Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 200: Escape Preparation
“This will do. If you go any further, you’ll be caught. Little profiteer, what do you mean just now?” Yu Le picked up a cigarette and sniffed. They were still in the vicinity of the Mainbrain, so he didn’t dare light it rashly.
Ji Xiaoman was originally born thin. Her figure was cut off a bit by the night, which made it seem to meld with it. Her hair was a little longer than when they first met, and the ends were uneven due to a lack of trimming.
She was standing next to a flower bed, with her prosthetic limbs of her arms and legs all exposed, which was completely at odds with the surrounding neat and exquisite environment. Ji Xiaoman had never liked to look up at people, but this time, she didn’t roll her eyes as usual, but instead raised her head seriously and stared at Yu Le.
“I don’t need your help,” she said.
“For a sentence or two, there’s no need for a big argument. This is good for everyone. What are you struggling with? If someone was willing to help my brother like this, not to mention face, laozi would pull out all my money and give it to them.”
“It’s not the same.” Ji Xiaoman gritted her teeth. “Didn’t I tell you before, I don’t trust that Professor Ruan.”
Yu Le frowned.
“Why should he help me?…Pity? Is he kind? For some face? Or this bullshit friendship during this time?”
Ji Xiaoman squeezed her metal fingers, causing them to creak. Her emotions rarely fluctuated.
“I want him to do his best. At this point, I only believe in favors owed as the real price. I am a mechanic myself, and I know how to fool those pesky people—temporarily achieve the effect, then have it break in two days, so it keeps coming back for repair. This is my mother’s brain we’re talking about!”
“What are you angry about? I can see that Professor Ruan is crazy, but he’s much more normal compared to Xiao Ruan and the others. He’s at least reasonable, so he won’t engage in those shoddy methods on your mother.”
Yu Le was a bit perturbed.
“How can you be sure? 100%? That’s my mother. This is my business,” Ji Xiaoman responded coldly. “Since when is it you who decide for me?”
Yu Le opened his mouth. He didn’t know how to respond at that moment. Having been the captain of the Sea of Ruins for so long, he was used to making decisions for everyone. Although Ji Xiaoman wasn’t his subordinate and was just a little girl who didn’t know much about the real world, he instinctively wanted to help her make up her mind. However, as far as the current situation was concerned, she didn’t plan to buy it.
“They want you for a definite purpose. You’re a better driver than they are. Intelligence can’t replace experience and talent all at once. Everyone knows this truth. What about me? I do have some experience in repairing things, but Yu Le, think about it. Except for your car, there’s nowhere I could even touch with my hands or feet.”
Ji Xiaoman hugged her arms.
“I’m the one who’s most dispensable in this group. Alright, let’s assume that Professor Ruan promised to treat my mother—for your sake—but encountered a difficult problem that took time. Time is running out. Do you think he’ll treat my mother wholeheartedly or suspend the matter? He’s on the road to saving mankind, and my mother isn’t even a human to begin with!”
The little girl’s eyes turned red.
“It’s not that far, right?” Yu le said bitterly. “That is Professor Ruan who designed the Mainbrain. This is just repairing a cybernetic brain…”
“Just repairing a cybernetic brain?” Ji Xiaoman’s voice turned sharp and even a few curse words popped out. “If it’s really that fucking easy, do you think I would be standing here telling you this?”
Yu Le had always been arrogant on the surface, and he was very confident in his emotional control inside. At this moment, an evil fire rushed directly above his head, and all he felt was annoyed. “Fine, fine, fine. I was being nosy, okay? In the future, I won’t mention anything about you or your mother. Anyway, if you believe in favors, then we’re about even, so it’s good to break up at any time.”
“No, that’s not what I meant—”
“Then what do you mean? I’m listening.”
“…Can we talk about things first?”
“Yo, quickly changing the subject at a time like this. What’s the matter? ‘Getting to the point’ now?”
Ji Xiaoman was dumbfounded. Her breathing was short, and her thin chest heaved violently.
