Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 88: End
He An irritably pinched lit the cigarette in his mouth.
The residence of the City Defenders was outside the entrance of midtown. There were just 60 square meters in total. It looked no different from other buildings on the outside; the gray cement walls still had fine holes left by air bubbles. The interior was very similar to the scene before the end of the world. If the curtains were drawn, some people would believe that this was a normal era residence.
A glass table was wiped clean, and there were fake flowers in a vase sitting atop of it. Fu Yu opened the freezer, took out a pile of raw meat, and put it in a large bowl. A somewhat gray flour mixture was quietly fermenting, and the air had a bit of sourness unique to raw dough. The garlic had been crushed into puree and the cut wild vegetables had an inspiring bright green color.
“Let’s have meat pies tonight.” Fu Yu didn’t take off his apron and wiped his hands on a towel. “…Don’t smoke inside. The air filter is a pain to fix.”
“You have to wear a gas mask outside, so I can only go to that old coot, Qian Yigeng’s to smoke.” He An extinguished the cigarette that had just been lighted and he briskly spoke. “Put more pepper in the meat pie, thanks, honey.”
“…Don’t make such jokes.” Fu Yu frowned; his expression serious. “Has the organization against Qian Yigeng been found?”
“I went to all three layers of town for four or five laps. It’s been a few days and there’s still no news. They seem to have emerged out of thin air.” He An stretched. “But it’s also very interesting. I suspect that Ji Xiaoman wasn’t simply kidnapped.”
Fu Yu paused for a moment as he grinded pepper. “What makes you say that?”
“If another major power did it, there would always be buzz in the market.”
He An sniffed the pepper with satisfaction.
“Ji Xiaoman isn’t Qian Yigeng’s daughter after all, so kidnapping her is useless. It’s also unreasonable to target technical talents when there’s no news of any new products, and it’s not like Ji Xiaoman has deep feelings for Qian Yigeng. Her mother is also in his hands, so it’s impossible not to cooperate. The people we have inserted on Chang Yaqi’s side said they didn’t know anything about it. Qian Yigeng is more anxious than us right now, so his tentacles are far more reaching than us.”
“Hmm.” Fu Yu continued to grind pepper. “Qian Yigeng urged me again yesterday. It seems he hasn’t gotten any news either.”
“Intuitively, I’m guessing Ji Xiaoman is throwing smoke bombs.” He An sat down on the sofa and crossed his legs. “She may be the leader and want to do something in the name of this non-existent organization. Qian Yigeng’s most treasured store was bombed, and it wasn’t at the hands of some major power, so other possibilities are quite small.”
“I also have this thought. By the way, there’s mint tea in the fridge.” Fu Yu stretched his shoulders. “Let’s put this matter aside for now. No need to go deeper. The other party has moved from uptown back to lower town. Seeing that they don’t plan to make a big noise, it won’t attract the attention of the Order Supervisors.”
Fu Yu put the crushed pepper next to the minced garlic. “After all, we are not Qian Yigeng’s bodyguards. Recently, there was a problem with the drug market in midtown, and they just called for reinforcements. We can go together.”
He An didn’t answer.
“…Qian Yigeng gave you a hard time?” Fu Yu turned his head. “Your face is a bit bad.”
“No, no, it’s just that I still have something waiting for Ji Xiaoman to repair.” He An bent the corner of his mouth. “Now that she can’t be found, I’m afraid it’ll be lost.”
“Oh, I remember you mentioned it.” Fu Yu’s attention was taken away. “Seriously, what do you have to fix? The broken watch at home has been repaired.”
“A little personal belonging.” He An suddenly found this statement a bit funny, and he laughed. “My little secret video diary.”
Ruan Xian didn’t return to the off-roader for three consecutive days.
Counting the time, the time limit for Ji Xiaoman’s mother was coming up. No matter what the young mechanic planned, she would not be silent to the end. The armored off-roader and the iron bead were still in Ji Xiaoman’s hands while the destruction continued. She wouldn’t think that they would just leave without saying goodbye.
