visited the floor where they stored the books . All books could be downloaded from the school’s Internet, and all the information could be found in the school terminal . Rather than a physical copy of information, the books were more of a "display" .
The only city where libraries would store academic journals in print; those that were considered to be information rather than a mere display .
The world was advancing and as a result, print reading had already begun to become extinct from people’s life . Occasionally, there would be people who were fond of printed books like Yao Tingting, but they were rarer than endangered animals .
Just like the goddess in Jiang Chen’s heart―Yao Tingting .
To commemorate the past era however, libraries still tend to store some of the older journals and magazines .
At the same time, Jiang Chen always felt that print would bring him more insight . Despite asking the artificial intelligence, the school wizard, the talkative entity would be unable to provide enlightenment that could give him a sudden gush of comprehension . Instead, it would just consistently led him to mental problems like stress and fatigue .
[Or perhaps deception?]
Regardless how much he searched, he couldn’t find the answer he wanted . It felt like the truth was concealed as the smart search wizard surprisingly malfunctioned after listening to his description . All search results led problems to a more complicated direction .
So when class ended, he came to the library full of books . There was no one here to mislead him, and instinct told him that the answers he’s searching for could be found from one of these shelves .
He wanted to know where the strange feeling was coming from .
He took the book Robot Novel 21st Volume―'the Dissension between Human and Robot' from the shelves with rosewood scent . Based on the publication date of 2021, it was an old history book .
Of course, the printing was new .
"The higher the human-shaped android or robot resembled a human, the better the impression human would have . The positive impression would considerably increase until it reaches a critical point, in which the more it resembled a human, the more frightening it would become until it reached the bottom of the valley . Perhaps a negligible move would appear stiff and scary… So this is how it is . In the case of the cleaning robot that I met this morning, through eye contact, it triggered the 'Uncanny Valley' effect?" Jiang Chen frowned as he continued to think .
The feeling of being oppressed became stronger, and it felt like cotton was stuck in his throat .
It’s as though he had forgotten about something .
But what did he forget exactly?
Suddenly, Jiang Chen subconsciously looked at the stairs leading to the second floor .
At the same time . . .
The gentle and soft voice lightly caressed his ears . When he turned around in surprise, he saw Yao Tingting standing on the other side of the shelves .
[Right, I still need to invite her to the movies . Dammit, why am I feeling bothered with these boring thoughts and almost forgot the important thing!]
Jiang Chen cursed in his mind . With a crimson face, he stared at the princess-like girl but couldn’t utter a single word .
Yao Tingting stood there serenely as if she was waiting for something .
Jiang Chen was unable to say a word, his mouth was left half-open . But the words: "Do you have time tomorrow?" was stuck in his throat .
Her beautiful face suddenly blossomed in a smile; the phoenix-like eyes that could cause anyone’s heart to miss a beat .
"Do you want to come over to my place?"
Jiang Chen was stunned .
[She’s inviting me? To her place? But why—]
Yao Tingting didn’t give him time to think as she had already turned around . Jiang Chen pondered for a moment before he bit his lips and worked out the courage to follow her .
The magazine, however, was left on the table .
Seeing the two left, the librarian, who was manning the front desk without any expression, quietly walked to where Jiang Chen had been sitting .
She stared at the old magazine for a while, then she picked it up quietly .
However, she didn’t put it back on the shelf .
Instead, she ripped it in half and threw it in the garbage .
"Wait, you―why are you inviting me to your place?" Jiang Chen rushed out of the library and walked behind Yao Tingting . He vacillated before asking the question .
Yao Tingting stopped abruptly, white dress fluttering gently in the breeze .
Under the radiance of the dusk, the lily bloomed, the picture was so serene .
Jiang Chen was drawn to that scene .
The goddess, who was always in his mind, was nibbling her lower lips . She had a shy smile as she tried to look away, and her mouth was ajar .
"Because I want to get to know you . "
[Was that a confession?] Jiang Chen immediately turned red . His lips opened and closed stiffly but failed to utter a word .
His heart pounded as if it was about to jump out of his chest .
[She likes me too!]
His brain was currently filled with confounding happiness, and he lost any ability to think . He only has his sight on the goddess who always occupied his dreams .
Yao Tingting smiled as she walked to the direction of the gate .
Jiang Chen gulped as he rigidly followed her .
At that moment, however, his eyes inadvertently caught a strange sight .
The peculiar sense of urgency crept into his mind .
Hollow eyes were watching him .
[There is a cleaning robot here too? That made sense since those things should be everywhere], Jiang Chen mulled it over then threw the unnatural feelings away into the back of his mind .
The robot seemed to have lost interest in him as it was already staring in another direction .
The door opened, Yao Tingting led Jiang Chen to her rented apartment .
It was a simple one living room, one bedroom structure as it was easy to rent this type of apartment around the school . It was also not expensive . It looked like Yao Tingting was just like him—both of them were from Wanghai City .
The middle of the room smelled of faint Jasmine . The clean and organized light, flaxen colored wallpaper covered every walls in the living room . There were a simple coffee table, tablecloth and a light beige sofa .
"Feel free to sit . Do you want a glass of water?" Yao Tingting turned around as she beamed at Jiang Chen .
"Ah? Um…OK . " Jiang Chen nodded nervously and sat on the sofa .
