Dominion’s End Volume 1: Raining Stars at World’s End
Original novel in Chinese by: 御 我 (Yu Wo)
Chapter 6: Turning Ice into a Weapon– translated by Elkin
The first thing I did when I got home was go the basement to take the knives we had previously bought. All ten knives were still there, probably because Dàgē and his gang weren’t interested in the crappy kinds purchased from a department store. I also took a medical kit and a big pile of dry goods before heading back to my room.
My room was a complete mess, and the hospital bed was still in Shujun’s room. Nonetheless, there was still the single bed that was originally in this room, just that it had been shoved to one side to make room for the hospital bed.
I spent the better part of half a day tidying up the room. Even after doing so, I didn’t feel very tired. My current body was as expected, becoming better. I hadn’t eaten so many evolution crystals for nothing. Although I looked only marginally better than a paper doll, I was close to recovering my full strength.
Just as I was about to catch up on some sleep after wiping myself down, I heard a knock at the door. Startled, I reflexively snatched up a knife.
“Èrgē, it’s Shujun.”
I froze and asked, “What’s up? I’m about to sleep.”
“O-oh, then I won’t keep you up. Good night.”
I was suddenly buffeted by waves of intense disappointment—am I hoping Shujun would come in? I was silent for a moment before remembering that I needed to respond. “Night,” I called out, but I didn’t know if she’d already left.
I quietly settled on the floor. My activities had been very secretive and shouldn’t have alerted anyone. If Dàgē knew, it was highly likely that Shujun was the one who had told him.
I felt conflicted, but then again, I had to admit to thinking too much of myself. Shutian and Shujun were real siblings, whereas I was nothing in comparison, nothing more than a body snatcher and a fake. I’m lucky enough that I haven’t been gunned down, so why did I think I was in the position to hold myself up against them?
Giving an embarrassed laugh at my stupidity, I stood up and put away the medical kit, then hid the knives in various parts of the room. After that, I locked the door. Although someone had the key out there, just the sound of the key turning in the lock would be enough to wake me.
If I could just get back half the power and alertness of Guan Weijun, even if I couldn’t win, I could still make a clean escape from mercenaries like these.
I slipped the last knife under my pillow, and it was only then that I was able to comfortably drift asleep.
Finally, the sense that the apocalypse had struck was back.
Happy days would never last. This was an immutable fact in every universe out there.
The next day, I still headed downstairs to eat. The supplies in the room were just a precaution. After all, I couldn’t just hole up all day in the room. That wasn’t practical.
The moment I stepped into the living room, the chatter died down for a moment. Only Uncle and Auntie remained oblivious, and Auntie even called out to me, “Xiao Yu, quick, come eat.”
I made an assenting noise and sat next to Shujun, who kept her head down as she ate, not daring to look my way.
Jiang Shutian didn’t have any of the anger on his face from yesterday, and he spoke like nothing was wrong. “Xiao Yu, about those evolution crystals. Is there any kind of restriction on eating them we should be aware of?”
“No.” I paused, then elaborated, “Generally, no. There might be some special evolution crystals out there, but I don’t know anything about them.”
In the previous world, Guan Weijun had no way of obtaining those special evolution crystals. I couldn’t even get my hands on the higher tier crystals. Although “he” had gotten quite a number of higher tier crystals himself, there was never enough between him eating the crystals and granting awards to his subordinates. So, there was simply no way there would ever be any for me to eat.
There were lots of rumors going around back then that were difficult to verify as truthful. For example, it was said that there would be issues if you ate crystals that were too high tiered compared to yourself. But a lot of rumors were fakes. In the case of the high tiered crystals, it was possible that the rumor-mongers wanted to prevent others from eating the high tiered crystals the very moment they got a hold of them. That way, they would have a chance of stealing the crystals.
In any case, it was unlikely that there would be overly high tiered crystals in the early days of the apocalypse, so there was no real need to mention these rumors. If they turned out to be false, then it would just cause unnecessary trouble and further distrust.
“How could there be any restrictions when he’s already eaten so many?” Ceng Yunqian said drily, “Does he not know, or is he keeping something to himself?”
