Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 74: Red Underpants
Tang Yibu stared at the wheelchair without blinking, his eyes blank. After a brief moment, he lowered his gaze, as if they had just found an extremely ordinary clue. In contrast, Ruan Xian was stunned for a longer time.
When he was still in the shelter, he saw the other Ruan Xian’s speech from the “Introduction Manual to Shade Shelter”. According to the situation at that time, this wheelchair couldn’t be replaced even if one wanted to—it was designed delicately, both on a technical and software level. It was equipped with a set of very high thresholds for replacement, not to mention that this was after the end of the world, where resources and technology were scarce. Taking a step back, not to mention the other “Ruan Xian” who was living twelve years later, when Ruan Xian himself was still living normally, his wheelchair was equivalent to some kind of unique advanced prosthetic limb created only for him, so it was useless for others to steal it.
Was the other “Ruan Xian” killed?
This was his first thought. According to the information provided by Tu Rui, Professor Ruan and Fan Linsong left the headquarters spontaneously after its collapse. It was still possible if it happened to be picked up by a local snake* like Qing Yigeng.
*Term used to describe the local gangster/mob boss in a community.
But Ruan Xian always felt that something was wrong.
If Qian Yigeng really killed Professor Ruan and didn’t want it revealed so as not to provoke the rebels from retaliating, he wouldn’t have hidden the wheelchair in such a conspicuous place. If he was Qing Yigeng, the first thing he would do was to dismantle the wheelchair and hide it in a pile of mechanical objects. Right now, that wheelchair was sitting nicely in a storage room, looking more like a parochial show.
“Has Ruan Xian’s illness improved?” Countless possibilities passed through Ruan Xian’s mind, and he chose the most likely one.
The illness in his body was completely banished, and it wasn’t in the realm of fantasy that the other Ruan Xian had found a way to cure himself in these past twelve years.
“I haven’t heard of it. If there is, it’s impossible for the rebels not to make a sound.” Tang Yibu pressed his hands on the console, staring at the mechanical wheelchair on the light screen as if he wanted to swallow it with his eyes. “They advertised once a few years ago, saying that Ruan Xian’s condition has been safely controlled and will not worsen—they didn’t mention a word about recovery.”
After taking a deep breath, Tang Yibu slowly shook his fists with both hands. “Do you know his illness?”
“I’ve heard a little bit. It seems to be a rare genetic type…”
“Yes, this kind of disease is best discovered in the fetal period and could be fixed with gene therapy if intervened in time. But when the technology was developed, he had already grown up and missed the best period for treatment. In theory, there’s no other way but to repair the cells of the whole body one by one, but if that’s done, his cells needed to be completely separated so that the nanobots could fully intervene. Not to mention that there’s a great risk it won’t be restored to its original state, even if it was successful…”
“The cells of the whole body including the brain cells, would be combined with a mechanical component. It would be difficult to classify him as a human,” Ruan Xian added quietly. “This would be a fatal blow to the rebels.”
“Yes, humans will not recognize a leader who has been transformed into a mechanical life.” Tang Yibu nodded, finally turning his gaze around. Ruan Xian could see the vague sorrow in it.
“Maybe he doesn’t want to work for the rebels anymore.” Ruan Xian began to look through other light screens again. “And he found a way to heal himself, then changed his identity and disappeared.”
This guess made him feel uncomfortable. The timing wasn’t wrong. If there was no so-called “another Ruan Xian” from the beginning…
“I have thought about this possibility.” Tang Yibu stopped moving and slowly took off the gas mask, revealing a somewhat pale face. “But he won’t do that.”
“Reason?” Ruan Xian also took off his mask and looked directly at the other party with his stomach churning for a while.
“Ruan Xian’s view of mechanical life wasn’t falsified. He’s a lofty man and won’t choose to become something he once spurned… According to Ruan Xian’s theory, if he transformed himself into a mechanical life, the newly produced thing wouldn’t be him. It would be no different from death.”
‘Too extreme,’ Ruan Xian thought. Then suddenly, he wanted to laugh a bit—he had always been an extreme person and there was nothing wrong with it.
“There is insufficient information. Random speculations are meaningless. With the wheelchair here, Qian Yigeng must know something.” Ruan Xian closed the topic. “Anyways, there are three possibilities: it was stolen from Ruan Xian, Ruan Xian found a way to regain his ability to walk, or Ruan Xian has been unfortunately killed.”
