Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 126: The Authority in Charge
There was an extra hole in the rock wall above the two of them. Gradually, strong light dropped in from it. The sky wasn’t clear, but it was brighter than before. The falling light was like some kind of aggressive plant as it suddenly covered the light reflected from the lantern.
Tang Yibu smiled. Ruan Xian knew it was him at a glance. He would never mistake those eyes.
The program monster slashed straight at Tang Yibu with one of its sharp claws. The latter seemed to have eyes on his back and dodged lightly. Ruan Xian wanted to take that hand because this sudden change had made his mind blank.
“Can you still stand up, Mr. Ruan?”
The voice of the trumpet, Tang Yibu, rang clear. As an android, Tang Yibu shouldn’t have a childhood stage like a normal human. This image was most likely something he made himself. Ruan Xian had to admit that this guy had studied human aesthetics very thoroughly—the face had the shadow of an adult Tang Yibu, but it was mixed with some softness, which made it easier for people to relax their guard.
“I’m fine,” Ruan Xian simply responded.
Compared to Tang Yibu, who was disgraced but still neatly dressed, the situation on his side could be described as tragic. His simple winter clothes were soaked in blood, torn and tattered, and there were injuries everywhere on his body. Those weird scales had disappeared unknowingly, but the burning sensation still stayed on the skin.
“You don’t look like you’re okay.” Tang Yibu looked at Ruan Xian up and down, smacking his lips. “Anyway, let’s get rid of this thing first.”
Tang Yibu’s fighting style was still simple and crude. He grabbed the claws of the program monster and jabbed a shiny metal weapon into it. Ruan Xian looked at it several times before he was sure it was a spoon.
After shrinking in size, the android’s movements were a bit less imposing, but he was a lot lighter and more flexible. Facing the behemoth up close, Tang Yibu flexibly stepped on the stone wall and jumped around, briskly avoiding all attacks. Ruan Xian was unable to make sense of what was going on, as when the metal spoon penetrated the monster’s claw, the deformed claw began to fester quickly before dissipating with the wind.
The attention of the program monster gradually shifted to this more threatening enemy. Ruan Xian, who had been focusing on attacking from a distance, got his chance—he wove an almost perfect guard of blood bullets for Tang Yibu, quickly adjusting the target of his attack with the other party’s movements. When Tang Yibu attacked, he used bullets to suppress the monster’s evasive actions. When the android retreated to defend, Ruan Xian began to identify the weakness of his opponent and struck hard.
There was no communication, but Tang Yibu quickly discovered Ruan Xian’s intention. He began to consciously step on the rock and turned his body to create an angle for Ruan Xian to attack.
His shooting became much smoother. Ruan Xian raised his eyes to look at the other, as Tang Yibu happened to turn his face and smiled brightly at him.
The movement of the hybrid made up of a pile of programs became slower and gradually stopped. It shrank into a ball and began to twitch horribly.
Ruan Xian put down the muzzle of his gun and took a long breath of relief. The sweet, fishy blood in his throat almost choked him. Tang Yibu approached the blackened mass of programs and leaned down to take a careful look.
“Our attack is beyond its preset response range. It overloaded.” Tang Yibu poked the mass but did not immediately erase it.
“This thing is too large. If it disappears completely, it will arouse the suspicion of the Mainbrain.” Tang Yibu retracted his hand and turned the spoon in the other hand. “When it starts to disappear, I will take the opportunity to intercept part of the data.”
After that, he stepped over the gravel on the ground and happily rubbed himself against Ruan Xian. Tang Yibu, who looked like a teenager, was a little taller than he was. Instead of lowering his head, he bent down slightly while his golden eyes curved from smiling.
As a real AI, Tang Yibu’s ability to observe and analyze programs was mostly above his own. Ruan Xian couldn’t find a point to question it since the other party made this conclusion.
“I know what you want to ask. I only arrived here after tracking a member of Pear Blossom and happened to find you using the scanning program. This joint dream world is fixed and connected to a lot of small spiritual spaces.”
He stretched out his hand and wiped the blood stains on Ruan Xian’s face with his thumb.
“It’s almost dawn, Mr. Ruan. Would you like something to eat?”
Ruan Xian didn’t move, letting the other party’s thumb graze his cheek. “I’m not hungry.”
