Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 225: Snake and Fish
Yu Le naturally recognized those two drawings. That was the boarding certificate he sketched for Ruan Xian and Tang Yibu when they were in the Sea of Ruins—his first impression of the two of them. Now it seemed that his first impression was as accurate as ever.
It was fine to talk about those two. If he showed appropriate cooperation, he could suffer less. They still had nearly two days left and could use every minute of relaxation—not to mention that he couldn’t see through what those two guys were thinking anyway. As long as they kept key information, Yu Le didn’t mind talking about this topic.
He had always been good at talking bullshit.
“Looking at these two sketches, your first impression of them isn’t very good.” The young woman’s projection spoke gently as if she was a psychiatrist.
“I don’t think they’re so cute now.” Yu Le rolled his eyes. “But at least they didn’t bind me to a chair and lock me in a room. I definitely like them more than you.”
“Snake and… person. Did you recognize the bionic identity of NUL-00 that early? As far as I know, it’s not uncommon for people to dye their pupils.”
“It’s called having a sharp eye. That’s talent. I don’t mean to boast, but I’m quite good at reading people.”
Yu Le gave a serious pause. “Call it intuition. The first time I saw that kid, I thought it was something else wrapped in human skin. It may be considered a self-preservation instinct—like when some people’s knees go weak when they see bugs, snakes, or large beasts. Anyway, it was like a kind of cold feeling—I guess that he wasn’t human, yet he pretended so hard to be, so can’t I draw what I’m feeling?”
“In other words, you think Tang Yibu is quite dangerous.”
“Indeed, to make you question so nervously, he might be more dangerous than I imagined.”
The image of the woman sighed, and there was a hint of melancholy in her eyes. “After staying in prison for so long, you must understand… Lazy Fish, even if I don’t inquire about anything and just let you go back, you’ll be killed by him. In fact, you already know this in your heart, don’t you? This time, Ruan Xian asked you to transport important items but didn’t give you a plan to protect yourself. You’ve been treated as an abandoned child.”
Yu Le clicked his tongue loudly and didn’t respond.
“NUL-00’s sense of self-protection is stronger than that of all living things. ‘Maintaining one’s own safety’ is one of the rules written in its core logic. It won’t maintain human relations, let alone the fact that you’ve only met not long ago. Protecting it is of no benefit to you now.”
“Who knows?” Yu Le grinned. “That kid Tang Yibu still owes me a few yellow books, so I can’t let him go so easily.”
What Yu Le had learned before the doomsday was, first, “never take chances”. He was extremely convinced that only one outcome awaited him and Ji Xiaoman—when the drug was completely activated in their brains, whether they surrendered or not, their brains would be crushed, and the information extracted. The Mainbrain wouldn’t simply believe them. Nowadays, these inquiries weren’t even torture but more like a disguise to try and stimulate their brains so the memories that were squeezed out would be fresher and juicer.
As for whether the Mainbrain would be willing to “make” them again, Yu Le didn’t care. He didn’t want to be crushed to powder.
After thinking about it, Yu Le didn’t intend to expose his thoughts. In case this judgement was exposed, in order to be more secure, the Mainbrain might freeze them or simply cut off their heads and attach them to a sustenance machine. If that happened, there would be no chance of escape.
The conversation had to continue.
“It seems you’re not going to tell us more about NUL-00… Lazy Fish, you haven’t changed. You have been very loyal since you were a child.”
“He likes to eat his egg custard with soy sauce. Does this count? Oh, he also likes Carol Young’s songs a lot.” Yu Le responded without a smile. “Fuck loyalty. He’s Ruan Lijie’s mistress, not mine.”
The expression of the projection became a bit unsightly. Ji Xiaoman let out a sigh, as if she was forcibly holding back her laughter.
“Then let’s talk about Ruan Lijie.” When the projection spoke again, there was no embarrassment in her tone. “Your impression of him looks even worse? Snake? According to our information, his style of behavior is indeed a bit weird, but not to this point. Since you can read people accurately, I want to hear your opinion.”
The smile on Yu Le’s face got bigger. “Oh, what do you want to hear from me?”
