Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 20: Information Manipulation
“At this point, do you still plan to join Zhang Yazhe and the others in ‘saving’ Tian He?” After returning to the small room in the refuge, Tang Yibu sat down on the hard board bed, patted the side of the bed, and motioned for Ruan Xian to sit down. “If they can’t transplant healthy internal organs, Tian He won’t live past this week. They will act soon.”
Ruan Xian didn’t plan to respond to this pet-like gesture. He leaned against the wall of the small room and stared at a certain point in the void without saying a word.
The neglected Tang Yibu stood up and leaned against Ruan Xian’s side. His gaze was burning. “You said, ‘You want to join their actions’, but Tian He, as the individual, wants to die—”
“I remember.” Ruan Xian finally spoke. He lowered his head blankly and activated the electronic wristband again. “Assuming that Zhang Yazhe and the others insist on acting, my thoughts have not changed. Tang Yibu, when were you originally planning to take me away?”
“Not sure. Whenever.”
“Good.” Ruan Xian zoomed in on the light screen in front of him and quickly tapped the virtual keyboard.
“…Ah.” Tang Yibu blinked. “I really haven’t calculated this.”
The rapidly refreshing text lit up Ruan Xian’s face. He was cracking the program intently, moving fast and gracefully, like a kingfisher skimming over the water. After entering the final command, he raised his hands and pressed the OK button.
A few seconds later.
Qiu Yue still boiled sweet rice soup in the end. Tian He drank a few spoonfuls. The rice soup was silky and sweet, but he couldn’t wash away the bitterness in his mouth. He glanced at the light screen wearily, as if he was trying to imprint every corner of the shelter into his mind.
Suddenly, a message popped up, and Tian He lifted his eyes.
[The truth about the refuge and your replacement. Talk more about it tonight at 21:00, ward.] The message was followed by Zhang Yazhe’s signature.
Tian He smiled weakly and simply replied, “Okay”. Besides, he could only live for a few more days. This, undoubtedly, was a good opportunity to explain the future to the next leader.
Zhang Yazhe came as promised, with a solemn expression.
“Don’t you have anything you want to say to me, Lao Zhang?” Tian He said it with a flat tone as he held the sweet rice soup that had gone cold.
“I never thought you were… Boss, what the hell…”
“That’s what you know. When did you find out?” Tian He stirred the milky white soup with a spoon and didn’t look at Zhang Yazhe’s eyes again.
Zhang Yazhe let out a sigh, looking surprised and confused. “You were the one who sent me the message telling me that you were replaced by MUL-01 as a replicator. I…”
Before he finished speaking, Zhang Yazhe quickly frowned and tightened his body. “Boss, is this a game?”
Tian He didn’t look shaken at all. His face flashed with a trace of surprise, and he soon calmed down again. “Well, I’ll have Xiao Guan check it out later. Anyway, facts are facts, so it doesn’t matter if this is a game or not. You’re here now, and I just want to explain the situation.”
“Are you really…?!”
“Well, I have been replaced by the Mainbrain twice, or rather, I have recorded it twice.” Tian He squeezed the edge of the bowl tightly. “I can’t get over this problem. The shelter has stabilized in previous years, so I can’t linger in the sickbay for too long. Anyway, MUL-01 will find a way to replace me, so let’s make it easier… Lao Zhang, in fact, you have noticed it more or less, right? Anyone who has little ability has a surprisingly hard life.”
“…Yes.” Zhang Yazhe pulled a chair for himself and propped his hands on his forehead. “The veterans are too lucky. It’s fine to overlook them surviving a major disaster once or twice. If this happens numerous times… I think those who are older have become a little more aware of it, but people don’t want to think about it. Professor Ruan clearly promised—”
“He should have only told Guan Haiming, and I only found out about it later. It’s not easy for Xiao Guan. I know that kind of pressure. Think about it, if everyone knew they were being kept in a cage for observation by MUL-01, and the friends and families around them didn’t know how many times they’ve been replaced, this place would be in total chaos.”
Tian He’s voice carried a bit of disheartened indifference.
“Lao Zhang, Qiu Yue took my healthy tissue the other day. Did she ask you to go to the city to make internal organs? Don’t lie to me, I can guess.”
“…” Zhang Yazhe didn’t say a word but exhaled tremblingly.
“You don’t need to save me. Let me go.” Tian He let out a few muddy coughs. “The last two years, the refuge has become too stable. It’s estimated that there’s not much observation value left. The changes these days are probably a hint from MUL-01. My leadership must come to an end. There must be new changes in the refuge to facilitate it… so it can continue to be observed.”
The last few words were squeezed out sharply from between Tian He’s teeth.
“You can’t just listen to the Mainbrain—”
“Lao Zhang, you have seen what it looks like on the other side of the dead wall. The world outside has gone crazy. Everyone needs a stable organization with trustworthy leadership. Xiao Li’s son and Lao Xing’s daughter have just been born, and Lao Gao is still taking care of those underage children. If you tell them and the shelter collapses, where can they go?” Seeing Zhang Yazhe fall into silence, Tian He smiled bitterly.
