Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 17: Insider
Tian He put down the electronic paper in his hand.
His bed was in the inner corner of the ward, by a huge fake window. The other side of the glass curtain stimulated a rainy day. The raindrops sliding down the glass were almost realistic, and the sound of artificially made thunderstorms was played in a loop behind the glass. The pots of forget-me-nots were still blooming by the bed; their petals were clean and soft and full of vitality.
There was a bowl of cold chicken soup on the small table beside the bed that had condensed into a caramel-colored jelly. Tian He scanned it numbly and finally stopped on the console by the bowl. He stretched out a thin hand, poked the console twice, brought up the light screen in front of him, and then checked all the corners of the shelter one by one.
“STR-Y type 307a231, auxiliary machinery application approved.” As the mechanical tone sounded, the ward door opened in response.
Tian He raised his eyes. “231?”
“Yes.” Tang Yibu changed out of his blood-stained clothes and stood upright. “I need to submit contradictory data.”
“Just submit it directly through the public background.” Tian He turned his attention back to the light screen.
“This data is more sensitive, and it is most appropriate to submit it to you.”
Tian He pulled a few pillows behind him and moved to the head of the bed, barely allowing himself to sit higher. “…Let’s hear it.”
Tang Yibu took out the food canister wrapped in an evidence bag from his pocket and handed it to Tian He with both hands. “On March 17th, this was found in the ruins of the Wild Cemetery. This is indeed a can label belonging to Zhang Yazhe, with his fingerprints and DNA residues on it.”
Tightly wrapped in a blanket, Tian He’s face was ashen, and the color was a bit like raw fish that had begun to necrotize. He didn’t speak, just raised his hand and extinguished the light screen in front of him.
“Ruan Lijie joined Zhang Yazhe’s team today. As his auxiliary machine, I found this anomaly when I checked the team data. Zhang Yazhe reported the can as open and brought the remnants back to the shelter. This is a serious breach of trust, and it is difficult to infer the purpose. According to my judgment, this is a vicious concealment that must be reported.” Tang Yibu continued without any emotion.
“This is just a label. Where is the can?”
“Still intact. It is currently in the temporary custody of Ruan Lijie, and I have no right to occupy human property.”
“I see.” Tian He relaxed his body and slid his back down a little bit along the pillow he was leaning on. “I will take care of this matter. Go back.”
“Yes.” Tang Yibu bowed slightly, turned and left the room.
He closed the soundproof door of the ward and blinked at Ruan Xian a few steps away. “Did you hear all that?”
“Nn.” Ruan Xian nodded while pretending to read the hygiene bulletin board on the nearby wall.
The soundproofing effect of the rooms here was very good, but in the end, it couldn’t stop the prying eyes of the S-Type Prototype.
Ruan Xian heard it very clearly. Tian He in the ward let out a long and heavy sigh, followed by the sound of the paper being crumpled. Ruan Xian frowned slightly and lowered his gaze.
“Hey, Xiao Guan.” The noise of the light screen being activated sounded. Tian He whispered bitterly in the room. “Call 231 to your side before you get off work today and erase all its system logs for the day.”
“Understood.” In the faint sound of the alcohol music, Guan Haiming’s tone was indifferent, and he didn’t sound half interested in asking questions.
“Remember to take a shift today. Go out and take a breath. Xiao Guan, you… Haa.” Tian He’s voice suddenly stopped and finally turned into a sigh.
Guan Haiming didn’t answer, probably because the communication was interrupted.
“Xiao Ruan?” A puzzled female voice sounded from behind. Ruan Xian’s scalp exploded while he was concentrating on eavesdropping.
Qiu Yue was carrying a cloth pocket. Her eyebrows were slightly raised as she stood behind him.
“Interested in the medical clinic? Tian He said you wanted to be an explorer. Have you changed your mind?”
“No, just looking around.”
“What a pity. If you’re willing to join here, the little girls would be very happy.” Qiu Yue smiled beautifully, like a plump and sweet ripe persimmon.
Ruan Xian smiled embarrassedly. This expression may not be natural enough, he thought to himself. He really hadn’t been exposed to too many compliments about his appearance, so his reaction was always a little slower.