“Yunqian, this fish is really good. Here, try some,” Lily took a piece of fish and placed it into Ceng Yunqian’s bowl, while kicking her under the table. Although this was done very subtly, I still noticed.
The others didn’t speak, and Jiang Shutian didn’t ask further either. At the same time, he didn’t say anything to Ceng Yunqian and simply said in a mild manner, “Let’s eat.”
Everyone started eating quietly, and it was quite a while before casual conversation resumed. Uncle and Auntie looked a bit bemused, Shujun kept her head down toward to the rice bowl the entire time, and I ate in silence.
“Evolution crystals can be used to improve your powers, and they also strengthen the body.”
Finishing my food quickly, I left them with that one sentence and immediately returned to my room, not even bothering to clean up after myself.
Back in my room, I picked up a knife and inspected it. This knife really wasn’t very good quality. No wonder Jiang Shutian and the others didn’t care for them. And in any case, they had their guns.
The average person would prefer to shoot at aberrants from a distance when dealing with these unknowns. No one would ever want to approach them. So in the first two years of the apocalypse, everyone fought over guns and ammunition and failed to realize that they were wasting two years of precious time for practicing their special powers.
In the third year of the apocalypse, regular guns became scrap metal and failed to penetrate the shells of the aberrants. Bullets that were not imbued with any fire or water powers, were, at most, helping aberrants scratch their itches. Aberrants would even ask you to fire, like “oh hey, two more shots on my left. It’s quite itchy there”—by then, they really were able to talk.
Although Guan Weijun’s pathetic abilities were useless, because I had come to know of many powers, I knew how the future would develop and wouldn’t repeat those mistakes again. For example, relying on guns and foolishly thinking that powers were only used for at best a mouthful of water or starting a fire. And this knowledge was extremely precious.
I twirled the knife. Actually, the knife was just a base, so the quality didn’t make much difference.
Concentrating my entire being, I squeezed hard with one hand. Crackling sounds came non-stop from the center of the palm. Soon, the knife was covered in layers of ice. But this was not the final result I wanted. This ice crystal was too fragile, not much better than the knife itself.
I struggled to compress those ice crystals. This was quite difficult, taking up the whole afternoon. I only took a break in between to quickly gobble down some dinner, before returning to experiment into the night. It was only at midnight that I finally succeeded.
But I never imagined that after compression, the thick layer of ice would be reduced to a thin membrane of ice, even thinner than plastic wrap. It was virtually invisible. This was insane. Just how many layers of ice would I have to freeze and compress before it becomes somewhat more substantial?
Knocking off the excess fragments, I had no choice but to continue freezing the knife and compressing it. Although I wanted to do it a number of times, compressing the ice was much harder than creating an ice shovel or an ice dagger. So, the maximum number of times I could do it was just once more, and that was enough to give me a splitting headache.
Calling it a day, I slipped the knife under the pillow and slept. The battle would continue tomorrow.
Lying on the bed, my head throbbed with pain, and I couldn’t get a single wink of sleep. So, I gave up on sleeping and started thinking back to the past, hoping I could remember more useful information.
I had once seen the Ice Emperor’s battle.
The Ice Emperor was one of the elites in the apocalypse. He had an ice sword, made of nothing but ice. Yet it was harder than diamond—although, in the apocalypse, diamond was no longer the hardest substance out there.
“He” suspected that that was perma-ice leftover from repeated practice of his ice powers, and even pointlessly insisted on calling it diamond ice. That ice was something the Ice Emperor created and he had never called it diamond ice, so why on earth did he insist on naming it?
Anyway, we had watched the Ice Emperor’s battle against an aberrant. Even from a long distance away, we could feel the terrifying, earth shattering power of the elite. He had said in a tone that was both wistful and envious that he would one day be even more powerful than the Ice Emperor.
Even though his powers were top tier in this district, compared to true elites, it was like comparing a mouse with an elephant. But at the time, I had even consoled him, saying “you will be stronger than the Ice Emperor. It’s just a matter of time.” Thinking back, I really wanted to kill my stupid past self.
But that was the one and only time that I had been thankful that my power was enhanced vision.
The energies given off by the elite were so strong it was impossible to draw close at all. To ensure our survival, we had no choice but to watch the battlefield from far, far away. But because of my good vision, I could just about make out the details of that battle.
