Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 69: The Other Side of the Window
Ji Xiaoman’s hands that were attached to the prosthetic limbs were like steel insects. To be fair, they were less like normal human hands and more like deformations based on the bones of a hand structure. The metal fingers were thin and sharp that she could even twist a needle with them. The joints were embedded with fine parts that slid silently as if the pile of metal seemed to have life.
Right now, she was holding a twisted metal ruler, drawing on a slightly dirty piece of paper. After throwing out her last sentence and getting no response for nearly ten seconds, Ji Xiaoman raised her head and looked at Ruan Xian, who was silent.
The young female shopkeeper was originally short, and she didn’t like to look up when she saw people, so she had to roll her eyes to look. Her facial features could be said to be delicate and beautiful, but because of her habit, she was slightly gloomy and gave people a very unfriendly feeling.
“My purpose is very personal. I don’t want to say it. In short, I won’t do anything bad, and no matter what it is, it won’t be worse than Qian Yigeng,” she said dreamily while putting the leaky pen back on the table. “I understand if you don’t agree. This isn’t an easy task.”
“Create anyone.” Ruan Xian chewed on the sentence that Ji Xiaoman had said.
“Yes, as long as you have sufficient information. It’s similar to forging an oil painting.” Ji Xiaoman’s voice fell a little lower again, and the little joy that had just appeared was gone. “If you don’t want to do it, then just leave quickly. It’s only a week longer. You can wait.”
“We’ll take a look first.” Yu Le immediately found a way to help himself. “This requirement be counted?”
This time Ji Xiaoman didn’t lift her head, but just nodded.
“Is there a place to live near here?” Yu Le rubbed his hands together and gave that warm look again. “Miss, look, we are not familiar around here…”
Ji Xiaoman ignored him.
“Tsk, that little girl.” Yu Le returned to the car bitterly and lay down in the driver’s seat. “Not flattering at all.”
“We can’t live in the car for this whole time. It’s too conspicuous here. It’s only a matter of time before we get targeted.” Ruan Xian shook his head.
These days, people didn’t carefully verify whether there were really supplies in the car. As long as they thought there was, they would simply take action. Just like Tang Yibu’s golden eyes could lead to danger, facts would always become weak in face of imagination.
Ruan Xian didn’t mind releasing the demon in his heart and guessing every pessimistic thing.
Tang Yibu jumped into the car one step after the other. The iron bead screamed and jumped to the top of Tang Yibu’s head familiarly. The android sat down in his seat, still holding half a can of peaches in his hand, but he didn’t seem to have any intention of continuing to eat.
“Do you want to go back to midtown?” Yu Le, who was lying on his side, opened a bag of hardtack and kicked the steering wheel with his foot. “Seriously, you two don’t really want to plan to try it? It’s just stealing something. The two of you have the ability to cause trouble under Fan Baiyan’s eyes. This trivial matter shouldn’t be an issue—we can get the car fixed early, and I can lead you to the ruins of the rebel army faster. Then we can dissolve this group.”
“I want to stay here.” Ruan Xian didn’t look at Yu Le. He stared at his white coat that had been dyed beyond recognition.
There was a delicate plastic buckle embedded in the white jacket, and the holes in his stitching were filled with dried blood and dirt. Time had passed and technology had come to the front of his cognition, but other things hadn’t changed for hundreds of years.
He fiddled with the dirty button with his fingertips. “Whether we steal it or not, I want to find out more information about Qian Yigeng.”
In any case, intelligence was necessary.
Even if they didn’t plan to take on that absurd request, they still needed to stay in this maze-like city for more than a week. It was better to get more information down here. Judging from the rules of the curfew, midtown may not be any safer than here. At any rate, the lingering poisonous fog could restrict the activities of some people.
On the other hand, if Qian Yigeng really came into contact with the other “Ruan Xian”…
“Okay, then I’ll buy a camouflage net and hide the car first. I just saw one in the store, and I don’t believe that little girl will remain silent.” Yu Le yawned. “That Tu Rui actually wanted laozi to live here for a year and a half… This is no different from going to a fucking prison. It’s better to be in the Sea of Ruins. At least the air is good.”
Tang Yibu didn’t participate throughout the conversation.
Since Ji Xiaoman explained the purpose of that thing, the android hadn’t said a word. He held the can peaches solemnly, frowning slightly, as if he had encountered a difficult problem in life. If it weren’t for the meaningless rattling of the iron bead on top of his head, this scene would be more serious.
Ruan Xian subconsciously wanted to ask him “What’s the matter”, but when he was about to say it, he swallowed it back. The relationship between them was a bit too much, and he didn’t want to make it any more difficult.
Rejecting temptation from the beginning was always the best way to resist it.
