Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 29: Starry Sky
The white shelf in front of him had accumulated a thick layer of dust, which swept into the air with one’s breath. Bags of food and candy were scattered everywhere, all over the slightly sloping smooth floor, dressed in dust like some kind of fungus.
Ruan Xian removed a bag of chocolate stuck under his shoe, afraid that it would make noise, shrank his body in again, and listened intently to the conversation from the people outside. Unfortunately, after a few minutes of light conversation, the two men and woman fell silent, and only dull footsteps and breathing could be heard outside.
The three of them didn’t find the small convenience store hidden around the corner, half-covered by the ruins. They trampled on the broken glass on the floor and moved away in the direction of the entrance to the main building of the hospital. At the same time, a loud noise of friction and collapse between the walls sounded not far from the right side of the hospital, causing the ground to shake slightly and debris to fall with a patter from the cracks in the ceiling.
The hospital seemed to be on the edge of the Sea of Ruins, and the building that had just been blocked on its right had peeled off and moved to a new position. The air outside poured in along the gap, causing the space to no longer feel humid and stuffy. After confirming that the three unidentified people had walked away, Ruan Xian stood up and breathed a sigh of relief.
“Let’s go another way.” He took apart a towel and began to wipe the dust from the package. “There’s a strong smell of medicine in the side hall, so the pharmacy is probably in that location.”
Now that he knew that Tu Rui was a member of the rebel army, his goal was clear. The three people who had just passed by seemed to have a clear destination. Ruan Xian didn’t plan to wade into this muddy water until he found out the details of the other party.
Tang Yibu opened the door of the storage room and stretched most of his body into a huge box freezer, turning over the cans inside. Ruan Xian got a muffled “Nn” through the rattling of jars.
Then he watched as Tang Yibu went too far and fell with a loud bang. The smoke that came from the impact was like the smoke from a flame.
Ruan Xian began to have a headache. Until now, he couldn’t figure out whether the android was harmful or harmless in general. Tang Yibu lived like a drunk cat. He could never guess what the other party wanted to do next.
The android turned to the drink he wanted and stepped out of the cabinet contentedly.
“We have limited time.” Ruan Xian ground his teeth and roughly wiped the packaging off a cookie box.
“But you’re hungry.” Tang Yibu shook his slightly long black hair, and another wave of dust swept up.
“I didn’t—” Before Ruan could finish, his stomach made an indefatigable growling sound. “…How did you know?”
“In the early morning of yesterday, you were ‘killed’ by Major Ding. You lost a lot of blood. After that, you only hate half a piece of salt bean cake. Since the initial power of a Prototype is stronger, it also consumes a lot of energy as well. If you can’t guarantee the calorie supply, there’ll be problems with your abilities.”
Tang Yibu pulled open the backpack and stuffed the cans neatly inside. “When we hand over the things, the food we can get may not be better. It’s best to eat some first… Personally, I suggest choosing the one with the highest calories.”
The entire space was dark and depressing, covered with dust and mold. Ruan Xian moved a few steps, and he could feel the softness of the dust on the ground through the soles of his boots. From any point of view, this wasn’t a suitable dining environment. “It’s not ventilated here. I don’t have much appetite. Let’s talk about it somewhere else.”
Tang Yibu’s golden eyes could be said to be the only light source in this dark space. Those beautiful eyes blinked in front of Ruan Xian, and then followed their owner to turn around and return to the storage room behind the small door.
Bang. Bang. Creak.
Now Ruan Xian could distinguish these sounds. They represented the bending of steel bars, the depression and peeling of the walls, and finally the cracking. Then came the sound of wind pouring into the room. Fresh air from the outside quickly squeezed in, and a little light overflowed from the storage room that was as dark as a cellar.
“Come,” Tang Yibu said.
Ruan Xian hesitated for a moment and stepped into the brightened space.
There were two door-sized cracks in the wall. Tang Yibu removed the large freezer and stuck it in the gravel-covered breach. The android was sitting on the edge of the breach, facing the oncoming moonlight and evening breeze. He patted the flat freezer fragments beside him with his hands.
Ruan Xian scratched his temple fiercely with his knuckles and walked over helplessly.
The unpleasant smell of dampness was blown away by the wind. Ruan Xian put his backpack containing half of the food between the two of them and sat down carefully as he looked at the scene in front of him.
‘It’s crazy,’ he thought.