“I’m going to deliver dinner to Tian He. Xiao Ruan, remember to go to the canteen on time, otherwise all the good food will be gone.” Qiu Yue didn’t seem to notice the strangeness. Her smile was still sincere.
“I’ll go after reading this article.” Ruan Xian pointed to the publicity column in front of him. This time, his smile was more relaxed.
He decided to listen for a while longer before leaving.
“Qiu Yue, the administrator, is visiting.” The ward door closed behind her.
“Using the light screen? What’s the situation that you’re still working.” There was a faint anger in Qiu Yue’s voice, but before the anger could erupt, it turned into a sigh. “I knew you didn’t eat your chicken soup again… Here, I cooked you some apple sugar water, your favorite.”
“I’ll turn it off now. Xiao Yue, first help me throw away the things in the trash bin into the garbage shredder.”
“Lao Tian, isn’t this an evidence bag? Why is it wrinkled like this? Can this ball of paper be thrown away?”
The dull sound of the garbage shredder sounded and soon stopped again. The soup spoon hit the edge of the metal bowl, creating a clanging sound. “It’s done. Come on, drink some sugar water.”
“I have no appetite.”
“Still angry with me?” Qiu Yue’s voice was a little bit aggrieved. “I didn’t mean to lose my wedding ring. Take a sip, just one sip. You need something in your body, or you can’t function.”
“…” Tian He was silent for a while. Not knowing why, he sounded a little bit sad. “I told you before, don’t act alone outside… Why didn’t you listen?”
“Yes, yes, yes. My bad. Lao Xing, the field marshal; Haa, although he was a little injured, I’m still fine, right? The situation was really urgent at that time, and I was afraid that the young people wouldn’t be able to handle it. I didn’t expect it to be so… Well, Tian He, I’ll open a private mission. Maybe someone had picked up the ring nearby.”
Tian He didn’t speak again.
“Take a sip, Tian He, I beg you.” Qiu Yue’s voice trembled a little more. “You haven’t eaten anything since yesterday. What do you think you are doing to yourself?”
“I’m just a little tired, so I’ll eat it right away.”
“Okay, you said it. You have to eat once in a while.” Qiu Yue sniffled. “Old bastard, where’s your energy? Who promised Professor Ruan that he would ‘fight to the last second’? Look at you like this.”
“…I’m just a little tired.” Tian He repeated.
“I’ll massage your legs for you.”
“Stop going out alone in the field, okay? At least make sure there is someone around.”
“I know, my ears are going to get calloused. Take care of yourself first, everyone is waiting for you to get better.”
“Zhang Yazhe can take over my shift.”
“…Tian He, what do you mean by that?”
“Fate determines life and death.” Tian He’s voice was as cold as ash, without any semblance of life. “I hope you didn’t do anything stupid, Xiao Yue. When the time comes for people, ah, they have to go—Look at this window. We just make it look bright and open, but everyone knows that we’re underground, and there’s only mud outside this window.”
Ruan Xian couldn’t listen anymore.
He didn’t go to dinner, so he went straight back to his new room—to be precise, back to Zhang Yazhe and their team dormitory.
The structure of the dormitory was simple. There was a hall that connected to four small rooms that were about eight square meters. Compared with the observation room where he lived before, the condition was much worse. The toilets and bathrooms were shared, and they were all outside the dormitory.
Generally, there were three people in the team, and the empty room in the fourth room was usually used as a repair room. Ruan Xian had joined temporarily, so it was only cleaned up today. The machinery that was originally shelved in the room was put into the hall and piled up in a mess. There was silence in the dormitory right now, which probably meant Zhang Yazhe and the others should still be eating dinner.
Ruan Xian rushed into the empty room that still smelled of rust and mold. He locked the door, turned off the light, and fell onto the hard bed without even taking off his holster.
“What are you doing?” Seeing that there were no outsiders, Tang Yibu no longer stood upright. He sat on the floor, folded his arms on the edge of the bed, and lay down comfortably. In the darkness, his golden eyes flashed with a little light.
