Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 209: Dangerous Premise
Before Professor Ruan’s perceptual camouflage failed, Yu Le had successfully rushed out of the outskirts of the city.
Considering that it had been a while since they pretended to escape, the focus of the search had shifted. The number of Order Supervisors guarding the city had decreased. Yu Le specifically picked out hard-to-walk places to advance, so there were no dangers along the way.
There were only three people in the car.
Ji Xiaoman sat in the front passenger seat while Zhong Qing occupied the back seat area. He kept clamoring for them to take him away, but when the car finally left the city limits, he fell silent.
“What kind of place is the Underground City?” Zhong Qing lay back in the backseat and stared at the roof of the car.
“A place to live,” Ji Xiaoman said.
“Nn,” Zhong Qing hummed indifferently.
There was an awkward silence in the car. Seeing that there was a child in the car, Yu Le couldn’t play songs with too many explicit lyrics. He casually found a random song and drove the car a little faster. The armored off-roader raised a cloud of dust as it sped in the direction of the Underground City.
According to the plan, they needed to send Zhong Qing to the Underground City first and use that time to investigate the specific situation of martial law. Then Yu Le would take Ji Xiaoman to the vicinity of the forest petri dish and find what Professor Ruan needed. They would then return directly to Professor Ruan.
On the surface, it seemed like a reasonable plan, but Yu Le had an intuition that something was wrong.
“Can you change the song?” Zhong Qing suddenly spoke up, interrupting Yu Le’s thoughts.
“What’s the matter? You don’t like Carol Young?” Yu Le raised his brows and aimed it at Zhong Qing through the rearview mirror. Ruan Xian and Tang Yibu had always liked this singer, so he had collected a lot of songs by her and built a special list. At this time, her “Gray Hometown” was playing in the car. It was a gentle and sad song, so Yu Le didn’t think there were any problems with it.
“I want to listen to something else.” Zhong Qing refused to look at Lao Yu. He turned his head and looked out the window. “Change it to a male singer.”
However, Yu Le had other thoughts in his mind and wasn’t in the mood to pick a fight with a kid about trivial things. He reached out and struggled to pick a song with decent lyrics—male singers were a rarity in his library.
“What’s wrong?” Ji Xiaoman turned her face.
“Nothing. I don’t usually have many men’s songs.” Yu Le thought she was asking because he was taking too long to pick a song.
“No. You’re distracted.” Ji Xiaoman spoke in a low voice as she lowered her eyes. “What did Professor Ruan tell you that day? I was so tired during that time that I didn’t hear much. You told me you would tell me in the car… Are you worried because of it?”
Yu Le set up a song loop and sighed loudly. “Sort of.”
“I thought things went well.”
Yu Le thought things did go well, but not necessarily “smoothly”.
Since Professor Ruan knew that NUL-00 might still exist, it was understandable that he tried to win it over. However, this was a bit different from the doomsday leader he imagined—even if he didn’t have an elite education, he knew he couldn’t put all his eggs in one basket. Although Professor Ruan said there was a backup plan, it now seemed that the backup plan had something to do with Tang Yibu.
Otherwise, Professor Ruan wouldn’t have stuck with them.
Professor Ruan didn’t look cornered. They all saw it that day. He had countless allies all over the world. Yu Le was sure that no matter which one he chose as his protective cover, he would be able to get a better and more complete commanding position than he was in now. Even the most barren perti dishes would also have at least a minimum of some supplies, while they had a car that was about to be emptied—this wasn’t even mentioning the fact he was far from being familiar with them.
The current Professor Ruan didn’t have much combat power, so why would he follow them? Tang Yibu and the other Ruan Xian weren’t gentle and reliable companions.
It was truly weird.
From the previous exchanges, it seemed that Tang Yibu was led around step by step by Professor Ruan. Since the other party had this kind of scheming, he wouldn’t be easily suppressed.
However, he only had partial information. Yu Le glanced at Ji Xiaoman with a puzzled look and began to organize his thoughts…
The night Tang Yibu left, there was no one else in the cellar. Yu Le openly asked questions when discussing their itinerary.
