Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 31: Three Rules
The surrounding building structure was weird and complicated, and the lighting was barely bright. The pirates obviously didn’t intend to pay attention to ostentation, but the safety-related facilities were very complete. Ruan Xian and Tang Yibu were huddled in an observation room that was transformed from a subway lounge, with an entire piece of thick glass in front of them.
This used to be an above-ground subway station. A subway train was still parked on one of the tracks with all the doors wide open, and rag curtains were hung on the windows. It seemed to be divided into many single rooms with rude laughter and cursing that came from behind the windows from time to time.
There were also many people outside the car. The electric lamps used for lighting account for a small number, as most were oil lamps that gave off a strange smell. The ruins pirates surrounded the light source like moths, leaning on wooden boxes full of supplies in twos and threes while chatting with each other. The sour smell of sweat and mixed odors that were common in crowds filled the air and pried into the glass cracks in the observation room and made Ruan Xian sneeze hard.
Yu Le, the captain of the Walking Stone, was still standing in front of them.
The middle-aged man wrapped in a dirty windbreaker looked at Ruan Xian’s face with interest, and then made a noise with his mouth. However, that frivolous look failed to deceive Ruan Xian. The other party’s eyes were heavy with sobriety and vigilance, and there was no sign of relaxation.
Yu Le leaned against the glass, making his entire body look like a sharp blade that was wrapped in a rag. Ruan Xian looked at him in silence, with no plans to respond for the time being. He was still glancing at the subway hall in front of him, trying to carve every detail into his mind.
“Send the flickering grass to storage room No. 3 for processing and destroy all the fruits on them.” This time it wasn’t a virtual image but Tu Rui himself that was directing not far away.
Two men in tawny T-shirts replied “yes” loudly and began to churn through the packages brought back by Ruan Xian and Tang Yibu. Tang Yibu put his face on the glass and stared at the movements of the two pirates without blinking, with a trace of melancholy between his brows.
Seeing that neither of the two newcomers said a word, Yu Le patted the glass with his palm again, looking a lot less interested. “It’s boring. Let’s go. I’m now—”
“Captain!” A scream broke the calm in the hall. The buzzing whispers floating from all corners stopped abruptly, and dozens of pairs of eyes shot from all directions. Yu Le also stopped talking and looked at the source of the scream.
A man was crawling towards Yu Le. His long hair and beard were tangled in a ball, and there was still a fresh smell of blood on his body and some kind of…
Ruan Xian frowned.
“Captain, captain! I was really just confused for a while, captain, I… I’ve been with you for three years, and you have a lot of people!” The man shook like a sieve. “That bitch originally sold, and I can make up for her now. Just a few cans, Boss Yan. How can I say this—”
“Lao Yan?” Yu Le stuffed some dried jerky into his mouth and his tone became fleeting. He raised his chin towards the tall man who was chasing after that man.
“The woman who came from the west yesterday, Biao Zi* made her stronger. The woman suffered a fracture of her left arm and the bridge of her nose and also had a slight concussion.” The tall man was expressionless, and his tone of voice didn’t fluctuate. “I was going to follow the rules, but he ran away. He wanted to see you.”
*Note: Again, this is not his first name but just the way they address people affectionately, but in a joking manner.
“Oh, you have seen me.” Yu Le chewed on his jerky and said casually, “Biao Zi, now that you have seen me, what do you want to do?”
“She seduced me first, and she slept with Lao Li yesterday! I didn’t bring any goods with me today, so she refused. I just wanted to get things done first… Captain, we’ve been friends for several years. Look, I’ll pay her five times, no, no, ten time—” The bearded man collapsed on the ground, raised his head that was shaking like a sparrow in the cold wind.
“Oh, Biao Zi, I don’t usually see you in such a hurry.” Yu Le gave a smirk. “You said that you didn’t drink too much. After following me for all these years, haven’t you figured out my rules? Why are you acting so dumb?”
The man with tears on his face twisted his expression and smiled reluctantly.
