Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 60: Skirmish
“Professor Guan.” Ruan Xian accepted the communication request as naturally as possible. Yu Le raised his eyebrows and paused the music.
Guan Haiming was still in a white research suit that was a bit too big but without the irritable expression when he first met him. The dark bags under his eyes had not faded a bit, but his complexion had improved a lot. He was now glancing at Ruan Xian’s environment through the light screen.
The Ding Zepeng they knew also had on a white research uniform as he adjusted the data on the communication machine next to Guan Haiming. Ruan Xian could only see his side face.
Xiao Ding turned his head sideways and smiled slightly nervously at him. After a few weeks of not seeing each other, the simplicity and innocence in the young man’s eyes disappeared without a trace, and he looked a lot calmer.
“Are you in a car? What about 231?”
Without seeing Tang Yibu on the light screen, Guan Haiming really raised this question. Lao Yu turned around and listened to their conversation openly.
“231 is very good, don’t worry. We got a little information in the Sea of Ruins, and we’re planning to go to the Underground United City now,” Ruan Xian raised the corner of his mouth and responded calmly. “It just so happens that someone in the Sea of Ruins is going to the Underground United City, so we hitched a ride. The driver is listening intently. Would you like to say hello?”
“Comrades of the rebel army?” Sure enough, Guan Haiming’s brows frowned quickly when he heard that there were outsiders on the other side.
“No, just an ordinary pirate.” Ruan Xian told the truth and glanced at Yu Le. “Seriously, we’ve been through a lot in the past few weeks…”
Deliberately slowing down his tone, Ruan Xian carefully observed Guan Haiming’s reaction. Seeing Guan Haiming’s expression on the other side of the light screen showing a little anxiety, he quickly hit the iron while it was hot.
“I have to keep the details of the mission secret. There have been a lot of movements in the Sea of Ruins recently, so I don’t know if the situation on your side has deteriorated. Speaking of this, do you want to see 231? But we have to prepare. We just escaped from the Sea of Ruins. Everything is a mess right now, and we’re still cleaning up…”
Sure enough, Guan Haiming finally couldn’t bear it any longer. “Mr. Ruan, time is limited. Let me make the long story short.”
“Sorry.” Ruan Xian smiled. “I finally met someone I knew, and I talked a bit too much.”
“I still have four minutes and fifty seconds on my side.” Guan Haiming cleared his throat. “The distance of the Underground United City… Well, I think it’ll work. If I find another opportunity, I will contact you again.”
“How did you do it?” Ruan Xian stopped procrastinating. He gave Tang Yibu a wink, and the latter opened his bulging backpack knowingly and began to look around, making it look like he was extremely busy.
“You gave me Major Ding’s armor cracking algorithm before you left, and I contacted him. This time I just want to explain this matter, so I’ll talk quickly.”
“An Order Supervisor willingly cooperated with you?” Ruan Xian remembered Major Ding. Although the other party had a lot of gaps, he wasn’t an easy bone to chew.
“It doesn’t count.” Guan Haiming smiled wearily. “Judging from the information I have obtained, the Order Supervisor of Petri Dish No. 1036 doesn’t need to be hidden and will be ‘refreshed’ every day. Fifteen minutes before the normal refresh, the black box in his body will be turned off, and the spider-shaped monitoring machine in which he’s located will also enter a dormant handover state. Next, the Mainbrain will destroy the body that has been ‘used’ for that day and replace it with a new one.”
“In these fifteen minutes, the Mainbrain has no record of his behavior, unless he maliciously destroys something.” Ruan Xian didn’t go in circles any longer. “But this means that if it’s refreshed the next day… No, Major Ding, who was copied again, won’t remember what happened in those fifteen minutes.”
“Yes, it’s hard. We always only have fifteen minutes to talk, and even if we successfully reach a consensus, he won’t remember the next day, but the fifteen minutes during this period of time at least let me get to know him better. On this point, Zepeng on our side has also helped a lot.”
A smile finally appeared on Guan Haiming’s pale face.
“If I can successfully convince Major Ding within fifteen minutes to manually set a time for the shielding system and destroy the operation records, I can get a few minutes to contact the outside world.”