Tang Yibu still had his hands on the operation board and didn’t turn off the light screen.
“Yibu?” Ruan Xian scanned the light screen in front of him and spoke up, while Tang Yibu was still in a daze. The android stared at the wheelchair on the light screen, as if expecting it to grow its own mouth to explain.
“…What is the relationship between you and Ruan Xian?” Ruan Xian’s throat was a bit dry.
“If Ruan Xian dies,” Tang Yibu said mindlessly, in the same dry tone. “…Well, if he dies, it will only be a matter of time before MUL-01’s complete domination. Without observation samples, I’m afraid I’ll never be able to complete my project. What should I do then?”
Ruan Xian instinctively caught something unnatural from the other person’s expression, but he didn’t have time to distinguish its content. Tang Yibu’s next sentence completely attracted all his attention…
“Mr. Ruan, can you hug me?” The android turned his head with a blank expression. “I like the feeling of hugging you. It makes me feel better. I feel a little bad now.”
Tang Yibu showed a confused expression, as if he had experienced indigestion for the first time.
Ruan Xian stopped the hand operating the light screen and almost stepped on the person who had fainted on the ground. He looked at Tang Yibu, and the other party opened his arms in a very serious posture.
It was a great opportunity now to draw a clear line. He just needed to tell the android to focus on his work and use reason to stop the relationship that was deepening at an abnormal rate. The chain given by the other party was still nailed to his earlobe but…
A lunatic always obeyed their inner desires.
He smiled and walked forward, hugging Tang Yibu, who was slightly taller than him. The other party bent down, buried his nose in his shoulder, inhaled a little aggrieved, and his back trembled slightly.
“This is ‘anxiety’, I know,” the android muttered. “According to various signs, I am experiencing anxiety. I hate this emotion.”
“Shh, shh.” Ruan Xian smoothed Tang Yibu’s back. “He’s not dead. That’s just a possibility.”
“Ruan Xian” wouldn’t die. No matter if the other Ruan Xian had really died, he was still alive. Until now, the curiosity of knowing the truth had long overshadowed the desire for self-awareness. Now, Ruan Xian found that he could be many things, and the “Scientist Ruan Xian” wasn’t the most attractive option…
That was just the mask he chose to survive in society at the beginning, and now the concept of “society” was already crumbling.
Ruan Xian tightened his arms. There was someone who needed him right now more than anyone else. This knowledge made his hair stand upright, giving birth to some comfort and satisfaction that couldn’t be said to be dark or legitimate. In these short ten seconds, he suddenly became a lot richer, in a way he had never experienced before.
Without the collar locked by the other party, all this would be almost perfect.
Tang Yibu retracted the tip of his nose while quietly hugging Ruan Xian and sniffing for a while. He put his forehead against Ruan Xian’s forehead, rubbed contentedly, and breathed a sigh of relief.
“I’m better. Thank you for your hug.” The android’s pure gaze was a bit more comfortable, and his voice softened, with a vague hint of coquettishness. “Guess what I’m thinking?”
“You are thinking, ‘I must not let this person run away’.” Ruan Xian touched his earlobe and unconsciously raised the corner of his mouth.
“Yes.” Tang Yibu’s golden eyes were dim in the shadows, and his answer was light and cruel. “But that’s only half of it.”
“Hmm?” Ruan Xian completely put away all the light screens and began to combine circuit diagrams in his brain.
“I’m still thinking, I may not be able to tie you down, Mr. Ruan.” The android’s voice was very soft. “You are more dangerous than I thought.”
They looked at each other and laughed. Ruan Xian didn’t know what he was laughing at. He took two steps forward and saw burning possessiveness, vigilance, and a trace of natural killing intent in the eyes of the other party.
‘It was like a mirror that completely reflected his own emotions,’ Ruan Xian thought, and it only made his smile grow stronger.
Perhaps the gap between the other Ruan Xian and himself wasn’t that big. He could be crueler than anyone else. Ruan Xian stretched out his arm and pushed the back of Tang Yibu’s neck forward. His lips met those eyes that exuded infinite attraction.
“We’re the same.” He moved his lips silently.