“Eating here has no practical effect on your body, but it can make you feel better.” Tang Yibu took out the onions and potatoes from his pockets; one in each hand. “Look, I brought food!”
The onions and potatoes were covered with a suspicious black liquid. Ruan Xian swept his gaze over and raised his eyebrows. “What about the member you were tracking?”
“Waiting outside. Luo Jian’s condition is a bit worse. She’s outside taking care of him and won’t leave for a while. Hearing that I helped, they asked me to come over to confirm your condition… In order to achieve this effect, I went through a lot of trouble to steer the conversation.”
Tang Yibu wiped the black liquid from the potatoes with the corner of his clothes. There was a bit of pride in his voice, and his face was full of “come and praise me”.
The effect of hormones was slowly fading. Looking at Tang Yibu, who was smiling openly in front of him, Ruan Xian suddenly felt a dullness that was close to comfort.
The feeling was especially strong when he had just broken free from that memory. The coldness disappeared, and all over his body felt relaxed, as if he had been soaked in warm water.
“Thanks,” Ruan Xian said, and began to wipe the blood from his body in a daze. Seeing this, Tang Yibu approached thoughtfully, ignoring the dirt and blood on his body, and gave him a big hug while rubbing Ruan Xian’s temples with his nose affectionately.
There was a smell of onions. Ruan Xian held back a sneeze and patted the android’s back, which was wrapped in soft winter clothes.
“What is the result of the investigation?” Reason was slowly returning, and Ruan Xian didn’t let himself indulge for too long. He didn’t deliberately control his tone of voice, nor did he think about how to modify this question.
“Pear Blossom isn’t a simple organization. It’s probably related to Professor Ruan.” Tang Yibu let go of his embrace. “Now it seems that they probably have found a certain strong-willed person to act as the hub, and then connected other spiritual worlds that weren’t stable enough to this stabilized world.”
Seeing Tang Yibu speaking so solemnly with the appearance of a teenager, Ruan Xian began to lose control of his smile.
“In this way, they can meet regularly without contacting the outside world too frequently and being monitored by the Mainbrain,” Ruan Xian added with a smile. “I have confirmed that their ‘hub’ is Luo Jian.”
“But the Mainbrain isn’t so easy to fool. It should have noticed the abnormality here, so it repeatedly sent scanning programs to scan, diluting the memories repeatedly, and destroying the stability of this spiritual world.” Tang Yibu stretched out his hand and gestured.
“They call it a ‘Wolf Attack’,” Ruan Xian picked up the conversation, enjoying this relaxed form of communication.
“…I thought I could give you a surprise.” Tang Yibu’s shoulders collapsed, and the boy’s face became a bit aggravated with a hint of pitifulness. “By the way, there’s—”
“We have plenty of time to talk about this.” Ruan Xian couldn’t help patting Tang Yibu’s face. “I’m more concerned about another ‘investigation’.”
Tang Yibu stopped talking immediately, and his aggrieved expression disappeared without a trace, looking like a fox who had just stolen chicken. “Oh, you found out.”
“After all, we are not the types who easily enter into a hot love period, and you know that I will not be easily killed by that thing. The timing of your debut is a bit too appropriate, Mr. Hero.” Ruan Xian retracted his hand. “Yibu, how long have you been watching before you came out?”
“Just for a while.” Tang Yibu showed his signature innocent expression again.
“For a while…”
“After all, you call yourself ‘Ruan Xian’, and I am very curious about your spiritual image and strength.” Tang Yibu solemnly handed the potatoes in Ruan Xian’s direction. “It was a rare opportunity for observation.”
“I also want to know what you’ll become and how far you’ll go.” Tang Yibu was still smiling as the words he uttered were frank and cruel. “Don’t worry, I’ll be on the edge to pull you back.”
However, Ruan Xian wasn’t surprised by the android’s approach. Rather, such a Tang Yibu inexplicably made him more at ease—the android’s feelings seemed to have a special processing module, which wouldn’t interfere with each other, wouldn’t tangle, and were extraordinarily well understood.
Tang Yibu’s fondness was very pure. Even the careful calculations and cruelty weren’t concealed. There was no similarity to any human he had ever come in contact with, and his own abnormalities seemed insignificant under this bizarre emotional state that was beyond common sense.
