Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 47: Reversed Melody
There were still five hours.
Tang Yibu put down his chopsticks and drank the last mouthful of noodle soup with regret.
Freeze-dried vegetables tasted worse after cooking, but the taste was justified. Tang Yibu ate very quickly. When the other ruins pirates were just halfway through eating, he had already begun to tear up the jerky that was used as an after-dinner meal.
The bandage was still tightly wrapped around his thigh. In order to strengthen Fan Baiyan’s impression, after agreeing with Duan Lili, Tang Yibu would only occasionally get up and take a few steps to ensure that his limping figure was exposed to most of the cameras.
For scientists, highly different samples had more research value. It was a pity that the pirates of Elysium were like planned buildings. Whether they were good or bad, they were all of the same type, like the same core on different bodies.
At least that’s what they showed.
If Elysium was a company, its benefits must be good. Tang Yibu chewed the jerky in his mouth, his gaze slipping from one end of the table to the other. The new people were still a little lively at first, but after a few days, their smiling faces began to look more like the old pirates.
There was some kind of emptiness after reaching the end.
People would pursue things related to their hearts and future in times of peace, such as collecting valuables, going on a trip to change their environment, a favorite residence, or a long- or short-term relationship. They would complain a few words in the cracks of heavy labor in this manner, seeking stimulation and satisfaction in their human nature. Even knowing that one’s ideal life truly existed in the world, most of them still tend to move towards their goals.
But now mankind had lost everything. No one wanted to go on an adventure outside, let alone consider distant loans and pensions.
Perhaps fireflies weren’t the only things that offered sweet dreams here. Tang Yibu rubbed the pills distributed after the meal with his fingertips, and the unique creamy flavor of the hallucinogenic ingredients stained his fingers.
After putting away the pills, Tang Yibu looked at Fan Baiyan. The old man left his seat and walked to the podium-like center stage again. Duan Lili was still locked in the room. This time, the microphone was handed over by a bodyguard.
“The night after tomorrow, the Order Supervisor aircraft will come to disinfect.” Fan Baiyan’s tone was steady, as if he was discussing the weather in the Sea of Ruins. “Don’t be nervous, old man. I’ll definitely not take the opportunity to defraud you of the boarding fee. It’s all free. It’s all free. I say this to remind everyone that no matter if you’re working outside or not, you must be back here before noon the day after tomorrow.”
The pirates looked relaxed, and many people raised a glass to Fan Baiyan.
“Of course, there must still be a vote. This time, our nemesis, Yu Le, is on the list. Who needs to be voted for death, I don’t need to say more, right? …When Yu Le is finished, we’ll take the opportunity to occupy the circle around the Annihilation Point. Now, our little brother Tang came up with a method to increase the production of the flickering grass, and the fireflies will get cheaper by then.”
The pirates of Elysium grinned, and many of them showed excitement. There was life-threatening tension. They started making noises when Fan Baiyan rang the bell again, and the pirates calmed down.
“Just to let the newcomers know, don’t be afraid. It’s just penetrating bombs. I have been in charge of this ship for several years, and I promise it will not blow up. The bombs can’t even touch the edge of the ship.” Fan Baiyan turned his gaze to the small table where the newcomers were sitting. “It’s not difficult to vote. When the disinfection begins, they will project a small light screen in front of each human. You’ll see it at a glance. If you’re willing to vote for Yu Le, the captain of the Walking Stones, I’ll give you six fireflies. Keep it for yourself or exchange it for a woman; it’s up to you to do whatever you want.”
He specifically nodded in the direction of Tang Yibu. “This is what I want to say. It’s not a big deal. Let’s continue eating.”
Tang Yibu smiled at him.
By the time he climbed to the top of the stairs, the smile had not subsided.
The patrols were guarding the fourth floor and above. Entering here from the room was likely to arouse their vigilance. After stuffing a bulge under his quilt to pretend that someone was sleeping, Tang Yibu tied the interferometer to his back and opened the window.
Tang Yibu accelerated his climbing movements after prying open the little window and confirming that Fan Baiyan was in the room on the third floor. After his spa treatment, he would have lunch, then go to the tearoom to drink some tea and read a book before he headed back to his room for a nap. As an elderly man, Fan Baiyan’s schedule had always remained unchanged.
His own time was limited.
But now that he knew that Fan Baiyan’s room itself was a ship, things were much easier. Carrying a large interferometer on his back, Tang Yibu walked all the way up in the dark, literally climbing to the top floor of the commercial building with his two hands.
He still had three hours.
The shape of this commercial building wasn’t very regular. Tang Yibu spent half an hour banging on the roof, relying on sound to explore the ship embedded in steel bars and concrete.
Tang Yibu thought aggrievedly that if this was an S-type Prototype, it was estimated that five minutes would be enough as he plowed the first handful of gravel on the roof.
Soon, the roof of the luxury ship was exposed. Fan Baiyan’s ship was exactly twice as big as Jiang Lin’s, and the top of the ship was surprisingly thick.
Fortunately, it had been powered on and the internal machine was still in operation. Tang Yibu pressed his palm up and carefully rewrote the program. Just like the ship they took last time, the roof of the ship slowly opened from the inside, revealing the luxurious layout inside.
