Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 144: Among the Head
Xiao Zhao was stunned by the shot. She slowly raised her hand to her face and blinked at Kang Ge through the bloody hole in her palm.
Then a rather harmless expression of grievance rose from her face. Xiao Zhao got up and shook the blood from her hand. “Kang Ge! Xiao Tang’s boyfriend shot me with a gun—”
Her tone wasn’t like she had just been shot but was more like Ruan Xian had accidentally stepped on her new shoes.
“It’s because you’re not careful. The boss hasn’t seen Xiao Tang yet! All you know how to do is wave that knife around all day long. It’ll be troublesome if Xiao Tang dies of a wound infection. You also know that now is the busiest time, so we have no one to take care of him.”
Xiao Zhao sniffled, then hastily bandaged her wound while pouting. Her face was a bit round, and her eyes were bright and big, making Ruan Xian unable to judge what her actual age was.
“Then can I kill him?” She pointed to Ruan Xian, her tone still fluttering.
“Speaking of which, I haven’t seen Xiao Tang fall in love before. I’m a little curious how he will react…”
“But thinking about it again, after these two busy days of work, there are many ways to try.” Kang Ge’s face was handsome. It had a bit of righteousness between his brows that didn’t match his words at all, which gave him a sense of incongruity that sent chills down one’s spine. “We only get one chance, so it’s a shame to use it so simply.”
“In that case, how will you react if I die? I’m starting to get curious.” Xiao Zhao wrapped her wound with a dirty cloth band and tied it into a bow. “I want to take a good look at Xiao Tang’s reaction and use it as a reference in the future! If you don’t properly behave by then, I… Huh? What should I do? I can’t punish you if I’m dead.”
Ruan Xian: “……”
It wasn’t easy to say directly, but he tried to signal to Tang Yibu with his eyes to convey his appreciation. After spending a few years with these things, Tang Yibu was quite harmless in comparison.
“…They weren’t like this before,” Tang Yibu whispered. “They used to be more sober.”
Xiao Zhao seemed to forget about Ruan Xian, who shot her. She bounced back to Kang Ge with fleeting steps as she hummed a tune while using her own blood to draw patterns on her clothes.
As they went deeper into the forest, the gross entrails that were sprawled on the ground grew denser and their squirming became faster. The dark red flesh was mixed with bruises and twitched like an animal before it was gagged. A hot, wet, fishy smell went straight into Ruan Xian’s nose and gave him bouts of nausea.
[Why don’t you do it?]
At the point where things were now, even a fool could see that the other party had no good intentions. Ruan Xian didn’t think Tang Yibu was the sentimental type. In fact, the other party might be the most distant creature on this planet from the word “sentimental”.
He had watched the android abduct the Mainbrain’s detection bird. Based on Tang Yibu’s abilities, it shouldn’t be difficult to disrupt the programs of a few cameras while they enter the forest. Even if he didn’t want to kill them, it wasn’t difficult to escape.
But he didn’t do that.
Tang Yibu turned his head sideways and answered Ruan Xian’s question by mouthing it.
“Someone is watching,” he said. “Since a while ago, someone has been watching me. The interference procedures may be discovered.”
[Mainbrain? Order Supervisors?] Ruan Xian didn’t feel any abnormality.
“I don’t know,” Tang Yibu replied silently, disguising this action as a reassuring kiss. “Be careful, Mr. Ruan.”
In the next instant, Ruan Xian experienced what Tang Yibu meant when he said, “Someone is watching”. When he first heard this statement, he thought the description was too broad. After experiencing it firsthand, Ruan Xian realized how apt this description really was.
Someone was indeed watching.
It wasn’t a mysterious intuition, nor was it the discomfort of being exposed to the camera. Ruan Xian didn’t care much about those things. He didn’t mind making out with Tang Yibu thoroughly in front of the camera for an entire night before.
This time it felt different.
When he fired his gun just now, he felt a similar discomfort, but he didn’t perceive any threats around him. The feeling was so fleeting that Ruan Xian didn’t immediately judge it as an anomaly and delved deeper into it. At the moment, he didn’t know if it was due to the credit of the S-type Prototype, but the discomfort of being peeped on made Ruan Xian’s stomach sour.
If it had to be given a description, it was like standing unconsciously next to the eyes of a sleeping behemoth, turning around, and seeing one’s own reflection in the other party’s eyes that suddenly snapped open…
It seemed like they were being gazed upon at very close range by an extremely huge eyeball.