That was the most beautiful battle I had ever seen. All sorts of beautiful, translucent ice crystals glittered under the sunlight. Even if the ice encased bits of blood or flesh, they still looked like beautiful and vivid ice sculptures.
As for the Ice Emperor, although I couldn’t make out his features properly, those agile movements, his incredible speed and power…
Before drifting off into slumber, I thought back to the Ice Emperor’s longsword and decided that I needed a long weapon on top of my knife. I could probably get a broom tomorrow and use the handle as a base.
Oh Ice Emperor…
Am I worthy enough in this life to even dare dream of becoming you?
It was the fifth day of my struggle with making weapons and the twentieth day of the apocalypse. I finally created the knife and the staff. Although the perma-ice wasn’t even a centimeter thick, it was incredibly hard. These two weapons were like strands of hair before the Ice Emperor’s ice sword, but they were more than enough twenty days into the apocalypse.
I strapped the knife to my lower leg and stuffed the staff into a backpack. My plan was to join the staff together when the need arose. Although combining it on the spot would make the joints weaker, it really was too conspicuous to walk around with something that long. Besides, it would be cumbersome to carry.
As I had said before, this was plenty enough twenty days into the apocalypse. Even the weakest part, the joint, was at least as hard as steel.
It was still broad daylight. Of course, I’d be better off sneaking away in the middle of the night. But now, I couldn’t sneak around anymore, unless I wanted to risk raising people’s suspicions. So, I just stepped out of the house boldly. At most, when I returned, I’d just say I was bored and went to find supplies.
In any case, so many days had passed already, so even if there were burial sites I hadn’t found earlier, they would have been dug up long ago for the crystals. So, there was no way for them to accuse me of stealing the loot from others’ battles!
I wandered a little way down the road from the front door. After double checking that I couldn’t be seen from the house, I found a car, smashed the window, and started the engine. Hotwiring a car was a basic skill that even five year-olds in the apocalyptic world could pull off with ease.
While Jiang Shuyu had just turned eighteen and probably didn’t even have a driver’s license, Guan Weijun was already thirty-five. In the apocalypse, I had even driven a tank some distance before—not that there was any choice at the time. The soldier who was originally driving the tank had had his head twisted off by an aberrant, so even if I hadn’t known how to drive one, I had to manage somehow!
I drove for some thirty minutes, fairly certain that Jiang Shutian and his troop wouldn’t come so far out. After all, their first priority was clearing out the neighborhood of aberrants, while the search for supplies took a back seat.
The moment I stopped the car, I immediately slipped out of the driver’s seat and ducked around a corner. Although the sound of the car was not loud, it was very clear in the deathly silence of the apocalypse and could easily attract certain types of aberrants.
As expected, several aberrants scrambled out and jumped up and down on the car. From the way they didn’t butcher and cannibalize each other, it seemed that they had some other food source and weren’t so hungry as to eat their own kind, unlike the muscle man who had eaten the nurse.
If I had a gun, I could immediately put a bullet in every one of their heads. But I wasn’t planning to use one. Rather, I wanted to hone my powers and close combat skills.
Currently, I still wasn’t very familiar with Jiang Shuyu’s body. Additionally, this body had only experienced the black fog once and had just recovered from severe injuries, so I wasn’t sure how much of Guan Weijun’s combat power it could exhibit.
After a little thought, I leapt over a wall into a garden. This was another community that was quite similar to home, each house forming its own little space with the standalone houses and walled-off gardens.
I suspected that the aberrants had already grasped the concept of territories by now. So if they weren’t sure of their victory, they wouldn’t recklessly enter another aberrant’s territory. This presented a great opportunity for me.
I pulled out the two halves of the ice staff from my backpack and froze them into one long staff. Then, I did a high jump with the staff, grabbed onto the railing of the second floor terrace with a hand, and pulled hard. With that, I was now safely on the second floor.
This body really is quite excellent.
Looking down at my arms, I saw that they were somewhat fleshier. Although they were a far cry from being muscular, a little more fighting and evolution crystals would be able to put more meat on those bones within a few days’ time.
