Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 15: Purpose of Cooperation
The grayish green machines were approaching.
There are two bionic machines this time. If the size of the live screws was still close to a rabbit’s, Ruan Xian couldn’t give a proper analogy to what was in front of him—they were more than five meters tall, put together by various rusty mechanical remains, and the shapeless body was supported by two puppet-like legs. If he broke off the chest, head, and arms of a movable doll, leaving only the spherical structure of the abdomen and the two legs under it, the outline was barely similar.
A rubber tube with thick fingers was tightly wound around its “torso”, and there was yellow-white liquid slowly oozing out of the rupture. Slender wires tightened the bionic tissue filling the metal frame, and the soft flesh protruded slightly.
At least twenty long limbs poked out from the pale flesh and were dragging limply behind the thing. Their movements were slow and stiff, their steps were like two unconscious old men, but their appearance was more like two pagan Cthulhu statues.
The torsos of the two monsters rubbed against the dense canopy, in a weird posture as if they were snuggled up to each other as they swayed forward.
Tang Yibu obediently obeyed the order, set up a confusion net among the trees, and then silently climbed to Ruan Xian’s side. The soft net was set up between the branches. Electric lights would flash a few times, and the originally open woodland turned into a treacherous path of tangled vines. Following this was a series of unnatural engine sounds before a hoverbike rushed out of the woodland by itself and headed towards the right side of the two monsters.
One of them hesitated and stopped, turning around slowly as if it was attracted by the hoverbike. The other insisted on moving forward, ignoring the confusion net laid by Tang Yibu and swung towards the plastic baskets full of live screws.
Ruan Xian himself wasn’t thin, but Xiao Ding was even stronger. Coupled with Tang Yibu, who also wasn’t small in size, the three young men huddled on top of the tree like quails, not daring to move for fear of pushing someone down.
The exceptionally persistent monster finally reached its destination. The long limbs that were originally dragged behind suddenly stretched up and poked at the live screws in the basket. A taunt limb brushed against Ruan Xian’s ear and nearly poked him in the eye. Ruan Xian wanted to move instinctively, but Tang Yibu held him tightly in place.
The monster ignored the police-type auxiliary robot that was spinning around at its feet and stuffed the lifeless screws into the gaps in its torso. Ruan Xian only heard the sound of chewing but didn’t see any action similar to chewing.
Yellow-white liquid slowly dripped down from the gap of the machine.
“Shh—” Xiao Ding tried his best to maintain his mouth shape, but his breathing became lighter. “Ruan Ge, don’t make a sound.”
Ruan Xian nodded in silence.
Zhang Yazhe and Chi Lei were hidden in another tree, so quiet that it was as if they didn’t exist. The monster slowly passed by the two trees, as if they were unaware of them.
However, they weren’t lucky enough to hide until the end.
The monster turned around slightly, and its long and sturdy limb swayed along with its movements, directly hitting and hooking Ding Zepeng’s neck and pulling him down from the top of the tree. The entire process took no more than half a second. Ding Zepeng’s reaction was also fast. The young man shot out his steel wire grappling hook, got rid of the limb, and swung steadily to the ground, managing to escape the fate of a broken spine.
But he had exposed himself. Several limbs instantly entangled Ding Zepeng.
“231, protect Xiao Ruan. Xiao Ruan, hide! Lao Chi, follow me to cover Xiao Ding!” Zhang Yazhe fired his gun in the next instant, accurately blasting off two limbs and drawing all the monster’s attention to him.
“Are they going to be okay?” Ruan Xian mumbled and asked Tang Yibu in a low voice.
“Usually, it’s not a problem. This kind of thing isn’t good at fighting, and it’ll leave after proper stimulation.”
“Usually?” Ruan Xian parsed the keyword out.
Struck by gunshots, the monster retracted its limb that was grabbing Xiao Ding. A noise-like scream came from inside its body.
“This one is pregnant, so it’s tendency to attack is stronger,” Tang Yibu said calmly.
