Dominion’s End Volume 1: Raining Stars at World’s End
Original novel in Chinese by: 御 我 (Yu Wo)
Extra 1: The Journey Home, Part One—translated by Elkin (proofread by Arcedemius, Erro, C/E edited by Raylight, lucathia)
Sitting in the spacious first-class cabin on the plane and being served by an obsequious flight attendant, Jiang Shutian was suffering from a headache. He did not usually sit in first class, even though he could afford it. Being in such a luxurious environment and treated so well didn’t sit well with him or any member of his troop, to the point that it felt worse than being in the muck and filth of a battle zone.
Unfortunately, he really had no choice this time. He had searched every airline, but because his request was so last-minute, there were simply no other seats available.
Jiang Shutian gazed out of the window at the blue sky and white clouds and completely failed to see anything out of the ordinary. Shuyu, however, had said on the phone that there was going to be a terrible disaster that would reach every corner of the world. Although he did not use the exact word, Jiang Shutian could guess what it meant.
“You believe him?”
Jiang Shutian turned to see Zheng Xing gazing steadily back at him.
Zheng Xing continued to ask, “Those things Shuyu talked about. Boss, you really think it’ll happen?”
“I hope it won’t,” Jiang Shutian replied calmly.
He had put the mission on hold at the last minute and even explained the situation truthfully to his troop. Although he could have made excuses, such as Shuyu’s condition worsening, he did not want to lie to his brothers-in-arms, who had been with him through thick and thin. More importantly, he did not want his brothers to face the disaster that Shuyu had spoken about with no preparation whatsoever.
None of the troop believed in Jiang Shuyu’s supposed “disaster,” but Jiang Shutian ordered them to believe anyway. He made everyone go back home to their families and prepare for everything. Only the few troop members who didn’t really have any other responsibilities were following him back to Meisia.
If nothing happened, his credibility as a leader would be utterly ruined.
Nevertheless, Jiang Shutian was more than willing to have his reputation trampled into the ground if it meant Shuyu and Shujun would live on in peace.
Zheng Xing said thoughtfully, “So Boss, you really believe this will happen? Have you never considered than Shuyu might be a little loony after getting hit in the head?”
Jiang Shutian fell into silence for a moment, then said simply, “I believe him.”
Zheng Xing gave a wry smile and stopped his line of questioning.
There were still a few hours before landing, so Jiang Shutian decided to catch up on some sleep while he had the chance. To make it back to Meisia in time, he had been so busy that he had not had any time to rest. However, he simply could not fall asleep. A bad feeling was welling up inside him. Shuyu had told him that he should not return if he could not get home by six p.m., but the best he could do was grab a flight that would land in Zhongguan City roughly around that time.
Something will happen after six…? No, the first deadline that Shuyu had blurted out had been midnight, so there should still be some buffer time. But was Shuyu remembering to factor in the time needed to gather medicine and weapons, as well as the car journey from the city to our home?
There were too many variables. Jiang Shutian had wanted to call home to verify the situation, but the phone on the aircraft would not connect. The flight attendant was also unable to explain why or resolve the issue, so she resorted to apologies again and again, irritating him so much that he sent her away.
He felt a little frustrated. He’d had to deal with a million things in order to push back the mission schedule at the very last minute and rush back to Meisia, so he had only set foot on the plane at the last possible moment. As a result, he had not had the time to call home before the plane took off. He had originally thought that he would be able to call from the plane, never imagining he would be in his current situation.
He headed to the washroom and pulled out his cell phone. Right now, he could not care less about things like breaking rules or interfering with air navigation.
The phone still would not connect.
There were myriad reasons for not being able to connect a call, especially tens of thousands of feet up in the air. Nevertheless, Jiang Shutian was certain—Shuyu was right.
Jiang Shutian glanced at his watch. It was already 1700 hours, and there was still one more hour before landing.
He returned to his seat. Zheng Xing was watching him alertly, his expression rather grave.
“Tell everyone to prepare themselves,” Jiang Shutian said calmly.
With that, Zheng Xing’s expression sank. There was no one who would react well to news of the apocalypse, but he still dutifully went around to inform the others, some of whom were seated quite far away because the tickets had been bought so late.
When Zheng Xing returned, Jiang Shutian lifted his head to give him a meaningful look and indicated the window.
Zheng Xing peered out curiously—and saw the white clouds slowly turning black.
“Have we managed to reach any of our contacts?”
