Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 19: Two Corpses
Life in the next few days was uneventful and boring.
Since encountering two giant scavenger puppets head-on, the missions Zhang Yazhe took them on were much smaller in scope. The four-person team basically moved around the refuge, carrying out simple hunting and parts cleanup. This change wasn’t limited to the team. There was a lot less noise around the canteen. The usual light atmosphere that was accompanied by jokes and laughter became more sporadic. People chewed their food stuffily, and only whispers echoed in the underground space.
“Recently, several teams have encountered monsters in the safe area, and all teams have temporarily tightened their activities.” Ding Zepeng sat under the shade of a tree and ate a simple lunch. He grabbed the sandwich, stretched out his hands, and made a gesture of outflanking. “We must be cautious and figure out what went wrong first. This is the boss’ instruction.”
“Has this happened before?” In front of his temporary teammates, Ruan Xian was still equipped with ordinary firearms. The two blood guns were stuffed in the holster under his armpit as spare guns.
“At least I haven’t encountered it. Don’t worry, Ruan Ge, the boss, was there when I first came. The refuge has always been very stable, and there has never been a major incident. The boss’ judgment is fine.”
Ruan Xian looked at the bushes in the distance. In the afternoon, the amber sun covered the green forest. The refuge couldn’t be seen from this angle. There weren’t many human and mechanical sounds around; only the rustle of the wind passing through the trees, but for some reason, he felt safer in the open air without any shade than in the shelter.
Since discovering the anomaly of mortality, he was no longer used to being surrounded by people. Those relaxed, smiling faces were suffocating, and Ruan Xian suddenly understood Guan Haiming’s loneliness and perversity—If it was him, he wouldn’t want to build any intimacy in such an environment.
“I saw Mr. Tian in the ward that day.” Ruan Xian changed the subject. “Is his body okay?”
Ding Zepeng opened his mouth and finally held back a bitter smile. “He… will be fine. Qiu Jie said it was a genetic disease, an old problem. The boss is just too hard-working, and he has fallen ill several times before. Don’t look at him and think he’s weak. The first few times he had this problem, he still ran desperately outside. Haa, Qiu Jie was so angry. Fortunately, he didn’t mess around this time.”
“Running out?” Ruan Xian’s heart sank.
“Yes. Said the ground was too suffocating. See that small hill? The boss especially likes to wander around there. Last time, he said that he had found several caves suitable for mushroom farming, so he could add more food for everyone.”
Following Ding Zepeng’s index finger, Ruan Xian glanced at the gentle little hill. The view above must be very good, but he didn’t think Tian He was specifically going to see the scenery.
A terrible thought suddenly stuck in his heart, and Ruan Xian’s fingers tightened.
The strong who died alone would return intact and continue their mission. Tian He, who has led the refuge for many years, knew this. What if he took the initiative to use this in order to maintain the stability of the refuge?
Regardless of the ultimate goal of the power behind this, its immediate goal should be to ensure that the elites of the refuge “live”. That is to say, even if it will not let Tian He’s chronic illness be cured, it won’t send back a patient who was in critical condition.
According to Qiu Yue, Tian He once promised another Ruan Xian that he would “fight to the last second”. If Tian He really…
Ruan Xian stood up and patted the soil off his clothes. “I’m done eating. Xiao Ding, I’m going to a farther place to have a look. Maybe I can dig up some useful wreckage.”
“Remember to come back early and don’t run too far.” Ding Zepeng waved his hand and shook the crumbs from his uniform. “Or else, Zhang Ge will punish you with confinement again.”
However, Ruan Xian didn’t intend to be obedient at all.
A few days of training wouldn’t make him proficient in the use of the grappling hook, and he couldn’t even do a few pull-ups, but someone was better at sports than him. Ruan Xian used his electronic wristband to rewrite the position of the auxiliary chip in his blood, then hugged Tang Yibu’s neck tightly.
Tang Yibu didn’t even need to use a grappling hook. He carried Ruan Xian on his back as he quickly moved through the forest, bouncing his toes on the tree branches, moving several times faster than a hoverbike. The hill seemed to be sucked into his field of vision as they stopped in front of it a few minutes later.
Ruan Xian jumped from behind Tang Yibu, closed his eyes, and sniffed the wind carefully.
The power of the S-Type Prototype couldn’t be underestimated, but Ruan Xian’s own knowledge base failed to keep up. He smelled larch, creeper, daisy, and buttercups, as well as hundreds of other plants whose scents he didn’t remembered thus he couldn’t identity. Then came the snake molting, the cicadas sleeping underground, the birds’ feathers, and the rats. The smell of animals was a little fishier and more pungent.
Finally, there was a stench of decay.
Smelly stagnant water, rotting insect shells, hair and bones in excrement, and the faint smell of corpses of all kinds of small animals. One of the sources of the odor was particularly distinct. It was deep in the hills, separated from the soil and rocks, slowly seeping from the inside out.
Ruan Xian’s heart sank.
He glanced at the time, slowly exhaled a breath, and dragged Tang Yibu to the source of the smell. The two squeezed into the dark cave, carefully crossed the stalagmites, and followed the disgusting smell of corpses.
