Dominion’s End Volume 1: Raining Stars at World’s End
Original novel in Chinese by: 御 我 (Yu Wo)
Chapter 1: The Red Meteor Shower – translated by Elkin
So I really had died?
Sitting on the wheelchair, I looked at the complete stranger in the dressing mirror.
This is a fine-looking man, or perhaps I should say, boy?
He didn’t look old, probably around seventeen or eighteen. Because he had been comatose for too long, he looked worn out and emaciated, but nevertheless retained his good looks. Thick eyebrows, large eyes, with facial features similar to that “Mèimei” but with the straight, tall nose reminiscent of the “Dàgē.” They were unmistakably a trio of siblings.
“Èrgē, want me to take you on a walk around the house?”
The younger sister peeked in from behind the door. She was smiling, albeit a somewhat forced smile, as though she was worried that I’d reject her.
I kept silent, watching her smile grow more and more strained, until I couldn’t take it anymore and asked, “Don’t you need to go to school?”
“I’m taking a bit of leave.” The younger sister saw that I was silent and quickly added, “Dàgē gave me permission to! Dàgē said I should stay at home, and that it’s better if someone you’re close to stays with you. So I took two weeks of vacation. And it’s almost the summer holiday anyway, so it’s not a big deal. It won’t delay my schoolwork!”
With summer holidays just around the corner, doesn’t that mean it’s almost time for final exams? I smiled, choosing not to poke a hole in her lie.
“Sure, let’s take a walk.”
The younger sister breathed a sigh of relief and rushed over to push my wheelchair. Once out of the room, we passed through a short corridor on our way to the stairs. It was a mezzanine design, and you could see the dining room below had simple but tasteful furnishings. Only the cluster of black leather sofas looked somewhat more extravagant.
I opened my mouth to ask about things, but didn’t know how to address her. It was very difficult to call her “Mèimei,” so I was forced to ask, “What’s your name?”
She looked taken aback, and replied in a hurt tone, “Jiang Shujun.”
I was shocked to hear the word “Jun” and couldn’t help but feel a little closer to this girl. I continued to ask, “What’s Dàgē called?”
I thought back to yesterday, and asked, “Then that older couple that day were our parents?”
“Um, no. That’s Uncle and Auntie. We’ve been living with them since we were little.”
I looked at her uncomprehendingly.
“Our parents passed away in a car accident.” Shujun lowered her head, and said a little more quietly, “They passed away ten years ago.”
Hearing that, I suddenly remembered something else important, and asked, “How old am I?”
“Eighteen. You’ve already gotten into university, Èrgē, your first choice even!”
Eighteen… I was a little at a loss for words. I was supposed to be turning thirty-five, so I guess this was the second coming of the springtime of youth for me.
“Originally, when Èrgē got into university, Dàgē wanted everyone to go traveling together to celebrate. We even got Uncle and Auntie to come back to go with us, but…”
Shujun sounded incredibly sad, and my heart suddenly squeezed.
“What happened?” I was suddenly curious — how did a young kid of eighteen die just like that?
“A tile that had fallen off the wall of a building hit your head.”
Pfftt! I wanted to burst into laughter. This was too ridiculous. A tile falls off and a dearly cherished boy is gone, replaced by an unwanted somebody who was neither a human nor a ghost.
“Èrgē, don’t cry!” Shujun suddenly hugged me. Even though she was telling me not to cry, she sounded like she was about to burst into tears herself, and kept on reassuring me, “Dàgē helped to get you time off university. You can go back once you’re better. It shouldn’t take long.”
I’m not crying… Just as I was about to protest, I realized my cheeks felt cool. A touch told me that they were tears, but were they Xiao Yu or Xiao Jun’s tears?
I buried the twinge of grief and continued to ask about things I was supposed to know. “How old are you and Dàgē?”
“Dàgē’s twenty-seven, and I’m fifteen.” Shujun seemed to understand that I wanted to know more about this family, so she continued elaborating without further prompting.
“After Mom and Dad passed away ten years ago, we moved into Uncle’s place. Uncle and Auntie don’t have any children. They treat us like we are their own. But they frequently fly places and are hardly at home. Dàgē is the same, so usually it is just the two of us at home.”
I nodded, and suddenly remembered something else that I needed to ask. “Another guy and a woman were in the hospital room the other day. Who were they?”
“One is Dàgē’s secretary, called Zheng Xing. The other is Dàgē’s bodyguard, Ceng Yunqian.”
I blinked. That Dàgē even has a bodyguard? Is he rich…? Wait, those names and occupations don’t quite match up? I turned to give her a suspicious look.