Using the staff, I nudged at the floor length window. Being unlocked, it slid open easily, and I climbed in with light feet. Only after I rested my backpack against the floor did I properly begin my search for aberrants.
I found them quickly enough. There were only two, and they were lounging on the long sofa in the living room, sleeping snuggled up to each other.
This wasn’t strange at all. Just now, I’d seen a nearby river and a small grove, which probably had a fair amount of animals and plants for eating. As long as food wasn’t a concern, it wasn’t impossible for aberrants to be at peace with each other. That said, it wasn’t unusual for them to suddenly go wild and kill their counterpart either.
For now, the aberrants were still not mature, so it was fair to compare them to children with their mercurial tempers. Slowly, though, they would begin to assist each other and also form communities, and large gathering grounds would start to appear.
Ten years into the apocalypse, the world had divided into four factions—humans, animals, plants, and aberrants. Humans no longer dominated the planet, and they weren’t even the strongest faction. From the start of the apocalypse right up to Guan Weijun’s death, aberrants monopolized the position at the top of the power pyramid.
However, this was far off in the future and not something anyone could do anything about. I should just focus on the immediate present.
Two aberrants. Will I be able to deal with them?
I gripped my staff, feeling a little uncertain.
In the past, aside from guns, Guan Weijun wasn’t particularly good at any other kind of weapon. At the beginning of the apocalypse, no one had proper weapons and simply used whatever was at hand. One moment, a cleaver would be used to slice meat, and the next, it would be used to cut down all sorts of evolved creatures. Or a bundle of sharpened broomsticks would be carried around for stabbing at aberrants. That was all pretty normal.
Back then, everything was in short supply. The most common weapons were poles and knives, so I could in fact use staves. I wasn’t half bad at it either. After all, in the later stages of the apocalypse, guns were useless, so if I didn’t have some competence, I’d have died ten times in a minute. Like the saying goes, people’s potential really does come out in times of crises.
Besides, the ice staff in my hand was no ordinary stick; it added frost damage when scoring a hit. I’d never had the chance to use such a good staff in the past. Guan Weijun had survived using just the handle of a broomstick, whereas now, Jiang Shuyu was holding onto an ice staff. If I still managed to die on the twentieth day into the apocalypse, then I damn well deserved it.
Judging from my own power, even if I couldn’t win in a fight against the two aberrants, I would still be able to get away somehow. So I decided to leave my fate to the heavens, picked something off the floor, and flung it over to see how many aberrants there would be… Ugh, if possible, please don’t let a third one come running out.
Obviously, the heavens had decided to go easy on me today. Both aberrants stirred, but one was obviously lazier and simply shifted a little before settling back down. The other stood up and started heading toward me.
I threw something else, drawing him up to the second floor to give myself a bit more time. Hopefully, I’d be able to finish one off before starting combat with the second.
I wondered what type of aberrant it was, as he still maintained a human shape. I’d forgotten exactly when the aberrants started developing all sorts of strange features, but at the current point in time, it was quite clear that most of them retained the shape of their host.
The majority of aberrants that settled in houses were originally human. There was a small minority which were pets-turned-aberrants, but most of them were devoured by the humanoid aberrants right from the get go. Newly awakened aberrants were very hungry, and the small pet aberrants were mostly weak. Although size did not always correlate with strength, it was still a fairly good indicator of power.
He was very skinny, so he probably wasn’t a power type. Likewise, from how he only noticed me when I threw something, he wasn’t any of the types with enhanced hearing, smell, or detection. From that, he was probably a speed type.
Aberrants’ abilities were mainly centered on enhancing the body, and powers such as fire or water were much more uncommon as compared to humans.
I had a feeling that this disparity probably had its roots in novels, comics, and movies, which contributed in no small amount to people’s daydreams. Floods drowning the Statue of Liberty, fires engulfing the skyscraper TAIPEI 101, wearing tight spandex over a muscular body and flying off into the sky, and so on.
I waited patiently just around the corner of the stairs. The moment the aberrant stepped onto the second floor, I swung down with the staff, but he twisted his head away right at the most critical moment. The ice staff grazed his cheek but still froze off a large chunk of his face, making him howl in agony.
