Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 156: Loophole
The sun moved to the western horizon. The afterglow of the sunset was beautiful, but it also made the forest much darker.
Under the guidance of the iron bead, the movement of the vehicle was a lot less bumpy, most likely due to them moving away from the dense forest. Yu Le stretched, cracked his neck a few times, and patted the shell of the iron bead.
The iron bead almost turned back to bite him but was held down by Ji Xiaoman in time.
“It’s still angry with you,” she whispered. “Wait until tomorrow. Once it sleeps a few more times, it’ll forget about it. π, stop the car.”
The vehicle came to a sharp stop. If it weren’t for the seat belts, this would be enough to throw the two people in the front seat out the window. Yu Le gulped down half a glass of water, wiped his mouth, then turned around as if nothing had happened. “Okay, this place is far enough from the management area. It’s time for you two to go back.”
Su Zhao and Kang Ziyan were both awake. Their clothes were covered with dust, and their mouths were stained with sugar water. The eyes of the two children were bright. Although they didn’t have the carefree innocence, they still had the temperament unique to children. Yu Le was a bit unhappy at the thought that this might be a fabricated illusion.
“Get out,” he said.
The two children looked at each other and didn’t object. Kang Ziyan moved towards the car door and was just about to open it when something suddenly happened…
There was a violent impact on the roof of the car. The iron bead that was controlling it was startled. In confusion, it moved the car around, spinning the heavy vehicle in place. Yu Le unceremoniously turned off the driver assistance device and grabbed the steering wheel again.
The iron bead, sensing an oncoming crisis, no longer got angry at Yu Le. It pounced on the gap between Yu Le and Ji Xiaoman, fixing itself firmly between them, and pretended to be just a spherical ornament in the car.
Yu Le didn’t hesitate and started the car. Based on the short-distance and weight of the impact, the thing that struck the car wasn’t heavy—at least not as heavy as an adult male. If they treated this cautiously, they may still have a chance.
He wondered if it had anything to do with the two children in the back seat.
“Little profiteer, hold on!” Yu Le slammed on the gas and then cranked it, turning the car at a trickier angle.
The figure finally jumped off the roof and landed right in front of the car. It was a young woman who had a bright smile and opened arms, as if she wanted to embrace the behemoth in front of her.
“Our home,” she said dreamily as she took out a gun and was about to shoot at the driver’s seat.
The woman was quite good-looking, with a strange familiarity in the contours of her facial features. She wasn’t the gorgeous type but leaned towards a more refreshing and cute look, and her gestures were full of vitality. It was just those big eyes full of abnormal enthusiasm that it destroyed her original good temperament.
Yu Le didn’t dawdle. He stepped on the gas and drove towards the woman who was blocking the car. Whether it was a phantom or not, they didn’t have much time to hesitate and analyze.
“I’ll go out to deal with it.” Ji Xiaoman stretched out her hand to unbuckle her seat belt.
“No.” Yu Le’s tone hardened. “I’ll probe again. I don’t believe that such a person would dare stop our car alone. Her companions might be lying in ambush.”
“Surviving is the first thing.” Yu Le turned the steering wheel sharply again. “We are not friends or real companions, but we ride together. I’m not responsible for you, and you don’t need to feel responsible for anyone.”
Ji Xiaoman stayed silent. She touched the robotic arm on one side, and the blade that popped out of the prosthetic limb gleamed.
“Stop the car! Stop the car!” The woman in front of them jumped lightly to the top of the car. Her hands cupped around her mouth to form a shape of a horn. “I don’t want to damage the car. If you don’t stop, we’ll kill your people.”
After that, she jumped aside like a wild deer. Yu Le glanced in the direction of her actions, and the muscles on his face twitched.
Tang Yibu was tied firmly. There was a man standing behind him, holding a gun to the back of his head. Ruan Lijie was also tied up and was lying a few steps away from Tang Yibu, as if he had passed out.
“Help—!” Tang Yibu shouted with extraordinary sincerity, with just the right amount of fear and desolation in his tone.
If it weren’t for knowing that this guy could raze a small base in the Underground City by himself, Yu Le would’ve actually believed it. He held his forehead, grabbed Ji Xiaoman, who looked a little nervous, and gently shook his head.
