Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 235: Four-Person Operation
Professor Ruan was still nervously preparing his battle plans, so it was naturally impossible for him to answer MUL-01’s question. At present, the attack program hadn’t been completed. He acquiesced to Tang Yibu’s tossing outside—as long as NUL-00 could contribute when it was time to do so, Professor Ruan didn’t want to bind it too tightly.
After all, it was acting with its true creator. With NUL-00 staring at him, it wouldn’t be easy for Ruan Xian to compromise with the Mainbrain.
He had no position to command the two of them, and it was easy for things to backfire if he pushed too hard. Professor Ruan maintained this cooperative relationship but had secretly asked people to observe the whereabouts of the two of them. Whether it was them playing whack-a-mole at the various small and medium-sized strongholds, to riding into the desert, he didn’t mean to intervene for the time being.
They had wisdom and strength, but even a clever woman couldn’t cook without rice*. Even if they stood in front of the Mainbrain’s body, two people alone couldn’t make much of a storm.
*(巧妇难为无米之炊) Proverb meaning lacking the necessary conditions, it’s difficult for even capable people to accomplish things.
As far as his latest information was concerned, the damaged armored off-roader was heading deep into the dessert. Those two people were probably taking advantage of the chaos to spy on more intel. At least this was what Professor Ruan concluded—he couldn’t think of what else they could do.
Well, his information wasn’t wrong.
The morning of the last day had arrived. The sun was shining bright. The top of the armored off-roader unfolded its sun panels. Outside the window was only endless desert. The dull scenery made the iron bead less enthusiastic. It was no longer humming but was slowly chewing on parts on the side as it drove the car smoothly.
Ruan Xian sat leaning against the window of the car, watching the sand dunes outside slowly recede. The armored off-roader seemed to be sailing on a sandy and golden ocean. Tang Yibu was no longer attacking the strongholds under the Mainbrain. Their test had been completed—the assembled machinery lay quietly beside Ruan Xian, and the procedure contained in it only needed a final correction.
Tang Yibu was once again eating something. Even with the air conditioning in the car, the heat radiating from outside still made the android look sick. He rubbed against the temporary bed that was made of seats connected together and scuttled next to Ruan Xian.
Ruan Xian didn’t avoid allowing Tang Yibu to lean on his shoulders.
Yu Le’s and Ji Xiaoman’s escape presented a great opportunity, allowing the start of a chain of chaos. Without Professor Ruan’s intervention in this matter, the possibility of the Mainbrain reacting in advance was extremely low. However, under the control of the Mainbrain, the butterfly effect was ultimately limited. Once the 24 hours had passed, those small and medium-sized strongholds would recover from the chaos, and they would lose their best chance of attacking.
Success or failure was at stake here.
After attacking hundreds of strongholds in a row, Tang Yibu felt tired. With one hand, Ruan Xian manipulated the one cubic meter-sized machinery and continued to improve the program inside. His other hand was wrapped around Tang Yibu, letting him lie in his lap.
“Get some sleep.” Ruan Xian lowered the curtains and said to the listless Tang Yibu, “The next part is a protracted battle. It’s better to accumulate as much energy as possible.”
Tang Yibu hummed, and obediently lay down on Ruan Xian’s lap. He didn’t close his eyes immediately, but half squinted them, staring at Ruan Xian’s neck from the bottom up, and holding the bag in his arms tighter—Ruan Xian took enough blood and made countless blood compresses along the way. They were packed together with high-calorie food in Tang Yibu’s backpack and waist bag.
He still wasn’t used to the feeling of not having absolute control over the overall situation.
“You told me, ‘Any action has a rhythm. You just need to catch it and pull the trigger, and too much thinking can disrupt that rhythm’… I think this statement is extremely applicable to combat.” Perceiving the other party’s uneasiness, Ruan Xian stopped the movements in his hand.
“That’s because I have the power to make sure there won’t be any problems,” Tang Yibu whispered.
“Now… The Mainbrain must’ve discovered our movements, so it’ll also send M-β and R-β over. They must have been upgraded. The same tactics cannot be used a second time. We don’t have an advantage in combat power.”
Ruan Xian didn’t answer immediately, but just listened carefully.
“In case it finds out that you are Ruan Xian, the number of troops to suppress us will only increase. Mr. Ruan, in case something goes wrong…”
“You can escape at any time. If you want to run away with all your strength, I guarantee you can run away.”
“I know,” Tang Yibu muttered. His entire body tensed up, but he still held his gaze at Ruan Xian.