I missed the first strike, but I didn’t allow myself to stop and immediately spun around and swept out a second blow. This time, I didn’t aim for the head; he was too sensitive to attacks directed at his head, making it no easy target. Instead, I bent over and struck out, targeting his knee.
With an earsplitting crack, his leg snapped completely into two at my blow, the knee bending at a wholly unnatural angle with the bone jutting out through the flesh. It looked exceptionally disgusting.
With a pained scream, he fell to the floor. Seeing my chance, I followed up with one downward swing of the staff. After a sound like a splattering watermelon, he was left slightly twitching on the ground.
I was eighty percent pleased with how the fight had gone. I was stronger than I’d imagined, and the evolution crystals I had eaten hadn’t gone to waste. But the twenty percent of dissatisfaction came from the fact that I hadn’t been able to split his head with the first strike of the staff. Then again, this was the first time I had attacked, and this body had only just recovered from its injuries, so I shouldn’t be too hard on myself.
From below came the sound of thumping and a roar, signaling the arrival of the second aberrant.
And with it came its delectable gift of evolution crystals.
A smile tugged at my lips, and right at that moment, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror of the dressing table opposite me. It was a smile so dashing and handsome that it sent chills down my spine.
After speeding through three houses like a whirlwind, I decided to leave. It was about time that the aberrants discovered the abnormality, and it wouldn’t be a joke if I got surrounded by a horde of aberrants.
Back home, Jiang Shutian and his troop hadn’t returned yet. Nothing seemed wrong with the house, so it was like I’d never left in the first place. Even Shujun, Uncle, and Auntie thought I was still in my room. But there had to be someone who was responsible for keeping watch in the attic, and there was no way that person could have missed me leaving the house.
So that person either doesn’t give a shit about me, or they’re probably hoping that I’d die out there, huh?
I don’t know who is on watch today, but then again, does it really matter who it is?
The moment I got back to my room, I immediately wanted to shower. I’d gotten sprayed with the aberrants’ blood during some of the earlier fights and reeked of blood.
But just as I opened the door, I heard rapid footsteps coming from Shujun’s room. Her door opened and I saw her looking over. I immediately closed my door. The metallic smell of blood was too heavy. The moment Shujun came close, she would immediately start questioning what I had been doing out there.
If she knew that I was sneaking out to kill aberrants, wouldn’t she immediately tattle to Jiang Shutian? If so, that would make my excursions in the future even more difficult. This is a very critical time. I absolutely have to get my evolution crystals.
I listened at the door for a little while, wondering why there wasn’t any knocking. I hesitated, but at the same time, I couldn’t just open the door to check, so I gave up and went for a shower.
After the shower, I habitually checked out the mirror to see how my musculature was coming along. Not bad at all. I could no longer be described as a paper doll but instead had now become a grown boy who was just a bit on the skinny side.
I smoothed down my wet hair, which reached to my shoulders, and contemplated a haircut.
Looking for scissors, I opened the door and stopped, stunned. Shujun was standing there, her head hung low… Don’t tell me she has been standing there all along?
I asked urgently, “What’s wrong? You’re looking for me?”
She didn’t reply, to my bewilderment, so I could only continue asking, “Shujun?”
“Èrgē… do you blame me?”
Shujun kept her head down, so I couldn’t see her expression, but I could see tears dripping onto the floorboards.
“I told Dàgē about you going out, and you two ended up arguing with each other. I was just, just worried that it was very dangerous, and I didn’t want you to go out and get injured again. You finally just got better, and you finally don’t look so skinny anymore…”
I hastily reassured her, “No, I don’t blame you.”
“Liar, then why have you been avoiding me?” Shujun looked up, her eyes red and tears still streaming down her face, and she desperately begged me, “Èrgē, I won’t tell. I won’t tell anything about you anymore. Even if Dàgē asks, I won’t tell him! Just please don’t ignore me.”
I gaped, unable to explain myself. I had indeed been purposefully distancing myself from Shujun, but it wasn’t because I blamed her. I was simply worried that she would be lumped with me by the others and be ostracized for it.
My cute and goodhearted Shujun had been taking care of an invalid like me ever since the apocalypse, and she worked hard at doing the housework too. How could I possibly let anyone hate someone like her?