“Look, which one of us looks like a person who cares about such bullshit like the future of the world? Isn’t it just to join the fun? Let me say this…”
He originally wanted to say, “for your own good”, but he couldn’t say it. Ji Xiaoman was standing right in front of him with her eyes flushed and her teeth clenched tightly.
From the harshest environment to now, Yu Le knew how to say the most unpleasant things to attack her and used his experience to crush her in order to vent the nameless evil in his heart—he thought it was his good intention to want to help, but the other side was being picky. If this was him in the past, if someone like this was tossed into the Sea of Ruins, he would be happy to shoot them.
He had long been accustomed to making decisions on major events. The reason why Tang Yibu and Ruan Xian dominated along the way was because of their indomitable strength.
He really regarded Ji Xiaoman as his “subordinate” or “junior”, and he would give her a certain degree of respect, but nothing more. After all, Ji Xiaoman herself is the most sensitive—as a fighter who had fought on the battlefield, he was keenly aware of her attitude.
Yu Le might had laughed at this before, but he had seen enough disturbing things along the way.
The previously perfect logical closure no longer seemed perfect, and what was clearly a familiar practice now made his stomach uncomfortable. He seemed to have ignored something very important, and it was right in front of him now.
“…Sorry.” Yu Le took a long breath and closed his eyes. “I said too much just now.”
Admitting to his mistake made him more uncomfortable than he thought. Yu Le crumbled the cigarette in his hand into a ball. “Of course, I don’t regret asking Professor Ruan to help your mother, but I should’ve discussed this with you in advance. This is indeed your business and a big deal… You are also under a lot of pressure… Uh.”
His voice was no louder than a buzzing mosquito as he rubbed the stubble on his chin uncomfortably.
After half a minute, Ji Xiaoman hesitated for a while, then opened her arms and hugged Yu Le’s waist. “I, um, just got a little too excited just now. Sorry.”
Her voice was lower than Yu Le’s, and her arms were clenched tightly as if she was holding a humanoid soldering iron. As soon as Yu Le was about to reply, he saw that the little girl was about to run, so he hurriedly grabbed her back collar.
“If you have something to say, just say it.” Yu Le sighed a few times. “I’m fucking trying to find authority in you. You think you’re useless, but Tang Yibu and the others seem to think differently. You can fight off several of them while I’m worried about being killed by that group of animals. I’m not much calmer than you. What’s done is done. Just scold me and I’ll try to change.”
Ji Xiaoman’s face flushed. She hesitated for a while, then stretched out a metal palm towards Yu Le.
“Shake hands,” she said bluntly. “If… If we try to take care of each other, our advantage will be bound, and we’ll have more bargaining chips.”
Yu Le grinned. That bubbling anger in his heart disappeared in an instant. He grabbed the cold hand and shook it solemnly. “An alliance, huh?”
“…Yeah. And just now, um, thank you for thinking about me.” Ji Xiaoman almost buried her face in her chest.
“Thank you for not treating me like an outsider. Want to hug again?”
“No.” This time Ji Xiaoman’s tone was particularly determined.
“Man Jie!” Yu Le planned to enliven the atmosphere again when Zhong Qing interrupted them. The youth rushed over in a hurry, his face covered in sweat, and was looking panicked again.
“What’s wrong this time?” Yu Le clicked his tongue.
“Something is approaching.” Zhong Qing almost bit his tongue. “Let’s go back quickly. Something is coming.”
Ji Xiaoman and Yu Le glanced at each other. Yu Le picked up Zhong Qing and the three rushed to the armored off-roader together. When they arrived, Tang Yibu was opening the third package of chocolate chips while the three-legged little machine stayed quietly in place. The atmosphere looked particularly peaceful.
“There’s something coming.” Zhong Qing gasped. “We have to hide quickly.”
Tang Yibu frowned. “I didn’t feel anything nearby.” The surrounding signals were stable, and there wasn’t any abnormality in the operating system. If there was something in the city that shouldn’t appear, he could more or less detect it.
Professor Ruan jumped straight to the point. “Where did you find the anomaly?”