“Don’t you care that Xiao Ruan just ran away?”
That damn little machine could only spit bubbles. Yu Le couldn’t see the other party’s expression, but thinking that it was just a black box, he subconsciously straightened his attitude.
“I can’t stop him,” Professor Ruan replied lightly.
“But Tang Yibu can. You could have told him about your guess in advance,” Yu Le said. “From 2095 to 2100, you acted as Ruan Xian for five years. You must know him better than all of us. If you really wanted to stop it, even a little conjecture… No, even if there was no evidence, you could still remind Xiao Tang to be alert on this matter.”
“It’s good for them to be separated.” Professor Ruan didn’t directly answer his question.
“Really? Look at Tang Yibu’s cheerfulness just now. He couldn’t wait to fly directly over. I don’t see the benefits of separating them.”
“Do you think that their relationship is smooth?” Professor Ruan asked.
“…I don’t know. I haven’t been in a relationship with a man.” Not to mention an AI that used a male body.
“If they continue to stay together, it won’t be a good thing for us. I think Ruan Xian also saw this. Tang Yibu is indeed happy, but don’t you think he’s a lot brighter than a while ago?”
Professor Ruan’s three-legged machine jumped onto a small folding stool, then landed on the table with a tap.
“He’s now able to analyze his emotions in a stable manner. Bluntly put, it’s because other questions are already in the state of ‘in progress’. Ruan Xian ran to the Mainbrain’s side by himself, which is similar to a limit test—if Ruan Xian still hasn’t betrayed us while being under the Mainbrain, there will be no situation where he will ‘betray’ Tang Yibu in the future. That is the limit. Therefore, Tang Yibu will no longer worry about this issue for the time being. He just needs to wait for the results.”
“…Xiao Ruan really likes to fight hard.” Yu Le was speechless. “But no matter what, it’s over. I can’t control him if he wants to go and get himself killed, but if the Mainbrain takes him, he’ll drag us all into the water…”
“He will betray us.” Professor Ruan was calm, as if they were just having some small talk. “Tang Yibu may really have some feelings for him related to ‘love’, but it’s mainly from a possession perspective. As long as the results don’t come out, he won’t surrender his trust.”
“As for Ruan Xian, he was cold to the original society, and he’s not the type to take personal risk because he feels touched. He left Tang Yibu partly because it was the best option to solve both of their problems, and partly because… If he couldn’t solve his problems, that would be the best place for him.. I don’t deny his love for Tang Yibu, but in my opinion, his love is more inclined to self-satisfaction.”
“…” Yu Le didn’t know how to answer for a while. “But they look pretty…”
“You’ve been in love, haven’t you, Mr. Yu? You should be clear about the basics—all normal love requires a certain form of response. Even if you don’t take the initiative to chase, it’ll be more enjoyable when the other party responds. But from my observation, Ruan Xian seemed to ignore all of Tang Yibu’s responses.”
“I know. They are both abnormal.” Yu Le ruffled his hair. “To be frank, I don’t understand how you can fall in love with something you made, but there’s a first for everything. Being too absolute isn’t good, right? Besides, what does this have to do with whether Xiao Ruan will betray us or not?”
“Because I have confidence in MUL-01.” There was a smile in Professor Ruan’s voice. “It will soon find out that Tang Yibu is the only thing that ‘Ruan Lijie’ is interested in. If it’s willing to use Tang Yibu as a bargaining chip, Ruan Xian might accept it. The reason is simple—the container of NUL-00 is a cybernetic brain. The Mainbrain can learn everything just by copying its data. It doesn’t necessarily have to destroy him.”
Professor Ruan didn’t continue, but Yu Le could guess the possible next development.
As long as the Mainbrain found a way to eliminate the A-type Prototype or simply transfer Tang Yibu’s cybernetic brain to a different shell that looked exactly the same, given the absolute resources the Mainbrain possessed, it wasn’t impossible to convince Ruan Xian.
Yu Le began to wonder if Ruan Xian would agree to such a deal.