Only π was completely deceived—the moment it saw Tang Yibu, the iron bead stopped pretending to be dead and began to bounce and crash into the window while barking its mouth off.
“Please get out of the car.” Tang Yibu was still performing hard. “Xiao Ruan was injured by them and needs treatment…”
“It seems that there is nothing wrong.” Ji Xiaoman breathed a sigh of relief.
Tang Yibu would never call Ruan Lijie “Xiao Ruan”. He would only call the other party “Mr. Ruan”.
“Get out of the car?” She turned to Yu Le’s direction.
“Go out and see what tricks they’re playing.” Tang Yibu was their important combat power, and Ruan Lijie’s skills were also indispensable. Not to mention looking for Ruan Xian, these two people could greatly improve their survival rate in the first place, so it wasn’t a good idea to leave on their own.
And Yu Le suspected that if they had a delayed response, Tang Yibu would really push the act even further and began to sob, as the android’s eyes were already red.
“Don’t be impulsive! There are children in the car!” Yu Le let go of the steering wheel, put the phone in his pocket as quickly as possible, and then raised his hands. “We surrender!”
“Children?” The woman raised her brows. “Let me see.”
Yu Le grinned, his heart beating a little fast. He opened the front and rear car doors and stared at the woman in the back seat without blinking—since their perceptions were disturbed and they couldn’t find any problems with the two children, perhaps this strange enemy could.
“…It’s you guys,” The woman murmured, her tone neither salty nor light.
The two children looked at her vigilantly, holding their little hands tightly. Yu Le frowned slightly. This wasn’t the reaction he had expected.
“Forget it, get out of the car.” She scratched her head. “It’s none of my business.”
Yu Le and Ji Xiaoman looked at each other. Each maintained the posture of raising their hands and slowly moved down from the front seat.
“That’s great.” The woman kissed the door of the car. “Going out on an adventure with Xiao Tang and catching such a great prey.”
After getting out of the car, they could clearly see the top of the doll’s head. Confetti was still fluttering over the mishmash building on the other side. The sun was about to set, and the temperature outside the car was a bit chilly.
Yu Le stiffened and looked at Tang Yibu, who was dutifully sniffling, and tried to inquire with his eyes. The iron bead was faster than him—it rushed straight to Tang Yibu’s heel and bit it, but it didn’t seem to have much force behind it.
The man who was holding Tang Yibu with a gun snapped his fingers and several cube devices flew out of his backpack. They stopped around the four of them and then flashed with blinding arcs of lightning, connecting them to each other. In this way, the four of them were firmly trapped in place by several lightning arcs.
Then four small eyeless spider-like machines squeezed in from the arc gap, climbed onto Yu Le’s and Ji Xiaoman’s wrists, tightened their mechanical legs firmly, and melded together into a pair of handcuffs.
“There’s even canned food inside!” The woman rummaged through the storage box in the front row of the car. “Honey, do you want some canned food?”
“Xiao Zhao, don’t be in too much of a hurry. You come and keep an eye on them while I scout for traps. I don’t want my baby to be injured by an explosion.”
“What are you guys up to?” While the enemy’s attention was diverted, Yu Le squeezed a sentence out of his teeth. He struggled with the restraints on his wrists, which were stronger than electronic handcuffs.
“Soon,” Tang Yibu said blankly, staring at the two children.
“You can see them.” Yu Le sighed. “Damn, this journey is scaring laozi to death. Now I’m not in the mood to listen to bullshit. What’s going on?”
“Something is wrong with the phone.” Ji Xiaoman’s focus was on a different point.
“Some images don’t match, right?” Tang Yibu was still looking at the two children.
“Yes, their perceptual interference technology may have improved.” Ji Xiaoman didn’t care much about the restraints on her wrists.
“No, it didn’t.” The anxiety and fear on Tang Yibu’s face have long disappeared. “There’s no need to use a cow cleaver to kill chickens. Mr. Ruan and I have done some experiments, and the technology has not changed much compared with my time.”
