Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 145: Mutation
The iron bead panicked like never before.
A few hours ago, since the strange pair appeared in front of them, its two big companions seemed to have forgotten it. Even if it rubbed their ankles in a different way, the two of them still looked unconcerned and indifferent.
Its coquettish strategy had no effect. The iron bead looked up at the two familiar figures eagerly, opened its mouth on the spot, and was about to bark angrily.
[Hide it by yourself, π.]
At that time, before it had time to make a sound, an instruction popped into its head. The iron bead swallowed back its “gwah” forcibly and turned to the direction to Tang Yibu suspiciously.
[Follow us from a distance. Don’t get too close. It’s dangerous.] The distance was a bit far, and the consciousness instructions coming from the voice were a bit vague, but it was simple enough to understand.
The iron bead was still a bit aggrieved. It was kicked and got its shell dented a few days ago, and there was now an ugly patch on its round metal shell that it was proud of. These soft creatures without shells would not understand its sadness—such a round shell!
But it still had to listen to Tang Yibu’s instructions. Since it was injured, its condition hadn’t been good, so it got very tired after a little activity. The smell of the man and woman wasn’t friendly, so the iron bead didn’t really want to get close to them.
It rolled twice in the sand, feeling a bit regretful. If it had stayed at Ji Xiaoman’s side at that time, it would not only get to eat, but it would also have had a car to ride in—unlike now, where it had to carry itself laboriously to make the journey.
It wasn’t happy.
The iron bead rattled its mouth as it jumped between fallen leaves and the roots of trees. It could barely keep up with the four figures that were walking ahead, and its stomach was getting hungrier and hungrier.
[Don’t go! Don’t go!] It tried to transmit its consciousness to Tang Yibu, then skillfully turned over its belly and kicked its four legs towards the sky. Even if Tang Yibu wasn’t moved, Mr. Ruan would always like this.
Unfortunately, what greeted it wasn’t a warm hand touching its shell or delicious metal parts, but a gunshot that sounded not far away. The iron bead stiffened its legs in fright and rolled into the bushes.
This time it was Tang Yibu who told it not to approach… The iron bead thought angrily that, unlike last time, it was clear that these two strangers weren’t a match for its companions.
What was more, it was still injured.
The iron bead makes a whirring sound in the bushes. It could wait in the distance for the commotion to end before continuing… before continuing…
The familiar sense of drowsiness hit it again, and it couldn’t resist. It fell asleep calmly. A few hours later, it opened its eyes again. The people it was following were long gone.
The iron bead rolled out of the bushes in a daze and looked around. It was almost noon, and it couldn’t smell the familiar smell nearby, nor could it find a ready-made road. As a Grove R-660 that lived on mechanical waste, it wasn’t good at moving and searching long distances.
It opened its mouth and started making rattling noises. Unfortunately, no one came to pick it up. The iron bead howled for almost ten minutes before finally a rustling came from the bushes. The iron bead quickly turned its belly up and retracted its legs into its shell, making what it thought was the most pitiful look. However, what came wasn’t even human—
A medium-sized mechanical creature resembling a sea spider poked its head out of the bushes. Its head was about a meter or so, and its electronic snail-like eyes stretched out, looking like it was about to pounce. The iron bead was so terrified that it bounced in place, then chose a random direction and began to run for its life.
After being fed safely for so long, it had almost forgotten that it was at the lower level of the food chain of the mechanical life food chain.
What to do? What to do?
The Grove R-660 lifeform wasn’t a highly intelligent species. It racked its brains but couldn’t figure out a way to successfully escape. Its race usually operated in areas like the Sea of Ruins or the wasteland, where they could easily move and hide. The forest vegetation was too dense. Wet and fallen leaves made it too easy to slip on using its shell, while branches and stems made it easy to stumble over with its short legs, not to mention that it was still injured.
In contrast, the predator with multiple long legs behind it was happily chasing it with ease.
Is it going to die?
The more the iron bead ran, the more aggrieved it became. Its stomach was already hungry, and now it was weak and feeble. It needed to eat, it needed a warm embrace and gentle petting, and preferably someone to wipe its shell with a soft cloth stained with oil. It shouldn’t be in this shitty place. When it saw those two guys again, it would definitely bite their heels extremely hard.
Grievances gradually turned into anger.
It would be too unfortunate if it were to die like this without getting to bite at those two guys’ heels. If it were those two guys, what would they do at a time like this…?
The iron bead slammed on the brakes, rolled a few times in the decaying fallen leaves, and stopped by a section of tree roots. The medium-sized mechanical life chasing behind easily stopped and began to poke the small object on the ground with its two sharp front feet.
The iron bead then bit into one of the incoming feet.
‘Delicious metal,’ it thought. Hunger, frustration, and anger completely overwhelmed its simple thinking that it only had two simple thoughts in mind: ‘I’m so hungry’ and ‘I must bite their heels’.
The bitten predator was stunned in place for a moment, then shook its forelimbs vigorously, trying to throw the iron bead that bit its leg to the ground.
But it couldn’t get rid of it.
The iron bead only felt that the metal foot in its mouth was the most delicious thing it had ever eaten in its life. It wished it had sharper teeth and a bigger mouth as it wanted to eat more of this. The iron bead was gnawing so intently that it completely failed to notice the change in itself.
