Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 73: The Mechanical Hunter
Yu Le’s interest abruptly rose. He arched his waist, hid behind a large crab-like mechanical life corpse, carefully pushed away an oily metal leg with his hand, and looked silently not far away.
The infrared scanner embedded in the lens of the gas mask worked dutifully, and the shadows of the two human shapes were exceptionally clear. Ji Xiaoman looked barely over 1.6 meters; about a head shorter than He An. The infrared scan couldn’t scan her expression, so Yu Le could only see that she wasn’t looking up.
“I haven’t done anything shady. Why can’t I follow you?” He An’s tone was brisk. “It’s my obligation to ensure that you deliver on time. You know why.”
“Does your partner know?” Ji Xiaoman pulled out a handkerchief and carefully wiped the tissue fluid of the mechanical life on her hand.
He An’s figure stiffened, and his voice became cold. “Don’t mention A’Yu in front of me.”
“I also said not to follow.” Ji Xiaoman’s tone was colder than ever before. “You see, everyone has the right to privacy.”
“Delivery’s at 8. It’s half past 6 now. You used to need at least half an hour to get there. You still have one hour to prepared.” He An’s smile completely disappeared. “If I were you, I would go back and prepare the goods instead of hunting in the junkyard. Even if you’re the best mechanical hunter, Qian Yigeng will not let you go easily.”
“Just know, if you die now, it will be very troublesome on my side.” He An sounds like an emotionless android. “How is my stuff?”
“Still repairing. If you don’t bother me to collect parts, I can fix it faster. Now… I don’t know when it will be fixed.” Ji Xiaoman seemed to want to play an indifferent game with He An.
He An snorted, turned his head and left. Yu Le sucked in a helpless breath and continued observing. Ji Xiaoman stayed in place for a few seconds and slashed the nearest mechanical life corpse next to her. She didn’t cry, but her chest fluctuated sharply, and then she continued to dismember the slimy corpses.
Yu Le played his role dutifully as the leader of the pirates and followed her all the way back to the store and only slipped in lightly 8 minutes after she entered the door.
There was a large basin on the counter, and the warm water was steaming a little. The parts she just got were soaked in the basin, with big drops of oil floating in the water. Ji Xiaoman had her back to the door and was cleaning them carefully with her awl-like fingertips. She had five small wooden boxes in her hand.
One of them was wide open, revealing its contents…
The slightly transparent hemispherical device was lying on a soft cloth. Ji Xiaoman didn’t even need tweezers. With a gentle pinch of her fingertips, the tiny pieces sank into the soft gel and returned to their place obediently. Then she used a spoon-like tool to hold the squirming glue, revealing the dazzling structure inside the device. The metal fingertips of the other hand began to turn red. The red-hot sharp metal was attached to the internal parts, making a sizzling melting sound.
After doing all this, she breathed a sigh of relief, pulled back her fingertips, and waited for the glue wrapped around the internal parts to spit out. Not long after, the interior of the completed device began to flicker slightly. The blue light filaments continued to disappear in the glue, like some kind of undiscovered deep-sea jellyfish.
There was no satisfaction on her face in completing the work, only deep sorrow. After hesitating for a few seconds, she picked up a needle and pierced it without mercy. The hemispherical device the size of a human brain was full of blue light, and then it slowly went out.
“I’m sorry,” she murmured. “That’s all I can do… I’m sorry.”
“Let me guess, this is an imitation cybernetic brain?” Yu Le leaned against the wall and spoke lazily. Ji Xiaoman froze on the spot and only remembered to turn around after a long while. It’s just that when she turned her head back, a few bullets also rushed straight at Yu Le.
After Yu Le made a sound, he changed his position with foresight, and the bullets only left a few dark holes in the wall.
Seeing that the other party dodged the bullet, it wasn’t clear whether Ji Xiaoman’s expression was relieved or worried.