“I really don’t blame you.” I gave her a light hug as I spoke. “It’s just that no one trusts me right now, so don’t get too close to me. Otherwise, I’m worried the others will take out their anger on you.”
Hearing that, Shujun wiped at her tears, staring at me resolutely. “If they want to take it out on me, let them! You’re my Èrgē! Whoever hates you will have to hate me, too! And I won’t cook for him or do his laundry!”
This little sister can’t get any cuter! I love you, sis! Even if my soul is a woman’s, I still want to marry you. Won’t you give me a chance…?
Shujun watched my expression warily, then finally, she started smiling, teasing, “So Èrgē, you’ve forgiven me?”
“I never blamed you.”
Shujun pouted. “Liar, you called me Shujun just now. Whenever you’re angry, you stop calling me Junjun.”
I was speechless. I had, in fact, let slip “Shujun” just now, but I had no idea where it had come from.
“Èrgē, you have to explicitly tell me that you’re not angry with me; otherwise, I won’t believe you.”
I gave Shujun a look and pulled her into my room.
Shujun very naturally gravitated toward my bed and sat there, glancing around the room before saying unhappily, “Èrgē, you’re being too lazy. The floor’s all dirty, and you’re just letting it be. I’ll come help you sweep the floor later.”
This Mèimei really is… I watched Shujun, feeling my heart clench. You really are such a good little sister. Wouldn’t it be amazing if I was truly your Èrgē?
“Junjun, why do you never suspect that I’m not your Èrgē? After I spoke about Guan Weijun, has it never crossed your mind that I might be a wandering spirit who has possessed your Èrgē’s body?”
This direct line of questioning was something I dared to do with Shujun, but never with Jiang Shutian. I was scared that, if he really did think this way, other than running away, the only path left to me would be death.
But Shujun… For some reason, I’d always felt that she would never hurt me, no matter what.
Shujun stared at me with wide, wondering eyes, asking suspiciously, “Èrgē, did you hit your head somewhere again?”
Hearing that, I couldn’t even feel tense anymore, and I said a little helplessly, “No. I’m being serious. You really haven’t ever suspected me, not even once? Even I don’t know myself… how I should view myself or you guys.”
Shujun’s expression immediately went blank, and she quietly looked at me, making me suddenly feel a little guilty. Everything has been going so well, and these two siblings have never once suspected me, so why did I have to tear everything down?
Jiang Shuyu has family, power, and looks. He really does excel at everything. Whereas Guan Weijun was just terrible, even at judging people!
Why can’t I just forget Guan Weijun and happily be Jiang Shuyu?
I reflexively looked down at Shujun. She suddenly grinned. “The moment I call you, you look at me. How can you say you’re not my Èrgē?”
I forced a smile, “That’s true. Never mind, pretend I never said any—“
“Gē, you saved me.” Shujun suddenly interrupted me, but I had no idea why she was bringing this up.
“The world became like this only three days after you woke up. You were so thin and weak, and everyone else was much healthier than you were. But all of us relied on you.”
I chuckled. “That’s because Dàgē wasn’t here.”
Shujun grumbled quietly, “Dàgē’s never around, and Uncle and Auntie aren’t home much either. It’s always been just you and me.”
You and me, but the “me” now is no longer that me.
“Èrgē, back then, when Lin-bó came rushing out of the basement, you pushed me in and even told us not to come out. Back then, I really thought you were dead for sure.” Shujun’s voice started shaking, her eyes reddened, and she said remorsefully, “Èrgē, you saved me, but I left you out there to die. I’m the one who doesn’t deserve to be your sister.”
“Don’t be silly!” I immediately retorted, “You are my good little sister. I was the one who told you not to come out. If you had opened the door, even Uncle and Auntie would’ve died! So no way could you have opened that door!”
Shujun wiped at the corner of her eyes and smiled.
“If you weren’t my brother, then tell me, have you always been risking your life to save complete strangers? Gē, you may have lost your memories, but you really are my Èrgē.” Shujun added in a quieter voice, “You have to be.”
Hearing that last line, I understood. Whether or not I really was her Èrgē, she would always treat me as so.
