Chapter 4: Going Home
Cadence heaved a deep sigh and reached for her bag, “What am I going to cook for tonight? Should I just buy takeout and eat it in the apartment?” she thought. “But my allowance is running out. Hmm...” Cadence was lost in her thoughts while wrapping her things up. When she was done, she finally noticed Janne who was leaning on his desk, chin placed over the palm of his hand and staring at her blankly. Cadence cleared her throat then clutched the strap of her bag.
“What?” Cadence asked, completely confused. Janne raised his eyebrows, stood up and said, “Aren’t we going to the laboratory right after the class? Why do you look like you’re going home already?”
“Shoot, I thought about my dinner too much,” Cadence mentally scolded herself. She flashed an awkward smile and gently tugged Janne’s sleeve, “Sorry, so where is this laboratory?” she asked and they both walked out of the room.
“Well, I’m not really good at explaining,” Janne said and looked at Cadence, “So just follow me and try to remember.”
“Okay, smart dude.” Cadence replied and the conversation suddenly stopped. Only the sounds of their footsteps and the 5:30 breeze covered the silence between them. Nevertheless, the two look unbothered. They seemed to be comfortable with the atmosphere they were in. No talking, no noise, just their presence right beside each other.
Cadence suddenly felt the pain of the scars she had on her palms and winced. One thing about Cadence was that whenever she is overwhelmed by silence, her thoughts start to flash a series of memories in her head. It triggered the voices to exist and whisper in her ears, uttering words of self-destruction. She swallowed a lump on her throat and tightened her grip on the strap of her bag. She bit her lips.
“This is not the right time to think about that. Get yourself toge---“
“Watch your step! Darn, what are you thinking?!”
Cadence blinked, “I-I’m sorry—“
“Are you a shoujou manga protagonist who trips over nothing?” Janne exclaimed, “We’re on the stairs for pete’s sake!”
Cadence didn’t have a chance to reply when Janne let go of her and climb down the stairs first. She clutched her chest as she leaned on the wall for support. She gasped for air that she momentarily lost, “If it wasn’t for him, my face could’ve kissed the ground so hard it would blush. Since the downward force is equal to the mass of an object multiplied by the acceleration through gravity, heavier objects have a greater downward force, thus, I was this near from having my glasses and nose shattered.” She muttered in one breath. She sighed and followed Janne, tailing him. She felt super awkward that Janne needed to save her from her stupidity. She didn’t feel deserving to walk by his side.
“I am completely amazed that he managed to catch me from falling to the ground. His skinny physique is not something people should underestimate. The way he gripped my waist earlier was firm but gentle. That takes a lot of strength to pull off.” Cadence thought.
“But why are you even thinking about his touch? Do you like him?” Her brain countered. Cadence flinched and choked back a squeal.
“What am I thinking?!” she screamed and made weird noises mentally.
“We’re here.” Janne said. Cadence’s thoughts halted and looked at the building.
“Oh, so this is the Science, Technology and Research Development Building?” Cadence muttered and then observed the place. It was a 5-story building adorned with beautiful architecture design. The roof was a glass dome, revealing the huge telescope, 4-layered bookshelves, and a bunch of computers inside it. The rooms beneath have walls painted white with various symbols that speak for the name of the building like gears, cogs, beakers and more. The windows were made of fiberglass, and students with their lab coats were seen as they pass through the hallway.
“Interesting.” Cadence said, amused. Janne smirked and walked towards the door. He motioned Cadence.
“Welcome to our humble abode.” Janne said and playfully bowed. The gesture made the awkward atmosphere disappear. Cadence lightly laughed, “Oh please.”
While still leaning forward, Janne raised his head, making his ponytail bounced a little bit, and flashed his poker face. Cadence walked towards him.
“Just a warning. My colleagues in the laboratory are the least definition of normal.” Janne said and stood up straight. Cadence stopped by his side and tapped his shoulder. Without looking at each other, Cadence replied, “Best people are crazy.”
“Also, I want to apologize,” Cadence said and looked at Janne. Black charcoal eyes welcomed her stares.
“For what happened earlier.” Cadence added and averted her eyes. She closed her eyes, opened them again, and flashed a gentle smile, “Thank you, Janne.”