“Now I’m completely convinced that you’re a human. It’s impossible for you to know that I was present beforehand, and you couldn’t fake such a complex emotional shift on the spot.” Seeing that Ruan Xian didn’t respond, Tang Yibu stuffed the potatoes into Ruan Xian’s hand again. “Are you angry?”
This time, the android’s face openly had “I would dare next time” written all over his face.
Ruan Xian couldn’t help laughing and took the dirty potato. “I’m not angry. It’s fine, but Yibu, a potato, can’t buy me off.”
He had never trusted Tang Yibu wholeheartedly, but this abnormal relationship was just right.
“Is that so?” Tang Yibu gritted his teeth and took out the can of beans from his arms. “Then I will give you half of this too? This is… huh?”
As a result, before he finished speaking, he was attracted by the wound on Ruan Xian’s wrist—After the battle stopped, the wounds on Ruan Xian’s body, both large and small, gradually disappeared as his mental state recovered. Only the wounds on his wrists were still stubbornly bleeding.
Tang Yibu stuffed the can of beans back into his arms, slid the onion into his other hand, and gripped the wrist with both hands.
“This is a previous wound,” he said with certainty, touching the blood with his fingertips. “Do you mind telling me what happened?”
“I made it by myself. You’ve seen what I look like just now—I was still young at the time.”
“But it appeared here, indicating that you still mind it.” Tang Yibu didn’t mean to let him take the topic lightly. “Maybe I can try to help you analyze it.”
Very familiar words.
To explain the causes of these scars, the causes and consequences alone would take time to explain carefully. Ruan Xian originally planned to reject this topic neatly, but when he heard this sentence, for some unknown reason, he gave a summary.
“In my memory, my mother committed suicide because of me. I did this after that and wanted to figure out her psychology at the time.”
Tang Yibu’s expression was quite serious. He turned his head slightly and motioned for Ruan Xian to continue. Unlike when talking with Meng Yunlai, even if he didn’t explain the intelligence collection part, Tang Yibu seemed to understand it effortlessly. He still had a smile on his face, only showing pure curiosity.
“Then for some reason, it was hard for me to stop. That’s how it is.” Ruan Xian tried to withdraw his wrist.
“I have encountered a very similar situation.” Tang Yibu didn’t let Ruan Xian succeed, as he still held tightly on to the wrist.
“You?” To use an inappropriate description, Tang Yibu was more like the heartless type. Ruan Xian couldn’t imagine the way the android in front of him would hurt himself.
“But I didn’t go as far as you did.” Tang Yibu showed an expression close to nostalgia. “I always liked to cross my fingers, fold them, and then crack my fingers. It’s quite painful.”
Tang Yibu didn’t seem to care about the difference in degree at all. “I can give you my own situation as a reference. The premise is that you are sure that you don’t want to attract the attention of others or use it to punish yourself.”
“Then you are probably in a similar situation to me.” Tang Yibu gently kissed the deepest wound. “For me, understanding ‘emotions’ is a very troublesome thing. I have no similar kind to provide a reference, so I can only explore it by myself. Based on my experience…”
He paused, with a little blood on his lips.
“I guess you were very sad at that time, Mr. Ruan.”
Ruan Xian didn’t move. He stopped breathing, and his heartbeat seemed to stop. His gaze focused on Tang Yibu’s blood-stained lips, and a burst of sourness spread throughout his nerves.
“Because of my inability to understand pain in my heart, unable to explain my abnormality, I simply transform the pain into a more understandable and logical form. This is some kind of… Well, it’s not an appropriate instinct.”
The android smiled at him again, still looking carefree and heartless.
Ruan Xian had never thought about this.
His personality problems were accompanied by disease. Everyone around him constantly reminded him of this in different ways, from the moment he understood the matter to his “death”. His mother died in front of him, and he was locked in the same room with her rotting and swollen corpse for several days. His younger self wasn’t noisy, let alone he would suddenly collapse and cry; calm to the point of abnormality. He was just thinking, thinking non-stop all the time.
This kind of behavior couldn’t be called “pain”.
But facing Tang Yibu, who wasn’t human, he suddenly felt that this explanation was a bit ridiculous. Ruan Xian opened his mouth, not knowing what to say.