I had saved her, Uncle, and Auntie, and nearly lost my life in the process. I had been so pitiful that I had looked like a withered branch, to the point where even the stoic Jiang Shutian had lost his composure upon seeing me, to say nothing of Shujun. If I’m not her Èrgē, and am some lost soul who possessed her Èrgē, what can she do?
Why the hell am I putting Shujun in such a difficult position? What on earth am I doing?
“I’m your Èrgē,” I immediately apologized. “Sorry, I must have been knocked on my head really badly, so I couldn’t even remember that. If I wasn’t your Èrgē, there’s no way I would’ve risked my life to save you guys. After all, there’s no such things as saints who go around rescuing others at the expense of their own lives.”
“Yup!” Shujun nodded forcefully, looked at me, and suddenly leapt into my embrace and hugged me tightly, not letting go.
I have to be Jiang Shuyu.
I have to be.
Not unexpectedly, someone brought up the fact that I had left the house with Jiang Shutian at dinner. And the person who had been watching the house was not Ceng Yunqian, the person I had previously suspected, but Cain.
Jiang Shutian was extremely shocked and roared angrily, “Xiao Yu, where did you go? Do you think these are times when you can go running wherever you want?”
I said tonelessly, “It’s too boring at home. I went out nearby to look for supplies.”
“It’s too dangerous! Even if we’ve cleared out all the aberrants in the area, there’s no guarantee that we didn’t miss some.”
He didn’t question whether I was up to some mischief again. I looked down, feeling a little relieved.
“You’re grounded!” Jiang Shutian’s tone brooked no argument.
I didn’t reply, and merely ate my own dinner at my own pace. In any case, he would have to take out his troops at some point, and it didn’t seem like the person left watching the house would have any intention of stopping me from running off to my death.
“Jiang Shuyu! Look at me!” Jiang Shutian hollered in absolute fury.
“Dàgē, don’t be so angry!” Shujun exclaimed with alarm, “Èrgē’s been in bed rest for almost two months, and he’s been at home all day. He really is bored, so he went out for a walk nearby. He didn’t stay out for long. Dàgē, don’t be mad at him, Èrgē still isn’t that well. I mean, look at him! He’s still so skinny! What’ll you do if you scare him too much?”
This unwell person had just gone and killed five aberrants this afternoon, you know.
Hearing that, Jiang Shutian looked me up and down, and then he actually started speaking in a gentler tone of voice, “If you’re bored, join us tomorrow. Just don’t go out by yourself.”
Just as I was about to refuse, I had second thoughts. Perhaps I could instruct them on how to use their powers to attack, so they wouldn’t be so reliant on guns. No matter what, it was good that the mercenary troop was quite powerful. Even if they didn’t like me, it seemed that they really trusted Dàgē.
“Boss, we don’t have manpower to spare to watch over a kid.” Cain said with a wry smile, “Recently, the aberrants have become harder to handle, and it’s not like we’ve got an unlimited supply of ammunition. We can’t afford to waste any.”
Ceng Yunqian added in an even more dissatisfied tone of voice, “If we take him out, do we have to count him in when splitting the evolution crystals?”
Count me in… I frowned, suddenly realizing that if they hadn’t planned on sharing the evolution crystals with me, then wouldn’t that mean that Shujun, Uncle, and Auntie, who didn’t participate in the fighting, wouldn’t get their share as well?
I shut my mouth, pretending to be infuriated by the conversation, and left with my bowl in hand.
“Shuyu!” Dàgē shouted as he sprang to his feet.
Hearing him, I immediately raced upstairs, not giving Dàgē any chance of stopping me and continuing to coax me into joining them on their outings.
In the middle of the night, I snuck into Shujun’s room to ask. As expected, she hadn’t gotten any share of the evolution crystals, and neither had Uncle or Auntie.
I frowned. From the looks of it, they only shared with combat participants. This really was unfair. Even though they weren’t fighting, all the housework was done by the three of them, Uncle included. I could accept it if they received only a small share of the crystals, but not receiving any at all was really unfair.
Just as I was simmering with anger, I suddenly remembered the ten years I had previously spent. No one would ever share the evolution crystals with those who did the housework. An organization where the people didn’t immediately hide away and eat the crystals would already be considered a well managed one.
