In fact, as early as when Yu Hanjiang mentioned the ‘clones’, Xiao Lou had already had doubts. If it was just to prevent the crown prince from being assassinated, wasn’t it riskier to create a clone and leave the other person in the palace? If the crown prince was really killed, wouldn’t the clone take the opportunity to replace the crown prince?
Moreover, it was unreasonable to forbid the crown prince from leaving the palace, going to school and socializing just because of poor health. Xiao Lou also had no memory of the ‘serious illness’ when he was a child. He seemed more like the clone hidden in the palace.
Looking at the shocked eyes of his teammates, Xiao Lou took a deep breath and quickly sorted out his thoughts. “First of all, in this world, I have never left the palace since I was a child. I have no classmates or friends. The emperor said he was worried about my health and invited a teacher to the palace to teach me. Isn’t this like house arrest in disguise?”
“Second, when I was five years old, I supposedly had a serious illness and almost died. However, I have absolutely no memory of it. Every time I try to think about it, I get a headache. I suspect that I’ve been deeply hypnotized and have forgotten something crucial.”
“Thirdly, Lin Yan and the crown prince met at the engagement dinner but I’ve never been to one. I’ve never even seen Lin Yan, my fiancée. There is no reason to let a stand-in attend such an important occasion like an engagement, right? What’s more, the emperor introduced him to many military and government officials tonight. It isn’t reasonable to let the substitute attend.”
“So it is very likely that I am the fake crown prince who was copied and hidden in the Twin Palaces. The one who attends important occasions is the real crown prince.” Xiao Lou looked at Yu Hanjiang. “Do you think my analysis is correct?”
“……” Meeting those calm eyes, Yu Hanjiang’s heart stung slightly. It didn’t feel good to be someone’s substitute but Xiao Lou quickly accepted it. It was probably due to experiencing so many secret rooms but his ability to withstand things was extremely powerful.
Since Xiao Lou didn’t mind his identity at all, Yu Hanjiang had to talk rationally. “I agree with your analysis. If you are the clone then it explains the current doubts. The emperor probably deliberately left me by your side and released the news that I am protecting the true crown prince. Which is why someone sneaked into the Twin Palaces to kill you tonight.”
Xiao Lou smiled bitterly. “True and false, false and true. What is this emperor thinking?”
Yu Hanjiang frowned tightly. He thought for a moment before analyzing it in a low voice, “From the emperor’s perspective, perhaps it can be analyzed in this way—you have lived in the Twin Palaces all your life. Perhaps the emperor made a clone when his son was very young. He deliberately had you live in the Twin Palaces and be a substitute for the crown prince. Everyone knows that the crown prince lives in the Twin Palaces. At the age of five, you weren’t sick. There was an assassination attempt.”
Xiao Lou nodded and motioned for him to go on.
“In that accident, you discovered that you are a clone. Thus, the emperor had a doctor perform deep hypnosis on you so you can forget what happened in the past. You only know that you have a serious illness. Then he had you continue to stay in the Twin Palaces as the crown prince’s substitute, where you could be assassinated at any time. Meanwhile, the real crown prince has been by the emperor’s side and was secretly protected by him. My appearance is actually a cover. The emperor asked me, the captain of the royal guards, to protect you personally. In this way, the assassin will think that your identity is 100% real.”
Xiao Lou thought about it carefully and found that Yu Hanjiang’s analysis had some credibility to it. “In order to let the clone die as a substitute… convince him that he is the real thing?”
Yu Hanjiang nodded. “The emperor never said you were a clone and you have always regarded yourself as the real crown prince. Therefore, you don’t need to act at all and it is impossible for you to betray the emperor. You grew up living in the Twin Palaces, studied hard and occasionally wandered around the palace or slipped out to play. Everything you showed was like the real crown prince.”
Acting would always reveal some clues. How could the assassin know Xiao Lou wasn’t the crown prince when even he didn’t even know it himself?
Twin Palaces, twins, this was what it originally meant.
Xiao Lou felt cold in his heart.