Tang Yibu finally let go of his wrist.
“Mr. Ruan, you’re more sluggish than I thought.” Ruan Xian didn’t know what his expression was at the moment, but Tang Yibu clearly noticed the abnormality. The emotions in those golden eyes began to become complicated. “No, maybe I’m about the same as you—Even if we understand the reasoning, we will still instinctively look for the humans around us as an emotional contrast.”
“Did you forget I am indeed a human?”
“Previously, in area X, both men and women would be arrested for showing their arms in public. Country Y stipulates that contact between men and women is strictly prohibited before marriage, but in Country Z, adults without lovers would be considered ugly and impotent. Isn’t this interesting? They are all humans of the same era, yet their behavior is completely contradictory, as they consider each other’s behavior absurd.”
Tang Yibu softened his voice.
“Humans can be domesticated, just imperceptibly. Just let them get used to it—habits can always smooth out all irrationality. Looking at this petri dish, most people here consider themselves very ‘happy’.”
Living in a safe and limited world, everything was extremely stable on the surface. People lived in a planned grid, so even their hobbies were pre-defined to be very similar. Not to mention collisions of ideas, different voices rarely appeared.
Once they did appear, the Mainbrain would get rid of them, carefully constructing this perfect information cocoon. Here, there would be no fierce heat or cold, no storms or thunder, so there would be no flowers or falling snow, and no rainbows above the mud.
He could clearly see this, but he was bound by a larger cocoon. The effects of the hormones had long since subsided, but stronger emotions had poured in. It was no longer incomprehensible anger, but closer to the grief that revealed its true face for the first time.
Ruan Xian thought it didn’t make him cry this time. It just made his eyes sour. He couldn’t help but take his gaze away from Tang Yibu’s face and looked into the distance as he blinked hard.
This unexpected action gave him an unexpected discovery—just behind Tang Yibu, the program monster that had shrunk into a ball in the shadows, twitched suddenly.
“You are just defined by people from one era and one region, Mr. Ruan. This definition may not be complete or reasonable, but you seem to use it as a measure subconsciously.” Tang Yibu continued with interest. “That’s why I’ve always been reluctant to get too close to humans—”
Ruan Xian’s body reacted faster.
The thing finally recovered from the overload, and it showed faint signs of collapse and dissipation, but it didn’t stop there. It used its corroded claws to pierce Tang Yibu straight into the back of his neck.
Ruan Xian grabbed Tang Yibu, who was still chattering, and took the blow with his arm. The blow was so heavy that his small arms almost completely snapped off.
The severe pain that followed made him react to what he had done. Tang Yibu’s surprise wasn’t much worse than his own. The android was stunned in place and seemed to be tongue-tied.
“It’s going to disappear. Remember to process the data.” Ruan Xian barely squeezed out his words from between his teeth as he half knelt on the ground. The pain made his breathing extremely short, and his broken arm hung limply. The blood gun slowly slipped from his hand.
Tang Yibu stood in a daze for more than ten seconds before turning his back to deal with the dying mass of programs. After digging out the part carrying the data and crushing it, he slowly moved to Ruan Xian.
“I’m sorry.” His tone was a little dazed.
Ruan Xian narrowed his eyes.
“I don’t know why I’m saying sorry.” Tang Yibu thought deeply for a few seconds, then added, “I mean, with what I know about you, you can’t…”
“Now it seems that I don’t know much about myself.” Ruan Xian tugged at the corners of his mouth and changed the subject. “You know it will attack you before it disappears.”
The second half of the sentence wasn’t an interrogative question.
“Yes, but I can’t grasp the timing of taking the data if I deal with it in advance.”
Tang Yibu didn’t play dumb on this issue. The surprise remained in his eyes.
“And I wanted to see your reaction so that I could make the next decision… It can’t really hurt me. I never thought you would rush out.”
He looked even more shocked. “Do you like me that much?”
Ruan Xian almost laughed angrily at this reaction. “No, the information you gave was very informative. Consider this a gift in return.”
“No, you didn’t want to see me hurt.” Tang Yibu looked at him brightly.
“Seems like your brain regressed along with your appearance.” Ruan Xian wanted to punch the android, but unfortunately, he was defeated by those beautiful eyes that were gazing at him. He decided to focus on dealing with his severe pain first.