Fortunately, the invisible eye only stared at him for a while, and the sense of oppression suddenly dissipated. Tang Yibu’s body tightened again, which meant the peeper’s attention should’ve returned to him once again.
[I see.] Ruan Xian replied cautiously. [I was also peeped at just now.]
Tang Yibu tugged at the corner of his mouth.
[This is a good thing.] Ruan Xian rubbed Tang Yibu’s hair. [This means there’s probably only one peeper.]
But there were also many questions. How did the other party bypass his perception to “see”? Why were they specifically peeping at them as soon as they entered? …Could it be Professor Ruan was hidden on the island? Or did the Mainbrain detect an anomaly?
The current situation was beyond their knowledge, so it wasn’t a good idea to expose themselves under completely uncontrollable circumstances—the opponent’s main goal seemed to be Tang Yibu, so they had to choose a more cautious and careful approach.
Ruan Xian didn’t want to let anyone take away the heat that he had finally obtained. Even if Tang Yibu was going to die, he would be the person who would kill him. Ruan Xian took a breath and held Tang Yibu’s hand firmly.
Tang Yibu grabbed his hand and firmly interlocked their fingers.
“We’ll find him,” Tang Yibu whispered, not knowing whether he meant Professor Ruan, the peeper, or both.
“From what I understand, that person wouldn’t choose my original hiding method.” The palm of the android was still warm. “I know how to find him.”
The road under their feet was getting more and more out of place. The writhing entrails almost covered the ground and piled on in tiny hills. Blood vessel-like things hung from the trees and kept bulging uncontrollably. Ruan Xian surveyed the surrounding environment. They seemed to be walking towards the broken ceramic doll head.
The sticky touch under his feet and the rising sensation were probably all illusions. The mentally abnormal pair were walking in front of them. Ruan Xian thought for a moment before he took out a knife from his pocket.
[Yibu, help me hold their attention. Seventeen seconds is enough.]
Tang Yibu gave him a deep look.
[Don’t worry. Our interests are the same.] Ruan Xian curved the corner of his mouth. [I won’t take the opportunity to run away.]
Tang Yibu then jogged a few steps and ran towards the young couple and said something with a smirk on his face. Ruan Xian wrapped his grime-stained white coat tightly around himself and took a few deep breaths.
This was still the coat they got from the prevention shelter. There weren’t many sets left, so it was best not to get them too dirty. He casually thought of this as he moved.
It was about noon when they finally reached the inside of the ceramic doll’s head. However, given that the thing was on the ground on its side, the side facing the sky was missing a small half of its head, and the interior wasn’t much different from the open air.
Inside the skull, the flesh and blood only gave off an eerier feeling. The huge skull had a honeycomb-like structure inside that was made into small compartments comprised of soil and stone mixed with various textures of flesh. However, it could be that, considering augmented reality wasn’t reality in the end, most of these small compartments were probably gathered at the bottom and there was no overhanging design. The part that lacked shade was left empty with only randomly planted dying orchids, which at first glance looked like a small half-built square.
They were standing on this simple, small square. Ruan Xian highly suspected that the part they were stepping on was simulating brain tissue. No matter who created this reality, that person was definitely abnormal to a rather serious extent.
“Boss, we are back!” Xiao Zhao waved towards the center of the square.
There was a gray armchair in the center of the square. Its size was like the style used by children to play house, so an adult was unable to sit in it. The bulging backrest was faded, and many of its openings had suspicious tan-colored material leaking out. A small ceramic doll without a head was placed in the center of the chair. Its yellow limbs were full of scratches and cracks, and they were twisted in a gesture that no human could do.
It remained motionless.
There were also many people gathered around the square, like clusters of worker bees—everyone was so busy with their own affairs that it was difficult to see what they were doing. On the edge of the crack in the huge skull, several detection birds flapped their wings with their camera heads pointed straight towards the square.
“Look who it is!” Xiao Zhao ran behind Tang Yibu and abruptly pushed Tang Yibu forward a few steps. “Everyone, everyone! Xiao Tang is back!”
The people around didn’t respond, but cheers rang out in the void. The sound was repeated stiffly, like an audio track recorded in advance of a show. Red confetti fell from the air in response. Ruan Xian stretched out his hand to catch a piece, which felt terrible to the touch as it didn’t feel even half as real.