Seeing my expression, Shujun gave a laugh and explained, “Yes, the secretary is a guy and the bodyguard is a woman.”
“We’re rich?” I was a bit curious. The house looked quite nice, and the wheelchair I was sitting in was of good make, since Shujun was actually able to take me down the stairs. So this family is at least fairly well off, right?
“I guess we are?” Shujun replied uncertainly, “I heard Dàgē say that our family was originally very wealthy, but when Mom and Dad passed away, our stock market value plummeted and we had some cash flow problems. Uncle and Auntie are archaeologists, so they weren’t really familiar with these things. So the company got stolen away by other executives. Around that time, we seemed to have lost a lot of money, so Uncle still feels very guilty about it even now.”
I frowned. My gut feeling was that they had been set-up.
“Èrgē, don’t worry,” Shujun seemed to have gotten the wrong impression, and she hastily reassured me, “We still have money, and Dàgē’s design company is starting to make profits too. Although it’s just a small company, he said it should be plenty to cover for us, Uncle, and Auntie, so we just have to focus on studying.”
Looking at Shujun I suddenly felt that Jiang Shutian was a terrific big brother, protecting his younger brother and sister so well that they didn’t know anything at all; they just had to focus on their studies.
It’s a small design company, yet the boss needs a bodyguard 24/7?
I didn’t know what kind of business Jiang Shutian was doing to need a bodyguard, but it seemed like although the present wasn’t like “that era,” things still weren’t completely peaceful here either.
Wait! What era is this anyway? I abruptly grabbed Shujun’s hand, asking urgently, “What year is this?”
Shujun started with surprise, and quickly replied, “2015. It’s still June. Don’t worry Èrgē, you haven’t been out for that long.”
Hearing that year, my heart went cold and I almost couldn’t speak. I just about managed to force out the words, “What day?”
No one would ever forget the 21st of June, 2015. The day when everyone’s world collapsed.
And now, was my world going to collapse once more?
“Èrgē? What’s the matter, Èrgē? I’ll take you to the doctor!” Shujun rushed to wheel me away.
“It’s nothing!” I quickly grabbed her hand and reassured her, “I’m fine. Just a few more questions. Which country are we in?”
Calm down, I mean, you’ve already died once. What else is there to be afraid of?
Except I really didn’t want to experience that world and those things again. If I really had to experience everything all over again, then I’d rather just off myself when I got the chance!
But this girl in front of me really was quite a nice person, and she even had a big brother protecting her. If possible, I wanted to help them first. Maybe find a relatively safe place, load up on some resources, and hopefully once that was done, they’d have it easier afterwards.
“Hm? Èrgē, how’d you forget even that?” Shujun’s eyes went wide. But even though she was astonished, she still obediently replied, “We’re in Junguo.”
In what? I’ve never heard of it before! Something was really off. We were speaking Chinese, and there wasn’t anything strange about the intonation of words. So how can I possibly be in a country I’ve never heard of?
Shocked and doubtful, I could only continue my line of questioning. “How many continents are there in this world?”
“Seven.” Shujun’s expression grew stranger and stranger, but I couldn’t care less about raising her suspicions. Let’s just get some things straight first!
So that’s the right number. Frowning, I asked, “Which seven?”
“Meisia, North Continent, South Kaia, Mid Kaia, Glacia, the Woodlands, and Oceania.”
All the names are wrong!
I took a few deep breaths before I could suppress my wildly fluctuating emotions, and continued, “Which continent are we on?”
No, I should be in Asia! This isn’t even the world I’m from! I didn’t travel to the past, but rather to a completely different world!
In the midst of my panic, I realized that, since I was in a different world anyway, then perhaps “that” wouldn’t happen again?
With that thought, I abruptly heaved a huge sigh of relief. No matter where I was, it would still be better than what would happen next!
Besides, this place didn’t seem too different from the world I’d originally lived in. Even the way they reckoned time was the same, so it should be fairly easy to adjust to life here.
Could this be a “parallel world?” I’ve heard people say that the universe consists of a multitude of similar worlds branching out in parallel… If that is the case, don’t tell me I might encounter another version of myself? That would be so awkward.
Whatever, as long as “that” doesn’t happen, forget about seeing another me, even if there are a few hundred of me, it wouldn’t matter!
“What’s Èrgē thinking about?” Shujun laughed and said, “So funny, your expression keeps changing.”
“I’m wondering where Dàgē went.”
Even though I’d figured out that “that” probably wouldn’t happen, I would still feel better if that guy was around. If “that” really did end up happening, it didn’t really matter if a sick, frail guy like me died, but if a beautiful young girl like Shujun didn’t have a protector, then she would only meet with a tragic end.