However, as soon as he looked away, Tang Yibu pressed his face forward, nailing himself within Ruan Xian’s field of vision, looking quite happy.
“Be nice to the injured. Thanks,” Ruan Xian said angrily, throwing out the little bit of emotion he had into the clouds.
“I’m very happy,” Tang Yibu announced gleefully. “It seems that you can’t fully control your emotions and behaviors. We are at the same starting line again.”
Ruan Xian glanced deeply at the broken arm that was still emanating a lot of pain and inwardly cursed at himself a few minutes ago.
“Although there is still a while before our date, I decided to send out the prepared gifts first, and then prepare a new one.” Tang Yibu kissed Ruan Xian’s forehead. “Do you want to take a guess?”
“Stick to what you’ve learned.” Ruan Xian said dejectedly. “Either that or stop imitating humans.”
In the face of a date covered with blood, Tang Yibu created an atmosphere as if he was taking a walk in the park. In contrast, he was simply a standard normal human, which was why he could be moved.
Tang Yibu picked up the blood gun that fell to the ground and threw it into the air.
“I won’t give you such things as a plant*.”
*Clarity: This whole exchange here is a bit confusing, but basically Tang Yibu is asking do you want to take a guess what present I’m going to give you, to which Ruan Xian responded, stick to what you’ve already learned (about humans and dating) because you often don’t do/give things that humans would consider “normal” (and thus he would have a reaction because, after all, he’s human). Tang Yibu responded by saying he’s not going to give something like a plant as a gift (like flowers, succulents, ect. like normal humans who are dating would do).
The gun fell back in front of Ruan Xian, but the shadow stayed in the air, like there was an additional floating blood gun that appeared out of thin air.
“Mr. Ruan, in fact, I found out the last time I planned to kill you—Your design ability is above mine, but the modification of small instruments is a bit old school.”
The phantom began to disassemble automatically in the air, and Ruan Xian recognized every part of it. He maintained a half-kneeling posture, ignoring the raging pain and flowing blood, staring at it.
Countless formulas, data, and lines flickered in the dark. The indicator lines were connected to various parts, and even the most fragmented ones weren’t missed.
“…So I studied it and made a more powerful modification.” Tang Yibu let the scene solidify in the air, and his bright smile faded slightly. He stretched out his hand to Ruan Xian again; his tone was a little stiff for the first time.
“I hope you won’t use it against me.”
Ruan Xian stared at the flickering numbers and letters without answering. Tang Yibu frowned. He just thought he could let go of those emotions, but he didn’t expect them to come back even more strongly this time.
If he had been holding this gun when they were fighting before, Tang Yibu most likely wouldn’t have survived. He suddenly understood how Tang Yibu felt just now—he never thought Tang Yibu would do such a thing either.
Their relationship should have been twisted but clear, but now it has become more complicated.
This wasn’t the product of Tang Yibu’s whims when he saw him block the attack. Even if it was an advanced artificial intelligence, to think of such a complicated plan would require simulating the usage scenario countless times.
“Now it’s my turn to ask. Do you like me that much?” Ruan Xian threw the question back with a wry smile, staring at Tang Yibu’s outstretched hand.
“Well, in fact, I have been thinking from the beginning that although there are hidden dangers in doing this, there are also certain safety guarantees.”
Seeing that Ruan Xian remembered, Tang Yibu scratched his head with his other hand, and the design slowly disappeared in mid-air. He chose to skip this question.
“This is the spiritual world. Your appearance comes from the period when your will is strongest, plus the various elements that make you persistent.”
“But you’re still wearing the earring I gave you.”
When he said this, Tang Yibu didn’t smile. On the contrary, he solemnly put his hand forward.
“Promise me, at least don’t use this gun against me, okay?”
Ruan Xian finally grabbed the hand firmly.
That annoying android always smiled when he shouldn’t, and when he was motivated, he just did his own thing, but he would occasionally stop smiling where people would normally smile.
There was no joy in that sentence. It was neither coquettish nor pleading. It was so calm that it made people’s hearts throb.
Ruan Xian looked at his outstretched hand. That hand was covered with blood and was no longer its original size. It took him a while to stand firm, and he found that he needed to look down at Tang Yibu, who was in front of him.
Something had changed.
