Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 99: Rebel Headquarters
It was only a moment, and soon Tang Yibu returned to his familiar appearance. The android smiled softly at him, eating the noodles in the bowl solemnly, looking gentle and harmless.
But Ruan Xian didn’t think he was wrong.
The feeling of self-deception was wonderful, but the degree of danger was always comparable to the reassurance it brought. He no longer judged Tang Yibu in the same way he judged human emotions—the emotional reactions of androids were unpredictable, and if necessary, these mechanical beings could adjust their emotions faster than anyone else.
So Ruan Xian decided to pretend not to know.
When leaving the Underground City, Fu Yu and “He An”, who had obtained a new shell, came to see them off. Perhaps the word send-off wasn’t very appropriate. The whole procedure was more like seeing them leave to make sure they wouldn’t bring or leave any threat to the Underground City.
Fu Yu wasn’t in very good condition. His eyes were red and had dark black bags under them. In a few days, his whole person had lost a lot of weight. He An, who used to look a lot more relaxed, waved his hand at them and approached.
“Tiantian-Q2 woke up soon after. Fu Yu agreed to keep her.” With the height of his new body, he could easily look into the car. When he said this, he looked at Ji Xiaoman steadily. “But she really doesn’t remember anything, so she didn’t come to see you off.”
“…I understand.” Ji Xiaoman was a little nervous.
“Her true personality may be a bit different from what you thought. For the past two days, she has been thinking about what she has in her pocket—a gun and a boozy chocolate. Did you give it to her? After all, she doesn’t even own her clothes anymore.”
“Yeah, what’s wrong?” Lao Yu gripped the steering wheel, his gaze fixed on the napping passenger in the bowl-mounted passenger seat.
“She decided to call herself A’Qiao, and she looked quite happy. I think you need to know this.” The dark-skinned android smiled slightly and threw a hardtack bag into the car. “Take this and eat it slowly.”
This time he threw it in the direction of Ruan Xian. They were not short of supplies, so Ruan Xian raised his eyebrows and picked it up. Fu Yu stood about eight steps away and watched in silence.
“Mr. Fu’s mood is not very good.” This time it was Tang Yibu, who was sitting in the back seat, who spoke.
“I said everything I have to say. He couldn’t accept it for a while that He An had died a long time ago. By the way, my name is now K6.”
“…That doesn’t sound very personal.” Yu Le spoke as he chewed on squid feet.
“If it weren’t for the convenience of a human appearance, I wouldn’t want this kind of shell,” “He An”, who changed his name to K6, answered bluntly. “I just have some ideas about how to deal with the rain. It’s fine to be human. This name can make him less delusional, which is pretty good.”
Finally, he patted the car. “I wish you all the best. I’ll go back first. When the Red Ghost fiasco passes, the security in the lower city will be quite busy.”
“People will really agree with Ruan Xian’s standards.” When the car drove out of the Underground City, Tang Yibu added without emotion. “Even if K6 completely changes his body, he would still subconsciously think he’s the previous ‘He An’.”
“Isn’t this normal?” Yu Le grabbed the steering wheel and moved forward in the darkness. He took a long enough nap at noon, and his whole body was full of energy.
Tang Yibu didn’t answer. He just stared at the back of the chair in front of him. Ruan Xian was sitting on his side, while Ji Xiaoman leaned in from the last row. For a while, the young mechanic clung to her knees and shrank into a ball in the slightly empty rear seat, and for a while, the car was quiet.
“Hmm.” Ruan Xian broke the silence. He broke open the hardtack specially given by K6, and as expected, he found a chip wrapped in greaseproof paper in it. Without hesitation, he directly embedded it in the reading port of his electronic wristband and began to analyze the content.
Seeing Ruan Xian’s new discovery, Tang Yibu turned to his side and stared at the light screen that popped up. He wasn’t sure if it was his intention, but the android was closer than usual, as Ruan Xian could feel the body heat radiating from the other party through his clothing. He moved uncomfortably so as to get a little cool air that was surrounding the other party’s body heat.