“Dàgē is on a business trip.” Shujun responded, then hastily explained, “It was some work that he’d already had scheduled, but because Èrgē got injured, Dàgē kept postponing the job as much as he could before taking it up. He really regretted it and even said that if he’d known that you would wake up right now, he’d have kept pushing back the work no matter what.”
A business trip… I frowned, a little worried yet at the same time feeling that I was being a worrywart. I mean, I’m already in a different world, so surely something similar won’t happen again?
Relax, it’ll be fine! I exhaled a long, long breath and continued asking a variety of different questions. “How long was I comatose for?”
“A bit over a month.”
Hm, not too long. No wonder I can still move. If I’d been out for a year and a half, more likely than not I’d only be able to continue lying in that bed… Footsteps?
“Who is it?” I called out sharply.
Shujun jumped with fright. I glared dangerously at the person approaching. It was a stranger, a middle-aged man I hadn’t seen in the ward yet.
“Èrgē, that’s Lin-bó!1” Shujun hastily reassured me, “He’s our chef. He’s been around from when our parents were still here. He’s not a bad guy.”
We actually have a chef. I was a little speechless. This kind of family was really too different from mine.
“Young Master, Miss, it’s time to eat.” Although Lin-bó was startled by me, he still remained respectful, making me feel extremely uncomfortable. In my previous life, the only people who were so courteous to me were the sales ladies whenever I was swiping my card to buy something.
“Okay, we’re coming now.” Shujun nodded at Lin-bó, her attitude towards him not much different from how you’d treat regular elders. Then, she lowered her head to tell me, “Èrgē, let’s go eat. Although Èrgē can only eat rice porridge, Dàgē asked Lin-bó to make the rice porridge using your favorite chicken soup as the base!”
Hearing this, I felt a little touched. This little bit of world traveling had even improved my family circumstances. In the past, I was in a single parent family. My mother carried all the financial burdens, and just my university fee was a big enough problem in itself. Fortunately, after I graduated, I’d found a great job and life had finally started picking up for the two of us.
Originally, the plan was to keep gunning at it for a few years, save up enough for the pre-payment, and then buy a small house, so that Mom and I would have a place to settle. Should I be grateful that I hadn’t bought it back then?
Lifting my head, I saw Shujun looking at me worriedly.
I smiled faintly and replied, “It’s nothing. Let’s go eat, I’m starving.”
After that, Shujun clung to my side the entire day, refusing to go anywhere. And before the sun had even set, that big brother who was supposed to be on a business trip had called five times asking about how I was. It was obvious how close these three siblings were.
What a pity that their Xiao Yu was already dead.
I lowered my eyes. I wasn’t planning to come clean on this. I had nothing in this world, being a mere student who was still in school. If I lost this family’s support, life would be very tough on me, so no matter how unscrupulous I was being, I’d keep hiding this from the siblings.
Besides, that Jiang Shutian was no simple guy. If he found out that a ghost like me had taken over his younger brother’s body, he’d probably be the type who’d harden his heart to shoot me to death.
So I have to keep pretending that I lost my memories! Even if they grow suspicious, as long as I don’t confess to the fact that the occupant of this body has changed, I don’t believe they’d dare to do anything to this brother of theirs!
“Èrgē, there’s going to be a meteor shower tonight. They say that you can see it as long as the light pollution is not too strong, so let’s watch the meteor shower in the yard!”
As I was munching on dinner, Shujun happily chirped away, but the glass in my hand shattered from my grip and I was seized by a chill that made even my teeth chatter.
“Gē! Your hand is bleeding.” Shujun’s scream sounded far in the distance.
The 19th of June, the red meteor shower.
The 20th of June, the black fog.
The 21st of June, morning screams herald the prologue.
“Junjun!” I shouted. “Call Dàgē back! I don’t care how, just tell him to come back here right now! Just say I’m dying! Quick!”
Shujun was so freaked out that she was close to tears, and she exclaimed, “Èrgē, don’t scare me! I’ll call the nurse right now. You won’t die!”
I pulled on her hand, keeping her there, and demanded, “Junjun, do you believe Èrgē? Èrgē is begging you, please tell Dàgē to come home right away.”
Shujun only hesitated for a moment before her heart softened, or perhaps she didn’t know what else to do, and so she picked up her cell phone to make the call.
“Dàgē, this is Shujun. Can you come home?” Shujun said in a troubled tone of voice, “Èrgē, Èrgē doesn’t seem to be doing too well…”
Guess she can’t bring herself to say lies like “Èrgē is going to die.”