His mind was full with memories of all those years. The emperor had always treated him well. Although he wouldn’t let Xiao Lou go out of the palace, the emperor invited the best teachers to guide him to learn and gave him the most advanced smart mecha. Perhaps it was the memories having an effect on him but he respected the emperor very much and smoothly called him ‘Father’.
As a result, the other person just treated him as a tool that could be sacrificed at any time?
Xiao Lou closed his eyes to calm himself down. “The key question now is where the assassin came from and why he’s trying to kill the crown prince? How did the emperor make a clone of the crown prince?”
Shao Qingge wondered, “Does it have anything to do with the Noah’s Ark project?”
Xiao Lou stared at him and Shao Qingge explained, “My Shao family’s company is called Noah Medical Technology. 20 years ago, we launched the Noah’s Ark project. I was less than 10 years old at the time and I vaguely remember my father mentioning that the subject of the project was genetic research.”
He gazed at Xiao Lou on the palm of Yu Hanjiang’s hand in a thoughtful manner. “The time when you were sick… five years old. Wasn’t this 20 years ago?”
Xiao Lou nodded. “Yes, the time is indeed right.”
Lu Jiuchuan suddenly came over with a very serious expression. “Xiao Lou, you said that every time you think about when your five year old self was sick, you get a headache? Tang Ci and I also have a headache when we try to think about the battle in Hilt No Man’s Land. We can’t remember any details. Our symptoms are so similar. Tang Ci and I shouldn’t be clones as well, right?”
The team members, “……”
Tang Ci’s face was blank. “Humans need time to grow. We aren’t computer programs that can use Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V to immediately create a Lu Jiuchuan.”
Lu Jiuchuan looked confused. “Wasn’t the cloned person directly made by high-tech means?”
Tang Ci helplessly held his forehead. “Professor Xiao, please explain to this liberal arts student what gene cloning technology is.”
Xiao Lou also found that everyone seemed to have a misunderstanding about ‘clones’ and explained in detail. “Gene cloning technology is to allow cells to reproduce asexually and divide, forming offspring with the exact same genes. Assuming today’s world is a sci-fi world where human cloning technology is already mature and I want to make a clone of Lu Jiuchuan. First of all, I have to extract cells from Brother Jiu and culture them in vitro in a special nutrient solution. The cells form after a period of time and create a foetus of Lu Jiuchuan, with the exact same genes as Brother Jiu. This could not directly clone an adult version of Lu Jiuchuan.”
He looked at Lu Jiuchuan and asked seriously, “Brother Jiu, do you understand what I mean?”
Lu Jiuchuan understood now. “Cloning a human means using my cells to asexually reproduce and form an ‘offspring’ with the same genes? It can give birth to as many as you want rather than cloning an adult version directly?”
Xiao Lou nodded. “Yes, this is what Mr Tang means. Human beings require the process of growing up from babies.”
The team members nodded in understanding. Cloning a human was equivalent to cultivating a baby in a petri dish with cells. There was no need to go through a normal human pregnancy and childbirth and it also wasn’t copying and pasting a human.
Xiao Lou was worried. “If there are professional cloning laboratories in this world, successful cell culture means they keep the clones in cryogenic sleep until they reach adulthood and then release them when necessary, giving them instructions. By implanting control chips in their brains, these clones will become powerful and obedient living weapons.”
After all, there were no parents or relatives around them when they opened their eyes. They naturally would have to obey the orders of the people who made them.
Tang Ci added, “The memories of Brother Jiu’s and my pasts are very clear. Only the happenings in Hilt No Man’s Land some time ago have been selectively forgotten. If we are clones, then we were copied since childhood and lived with our families. If we were cloned six months ago after the incident, there wouldn’t be enough time for the clones to grow. I don’t think there is any medical technology that can make a cell grow to an adult in half a year.”
Lu Jiuchuan realized. “So it shouldn’t be possible that we are clones? It is just selective amnesia?”
Xiao Lou said, “I should’ve been cloned since I was a child. Perhaps after the birth of the crown prince, the emperor joined the Noah’s Ark project and cloned me. I was born close to the real crown prince and we are more like twins, just that we never met each other.”