“An encrypted contact program.” Tang Yibu looked at it for a few seconds and quickly concluded. “It seems that he wants to keep in touch with us.”
“It’s a bit risky,” Yu Le hissed. “Although I have no opinion, will it be discovered by the Order Supervisors?”
“This is a special contact waveband that directly targets the android cybernetic brain, which is very complicated. Old-fashioned cybernetic brains are very rare these days, and humans usually don’t adopt this method of communication. Relatively speaking, it’s much safer than normal means of contact,” Tang Yibu explained patiently.
“The problem is motive.” Ruan Xian put the broken hardtack into his mouth, still retaining the program. “He doesn’t have to keep in touch with us.”
“Who knows? Forget it, maybe he wants to catch the girl Ji Xiaoman and ask questions. After all, there are only a few awesome mechanics in the Underground City… It’s also quite good. At least we’ll also know about the situation of Tiantian-Q2.”
As soon as Yu Le hit the steering wheel, the car bumped more severely.
“Hey, you guys should eat and drink now. It’s almost time to reach the ruins of the rebel headquarters, which isn’t suitable for picnics.”
Ruan Xian ate half his hardtack. Just as he was about to take a bite of the other half from his hand, his wrist was grabbed by Tang Yibu—The android directly ate it from his hand, and the tip of his tongue touched his fingers from time to time.
Ruan Xian didn’t struggle. He sighed and began to enjoy the warmth that made his spine tingle.
Tang Yibu finished eating in small bites and continued to stare at the back of the chair, as if he was in contemplation. Ji Xiaoman didn’t talk much, as if she was truly a ghost, or some kind of luggage in human form. She sat quietly in the last row with her face buried in her knees, not knowing what she was thinking about.
It wasn’t until the four of them arrived at the ruins of the rebel headquarters that Ruan Xian knew the reason for Ji Xiaoman’s silence—the little girl crawled out of the car with difficulty, not caring that she was wearing a gas mask, and vomited.
“…I feel that my driving skills are being insulted. I say, since you drive yourself, you don’t seem to get sick, so what does this mean?” Yu Le said dryly.
“Driving yourself is not the same as riding in a car,” Ji Xiaoman said with difficulty as she wiped her mouth and buckled back on her gas mask. She shook in place for a while, then raised her head and looked at the ruins in front of her.
“That’s right, this is it.” This time she affirmed the path Yu Le had led. “I remember these poles… My hunting ground is two or three kilometers west of here.”
Ruan Xian put on a gas mask and got out of the car. After several experiences of being forced to watch the house, the iron bead hurriedly jumped out of the car and climbed onto Tang Yibu’s shoulders with difficulty.
The scenery in front of him was spectacular.
Although he had witnessed the crowded and complicated kaleidoscopic design of the Underground City, Ruan Xian was still shocked by the scene in front of him. This was probably considered part of some kind of junkyard, but it was clearly not an ordinary junkyard.
It was more like a rainforest made of scrap metal.
Countless parts of giant machinery were scattered around, with the smallest being half a meter higher than the average landscape tree. They were poked crookedly on the ground, similar to incomplete and deformed utility poles, with countless lines and fine parts that comprise the canopy. Many mechanical beings had made nests on it, and the wires were still mixed with a lot of milky white gelatinous silk threads, like spider silk from some kind of giant spider.
Some kind of small mechanical life resembling a cube was crawling along the wires in strings, scurrying quickly on its three legs. A few of them were stuck to the colloidal silk thread as a burst of electric sparks appeared on the surface of their bodies before a little smoke came out.
Another kind of centipede-like mechanical life crawled along the glial silk thread, wrapped around the small cube, and was happily swallowing them one by one.