Ruan Xian looked at the nightmarish mechanical giant in horror and almost fell off the tree.
The other monster who had been paying attention to the hoverbike before was called back by screaming. The two giants all stretched out their limbs and poked at the three humans on the ground. The police-type auxiliary machine directly opened fire. Its movements were flexible, but in the face of this overwhelming size difference, it had little effect.
“We have to run. One is okay, but two are too many!” Chi Lei roared.
“We can’t run away. Hold on a little bit longer. Something’s wrong with these two!” Zhang Yazhe roared back. “Xiao Ding, Xiao Ding! Bring out the blue bazooka from the hoverbike!”
“Let’s lead one of them away.” Ruan Xian made a quick decision.
Tang Yibu just looked at him. “There’s no need for you to make a move now.”
“I can’t hide here. If I were Zhang Yazhe, I would lead them to an easily controlled field because once they are hit, they’ll toss about indiscriminately—” Ruan Xian ducked.
A limb swept across his head.
“—Like so.” Ruan Xian clenched the gun in his hand. “I want to take the initiative more rather than just waddling in embarrassment.”
“I know.” Tang Yibu tilted his head as the end of an incoming limb brushed off a few strands of his hair. “There is indeed a high probability that we will be shot down, and then Zhang Yazhe will order you to take refuge.”
“He’ll tell us to get as far away from the scene as possible. As long as we distance ourselves, we don’t need to hide our true situation.”
“This brings me back to my original point. We don’t need to make a move.” Tang Yibu straightened the collar of his black uniform. “They will be seriously injured, but they’ll barely be able to cope with the situation.”
Zhang Yazhe was still calmly commanding the two men under the tree while keeping his rhythm of attack from the limbs that were randomly stabbing and trying to squish them.
“If I can master how to use the S-type prototype as soon as possible, it’ll be more beneficial to you,” Ruan Xian said solemnly. Emphasizing human morality and emotions should be of little use to Tang Yibu. “We’re in a cooperative relationship. You won’t be happy to act with a dragged oil bottle*—actual combat is the best teacher.”
*(拖油瓶) Discriminatory term for women who have remarried in the past. In ancient times, when a husband marries a woman who has children from a previous marriage who then brings her children along, when they get sick, the new husband is blamed by the new wife’s relatives. As such, to avoid this kind of entanglement, the husband would ask someone to write evidence that the children were already sick before they entered his household, and if there’s any accident in the future, he’s not responsible for it. The correct statement should be “dragging the ill” but because of the pronunciation, it similar to “dragging the oil bottle” which has become slang. || In this context, Ruan Xian is basically saying Tang Yibu won’t be happy if he turns out to be a deadweight.
“Okay.” Tang Yibu wasn’t long-winded.
This time, Tang Yibu raised his hand and shot it at the back of the monster on the outer side. He hit a rubber tube, causing yellow-white liquid to immediately spray out. The monster immediately turned its head and swayed towards them. Tang Yibu hugged Ruan Xian’s waist tightly with one hand and swung to another tree using his grappling hook.
“If you’re ready, I’ll teach you. This time, I won’t exert power beyond that of a human. It’s up to you to take the lead.”
“Nn.” The monster’s body moved slowly, and the target was large. Under the premise of insufficient physical strength, it was much better to deal with than a live screw. Ruan Xian hit the rubber tube on the machine with his gun, leaving Zhang Yazhe’s anxious roar behind him.
“You predict, I’ll attack.”
Making sure that the other three people were completely obscured by brushes and shrubs, Tang Yibu explained without emotion, “Combine the environment and terrain. Pay attention to the details of every movement of its whole body. The size of the wind sound caused by its waving limbs, the changes in smell caused by its mood shift, the rhythm of its muscle contraction, and so on. Then, finally calculate the result—for an S-type prototype, this should be a cinch.”
“How can I tell you?”
Tang Yibu took out a pair of earring studs from his pocket and pierced one directly on Ruan Xian’s left ear, while he pierced the other on his right ear.