He wasn’t sure if it was physical fatigue… but this was the first time Ruan Xian had seen Tang Yibu so anxious. He set the program to a self-test state, freed up his hands, and pressed his fingers on Tang Yibu’s head, gently massaging the other’s scalp.
“Are you nervous?” Tang Yibu stretched his taut body a little.
“More like I’m feeling an element of anticipation.” Ruan Xian thought for a while before saying, “Everything has to have a result.”’
“…” Tang Yibu was silent for half a minute. Ruan Xian had just planned to stop massaging when Tang Yibu spoke again. “But I’m still anxious.”
“That the plan will fail and we’ll lose to the Mainbrain?” Ruan Xian put his hand back when he saw this and continued massaging. Tang Yibu’s hair was smooth and soft, and he liked the feeling of it.
“No,” Tang Yibu replied sullenly. “Like you said, we’re going to get a result. The Mainbrain is quite persuasive. It was fine when it doesn’t know who you are, but if it finds out your identity in the process—Ruan Xian’s DNA fused with the S-type Prototype—it will definitely go to great lengths to convince you in the face of such a precious resource.”
He held his breath for a moment.
“I know we have discussed these issues, and this is just worthless repetition… but I can’t help it. Now I even want to go back and take you to Professor Ruan’s side and choose a slow attack method. Although the danger is a bit higher, we don’t need to directly confront the Mainbrain.”
“Didn’t you really want to confirm it at first?” Ruan Xian raised his eyebrows.
Facing the Mainbrain was a crisis that couldn’t be surpassed. If he could make it through, Tang Yibu would calmly throw away his doubts; if he couldn’t make it through and chose to betray, then a judgement would be reached on their relationship, and Tang Yibu would still have the opportunity to “deal” with him. Ruan Xian originally thought this was the least problematic part of the process, but Tang Yibu was nervous because of this point.
“I like this now.” Tang Yibu couldn’t answer the question. “I don’t want it to end.”
Ruan Xian stopped moving. The car continued to move quietly in the sea of sand. He didn’t say anything more, but continued to gently massage Tang Yibu’s scalp, all the way to the roots of his ears, quietly listening to the android’s babbling, lowering his entire sense of security in his body.
The android continued to mutter and kept talking about all the possibilities they hadn’t chosen, as if he intended to put them into practice with his mouth, but when Ruan Xian’s massaging moved faster, Tang Yibu’s speed of speech would almost increase, and when he slowed down, Tang Yibu would match it as well.
This guy was quite cute when he was nervous. This was the first time he had seen Tang Yibu nervous like this. Ruan Xian moved his posture so that Tang Yibu could lie flatter. The afternoon sun was getting hotter, so he pulled the curtains tighter. The program had completed the self-test and made a soft beep, which Ruan Xian quickly turned off.
In the gentle bumps of the off-road, Tang Yibu eventually fell asleep.
He no longer slept like a vampire in a coffin like when they first met. At the moment, Tang Yibu was resting on his lap, curled up, sleeping like a baby close to its mother’s body. His breathing was even and long, and his brows frowned slightly.
Ruan Xian moved his body cautiously, trying to smooth the wrinkles between the android’s eyebrows.
“…Just like you, I don’t want to end,” he whispered. “Unfortunately, like you, I also want more.”
Forest petri dish.
Yu Le tugged at his clothes and pulled at his collar uncomfortably. His stubbles were shaved, and the dust and oil on his face were also cleaned up. Coupled with the uniform of the Order Supervisors, a bit of age-appropriate majesty emerged from him. The edges of Ji Xiaoman’s hair were neatly cut, and it was combed and no longer messy. With her usual indifferent expression, she looked like a young, orderly woman.
“It’s really uncomfortable.” Yu Le tugged at his neckline again.
Ji Xiaoman, on the other hand, nervously confirmed her gloves, pulling them tighter over and over again to ensure that her prosthetics wouldn’t be exposed by her movements.
“I have prepared the required documents for you and have clearly marked the destination you want. Mr. Yu is a ruins pirate, so there should be no problem with his sense of direction.” Guan Haiming looked up at the two of them. “For weapons, Major Ding will provide some, but the system over there; even he couldn’t intervene, so I personally can’t do anything about it.”
“Tang… NUL-00 will help us. Don’t worry about this.” Yu Le was so nervous that his stomach hurt. “But the detection device…”
“Order Supervisors’ detection machines have a number on them, so we can’t get them. Using the detectors here will expose you, so you can only rely on yourself along the way.” Guan Haiming shook his head.