Jiang Shutian’s expression was extremely dark. They were originally scheduled to arrive at 1800 hours, but because the fog would not disperse, the flight crew had initially refused to land. They insisted on circling for two hours, until it was past eight p.m. Assuming that Jiang Shutian had to get his troop home before midnight, he had a little more than two hours to work with if he deducted the time needed for the car ride home from Zhongguan City—two hours which had to include the driving time to find their contacts.
“The reception is very bad,” Zheng Xing frowned deeply and cut his call as he shook his head. “I can’t get through to Old Man Lee.”
Hearing that, Jiang Shutian started weighing whether they should continue trying to reach their contacts or just head straight home without procuring any weaponry.
Someone suddenly shouted, “I got it, I got it! I’ve got Jin-gē!”
Jin Zhan? Jiang Shutian frowned. He knew the man, but while he’d had dealings with him in the past, he’d never bought weaponry from him before. That was because Jin Zhan was technically not a firearms dealer, but actually the young master of a mafia group. His firearms were largely for his own people’s use. While he did also do “sales,” the prices were prohibitively expensive.
Jiang Shutian did have a single Desert Eagle from Jin Zhan, which had been a gift. The quality of Jin Zhan’s goods was indeed high—just like his usual price tags. Still, at times like this, beggars could not be choosers, so he nodded and responded, “Then, let’s find Jin Zhan.”
“Good job, Wu the Ewe!” Cain patted his companion’s shoulder.
“My name is Wu Zaiyu!” came the heated protest.
“Time to go, little sheep.” Jiang Shutian led the way and reached out to ruffle Zaiyu’s hair as he passed.
Wu Zaiyu screwed up his face. Boss is good in every single way, except for his tendency to tease people and ruffle their hair!
With this light-hearted interjection, the atmosphere eased a little. News of the apocalypse had put them on edge and destroyed even the mood for conversation.
However, the lighter atmosphere did not last long. As soon as they neared the exit from the airport terminal, they could see lots of travelers crowding around inside the doors. On the other side, the air was heavy with fog that was noticeably black. It was making everyone a little wary, though not to the point of panic. After all, severe pollution caused all sorts of crazy things. Even if they hadn’t experienced it personally, most people would have seen it on television.
However, in the eyes of the JDT, the fog held a completely different meaning. Although they were unsure if it really spelled the apocalypse, they were absolutely certain that it wasn’t just bad news—it was very, very bad news.
Fortunately, most of the troop members Jiang Shutian had brought with him had no worries or responsibilities. Although it was quite difficult for them to accept what was happening, it was not to the point that they would have a nervous breakdown. They had simply gone from complete disbelief and thinking that their Boss was so doting on his little bro that he had lost his wits, to… Well, they still did not completely believe Shuyu’s story, but at least they were on the fence.
However, the better description was perhaps not that they did not believe it, but that they did not want to believe it.
“We have no more time. Go!” Jiang Shutian marched at the head of the troop as he issued his orders. “Zheng Xing, Jenny, go find our contacts at the hospital and get the meds, then regroup with us after. Everyone else, come with me to meet Jin Zhan.”
Worried, he added to the first two, “No matter what happens, even if you don’t manage to get the meds, you must rejoin us by 2230!”
Zheng Xing obediently set off. With Jenny in tow, he leaped into a taxi and left right away. As for Jiang Shutian and the rest of his crew, they had pre-arranged a minibus for transportation.
Jiang Shutian was not too concerned about Zheng Xing’s mission. They had already come to an agreement with their contacts on the medicine, so unless there was some kind of complication, they should be able to get it without a hitch. However, they simply had had no way of securing weapons ahead of time given how tight their time frame was. When people heard that they needed the weapons delivered within two days and the quantities involved, they backed off and refused to come to an agreement ahead of time for fear of being dragged into something. All of them had insisted on meeting face-to-face before entering negotiations.
And now, they could not even make calls!
“Boss, want some water?” Lily asked as she held up a glass.
Jiang Shutian waved it away, then sat back in contemplation. He remembered that Shuyu had first mentioned weapons before he remembered the medicine, so that meant that weapons were going to be critical. What kind of an apocalypse would make weapons even more valuable than medicine?
Perhaps the situation was going to be even worse than he had thought.
His only consolation was that there was no traffic, so they were able to meet Jin Zhan within half an hour.
Jin Zhan frowned as he gazed at the list of weapons in his hand. There was a row of people in black suits on either side of him, facing off with Jiang Shutian, who was standing in front of his mercenary troop. If there had been witnesses, most would assume they were two mafia gangs deep in negotiations.
Finally, Jin Zhan shook the sheet of paper, asking with a raised eyebrow, “Jiang Shutian, is this list for real?”
Jiang Shutian didn’t have time to waste in idle talk and flatly replied, “Yes!”