Their destination was quite hidden.
In the hinterland of a small hill, there was a deep rock crevice. Ruan Xian smelled motor oil and polished metal nearby, and a sturdy rope ladder was hidden under the roots of an old tree, but before he could reach out, Tang Yibu caught his wrist.
“Don’t leave too many traces.” Tang Yibu shook his head. He picked up Ruan Xian and jumped directly down from the crevice of the rock. The next moment, the android was half-kneeling on the ground and landed firmly on the solid rock surface.
The oncoming smell of corpses was suffocating. Ruan Xian broke away from Tang Yibu’s embrace and stood up quickly. He turned on the lighting function of the electronic wristband, and then immediately took a step back.
Two human corpses sat against the bottom of the rock crevice.
Both corpses were holding guns in their right hands; their faces were shattered, and it could be seen that they had been shot in the face. They were both badly decomposed and traces showed they had obviously been here for a long time.
“DNA?” Ruan Xian desperately resisted the urge to retch.
“Can’t get it. Both of the deceased took the initiative to take a high concentration of identity disruptors. The characteristics of the bitter and sour smell are so distinctive that it will erase all individual characteristics—including internal organs, blood type, and odor.” Tang Yibu squatted down in front of one of the corpses. “His face was severely damaged, and it’s impossible to compare his teeth and restore his appearance. The clothes and shoes are all styles picked up from a junkyard… They eliminated all evidence that might reveal their identity.”
“It’s not completely eliminated.”
Ruan Xian didn’t care about the smell of corpses. He stretched out his hand, gently broke open the hand of one of the corpses without a gun and picked out a few inconspicuous short hairs. “Qiu Yue’s hair was mixed with the deceased’s own. Her smell is on it.”
Tang Yibu raised his eyebrows, followed Ruan Xian’s movements, and broke the hand of another corpse. “It’s here too, but I can’t tell.”
Ruan Xian’s hands trembled a little. He walked to Tang Yibu’s side, squatted down beside the relatively new corpse, and used the tweezers in the tool bag to pinch a small piece of dirt from the sole of the corpse. It was gray and crumbling, completely unrecognizable from its original appearance.
“Forget-me-nots petals. Only the ward of the refuge has such flowers.” The blood rushing through his body turned into ice water. Ruan Xian murmured, “There are also a few of Qiu Yue’s strands in the hair you found. The smell is a little clearer. The two corpses are both men, almost the same height, and the size of their shoes and clothes are the same. Bone age… Can you detect bone age?”
“The precise identification of age requires the assistance of equipment.” Tang Yibu glanced at the wrist bone of the two corpses. “The age range is probably between 30 to 50 years old.”
“…There are no comparable dead in the death report of the refuge, and they don’t look like androids.”
“According to the definition of a natural brain, both of them are pure human beings,” Tang Yibu replied quietly.
“It’s Tian He, right? These two corpses… are both Tian He, or copies of Tian He.”
Ruan Xian stood up and didn’t care about his trembling body anymore.
“I guess the so-called refuge is part of a certain experiment—an experiment that needs to maintain the stability of the ‘conditions’, and to be able to do such a thing, the researcher is a force related to MUL-01, if not MUL-01 itself.”
Tang Yibu didn’t deny it but looked at him quietly. Ruan Xian turned his gaze to the two corpses with mutilated heads.
As the backbone of maintaining the healthy operation of the refuge, those smart and powerful people are “sent back” again and again. Those who are aware of the truth also remain silent, only for the false hope to continue to exist. A warm and safe shelter, three hot meals a day, adequate electricity, energy and medical protection. Who would want to leave?
[Whether you are here for the first time, or you can’t bear the pressure and erase your memory… Don’t give up, hope is still there.] The Professor Ruan in the wheelchair once left such soothing words to the people in the refuge. [Everyone who is still alive is the spark for humanity. Please believe that you are very important.]
If he can discover this in a short time, it is impossible for the other “Ruan Xian” not to know it.
Ruan Xian suddenly felt a little nauseous. If you wanted to perfectly replace these elites, the memory of the deceased was indispensable…
He activated the electronic wristband and quickly looked for information in the database.
“The auxiliary chip was left by Ruan Xian, if you are looking for this,” Tang Yibu added with a smile. “Guan Haiming didn’t lie. Its purpose is only to locate, record physiological conditions, and back up memory. After all, there are few psychologists these days, so dealing with memories directly is the most efficient approach, so no one will be suspicious.”
Ruan Xian clenched his fists and trembled with anger. “…No wonder Guan Haiming prefers to call it the ‘black box’. If I guessed correctly, MUL-01 also has access to this data, right?”
“Don’t mind that. I have modified your chip. There will be no backup of your memory and our secrets are safe.”
“…That’s not the issue.”
“Then what are you angry about? In terms of human interests, Ruan Xian’s judgment is correct. If a small number of human samples cannot provide stable research value, they will soon be eliminated by MUL-01. Ruan Xian gave them ‘research value’ and gave them the opportunity to continue their lives.”
Tang Yibu spread out his hands.