“There’s nothing to thank me for.” Janne quickly replied and glided past her, “Just be careful next time.” He whispered and then proceeded to the elevator. Cadence followed him inside with a grin, “I will.”
They went out of the elevator on the fourth floor and stopped across the room number 404. Cadence smirked, “Wow. We actually found the long lost 404.”
Janne cringed and shook his head. He smiled, “You memer.” Cadence just grinned, “Sorry not sorry.”
“People inside this room are much worse. You ready to go?” Janne said with a smug face. Cadence pretended to think by playfully pursing her lips, revealing a dimple on her right cheek and producing a “hmm” sound. She rolled her eyeballs and chuckled, “Well, my curiosity is eating me so whatever.”
“Here we go.” Janne said and opened the door. Cadence was blinded for a second but her eyes widened when she finally saw the room and heard what was actually happening.
“My precious! Aaah!”
“Hey, aren’t you going to play?”
“Well, I’m playing Minecraft here.”
“It’s my turn now.”
Cadence registered everything that she could see. Bookshelves lining the walls labeled “Entertainment”, “Thesis”, and “Science & Technology”. The computers were all lined up into two columns, each of them had their own respective working space, approximately 1 meter apart. The two sides of the room were decorated by a series of science-exhibit projects such as pendulums, levitating magnets, see-saws, and more. There were also cabinets that were marked by alphanumeric codes. There were whiteboards located everywhere and written on there were various equations; Cadence could only name a few.
On the other side of the room was a mini-conference set consisting of a circular table, chairs and a huge portable whiteboard. Beside it was the mini lounge where Janne’s friends were hanging out as of the moment. Janne sat on the sofa and gestured Cadence to do the same. Cadence awkwardly advanced and settled beside him.
“Guys,” Janne called their attention, “Remember Cade?” he asked. The guy who was facing his laptop stopped for a moment and the other three put down their cards.
“Yeah, the dude that will help you with the thesis?” the tall girl asked. Janne nodded and casually pointed Cadence, “Yep, that’s her.”
“Well, Cade. Be warned. There are things you shouldn’t see in this place.” The guy with a slouching posture said with a smirk.
Cadence grinned, “O-kay?”
Janne cleared his throat, “So, for the introduction,” Janne flashed his smug face and gestured every one of his colleagues, “This is pedobear,” he said and pointed the fat guy with glasses facing his laptop.
“Hey!” the guy exclaimed. Janne chuckled and proceeded to the guy with a fair complexion, slim appearance, and glasses, “A blockhead racist.”
“Fight me right now punk, in Minecraft.”
“And the man of the red light district, the male prostitute.” Janne said when he pointed the guy with a slouching posture and glasses. The latter flashed a wicked smile, “Hi.”
Cadence felt really amused and awkward at the same time. She turned her head towards Janne, “How about the tall girl?” Cadence asked.
“Oh, that’s our resident fujoshi, but we don’t talk about her.“Janne replied. The tall girl rolled her eyes, “Shut up, Milton.” she hissed.
“Erland and Alexia were freeloaders. They’re from the aviation field. They don’t really belong here.” Janne said gesturing the fat guy and fujoshi, “Prince Mateo and and Prince Elias works in the same thesis about a certain drug.” He said then motioned the male prostitute and the blockhead racist. He leaned towards me and whispered, “We just call them Pm and Pe.”
He leaned back, “And last is us.”
Janne’s friends went back to playing their game. Cadence’s brain emitted a long-whistling sound and literally buffered. She didn’t know what to say next.
“Hmm,” she thought. “Can you tell me about your thesis?” she asked. Janne stood up and signaled her to follow. She did what she was asked and they went across a certain computer. Janne settled down and Cadence sat beside him. He opened the computer and typed a few things and made a few clicks before opening the modeling program. Cadence’s eyes widened, “A human-sized robot? What? Are you trying to pull a Code Geass move?”
Janne amusingly smirked, “I see you’re a man of culture as well… woman of culture.”
“Of course, I love Anime!”Cadence exclaimed with a proud tone.
“An otaku.” Janne thought and smirked, “She’s one of our kind.”
“It’s a good thing that I don’t have to explain what this is to you.” Janne said. Cadence flashed a silly smile, “What? Because you’re not good at explaining?”
“Well, yes but actually no.” Janne replied. Cadence frowned, “What?”