“On the outskirts of the city, about three kilometers away.” Zhong Qing took the water that Tang Yibu handed over and drank it under Tang Yibu’s blank stare. “Some are staying behind, some are coming in this direction. It’s all combat-type machines. It must be that Ruan Ge’s affairs were discovered just now. We have to go. Go, go, go!”
“You can find enemies from that distance?” Seeing that the distance was still safe, Tang Yibu’s mood remained high.
“I can’t!” Zhong Qing shouted, furious at the inexplicable “slowness” of the others. “I just happened to be looking at that place and saw it. I don’t know how many there are elsewhere! What’s the matter with you? Maybe we’re being surrounded—”
Seeing Zhong Qing about to have a nervous breakdown, Tang Yibu could only drag him into the car first. “Our perception camouflage needs to be recharged for a while before we can leave. You. First, tell us about the situation. No need to be nervous. There’s still time.”
“…My house is nearby.”
When he got into the car, Zhong Qing’s mood stabilized a little. He was quite similar in spirit to the iron bead. Tang Yibu suspected that he was just missing a solid shell more than anything else.
“Wasn’t everyone moving freely just now? I just wanted to take a look—just a look—and see how they were doing.” Zhong Qing shifted his butt uncomfortably as he clenched the water bottle in his hand. Tang Yibu eyed the water bottle and quickly rescued it, but the back of his hand was poked badly by Professor Ruan.
“But at this time, they must be sleeping.” After grabbing the bottle back, Zhong Qing glanced at Tang Yibu. “I was looking down there, remembering that my parents used to take me to the suburban lake to relax, so I looked at the other side of the lake—”
“Stop, stop, stop.” Yu Le huffed. “You mean across the buildings, in the middle of the night, you went to watch a lake a few miles away? You can actually see that far?”
“I’ll give you three minutes. If you can tell the blind what red is and the deaf what music is, then I’ll explain this to you,” Zhong Qing responded angrily. “My… Ahem, it’s another set of sensory organs. It’s hard to explain.”
Tang Yibu, on the other hand, was thinking about something else.
Zhong Qing could be bait, though letting a “corpse” run around outside didn’t seem like the Mainbrain’s style. Even if its surveillance was buggy, which was a possibility that couldn’t be denied, Tang Yibu didn’t believe the bug would be so serious. On the other hand, if it installed any kind of tracking or monitoring device on Zhong Qing, then it could definitely locate them.
Zhong Qing himself shouldn’t be monitored, so why would the Mainbrain put such a decoy without any kind of information transmission?
Tang Yibu took out a can of cherry soda and slowly drank it.
He had an ability that no one in this car—not even Professor Ruan—had. He could really think like the Mainbrain, and he was becoming more proficient these days.
Tang Yibu had thought about this issue early on. The answer was simple. If he wanted to catch this group of people, he would set similar decoys in various cities. The decoys themselves didn’t need to pass on information. They just needed to lead them to discover the “corpse needs” of the funeral home and the existing loopholes.
Without being able to determine their specific whereabouts, most likely, the other cities would also be visited in advance by mechanical soldiers similar to R-α.
After all, Ruan Xian had already shown his hand in the Android Show. The Mainbrain knew that they were working with Professor Ruan. Looking at Professor Ruan’s performance, even if he knew Zhong Qing’s identity as bait, he wouldn’t let go of this opportunity at his fingertips. If Ruan Xian hadn’t rushed out to disrupt the chessboard, Professor Ruan would probably have continued to play the game according to this idea—they all knew Professor Ruan didn’t care about sacrificing a “non-human” like Zhong Qing to try and take down the Mainbrain.
The problem they faced now was another one.
The information returned by Zhong Qing couldn’t be falsified, but it couldn’t be denied that he had the possibility of being implanted with false information in advance. This discovery was too coincidental. Now it was up to them whether to accept this information or not.
“Yu Ge, Miss Ji.” Tang Yibu poured the last sip of soda into his mouth. “I need both of you to give me a hand.”
He smiled extra sweetly at the two people sitting in the front seat.
“…This matter is quite important—a matter of life and death.”
The author has something to say:
This bunch of dysfunctional teammates always have to quarrel (?