If the deal holds, Tang Yibu would definitely be tightly controlled. If he was a normal person, the relationship would be finished… but Tang Yibu was an AI that took its life as its top priority. Knowing that he would have a chance to live, Tang Yibu would definitely pretend to live a peaceful life with Ruan Xian while looking for a slim chance to make a comeback.
But for Ruan Xian, nothing would change except a more stable life. He didn’t care about the other party’s opinions. This thought was absolutely terrifying.
Yu Le thought for a while, and his expression only became more grim. Professor Ruan had seen through the other party and had mostly guessed their intentions, as if it was simply a natural thing.
“…After such a deal is established, Ruan Xian will do his best to work for the Mainbrain. I think he also took this into account, and the reason why he didn’t take the initiative to make a request in the first place was because he was worried about exposing his identity. However, I think it’s only a matter of time before this deal is made.”
Yu Le gulped. “Knowing that this would happen, you still let Tang Yibu go to spy on Ruan Xian’s plan?”
“NUL-00’s reserves on emotional issues are lacking. He can’t calculate this. It’s something that can only be acquired through experience,” Professor Ruan said. “NUL-00 will never succumb to the Mainbrain until it’s a last resort. He knows very well that his existence is always a threat to the Mainbrain and would never voluntarily surrender the initiative. The contradiction between him and Ruan Xian on this issue is irreconcilable, so I must make NUL-00 fight for us wholeheartedly.”
Indeed, once Tang Yibu knew Ruan Xian’s plan, he would definitely choose to eliminate the Mainbrain as soon as possible and take back his creator—as for what happen afterwards, Yu Le didn’t want to think about it.
“So, in the end, you’re trading ‘Ruan Xian’s escape’ for ‘Tang Yibu’s 100% cooperation’,” Yu Le concluded.
First, give up part of the winning rate in exchange for a behavior. It was a cost-effective deal—if those two people were here, let alone emotional issues, they were destructive enough that they may not have listened to Professor Ruan’s command.
“Now that Tang Yibu isn’t here, I will say it. For the next part of the plan, I will plan it on the premise that Ruan Xian betrays us.”
“What if something goes wrong on Tang Yibu’s side?” Yu Le didn’t know what to say, but he wanted to find the words to refute it. The way things were going made him uncomfortable all over.
“I can’t put all my precious time on NUL-00, who may not survive. He does increase the win rate dramatically, but is definitely not part of the core plan—no matter which set of plans it is,” Professor Ruan said. “Now is the time to gather the rebels again, Mr. Yu.”
The armored off-roader drove across a riverbed, causing the vehicle to lurch, forcing Yu Le to return to reality from being lost in his memories.
How was he going to tell Ji Xiaoman?
Even if they had seen the most dangerous things and some of the most remarkable people in the world, together, the four of them were at most in supporting roles in this history. From the beginning, this was a battle between Professor Ruan and the Mainbrain. They were simply regarded as pawns on a chessboard, and there wasn’t much chance for them to actively intervene.
….And when they meet Ruan Xian again, most likely he would be their enemy.
“It’s not bad.” Eventually, Yu Le replied like so. “It’s not a big deal. Let’s wait until we reach the Underground City.”
Zhong Qing sat in his back seat in silence. There was no sound of the iron bead’s rattle in the car, or the foaming sound coming from Professor Ruan, or chewing sounds coming from Tang Yibu, or whispers from Tang Yibu and Ruan Xian secretly talking. With four figures missing, the armored off-roader seemed empty.
Yu Le suddenly felt a touch of sadness.
The author has something to say:
Ruan: Prefers not. (Claws vigorously to overturn the chessboard)
Tang: (Although I don’t know what’s going on, I’m quite happy to overturn this chessboard)
So there are a bunch of deals going on. Basically, Professor Ruan knew that Ruan Xian would most likely betray them, and he let this happen because he wanted to make a deal with Tang Yibu.
Ruan Xian would flee to the Mainbrain, who would offer him a deal once it discovers the truth. It wouldn’t kill Tang Yibu but would somehow get rid of the A-type Prototype and give Ruan Xian complete control over him. With the limitless resources at its disposal, this would be a hard offer for Ruan Xian to turn down. He also gets to keep his NUL-00 and be the one in control. This all boils down to those two having no trust in each other.