Yu Le laughed, but his expression remained blank. He neatly took out the gun from his waist and shot it at the man’s crotch. After a scream enough to pierce the eardrums, Yu Le moved the muzzle up again. The next moment, a black and red bullet hole was imprinted on the center between the man’s eyebrows, and he fell softly like a sack as translucent blood stained the glass of the lounge.
“Lao Yan, drag this thing to the bait room. You don’t have to save me face.” Yu Le swallowed the jerky in his mouth and kicked the corpse to the ground. “Let that woman go to the warehouse to pick up something to eat, and then ask Old Man He to look at her injuries.”
There was still silence. The market pirates looked at the scene carefully, and Ruan Xian could feel the fear floating in the air.
“Lao Yu!” Tu Rui approached, a little dissatisfied on his face.
“What? Do you want to choke laozi* again?” Yu Le made a grimace. “The rules have been set a long time ago, so you can’t blame me.”
*(老子) Reference to Laozi but when used like this is referring to calling yourself “I, your father” in anger or out of contempt or referring to yourself in an arrogant way (like “I, this great one”).
“The vote is just half a month away, so you should restrain yourself. The newcomers are still here. You…”
“There’s no such word as ‘consideration’ in laozi’s dictionary. Don’t make trouble.” Yu Le waved his hand indifferently. “It’s like a fucking election and I don’t plan to be an official. If they really want to kill me, it’s their own ignorance.”
Tu Rui pushed up his glasses and sighed for a long time, hating that iron isn’t made of steel*.
*(恨铁不成钢) Idiom referring to being dissatisfied with a person for not living up to your expectations and eagerly hoping he would get better. From Cao Xueqin’s “A Dream of Red Mansions”.
“Okay, where did we leave off?” The soles of the boots rubbed the fresh blood marks on the ground, and Yu Le bared his teeth at Ruan Xian again. “Scared, eh?”
Ruan Xian looked at him quietly and shook his head slowly.
“Oh, it’s a pity that these eyes are on a man’s body. I like this cold style.” Yu Le rubbed the stubble on his chin. “You two bumped into me, so let’s consider this fate. You can bring back flickering grass with just a single deep dive, which means your strength and eyesight aren’t bad.”
“The benefits for you two are very simple. We don’t lack a safe place to sleep, and my buddy also has medicine and equipment that can’t be obtained by one person. With strong work and complete technical skills, you won’t be hungry if you have your hands. In addition, with the name of the Walking Stones behind you, others won’t easily act against you.”
Ruan Xian glanced obliquely at the blood stains on the lower right corner of the glass. Yu Le raised his brows, obviously understanding what Ruan Xian meant.
“Of course, there are rules. Not much, not much. Just three.”
Yu Le stretched out three fingers and shook, glancing at Tang Yibu behind Ruan Xian. The golden-eyed young man was still staring at the backpack full of loot outside the observation room.
After making sure that Tang Yibu also looked over, Yu Le continued his conversation.
“First, don’t touch psychedelics, or you’ll kill everyone you see. Second, you can kill people, but it’s all extra labor, so take it easy. Unless you’re good enough to make laozi turn a blind eye, don’t get cocky. Oh, children are out of the question. I don’t keep beasts.”
Ruan Xian nodded and motioned to the other party to continue.
“Third, I don’t care about stealing and fighting. I don’t care about whoring or selling, but regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman, you’re not allowed to use force. You just saw what happened. “
Yu Le pulled the corner of his mouth and knocked on the glass twice. “Remember?”
“Remember,” Ruan Xian replied calmly.
“Someone will tell you about other trivial things. Gang Zi, did you find these two people? Send Buddha to the west, and you’ll take them with you in the next two days. I’m tired, so that’s all for today.” Yu Le picked up the wine bottle that he had been holding in his hand and yawned.
“Yes, captain.” The muscular man who sent them deep diving before took a step forward.
As if receiving some kind of signal, the air relaxed again. The whispers and laughter sounded again, as if someone had finally remembered to turn up the volume of the background noise.
After Yu Le left the subway hall, Gang Zi released the two people in the observation room. He carried the two backpacks that had been basically emptied in front of the two of them. “Flickering grass is worth a lot of points, so it’s considered you have exceeded the required task. You can take this food back. Going out from exit E is a residential building, so find a place to sleep by yourself. Drinking water can be collected at the exit. We have our people patrolling nearby, so cockroaches can’t get in.”