“What exactly does MUL-01 want?” Zhang Yazhe’s voice shook a little.
“It may be information about human resistant behavior, or it may be information about our survival skills. Anyway, it didn’t do more than that. As a product of being copied, I know very well in my heart that I still love this refuge… and my wife.”
“If you leave, what will Qiu Yue do?”
Tian He didn’t answer, but swallowed the sweet rice soup one bite at a time. His hand shook like a sieve, and the spoon in his hand knocked against the edge of the bowl with a clatter.
When he spoke again, he had already changed the topic.
“Let’s get back to business. Zhang Yazhe, I have watched you for so many years… Let’s count this current me as watching you for so many years. You’re a very capable person. I hope you can inherit my position. Sorry, Lao Zhang, but you need to know the truth so that you can better deploy personnel in the future.”
“Personnel deployment?” Zhang Yazhe said, slowly. “Boss, tell me the truth. I died too, haven’t I? My fucking luck from childhood to adulthood wasn’t as good as these past few years!”
“There are tasks that only you can do, and I know you will come back.” Tian He closed his eyes. “Sorry.”
Zhang Yazhe was silent for a long time.
“You haven’t wronged me.” About two minutes later, he responded with a hoarse voice. “I am Zhang Yazhe and you are Tian He. Do you remember when we first met seven years ago?”
“I remember. Your hair looked like a bird’s nest at the time.” Tian He smiled, his voice softened.
“At this point, how can you say things like ‘no need to save me’? I don’t care how many times I have died or how many times you have died. You’re the fucking leader that I know! You remember everyone in the refuge, right? You, no, you… Fuck, I feel uncomfortable.”
“It’s good to have that thought.” Tian He placed the empty soup bowl by the bed and looked at the tiny blue flowers in the light. “I just… don’t think the same way you do. Lao Zhang, promise me that tomorrow I will simply announce this matter, and then hand over the leadership to you. You go back and prepare to take over the day after tomorrow. I still have a few days left in this body, so if anything is not clear by then…”
“Okay, I promise you,” Zhang Yazhe suddenly said.
Tian He stopped talking, and for the first time, showed an obvious expression of surprise.
“My thoughts are indeed different from yours.” Zhang Yazhe seemed to calm down. “Isn’t that good? At least until that bastard Mainbrain gets tired of it, I, Zhang Yazhe, will protect this place as much as I can, and if this me is gone, the next one will still continue. I won’t run away like you, and I won’t tell anyone about it.”
“That’s it. I’m going to smoke some cigarettes to calm down. Boss, don’t forget to contact Xiao Guan. The person who set this up knows about this and must be found. MUL-01 will not use such a human approach. It’s enough for it to quietly wait for you to die.”
Having said that, Zhang Yazhe strode out of the door without looking back.
“How terrible.” Ruan Xian, who was in the corridor of the medical ward, frowned.
“In my opinion, the matter has been resolved well. Zhang Yazhe’s thoughts are similar to mine—he doesn’t think that being copied will have any adverse effects. Now he’s willing to inherit the refuge, which is the best result.” Tang Yibu approached leisurely.
“The problem is here.” Ruan Xian strode to his room. “Tang Yibu, locate Ding Zepeng and Chi Lei.”
“Where’s Zhang Yazhe?”
“Heading towards them.”
“They should be in the dormitory at this time. I think they will act tonight. It was my forged information that disrupted Zhang Yazhe’s plan.”
“If there are unexpected factors, Zhang Yazhe usually adjusts the time and makes a new plan.”
“He won’t today.” Ruan Xian rushed into the room, equipped with a blood gun, and picked up the backpack he had already prepared. “Because Zhang Yazhe now knows that they will definitely ‘never die’. In his concept, Tian He is the one who really has a crisis of death. He calmed down too quickly just now. This isn’t normal.”
“…Then why are you following?”
Ruan Xian’s movements stopped for a few seconds. “No one is ‘immortal’, Tang Yibu.”
“You seem to know humans well.” Tang Yibu stretched out his hand and helped Ruan Xian tidy up his collar.
“It’s just that I’m more proficient in observing words and expressions.” Ruan Xian snatched back his collar uncomfortably. “Go, keep up with them.”
Tang Yibu didn’t move. “You are also very human-like.”
Ruan Xian’s heart tightened. Before he could spit out the words used to remedy it, Tang Yibu continued on his own.
“…It’s very interesting to observe,” he said with a smile as his golden eyes gleamed. “Come, I’ll carry you.”
Zhang Yazhe and his team rode their hoverbikes breaking through the deep night and rushed towards the brightly lit AI city. Ruan Xian, who was carried by Tang Yibu, followed closely behind the three of them. The cold wind swept across his cheeks. The thick, warm body of the man in front of him had taunt muscles full of strength.
In a trance, it gave him the illusion of a kindred spirit.
“Why do you observe humans?” The moment Ruan Xian realized it, the question had already blurted out.
“To collect information.”
“…Just like MUL-01.”
“Ah, just like MUL-01.”