“When do you need it?”
Jin Zhan fell speechless. Having been brought up in the underworld, he had seen many things despite his tender age. However, at that very moment, he had no idea what Jiang Shutian was intending. If not for the fact that he knew the man, he would have thought that Jiang Shutian had gone nuts and was planning a revolt. For better or worse, despite their limited interactions—after all, they had met only a handful of times—both men were very clear about the other’s personality.
He spoke frankly. “Jiang Shutian, even if you searched the whole of Zhongguan City, there wouldn’t be a single person who could provide you with this quantity. Anyone else standing here would’ve turned away and left the moment they saw this list. They wouldn’t have even stayed long enough to hear you demand it ‘now’!”
Jiang Shutian knew that all too well. He had been refused many times before.
“Just give me what you can. And if you have anything aside from this list—weapons or battle supplies—sell me what you can there too.” Jiang Shutian added with emphasis, “Deliver it now and I’ll pay you three times the price!”
Jin Zhan knitted his brows together, replying, “This isn’t a question of money. What do you want so many weapons for?”
“You, a firearms dealer, are asking about the reasons for a purchase? That isn’t playing by the rules.”
Jin Zhan said tonelessly, “With the quantity you’re purchasing, there’s no way anyone in this country would dare to sell to you unless you gave a hint about what it’s all for. This isn’t a country at war.”
Jiang Shutian’s expression clouded over. The warning about the apocalypse had come from his own little brother. But even as the older sibling, he himself had not been sure what to believe, so he didn’t have high hopes for someone he had only met a few times. However, judging from the situation, it seemed that he would not be able to get anything unless he talked.
“Can I have a word with you? Just you and me.”
The moment he spoke, the two rows of black suits immediately took a step forward. Seeing that, the JDT instantly reached for the weapons at their sides. They could not bring guns into the country, but smuggling a few knives in by calling them artistic pieces was a different matter.
The subordinates on each side were bristling for action, but the two leaders kept their cool. Jin Zhan could not help but rub his chin at Jiang Shutian’s strange behavior. It was really beginning to pique his interest.
“Leave your weapons on the table and follow me.”
Jin Zhan stood up. Jiang Shutian left the dagger that had been at his waist on the table and let one of the black suits do a quick frisk. Then, he followed Jin Zhan to a side room.
Once inside, Jiang Shutian drove straight to the heart of the matter.
“You have to promise me, as long as I am not staging an insurrection or planning to harm you, you will sell those weapons to me.”
If he let slip about the apocalypse, it was unlikely that Jin Zhan would believe him. But in that million-to-one chance that he did, wouldn’t he keep the weapons for himself?
He wanted to fib his way out of it, but this was Jin Zhan. Within the country, the man had a much better grasp of information than he did, so tricking him was impossible. As for some story about how the firearms would be taken out of the country, Jiang Shutian was not even able to persuade himself to believe such a lie, let alone someone else. With no other choice left to him, he could only hope that Jin Zhan would keep his word.
Hearing that, Jin Zhan looked Jiang Shutian up and down with considerable interest. Suddenly, he asked, “Is this related to the black fog outside?”
Jiang Shutian hesitated for only a moment. He merely had to think about the ticking clock to decide to find out, right then and there, if he would be getting his firearms. So he nodded.
“How serious is it?”
“It affects the whole world.”
So this means… an apocalypse? Jin Zhan’s expression sank. Although he did not want to believe it, he could not find any reason to refute it. If Jiang Shutian dared lie to him, it wasn’t something that could be resolved with a simple apology. Even if he managed to escape, he would never be able to set foot inside the country again. If he were an unmarried man with no familial ties, it was possible he might do such a thing. However, rumor had it that he did in fact have family, so it was unlikely he would lose his mind to the point of ignoring the danger that they would be put in.
After assessing the situation, Jin Zhan replied crisply, “Fine. I promise. Tell me.”
“Before midnight, take the people most important to you somewhere safe. Prepare weapons and medicine, especially antibiotics, and stock up on as much imperishable food as possible.”
“That’s it?” Even Jin Zhan could not hide his surprise.
Jiang Shutian was a little embarrassed. He should have known better. Gēge was now paying dearly for not believing in his dìdi.
Jin Zhan laughed as he shook his head. “Isn’t that too little information?”
Jiang Shutian had no choice but to repeat, “I will pay you three times the price.”
“If there really were an apocalypse, wouldn’t money turn into useless paper?” Jin Zhan thought for a moment before making his decision. “Sure, I’ll sell it to you. But I can’t give you that quantity. I’ll sell half that amount, five times the price!”