Then he released his hand and his expression returned as usual. “I have cleared up the route. If you don’t find anything else on your side, then it’s time to meet with Qian Yigeng.”
Having said that, Ruan Xian put on the gas mask again.
Yu Le was in a bad mood.
After following Ji Xiaoman for three blocks, he began to feel like a pervert, or something even more wretched. The little girl shuttled through the increasingly explicit and ambiguous projections and slogans, with a heavy backpack hanging behind her, almost perfectly integrated into the crowd of people picking up waste products everywhere. In the boundless fog of light and shadow, the thin back revealed some indescribable pity.
He glued his gaze firmly to the backpack and navigated the crowded neighborhood as flexible as possible. However, his physique was too burly, and his head was too tall, which attracted the attention of a few people. When they found out that his target was a thin little girl, their eyes behind the gas mask showed varying degrees of contempt.
Fuck. All Yu Le’s thoughts turned into this word.
The former captain of the Walking Stones sighed for a while, and finally continued his tracking plan. Ji Xiaoman bowed her waist and tucked her shoulders, making her already slender physique seem to be even more nonexistent. She did a circle in the thick fog, passed through the rotten-smelling food market, slipped over a pile of garbage, and disappeared into the depths of the garbage mountain.
It was chaotic and dirty, and the fog was so thick that there weren’t many scavengers.
However, having survived in the Sea of Ruins, Yu Le had a natural instinct to hide. He walked around the garbage mountain halfway and kicked on the rusty iron door hidden in the corner. The metal plate made a hollow sound, and he shook his head. He propped the rusty board apart and jumped down carefully.
He leapt into an almost semi-abandoned corridor. Lots of rotting garbage was leaked through the iron gate. Slimy moss and ferns grew in the corners, covering the floor so much that it couldn’t be seen. Yu Le clenched the handle on his gun, continued to track the noise around the corner, and turned on the silencer function of his pistol.
In the beginning, Ji Xiaoman would turn her head every few steps while Yu Le followed her like a shadow, completely melding with her target’s rhythm. Finally, the young girl let down her guard and began to focus on moving forward.
Yu Le quickly discovered the reason for the other party’s peace of mind.
Other people began to appear in the corridor, but most of them were old men in suits. Several of them had a brief conversation with Ji Xiaoman for a while, guiding her to move on. The remaining two were heavily armed and began to move in his direction.
The surrounding doors were all welded tight with metal plates. Unless he turned his head and ran away now, it was impossible for him to escape the investigation of these two people. Unfortunately, escape had never been Captain Yu’s style. He hid the gun in his backhand and walked out with a grin.
“Hi, guys, where is this?” He said fleetingly. “I just watched a little girl get in, thinking there was something valuable. I have offended you, so I’ll just leave now. Sorry.”
If this was a serious place, and he wasn’t too far deep in, he would probably get a few warnings. If he rushed to make a move and this was the territory of the rebel army, a lot more issues could happen. However, seeing Ji Xiaoman’s reluctant appearance and the visitor wearing a silly suit, rather than the rebels, it was more like a pretentious gangster.
As a prisoner who had been around all kinds of scum and garbage for a long time, Yu Le chose to trust his intuition and tighten his every nerve.
The two people wearing gas masks confirmed his suspicion—they ignored Yu Le’s words and shot him directly. Yu Le barely dodged and almost landed on the ground with his ass.
“Alright, alright. Looks like it’s either fight or die. I’ll follow your rules.”
He spat, twisted up, and made an appearance like he was going to attack the two of them. As soon as the two of them turned their attention away and were about to maintain their balance, Yu Le quickly took out the hidden gun in his hand and, with two soft whizzes, the two men slowly slid to the ground. The bullet pierced their gas mask and hit them straight in their heads, killing them with a single blow.
Yu Le turned the gun in his hand, skillfully stripped off the clothes of one of them, and then moved the two corpses to the entrance of the tunnel. Enduring the nausea. He dumped the garbage nearby to bury them.
“Piece of cake, motherfuckers.” Yu Le wiped his hands vigorously on the other person’s clothes, pushed the gas mask back on his face, and put on the suit he stole.
An unpleasant sound of silk tightening sounded from behind him. Yu Le gasped, relaxed his body, and sucked in his stomach—Even though he took the biggest suit, that man was still shorter, and this suit size was one size smaller than his usual clothes.