“Thinking. Ruan Xian turned around and turned his back to the beautiful face close at hand.
“You already knew that there was a problem with Zhang Yazhe and asked me for information.” Tang Yibu said it in an affirmative way. “Now the top leader of the refuge has made his statement. Tian He doesn’t plan to pursue this matter. There’s no point in dwelling on this issue any longer.”
He stretched out a finger and poked Ruan Xian on the back. “But I’m curious about your other sources of information.”
Ruan Xian faced the dark wall with a wry smile. Yes, he had indeed spied on Tang Yibu. Tang Yibu once made it clear that there was no obvious difference between the “current” Zhang Yazhe and the former.
He didn’t mind returning the favor and revealing a little bit of his thoughts.
“There is no other source of information.” Ruan Xian told the truth. “It was only today that I was basically sure—Zhang Yazhe shouldn’t know that he has been manipulated. If he’s self-conscious, making the excuse of losing the food canister or losing the remainder after he has consumed a part of it, no one will pursue too much on this matter.”
Not only did he “open the can”, but he also made a special effort to bring the remainder back to the shelter. If there was a problem with the canned food, everyone wouldn’t be fooled. This kind of interference method was too inefficient. At present, it seemed the most likely possibility was…
“The lie about the can isn’t for the refuge. It only needs to fool ‘Zhang Yazhe’ himself.”
Ruan Xian continued slowly, “According to Ding Zepeng’s statement today, unless he’s seriously injured, Zhang Yazhe wouldn’t do such a thing as lose a food canister casually, and to ensure that Zhang Yazhe could return to the refuge alone, his injuries couldn’t be too serious.”
“The faker, on the other hand, shouldn’t be able to perfectly reproduce the details of the food canister, and with Zhang Yazhe’s experience, he’d notice something isn’t right. Thus, in order to resolve this contradiction, Zhang Yazhe thought that he had ‘eaten the canned food’, as that was the most suitable choice. That food canister can provide far more than one day’s rations and bringing the part that can’t be eaten back to the shelter is most consistent with Zhang Yazhe’s own logic.”
Tang Yibu drew circles on Ruan Xian’s back with his finger. “So you left this matter to the judgement of the leader of the humans.”
“Yes. My information is insufficient after all. At least I still can’t figure out what the purpose of this ‘Zhang Yazhe’ coming here is, and whether he was replaced by someone else, or simply just his memories… Tian He is more capable of making this judgement than me.”
“It doesn’t matter.” Tang Yibu paused. “As I said, I’m confident I can ensure your safety.”
Ruan Xian rolled over and looked directly at the face that made it difficult to get angry. “It matters to me. Tian He’s first reaction was to destroy the evidence, and he knew exactly what happened. There’s a problem with this shelter.”
“I don’t understand.”
Tang Yibu retracted his fingers and poked Ruan Xian’s earlobes instead.
“You gave up your information advantage and jumped out to negotiate with me directly. And when there was a way out, you insisted on accepting this potentially deadly earring. Now you’re anxious to know the truth. Whether there’s a problem with the human refuge clearly has nothing to do with you. I could have arranged everything for you, from a safe environment to a good life, and you just need to cooperate with me without any unnecessary worries.”
“As a price, information must be obtained through you, the rescue must be approved by you, and actions must be monitored by you.” Ruan Xian sighed. “This is called being raised, not cooperation.”
Tang Yibu let out a sigh and moved his fingertips along Ruan Xian’s earlobes to the center of his eyebrows. Instead of diminishing the confusion on his face, it became a bit thicker.
“…I thought Ruan Xian would only give you the most basic survival functions, and then initiate the destruction process. Unexpectedly, he imbued you with human memories and even higher than human intelligence. Are you so enthusiastic about humans because he has given you the mission to ‘save mankind’?”
“Maybe.” Ruan Xian tightened his body. “Do you know Ruan Xian well?”
“We have been in contact.”
“…What kind of person is he?”
Tang Yibu retracted his fingers. This time he was silent for a long time.
“Based on my evaluation of mankind, he’s a cruel person,” the android spoke slowly. “And I agree with this view.”