If he was being tricked, he was still making a massive killing with this transaction. And even if Jiang Shutian did use the weapons to stage a revolt, Jin Zhan had full confidence that he would be able to stay out of it. Furthermore, there wasn’t much time left. It would be midnight soon, so if he didn’t start preparing now, there wouldn’t be enough time to do so. The black fog was simply too bizarre, even interfering with telecommunications. So Jin Zhan chose to believe to be on the safe side.
Jiang Shutian rejoiced and quickly added, “Give them to me within the hour.”
“Impossible!” Jin Zhan immediately refused. “At the very minimum, we will need an hour and a half. Otherwise, the most I can do is get my subordinates to sell you the guns they have on them right now. For anything else, even if you paid me ten times the price, I still wouldn’t be able to produce it. You do realize that we can’t even make calls now?”
Jiang Shutian looked at his watch. It was currently 2110, and no matter how recklessly they drove, the journey home would still take at least an hour, even without factoring in the black fog spreading outside.
“Fine!” Jiang Shutian agreed decisively. “But you need to stay with me until I get my weapons.”
Jin Zhan glanced at him, not seeming to care at all. “Sure.”
Jiang Shutian relaxed. It seemed that Jin Zhan’s base of operations was nearby.
With the clock ticking, Jin Zhan left the side room without further chatter and started ordering his black-suited underlings about. He did not try to hide anything from Jiang Shutian but issued orders to his various underlings right in front of him.
“Gather the items on this list immediately. Take half and return here in one and a half hours.
“Go fetch my mother, Feng, and Xiao Yue, and take them directly to the villa. Get them there within one hour. That’s an order!
“Go to the hospital right away and gather the medicines we usually use. Get more of the antibiotics too. Then go to the supermarket that we operate and transport all the food there to the villa. Move as much as you can…”
Jiang Shutian could not do anything except wait to one side. He was incredibly worried about the situation at home, but the phone still refused to connect.
“Boss,” Lily murmured, “should we prepare some food?”
Jiang Shutian frowned at the question. He turned to check on the spreading fog before shaking his head, saying, “Don’t bother. We’re short on time. We’re leaving the moment we get the weapons. Things aren’t looking good for us to split up into teams to bulk purchase. Besides, since Shuyu knew this would happen, he should be making all the preparations he can on his end.”
Weapons and antibiotics were both things Shuyu could not lay his hands on. Given that he had only mentioned those two things on the phone, it would seem to indicate that he was preparing everything else.
With too little information on hand and no working phone lines, Shutian could only dissect every single word that had been said in that one phone call. He hated himself for not asking for more clarification and blamed himself for being more suspicious than trusting, meaning that he was not prepared for the worst.
Jin Zhan was a man of his word. By 2300 exactly, Jiang Shutian received the guns and bullets he had wanted.
“I owe you one.”
Jiang Shutian knew that people willing to sell him weapons in such a situation were few and far between, and were to be treasured.
The corner of Jin Zhan’s mouth lifted. “If the disaster really happens, I’ll owe you one too.”
“Then let’s just cancel the debts.”
The two exchanged smiles, then turned and walked away from each other without another word. Time was running out.
Jiang Shutian looked over his troop members. Zheng Xing had already rejoined them with the meds, so all the to-do boxes were checked. The problem was the time left.
Back outside and in the driver’s seat, Zheng Xing had a full view of the spreading black fog and an expression darkening to match. He switched on the fog lights, but when that did not improve the visibility much, he had no choice but to turn and report, “Boss, in this situation—”
Jiang Shutian said blandly, “Everyone, fasten your seat belts.”
Hearing that, Zheng Xing’s expression darkened even further, all the way to pitch-black. The others simultaneously flinched and began fumbling for their seat belts. Even Cain, who was the most laid-back about that kind of stuff, was no exception.
Jiang Shutian said calmly, “Time to burn rubber. You used to be a racecar driver, right?”
“…Boss, no one burns rubber when visibility has dropped to ten feet. The only thing that’ll be burning is our lives!”
“Everyone will die unless we get home anyway, so pick your cause of death.”
Zheng Xing felt completely helpless and could only brace himself for a wild ride. What else could he do? Although the so-called “wild ride” only involved driving at around fifty to sixty kilometers per hour, in such low visibility conditions, that was really very wild!
The normally stoic crowd, who would not even bat an eye when reaching speeds of over a hundred, began to look like they were praying to God despite traveling at merely half that speed. Sadly, they could not maintain it for long. Even though Zheng Xing was once a racecar driver who would throw all caution to the winds in the olden days, he was still powerless in the face of traffic jams.