Ye Qi asked curiously, “If one cell can copy a person, how many clones will there be of the crown prince? Will there be more than two Professor Xiaos?”
The team members heard this question and got goosebumps. It was really hard to imagine countless Xiao Lous standing in a row, smiling at everyone at the same time.
Yu Hanjiang had a sullen expression on his face. “It is still unclear how many clones there are. We shouldn’t ignore the possibility that Ye Qi just mentioned. Perhaps the emperor took a lot of cells from his son to do experiments and many copies of Xiao Lou were made.”
Was it possible that they would one day face the dilemma of being besieged by an army of Xiao Lous?
Xiao Lou didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as he held his temple. “Assuming this may be true, I am just one of the important clones and there should be many more clones hidden in the darkness. This means you can’t believe in any Xiao Lou you meet. We need to agree on a secret code.”
Tang Ci’s eyes swept over the group. “Let’s confirm first that everyone present is real.”
Long Sen opened his mouth. “I can confirm that Wanyue is real. She even remembered the scene where she saw me for the first time in university. I went to their school to play basketball and accidentally missed when shooting, knocking her unconscious and sending her to the hospital.”
Friend, it is a miracle that you managed to chase and catch Teacher Qu!
Qu Wanyue smiled helplessly. “Yes, the memories in reality shouldn’t be able to be known by the clones.”
Ye Qi said, “Chief Shao must be real. We both have the Bug King card.”
Tang Ci and Lu Jiuchuan were also confirmed. After all, Lu Jiuchuan had the only Vermilion Bird card in the world and Tang Ci could summon a mechanical spider. This was impossible for a clone.
Yu Hanjiang glanced at Xiao Lou. “What code should we use to check it?”
Ye Qi suggested, “Heavenly king overwhelms the earth tiger, pagoda will stop the river demon?” (TL Note: A famous secret code. It has no meaning and is now mostly used for funny conversations between friends)
The team members, “……”
Shao Qingge helplessly pulled him from behind. “Child, don’t make trouble.”
Xiao Lou thought carefully. “Just ask about Time Reversal, the additional reward we will get after clearing the secret room. At present, only our team has entered the Q secret room and knows what the final reward is. Time Reversal is a rare SS grade card that can reverse time up to five hours.”
Everyone would naturally remember this card. The keepers had told them that they could get this rare reward from clearing this four in one secret room. It was the key reason they decided to enter the hidden secret room. The clones definitely wouldn’t know about it.
They agreed and the group exchanged clues with each other.
At present, Xiao Lou speculated that he was a clone.
Yu Hanjiang believed that the emperor asked him to protect Xiao Lou to consolidate Xiao Lou’s identity as the ‘imperial crown prince’.
Tang Ci had gone to the hospital for a check-up. The doctor told him that there was no sign of injury to his head and that his memory was probably blurred due to post-traumatic stress disorder. This meant he didn’t want to remember the tragic experience and instinctively hid that memory. Tang Ci didn’t believe this explanation. He preferred to think that he and Lu Jiuchuan had been deeply hypnotized.
Lu Jiuchuan’s investigation in the military department ended without a result. Apparently, the information related to the special mission had been erased.
Qu Wanyue was in charge of Lin Yan’s plot line. Miss Lin had been in love with the crown prince since they were engaged at the age of 16. In addition, Lin Yan’s mother, Zhang Shaohua was the dean of the Imperial Central Academy of Sciences. Her research team was top-notch. It was still unclear if she had participated in the Noah’s Ark project. Her father, Lin Zecheng was the commander in chief of the southern military region of the empire and Lu Jiuchuan’s direct superior. This girl should be able to provide some clues.
Long Sen was by the emperor’s side and could take the opportunity to check the secrets behind the emperor.
Xiao Lou assigned the tasks and had everyone disperse as soon as possible. After all, they would be considered suspicious if they didn’t go back for a long time.
Yu Hanjiang returned to the palace with Xiao Lou in his pocket.
Proofreader: Fictional Reality & Paranoid Kitten