Counting that this would happen, Professor Ruan lets Ruan Xian’s plan take place. This would force Tang Yibu to join his side. Tang Yibu would never submit to the Mainbrain because he knows his existence is a threat to the Mainbrain and that the Mainbrain would never let him live freely. Tang Yibu’s only option is to side with Professor Ruan in order to destroy the Mainbrain and take back Ruan Xian. Professor Ruan betted on this, and lo and behold, it did happen. However, whether Ruan Xian plans to betray or not is still left in the air.
Now, Professor Ruan is betting that Ruan Xian will betray them as part of the next step in his plan. Ultimately, the Mainbrain and Professor Ruan are playing chess. They are calculating all the actions their pawns are/will be taking (Ruan Xian, Tang Yibu, Yu Le, ect.) and planning hundreds of steps ahead. Little do they know that there are two kitties who don’t like being pawns and are about to overturn the chessboard.
This marks the end of the arc. There’s only one arc left. Summary below:
After escaping the Android Show, Professor Ruan directed the team to go to the Mainbrain’s city as it was the best possible place to hide. Along the way, they stumbled across a kid named Zhong Qing who was suffering from a disease. Zhong Qing is considered “dead” in this city as he has been replaced by a clone that didn’t have the disease he has. He wants to leave the city and uses his knowledge of the city and a safe place to hide to make a deal with the team.
Eventually, the team reaches a morgue where all diseased bodies are stored. For some reason, only Zhong Qing was awakened but no one else. We find out later that this was part of the Mainbrain’s plan to set up baits around petri dishes all over in order to lure out the team. However, in order to not let Professor Ruan and the team suspect it’s bait, the Mainbrain didn’t put any tracking or monitoring on the bait. The bait is there as a rough confirmation of where the team is and what they plan on doing.
As the team explores the morgue, Ruan Xian and Tang Yibu work out their emotional problems (sort of, as we see later, nothing was actually solved at all), while Yu Le discovers that Zhong Qing was actually hiding the truth about his disease.
Not only that, Zhong Qing found that some of the bodies in the morgue were missing. It turns out a staff member was moving them under the orders of the Mainbrain and that staff had arrived to finish the job. After investigating, the bodies the staff was moving were ones that had deadly viruses and diseases. This is to provide R-α with deadly disease strains so it can fight Tang Yibu and incapacitate his human body.
The team decided to set up camp in the morgue for the time being. This is where Ruan Xian devises his plan to betray the team. He purposefully gets “captured” by the Mainbrain while the team escapes.
To get Ruan Xian to join its side, the Mainbrain sets up a series of mental tortures by putting him through simulations of people that it thinks would affect “Ruan Lijie”. While this is going on, the remaining team members build a base in the countryside on the outskirts of the Mainbrain’s city, and Tang Yibu decides to join Professor Ruan’s side (you can read about all the deals going on above this summary).
In the end, Tang Yibu sets out to retrieve Ruan Xian, Professor Ruan is planning his next course of action at the makeshift shelter by gathering the rebels, and Yu Le and Ji Xiaoman are heading to the forest petri dish to retrieve something and drop Zhong Qing off in the Underground City.
Zhong Qing is a kid suffering from a disease called Rhododendron Disease. Basically, he’s been infected by a parasitical virus that has taken over his brain and developed his body in a way that will maximize the body’s survival rate (which is why he has so many eyes on his head and can see such far distances).
In normal terms, he’s no longer considered “human” but rather just the consciousness of the virus trying to survive. However, he doesn’t know this and still thinks he is Zhong Qing. To solve his disease issues, his parents copied his memories and personality data and inserted them into a clone that didn’t have this disease. This is why he was sent to the morgue to be kept in storage so his disease could be studied.
For some reason, he was awakened, which he thought was because of a loophole by the Mainbrain but was in actuality purposeful so he would act as bait for Tang Yibu’s team.
No longer considered alive and a citizen of the Mainbrain’s city, he wants to escape it and go somewhere else, so he helps out the team, and in return they will transport him to a different area for him to live in.