“Take a step back, even if you die temporarily. As you can see, the structure of the body and brain of the ‘replaced person’ is no different from before, and the memory is almost the same. These people still exist and are continuing their lives. Maybe you don’t agree with this philosophy, but to be angered to this point is beyond my comprehension.”
“This time, Tian He really wants to die.” Ruan Xian’s voice was a bit hoarse, and he didn’t answer Tang Yibu’s question positively. “This time he didn’t come here alone to end his life. He wants to die in the refuge and in front of everyone.”
In this way, the Mainbrain can no longer quietly “bring him back” from death.
“This is also something I can’t understand. He seems to have suffered a lot of mental damage, but I can’t figure out the source.”
“His wife, Qiu Yue, has only been in the field once, three months ago. I checked the records and Qiu Yue lost her wedding ring during that trip.”
“Qiu Yue has indeed been replaced, and there is an image of her death in the bird detector’s record,” Tang Yibu admitted generously.
“…I think Tian He knows about it.”
“Tian He doesn’t have the evidence. There are no human witnesses to Qiu Yue’s death.”
“If I loved someone deeply and knew that the refuge was such a shithole, I would definitely keep a close eye on her.” Ruan Xian pulled out a piece of information from the electronic wristband and threw the light screen in front of Tang Yibu. “This is Guan Haiming’s private record. Tian He once entrusted him to ‘repair’ Qiu Yue’s wedding ring.”
“Guan Haiming didn’t leave the content of the repair. You can’t be sure.”
“Indeed, I can’t. Just like if there were these two corpses, I can’t come up with evidence that they belong to Tian He. Tian He really… took everything into account.”
Even if the bodies were discovered by other members of the refuge, no one would be bothered by two unrecognizable corpses. Tian He tried so hard to conceal the cold truth of the refuge, and twice personally went to his death in exchange for a longer-term peace for the refuge.
Perhaps he also wanted to continue to guard someone.
Tian He didn’t leave the contents of the repair of the wedding ring with Guan Haiming. After all, MUL-01 wasn’t a real God, so it was impossible to know how the ring had changed. Ruan Xian didn’t want to speculate. He didn’t dare imagine what kind of information Tian He had gotten.
“I still don’t understand.” Tang Yibu turned his head slightly. “Qiu Yue is back, and there’s no difference from the previous one. Why is he so struck?”
“This is not something that can be calculated logically.”
“Just like your anger?”
Inside the refuge.
Tian He leaned against the head of the bed. It was a sunny day outside the fake window today. His gaze stopped on those pots of forget-me-nots for a few seconds, then he called up a small pop-up window on his work light screen.
There were only three simple lines of data on the pop-up window—sound, heart rate line, and body temperature.
Tian He stared at it for a while, then slowly pressed the repeat button.
Accompanied by the rustle of clothes passing through the leaves, a woman’s gasp came from the pop-up window, frightened and desperate. The heart rate line on one side fluctuated frighteningly. Then there was a muffled sound of falling.
“Lao Tian,” The woman murmured to herself. Her voice was tinged with sobs. “Lao Tian, I’m sorry.”
“I can’t go back. I’m sorry.”
“I… You have to be good. You have to be good.”
After a few harsh screams, the heart rate line suddenly flatlined, and the body temperature index began to drop slowly.
“Qiu Yue, the administrator, is visiting.” A beep sounded, and Tian He quickly closed the small pop-up window in the corner of the work light screen.
“Working again.” Qiu Yue almost dropped the cloth bag in her hand. She immediately took off Tian He’s electronic wristband, picked up the bowl, and sat down by the bed with an air of irresolution. “I cooked today’s chicken soup very lightly. Try it?”
Tian He didn’t open his mouth; he just looked at her.
“Or is it too mushy? Let me make some sweet rice soup.” Qiu Yue smiled reluctantly. “Why don’t you tell me. What do you want to eat?”
“…For the time being, I don’t want to eat. Xiao Yue, take a break.”
“I’m not tired. It’s just you… It’s not easy to get well with just transfusions alone.” Qiu Yue twisted the towel beside the bed and wiped Tian He’s face.
“Lao Tian, you have to be good. Do you hear me?”
The author has something to say:
The knot is a husband and wife, and there is no doubt about love. Life should come back, and death should be Sauvignon Blanc. — Excerpt from Su Wu’s “Leaving Your Farewell Wife”*.
*See Kinky Thoughts.
After the doomsday, there may not be a fairytale atmosphere. _(:з”∠)_
Personally, I feel that death and reproduction are irreversible no matter what…
Well, I wasn’t expecting that. Below is the full poem in the author’s note.
Leaving Your Farewell Wife by Su Wu
The knot is a husband and wife, and there is no doubt about love.
Huanyu is here tonight, happy and happy.
Zhenghu is heading for the road, so why look at the night?
Shen Chen is gone, go and leave forever.
The campaign is on the battlefield, and there is no time to see each other.
Shake hands and sigh, tears are for a living.
Work hard to love Chunhua, and don’t forget the happy time.
Life should come back, and death should be Sauvignon Blanc.