“I’m with Mr. Ruan.” After Tang Yibu was silent for a long time, he pulled the iron bead off his head and held it in his arms. He didn’t give a reason and just held Ruan Xian’s shirt with one hand.
“Are you afraid that I will run away?” Yu Le raised his eyebrows.
“You showed no signs of lying just now. You want to repair this car.” Tang Yibu held the slightly deformed can of peaches. “We know where to find you.”
“Okay, okay.” Yu Le yawned again. “I’ll take care of our Miss Icy. When you two are done, remember to come find me. Now that I’m going to sleep, what are you two going to do?”
Ruan Xian buckled back the half-face gas mask, stuffed some rations into his pockets, and pinned two conspicuous guns on himself. He jumped out of the car and plunged into the fog. Tang Yibu followed closely behind with the iron bead running around beside him, swallowing up the fog, looking like it was in a good mood.
They walked out for more than ten meters before Yu Le and the armored off-roader were engulfed by the fog. Now, only all kinds of lights and projections were still particularly clear in the fog, like some kind of fantasy movie with cheap special effects. Moans and laughter came from the gloomy buildings, mixed with a lot of crying and screaming.
A dark and sticky environment. Unlike in the Sea of Ruins, Ruan Xian no longer felt nervous. Such close proximity to the composition of “society” gave him a strange sense of security in returning to the shadows. He walked through the messy alleys like capillaries and walked towards the place where the voices were most dense. Since Qian Yigeng was the leader of a gang, it wasn’t feasible to just casually ask anyone randomly. He needed to carefully select his target. Besides, people would inadvertently spread all kinds of information in the air.
The building in front looked vaguely like a market.
Unlike the primitive settlements like the Sea of Ruins, the shops here retained their windows. Countless glass windows were crowded together. Many of them had beautiful bodies of both men and women that were almost naked and were scratching their heads and posing behind the windows. They stood in different environmental projections with their eyes blurred. All kinds of skin and hair colors were available. There were some who were dyed in bright, unnatural colors and had metal studs embedded in their lips.
They had only one thing in common. They all had beautiful golden eyes and didn’t seem to know what fatigue was.
Ruan Xian could hear the heartbeats of those people. No matter what was in their heads, their bodies were undoubtedly human. He stopped in front of the shop window. A naked young girl was pounding on the glass. Her golden eyes were full of fear and pleading.
On the thick glass where she was imprisoned was a note: [Procedural effect. Please don’t take it seriously.]
The girl was very short, and her figure still retained the characteristics of a teenager. Ruan Xian couldn’t’ even judge whether she was an adult. These scenes began to make him feel uncomfortable. The man leaning against the door clearly misunderstood his gloomy face.
He was wearing a fancy shirt, and the hem of the shirt hung sloppily and was studded with sequins like fish scales. His hair was also dyed colorfully, which was off-putting, like a peacock that had suffered from skin disease.
“If the customer wants it, you’ll get it. You can choose whatever you want from age, appearance, and figure. We have everything you desire.” The man puffed out a ring of yellowish smoke. “The best imitation cybernetic brain on the market will never have a reaction time of more than three seconds, which is different from those junk that will crash.”
He exhaled again and casually glanced at Tang Yibu behind Ruan Xian. “Yo, is he your pet? Sorry bud, we don’t have any men at our store.”
Ruan Xian didn’t speak. He glanced at the girl in the window again. Tears were rolling down her cheeks as she kept pounding on the glass while mouthing “help”. There was a conspicuous copper coin inscription* that was branded on her left arm.
*Qian (钱) in Qian Yigeng means money, which is fitting why his brand is a copper coin.
“Oh, that model is our store signboard. Tiantian-Q2. Very pitiful, right? Many people like this tone.” The man’s excitement came up when he found that Ruan Xian didn’t intend to leave. “We also have well-behaved and obedient types, but they don’t attract as many guests as this one. If you want to add some fun, we can set her to a special name, such as—”
“Your shop isn’t big,” Ruan Xian interrupted the man’s chatter.
“You can’t say that. Those specialty restaurants also limit the number of guests, right? In order to provide better service, I only accept one person at a time. You can choose the environment and scene setting, but the price…”
“Really? Why do I think the business here isn’t very good? I’ll take a look, but without a guarantee, who would dare enter and play.” Ruan Xian used his spare time to look at the security of the facility.
The large word “vacant” was projected at the entrance of the store, and special effects with bells and whistles were also added. Through the reflection of those words, Ruan Xian found a beautiful cooper coin inscribed on the door of the shop, exactly the same one he saw on the girl’s left arm.