Considering that the object of perceptual interference hadn’t changed, there was no need for the Mainbrain to waste research resources in this regard. It may improve the interference accuracy and enhance the effect without the need to overhaul the underlying logic architecture for no reason. Still, out of caution, Ruan Xian still used the perceptual limit of the S-type Prototype to verify many times along the way.
The couple must have opened a food can. Tang Yibu sniffed the sweetness of peaches in the air enviously, and then continued to think.
Since the technology hadn’t changed, the situation on Yu Le’s side was very intriguing. Looking at the traces of the car, they’ve circled in the same area for a long time.
That place was very close to the management area. Neither Yu Le nor Ji Xiaoman were the types to jump into the fire pit without certainty—at least they would use the cellphone if they went. Then they moved away from the management area again. In this situation, the possibility of their cellphone being destroyed for any reason could also be ruled out. If they really lost the ability to find their way completely, the safest option was to stay in place and wait for him and Mr. Ruan to find them. After all, the car was a good resource, and they wouldn’t simply give it up.
When Mr. Ruan first discovered the car, it was acting quite strangely. Most likely, they were manipulating it themselves, which ruled out the possibility of them being captured…
Which left only one possibility. Yu Le and Ji Xiaoman must’ve met someone and had to temporarily leave the management area for some reason.
It happened that in such a place, Ji Xiaoman and Yu Le ran into people who could be rescued, and then were led to an empty spot between the management area and the main stage of the Android Show. Before Xiao Zhao’s attack, they just stopped. Now that they thought about it, they should’ve let the two little passengers off much earlier.
Everything was too coincidental, as if it was planned by someone.
It seemed that Mr. Ruan’s guess not so long ago was probably correct. Professor Ruan was testing them. It was just that Mr. Ruan still didn’t know his true identity—counting the NUL-00 layer, Professor Ruan’s test made more sense.
What kind of person he had become and what kind of group he was acting with; these were all excellent research materials, and it was impossible for the other party to let them go. His general condition, behavior pattern purpose… These were all on the list of intelligence collecting.
[If it’s me, after forming a team, the next step will be a concentrated attack.] Just an hour ago, Mr. Ruan expressed this. [Yu Le and Ji Xiaoman are also being watched. The cooperation with Kang Ge and Xiao Zhao, including using the car as bait, was probably within Professor Ruan’s expectations. He’s leading us to gather together. Yibu, since you have studied humans for so long, you should know…]
[…There’s no better way to see a person clearly than a “crisis test”.]
Then there was only one thing to confirm next.
“Yu Ge, did those two children tell you their names?”
“Kang Ziyan and Su Zhao. Why did you suddenly ask this?”
Tang Yibu glanced at the sky dyed dark red by the setting sun, then closed his eyes and began to communicate with π.
[Attack those two children.]
However, there was only vague confusion from the iron bead, and it didn’t even turn to where the two children were. Sure enough, Tang Yibu thought to himself. The opponent had already set up the chessboard, waiting for him to make the expected move.
Without hesitation, he quickly broke the rope, pulled out the gun from Yu Le’s waist as quickly as possible, and shot at the heads of the two children.
There was no scene of splashing brains.
The heads of the two children were missing like fog, and countless colorful colors began to emerge from the gap and pounced on the world. Like paint bursting in clear water, the world in their eyes suddenly became a mess. In the explosion of color, he couldn’t even distinguish between what was up and down, right or left.
“What the hell is going on?!” In the chaos, Yu Le’s voice was full of shock.
“Those two children didn’t exist from the beginning.” Tang Yibu replied in a low voice, putting one hand around the waist of Mr. Ruan, who was still pretending to be dizzy. “Very smart move.”
“Fuck me, don’t say such scary shit.”
“The real Kang Ziyan and Su Zhao are the ones who are holding us hostage,” Tang Yibu responded calmly.
“Then… What’s the situation with those two little kids?”
“The ‘loophole’ caught by Ruan Xian.”
The author has something to say:
Tang: A real movie emperor* that can cry when wants to (x
*(影帝) Title given to an actor who wins “Best Actor” for an influential film award in China (similar to Best Actor for the Oscar, Cannes, etc..).