Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 142: Old Friends
Yu Le was seriously questioning his life.
Thinking about it carefully, why didn’t he blow up at that moment in the Sea of Ruins? In that way, he would always be the great ruins pirate who occupied the most territory in the Sea of Ruins, living arbitrarily while dying heroically. Right now, he felt more like a bear breaking corn*—he came across a few petri dishes and rejected them, not settling down, which directly led him to his current predicament.
*Describe the process of continuous acquisition while continuously giving things up until they end up with nothing in the end. It comes from the story about a bear breaking off some corn, putting it in its armpit, but seeing other, better corn, so it kept breaking them off and tucking them in its armpits, causing the previous one it gathered to fall off. Eventually, after a hard day of harvesting, it ended up with only one corn.
Yu Le straightened his slightly messy hair with his fingers and inhaled deeply. There was still the same confusing scene outside the window, but he wouldn’t be fooled again.
The armored off-roader stopped steadily on the beach.
A few minutes ago.
Although the sound of sand and dust hitting the car window was clear and real, the feeling of driving wasn’t deceptive. The car didn’t advance on dry, hard land. The attacker simulated the touch as much as possible, but as a former pirate who was adept at this, Yu Le was still able to find subtle differences in the feel.
There was sand and water. Combined with the direction of their progress, his armored car was semi-soaked in the sea and was heading deeper towards it.
But fuck it.
Yu Le rolled his eyes at the scene of the wasteland in front of him, activated the underwater mode of the vehicle, and carefully steered, as if what he held in his hand wasn’t a steering wheel but some kind of weird scalpel.
He operated the vehicle carefully, feeling every tremor caused by the rotation of the off roader. He used to steer a giant pirate ship that burned shuttle agent, and any small error would lead to the death of the entire crew. At that moment, it wasn’t difficult for him to judge the condition of the car only by the subtle reaction that the enemy couldn’t erase.
The car sank and the sand under the tires became solid, indicating they had returned to a safe direction. Ji Xiaoman adjusted her arms with a serious expression, as if she didn’t care whether Yu Le intended to drive the car into the deep sea or a crater.
“We’re under attack.”
The two spoke almost at the same time. Yu Le let go of the steering wheel, clenched a gun in one hand, and nudged his shoulder. “You first.”
“My prosthetic is missing a part. The weight of one knuckle is gone. It may have been broken during the landing.”
Ji Xiaoman moved her metal fingers.
“No one can see the internal parts, so there are no missing parts. The outside is also equally as fine. According to Tang Yibu’s theory… Someone should have observed my other hand and covered it with the same perception… In order to keep us from finding out that ‘we’ve come to the island’.”
“The state of the car isn’t quite right,” Yu Le said smoothly. “The mess just now could be explained. They want to separate us and break us one by one. The car has been running for a while, so it’s too late for Xiao Ruan to react.”
“There should be a clue in the car.” Ji Xiaoman had already begun to grope and rummage around. “They can’t see the inside of the car from the outside, so the situation here shouldn’t be disguised. We shouldn’t go to the island unprepared.”
“Find clues first, then we’ll see what’s going on outside.” Yu Le made a quick decision, activated the body value detection system, and adjusted the light screen to an angle that couldn’t be seen from the outside. “Little profiteer, you’re small. I adjusted the light transmission of the glass behind the car. After you find something, go back and observe—you’re going to be the ‘dark sentry’.”
Yu Le groped around casually and, as a result, found an empty bag of squid feet that had the toothmarks of the iron bead remaining on it. He breathed a sigh of relief, got a lady finger, and put it in his mouth, trying to ease his nicotine addiction.
“Look at my physical condition on the light screen. Our senses now may not be accurate. Xiao Tang said the state of our bodies won’t lie though.” It was impossible for the outside people to know that he had activated this function. This was done just in time so he could use it as a detector.
Ji Xiaoman lengthened her face and didn’t seem to like this proposal very much.
“Hey, you’re thinking it’s because you’re a chick that I’m letting you do it?” Yu Le continued to drive forward cautiously. “Come on, Miss Profiteer. Although I don’t want to admit it, I prefer fighting hand-to-hand and can’t stand your messy little mechanisms. Besides, you’re so small. Or are you saying a 1.9-meter-tall man like me should go and make a surprise attack? People would be lifting their heads up before I even approach.”