“It seems so. Don’t be nervous, I don’t plan to rob you.” Yu Xuan raised his hands and made a gesture of surrender. “If I wanted to rob you, I would have given you two shots from behind. It doesn’t look like you want my life. Anyways, since we’re idle, let’s talk about it.”
“No time.” Ji Xiaoman held a gun in one hand and quickly packed the wooden box in the other. She stuffed them into a huge backpack and carried them neatly. “Raise your hands high and put your back to the wall. Don’t move.”
“Oh, if you weren’t such an uptight little miss, this would sound even more exciting… Hey, don’t shoot. Don’t shoot. I’ll just lie down!” Yu Le took in a breath towards the bullet hole that was just added to the wall by the side of his face.
Ji Xiaoman stretched her face, quickly bypassed the scattered debris and furnishings in the store and slipped out flexibly like a snake. Almost in the next second, the sound of something being locked came from outside the door. Yu Le patted the dust on the wall and snorted.
“In the end, she’s just a little girl. Too soft.”
The door was locked tightly, and the glass couldn’t be broken. Yu Le folded a few metal wires from the shop, dragged over a generator, and broke the lock with a few electrical pulses. He casually threw away his insulated gloves and rushed out of the store. Ji Xiaoman’s figure happened to disappear at the end of the road.
Yu Le kicked on the door of the store, and the click of the electronic lock took effect again, then he followed her. It was just that this time, the slender figure of the little girl had been completely engulfed by the fog.
Yu Le wasn’t bothered by this. He raised his hand and grabbed the young man smoking on the street by the metal ring on his lips and threatened him. “Where did that little girl go just now?”
The young man with colorful dyed hair glanced up and down at Yu Le’s physique, succumbed to the other party’s sturdy arms and pirate aura, and shivered, then pointed in a direction. Even if the fog was pervasive, Yu Le could clearly see the bright neon lights behind the fog.
“Hey, things are getting more and more fun.” Yu Le let go of the young man and snatched the other party’s cigarette. He tore off the cigarette butt in disgust and took in a breath. “It’s just a little girl. Don’t think laozi can’t handle you.”
On the side of a building not far away.
The car finally came to a halt, and the air circulated again. Their iron boxes seemed to be placed on the inside of the car as they could hear people outside moving things out one by one. They should be in a corner of a warehouse right now. Ruan Xian could smell rusty metal, mold, and a little bit of spoiled gasoline.
“What about those two inside? Don’t let them freeze.” The flower peacock sounded worried about the quality of the goods. “It’s good to have fresh cells. We all know that it will be more valuable…”
“They’re two big men. It’ll be fine. It just for a while. Have you finished the scan? Send the photos and scan results to Boss Qian first. Anyway, it’s going to be closed for a day and night to frustrate their spirits. Just send them to a warmer place later.”
As he spoke, he knocked on the box. “Do you hear me? A day and night. If you want to suffer less, be honest! Come on, don’t worry. The heartbeat displayed is normal and their entire body scan has come out. I’ll pass it on to you later. First…”
Ruan Xian didn’t respond, and Tang Yibu obediently pretended to be dead.
“It has been sent to Boss Qian, but I have to take another look…” Flower peacock walked over by himself. “Yes, these two are really strong, and their body temperature is safe. Let’s just—”
[There are only two of them nearby.] Ruan Xian sent the message through the earring.
“The power system of the car has also been shut down, and there should be no surveillance on the car.” Tang Yibu responded softly. “Do it?”
“There is someone whispering inside… What are you whispering about? Speak louder and let laozi listen, yeah?” Flower peacock was just about to beat the iron box when a hand directly broke through the metal wall like it was made of paper-machete and grabbed his wrist.
“Fuck—” Before he could finish, he was knocked out on the spot by the person who jumped out of the box. The other didn’t even draw his gun and instead turned around and tried to run, but Ruan Xian, who had followed Tang Yibu out, kicked his knees and slashed the back of his neck with a knife.