“Just like this.”
“Yes, just like this.” Guan Haiming sighed and glanced at the time again. “Although I don’t know who gave you the information, the information about the Underground United City should be reliable. My teacher once mentioned that there is a big headquarters there, but he personally doesn’t like it very much.”
“He stayed there 20 months ago. Ruan Xian and Fan Linsong had a falling out. Have you heard of this?”
“No.” Guan Haiming’s tone revealed a bit of surprise. “My teacher and Fan Linsong have a deep friendship, and their relationship has always been pretty good.”
“In other words, you don’t know about the Order Supervisors raid after that?” Ruan Xian paused for a few seconds.
“No.” Guan Haiming frowned, and the familiar irritable aura returned to him. “I can’t figure out why my teacher and Professor Fan had a falling out. They had a lifelong friendship. Professor Fan watched my teacher grow up from childhood…”
The light screen suddenly went out.
“At zero sharp, it seems that the magic has disappeared.” Yu Le started the car again and continued to play music. “That’s Guan Haiming, right? I have heard about him a few times, but I didn’t expect you two to recognize Ruan Xian’s students. What’s the matter? You two said you’re trying to find the headquarters of the rebel army, but you’re actually looking for Ruan Xian.”
“Yes.” Tang Yibu finally stopped digging through his backpack. He stuffed the electronic paper that he dug out casually into Ruan Xian’s hand and actively took over the conversation. “We really didn’t tell Mr. Tu directly. It’s not like we can go up and say ‘please tell us the whereabouts of Ruan Xian’… I don’t think it would be a wise choice.”
“I see.” Yu Le took the bag of dried squid legs from the passenger seat and held it in his mouth like a cigarette. “At least in this way I can safely take you two to the ruins of the rebel army… Err, but how interesting. Xiao Tang, Guan Haiming doesn’t seem to care much about you. What is 231?”
“The code name of a certain thing. We didn’t come to find Ruan Xian empty-handed just to say hello.” Ruan Xian smoothly took over. “Yibu and Guan Haiming don’t have a good relationship, so it’s easier not to meet.”
The squid’s beard swayed up and down beside Lao Yu’s mouth. The former pirate leader glanced at them meaningfully through the rearview mirror and murmured something.
“Mr. Ruan.” Tang Yibu immediately got up from the seat; his voice soft. “Don’t talk about this kind of sore spot. I’m sleepy.”
“Then go to bed.” Ruan Xian picked up the electronic paper he got from the refuge and pretended like he was reading a book. The night outside the window was becoming darker. The iron bead had already fallen asleep on his knees, and it almost rolled to the ground.
“Are you not sleeping?” Tang Yibu’s voice became softer, even a bit coquettish.
‘Truly good at acting,´ Ruan Xian thought.
“…I’ll read the book for a bit.” In order to ensure their safety, Lao Yu turned off the light, so it was extremely dark. The electronic paper emitted a faint light in the dark that just allowed Ruan Xian to see the words clearly.
“Oh, okay.” Tang Yibu curled up his long legs, turned around, and put his head straight into Ruan Xian’s thigh.
The android cruelly pushed off the sleeping iron bead, causing it to slam onto the carpet. It clicked its mouth twice in protest.
The space was narrow. Ruan Xian didn’t try to hide it and just sighed. In the past two days in front of Yu Le, as his disguised lover, Tang Yibu didn’t make any rude acts of intimacy. At most, it was just a hug or rubbing his cheeks, like he was taming a large beast.
He lowered his gaze and faced the golden eyes. Tang Yibu’s slightly long black hair was scattered around his face, and the person was looking at him without blinking.
“What? Do you want to have a bedtime story?” Ruan Xian shook the electronic paper in his hand and grabbed the soft black hair. “From the start, Guan Haiming only gave me theoretical books.”
“You like my eyes and I like your voice. That’s a fair exchange of information.” Tang Yibu squinted his eyes comfortably and almost let out a soft grunt. “Just say something. Anything is fine.”
“Good night,” Ruan Xian said calmly, continuing to look at the electronic paper. Tang Yibu hummed in frustration, turned his head in the direction of Ruan Xian’s knees, and closed his eyes.