Looking at the figure of Yao Tingting standing beside the cupboard, he couldn't help but chuckle as he smelled the scent belonging to the goddess .
Although he still felt something was unusual, he was feeling so happy that it had ceased to matter . As though being forcibly stuffed full, the sense of being loss to reality disappeared unconsciously .
It was not long before Yao Tingting returned to the living room with two glasses of water . She smiled at Jiang Chen and placed a glass of water in front of him .
"Here you go . "
"Oh, thank you . " As though trying to hide his embarrassment, Jiang Chen quickly took a sip of the cold water .
Yao Tingting sat beside him and looked at the side of his profile while smiling .
"Um, is there something on my face?"
"No!" Yao Tingting shook her head, still wearing a bright smile . Her luscious hair that was smooth as fine willow branches swayed gently .
"Um . . . " Jiang Chen was out of words again . He averted his gaze at the glass as he stared blankly at his reflection of the water .
"I want to get to know you . Can you talk to me?"
As though center of his heart was being hammered, Jiang Chen’s heart trembled at that very moment .
"Eh? Why, why do you want to learn about me?" Jiang Chen’s throat moved as he scrambled to find words .
The answer came out frank .
"Because I like you . " Yao Tingting gazed into Jiang Chen’s eyes with the same bright smile .
An uncomfortable feeling bloomed, a feeling that something was not right .
The confusion, however, was suddenly replaced by extreme euphoria . Dopamine could really make people lose their mind .
"I—I like you too . " Jiang Chen finally had the courage to express his months’ worth of affection to her .
"I know . " Yao Tingting grinned at his bold effort . "I’ve been watching you for a long time . "
"I know . I’ve been watching you for a long time . " Like a spell, these two confessions happily circled around his mind .
"Would you tell me your story?" Like a curious girlfriend, Yao Tingting gazed at Jiang Chen’s eyes as her long eyelashes flickered .
"I, I really don’t have a lot of stories to tell . " Jiang Chen, somewhat embarrassed, looked away . However, Yao Tingting relentlessly moved closer .
"You can tell me anything . "
"Um, OK . " Jiang Chen opened his mouth reluctantly .
Contrary to his expectation, he thought Yao Tingting wasn't the type to enjoy conversation as she usually immersed herself in her books, but she's now giving off the impression that she was verbose .
They chatted about the past of their younger selves—glimpses of memory that seemed to be covered in a white fog . Although they didn’t usually have too many interactions, and it has always been Jiang Chen who secretly watched her, the two of them enjoyed their time immensely . Yao Tingting made him feel as though they had been acquainted for a long time .
The night was getting late and outside was completely dark .
"Why don't I treat you to dinner?" Yao Tingting smiled .
Jiang Chen nodded unexpectedly .
The dinner passed by in a relaxed atmosphere . Fried Eggs with Tomatoes, Pork Stir Fry with Green Peppers, Seaweed and Egg Soup . These were all homemade dishes . Yao Tingting was the type who was great at housekeeping, which came as a surprise to him . The very idea made his heart throb a little faster .
At his age, falling in love meant eternity .
The food was exquisite . He secretly observed Yao Tingting sitting across the table . Her tiny mouth chewed delicately .
[She seemed to love tomatoes? Does she like to eat sour food…and green pepper? Um…but why is she only eating these two things?]
Jiang Chen observed carefully, and he secretly memorized the flavors she liked .
[She said that she likes me so . . . she's now my girlfriend? But it was not official yet . Is she waiting for me to bring it up?]
When he thought about this, he gulped and looked away awkwardly .
The holographic screen was playing the popular intro of "Dust Kingdom" .
The clock struck eight .
"Does it taste good?" Yao Tingting smiled at Jiang Chen .
"Oh, Oh! Yes!" Jiang Chen laughed nervously as he focused on his rice to hide his embarrassed expression .
"I heard there are ghosts in the school library . Have you seen them?"
"Gh—ghost? That’s not true, that’s not real science . " Jiang Chen had peculiar expression .
"Are you pleased?" However, the unbecoming subsequent sentence diverged from the topic of conversation .
"Pleased?" Jiang Chen seemed lost, but then suddenly as if he had just realized something, he looked away and shyly scratched his slightly red ear . He stiffly nodded, "Of—of course . "
For a teenager in puberty, there was nothing more joyful than being invited to the house of the girl of his dreams .
"Don’t eat so fast . Here, drink some water . " Yao Tingting smilingly handed over the glass . It was the same glass that Jiang Chen had used .
"Mhm…" With a blushing face, he took the glass as he tried to mask the awkward silence by drinking the water .
[Didn't you say there's soup? Why is it water…]
The screen showed Dust Kingdom’s plot . Klein fell down in the pool of blood and stopped breathing . It was rather an unexpected ending? It felt rushed as if there was a lot of buildup, but nothing was explained before the show had ended .
After the outro, there was "The End" written in blood .
A smile formed on Yao Tingting’s angelic and serene face while watching Jiang Chen who was drowsily lying on the dinner table .
The smile was odd, hollow .
[So tired, I just want to sleep…]
Through his droopy eyes and hazy vision, he faintly caught a glimpse of white dress dropping on the ground .
The white figure took quiet steps towards him .
The back of his head was surrounded by something soft . His consciousness plummeted in a bottomless abyss .