In this odd gray-white forest, there were many huge spherical warehouses. Compared with later creations like the Underground City, they were more like equipment that once belonged to the surface—their diameter was conservatively estimated to be about 50 meters, and the logo of Plan Corp was printed on them. White paint was peeling off in large areas and the rust had created many air-permeable irregular holes in the body of the warehouses.
They were half-buried in mechanical waste with uneven surfaces, as if they had suffered a lot of impact. There were poles stretched out crooked at the top, and some of the poles were still lit with dim lights.
These spherical warehouses were densely scattered in this area. There were as many as up to sixteen that Ruan Xian could see alone, and it was estimated that there were more in the distance.
Yu Le narrowed his eyes, and finally, he picked one of those that looked mediocre and raised his chin at them.
“That’s it.” Yu Le pointed. “Tu Rui told me that the shape of the peeling paint on it is very special, like a bear. See? The tip of that pole isn’t shiny.”
After entering the spherical warehouse, Ruan Xian realized what a difficult place it was to explore—the warehouse wasn’t empty and was divided into many small rooms. Coupled with irregular corrosion, the whole thing was like a natural maze. If it weren’t for Yu Le stumbling ahead to guide the way, even if it were himself, it would be difficult to find the right target at once.
After all, there was the smell of corpses in all directions.
Each compartment was filled with corpses, new or old, wearing some kind of eye-patch-like device on their heads, shrinking in various positions in the corners of the cubicles. The red light on many of the blindfolds was still flashing intermittently.
He didn’t know how many corpses they stepped over until they finally reached their destination. The headquarters of the rebel army were built in the middle of the spherical tank, with a number of small rooms opened and a large number of detectors and computer equipment installed. Even if they had been destroyed now, Ruan Xian could still feel the advanced level of the place at that time.
It felt a bit inconsistent, like stepping into an old and dangerous building and then entering one that was stylishly decorated and high-tech.
“Almost two years ago, this was where Ruan Xian and Fan Linsong were last seen.” Yu Le patted the shattered detector and sighed, a little bit distressed. “Anyway, that’s what Tu Rui told me… You have to look for yourselves. Maybe you’ll find some clues.”
Ji Xiaoman didn’t care about the clues. She stepped on the blackened human bone fragments and began to take the rare parts that could still be used. The iron bead jumped off Tang Yibu’s shoulder, rushed to Ji Xiaoman’s feet, and began to pick up the leftover junk with its mouth.
Ruan Xian paced in the dusty abandoned space, trying to restore the original scene. Tang Yibu stopped in one of the corners. He stretched out his hand and took out a small plastic bag from the ruins.
In the bag was a little bit of semi-melted homemade gummy candy that had already deteriorated.
The android suddenly clenched the bag tightly, then slowly released it, as if inadvertently throwing it back in place.
“This side looks like a conference room.” Ruan Xian was completely distracted by the scene in front of him. The small bag of gummy candy hitting the ground wasn’t obvious amidst the crunching and chewing sound from the iron bead. “Yibu, come take a look. There may be something of Ruan Xian here.”
“Got it.” Tang Yibu didn’t look at the bag of spoiled candy anymore. “Coming.”
“Maybe we can really find something.” Ruan Xian picked up a piece of semi-melted black plastic from the ruins with increasing interest. “It was burned and melted. This material is very sensitive to vibration. Maybe we can restore the sound at that time… Yibu, what’s wrong with you?”
“Mr. Ruan.” There was some subtle helplessness in the android’s voice. “…Do you like sweets?”
The author has something to say:
Ruan… Whether you like sweets or not, you are destined to be eaten by Tang in the end√
Although everyone keeps saying they want them to fall in love _(:з”∠)_ with their twisted personalities, they can’t suddenly fall in love sweetly. It’s more like, how can I put it, an adult style… (gestures)
Maybe even () first and then (). Quick. Understand me! (.
I also like this kind of angsty (not-yet-sexual) tension between the two of them.