Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 75: Leverage*
*Handle (把柄) Metaphor referring to something that one holds leverage over in order to use and coerce others.
Ji Xiaoman had entered this room countless times.
Even if it wasn’t a big reception room, it was completely different from the ship she built herself. The surrounding walls were strong, and while the decorations weren’t luxurious, the room was clean. The air filter in the corner rumbled and buzzed, and the air smelled of smoke that pretended to be like sandalwood but only had the stench of garbage.
The wall on her left was full of various clocks, covered with varying degrees of gray, and the sound of the ticking second hand was mixed irregularly, almost driving people crazy.
Ji Xiaoman glanced coldly at the group of people at the table, then numbly put down her backpack; the blade on her prosthetic was ready to go at any moment. The big backpack was almost half the size of the little girl. It lay there by her feet, but no one dared step forward.
The men in suits stood quietly without taking off their gas masks. Ji Xiaoman knew the reason—the purpose of the so-called air filter wasn’t simple. As long as Qian Yigeng thought about it, it could turn this place into a gas chamber at any moment.
Qian Yigeng would not let the lackeys waste their time on the boring matter of taking off their gas masks and then putting them back on. He was happier to collect the masks of his guests.
Just as she was secretly grumbling, three more men entered the room and stood against the wall like the other thugs. However, because the three new arrivals were a bit prominent in height, the heads of the thugs standing in rows against the wall became more and more uneven, and the visual effect became quite poor.
‘Fakers.’ She said it in her heart and quickly retracted her gaze.
The gas mask was taken away when she entered the door. After putting the backpack away, Ji Xiaoman took off her coat. The skin was thoroughly damped by sweat, glowing with a bit of dirty water that caused the black vest to become darker in color. The mutilated arm muscles were obviously exposed, and the protruding ribs could clearly be seen on the exposed skin of her front chest. It was difficult to say whether the person was too thin or simply malnourished.
She bit her lower lip and stood in the center of the room, like a thin iron nail that couldn’t hit the ground.
“Xiaoman is here.” A fat man walked into the room through the back door. His face was firmly covered with a mask. He seemed to want to imitate the gang characters in films and television shows as he wore a formal black suit. Unfortunately, whether it was the narrow shoulders or the protruding beer belly, he looked more like a nouveau riche and didn’t give off any fierce vibe.
The fat man put his arms around a beautiful girl with a delicate face. She didn’t have her mask on, and her movements were stiff from fear.
“What are you doing standing. Sit down.” Qian Yigeng moved onto the sofa and instructed the woman next to him to pour him wine. “Xiaoman is a good name. After you join, I have more and more talents. Not to mention anything else, just today, a scientist wanted to join us.”
He shook the wine in his glass, didn’t take off the gas mask, but handed it back to the woman next to him. “Drink it.”
The girl smiled with difficulty, picked up the glass and drank it, almost choking on it. Ji Xiaoman didn’t say a word and had no intention of leaving the backpack to sit down.
“That’s a scientist, a great scientist. In the past, I’m afraid that those type wouldn’t even take one glance at people like me. You are still young and don’t understand this aspect. Uncle Qian taught you that it’s very important to see the situation clearly.”
Ji Xiaoman moved the backpack.
Qian Yigeng gestured to the man closest to him, and the man quickly stepped forward, opened Ji Xiaoman’s backpack, and took out a box. Ji Xiaoman menacingly popped out the blade of her prosthetic limb, a bit like a feline sticking out its own claws.
Qian Yigeng was dismissive of this. When the big box was presented to him, he opened it at will and took out the cybernetic brain that was blinking blue light. The artificial object with some gelatinous features spread out slightly in his palm, and the flickering suddenly brightened.
“No matter how many times you look at it, this thing is more beautiful than real brains,” Qian Yigeng said with emotion, carefully putting the cybernetic brain back in the box.
“It’s just that I recently heard some interesting feedback. As a creator, it doesn’t hurt to listen to it. Xiaoman, these things you make are so good… How can I put this? I have carefully selected a lot of personalities here, but as soon as this data is copied, while the personality performance isn’t an issue, but… Haa, the reaction is too machine-like.”
Ji Xiaoman rolled her eyes and looked at him.
“You know how we make money, right? I have collected old-fashioned cybernetic brains for so many years. As the boss of the Underground United City, I have searched for old-fashioned cybernetic brains for many years and uncovered only a dozen or so of them. Nowadays, it’s either a top brand or it’s sold out. The maintenance fee is enough to feed most of my people, but there are still a few chickens that will lay golden eggs.”
He paused deliberately for a while.