The wound on the wrist was still there, but it had turned into a scar that he was familiar with. Although covered up by blood stains, Ruan Xian could still recognize that his hands were his most familiar appearance. The pain in his arm was gradually subsiding, and everything returned to calm.
“Okay.” He heard himself answer like this.
The small Tang Yibu titled his head up for a while, as if he wasn’t used to this perspective. After a burst of data corruption-like distortion, the android also returned to the appearance that Ruan Xian was most familiar with, except he kept the ugly knitted scarf and the lips that were still stained with his own blood.
Maybe this was another test to control him, but it didn’t matter, Ruan Xian thought. This weird game was destined to continue, and now he was willing to play along and be content with it.
“Well, now you have to explain your change to those people.” Tang Yibu stretched out his hand and rubbed Ruan Xian’s hair. “As a Samaritan passing by, I have to continue to follow Auntie Yan in the shadows. Yu Le and the others are still waiting for me. Regarding things here, we can—”
“—Talk about it on our date.” After a slight pause, Ruan Xian didn’t avoid the hand and accepted the conversation quite naturally. “But I still have one more question to ask.”
Tang Yibu blinked.
“Now that you have confirmed my original mental state, what is the conclusion?” This time, Ruan Xian smiled. “Am I like the ‘Ruan Xian’ you know?”
Tang Yibu was silent for a few seconds, then returned a familiar and irritating smile. He didn’t fall into the trap.
“This question is difficult to answer. After all, I am not familiar with him.”
He then put on his hood again, but this time there weren’t those cloth ears on it. The android thought for a moment and didn’t dwell on the potatoes or onions anymore, but silently put the can of beans in the palm of Ruan Xian’s hand.
“It’s really delicious.” Before leaving, he added another sentence.
Yu Le had a headache.
Auntie Yan was as slippery as a loach, and he wasn’t good at bending words. When he was still at the Walking Stones, Tu Rui was usually responsible for this kind of negotiation. Now that his deputy captain wasn’t around, Yu Le could only try his best, but the result wasn’t ideal.
He wasn’t able to pull out too much information from Auntie Yan’s mouth. The woman simply chatted with him for a few minutes without revealing anything, as if they were really a small organization that was bending the rules.
She then made an excuse to leave when they were about to broach the subject related to the rebels. Yu Le was quite irritable as he tried his best to punch cotton.
If it weren’t for the fact that Luo Fei was still present, he would’ve grabbed Tang Yibu and just left directly.
Then something strange happened—he walked around in this confined space twice, almost lifting up toilet lids and trash cans, but he couldn’t find a trace of Tang Yibu. The troublesome android had turned into dry ice and evaporated silently in the air.
Yu Le felt a bit weak.
However, Luo Fei was watching him from the side, either intentionally or unintentionally, so it wasn’t easy for him to completely let go or show his emotions too clearly. Tang Yibu wasn’t a soft persimmon that was easy to pinch. Perhaps something went wrong, and it wasn’t good to act chaotic in advance.
Thus, the former captain of the ruins pirate made a carefree look and slipped back to his original place and began to fool Luo Fei—He was limited in what he could do, and as long as Tang Yibu didn’t have an accident, he would eventually return to him, so it was better to wait here.
“It’s really not much fun here. There isn’t even a bed,” Yu Le said critically.
“Where’s Xiao Tang?” Luo Fei’s focus was quite apt.
“Who knows which nooks and crannies he went to again. That guy’s brain isn’t very good; an old model.” Yu Le poured himself a cup of tea. “Auntie Yan left quite quickly. Are we still waiting for her?”
“She should be back in a while. You’re a guest, so she wouldn’t keep you waiting. It may be that something urgent came up.”
“Urgent? I haven’t even seen a decent book yet. Did she go to make an emergency purchase or something?” Yu Le didn’t hide his ruffian temper.
Luo Fei smiled embarrassedly.
“I’m bored as hell, so let’s talk about you. Anyway, you have all investigated me, so I have nothing new to say.” Yu Le took a sip of tea. “To be honest, I have someone in the prevention shelter that knows something about your dad. I didn’t expect to run into you here, which surprised me.”
Luo Fei’s expression dimmed.
“Isn’t your dad part of Pear Blossom? Are you concerned about him?” Yu Le pretended not to understand the other party’s expression.