The clock was ticking down to midnight, which should have meant there wouldn’t be much traffic. However, due to the black fog, everyone was panicking and wanted to escape from the city, so in the end, they were all jammed together on the roads.
Wu Zaiyu scratched his face as he said, close to tears, “Boss, is it really the apocalypse?”
Jiang Shutian’s expression was grave—the worst-case scenario had occurred.
“Zaiyu, stop scratching!” Xiao Sha turned to ask the others, “Are you guys itchy?”
With that question, everyone discovered that their skin had a kind of tickling sensation, and the moment they noticed it, the itching got worse. Cain couldn’t help but give a scratch or two, and it was only after a hard slap from Lily that he stopped.
Jiang Shutian too felt waves of ticklish pricking on his skin. Is this black fog poisonous? Don’t tell me that the danger Xiao Yu mentioned was the fog? So this black fog can poison people to death at midnight? But if so, how will returning home help? Or has Shuyu already prepared the house for this?
“Zheng Xing, speak honestly. Is it possible to get home before 0100?” Jiang Shutian felt that, even with the most generous estimate, he couldn’t hope that any buffer time would extend past one a.m.
“Boss, take a look yourself. Forget two hours, I’m not sure if we can get out of this mess even with five hours.”
“What about going up on the sidewalk?”
Zheng Xing’s jaw dropped a little, and he turned to look at the sidewalk. It was doable. With the spreading black fog causing a prickling pain, the sidewalks were mostly clear of people. While there was a lot of clutter along the sidewalk, meaning the drive wouldn’t be smooth in the slightest, it was still better than not being able to move at all on the roads.
“0100 still isn’t possible. The roads are too dark, and there are a lot of obstacles along the sidewalk. I’d be lucky to reach the forties.”
That was already taking into account the fact that the bus had been modified. Its body was reinforced; otherwise, the car would quickly turn into a piece of scrap metal after crashing through just a few obstacles along the sidewalk, and they would have to ditch it.
Jiang Shutian took a deep breath, then ordered, “Drive on the sidewalk and get us to Odd-Foot. He should have gas masks at his place. We must be there by 0000!”
Ceng Yunqian said in bewilderment, “But will he still open shop given the situation?”
Jiang Shutian replied blandly, “It doesn’t matter if he isn’t open. We’ve just gotten ourselves some weapons, so we can blast down his door.”
These lines obviously tickled the troop’s fancy, and they burst into strained laughter.
Zheng Xing immediately shifted into reverse and stomped on the accelerator. With the traffic jam, the cars at the front and back of the bus were almost bumper to bumper, so when he went into reverse, he immediately crashed against the car behind him. But he simply did not care and just spun the wheel, charging directly onto the sidewalk.
The driver in the back car had just gotten out of his car in a rage, wanting an explanation, but the moment he saw that shocking scene, his eyes bulged and his jaw dropped. He was too stunned to care about explanations anymore.
They swerved left and right, crashing into everything along the way: street lights, advertisements, electrical boxes, vendor carts… He had long lost count of the number of things they had crashed into, but Zheng Xing felt that it was still a much smoother drive. Driving a bashed-up vehicle beat the boredom of being stuck in a traffic jam any day.
With lots of jerking and crashing, and plenty of surprises and scares along the way, Zheng Xing finally managed to arrive at the destination.
As he got out of the bus, Jiang Shutian glanced at his watch. It was already midnight, so he had failed at getting home by the deadline. Getting gas masks was his number one priority. As for back home… he could only place his hopes in Shuyu.
The moment he thought that, Jiang Shutian’s expression turned gloomy. He hated himself for having to pass the responsibility for his whole family to his dìdi, who had only just woken up from his grave injuries. This dìdi had been in a coma for over a month, so it was likely that he could not even stand up, but now he was being forced to protect the family?
Yunqian looked back, remarking, “Boss, he really isn’t open. So now…?”
Jiang Shutian blasted open the door with one shot, snapped one line of “We go in,” and stormed in first.
Everyone jumped in fright. Although Jiang Shutian was a very imposing person, he was actually also extremely calm and collected. There were many times when he intentionally put on a show of rage for bystanders, without actually being angry in the slightest. But now…
Cain snorted, “Blasting open someone’s door the moment he arrives? Boss isn’t planning to buy anything, is he? He’s just going to take it by force.”
Yunqian shook her head as she said, “If he can’t get home, doors won’t be the only thing Boss will blast apart.”
They never imagined that those words would describe their life for the next few days, when they would have no choice but to blast away many things for survival… and for going home.
[To be continued]