“I’m afraid that you cannot comprehend everything that I’ll say with that brain of yours.” Janne jokingly said. Cadence pursed her lips, “Tsk. Intelligent people are evil.”
“Anyways,” Cadence said, “What is your objective upon creating this robot?” she asked.
“Do you remember the pandemic that affected a lot of countries last 2020?” Janne asked. Cadence nodded, “Yes. It was the Covid-19, right?”
“Yes,” Janne agreed, “And our country’s economy nosedived because all transactions were halted. People couldn’t go to their jobs because going outside was prohibited, unless they need to buy or receive supplies.” He explained.
“Oh. I can see where you are going.” Cadence commented.
“So I thought,” Janne continued, “What if we can have robots do our jobs instead? So that, our economy can still run even though there’s a crisis like Covid-19. That’s when I came up with the idea of this Robot Proxy. However, I was just a first year college that time and I don’t have the slightest idea to create it.”
Cadence said “But it’s a good thing that you are able to do it now, right?” and that earned her a nod from Janne, “But I have a question,” Cadence added.
“What is it?” Janne asked.
“Ever since, some studies are criticizing the idea of having robots do our jobs because first, it might decrease productivity and employment, second, it is expensive to maintain, and third, it can be corrupted and might get used for dangerous purposes. Knowing this, how can you defend your thesis?” Cadence proposed.
“Well, first off, I’m not creating an A.I. here. The robot proxy that I intend to create can also be compared to a machine that can freely be manipulated through the use of a controller or a program that can translate human movements into data so that the robots can imitate it.” Janne explained, “It is a literal proxy. For the second and third cons that you mentioned, I think those are negotiable.”
Cadence nodded, looking convinced, “I get your point.” Cadence replied.
“BUT, this is all a trick! A facade if you will!” Janne exclaimed. “You see my real intent is to develop a reall life working Nerve Gear from SAO.” Jannes voice echoed in the room and the three other guys wooed as if they just won a lottery.
“So you want to develop the technology needed to make a nerve gear?” Cadence asked, “How exactly do you plan to do that?”
“Well, I need to make a program or at least find a way to translate brain signals into comprehensible data that a computer can then read, and replicate in the robot. I also need to make a program that transmits the robot’s data into the brain and do on” Janne said.
Cadence cleared her throat and tried to regain her composure that she was not even sure if she had in the first place, “Okay. That’s a topic for another day.” She said, “So how’s the progress of your thesis?”
“To be honest, I’m still thinking of ways to do it. I have a working theory so all we need to do is materialize and test it.” Janne said. Cadence winced, “Easier said than done.”
“What about the budget? Producing this might be expensive.” Cadence asked.
“The research firm and the university already promised to lend us their hand, including the financial aspect.” Janne replied.
“How can I help you in your thesis then?” Cadence asked. Janne leaned back on his swivel chair and looked at Cadence then shrugged.
“I don’t know, moral support?” he suggested that earned him a frown from Cadence, “Seriously?”
Janne lightly laughed, “I’m just kidding. Of course, I can’t do all the programming, circuitries and electronics alone. That’s where you come in, so I hope you’re ready.”
“I can’t wait to see this happen.” Cadence said with an amused smile.
Cadence and Janne both looked towards the entrance when someone shouted the arrival of their thesis advisor. Mr. Yoso lifted his glasses and smiled, “I see you’re all lively today.”
Mr. Yoso turned his head and saw Janne and Cadence beside each other. Still smiling, he walked towards the two.
“I’m glad you two are getting along well.” Mr. Yoso commented.
“We’re both just cooperative.” Janne said. Cadence rolled her eyes.
“I’m just really friendly.” She countered. Mr. Yoso lightly laughed.
“By the way Cade,” Mr. Yoso said and turned his head towards Cadence.
“Did you already know the specified room for you to take the DOST scholarship exam?” Mr. Yoso asked. Cadence shook her head.
“Nope, sir. I was planning to go tomorrow ’cause we don’t have classes.” Cadence replied. Mr. Yoso flashed a wide smile then turned his head to Janne.
“Well, Janne, why don’t you accompany Cadence tomorrow?” Mr. Yoso suggested. Janne crossed his arms and raised his eyebrow.