“This shop is under Boss Qian. Have you heard of him?” Seeing the cooked duck begin to flutter its wings, the flower peacock looked a little anxious. “You’ll definitely not find such a realistic character anywhere else. The other stores on the edge are full of trash that is no different from an inflatable doll. Your health is also guaranteed. Boss Qian wants us to disinfect it every day!”
“I’m relieved to hear you say that.” Ruan Xian moved his feet and walked into the ambiguously decorated store. The man smiled and snapped his fingers, and the “vacant” at the door became “occupied”.
The shop was lit with cloying incense. Ruan Xian didn’t take off his gas mask. He smelled the ingredients of medicine from the incense. Countless light screens squeeze into the already small space, making it even more suffocating with different environmental scenes and girls’ costumes displayed on them.
“What kind of setting and character selection do you want? The prices are all marked. A well-maintained gun with ten rounds of bullets can give you a mid-ranged normal type. Three guns can get you an exciting play. As long as they aren’t killed, we will provide medical treatment. If you can come up with something good, you can kill or take them away… Oh, you can take off your gas mask. It’s okay, we filtered the air here.”
Watching Ruan Xian step across the threshold with both feet, the flower peacock became much more attentive than just now. From beginning to end, he didn’t look at Tang Yibu, who was following Ruan Xian, as if Ruan Xian was holding a dog or cat.
Ruan Xian took a breath, slowly took off his mask, and the flower peacock’s eyes lit up.
“Sir, your face is really nice. It’s very pleasing to the eyes.” He then turned his gaze to Tang Yibu, and his eyes became brighter. “You have good taste. Let me give you a discount for your first time. I’ll knock off one gun. Two guns, play whatever you want. What do you think? No, no, 30 rounds of bullets are enough, and we’ll add on the champagne that we normally give to members.”
“Ok,” Ruan Xian said succinctly. “Just the girl outside.”
“Good choice. Choose an environment. She will never let you down.”
“Let’s get your best seller.” Ruan Xian slapped the gun on the counter that he held at his waist. “I’ll give the bullets when I see her.”
“Then you wait here, just ten minutes. I’ll go get ready.” The flower peacock smiled and bowed as he guided them into a small room with complicated vulgar decorations, and then gently closed the door.
“What are your plans?” Once the man left, Tang Yibu immediately asked. “Just now, you have no signs of sexual excitement.”
“…You even observe this?” Ruan Xian’s face stiffened, and he squeezed a sentence from between his teeth.
Tang Yibu looked innocent. “This door is soundproof. That person can’t hear us.”
“It’s not about soundproof… Forget it.” Ruan Xian wiped his face. “When he comes over again, we will start the plan. This person knows a little about Qian Yigeng.”
“Then it’s more appropriate to start just now.” Tang Yibu seemed to have recovered a little from his unexplained depression.
“His enthusiasm is not natural.” Ruan Xian knocked on the armrest of the sofa with his fingertips, “If there is a discount for the first time, he should’ve said it when we were outside. There’s fraud in this matter. First… Shhh.”
Generally, soundproofing didn’t stop the detection of an S-type Prototype.
“I’ve come across two good ones. They are white faces, and there’s oil in water*. One of them is an android. If it’s an intact old-fashion cybernetic brain, we’ll send it.” The flower peacock seemed to be talking to someone, and his voice was very low. “You’ll know it when you see it. A first-class sample! Didn’t Boss Qian ask us to pay attention to new models this time? Don’t talk nonsense. Get a car quickly. You’ll see. It’s definitely different from previous times. Boss Qian will approve…”
*Phrase that means there’s some extra benefit in something. || In this context, he’s basically saying these two white faces (noobs) can be taken advantage of.
“It seems we can’t go back tonight.” Ruan Xian prattled. “I hope Yu Le doesn’t think we ran away.”
“No.” Tang Yibu gestured at the iron bead for a while and let it out of the window.
The iron beads squeezed through the barbed wire with difficulty, making a loud rattle.
“It’s okay. Go back and tell Yu Le immediately. Be obedient.” Tang Yibu took out a pen from his pocket and wrote something on a candy wrapper and stuffed it into the gap of the iron bead’s shell. The iron bead reluctantly rubbed Tang Yibu’s hand and then bit off the plastic pen holder.
“It’s ready.” The entangled iron bead had just disappeared on the other side of the window as the flower peacock returned to the room. “Come with me, sir. Do you want to store this android or…?”
“He comes with me.”
“That’s fine too.” The flower peacock’s expression twitched. “The champagne is on the head of the bed. Be careful not to break it. Next time, there will be a fee… Oh, you can’t take it out either.”
“Of course.” Ruan Xian grabbed Tang Yibu’s wrist. “We will never miss it, will we, baby?”