“That’s why I cherish talents like yours so much. If the brain performance isn’t good, the emotional intensity wouldn’t be real. People who come to me to play, you know what effect they want, but if they don’t have a sense of realism, they will be disappointed.”
“I know,” Ji Xiaoman muttered in a low voice. “A group of bastards who want to step on others but don’t want to feel guilty.”
“Isn’t everyone like this?” Qian Yigeng clapped his hands. “Let me just say it—Your goods have very good performance and have a longer life span than the ones I ordered before. That’s why their emotional expression is very stiff. I asked an expert to take a look. There are signs of internal damage to the emotional simulation circuit… Be careful when you make it. There shouldn’t be such a problem again, right?”
“Is there such a thing?” Ji Xiaoman’s tone didn’t fluctuate. “The technology is limited. I’m at this level.”
“Then I can only change back to the original channel. The quality of the imitation brains of the lame family is poor, but the emotional setting is intense, so the guest will like it more.” Qian Yigeng said lightly, pinching the woman beside him, causing her to instantly tremble.
Ji Xiaoman’s back tightened abruptly.
“As for your side… Your mother, I remember, has an old-fashioned cybernetic brain. As for the maintenance fee, you can charge the precious metal according to the previous amount, but the market isn’t good. Let me think about it. The price should increase by 50%.”
He pointed to a clock embedded in the wall, not standing out from among the crowd of other clocks. The color of the clock frame was a dark red that was a bit faded, and the plastic shell that wrapped the dial was covered with dust. Its hour hand was a small heart-shaped, the second hand moved extremely slowly, and the time didn’t match with the current real time.
Ji Xiaoman still stared at Qian Yigeng, not even sparing a glance at the clock that seemed to be covered by age.
“Round it to half past six, look at it. If I don’t accept this product today, you still have five and a half days to raise the funds.” Qian Yigeng’s voice showed some pride.
“That’s not a problem that needs to be repaired, and you have already increased the price once before.”
Ji Xiaoman’s chest heaved violently, and her blade made a rattling sound. The thugs closest to her raised their guns and aimed at the girl’s flesh.
“She’s obviously bad, and you took more than He An who’s in better condition. If you hadn’t added something to her mind…” She swallowed the second half of the sentence, her eyes full of resentment.
“Okay, then call it a protection fee if it makes you feel better? …So can the problem of your batch of goods be solved or not?” Qian Yigeng still looked indifferent.
“Yes.” Ji Xiaoman gritted her teeth.
“It’s good if you can. Take back this batch first. Can it be fix by tomorrow and brought back?” The fat man seemed to enjoy the other party’s anger as he was unable to hold back the smile in his voice. “This time, I got two beauties. It’s up to you.”
Ji Xiaoman silently pulled up her backpack. The metal fingertips brushed the rough cloth, making a slightly harsh sound. A man in a suit hurriedly rushed in from the door, ran to Qian Yigeng, bowed his waist and whispered something.
“What?” Qian Yigeng’s voice became angrier this time. “When?”
“Just now, Loach and Piebald wristbands were used, and the new people they got are gone. They didn’t decipher the equipment, and they just grabbed the wristbands and opened the door indiscriminately. They are probably thieves who came to steal things.”
“Did anyone catch them?”
“What are you still talking nonsense for? Go find them! Seal all the exits!” Qian Yigeng raised his voice. “Take this little girl to the research office—everything should be there for you, Ji Xiaoman. You can fix a few imitation brains, right? In short, before I find these people, no one can leave!”
“He An is still here…”
“Whatever. He got what he should have got. It’s up to him to explain that to Lao Fu. It’s more important to catch the thieves. It’s time to release the poisonous gas. Damn, if I lose something—”
“Let’s go catch them now!”
“Also, why are you standing there in a daze? Didn’t I tell you to take this little girl to the research office?”
Qian Yigeng stood up, ignoring the shivering girl who served him his drink on the sofa, and walked straight to the back door. The thugs rushed out in a mess, and one of them walked towards Ji Xiaoman, holding his gun steadily. Ji Xiaoman carried her backpack with extremely slow movements. Her eyes were red with anger.
As a result, not only one but three more came.
“We’ll go with you.” One of the big men had a low voice that sounded inexplicably familiar. The other two followed him closely, as if they were stuck behind him. “In case the thief who came here wants to intercept this batch of goods, we can’t leave you to handle this alone.”
The gunman glanced at the positions of the three of them, and then pondered the other party’s proposal for a few seconds, finding that it was reasonable.
“Alright,” he said. “Hurry up and go. Boss Qian is in a bad mood now, and he may vent his anger if we’re late.”