Making sure that the back of his clothes hadn’t split open, he cleared his throat, pulled the gun and electronic wristband from the corpse’s hand, and followed in small steps. From the corner of his eyes, Yu Le kept careful watch of the cameras and avoided the small number of people in the corridor, walking against the wall in their blind spots, relying on his electronic wristband to open several doors along the way.
…Until he reached a perfectly sealed door that required biometric key verification.
Ji Xiaoman obviously had something to do with the local snake here.
If the local snake is Qian Yigeng, her commission could be regarded as eating inside and out*, and this could be used as a great bargaining chip. If the girl did it as a last resort, he could act depending on the situation and possibly earn some goodwill.
*(吃里扒外) Metaphor referring to living off one person while secretly helping another.
But if it wasn’t Qian Yigeng on the other side of the door, he might offend not only Ji Xiaoman but another powerful local snake here.
He was just a step away from the door. Yu Le stood straight outside, making it look like he was standing guard and patrolling while he quickly calculated in his heart.
He would watch the situation and act from there. The people here were like stuffed gourds*, so he could only try to pry it deeply once. Accustomed to the blood-soaked life, Yu Le weighed the gun in his hand and began to consider the total number of people he could take down with his weapon.
*(闷葫芦) Metaphor referring to something that can’t be guessed and is confusing and puzzling or people who don’t like to talk || In this context, it’s referring to the latter.
He once commanded the Walking Stones, and he knew better than anyone else. For a scattered gang like this, it was thousands of miles away from well-trained soldiers. At most, people would patrol, but they rarely stuck to their hours and things were rarely strictly enforced. Most wouldn’t meddle in other people’s businesses. He could just wait for someone to pass through and then sneakily follow them. As long as he made up a good reason, perhaps he could save some bullets.
And at that moment, two unlucky guys were walking this way. From their movements, it looked like they were going to enter the door.
When the two guys in suits saw him, they stopped slightly, as if they were suspicious. Yu Le hurriedly strolled over, lowered his voice, and nodded at the two of them. “New arrivals are waiting for you to enter. Please take care of them.”
The two froze suspiciously. Yu Le let out a chuckle, glanced at the camera that was turned away and was about to take action…
“Yu Le?” Tang Yibu’s voice came from behind one of the gas masks. “What are you doing here?”
“…” Yu Le wanted to wipe his face. He slowly hid the gun but couldn’t help wiping the gas mask instead. “I’m going to find someone to extort and sell favors. That little girl is shipping imitation cybernetic brains here.”
The shorter one nodded. “We know.”
“Awesome, did you go to the prostitute hall for a lap and play around, and now you have a full understanding?” Yu Le sighed in a low voice.
“What message did you ask π to send?” Ruan Xian couldn’t help laughing for a while. Through the gas mask, he could feel the signature innocence of Tang Yibu’s face. “…Never mind.”
“Anyway, that’s the news I have. Do you have any plans you want to share?” Yu Le turned around and raised his chin towards the door in front of him. “My suggestion is to go in—”
“Go in and get some information, create some chaos, and then hide,” Ruan Xian whispered quickly. “If someone is invading and robbing this place, Qian Yigeng will check and transfer his most valuable things. If he really has the mind access needle like Ji Xiaoman said, we can determine its location.”
“Wow, heroes, we see eye to eye.” While the camera was turned away, Yu Le shook his head. “We can’t be exposed now, Xiao Ruan. I’m not good at this high-tech shit. Do you have a quiet way of opening this door? Hey, Tang Yibu, what’s the matter with you? Why are you standing behind me? I’m sick and tired of having men standing behind my ass.”
Ruan Xian didn’t hold back this time and tried to rub his temples through the mask. He looked away and said nothing.
“Now is not the time to be exposed,” Tang Yibu responded solemnly.
“Didn’t I just fucking say it?”
“The back of your pants is split open,” Tang Yibu continued to say solemnly. “Your red underpants are too conspicuous. I have to block it.”
“…Can I kill you two now?”
The author has something to say:
Lao Yu: I’m better off just shooting the both of you.
An unhappy meeting with their teacher (???
Ruan and Tang are too crazy now (…), They are going to collide with each other XD