In order to monitor Yu Le during the past two days, Tang Yibu never really closed his eyes. After the iron bead rolled to the ground, it slept vigorously in the corner of the carpet. Even mechanical life couldn’t escape the need for sleep. Though Tang Yibu could last a few more days since he had human tissue in him, he would have a similar sense of fatigue.
Now that the environment had stabilized, the android was lying on his lap, soundly asleep. His exposed neck in front of him showed the pale blue of blood vessels that could be faintly seen under his fair skin, giving people the illusion of fragility.
Ruan Xian gently stroked Tang Yibu’s soft hair for a while, trying not to move, focusing his gaze on the electronic paper in his hand. In fact, he had already read the things in it, so much so that he could recite them backwards, but he needed a prop so that he could think more naturally…
[They had a lifelong friendship. Professor Fan watched my teacher grow up from childhood…]
There was no need for Guan Haiming to lie about this matter.
If the other “Ruan Xian” and Fan Linsong got along happily, this was still within his acceptance range. Even if Professor Ruan claimed that he was happy in his childhood, he could treat it as a beautified speech, but this kind of detail didn’t need to be falsified at all.
Before entering the institute, his understanding of Fan Linsong was limited to his papers and achievements. They had never met, let alone Fan Linsong, who was watching him grow up. It was estimated that only the Citizen Risk Assessment Department would watch him in this way, but even for government agencies, people would work in shifts every few years.
Holding the electronic paper in one hand and Tang Yibu’s strands of black hair in the other, Ruan Xian’s expression became more serious.
What’s more, he had never had a good impression of Fan Linsong. His other “self” didn’t seem to be like him at all.
Time passed. Ruan Xian was still contemplating when Yu Le, in front of him, suddenly slammed on the brakes. The iron bead nestling in the corner slammed into the car wall violently, and Tang Yibu almost rolled off his seat. Amidst the screams of iron bead, the android propped up his body and rubbed his eyes.
“I don’t know.” Ruan Xian rubbed his sore leg and passed the second half of the sentence with his earring. [There are people nearby, more than a dozen.]
“I knew we didn’t have such good luck.” Yu Le snorted and picked up the gun in one hand. “Arm yourself, boys. I dare not use this car to run over the bastards in front of me.”
“What’s the matter?” Ruan Xian humbly asked.
“A bunch of bastards.” Yu Le grinned. His expression wasn’t like a smile but more like a threat. “They don’t have the guts to go to the Sea of Ruins to pan for gold, and they can’t stay in the Underground City, so they’re stuck out here doing robbery. Didn’t I tell you? If you want to go to the Underground City, this road is the best way.”
“The Mainbrain doesn’t care about this?” Tang Yibu muttered, with a confused drowsiness on his face.
“These bastards won’t last long. After all, there are no supplies, so they can only eat by stealing things. They’re all a bunch of nasty shits.”
It was obvious that Yu Le’s mood had become terrible.
“There won’t be any strong forces that cross the dead wall. It’s ordinary people who engage with ordinary people.”
“An ordinary person is walking here with an enhanced laser cannon.” Tang Yibu patted the car seriously. “Yu Ge, you’re about to lose your life.”
“Fuck them.” Yu Le slapped the steering wheel. “You two have both touched a gun before. I’m staying here to watch the car. Go!”
“…You’re not going?” Ruan Xian protested tactfully, even though he had already guessed the other party’s answer.
“I have to guard the car with my life and can also provide distraction.” Yu Le rolled his eyes. “I’m the only one who can drive this car. You want it to sit here and become a fixed target?”
“Okay.” Tang Yibu yawned and skillfully took a long gun from the back seat. “I want to listen to ten Carol Young songs later.”
“Deal.” Yu Le flicked the door impatiently.
Tang Yibu tugged at the corner of his mouth.
“I like the night, Mr. Ruan.”
Before getting out of the car, Tang Yibu approached Ruan Xian’s right ear and whispered softly, “…Since only humans can’t see at night. Let’s go.”
The author has something to say:
Tang: The real get up and go.
Ruan: (Touches head)