“It’s okay. It’s not far anyway.” Yu Le tentatively straightened his back, imitating the movement of an Order Supervisor. “Is there anything else to pay attention to?”
“Don’t contact anyone other than NUL-00. Once you blend in with the Order Supervisors, without Major Ding’s help, we have no way to bypass the Mainbrain’s alert system.” Guan Haiming sat down behind his desk. “We don’t accept temporary distress calls and we can’t provide reinforcements.”
“Great, just the kind of backup support I want.” Yu Le laughed dryly.
Ji Xiaoman rolled her eyes and glanced at Yu Le, who quickly changed his dry laugh to a dry cough.
“I don’t understand NUL-00’s intentions.” Guan Haiming sighed. He still couldn’t hold back from asking questions. “Why does he want the two of you to go to the ruins of the Institute? Why do you think you’ll encounter Order Supervisors there?”
“You can ask Professor Ruan about this in the future. I think he will answer you.” Yu Le adjusted his facial expression. He breathed in his hand, twisted his eyebrows, and smelt it. “Is there a unified mouthwash for the Order Supervisors?”
“We’re not going to their stronghold.” Ji Xiaoman started pulling on Yu Le. “It’s almost time.”
“Ugh.” Yu Le wiped his hands on his clothes. “Let’s go. On the bright side, at this time tomorrow, we’ll be liberated—no matter what kind of liberation it is.”
“Don’t crack such jokes!”
“Okay, okay. Ah, Little Profiteer, are you really angry?”
“The situation outside has been determined. I also asked Zhang Ge and the others to scout it out. There’s not a lot of dangerous mechanical life or ventral cockroach movements nearby, but it’s a bit troublesome when it rains, making the path difficult to walk on. However, the way there shouldn’t have problems.”
“What else can we do? Let’s go.” Yu Le shook his head. “Thank you, Xiao Ding.”
Ding Zepeng stopped the electronic map in front of Yu Le and gave a long pause.
“Although I don’t know what you plan to do… I hope you have a smooth journey,” he said. “When the time comes, I’ll definitely pick you up.”
“Thanks for the auspicious words.”
Ji Xiaoman looked at the electronic landscape outside the fake window and then retracted her gaze. “…Thank you.”
Zhong Qing and A’Qiao were left in the refuge. Considering Zhong Qing’s chatterbox personality, Yu Le and Ji Xiaoman tacitly remained silent. Now that they had stepped out of the refuge again, it was just the two of them alone.
“I kind of miss the iron bead.” Yu Le breathed in the moist air. “Well, in 10,000 steps, perhaps an iron coffin will do.”
“Let’s go.” Ji Xiaoman touched the modified electronic wristband and whispered, “We’ll see them again.”
Their destination was easy to find—a collapsed corridor with a solid triangle propped up by several cement slabs at the entrance. Standing near the pile of ruins, they could see the memory city not far away.
At least that was what Ruan Xian described to them at the beginning.
[There is definitely a strong perceptual camouflage in that place, so Professor Ruan hid the S-type Prototype there with peace of mind. Perceptual camouflage isn’t easy to maintain. He won’t make another one in the same petri dish. Rather than dispersing resources, it’s best to just make the best one.] Not long ago, in the bumpy armored off-roader, Ruan Xian explained. [In other words, the machine he originally planned to use to attack the Mainbrain is nearby.]
[But how do we find it?] Ji Xiaoman bluntly asked.
[You don’t need to find it. When I was on the Mainbrain’s side, I leaked part of Professor Ruan’s plan. The Mainbrain can also find the petri dish where “Ruan Lijie” first appeared. Combined with the information from the S-type Prototype, it’s not difficult to determine where the attack machine is located.] Ruan Xian answered simply.
[And after “Ruan Lijie” leaked the secret, it can also be assumed that Professor Ruan will probably abandon this plan as a result.] Tang Yibu naturally took over. [If I were it, I would definitely send some Order Supervisors and scour every inch of land in the forest petri dish as soon as possible, find this attack device, and analyze it—the ruins of the Institute must be one of the first suspected locations. Most likely, the Mainbrain have already found it.]
[Haa… Do you want us to infiltrate and be the oriole behind the mantis? We’re not quite qualified for that, are we? The Little Profiteer knows a bit about machines but what can I do? Make things livelier? Wait, you don’t want us to destroy the thing, do you? We’ll definitely not be able to preserve our lives, so we won’t do it.]
[No.] Ruan Xian shook his head.
[I want you to start it.]