“Actually, Dàgē didn’t get any either,” Shujun whispered.
“What?” I was stupefied, and quickly asked, “Why’s Dàgē not getting his share? He’s the leader, and he’s definitely joined in the fighting, so why isn’t he getting any?”
Dàgē’s power was healing, so it wasn’t much use in a fight. And now he wasn’t eating evolution crystals. Even if he was a protagonist, he still needed a chance to evolve in order to become invincible!
Shujun made an awkward face, saying quietly, “Because they’re deducting against the crystals you ate.”
I was stunned.
“Èrgē, Dàgē never blamed you for eating those things. Your quick recovery should be linked to them, so Dàgē is actually very happy. But it’s not just about our family. Dàgē needs to take other people into consideration as well. So don’t blame him.”
“I’m not qualified to blame him,” I said as I shook my head. “I’m not blaming him.”
“Then, that’s good,” Shujun sighed with relief.
I’m just scared of him.
That line, “Shuyu, you never used to be like this,” scares me. Has he started to feel that I’m not Jiang Shuyu? And some day, if he’s certain that I’m not his younger brother, what would he do to me?
Just thinking about that sent chills down my spine.
I tried to rid myself of those frightening ideas. Dàgē was still doing his best by me, so even if I was a piece of ice, I’d still have thawed out.
I tugged out a chain from around my neck. This was something I’d found today. The pendant was a tiny bottle that was only five centimeters long, probably used to hold essential oils and such. I had fortified it with ice crystals. It was perfect for storing evolution crystals.
I tipped out one crystal, saying, “Junjun, eat this.”
Shujun stared at the evolution crystal lying in my palm, asking in confusion, “Èrgē, how’d you get—”
Halfway through the sentence, her eyes widened as she immediately realized its origins. And when she next looked at me, it was with considerable alarm.
I warned her, “Don’t tell anyone! Especially Dàgē. Otherwise, I’ll ignore you forever, and I’ll even run away and only come back once or twice a month. I’m serious!”
Her expression turned troubled.
“Come on, just eat it.”
Shujun shook her head, waving it away. “Èrgē, you should eat it instead. This is good for you.”
“I recovered a long time ago. It’s just that my muscle hasn’t all grown back yet,” I said firmly. “If you don’t eat this, I’ll throw it away right in front of you!”
Shujun had no choice but to swallow it.
“Junjun, go make three cups of hot tea. They have to be real hot. Then take them to Uncle, Auntie, and Dàgē to drink.”
Shujun started and watched as I tipped out four more evolution crystals. Judging from her expression, she understood. Good.
“Put two in Dàgē’s. You’ve got to make sure they drink it all. If they don’t, you have to think of some way of making them finish it, but don’t let them become suspicious.”
“Okay.” Shujun carefully accepted the four evolution crystals, and nodded seriously as she promised, “I’ll make sure they finish their tea. These are hard to come by.”
Her eyes had reddened.
After watching Shujun leave to make the tea, I returned to my own room, thinking hard as I strengthened the knife and staff with ice crystals.
Within the mercenary troop, Ceng Yunqian very obviously detested me, but I’d never imagined that that Cain, who was always full of smiles, was even more antagonistic toward me. If I really was an ordinary eighteen year old, my life would have been in danger if I ventured out of the house. But he turned a blind eye to this. This hostility of his was really too deep, to the point where it was starting to get dangerous.
As for the others, only Lily could be said to have even tried to smooth things over, but that was for Dàgē’s sake rather than any intention to help me.
Every single person in the mercenary troop was eating evolution crystals. If I had continued to remain oblivious to this fact, then the only person in this family to have eaten the crystals would have been me.
That’s way too dangerous!
I couldn’t care less if the troop was reluctant to share the evolution crystals with Shujun, Uncle, and Auntie. Anyhow, once they completely offset my part, they had to share some at least with Dàgē. But before that happened, I’d be the one taking care of Dàgē. I’d definitely make sure that he wasn’t eating any fewer crystals than the other mercenaries, and I’d even make sure that Shujun, Uncle, and Auntie had their share as well.
I’ll be the one to take care of my family!