Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 206: Improvisation
Yu Le hitched his breath.
Just half a day ago, Tang Yibu looked sullen, but now he had returned to his usual carefree look. Yu Le always had the illusion that the android was like a ruins pirate who had been working frantically on the ship for years and finally got the chance for a vacation.
They seemed to be participating in a major event that was related to the survival of human civilization, yet this kid was clearly absent-minded.
Yu Le felt skeptical. If it wasn’t MUL-01 that was released, but instead this thing in front of him, mankind would’ve probably perished in a different way—Tang Yibu’s ability to focus on key points could anger people to death.
Compared to the stunned Yu Le, Professor Ruan was calm. “It seems that we have reached a consensus. Please find Ruan Xian as soon as you can.”
“Wait, wait, wait.” Yu Le pointed to Zhong Qing, who had a confused look on his face. “Is it okay to talk about this directly in front of him? Doesn’t have… that cybernetic brain assistance or something installed in him and can’t hear certain keywords?”
“There’s no problem for the time being. I haven’t removed the perceptual camouflage around him, so he can’t hear us, and he can’t see the real situation,” Professor Ruan said. “NUL-00, when are you leaving?”
“Now.” Just when Yu Le was about to interrupt, Tang Yibu was already heavily armed—his backpack was stuffed full of dried fruit, a simple condenser that was hung on the side of the bag, and the rattling iron bead that was placed in the net pocket on the other side. In addition to weapons used for camouflage, there were also hooks, ropes, and smoke bombs. Bullets and grenades hung neatly around his belt, making Tang Yibu look like a large human Christmas tree.
“…Don’t you think you have too many weapons?” Yu Le asked gloomily. “Want to leave some for us mortals? Besides, you have the Prototype, so is all that really necessary?”
Tang Yibu looked like a nuclear bomb with legs wielding a fruit knife. No need to mention the A-type Prototype, even if an ordinary person brought this kind of armament, it was enough to turn a place like the Sea of Ruins upside down.
“It’s good to be prepared.” Tang Yibu solemnly adjusted the belt that hung various gadgets.
Yu Le buried his face in his hands and wiped it hard. “…Fine. You make me a little nostalgic.”
“Nostalgia of being the captain of the ruins pirates?”
“My past of my first outing when I was seven years old.”
At this time, it could be seen who had the temperament of a true leader—Professor Ruan glanced at Christmas tree Tang and made no comment.
“Five days.” When Tang Yibu finished talking, Professor Ruan spoke up. “In five days, whether you come back or not, I’ll make my next move.”
Having said that, Tang Yibu knew he didn’t have much of a choice. He may himself want to kick MUL-01 out of the game even more than Professor Ruan—the other party was fighting for an invisible and untouchable ideal, but not for self-preservation. Professor Ruan was a very important chess piece, and Tang Yibu could not and would not let him do as he pleased.
Perhaps this was the conflict between “love and necessary work” that he had read about in literature. Tang Yibu made a check next to a box in his heart. He stuffed a few oranges in his pocket while ignoring the heavy air, and quickly crawled out of the cellar. In an instant, his shadow disappeared.
“We have to rest.” Yu Le pointed to Ji Xiaoman and looked at Professor Ruan. “We’ll act tomorrow at the earliest. By the way, we need to prepare weapons, route planning, and preventative measures in case possible problems arise. It’ll take more than a day to reach the forest petri dish, and we also need to add the time going to the Underground City. I need to discuss it with you overnight to iron out everything.”
When it came to business, Yu Le’s tone remained steady.
“Okay.” Seeing no trace of Tang Yibu, Professor Ruan’s tone held a hint of imperceptible relief. “…Relax, Mr. Yu. Our winning rate has risen a lot, in theory.”
“The Mainbrain understands me, and I understand it. We calculate each other’s next dozens of moves, even hundreds.” The black box that held the enlarged brain blew out a string of bubbles. “…Now, I still understand the Mainbrain, but being on my own, I can only plan three or four steps ahead at most.”
“So I have little expectations,” Professor Ruan said.