“It’s not Pear Blossom’s fault.” Luo Fei fumbled with his teacup. “My father… My father is a very serious person and has always spoiled me. We had been living here very well before, but one day, he suddenly changed his temperament and disowned me.”
“Have you always been living well?” Yu Le tried his best not to accentuate “always”.
“Yes, my family is local, and I have been here since I was born. My dad also works very hard, and the conditions in our family used to be okay.” Luo Fei was a little dazed. “What’s the matter?”
“No, no, you continue.”
“He started talking about some strange doomsday-related things from time to time after his accident and then was taken away by the prevention shelter two years ago. At first, I thought the same as you, thinking that Pear Blossom had harmed him, and then I found Auntie Yan.”
Luo Fei smiled a little embarrassedly.
“I looked deeper into it and found out that Pear Blossom is really just an ordinary organization, and I haven’t heard of anyone going crazy before because of them. Although they preach about the end of the world, I think it’s closer to a kind of spiritual…”
“Stop, stop, get to the point.” Yu Le hurriedly interrupted the young man’s speech.
“Later, I paid for the prevention shelter to do a few more tests, and my dad’s brain showed signs of lesions. It may be due to physical reasons. Maybe he’s too sensitive to stress… It’s all clear data. He had been in an inexplicable high-pressure state. Haa, I just didn’t notice it in time.”
Luo Fei’s eyes were red.
“At first, he joined Pear Blossom without telling me, presumably to relieve stress. Mr. Yu, if you really have friends in the shelter, I want to ask…”
“I have a friend in that lunatic asylum, but he’s on the side that’s being treated.” Yu Le smiled. “I’m sorry.”
Luo Fei’s expression stiffened but didn’t freeze. Yu Le thought to himself that the young man had a good temper.
It was a pity that the experience sounded like an illogical literary film.
“I didn’t mean to tease you. To be honest with you, my friend also went in because of similar symptoms.” Yu Le’s tone became serious. “He kept yelling about the end of the world, and he also thought he was in love with an android. He wore a white coat and spoke nonsense every day. As a result, some time ago, he swallowed a bunch of memory inhibitors and got himself admitted.”
It may be that his expression recalling the past was so real that Luo Fei didn’t doubt it at all. “Oh my god…”
“What are your dad’s symptoms? Not joking. Maybe there are other factors besides Pear Blossom.”
“…He collapsed once, saying that I wasn’t his son.” Luo Fei lowered his eyes to the teacup. “I went to the prevention shelter to see him. He said that his son died more than ten years ago, killed by him, and told me to get out.”
Yu Le’s joking mind suddenly faded, and he hummed dryly. “Didn’t mention anything else?”
“Not really. At that time, he was on some brain-influencing medication, so his narrative was all over the place. I could barely understand what he was saying.” Luo Fei laughed a little hard. “My mother died early, and I had a brother who also died unexpectedly. He and I are dependent on each other, and these facts are consistent with his fantasy. It’s just that in his consciousness, they all died in some disaster.”
“That’s right.” Luo Fei took a sip of tea as if he was venting his anger. “He also worked hard and tried to give me better conditions, but he thought it was a bad place to live—a very cold place.”
Yu Le said nothing.
“He clearly remembers a lot of things. He remembered that I waited for him at home every day and insisted that the house be cold, so I would wait with just candles on. He also asked me if I remembered I liked playing with candles. I… What kind of age are we in where there are even candles?”
“…” Yu Le didn’t know what to say. He had a bad feeling.
“According to him, the climate was bad, and I have a lung disease. In order to provide me with good food for a change, he worked several times more than others in the snow. Then he said that when I was ten or about that, thinking that I would drag him to death, I ran out of the house without authorization and was frozen to death. God knows why he fantasizes about this.”
“In order for him to recover early, I went to see him every day at first, but then he didn’t even want to see me anymore and wasn’t willing to talk to me.”
Luo Fei’s became red all over. “Forget it. If I found out earlier…”
“Don’t think too much,” Yu Le said in a muffled voice, patting the young man on the back. “Sorry, brother, I can’t help you. My friend doesn’t even want to share the details of his fantasy, but I… Well, I understand this feeling of powerlessness.”