“Why do you think Ruan Lijie is dangerous? As a human, how does he make you subconsciously uncomfortable—”
“I thought you were serious about your preparations.” Yu Le spat out his words slowly. “It seems that now it’s far from it.”
“I think we didn’t misidentify the impression of your pictures.”
“Yeah, he’s more like a viper.” Yu Le shrugged. “I thought you guys knew that when people started boarding the ship, there would be a flurry of things going on. I would simply choose my first impression and not consider any deeper meanings behind them.”
“You didn’t answer my question.” The image of the woman shook her head.
“I think he’s a viper not because he gives me the creep or there’s some kind of sinister feeling.” Yu Le sneered. “Seriously, have you Order Supervisors come across a viper before? Most—and I mean most vipers—as long as you don’t provoke them, they usually stay there quietly, or simply escape. First impression? I think this person is introverted and has no ambitions, but he’s much more powerful than me. I’d better not take the initiative to provoke him. Going by that metaphor, did I make the wrong choice?”
“But think about it.”
Seeing that the projection didn’t respond, Yu Le continued at an exasperatingly slow pace.
“In the end, you’re just people of the Mainbrain. I’ve seen it all… To the Mainbrain, perhaps ‘poisonous*’ is tantamount to ‘malicious’. Even if it’s an innate toxin used for survival, it’s harmful to people. I guess I can’t help that there are quite a few people who would think this way.”
*Clarity: When they refer to the drawing, they are calling it “snake” (蛇). When clarifying further, Yu Le refers to Ruan Lijie as a “viper” (毒蛇) or poisonous (毒) snake (蛇). This is why Yu Le is referring to the word “poisonous”. The context basically means that, because people know that vipers are poisonous, some would think that it’s malicious/evil (because it can inherently produce poison that can kill people), while Yu Le’s approach is that it’s not malicious if you don’t provoke it.
“Oh, also, I can reveal some information about him to you—as far as I can tell, he and Xiao Tang are sincere. You have to write this down well, you hear me?”
Ruan Xian, who was still far away, had no idea that he was being “betrayed”. He was soaking in the water of a lake, vigorously scrubbing the blood and flesh from his body. They made his hair heavy and sticky, which was extremely uncomfortable.
Tang Yibu was also doing the same thing, but he was more straightforward—the android would take a big breath, swim to the depths of the lake, blow out a bunch of bubbles, and finally come up with a fat fish in his mouth.
The iron bead tried to imitate the actions of its big friend, but as soon as it took two steps in the water, it immediately started to sink to the bottom. It screamed in fright, stumbled back to the edge of the lake, and began rubbing against a tree trunk to clean off the dirt on its shell.
After the battle, Tang Yibu took Ruan Xian and ran wildly for a long time until he had almost exhausted all his strength. Without the two difficult opponents to contend with, it wasn’t hard to get rid of the remaining pursuers—even if they were in a bad situation, the Mainbrain wouldn’t be stupid enough to think that some small fries could really end them.
After a few hours of fleeing, the two found a nice clear lake and decided to take a temporary break—at any rate, there were certain people they had to visit next.
“Let me scrub your back.” In order to avoid the fire attracting attention, Tang Yibu built a mud stove by the lake. He took the fish ashore and roasted it over the fire, temporarily giving up his fishing job.
“Thanks.” As Ruan Xian washed his face with the lake water, he could smell the aroma of grilled fish. He had consumed so much energy and his hunger was so great that his eyes were blurry. Before Tang Yibu found the fish, he almost dug out grass roots to eat.
Tang Yibu wrung the water from Ruan Xian’s hair and began to carefully clean the residual blood and flesh behind Ruan Xian. Ruan Xian had to admit, being in the cold lake water, the body temperature from Tang Yibu made him feel a lot more comfortable.
“I’m afraid we won’t be able to get away like this next time.” Tang Yibu started very lightly, as if what he was touching wasn’t human skin but soft tofu that could break at any moment. “We won this time… because the Mainbrain didn’t know you have the S-type Prototype. In order to ensure the blood supply is convenient, it didn’t reinforce R-α with too many defenses. It also had too much confidence in M-α.”