Then he looked around carefully. There were no pairs of golden eyes similar to Tang Yibu’s.
“Originally, I wanted to keep the two of you for lunch, but it turns out the boss wants to lock you up.” Kang Ge grabbed the headless doll on the seat, raised one of its hands and waved it at them. “But I’ll remember to deliver food to you guys! Haa, the boss is quite temperamental, so I can’t help it. It’s an extraordinary time right now. Do understand.”
After speaking, he threw the doll’s body back into the chair without saying a word.
“But for the sake of, ah, right, security—Xiao Tang’s boyfriend. Hand over the observation machine in your hand. The one that looks like a cellphone. Xiao Tang too. This is the rule. Otherwise, it’ll be difficult for us.”
“Listen to Kang Ge. He’s so smart.” They didn’t know when, but Xiao Zhao had flashed behind them again. Ruan Xian could feel cold metal pressed against his back.
He waved his hand wordlessly, pointed to his mouth, and then to Tang Yibu’s pocket.
[We only have one observation machine in our hands. Let them search.] As he did this, he sent a simple message to Tang Yibu.
“My boyfriend can’t speak. Sorry.” Tang Yibu took the conversation very naturally. “We only brought one. Mr. Ruan just gave it to me… Well, this is it. If you are still worried, you can search us.”
“Ok! In addition, the weapons—”
“Nothing else.” Tang Yibu’s tone was firm.
“Huh? Why!” Xiao Zhao, who was behind them, sounded quite dissatisfied.
“That is our token of love.” Tang Yibu began to speak nonsense again. “We need it to leave a little reminder. You took away our observation tool, and there are many people around. A few knives and guns won’t affect anything.”
Ruan Xian: “…” This was the first time he had heard such a messy explanation from Tang Yibu’s mouth.
“Kang Ge, Kang Ge! Look, they’re not even married yet, but they have so many tokens of love.” As a result, Xiao Zhao instantly bought it. “Why didn’t you ever think about giving me a knife or a gun? How annoying!”
“I’ll give you a gun next time.” Kang Ge coaxed. “Isn’t the time just right? I’ll cut off two more tongues and send them to you, and we’ll win.”
Xiao Zhao retracted the knife that was against the back of Ruan Xian’s neck and clapped her hands vigorously. This time she didn’t relent to Tang Yibu’s anger. Then two tins with the same exquisite face came forward and dragged Ruan Xian and Tang Yibu into the nearest cubicle.
Unlike the young couple, the rest of the people showed no interest in them. As soon as the door of the compartment closed, the two were plunged into pure darkness.
But hell knows if this darkness was something “seeable”.
Ruan Xian decisively crouched on the ground. He was ready early on. Even if his weapons were really taken away, he still had a way to break these annoying perception interference.
But now that he still had his weapons, he would suffer less.
Ruan Xian didn’t remove the buckle pin on the holster under his armpit but used a small knife to cut open his abdomen and took out a bloody old-fashioned cellphone from his abdominal cavity. The moment the old-fashioned cellphone left his body, the wound in his abdomen quickly healed again.
Not long ago, when they were in the woods, he secretly hid it.
Then he rolled over, covered the bloody cellphone with his clothes, activated the camera, and glanced quickly around.
They were at the bottom of a pit four or five meters deep, with the sun pouring down on top of their heads. There was a person sitting on the edge of the pit, looking bored.
Tang Yibu was sitting next to a dry white bone. His gaze was unfocused, indicating he was still trapped in the dark perception.
Everything became much easier now that the perspective had been clarified by the phone. Ruan Xian crawled to Tang Yibu’s side and secretly shoved the blood-stained cellphone into the other party’s hand. The false darkness came again.
Tang Yibu rustled around to hide it, then fumbled to caress Ruan Xian’s cheek.
[Still being watched?]
[If I didn’t hide it, what would you do?]
“Wait,” Tang Yibu said softly. “Let’s wait for the evening before we act, Mr. Ruan. Recover some more strength while you can… They’ll come.”
[Who will come?]
“That couple and attackers from other areas.” Tang Yibu put his chin on Ruan Xian’s shoulder and sniffed lightly. “There will be a battle here. I understand why the Mainbrain copied some of the data from the participants of Struggler—this is a show—or at least a show for people in The Glass Conservatory to watch. There must be conflicts and contradictions. In my experience, at least two areas here are in a state of confrontation.”
“We’re on the ‘worst’ side right now.”