“What? Why me?” he asked. Cadence noticed Janne’s response and said, “No worries, sir. I can do it by myself.”
“No.” Mr. Yoso quickly replied, still smiling. However, the two could feel the tension coming from his aura.
“Janne studied in UPLB so he’s a big help for you to find your exam building and room.” Mr. Yoso said. “Besides, it’s also a good chance to get to know each other.” He added.
“Fine.” Janne surrendered and rolled his eyes.
“He just wants to set us up again.” Janne thought.
“Oh no. It’s just the two of us tomorrow. Aaahh.” Cadence mentally freaked out.
“Well then, God bless to your thesis. I’m going to talk with the Princes.” Mr.Yoso bid his goodbye with a wink and left. Cadence and Janne awkwardly looked at each other. Janne sighed and leaned towards his desk, “What time tomorrow?”
“Um..” Cadence trailed off.
“What? Make up your mind.” Janne insisted. Cadence hissed and thought, “And I really wanted to explore UPLB tomorrow too,instead I got this annoying hooman being.”
“Around 8 am. Where do you live?” Cadence asked.
“Mariones.” Janne replied. Cadence’s lips formed an oh.
“I’m just fifteen minutes away from your location. I live in Panello.” Cadence said. Janne nodded, “Okay. So where do we meet?”
“7/11?” Cadence suggested.
“7/11 it is.” Janne replied and checked his watch, “It’s already 6. Let’s go?” Janne asked. Cadence grabbed her bag and nodded. They both stood up and bid goodbye to the remaining people in the room. After they shut the door, they both sighed. They looked at each other and laughed.
“What was that?” Cadence asked. Janne shrugged, “I don’t know.”
Minutes later, they were already in the Jeepney. Cadence looked at Janne and the latter looked so bored. She leaned back and nudged his shoulder. Janne looked at him, puzzled. She smiled.
“Who could’ve thought that after our encounter in the pub, we’re now partners?” Cadence said.
“I also didn’t see this coming.” Janne replied and looked at Cadence. A thought rushed into his mind, “Do you want to stop by 7/11 first?” he asked. Cadence was startled with the distance between Janne’s face and hers. She blinked, “Yes…” she replied unconsciously when she smelled his breath.
“You smell like mint.” She commented.
“Well, I like to eat mints.” Janne replied.
“Do you still have one? My throat kinda hurts.” Cadence asked. Janne nodded and fished out a mint candy from his pocket. He gave it to Cadence who already opened her palm beforehand. Cadence giggled, “Thank you!”
“Welcome.” Janne replied and stared as Cadence placed the candy inside her mouth.
“She looks really happy just because of candy.” Janne thought.
“Well, she just mentioned that her throat hurts.” Janne’s brain countered.
“Hey,” Janne called. Cadence looked at him, “Hmm?”
“Let’s go to the mall instead. I’m going to buy something. You wanna come with?” Janne asked. Cadence nodded, “No problem. It’s better than going home and being hunted by the voices.”
Janne’s forehead curled up, “What? I didn’t hear what you said after home.”
Cadence smiled, “It’s nothing.” She replied.
In the mall, they went straight to the supermarket. It was seven o’clock at night and people were still doing their groceries. The two strolled all over the place until Janne paved the way to the candies section.
“Are you going to buy candies?” Cadence asked and stood beside Janne. Janne reached for a pack of mint candies.
“Yes. My supply of mint candies was running out.” Janne lied without even blinking. Cadence nodded, “You must really like mint candies so much.” She said.
“Not really but I think I have a reason to like it more now.” Janne thought.
“I’m going to the counter. Are yuou going to buy something?” Janne asked and started to walk towards the counter. Cadence shook her head and followed. “Nope. I’m coming with you.”
“Okay.” Janne replied.
“Thank you. Please come again.”
The guard smiled as the two went out of the mall. Cadence smiled back and nodded while Janne continued walking. The cold air welcomed their departure from the mall.
“Um..” Cadence stopped walking and pointed the terminal, “That’s my ride home. Goodbye Janne.” She said. Janne nodded, “Goodbye, Cadence.”
Janne continued walking. Seconds later, Cadence called him and said, “See you tomorrow, Janne!”
Janne just waved his hand and didn’t turn his face towards Cadence. He looked down and smiled, “See you too, Cade.”