“I know.” Ruan Xian fiddled with the water with his hands. “And based on my previous performance, most likely the Mainbrain has already determined who I am.”
At that time, he was too weak to be impeccable in front of the Mainbrain. He failed to hide it by indirectly admitting to his identity.
Their swap battle was successful. Not counting weapons of indiscriminate destruction, only M-β and R-β were advanced fighters left under the Mainbrain. They had captured two chess pieces with poor information and a little bit of luck, but at the same time paid a high price for it—
“MUL-01 now knows you’re Ruan Yuchan’s son and the carrier of the S-type Prototype. It’s only a matter of time before it finds out you’re ‘Ruan Xian’.”
Based on Tang Yibu’s tone, there was not much joy in their victory.
“It will also improve M-β and R-β based on this battle. If we run into them next time, most likely your blood attack will no longer be useful, and I can’t crush R-β’s skull so easily. The next battle will be quite difficult, and I still can’t think of any good way to avoid it.”
Ruan Xian rubbed his smooth left wrist. “The cart will find its way around the mountain*. We currently don’t have enough information right now, so it’s pointless to worry. Yibu, this is what impromptu planning is.”
*(车到山前必有路) Metaphor referring to things will eventually sort themselves out.
Tang Yibu grunted twice anxiously, then hugged Ruan Xian from behind.
“There are still 48 hours.” Ruan Xian patted his arm to cover up a series of grumbles from his stomach. “We have to eat the fish quickly and continue on our way.”
“I think I’m making increasingly more wrong decisions.” Tang Yibu drooped his head, resting his chin on Ruan Xian’s shoulder. “If I hadn’t jumped out so early to fight against the Mainbrain, we wouldn’t have to cooperate with Professor Ruan, let alone be involve in these battles… You didn’t have to be chewed up like that.”
“Suppose we tried to escape at the time and didn’t cooperate with Professor Ruan. It’s very likely we would maintain an attitude of mutual vigilance after that. When you have to face the Mainbrain, I would sell you out as I want to preserve at least half your life… Just like the Mainbrain suggested.”
Ruan Xian rubbed Tang Yibu’s hair, drawing in the warm body heat from the other person.
“At that time you jumped out foolishly, and eventually we’re at this point. I think this may be—well, how to put it—the most interesting part of being alive?”
Feeling Tang Yibu’s warm breath, Ruan Xian couldn’t help laughing. “This isn’t a dream calculated by the Mainbrain. You can’t just restart it again. We should celebrate.”
“Maybe we’ll figure it out some other way,” Tang Yibu muttered.
“I won’t deny it.” Ruan Xian continued to let the android hold him. “But why do I feel that if I hadn’t sent myself into the worst possible situation, someone wouldn’t have been reassured by ‘until they see the results’? Let alone peace of mind, you wouldn’t have time to even think about it.”
“The fish is almost done.” Tang Yibu turned his head.
“…Your ability to change the subject needs improvement.”
“That’s because you didn’t teach me well.”
“You should have learned it yourself a long time ago.”
Tang Yibu bit the back of Ruan Xian’s neck in retaliation, then ran ashore. Ruan Xian touched his neck, shook the water from his arms, put on a clean compression robe for himself and put back on wet shoes that had all the bloodstains washed off. After all this, he turned his head and happened to lock eyes with Tang Yibu.
After being caught, Tang Yibu hurriedly took a big bite of his fish.
“Hurry up, haa, haa. There are 47, haa, haa, hours, haa, haa, left.” Seeing Ruan Xian coming over, Tang Yibu mumbled as he tried to blow out the hot air.
“…Did you burn your tongue?”
Ruan Xian couldn’t laugh or cry. He grabbed Tang Yibu’s wet hair and skillfully went in for a kiss. Tang Yibu shrank for a moment, avoiding the kiss.
The rejected Ruan Xian raised his eyebrows.
“I, haa, will be fine in a while.” Tang Yibu shook his head stubbornly. “You don’t have to… bite yourself.”
Having said that, he bared his teeth and grinned for a long time, giving Ruan Xian a smile with great difficulty as he handed over a bunch of fish.
“For you. Be careful not to burn yourself.”