The whole process took no more than three seconds.
Flower peacock and the other man were both dressed in suits like dogs, but they obviously didn’t fit well, and there were many creases and wrinkles. Tang Yibu compared the figures of the two of them, happily removed their coats and gas masks, and stuffed the two unlucky bastards with only their underwear into the metal box.
The electronic wristbands of the two were also specially taken off, and he handed Ruan Xian the one that flower peacock wore.
“It smells like smoke.” Ruan Xian wrinkled his nose in disgust, twisting flower peacock’s suit with his two fingers. The air in the warehouse was still muggy, but the metallic sour stench was slightly lighter than outside, so it wasn’t suitable for breathing.
“The bathrobe is too easy to expose.” Tang Yibu quickly put on his suit, and the clothes that looked baggy on the other person were completely propped up, with a bit more elegant taste. It was a pity that with a gas mask that came with this terrifying atmosphere, the matching effect was instantly subdued.
“I know.” Ruan Xian kicked off his bathrobe and put on his shirt and suit in spite of his nausea. He plugged the mouth of the two comatose men with their bathrobes and then took the gas mask off flower peacock. “I’ll leave the rest to you, Yibu.”
“…It seems that our cooperative relationship has deepened.” Knowing that there were no outsiders this time, and the other party didn’t need to act, Tang Yibu digested how he was addressed for a few seconds*. “But this isn’t fair. Ruan Lijie is definitely not your real name. What should I call you? Xiao Ruan? Or Ruanruan?”
*Clarity: In Chinese and some Asian culture, calling someone by just their first name is very intimate. Since they were acting like a couple, Ruan Xian calls Tang Yibu by just his first name showing off their closeness. Now, with no one around, there’s no need to act, but Ruan Xian calls him Yibu anyways, showing that Ruan Xian regards him as someone close to him.
Ruan Xian shivered. “Mr. Ruan is fine.”
“Mr. Ruan.” Tang Yibu sounded a little dejected. He made sure that the mouths of the two people in the box were gagged and their hands tied tightly by the bathrobe belt, he squeezed the metal box like squeezing playdough and sealed it tightly. He tried his best to flatten the breach, but unfortunately, with no welding device, the gap was still stubbornly cracked. Tang Yibu took some scraps from the metal box and carefully filled it in.
“Almost done?” Ruan Xian straightened the collar of his suit. “We’re not staying here.”
Only then did Tang Yibu stop his obsessive-compulsive behavior, and he turned his attention to the bulging handbag next to the box. Ruan Xian also picked up one. They exuded the smell of fresh blood that made him very concerned.
He hesitated for a while, opened the zipper, and almost dropped the bag—not from fear, but from complete shock.
The bag was stuffed with preservative agents and a human head.
The head belongs to a young man with an honest and innocent face, almost cowardly and not handsome at all. His expression was frozen in fear and pleading, and there were tears on his face.
Ruan Xian slowly pulled back the zipper and sighed. “Now we know where that personality data came from.”
“The personality data that constructs artificial intelligence can be reused, and the body can be copied. Only the cybernetic brain hardware is left.” Tang Yibu grabbed the two bags. “We have to move them out first, so as not to make people suspicious…”
Before Tang Yibu’s voice fell, a man approached the car. Even if there was a mask buttoned on his face, Ruan Xian turned his face toward the shadow subconsciously. Tang Yibu squatted down, hid his physique, and pretended he was handling his handbag.
“Loach, Piebald? Boss Qian is very satisfied with the new products, Piebald. You don’t need to do this anymore. Just wait outside the door. He said that he will see you two first thing after he finishes receiving the goods.”
“Got it.” Tang Yibu responded. His voice was exactly the same as the man who was talking to flower peacock. “Didn’t you say 8? It’s only half past 7. There’s still half an hour left.”
“Boss Qian wants you to wait, so wait. Don’t speak nonsense. Why don’t you two go outside for a drink. Are you that eager to want to work so much?”