“I want to rip your head off now—if you die, this car won’t start and it’ll give me more trouble,” Ji Xiaoman said sorrowfully. The voice wasn’t loud, but the deterrence was enough.
“You’re underestimating me. It’s not that easy to kill me.” Yu Le narrowed his eyes. “Have you found anything? Stop talking nonsense.”
Ji Xiaoman rolled her eyes at Yu Le and threw the old-fashioned cellphone on Yu Le’s lap. “The situation should be better if you observe it in abnormal ways.”
“Oh, this method is good.” Yu Le reacted quickly. He directly fixed the cellphone in front of the car with a robotic arm and opened the glass barriers between the front and rear seats. The small screen showed the shadow of the tree beside the beach.
Ji Xiaoman shrank up in the back seat, staring at Yu Le while eating lady fingers. After a few crunching sounds, she finished it off and recovered some energy and began to look at the outside through the cellphone camera.
“It’s different, I know.” Yu Le looked at the screen on the display intently.
“No, it’s dawn.” Ji Xiaoman pointed out the window. “It seems that a lot of the foreign influence has been removed.”
Only then did Yu Le raise his eyes and saw the sparkling sea. The rising sun was like a little melted gold. The sky had become clear and blue, and the edges were attached to the morning glow from the rising sun, creating a scene of tranquility.
However, the noise of the air conditioning in the back row made the sound quite incompatible with the current scene.
In the end, she was a young girl who grew up among the poisonous fog of the Underground City. Yu Le shook his head regretfully. Those who have seen such a scene like himself wouldn’t be shaken just now. After sighing in his heart, he turned his head to Ji Xiaoman’s side.
Then he inhaled deeply, drawing in a breath that was even louder than Ji Xiaoman.
‘Crazy,’ he thought.
The inside of the island was completely distorted. The closest thing to them was a huge ceramic doll’s head that he conservatively estimated to be about 30 meters high. Its color flaked and a small piece was broken off, while the remaining parts were marked with conspicuous cracks. Visceral flesh and blood trailed out of its head and were piled on the other side of the island; they were still twitching and pulsating, with a moist luster. The long feet of several insects extended out from nowhere, constantly stretching and curling, which was equally as large and frightening.
The only eye left on the ceramic doll was a little blue, and it looked at them indifferently.
Damaged colored building blocks, blood-stained blunt instruments, decaying books, squirming shadows; they mixed in different sizes and covered the entire island in a weird fusion. Further away, golden confetti rained down on iconic buildings of various countries that were inserted into the ruins like candles on a cake. Everything was illuminated by the brilliance of the rising sun, undulating in some bizarre way, as if it was breathing.
Truly a nightmare. Yu Le slowly swallowed. No wonder the ratings of Struggler II were so high. This scene must seem particularly exciting to the outside world. However, as a person up close to this nightmare, Yu Le couldn’t wait to turn around the car and drive it into the sea again.
In contrast, the prevention shelter in The Glass Conservatory was quite lovely.
“I should cherish the Sea of Ruins.” Yu Le murmured. “Fuck, laozi’s original life was so normal. Not to mention a year. If I stay here for a month, I might really go insane.”
The broken head of the ceramic doll trembled and turned around, bringing up dust as birds flew away. Its facial features were slightly distorted as it tried to squeeze out a smile.
As an experienced mechanical hunter, Ji Xiaoman shivered visibly to the naked eye.
“It’s like… It’s like entering the brain of a mentally ill person.” It took her a long time to find her voice.
“More like entering the brain of a group of psychopaths.” Yu Le made a feeble correction. “Little profiteer, are we still proceeding?”
Ji Xiaoman stared at the broken ceramic head, shaking like a sieve for a while before finally settling on her thoughts.
“Go,” she said, picking up the phone and looking out the window. In the picture taken by the camera, there was no distortion. Only a little pile of ruins of a building obscured by the forest could be seen. “It’s not real anyway.”
“Come on, you’re stuttering.” Yu Le didn’t look at the eerie scene anymore. He adjusted his state for a while and continued to move towards the forest. “Let’s go if we can bear it. As far as the virtues of those two crazy boys are concerned, if we’re to retreat here, most likely we won’t be able to touch even a single hair of Professor Ruan’s.”