“This thing can convey simple brain instructions. Just give me specific direction, movement, and attack speed information.”
Ruan Xian raised his head and looked at the monster rushing over.
[Eight o’clock. Limbs. 0.3 seconds.] After putting on the earring, there seemed to be an extra input box in his mind, and he immediately figured out how to use it.
Tang Yi took a step forward. The monster’s sharp limbs almost swiped his back and poked a hole in the ground.
“Very good. Continue.”
Ruan Xian stared at the monster’s movements closely, and the movements stopped, but his hands didn’t stop moving. He shot every rubber hose with precision, staining the monster’s body with yellow-white mucus.
[Nine o’clock. Limbs. 1 second.]
[Six o’clock, nine o’clock, three o’clock. Limbs. 0.8 seconds.]
Tang Yibu jumped dexterously, as if dancing on a cluster of limbs. Seeing Ruan Xian aiming at the rubber tube and hitting it fiercely, he turned to attack the seams of the mechanical pieces. The monster’s movements began to become unstructured, and its screams were intermittent.
Ruan Xian relaxed his body and became more concentrated.
The things in the field of vision slowly turned snow-white, leaving only the weird monster that had color. Every trace of wind brought by its movements, every soft sound of metal rubbing together, was clear as day in his mind. Sounds, colors, smells, and air flow drilled through his five senses, etching them into his mind, forming a continuous trajectory of motion.
According to the reaction of the bionic creature in front of him, as long as he hit another one of its hoses, it would reevaluate what was more important: a meal or its own life. Ruan Xian stared at his target intently and pulled the trigger again.
However, the gunfire didn’t sound this time.
This change distracted his attention for half a second, followed by a chill in Ruan Xian’s heart.
[Eight o’clock. Limbs……]
Tang Yibu’s right arm was firmly stabbed by a limb, which instantly split the skin and blood sprayed out. His expression showed no pain as he simply raised his hand and shot it out, hitting the last hose that Ruan Xuan should have hit.
The monster let out a long hiss, changed direction, and stumbled away into the depths of the forest.
“Sorry.” Seeing Tang Yibu walking towards him, Ruan Xian hurriedly took two steps forward. “I got distracted. I—”
Tang Yibu directly pressed the back of his head.
Compared with the last time, the predatory aura of this kiss was much heavier. Ruan Xian frowned. The tip of his tongue was numb from sucking, and his whole body almost suffocated. He crossed his small arms towards his chest and blocked Tang Yibu with force.
“Almost there.” After being separated, Tang Yibu didn’t do anything out of line but just glanced at his wound.
The original deep gaping hole disappeared, leaving only a little bloody scratch.
“You have human memories. I apologize if this behavior may make you feel uncomfortable, but this thing is poisonous, and I don’t have time to ask for your consent in advance.”
Tang Yibu wiped his mouth, looking very satisfied with the recovery of the wound. “In addition, if I don’t do this, I’ll have to ingest your blood or body tissue, so this is the least harmful approach for you.”
Ruan Xian tightened his expression and nodded stiffly. “…You need the perception and repair ability of the S-type prototype.”
“As an old model, I can’t find a suitable part to replace my body. Prosthetic limbs will cause my combat power to decrease, and I’ll be more likely to be injured, which will only become a vicious cycle.”
Ruan Xian wanted to open his mouth to respond, but seeing people running from the distance, he immediately cautiously swallowed back the words he wanted to say.
“Ruan Lijie!” Zhang Yazhe rushed to Ruan Xian panting and slapped the side of his head a bit hard. “Didn’t I tell you to hide?!”
“Son of a bitch. You’re playing with your life! Yes, I’m grateful to you for distracting one, but 231 can’t deal with this thing at all. If it weren’t for your luck…” Zhang Yazhe’s face was purple as he gritted his teeth. “We’re more experienced than you. The explorer’s job is a profession that teeters between life and death. Do you think we’re playing games? Ah? Next time, you better hope we die, or you’ll have to hide from me!”