They were on the edge of the Sea of Ruins, somewhere above the sky. It was like they were sitting on the edge of the roof of a high-rise building. He looked down at the entire wasteland that was vast and desolated, with a blurred horizon that connected the boundless starry sky. Looking down, there were still many irregularly piled buildings under his feet. The entire Sea of Ruins was rumbling forward, like an ominous and slow giant train.
“It’s well ventilated here,” Tang Yibu said in a low voice, reaching out and digging in his backpack. In the next second, Ruan Xian’s face felt the feeling of a cold can sticking to his face, which made him subconsciously grab it.
The android nodded solemnly and began to pull the backpack that Ruan Xian had put down.
Ruan Xian lowered his head and looked at the jar that was clearly illuminated by the moonlight. A black and red packaging of a bottle of cherry soda. He had never drunk this thing before because of his constitution.
“We can leave the chocolate and butter cookies.” Tang Yibu confirmed the calorie description on the package. “According to your information, pirates prefer heavy-flavored foods with a lot of additives to high-calorie foods.”
As he spoke, he tore open a pack of cookies neatly, causing the rich aroma of butter to instantly rush into Ruan Xian’s nose.
Ruan Xian quietly accepted the cookie and ate it in small bites. The strange, heavy smell almost paralyzed his tongue.
“You were angry again just now, right?” Tang Yibu’s way of eating was much rougher. Each bite he took would cause his delicate face to bulge up and his voice to become muffled. “I mean when I was in the cell.”
“…Yes.” Ruan Xian opened the can of soda that had been sealed for many years, making a small puff.
“Why didn’t you say it?”
“I do wish you would discuss things with me in advance, but time obviously didn’t allow for such a thing in that situation.” Ruan Xian took a sip of his soda and was so shocked by the bubbles pouring into his mouth that he almost dropped the can.
“But I still cause you unhappiness.”
“I don’t need your apology. We can skip this topic.”
“I’m just curious—we all know that my approach is ‘reasonable in terms of results’, but you still act like you’re hurt.” Tang Yibu raised his chin to allow the wind to blow more freely on his face while he kept on his muttering. “It’s amazing.”
“I am also very curious. Since you know that I am not a human being, why do you continue this kind of observation?” Ruan Xian put down the cookie box in his hand and turned his gaze to the sky.
“You are infused with human personality information. The human body is also a kind of machine in nature. Memory is data, thinking habits are algorithms, and the two influence each other.”
Tang Yibu crunched the cookies, put down his drink, stretched out his hands, and gestured slowly at Ruan Xian.
“As long as the memory data is not erased, this kind of observation is meaningful before your thinking algorithm makes a huge change. Just as we all know that tadpoles are destined to become frogs, tadpoles themselves also have observational value.”
Ruan Xian retracted his gaze. “Listen to what you said, you—”
“Yes, I have not been infused with any personality information, so I’m not very familiar with human thinking habits.” Tang Yibu’s legs swayed slightly on the edge of the hole, looking very comfortable. “I still want to apologize. I’m sorry I made you feel unhappy. I will try my best to discuss with you in advance matters related to you in the future, Mr. Ruan.”
Ruan Xian kept quiet. His fingers touched the smooth packaging of the cookie box before he folded it. The night breeze wrapped him firmly like a river. After a few seconds of silence, Ruan Xian turned his head and looked at the handsome face of the android beside him.
There wasn’t much expression on that face, but it was more vivid than all the human faces he had ever seen.
There was no compliment, caution, pity, or fear on the android’s face, nor appreciation or awe. Tang Yibu just stared at him like that, his gaze pure and direct, with cookie crumbs sticking to the corner of his mouth.
“…But in exchange, I hope you don’t suppress your emotions in front of me in the future.” Tang Yibu wiped the cookie crumbs from the corner of his mouth and moved his face closer. His tone was very solemn, and the tip of his nose almost touched the tip of Ruan Xian’s nose. “If you refuse to express how you feel, I can’t get accurate information.”
“I won’t be a good sample.” Ruan Xian’s voice was a little dry. He raised his head and looked at the starry sky again.
Tang Yibu didn’t understand.
“How do they make you feel?” Ruan Xian pointed to the clear and bright Milky Way on the top of his head. The clean and clear night sky was decorated with broken diamonds.
The android drank the last sip of soda carefully and painfully pressed down a burp, still puzzled.
“Normal humans will tell you that it’s beautiful and worthy of praise in poetry. The grandeur and beauty of nature are shocking, and so on.” Ruan Xian looked at the twinkling stars.
“Indeed,” Tang Yibu agreed.
“But I can only see the broken time. They are mixed with light from different distances. It’s just a huge… phenomenon. I can’t appreciate its ‘beauty’.” Ruan Xian slowly exhaled. “You should find a more normal sample.”