“Let’s go now.” Tang Yibu turned his back, hooked Ruan Xian’s neck, and pressed down on the blood gun in the other party’s hand. This time he used the voice of the peacock “Piebald”.
Having said that, they slipped out of the car along the blind corner of the man’s vision. In a dignified manner, he passed by the man who began to bend his waist and organize the head in the bag, and then lowered his head to pass by another group of people who came to help.
Outside the warehouse was a maze-like corridor. It could be seen that other buildings have been temporarily remodeled, and many rooms were firmly welded tightly by metal plates. Cameras rotated in all corners. Ruan Xian recalled flower peacock’s floating steps and imitated them as best he could. He reluctantly followed the instructions of what was said and tried his best not to show any hesitation.
There were scattered people passing by them on the road. They were also wearing ill-fitted suits and their faces were covered by gas masks. Several people still had dark, suspicious stains on their clothes. Ruan Xian was happy that everyone ignored them as no one came to greet them.
There were only stairs leading underground.
As the two of them descended step by step, there were fewer abandoned doors that were sealed and more prison doors that smelled of blood and rot behind them. The decoration of the corridors was also getting more elaborate. They flowed through a river of whimpers and cries for help until they walked into more gorgeous lights.
The floor under their feet had changed from a cracked cement to ceramic tiles and velvet fleece. The spray paint patterns full of dirty characters around them had become reproductions of oil paintings. The air began to become fresh, and the rancid smell and calls for help gradually faded behind them. However, in the end, Qian Yigeng wasn’t a researcher. Ruan Xian used his peripheral vision to scan the surrounding environment. The style of the cameras hadn’t changed from beginning to end. Their placement was scattered and left a lot of blind spots.
The first few isolated doors could be entered by simply swiping their wristband, while the last one had more thought and was changed to iris scans in addition to fingerprint recognition. This obstacle obviously couldn’t stop Tang Yibu. He was about to press his palm upwards…
Ruan Xian grabbed his wrist.
“There are not many voices inside, and there’s nothing special in there,” he whispered. “Go over there first. I heard something else.”
Tang Yibu stopped obediently and dragged Ruan Xian to the other corner of the corridor maze. After unknowingly passing through several similar doors, Tang Yibu repeated his old tricks and had to manually crack the electronic lock in front of him. Ruan Xian smiled and shook his head and opened the door with the electronic wristband he took from flower peacock.
“This will leave traces.” Tang Yibu raised his eyebrows.
“What I want is to leave a trace.” Ruan Xian winked before walking in. “There’s a person inside, very close to the door. Get ready.”
The door creaked softly, and as soon as the man sitting in the chair was about to turn his head, he was directly hit on the back of the head by the wristband thrown by Tang Yibu and fainted softly to the ground.
“I get it.” The android raised his head and looked at the countless light screens floating in front of him…
This was the surveillance room.
“I prefer to spend time here rather than waiting.” Ruan Xian jumped on the console and sat down without any scruples. Tang Yibu supported his waist and operated the surveillance program skillfully.
“I like it more here too.” The android sounded extremely happy, as if he had gotten a new toy. “Let me clear out a few retreat routes first.”
“Help me see if there is a research room or data room.”
Ruan Xian slowly raised the other party’s arm and jumped back to the ground from the side gap. He casually pulled up dozens of light screen groups and looked at them one by one.
“I’m going to see if there’s anything in the cells just now… Yibu?”
Tang Yibu’s movements stopped abruptly, and he suddenly stiffened. In the dense light screens, one of them stopped moving in front of Tang Yibu. There was no one there, and it looked ordinary.
After Ruan Xian got closer, he discovered the source of the other party’s stiffness…
A mechanical wheelchair was parked in the corner of the room that looked a lot like a collection room, with fine details and looked very familiar.
…That was the wheelchair of his “other self”.
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