“It’s fine. I haven’t mentioned this to anyone for a long time, and I haven’t seen him for a while now. It’s more comfortable to be able to talk about it.” Luo Fei wiped his nose. “My dad is under fifty. Now that science and technology are developing so fast, he can always be cured.”
“Yes, there is always a cure.” Yu Le laughed dryly, as if there was a fishbone stuck in his throat.
“Anyway, that’s it. Now that I think about it, I might be just trying to chase his shadow.” Luo Fei struggled to smile. “I always thought that Mainbrain’s planning was perfect before, but how can I put it, these books are quite interesting, right? I have never come across such things before. Did you know that people used to create things like zombies or dragons that didn’t exist? There are also particularly cruel wars, weapons of destruction…”
“Very interesting,” Yu Le said. “Alright, seeing you like this, it seems like you need to calm down for a bit. I’m going to have a cigarette first.”
He left the room quickly, with only a thought in his mind.
‘Fuck. What an asshole,’ he thought.
Yu Le ruthlessly smoked the cigarette and tried to squeeze it out of his memory. After smoking half of it, he put it out and folded it back.
“Forget it, Xiao Luo.” He scratched his hair irritably. “I still have something to do, so I won’t wait. When Auntie Yan comes back, you can tell her on my behalf.”
“But the reward of that book…”
“I can get it when we meet again. It’s not a problem.”
“Oh, okay, you just need to walk to the room over there and turn off the lights.”
When Yu Le woke up from the enhanced memory cocktail, Ji Xiaoman was slowly eating snacks. The little girl cut the snack into four equal portions and ate them very cherishingly, little by little. Seeing Yu Le taking off his breathing mask, she pushed the two untouched portions in front of Yu Le a little uncomfortably.
There were no new customers in the store. The beautiful woman behind the counter, the remote-controlled humanoid manipulated by Auntie Yan, had half her eyes closed, making a fake appearance of being asleep.
Talking and laughter came in through the window. The night was illuminated by brilliant lights, and occasionally electronic eyes flashed everywhere. In general, the atmosphere was quite peaceful, until Yu Le’s gagging cut through.
He haphazardly took the two neatly cut snacks, stuffed them into his mouth together, and chewed hard.
“Where’s Tang Yibu?” Making sure no one was looking, Ji Xiaoman frowned.
“Still inside.” Yu Le’s voice sounded hoarse. “I can’t find him, but this kind of thing involves the cybernetic brain, so you should have a way, right?”
“Not necessarily, but I’ll try.” As always, Ji Xiaoman didn’t talk nonsense. She secretly summoned a light screen, connected it to the “cocktail bottle” that was still operating, and began to quickly invade.
Yu Le leaned on the edge of the table, carefully adjusting his movements to make sure that Auntie Yan and Luo Fei wouldn’t see Ji Xiaoman at a glance if they were to wake up.
Ji Xiaoman remained frowning. She bit her lip as the characters jumping on the light screen reflected a little blue light in her eyes. Yu Le stared at her for a while, then turned his gaze to those fast-dancing metal fingers.
“…What are you doing?”
“I originally thought the Sea of Ruins would be pretty fucked up. Fan Baiyan was one of the most disgusting people I have ever seen in my life.”
“Later, I found out that Mr. Qian Yigeng in your Underground City was also about the same, causing you all to live an oppressive life.”
“As for this place… At first, it just felt dull and boring. Now it seems that it may not lose in terms of fuckery. Do you think this place where the Mainbrain is in charge is disgusting?”
“You want to save your mother; those two little bastards want to find Ruan Xian. On my side, that kid Tu Rui asked me to find a place to mix in for a year and then go back, but looking at this shitty world, where can I mix in?” Yu Le’s voice was getting lower as if he was having an inner monologue.
Ji Xiaoman stopped moving and raised her eyes to look at him.
“If you find Tang Yibu early, I have to discuss with them. Anyway, according to Lao Tu’s statement, if there’s anyone else in the world who can fuck up the Mainbrain, it’s estimated that only Professor Ruan is left.”
Yu Le looked out the window at the bustling city.
“Laozi has changed his mind. I want to go with you to find Ruan Xian.”
Tang Yibu likes Ruan Xian to the point where he would give his most treasured food to him… That’s how you can tell, dear, that he likes you.