“Gang Ge, I have a lot of things to ask.” Ruan Xian opened the bag and glanced around, adjusting his gentle smile that he was best at. “Here…”
“It’s too late now. Let’s talk about it during the day,” the burly man replied in a low voice. “Take the locator. I’ll find you two at dawn.”
“Well, just one question.” Ruan Xian picked up the bag in his hand after glancing at Tang Yibu, who looked a little dejected. “Can the orange soda in here be replaced with cherry? I saw them put a few bottles in the box over there.”
“Okay.” Gang Zi went straight over and opened the lid of the box, counted out a few bottles, and replaced the bright yellow cans in the backpack with black and red ones.
Tang Yibu suddenly became more energetic.
After changing the drinks, the burly man walked directly towards the carriage full of laughter without any intention of guiding them anymore. Ruan Xian followed the remaining signs in the subway to find exit E and quickly found the residential building that Gang Zi mentioned.
It was attached to the subway exit at an angle, making the entire building tilt at a forty-five-degree angle. The doors of many rooms weren’t tightly closed, and the lights of oil lamps spilled out from the cracks in the doors. When passing by a few of them, Ruan Xian was pretty sure he heard rapid gasps and ambiguous moans.
He resolutely put away his senses.
There was only one empty room left on the most convenient escape route. Due to the tilt of the room, all the furniture inside was piled up on one side of the room. The original owner of the place seemed to have a special preference for paper books, as all kinds of books were scattered all over the place, and the air was filled with the smell of damp paper.
Tang Yibu closed the door and easily lifted the refrigerator to the top. Ruan Xian took out a lantern he had obtained from the ruins of the hospital, turned it on, and hung it on the sharp corner of the bookshelf.
The entire space was instantly filled with light.
Tang Yibu didn’t care about the dusty bed. He opened the closet, dragged out a few quilts in moisture-proof bags, and spread them neatly on the big bed against the wall. Then the android picked up two cans of cherry soda, leaned against the corner, and patted the empty spot next to him.
Ruan Xian put the plastic bucket full of clear water against the corner. He pinched his brows, then took off his shoes and sat down.
To be honest, Ruan Xian was a little unsure of what kind of emotions he should show at this moment. The society in his memory operated in a disciplined manner, and the terms and conditions of morality and law were detailed and clear. It was easy for him to infer what to do and what not to do and what kind of expression to use depending on the occasion.
Now the order was completely loosened, and everything was in chaos. The blood red that smeared the glass was still stuck to his retina and it refused to dissipate for a long time. This wasn’t the society he was familiar with, and the feedback mechanism he used to pretend to be normal began to slowly collapse, so Ruan Xian could only put on a blank look.
Instead, the expression of the android became more agile. Tang Yibu pulled up the best-preserved quilt, covered the legs of the two, and let out a comfortable sigh.
“This is the map that Elysium gave me.” Ruan Xian kept his face blank until Tang Yibu put his chin on his shoulder.
“Nn.” Tang Yibu sounded very relaxed.
That map was very simple. It roughly marked the condition of the Sea of Ruins and the surrounding geography.
The entire wilderness of the Sea of Ruins faced the sea in the west, while the east and north were marked with “Petri Dish No. 1024”, while the south was “Petri Dish No. 1036”. The long strip of ruins ran from east to west across the wasteland, and a large circle was drawn at the end of the east side, clearly marking the words “Annihilation Point”.
This description was too vague, so Ruan Xian decided to skip it for the time being.
“Both you and the pirates mentioned Petri Dish No. 1036.” Ruan Xian tapped the side of the ruins with his fingers, trying his best to ignore the body temperature that was covering his back. “It’s also marked here, just in the forest area where the refuge was located. Is that the title given to it by MUL-01?”
“Yes.” Tang Yibu nodded to the east side of the Sea of Ruins. “Before, I bypassed the Sea of Ruins and ran from Petri Dish No. 1024 to No. 1036. There are more insiders on No. 1024, so I got a piece of information whose accuracy has yet to be determined. Under the supervision of the Mainbrain, there are probably less than two thousand existing petri dishes, and the survivors… or ‘samples’ are about 30 million.”