“T-the nurse also says it’s not looking good. Really! The nurse doesn’t have time to answer the phone. She’s checking on Èrgē… Yes, the doctor isn’t here yet…”
After talking forever on the phone, Shujun flushed red, handed me the cell phone and said in a tiny voice, “Dàgē doesn’t believe me. He says he wants to talk directly with you.”
That’s because with your skill in lying, even if I really were only eighteen I wouldn’t believe you!
Taking the phone, I called him “Dàgē” like any well-behaved little brother should. Given the circumstances, there was nothing to do but go for it.
A deep “yeah” came from the phone, and he admonished me, “Shuyu, you scared Shujun.”
“Sorry, I was too impatient.” I apologized from the get go then went straight to the heart of the matter. “Dàgē, where are you?”
“I’m in Glacia, just getting off the plane.”
He flew to another continent? I frowned. Now it was even more difficult to ask him to come back.
“Shuyu, be honest with me. What’s going on?”
My mind was blank, and I wasn’t in any state to come up with a halfway reasonable lie, but as he was still waiting for my explanation, I only could say through clenched teeth, “Dàgē, I had a dream while in my coma.”
Fingers crossed that he won’t spit tea all over the phone and yell at me for sleeping myself silly.
“Something will happen on the 21st of June, a worldwide disaster! You have to come back to protect Jun… to protect us.”
Jiang Shutian exhaled and said helplessly, “Shuyu, that’s just a dream.”
“Please, Dàgē, just believe me this once. I’ve never played pranks on you before, have I? For Junjun, please, please come back!” I really hoped he hadn’t tricked him before. The “Shuyu” I’d learned about so far seemed to be a good kid.
There was complete silence on the other end of the line.
I forced myself to continue, “Dàgē, if by midnight of the 20th … No, if you can’t get home by 6pm that day, then don’t come back at all. It’ll be too dangerous.”
The closer it got to the twenty-first, the more dangerous it would become. If he came back too late, it was very likely that his plane would crash. So rather than that, it’d be better for him to stay alive somewhere else.
Having said all this, I had already done all I could. If he still refused to come back, then it was something that couldn’t be helped. I could only pray that nothing would happen on the 21st. In the event that something really were to happen – this time I don’t want to live through it!
“Okay, I’m coming back. You and Shujun sit tight at home. Be good and don’t go anywhere.”
Unexpectedly, Jiang Shutian actually agreed. It seemed like he was the type of big brother to dote on and spoil his younger siblings. Of course, this was assuming he wasn’t just doing this to humor me and didn’t plan to come home at all.
“If possible, bring back some medical supplies, like antibiotics. It’s best if you have some guns as well…”
My voice grew smaller and smaller as I spoke. It was just too strange for words like these to be coming out of the mouth of an eighteen-year old boy like Jiang Shuyu, and the more I said the more easily he’d become suspicious of me.
Especially since I had no idea as to whether something would actually happen on the 21st. I didn’t want these two siblings to be suspicious of me, but there was no way I could let this go without giving them at least a warning. Since doing something was better than doing nothing at all, in the end, I added, “In my dream, I saw that the next few days are going to be very dangerous. There might be injuries, and only guns can provide protection.”
He was silent for a long time before he made a sound of “mm,” and only after many repetitions of “take care of yourself” did he hang up.
Breathing a sigh of relief, I realized I was drenched in sweat and my entire body felt very weak, so I immediately drank a bit more chicken soup to hydrate myself.
After dinner, I asked Shujun, “Junjun, are there any markets and department stores around here?”
Shujun nodded, replying, “There’s a department store nearby with a supermarket in the basement.”
“Then let’s go there right now. Do we have a minivan around here?” Actually, I really wanted to ask if they had a large truck, but given that they probably didn’t, it was better to save the effort of asking.
Her eyes widened, and she said in a disapproving voice, “Gē, where are you thinking of going? You can’t go out yet!”
“I have to go. I need to buy a lot of things.” I blinked innocently, copying what she had said earlier, “Dàgē gave permission.”
Shujun frowned, but I stubbornly stood my ground, and she ended up agreeing to it. “All right, I’ll ask Lin-bó to drive.”
“Shujun, how much money do you have?” I was a little nervous — what I was planning to accomplish was going to be a true shopping spree!
“I only have a few thousand.” Seeing my troubled expression, Shujun laughed and reminded me, “Dàgē always goes abroad, so he’s given you ATM and credit cards. All my pocket money comes from you, Èrgē! I’ll go get your wallet. You can’t use my pocket money!”