Tiantian-Q2, who called herself “Bai Tian”, came to the ruins every day to pick up supplies. She ate like a little cat, but her bullets were slightly consumed. Ruan Xian was sure that he smelled the unique smell of gunpowder on her. Since discovering her memory problem, she had lost more of her communication ability—in fact, they didn’t know what the little girl was thinking about right now.
Blood-red smiley faces ignited in the sky for three consecutive nights, and a strange excitement was spreading among the muddled crowd. There were obviously not many new things in this steel corpse-like city. Many people would violate the curfew and run out to see those red lights, as if they were some kind of holiday fireworks.
Ruan Xian knew that Qian Yigeng had given them the ornamental name “Red Ghost”, and he also knew that the overly cautious fat man was becoming more and more anxious. Everything was developing as they expected, accompanied by good and bad news.
The good news was that the Order Supervisors gave the Underground City a broader environment. In other words, they didn’t care too much about the people who lived in the poisonous fog of lower city. The bad news was that Tang Yibu was in a visibly bad mood.
Since issuing the creepy warning, the time the android spent with him had greatly increased. Ruan Xian could feel the spider-like soft and sticky gaze. It was like Tang Yibu was looking at him like a hungry child eyeing the remaining strawberry on a cake.
But as time passed, the gaze gradually changed in flavor.
Now the android looked like a wolf that had been raised on processed food and was seeing flesh for the first time. The curiosity, confusion, caution, and subtle longing from the other party’s sight were twisted into a ball, stabbing him like needles.
Ruan Xian sighed against Tang Yibu’s gaze and carefully adjusted the parts of his blood gun.
Yu Le, on the other hand, rarely joined their conversation. The former pirate leader either clutched his previous wine bottle and gawked at the air or got some food from elsewhere and gave some of it to the little girl in the ruins. Most of the time outside of curfew, he would sit on the wall of a certain street with a gas mask on, observing people coming and going.
For example, like now.
Both of them looked melancholy. Ruan Xian shook his head and stuffed the blood gun back into the holster under his armpit.
They were staying in an abandoned house not far from Tiantian-Q2. The place was full of dust and rotting plants, and there were still smelly puddles on the floor, which wasn’t suitable for temporary residence, but when most of the ruins were littered with stinking human corpses, options were often limited.
Seeing that Ruan Xian finished the work in his hand, Tang Yibu moved his position and sat down on a barely clean plastic cabinet. The lights on the street passed through the gaps in the ruins, revealing a bright orange-yellow line with a halo around it. Ruan Xian admired the beautiful scene calmly for a moment, trying to suppress the mixed emotions in his heart.
Tang Yibu wasn’t the only one who was affected by those words.
As soon as the other party spoke, Ruan Xian immediately sobered up. Those indistinct emotions were gone, and he caught them smoothly. Tang Yibu was undoubtedly one of the most attractive creatures he had ever seen in his life. Although he could always feel the inhumanness in the android gestures, when the other party didn’t bare their fangs, he would still be confused by that appearance and subconsciously treat the other as a human with more flair.
Now he would no longer have that illusion.
Being understood and affirmed, the vortex-like attraction made him eager to capture the other side and keep the android by his side. And that danger made him subconsciously want to destroy Tang Yibu; to make a move before the other side unleashed their true killing intent. Finally, and also the most novel—he liked the temperature, excitement, and desire that the other side brought.
The dance in the Sea of Ruins had long been over, but Ruan Xian always felt that they were still continuing that terrible dance in a murderous atmosphere.
Ruan Xian didn’t avoid Tang Yibu’s gaze but stared at those eyes and smiled generously.
There was only one question left.
With Tang Yibu’s warning, he used the understanding of a “test” to cover up the past, but if that statement was true, then the android was really willing to give up a little bit of his origin, which meant he was related to his creator…
In addition to the designers on the hardware, counting the testing and underlying architectural logic of NUL-00, there were a total of about five or six people who knew. These people weren’t only at the top of the pyramid in China but were highly ranked throughout the world. In the past ten years, including Fan Linsong, it was theoretically possible for them to develop their own AI projects.