The gunman expressed his anxiety physically, walking like a fly. Ji Xiaoman carried her heavy backpack and reluctantly followed. The remaining three still stayed in their weird standing position as they advanced, intercepting her, but didn’t poke her spine with their guns. After about half an hour, they finally bypassed the goose-intestine-like corridor and rushed into a dimly lit area. The people here all wore hair covers and masks and looked like doctors in an operating room. Unfortunately, their gestures revealed the temperament of a canteen employee.
“Before Boss Qian gives instructions, you should wait here honestly.” The gunman carefully closed the door of the empty room, wiped the sweat from his forehead, and made a few gestures at Ji Xiaoman unceremoniously. “When the noise outside is over, someone will come to pick you up. Brothers, hurry up. It’s very tight here and she couldn’t run away even if she tried.”
“We’re here to watch her.”
“Then I have to lock the three of you here too. Listen to me, it’s very boring to be locked in here. It’s not worth it.”
“Lock it, lock it. Don’t be afraid of 10,000 but be afraid of the what if*,” the big guy said. “You know Boss Qian’s temper. There must be something wrong with this batch of goods—”
*(不怕一万，就怕万一) Proverb that means not to be afraid of the unexpected 10,000 occurrence but to be afraid of the unexpected occurrence that can happen once. It’s to warn people not to take things lightly to prevent accidents.
The gunman swallowed his spit, and quickly flashed out. Not long after, there was a click of the lock outside the door.
“There are no cameras here.” One of the guys stuck behind the big guy moved away.
“So what if there isn’t? If you dare touch me with a single finger, or say something I don’t want to hear, I’ll destroy this batch immediately.” Ji Xiaoman showed her blade and glared at them fiercely.
“…No.” The man took off his gas mask and revealed a handsome, gentle face. He no longer squinted, and his eyes were gleaming with the familiar golden color. “I mean, Yu Le can put his red underpants—”
“Shut the fuck up.” The big guy also untied his mask, with a painful tone of voice.
Ji Xiaoman didn’t react for a while. She stood still, instinctively protecting the big backpack behind her.
“There is no movement on Qian Yigeng’s side for the time being. It seems that he’s not anxious enough.” The last person to take off their mask was Ruan Xian. He breathed a sigh of relief, and a little sweat appeared on his forehead. “Yes, Miss Ji. The intruders are us.”
Ji Xiaoman didn’t show any sign of relaxation. She still stared at them vigilantly. Tang Yibu had already pasted himself to the locked door and was fiddling around with it with a metal wire.
“I need an explanation before we can help you get the mind access needle.” Ruan Xian wiped the sweat from his sleeve. “After all, whether it’s voluntarily or not, the fact is that you and Qian Yigeng are cooperating. The muddy water depends on the situation. We don’t want to be used as guns and then sold.”
The thin girl bit her lower lip, like a hedgehog with hard thorns all over her body.
“You didn’t know what we’re capable of yet, seeing a new face, you put forward such a proposal.”
Ruan Xian didn’t soften his tone because the other party was a little girl. He looked straight into the other party’s dark eyes and pressed on step by step.
“Now that you know how capable we are, there are two choices. Give us the information, and we’ll officially cooperate; keep our little secret, and whether you wanted to use us before or sincerely cooperate, we’ll leave now— and you’ll fix our car. It’s just a few extra days, rather than potentially losing our lives.”
Ji Xiaoman’s metal fingers clicked softly.
“…Cooperate.” She tried to squeeze the word out of her mouth.
“Then let’s talk about your mother and He An first.” Ruan Xian took another step closer. “It sounds like the old-fashioned cybernetic brain needs special treatment.”
Tang Yibu seemed to have figured out the door lock. He came over with interest and wrapped his arms around Ruan Xian’s neck affectionately, causing Yu Le to snort bitterly.
“Yes.” The girl didn’t react to their intimate posture in any way. “Whether it’s a guest who comes… or the owner who bought the android, they have to face this problem. Qian Yigeng doesn’t tell them in advance. He asked someone to add devices to all old-fashioned cybernetic brains.”
Her voice was hoarse, and her anger became more obvious.
“Once the time is up, it will empty all the data.”
“So those clocks—” Ruan Xian frowned and reacted quickly.
“Yes, if you want to keep your memory, you must pay for maintenance and let him reset the countdown… Those clocks are used as countdown timers.”
The author has something to say:
Boss Qian still doesn’t know what’s about to happen to him.jpg
Sister Xiaoman is also a ruthless person. Only the iron bead is innocent and cute (×