The entire huge cabin was decorated like a bedroom. The antique wooden furniture was spotless, and the air was filled with the aroma of burning incense. The quilt was a satin style from the old days, dyed in a solemn and elegant dark blue.
Fan Baiyan specially installed a fake window in the cabin, with bright lakes and mountains on the other side of the glass. Besides the jade carving at the head of the bed, an old-fashioned phonograph was placed upright, and the record hadn’t been taken down. Tang Yibu wasn’t interested in Fan Baiyan’s careful arrangement. Putting the interferometer by the fake window, he stepped over to the console that had been transformed into a desk.
After entering the room, he only did three things. Turned off the alarm and turned on the light screen, then rushed straight to the annihilation point.
The ship let out a low beep, started smoothly, and slid silently into the darkness like a python. The jade carvings that had been placed smoothly shook and fell on the thick carpet. Tang Yibu raised the bow of the ship and rushed to the surface of the Sea of Ruins.
Will Mr. Ruan be there?
Will Mr. Ruan run away?
If he runs away, how will he catch him? Did he want to destroy the other party’s cybernetic brain?
Countless possibilities split in his mind and turned into the veins of leaves. Tang Yibu hummed a minor tune, unconsciously speeding up his progress. The dark Annihilation Point changed from a button to a dark lens, followed by a deep well, which expanded in the center of his field of vision and eventually became an eyeful of nothingness.
The Annihilation Point rumbled and turned, and there was no one nearby.
The corners of Tang Yibu’s mouth drooped. He jumped onto the top of the ship, swinging his legs, and began to confirm the time—the clock in Fan Baiyan’s room was just a decoration, and the pendulum hung there was motionless like a corpse. An electronic pointer flashed on the clock face, and the time pointed to eleven fifty-five.
Tang Yibu placed the interferometer on the ruins closer to the Annihilation Point and used Fan Baiyan’s collection of teacups to make himself a cup of ice cream. After completing all the preparations he could make, he licked his mouth while aiming at the time.
Tang Yibu called out the control light screen of the earring with one hand. Thinking for two seconds before he closed it again.
He started to get hungry.
Just when Tang Yibu successfully licked the tower-shaped ice cream into a sphere, a series of loud engine noises suddenly sounded in his ears. A dilapidated dingy ship circled from behind the half-broken building and rushed straight towards the Annihilation Point.
Tang Yibu put the cup in his hand down and lowered his waist as his back straightened like a drawn bow.
However, there was no Order Supervisor, strange pirates, or any other opponents on that ship.
The boat stopped nearby, and his partner rolled over from the top of the boat with one hand in his white coat. The iron bead stuck out its four thin feet from the circular hole, squealing. It looked like it wanted to rush over, but it was afraid of the dark void behind Tang Yibu, so it took the roundabout way and balanced its emotions—Tang Yibu watched it rush over in three steps, trembled, and took two steps back, then repeated the process.
His partner didn’t say much. Mr. Ruan ignored the crazy iron bead and stretched out his hand.
“Your boat is too high. I can’t jump on it. Give me a hand.”
“You are late.” Tang Yibu spoke pragmatically and grabbed his hand.
“Less than a minute.” After standing firm on the big ship, Ruan Xian scratched his hair. “The situation on the Walking Stone is more troublesome than I thought, but the matter is still under control… Forget it. Let’s finish this thing first, so we don’t get sucked in while chatting.”
The ruins were still advancing at a uniform speed, their ship was getting closer and closer to the Annihilation Point, and the screams of the iron bead became more piercing.
For those with sensitive hearing, this kind of screaming was tantamount to torture. Ruan Xian rushed to the interferometer irritably, frowning even more severely. “What’s that smell?”
“Soymilk ice cream.” Tang Yibu picked up his half-eaten cup and squatted on the high interferometer. The iron bead finally caught up with him, clinging to his ankle. “I have to make an excuse to put the interferometer in the room.”
“Okay.” Ruan Xian suddenly felt a little weak. He shook his head and focused on the matter in front of him.
“In general, you fulfilled your promise.” Tang Yibu spoke again while staring at Ruan Xian, who was poking and twisting on the console. “As for the reward… Would you like some ice cream? Shall I go get you a cup?”
“If you don’t shut up, I’ll run away and show you. Cooperation with partners is not like training dogs. Do try to remember for me.” Tang Yibu’s muttering was mixed with the scream of iron bead. Ruan Xian only felt that his head was about to explode.
He was breathing heavily, preparing for an earth-shattering sabotage, but the two things on the side persevered in destroying the atmosphere. They turned a serious situation that challenged the authority of the Mainbrain into something no different than repairing a sewer pipe.
Tang Yibu squatted down on the interferometer at a loss, licking his ice cream. The iron bead squatted at Tang Yibu’s feet, screaming tirelessly.
“Timing.” Ruan Xian slammed on the interferometer with a loud sound, his voice already full of anger, “We are going to hack this thing. We’re not here for sightseeing. Don’t keep eating. Hurry up and give me an accurate time. Any method is fine—the next attack must be timed accurately, as it won’t work if we miss by even half a second.”