Zhang Yazhe’s spit splashed all over Ruan Xian’s face. His anger was genuine.
Despite Ruan Xian’s repeated apologies, Zhang Yazhe never spoke a word to him on the way back, but Chi Lei couldn’t hide his gloating.
“Ruan Ge, don’t be too sad. Zhang Ge cares about orders.” Ding Zepeng took advantage of their return to the refuge. As they parked the hoverbikes, he quietly snuck over. “Chi Ge told me that Zhang Ge was very strong when he was young, but he was a bit of a drifter. When he was on a mission once, he dropped a food can and he ran back to pick it up, violating the captain’s order and almost killed his partner. Later, he didn’t dare fool around and stored his food can very carefully.”
The young man hissed and huffed, rubbing the injury on his arm. “You’re lucky this time. Zhang Ge was afraid you were dead.”
“I know.” Ruan Xian patted off the dirt on his clothes. “How was your monster?”
“We blasted it with a soothing agent. When it saw that one chasing you ran away, it realized the situation wasn’t good and it didn’t bother us anymore. Ah, what a shame about that basket of live screws. Why did we have to run into a pregnant scavenger puppet. What bad luck.”
“That thing can get pregnant?”
“Yes, they can produce a pile of white meatballs. The newborn meatballs will stick mechanical parts to their bodies to make skeletons for themselves. The more pieces that stick, the more they will look like what you saw. It was seeping. Last time, we accidentally entered their nest and I had to vomit for three days after seeing their cubs—”
“Ding Zepeng, are you still fooling around? Hurry up and go to the infirmary!” Zhang Yazhe’s face sank.
Ding Zepeng’s entire body tensed up. He immediately shut up and rushed out.
“Zhang Ge…” Seeing Zhang Yazhe’s expression eased a little, Ruan Xian tentatively spoke again.
“What?” Zhang Yazhe finally replied angrily.
“Is there any place to change guns here? Chi Ge is right. I have some experience with guns. This gun’s handle is a bit difficult.”
“Yes, let 231 take you there,” Zhang Yazhe snorted coldly. A few seconds later, his face collapsed, and he sighed. “…Ah, you should think more about what happened today.”
Ruan Xian lowered his head and covered the contemplative expression on his face with repentance and shame. And this “repentance and shame” continued until the moment he and Tang Yibu walked into the weapons workshop and made sure that there was no one there.
Closing the door behind him, Ruan Xian wiped his face and looked at the small room blankly.
“Workshop B-73. I have already made an appointment for the next three hours, and no one will come during this time,” Tang Yibu explained thoughtfully. “What do you want to modify?”
“Black out all the monitors and replace them with looping footage. I know you can do it, Mr. Administrator.” Ruan Xian sat down at one of the long tables and took out the gun he was carrying. He pulled out a piece of paper and scribbled a string of formulas casually.
Tang Yibu let out a meaningful “oh”.
“You’ve changed. Now let me ask a different question. What do you want to do?” Two seconds later, Tang Yibu relaxed his body and changed his posture from holding his hand behind his back to crossing his arms.
“Give me half an hour,” Ruan Xian said.
He stood up, quickly pulled out the various parts and equipment on the table and activated the data light screen on one side. The action was so proficient that it looked like he had been working here for more than a decade.
“What about half an hour later?” Tang Yibu played with the communication earring that was still embedded in the earlobe of his right ear.
“Negotiation.” Ruan Xian stroked the gun in his hand, picked up the disassembly tool set with the other hand, and turned them all into parts in less than 30 seconds.
“…No need to look around, Tang Yibu.” When he said this, Ruan Xian quickly assembled the parts again, and his movements were so fast they could barely be seen clearly.
“The person I’m negotiating with is you.”
The author has something to say:
Ruan Ruan has thoroughly figured out the situation, and it’s time to fight back.√
Tang Tang: ? (0ω0)