Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 215: 72 hours
Zhong Qing’s lunch wasn’t at all unpleasant.
In order to temporarily avoid the limelight, he had to stay in the empty underground warehouse when Tang Yibu left. Although the air wasn’t too toxic, the smell was too strong. Zhong Qing pinched his nose and finished the dried fruit and meat pie, then got a bottle of water from A’Qiao.
The water had a sour and metallic taste to it that Zhong Qing didn’t want to think about where it came from.
“You didn’t go with him?” he cautiously asked A’Qiao.
A’Qiao looked at Zhong Qing up and down. Her eyes lingered on Zhong Qing’s abnormal black eyes for a few seconds. Her body was that of a young girl who had just come of age, compared to the 14 or 15-year-old teenager Zhong Qing, who was closer to a child.
“No.” When Zhong Qing finished drinking, she answered him slowly. “He said he knew where to go. Do you have anything else? If not, I’m leaving.”
Zhong Qing felt torn for a moment. “Can you take me with you? I don’t want to stay here alone.”
A’Qiao pretended not to hear.
“Please, demon… pretty sister.” Zhong Qing quickly begged. “Neither of us are old, and everyone outside is wearing masks. It’s still noon, right? Can’t you take me out for a walk? I’m suffocating to death here.”
A’Qiao was indifferent to Zhong Qing’s flattery.
Zhong Qing took a deep breath. “I’ll trade with you! What do you want? As long as I have it, I’ll trade. I just want to go out and look around—”
A’Qiao gave him a sideways glance. “Are you sure you want to go out? I think you just want to take this opportunity to follow Tang Yibu, then find a chance to get into his vehicle so you can sneak out here secretly.”
Zhong Qing flattened his mouth. “…Besides that, I am really worried about them. Yu Ge and Xiaoman Jie have already been captured. If he gets captured too, I won’t be able to leave here.”
“Well, I have nothing planned for this afternoon besides going around and buying some things.” A’Qiao rolled her eyes. “I also want to know what he’s up to—I hope he won’t cause any more trouble for K6 and Fu Yu. Well, new troubles other than you. Hm, if you give me some fresh information. I’ll take you out for a stroll.”
Zhong Qing took off his hat and opened all his eyes. He deliberately stretched his face very tightly, trying to scare the monster girl in front of him, who didn’t know the height of the sky.
A’Qiao’s eyes widened slightly, then she wrapped her arms around Zhong Qing’s neck and looked closely at the six extra eyes on his head. “Interesting,” she stated. “I have indeed never seen such a thing.”
“Let me go!” Zhong Qing blushed. “This is a disease. My blood can be contagious! Is something wrong with your brain?”
“K6 always says I’m stupid, but I don’t think it’s a problem. Besides, I have a cybernetic brain, so if worst comes to worst, I’ll just switch shells.” A’Qiao touched those weird eyes with her hand. “Well, I’ll take you out. Let’s see what that person surnamed Tang wants to do.”
Tang Yibu knew nothing about the conspiracy of the two little ones. Pulling up memories from his mind, he skillfully walked through the streets towards the place where they had buried Ji Xiaoman’s mother.
Yu Le and Ji Xiaoman were both people who were accustomed to living in the shadows, so they wouldn’t deliberately make such a mistake in front of Zhong Qing. They were just using him as a microphone, and as he was unaware, he was just relaying their message to him.
Tang Yibu found it quite interesting. Yu Le knew very well that Zhong Qing wasn’t human, but he still wanted to protect him. Was this the camouflage of the Rhododendron Disease taking effect? When they meet again, he would have to ask him.
[Yu Ge said, this car has been ruined by him, and Tu Rui will definitely call him personally and skin him alive. I hope you can help him for the sake of the friendship we forged along the way. This was what he said to Xiaoman Jie. Xiaoman Jie then said she was feeling homesick and wanted to go see her family.]
Ji Xiaoman’s hint was easy to understand. She knew better than anyone else what her mother’s situation was—in order to save her mother, they buried the android who had temporarily lost function before they left, and gave the coordinates to K6 to make sure the land wouldn’t be used by any gangs for construction.
At the moment, Professor Ruan wasn’t accompanying her, so she had no need to “see her family”.
This was a location instruction.
Yu Le’s sentence was more troublesome. Even if Tu Rui pressed Yu Le to the ground and skinned him little by little, Tang Yibu didn’t think he needed to intervene. It wasn’t as if he and Yu Le were friends, but since Yu Le specifically worded it like that, there was probably some intention behind it.
He needed more information.
Tang Yibu got into the maze of abandoned buildings and quickly found a place where he buried Ji Xiaoman’s mother. He didn’t directly confirm the situation but walked along the crumbling ruins carefully.