As Yu Le guessed, as the sun rose, Ruan Xian and Tang Yibu both saw the distortion on the island. However, they just glanced at it lightly, and then stared at each other again.
Tang Yibu grabbed two skewers of charred grilled fish with both hands, with a serious expression, as if he was holding two military-grade knives.
“This is my answer,” Ruan Xian said. “If you really want to find the flaws in MUL-01, it’s better to ask Professor Ruan.”
Tang Yibu mechanically took a bite of the grilled fish, chewing it with a click as his eyes stared blankly forward.
Was the blow that big? Ruan Xian felt a little puzzled, but he didn’t plan to let the other party off the hook. “Now it’s your turn.”
“What?” Tang Yibu spoke monotonously, looking a bit distracted.
“Information.” Ruan Xian cruelly snatched the grilled fish from Tang Yibu’s other hand and took a bite of it. He didn’t mind the giant pile of internal organs squirming not far away. “This was a deal. I can’t really tell you this for free.”
He had revealed enough. If Tang Yibu knew some details, he could probably deduce that he had “disappeared” before NUL-00 was destroyed, or that this part of his memory had been modified. However, whether the other party was willing to believe it or not was still a question. After all, what he gave was just scraps.
In the end, even if he had a special love for the android, Ruan Xian was also unwilling to reveal all information to Tang Yibu—Tang Yibu’s thoughts on “Ruan Xian” should be far from as simple as it seems. Until determining the other party’s true attitude, spreading out all his cards prematurely would leave him with no out.
Ruan Xian himself, a clone who could be unwittingly executing Ruan Xian’s plans, or a clone that was abandoned by Ruan Xian… Regarding his identity, he could roughly guess many possibilities. According to Tang Yibu’s position, he had to consider how to smoothly switch these identities.
“Oh…” Tang Yibu’s reaction was a lot slower now. Facing the distorted scene of the island with his back, the android was gnawing on the grilled fish blankly, with a little black ash on his face, like a cat who saw a thunderstorm for the first time.
Ruan Xian couldn’t help poking that face.
“Did you have a body when you were abandoned by Ruan Xian?” He also chose a question that wasn’t too in-depth. Looking at the current state of the android who was in a trance, maybe he could pull out some other clues.
Tang Yibu claimed he created this body himself. So, before this, whether Tang Yibu had abandoned his original body or existed alone in the form of a cybernetic brain, he needed a helper.
A cybernetic brain couldn’t move. Even if he had an original body, it was difficult for him to build this body without being noticed.
Tang Yibu finally got his attention back.
“I know what you want to ask,” the android whispered. “This body was made when I sneaked into Struggler. Plan Corp started this show a few years before the Great Rebellion in the 22nd century, and many android shows on other themes have been launched in the follow-up, but the Struggler series has always been the most popular. Many of the androids in the show can be sold at the end of each issue.”
This guy had started talking about other information again. Ruan Xian narrowed his eyes.
“That’s very interesting.” Ruan Xian directly blocked Taking Yibu’s words. “Since you’re a ‘weapon’ made by Ruan Xian after the Great Rebellion, how did you mix into the Android Show that existed before it?”
“Because that show lasted for many years, it didn’t stop immediately because of the rebellion.”
Tang Yibu pointed blankly to the island where they were.
“There are no humans in The Android Show. At the same time, they maintained their own set of life circles that the Mainbrain didn’t have the need to specifically deal with. You can think of it as a small country isolated from the world. Considering the situation of The Glass Conservatory, shooting and recording may not have stopped, and the external facilities are also well preserved. This is the only place where I can customize my body as the remaining resources are basically in the hands of the Order Supervisors.”
“I see.” Ruan Xian’s tone rose at the end of the sentence.
“At that time, I did have assistance as well. It was easy to cajole humans. Not to mention it’s a chaotic environment.” Tang Yibu didn’t look at Ruan Xian. “This is all the information I can give you.”
“Tang Yibu?!” a strange voice interjected. “Oh my god, is it Tang Yibu?”
Ruan Xian turned his head abruptly. A man and a woman were standing in the distance. The man was waving his hand at them.
They were faces that he didn’t know.
“Tsk.” Tang Yibu’s reaction was even more dry—the android smacked his lips loudly.