That was probably a more elegant way of putting it. Yu Le threw a thin blanket in Ji Xiaoman’s direction and raised an eyebrow at Professor Ruan. He always felt that there was an air of gloating coming from him—it was a nice change to see Professor Ruan so deflated, as he himself had experienced this firsthand and knew well that feeling.
“Then we’d better not waste the cards in your hands.” Yu Le glanced at Zhong Qing, who still had his confused look. “What about this kid? You can’t always keep him in perceptual camouflage like this.”
“If it’s just him alone, there’s no problem keeping it going all night. This is protecting…”
Before he could finish, both of them choked.
Zhong Qing took out their tool bag containing sundries, pulled out two earplugs, and righteously stuffed them into his ear. He then covered most of his head with his hat, blindfolded himself, and then pulled the blanket that was covering Ji Xiaoman and wrapped himself into a cocoon in the corner.
“I’m not interested in your business.” With his ears plugged, he spoke very loudly. “I don’t want to be killed. You can remove the interference in front of me—it’s too uncomfortable seeing everything like this! I’m going to bed. Good night. No need to answer. I can’t hear anything! I’m just an innocent minor.”
With the blanket suddenly pulled away, Ji Xiaoman woke up. She quickly assumed a fighting posture, though her eyes were still wrought with confusion after being untimely awoken.
“…” Yu Le suddenly felt that Professor Ruan wasn’t as reliable as he claimed and started to have deep doubts about the statement “three or four steps ahead at most”.
But forget it. Thinking about their current situation—two humans, one brain, and one parasitical virus, hiding in a makeshift cellar, trying to overthrow the Mainbrain that possessed world-class resources. They even had the confidence to talk about winning rates and still kept a positive attitude, as if they would live to old age.
However, in this patchwork temporary team, Ruan Xian was undoubtedly the one with the best mentality at the moment.
He was trapped in the consciousness of others, unable to make any movements. For most people, this was undoubtedly a terrifying thing. Not to mention that the host’s emotions would involve people from time to time, but it also caused people to gradually become confused with their boundaries.
Ruan Xian’s method of dealing with such issues could be chalked up as simple and crude—any intense emotions weren’t his.
The only problem that bothered him was hunger.
How many people had he gone through? Ruan Xian looked at the dark basement in front of him. He had been tossed around by various illegal memory handlers for so long, crossing countless borders, and the number of hosts was so many that he had lost count.
The real-world time was probably less than a day, but physically, he had been stuck for months on December 31, 2100. In the eyes of the Mainbrain, to have such willpower meant he must love Tang Yibu to the point of madness.
What was in front of him perhaps wasn’t the epitome of the worst part of society, but rather society as a whole.
The people who came to make transactions covered all walks of life. Although memory cocktail bars were extremely popular, people still deliberately pursued memories that weren’t sifted clean and had parts of the original owner’s personality. It could numb them, allow them to escape, and become another person for a short period of time, so much so that some people even tried to use it to “correct” their own personality or that of others.
Illicit memory loss was more common. From the loss of family and friends to the breakdown of a relationship to the slightest conflict with strangers, some people deliberately discarded them from their minds so that they would not interfere with their good day.
Although not recognized by law, this had obviously become a pastime that was superior to alcohol and tobacco.
However, even so, society still functioned normally and there were no signs of decline. To say what was different from what he perceived—the transplantation of memory fragments and personality, and the mechanical replacement of body parts and organs, had become commonplace. The law was trying to evolve, but it wasn’t keeping pace with the expansion of the commercial market.
Apart from a few ethics scholars who questioned it, there was obviously only one consequence.
People were becoming extraordinarily self-absorbed and acrimonious.
Since unpleasant memories could be eliminated, few were willing to stop creating unpleasantness. In this short period of time, Ruan Xian had been exposed to at least hundreds of similar memories—as long as there was a slight discord with the other party, people could take action without hesitation—whether it was stabbing someone in the chest or taking the opportunity to vent their dissatisfaction that day.