He should have concealed the characteristics related to the identity of “Ruan Xian”. If Tang Yibu was really related to the research institute, in terms of knowledge reserves, it was reasonable for the other party to figure out his possible identity. But no matter what the real situation was, it was always right to be more cautious regarding his identity…
“Don’t smile.” Tang Yibu held jujube-flavored hardtacks in both hands, sounding a little sullen.
“What?” Ruan Xian casually turned the blood gun in his hand. “I thought you wanted to see it.”
“If you smile again, I might want to kiss you.” Without Yu Le on the sidelines, Tang Yibu seemed to be seriously distressed. “Can you wait for me to analyze it clearly before you smile?”
Ruan Xian’s smile became bigger. He clenched the handle of the gun and took a few steps forward. The muzzle of the gun rubbed against the other party’s ribs intentionally as he quickly kissed the corner of the other person’s lips.
“Continue to analyze.” He was happy to increase the difficulty of the android’s emotional observation.
“Oh.” A voice sounded at the door. “It’s daytime right now, so it’s best if you two restrain yourselves.”
Yu Le wrapped a bottle of wine with a nylon strap to protect it. There wasn’t much joking in his face. “Come out and have a look. That girl’s condition isn’t right.”
Ruan Xian neatly inserted the gun into the holster and followed Yu Le out the door…
“Help me.” Behind the gas mask, Tiantian-Q2’s voice was a little mute and full of fear. She rarely stood outside the gap between the ruins, and her body was twitching unnaturally. “…Help me. I can’t control it…”
The gun was hidden in her loose clothes and could barely be seen. Her arms seemed to be free and were trying to grab something by her side, but her legs and feet seemed to have their own consciousness, pulling her in a certain direction. The girl struggled to hold on to the bare steel around her, trying to stop her body, but another dominant force was apparently stronger—the end of the steel left a deep, bloody gash in her hand, and she finally couldn’t hold on to it any longer.
“Return South Wild Geese.” Tang Yibu touched the corners of his lips and lowered his voice. “Qian Yigeng activated it.”
“What’s wrong with me?” Tiantian-Q2’s was harsh. She was walking towards the crowded street. “What’s wrong with me?!”
“Can you stop it?” Yu Le was obviously uncomfortable with the scene he was seeing.
“It’s basically impossible. Unless the cybernetic brain is removed from the body.” Tang Yibu shook his head. “If you use a program to forcibly suspend it, not to mention whether it can be done… The operation takes time. If you chase her to modify the program, everyone outside will know that she’s an android with an old-fashioned cybernetic brain, and they’ll rip her apart.”
Yu Le tsked. “So that monster specially chose daytime…”
“There are many people during the day. Even if the androids are recalled, they won’t be stupid enough to ask for help at will. Being recalled still means they have a ‘way to live’ and being discovered by someone basically means death.”
While they were talking, Tiantian-Q2 was already slowly moving forward. As Tang Yibu speculated, she didn’t dare ask for help loudly and instead pressed on her gas mask tightly, trying to suppress her sobbing.
Ruan Xian made a quick decision and directly summoned a small light screen for tracking. “I activated the tracking device. Let’s followed.”
“What about Ji Xiaoman?”
“I guess this is the effect she wants.” Ruan Xian smiled dryly. “If nothing else, we’ll see her.”
The red dot that symbolized Tiantian-Q2, moved at a steady pace and was heading in the direction they were familiar with. In the most chaotic area of lower city, Ji Xiaoman strapped on the last two seat belts for her mother, and then stepped onto the front seat of the floating motorcycle. The iron bead was nestled in the front basket, enduring the bumps as it ate parts.
Before speeding up, Ji Xiaoman took a few deep breaths, and with one free hand, touched the ceramic dagger hidden in her waist as well as the improved bionic paralyzing agent.
“Let’s end this.” She gave a wry smile.