“What’s the situation on No. 1024?” Ruan Xian was silent for a while, and when he spoke, his voice was still calm.
“The cultivation conditions are different. No. 1024 is a cold zone. A blizzard killed almost all the survivors when I left. It’s estimated that MUL-01 will restart it within a few years.”
“…It sets different conditions to observe the survival of survivors?”
“That’s why it’s called a petri dish.” Tang Yibu tugged at the quilt. “According to my observation, the Sea of Ruins should be the part that MUL-01 removed after finishing the landscape. It chose to gather them into a pile and deal with them uniformly, just like…”
“Like sweeping garbage into a dustpan.” Ruan Xian zoomed in on the part of the Sea of Ruins on the light screen. “No wonder surveillance here is looser and humans aren’t as harsh to the cockroaches in the junkyard.”
After the Sea of Ruins was enlarged, the 3D model was densely marked with boundaries, and the divided space was filled with yellow and gray colors. The yellow one was marked with Elysium, and the gray one was marked with Walking Stones. A schematic diagram that showed a standard sphere of influence.
“But I have a question,” Ruan Xian murmured. “This is also a special environment, and even you can’t wait to run towards. If the Mainbrain wanted to collect survivor data, it wouldn’t just let go of this place.”
“I haven’t heard of its number. It’s just called the Sea of Ruins.” Tang Yibu opened another bottle of cherry soda. “But I agree with you.”
“Before, it relied on black boxes to obtain detailed data, but there seems to be no habit or condition for injecting auxiliary chips here.” Ruan Xian shrank into the quilt and stared at the flashing light screen in front of him. “…I guess we’re on the same page.”
“Yes.” Tang Yibu drank half a can of soda, then put his chin back on Ruan Xian’s shoulder, bringing back a little bit of the sweet and sour smell of cherries. “If MUL-01 wants to obtain data, its people are here among the pirates. If you want to inquire about Ruan Xian’s whereabouts, you won’t let him be killed by MUL-01 first—”
“Have you ever played a ghost catching game*, Tang Yibu?”
*There are different versions of it, but the basic premise is that it’s a party game where two groups are divided into humans and ghosts, and the humans try to vote out those among the players who are ghosts. You can read my Kinky Thoughts for a summary of the rules.
The author has something to say:
Lao Yu is a real jerk√
Basic summary rules of ghost catching game:
Players are divided into 2 groups, humans and ghosts, with one judge.
This is an example of a 9-player game. Game flow:
- The judge will write something down, like “apple”, on 6 pieces of paper, and a descriptor of the word on the other 3, like food = 5 letters. He then passes the paper out to all the players and the game starts.
- The judge will randomly assign the pieces of paper to all the players.
- The judge then announces all players to close their owns.
- Then he will ask for the ghosts to open their eyes (they are the ones with the pieces of paper that only has the descriptor).
- Judge then asks the ghost to specify which player will speak first. At this time, the ghost needs to unanimously vote and point out a player (can be human or ghost) to speak first after dawn. (Note: the entire game will take turns speaking counterclockwise).
- The judge will then ask the ghosts to close their eyes.
- Dawn arrives and the judge asks everyone to open their eyes.
- The player who was voted on by the ghost starts to speak.
- The first player to speak starts to describe the word in his hand. There are no restrictions on the way of the descriptions, but it must be information that is common knowledge (you can’t say something that only you and a few people are privy to, like inside jokes not known to all players). Or instead, you can say “pass”.
- After all players have spoken, the judge announces a vote starting with the person who spoke first and going around the entire table. Each player can only vote once, and players can choose not to vote. The player with the highest vote is voted out and can no longer participate. (There are other rules to this part, but I won’t mention them since it’s too long.)
- The ghost wins if the number of humans is tied to the number of ghosts. If the ghosts are all voted out, then they have one last chance to guess what the word is to win.
This is the game summarized. The other versions are built off of this version, but the above is the basic outline. Those who are more familiar with this game can chime in but do note that I did not include full details on the rules.