There wasn’t any living person monitoring here, and only a few sporadic surveillance cameras around. Tang Yibu exhaled slowly, processed their transmission signals, and then stepped into the agreed place.
There weren’t as many gadgets here as before. This place was probably discovered by the Order Supervisors.
Tang Yibu turned on the lantern he was carrying and illuminated the dim space.
K6 shouldn’t have betrayed them. There were signs of the Order Supervisors searching around. The entire muddy ground was loosened, and Tang Yibu smelled blood. Following the trail of blood, he found the familiar armored off-roader.
The car was parked in the darkness like the molt of a cicada.
Tang Yibu frowned and looked at the vehicle carefully. The things inside were all cleanly removed. The car looked as if it had just been remodeled and hadn’t had time to be filled with things yet. The simple water maker and freezer were still there, but the small freezer was disconnected, and the door was half open. There wasn’t a single bottle left inside. The armament box in the back of the car was in much of the same condition—all the containers were open and the content inside gone.
Robbers wouldn’t be so careful. This was the handiwork of the Order Supervisors.
Tang Yibu took a closer look at the contents of the car again, and he found that there was an extra armament box in the back seat of the car. It was about the size of a coffin, lying horizontally in the car, integrated with it. The style was very common after the doomsday. The surface was worn out and it was also wide open with not even a single screw left inside.
Most likely, the items inside were what Professor Ruan wanted. No matter how he looked at it, whatever was inside was taken away.
Tang Yibu stretched out his hand and patted the thick box, which felt as if it was welded to the car. Tang Yibu frowned. He restored everything to its original state and hid back in the dark.
“…This is how it is.” Tang Yibu briefly described the scene to Professor Ruan. “If you really gave them the real goods, we’re now in trouble.”
Professor Ruan didn’t seem panicked. “I see. Next, go after Yu Le and Ji Xiaoman—it’ll take at least a week to crush their brains as a lot of preparatory work needs to be done. The Mainbrain doesn’t know that they have been in contact with me at the moment. Before they are ready to be crushed, the Order Supervisors will interrogate them for a few days as usual. It’s still not too late. You have to rescue them.”
“Nn.” Tang Yibu huffed. He didn’t like Professor Ruan’s tone very much. The other party was hiding something from him. He wasn’t sure if Professor Ruan was too confident in his plan or if he had doubts about his cooperation.
…Or afraid that if he knew too much, he would steal the initiative away from him.
The trouble was that, according to the most reasonable judgement, he really should follow Professor Ruan’s instructions—Yu Le and Ji Xiaoman had more of Professor Ruan’s information in their heads.
“Those two aren’t very important targets, so the Order Supervisors won’t take them too far. You have just met with Ruan Xian, so you should have an impression of what their bases are like.” Seeing that Tang Yibu didn’t say anything, Professor Ruan continued. “I remember the most recent one should be…”
“The one next to the Sea of Ruins,” Tang Yibu whispered.
He glanced at the outline of the parked car and suddenly realized something. Tang Yibu wanted to laugh a little—it seemed like it wasn’t just him who was doing the same thing to Professor Ruan.
It seemed like he wasn’t the only one who intended to take the initiative.
He suddenly understood what Yu Le’s unintelligible words were referring to, and vaguely guessed why Professor Ruan didn’t seem panicked at all. Tang Yibu maintained the communication connection with Professor Ruan and touched the “empty car” again.
Yu Le made a good move, but Yu Le himself might not even know this.
Now that Professor Ruan had sent several teams to fetch the target items, he had disrupted the Mainbrain. Naturally, the Mainbrain was aware of their movements. Regardless of whether Yu Le and the others were part of a smokescreen, once they were discovered, they would inevitably be arrested for routine inspections. In other words, Professor Ruan’s self-confidence wasn’t that “Yu Le and the others will never be targeted” but that “Even if they are targeted, the Order Supervisors wouldn’t focus on marginal roles like them”.
Tang Yibu wiped the extra heavy “empty box” with his fingertips. It looked like it had been welded to the car for a while now, and this had presumably had a purpose.
He believed Yu Le would become aware of this after finding out that he was being targeted.
Since he was targeted, his options would be quite limited. The people behind his ass would act sooner or later, they just didn’t know when, and they couldn’t control the time when Professor Ruan would discover the abnormality. Yu Le and Ji Xiaoman hadn’t reached a point where they would give up their lives working for Professor Ruan. If they face any death threats, they may actually surrender. Under that premise, it wasn’t clear whether Professor Ruan would rescue or sacrifice them, so there was only one reasonable choice to escape that passive situation…
Make the “time” more controllable.
Hid Zhong Qing’s existence and delayed the time to the very last moment. Yu Le chose to secretly visit K6, who could contact him, then leave at a certain point in time. Thinking about it like this, Yu Le had specially disguised himself when visiting K6, and it made sense why Ji Xiaoman wasn’t with him—after all, their pursuers didn’t know the existence of Zhong Qing, and they couldn’t separate in the open.