After that, Ruan Xian pressed his temple. “By the way, shut that little thing up. It’s driving me crazy.”
Tang Yibu stretched out his hand and pressed the iron bead. After a blue shimmer, the iron bead retracted its four feet and rolled obliquely, making a small snoring sound in its throat. He carried it back to the cabin of the big ship, and after a while, the deadly background sound of a mess turned into a melodious song.
Ruan Xian recognizes this song from Carol Young’s “I’m With You”. It floated out of the cabin of the big ship behind him, and after amplification, the sound was fresh and moving.
“You can estimate the time according to the beat.” Tang Yibu shouted from the cabin, his voice almost overshadowed by the singing. “If the Prototype—”
“No problem, I know.” Thankfully, the needle-piercing irritability finally disappeared. Tang Yibu crawled out of the cabin. The android no longer jumped on the interferometer but squeezed to his side.
‘It’s warm,’ Ruan Xian thought.
Among the countless taut strings, one of them loosened uncontrollably.
“I’m responsible for adjusting the parameters in real time, and you are responsible for writing the impact program.” Tang Yibu stretched out his hands. Ruan Xian glanced at the other half of the console. Looking at this posture, they were a bit like pianists who were going to perform a four-hand piece.
“Okay,” Ruan Xian responded quickly. “Pay attention to the degree of the dial.”
They faced the dark void that was getting closer, their fingertips flying, passing the back of each other’s hands from time to time. Tang Yibu fixed the interferometer very well, but as the Annihilation Point got closer, it gradually tilted backwards.
The degree of trembling changed, and there was still a certain distance from their target value.
Ruan Xian swallowed it. The soothing and ambiguous ballad was still playing, and in this scene, there was a bit of sadness. He could feel the blood rushing into his brain and his heartbeat hitting his eardrums. Sweat seeped from the palms of his hands and his face stiffened a little.
The Annihilation Point was still a couple of steps away from them.
Tang Yibu suddenly separated a hand and poked him in the face.
“It’s okay,” the android said, with a little sweetness in his breath. “If worse comes to worse, we can just throw this thing away and I’ll run away with you.”
The two hands returned to the console again. Tang Yibu’s tone was very serious. “I have a lot of experience in this area.”
“Fuck you.” Ruan Xian sighed, his tension shattered by a sense of powerlessness. “I don’t like losing.”
The Annihilation Point was right in front of him.
Hearing the beat of the music, Ruan Xian tapped the keyboard a few times and slammed down the joystick. A sharp beep sounded, and the hands of the dial dangled and pointed to the target…
In the next second, the interferometer was completely engulfed by the Annihilation Point.
Tang Yibu grabbed Ruan Xian’s collar and jumped directly a hundred meters away.
“If you weren’t late, that distance should be just right.” Tang Yibu pointed out solemnly.
“Maybe you can wait for me to arrive before calculating the placement of the machine.” Ruan Xian grabbed his neckline with both hands. He was uncomfortable being strangled. “Well, I’ll pay attention next time.”
Tang Yibu picked him up and patted the dust on his white coat casually. The song “I’m With You” just came to an end, and after the final long noise, the prelude to another song sounded.
The ruins were squeezed under their feet, and deep cracks spread outward from the location of the Annihilation Point.
“Let’s go back to the ship.” Ruan Xian’s wrinkled collar crossed a crack. “The ruins here are starting to collapse, so you have to drive to a safe area first.”
To avoid stepping on empty space, he carefully stepped on a slate beneath his feet. The pleasant, familiar female voice sounded again, and he was even more impressed with this one…
The melody of “Step by Step” floated on the Sea of Ruins while Tang Yibu and him jumped between the cracks. Ruan Xian suddenly felt that this scene was quite comical.
“…It’s like dancing,” he muttered. If there was a beat, people would always be affected by it.
As a result, before this thought could leave Ruan Xian’s mind, Tang Yibu stopped. They were stepping on a slab the size of a basketball court, with exquisite marble floor tiles embedded in the slab.
“This isn’t a date.” Tang Yibu turned his face.
“That’s just an analogy.” Ruan Xian looked at the ruins in front of him and began to estimate whether he could jump over the cracks smoothly.
“But this is my first experience going on a date, and I’m a little curious.” Tang Yibu blinked and stretched out a hand. “But there are no movies, no games, no parks… Well, do you want to dance?”
Ruan Xian looked at the hand and didn’t return to his senses for a while.
The song poured into his ears, and Tang Yibu’s hands were astonishingly white in the noon sun. Everything had a vague sense of familiarity. Ruan Xian caught it and cut the feeling layer by layer.
‘Indeed familiar,’ he thought.
It may not be on such a whim for Tang Yibu to like this song so much that he would take the initiative to hum it. It took a lot of effort to realize this…
The android was humming backwards.
‘This may be an entry point,’ Ruan Xian thought. He needed to catch it himself, and he… also didn’t hate this song.
So he turned his back to the void that swallowed everything and grabbed the outstretched hand.