Shujun seemed in be in a great mood. Even if her Èrgē went nuts, as long as a woman could shop, they would still be over the moon.
Being an invalid, it took a lot of effort before we arrived at the supermarket inside the department store. I’d found out that we had a basement and there wasn’t much in there, and immediately decided that we would spend the entire night shuttling goods from the department store to our house.
“Lin-bó, take all this rice to the cashier and pay for it first.”
The moment we entered the supermarket, I pointed at a mountain of packaged rice.
Lin-bó and Shujun were stunned, and Lin-bó asked uncertainly, “Young Master, are you serious?”
“Absolutely!” I said resolutely.
Lin-bó thought for a moment, and said, “If Young Master wishes to purchase in such a large quantity, I will negotiate with the store and have them to deliver the goods back home. But we may need to pay a little extra for transportation costs. Would that be fine, Young Master?”
“I don’t care about the money, but they have to deliver it by tonight!”
Lin-bó nodded, and the result of his negotiations was that the store was willing to have someone help move the goods, and there would even be a truck to transport the goods back. This only came to around a thousand. They were probably delighted to see a “bulk purchaser” like me.
So I fearlessly pointed at various things and told them to load them all onto the truck!
Instant noodles, meat jerky, canned goods, chocolate, sweets, gallons of water, drinks, toilet paper, batteries… An endless stream of critical resources were all swept onto the truck, and after a moment’s thought, even pads were packed onto the truck by the box. I’d never need to use it in this lifetime, but Shujun would.
“Èr- Èrgē, isn’t this too much? It’s probably enough to last ten years.” Shujun followed after me with wide eyes and a slackened jaw. Any desire to shop had long gone, replaced instead by astonishment.
There were people pointing at us already, but I couldn’t care less. As long as we could survive, a little embarrassment now was nothing. Rather, the supermarket manager was anxiously asking whether we could pay the bill first so it would be more convenient for them to deliver the goods. Frankly, I thought this was just an excuse, that he was afraid that I wouldn’t able to pay, and all this effort would be for nothing.
I took out my credit card, starting to get a little concerned that the limit wouldn’t be enough. But after swiping the card, he carried over the receipt with a thousand watt smile, so my credit limit really did seem sufficient. I glanced at the bill, which came to over three hundred odd thousand, so this was probably a card without any upper limit on the credit. There was no way Jiang Shutian was something as simple as the boss of a small design company.
After paying the bill, I said offhandedly, “Come, let’s continue upstairs.”
“What? We’re still buying things?” Shujun was shocked to the point where she was a little dizzy. She was at huge a loss as to what to do.
We shopped our way up floor by floor, and I picked out durable clothes at ten apiece each time, not forgetting other things like thermal clothing and duvets as well; I bought them like they were disposables.
Luckily, we were able to find a store selling military goods and a pharmacy on one of the floors, and I got all sorts of high-quality flashlights, helmets, and even military boots. Just knives alone I’d bought in the dozens. In the pharmacy, it was vitamins, bandages, anti-inflammatory medicines, and the like. I cleared out all their stock in one go.
Shujun said nervously, “Èr- Èrgē, this is too much. You’re always saying that Dàgē has to work hard to earn money and that we should save more.”
This made me hesitate. If nothing really happened, then all this would have been a waste of money. Even if we slowly used up the goods, there weren’t that many people in this family, so there was a limit to how much we could use up. Besides, there were some things that we’d never need, like the knives.
But putting it another way, even if Jiang Shutian wasn’t as wealthy as I thought, it was unlikely that the entire family would go bankrupt just because we had used up a million dollars. In contrast, these one million dollars-worth of goods would be absolutely critical to survival after the 21st, so comparatively speaking, this one million was well spent!
With everything cleared up, I continued shopping, and even on the way home I felt like we hadn’t gotten quite enough food yet, so we bought up everything from the convenience stores on our way back. It was only when I was so tired I almost couldn’t catch my breath and I saw Shujun worried to the point of tears that I was finally willing to go home. This body of mine would really need a fair bit of time to recuperate.
“Gē, Gē, look!” Shujun opened the car window and pointed excitedly outside. Lin-bó also considerately parked the car to one side to let her safely stick her head out to look.
At her repeated requests, I reluctantly lifted my head to look up at the sky. In an age like this where it was almost impossible to see the stars, the entire night sky was actually filled with meteor showers. It was magnificent, beautiful enough to take away one’s breath.
I still remembered the news the next day describing this event: streaming rose lights so beautiful that once you had seen them, you’d die without any regrets afterwards.
F*** that “dying without any regrets” shit.
Streaming rose lights.
The red meteor shower.