As for the mechanical assembly sound Zhong Qing heard… Most likely, Ji Xiaoman used some means to create the illusion that Yu Le was still with her.
After leaving the clues to Zhong Qing, they just needed to come to this location, cause a ruckus, and let the Order Supervisors take them away. Yu Le knew that once they didn’t show up on time, Professor Ruan and Tang Yibu would surely track them down immediately and be able to find this line and get this information.
But looking at Yu Le’s message, a great ruins pirate like him wouldn’t pin all his hopes on Tang Yibu—the nearest stronghold of the Order Supervisors was close to the Sea of Ruins, which was where he originally came from. Without Zhong Qing’s knowledge, perhaps that cunning guy also contacted “other people”.
Yu Le’s effort had paid off. Now Tang Yibu knew the next step clearly. According to Professor Ruan, Yu Le and the others would not be given any special treatment. Tang Yibu now had an idea of the approximate time Yu Le and Ji Xiaoman were taken away. He had at least 72 hours before their brains would be crushed. Even better, if he stepped up the timing, he might be able to create more chaos.
He had 72 hours to figure out Professor Ruan’s plan, try to consolidate the resources he had at hand, and contact Mr. Ruan. From the perspective of the Mainbrain and Professor Ruan, both sides were still at the planning stage, so there was no better opportunity for subversion than this.
It seemed he wouldn’t have much time to eat leisurely. Tang Yibu grinned, showing a devious smile—the next step now was to cause trouble.
This crazy thought shocked Tang Yibu. According to his past style, he would carefully intervene in this battle, carefully test this intricate cobweb, and then move carefully after figuring it all out.
He seemed to have been infected by Mr. Ruan—since he found that he couldn’t count his mistakes with just ten fingers, he began to stop worrying about the correctness of things.
At least the current thoughts made him excited, and he had a certain degree of theoretical support… Even if there were quite a lot of variables, it was still worth a try.
Tang Yibu rubbed his hand, then petted the iron bead that was still sleeping soundly in the net pocket.
“I’m leaving the Underground City and going to find them,” Tang Yibu said to Professor Ruan, trying to make his tone appear serious. “Feel free to contact me if you have anything.”
“What is he doing?” The two children were lying on the roof of a nearby house. Zhong Qing looked hard with his abnormal eyes. His gaze passed through the thick walls of abandoned buildings and into the darkness behind them. “I can’t understand what he wants to do at all. It’s inexplicable. Now he has a smirk on his face. Oh, oh, oh, he’s digging a hole. Is he looking for a secret weapon? …Huh? He—he buried himself?!”
“…” A’Qiao held her cheeks quietly. “K6 also said that I’m an android with a bad brain. Now it seems my brain is better than his.”
“Shouldn’t he hurry and save Yu Ge and Xiaoman Jie?!” Zhong Qing yelled, almost grabbing A’Qiao by the collar and shaking it. “I thought he had finally become a little more human.”
“What are you going to do?” A’Qiao took the dried fruit from the bag and ate it. It was a technical task given that she was also wearing a gas mask.
“Go ask him what’s going on?” Zhong Qing felt indignant. Then his face changed, and he touched his pocket. “…Where did you get that dried fruit?”
“You must go back before curfew.” A’Qiao coldly ignored Zhong Qing’s question. “You have five hours left.”
“That’s also… Hey? Wait, someone is going there. Did you see it? The car over there. That man has a car with him.” Zhong Qing’s voice was raised by several pitches. “I have to inform him!”
At the same time.
Ruan Xian didn’t know anything about Tang Yibu’s crazy thoughts. He was visiting the research institute of the Mainbrain under the guidance of Hu Shuli. And was in a relatively dicey situation…
“I heard that you’re an expert in mechanical life pathology,” Hu Shuli said. “Mr. Ruan, can you please tell me roughly your expertise.”
So basically, what happened was Ji Xiaoman and Yu Le did as Professor Ruan asked until Zhong Qing pointed out that they were being followed. At that point, they knew that there was no escape and that eventually they would get captured.
However, to control the “when” of when they would get captured, they devised a plan. Drop Zhong Qing off and give him cryptic hints so that when Tang Yibu comes, he would be able to decipher them, then create a ruckus and get captured.
The Mainbrain doesn’t know that they are in contact with Professor Ruan at this point, so they would be simply treated as standard procedure.
In summary, Professor Ruan and the Mainbrain think they’re playing a 1v1 match of chess when in actuality, it’s a 1 (Professor Ruan) v 1 (Mainbrain) v 1 (Ruan Xian) v 1 (Tang Yibu) v 1 (Yu Le and Ji Xiaoman), though most likely the last three 1’s will condense together.