“Why?” Tang Yibu sounded a little confused. “Perhaps most humans will think this scene is beautiful, but will the aesthetic issue be about whether it’s normal or not? I remember this is a more personal attribute, and it doesn’t involve whether it ‘should’ feel beautiful.”
“Then I will explain another way. About the memory I was infused with—When I was young, I was shown a lot of pictures of corpses.”
Ruan Xian looked at the dark wasteland and plucked out the memories that lingered in his heart. He remembered everything since he was conscious, and naturally, he also remembered the personality test that the medical institution had conducted on him.
“Although I was a little uncomfortable, I didn’t feel any fear or anxiety.”
He was four years old at that time, and a miserable 3D image flashed in front of him. From minor injuries to serious injuries, decay, from partial to whole, from adults to children; he just watched quietly, unmoved, without a trace of expression. The machine next to him honestly recorded his heartbeat and brain waves.
He was very confused at the time, and he couldn’t figure out why they wanted to show him this kind of thing. Did they want him to help? Were they confused?
Why were the expressions of those people getting more and more serious?
Maybe helping them would keep them from frowning. These adults were very stupid, and they must not have figured things out.
[The man in the 74th picture was killed by a chain saw, leaving very obvious traces on the bones. According to the condition of the wound, the height of the murderer was about 1.78 to 1.8 meters, and his dominant hand was his left. He worked hard to change his attack method, but the final few strokes are still obvious.]
He pulled the miserable dead corpse and made it clear.
[Change the size of the chainsaw, fix it on the lower arm, and wear heightening shoes of more than four centimeters. Finally, using acid, it can destroy the traces on the bones and eliminate most of the evidence. However, the murderer’s technique was too rough, and so it couldn’t hide all the deliberate details.]
Unfortunately, this was only a small part of the personality test, and those with frowning brows didn’t want his help.
“…They just wanted to see me scared because normal people are scared, but I wasn’t.”
“Oh, you want to say that you ‘should’ be scared.” Tang Yibu touched his chin. “Then in your memory, have you ever killed anyone?”
“Then you’re just being infused with the memory of a dull human being. Plain and not a criminal.” Tang Yibu judged unceremoniously. “Most humans wouldn’t collapse at the thought of meat in a slaughterhouse or a butcher shop. They cut off genitals of plants and put them on their bedside until they rot and wither. You’re just a little duller on this basis. Strictly speaking, the ‘you’ in your memory is much more common than the felons in prison.”
Ruan Xian almost laughed with anger. He really wanted to pull on the other party’s collar and let the android experience what abnormality was, but inexplicably he couldn’t find a word to refute it, so his fist made of anger could only punch cotton.
And behind that anger, a faint sourness gradually spread.
“Whatever you say.” Ruan Xian suddenly felt a little tired.
“Do you want to be ‘abnormal’?” Tang Yibu started the interview with great interest.
“Of course not.”
“If you care about this kind of thing, you are still full of human thinking.” Tang Yibu squeezed the drink can into a small ball, showing a faint smile. “Anyways, for me, dead flowers, dismembered livestock, and rotting humans are no different—they are all the corpses of creatures, aren’t they?”
The android threw the metal ball into the ruins below, and the curvature of the corners of his mouth became larger. “In my opinion, humans are a relatively strong race, but they are limited to this.”
“I thought you wanted to understand human emotions.” Ruan Xian narrowed his eyes.
“Humans also want to understand the way other species express emotions, but they still live in a human way. It’s just understanding and learning,” Tang Yibu said. “Well, let’s put it another way that is convenient for you to understand. You can think of me as a zoologist who studies humans.”
After that, he stretched out his hand. “I want to pinch your face. Can I pinch it?”
Ruan Xian wiped his face, and out of some complicated emotion, he laughed. The other party didn’t care about humans more than he thought. Perhaps he could take off his mask for a while and breathe indulgently?
“No,” he said, pushing Tang Yibu’s hand back to his side. “I’m full. Let’s go.”
Tang Yibu withdrew his hand with regret. “Then we—”
A sharp scream came from the depths of the ruins of the hospital, and the two quickly glanced at each other.
“Go and have a look?” Tang Yibu jumped up quickly, hurriedly carrying his bag on his back.
“Go and have a look.” Ruan Xian nodded. “Maybe we can exchange a few favors and ask for information.”
This time he spoke his thoughts smoothly.
The author has something to say:
Guess who will be tempted first? (×
My bet is on Ruan Xian.