The metal patch of Ji Xiaoman’s welding was chipped off, and its proud shell was slowly cracking open with delicate split seams. The white flesh and blood hidden inside the shell quickly changed its shape and continued to expand from the top of the original base of its mouth into a complex structure resembling an insect’s mouth. This made its mouth more than five times larger.
The iron bead opened its strange new mouth, bit off the delicious metal leg in one bite, and quickly chewed it.
Still hungry. Hungry as hell.
The predator that was chasing it didn’t attack again, but instead showed some intention of retreating. Unfortunately, the hungry iron bead had completely forgotten about fleeing for its life. It jumped high directly onto the joints of the body that were connecting the predator’s metal limbs and opened its mouth and bit again.
The hunter had now become the prey. The medium-sized mechanical life tried to escape but was no match for the red-eyed little monster. Within ten seconds, its long metal legs were all bitten off, leaving only a body the size of a washbasin that was twisting on the grass with milky white liquid flowing out of its wound.
It had never seen anything like this, was the last thought in its mind before the medium-sized mechanical life struggled a few times and stopped moving.
The iron beads cackled and gnawed those delicious metal legs and swallowed the enemy’s already cold body with relish. The deformed and stretched part slowly retracted and it returned to its original round appearance.
After vomiting out unwanted impurities and burping a few times, the iron bead realized that something seemed to be wrong.
It tried to roll on the grass twice, and found that its proud round shell was back, and its body seemed to have become much heavier. The iron bead rattled twice in confusion. Its small eyes glanced at the remains of the other mechanical being on the ground, then it was stunned for a few seconds before a scream broke out.
After screaming for a long time, it recovered from a dizzy state.
The iron bead thought in shock that this was its own handiwork. It knew its position in the food chain well, and it was impossible for it to do this.
‘Forget it. Don’t think about it.’ As long as it could find its companion and finish biting their heels, Tang Yibu and the others should be able to figure out what happened to it. It was more reasonable to leave the troublesome questions to those with good minds.
It had eaten enough and slept enough, but it barked until it was tired out. The iron bead curled up and began to roll in the direction of more sparse trees. It turned out that good luck had not abandoned it—the grass in front of it was deformed, which made it very easy to identify.
It was the armored off-roader.
The iron beads spun around in place for a few times, cheered in a low voice, and then rolled firmly up to the vehicle.
The people inside the vehicle were in a delicate mood.
There were more than just two people in the armored off-roader at the moment. Two small children with swollen eyes were crying in the backseat, while Ji Xiaoman sat in the front, curled up, pretending as if she didn’t exist.
‘Bad luck,’ Yu Le thought. It would be fine if he ran into adults, but it was these two little ones who were breaking down and crying in the forest. For various reasons, he shouldn’t have stopped the car, but unfortunately, after he saw them, he didn’t have the heart to drive the car away.
The two children looked at most eleven or twelve. They had delicate and beautiful faces, like dolls, but they undoubtedly wore outfits that were suitable for fighting. One of them had an obvious gunshot wound on his right shoulder that was swollen and festering, giving off an unpleasant smell, and he didn’t seem to be very conscious. All he could do was cry. The other was in better condition, with only a sprained ankle, which didn’t seem fatal.
Yu Le stopped the car, carried the two shivering little guys to the backseat, threw them some medicine and medical equipment, and then dragged Ji Xiaoman to the front. Ji Xiaoman didn’t say a word throughout the whole process. She didn’t object or approve and only looked at Yu Le with strange eyes.
“You can’t abandon children here.” Yu Le bit the bullet and turned the steering wheel. “I know child soldiers are a thing, but the injuries of those two little guys aren’t fake. I can tell… I’m still weak and unable to leave small kids there just waiting to die.”
Ji Xiaoman still stared at him.
“The supplies they use are all mine, okay?” Yu Le waved his hand. “Little profiteer, even if you are one, at least be open-minded. We don’t have a guide or anything in this place, so it’s not like this won’t get us a return.”
Ji Xiaoman glanced at the backseat. One of them was using a scalpel to skillfully cut away the rotten flesh on the other’s wound. His hands and feet were quickly disinfected and sutured. Then she moved her gaze back to Yu Le’s face.
“Okay, alright. I know these two guys look like celebrities. They probably have a follow-up shot. I covered my face when I brought them in just now. How about we just all wear gas masks? You didn’t throw them away from the Underground City, right?”
“No.” Ji Xiaoman quickly put on a mask for herself. “You keep driving, I’ll put it on for you.”
“Alright.” Yu Le sighed and raised his voice. “You two back there. Us brother and sister aren’t doing charity. I can give you more medicine, so tell me what’s the situation?”
The severely injured child was already asleep. His head was resting on the other’s shoulder and his face was flushed. The other child bit his lip and hesitated for a while before speaking.
“…Thank you, uncle, sister.” The child’s voice wasn’t high.
Yu Le: “……”
From behind the mask, Ji Xiaoman made a sound similar to stifled laughter.
“I don’t know what situation you’re asking about.” The child ignored the reaction of the two of them, and his voice became alert. “At present, the most serious thing is… Tonight is the day of the attack.”
The author has something to say:
The iron bead’s battle effectiveness also got enhance!
Did everyone forget about it (?)
I love π.