Physical injuries could be healed, and painful memories could be removed. As long as people weren’t killed, the punishment was often not too heavy, and the cost was surprisingly small. As for the differences of opinions, they were even more negligible—as long as the other party’s voice was deleted from one’s own mind, there was no need to worry about it. Knowing that the other party would do the same, few people pay attention to the so-called etiquette.
Along with this, at the same time, less work was needed to be done by people cooperatively. Society was moving towards a strange form, causing laws and regulations to have to be constantly revised. Ruan Xian didn’t know how to evaluate this direction.
All concepts were vaguely mixed. People were like boiled gruel—their personalities were embedded in each other, but they were extremely alienated from each other.
But at least they could make him understand that the Mainbrain’s goal wasn’t to “adjust the human world on the verge of collapse”.
The glimpses of technicians, a short stay of ordinary citizens, and an old man advancing anxiously on the edge of a desert—he engraved the world in their eyes into his mind—in the past few months, Ruan Xian had captured enough information to calculate the location of the Mainbrain. Next, he needed equipment to assist in the calculations, as well as other ways to determine the Mainbrain’s motive.
Even if he stayed any longer, Ruan Xian thought he wouldn’t get much out of it anymore. Perhaps it was time to “collapse” and leave this place.
But there was a problem. He positioned himself as a “mechanical biology expert”, but his understanding of mechanical life was only skin deep. Perhaps he should stay for a while longer…
Suddenly, there was a burning pain in his lungs. Ruan Xian got out of a liquid tank and coughed out a light blue liquid.
He was forcibly pulled out of the “dreamland”.
Was he discovered? Or…
“Good evening.” Tang Yibu was in front of him. The android was covered in blood and smelt of smoke and dirt. He was holding Ruan Xian’s arm with one hand with great force.
Ruan Xian opened his mouth but didn’t succeed in making a sound.
“…I’m sorry, Mr. Ruan,” Tang Yibu said softly. He showed a complicated expression. He held a gun in one hand, pointing the nozzle against Ruan Xian’s forehead. Then he moved it towards Ruan Xian’s chest, as if he thought of something. “I can’t save you.”
It’s over. Countless thoughts swept through Ruan Xian’s mind in an instant.
If he were Ruan Lijie, he might be sad at the situation at hand, but unfortunately he wasn’t. What was more, even if Tang Yibu wanted to kill him, he wouldn’t bother using a gun. He would just rip his head off and crush it.
And he still had decisive evidence—the “Tang Yibu” in front of him had no smell of food on his body. He could smell it.
But Ruan Xian still broke out in a cold sweat.
This was a well played trick by the Mainbrain. This “Tang Yibu” was extremely realistic. It picked such a time when his spirit should have been on the verge of collapse, which could be said to be heart-wrenching. But for “Ruan Xian”, what he was worried about was a heartbreak on another level…
The Mainbrain probably wanted this “Tang Yibu” to be interrupted before he could shoot him, which would pull him back from the verge of death, thereby completely softening his mental defenses. However, if this thing in front of him really shot him, his heart would be repaired rapidly.
Then he would be completely exposed.
A decision had to be made quickly, so Ruan Xian churned his mind. He took a deep breath, stretched out his arms, and hugged “Tang Yibu”.
“I’m willing to die for you, my love.” Ruan Xian performed with all his might. He had a weak but tough look on his face that showed no wavering in his heart. “But I got good information that will be useful to your plans with Professor Ruan… Before you shoot, I have to tell them to you…”
Sure enough, “Tang Yibu” stopped moving.
A cold sweat drop slid down Ruan Xian’s face. Just as he was about to continue, he was choked by the sight of the scene in front of him.
Not far away, another Tang Yibu decorated from head to toe with a variety of gadgets had a complicated expression on his face as he pressed it against the glass window. He had just removed the glass and was slowly sliding into view. Ruan Xian even saw a little panic in that face.
The smell of fruit and fresh meat went straight into his nose.
‘…Things are getting more troublesome,’ Ruan Xian thought numbly.
The author has something to say:
The Mainbrain tries to move him with affection and reason. Unfortunately, Ruan neither has much emotions or reason (?