Dominion’s End Volume 2: Aberrant City
Original novel in Chinese by: 御 我 (Yu Wo)
Chapter 1: The way things are for the cool, suave and handsome—translated by Elkin (proofread by EvlNabiki & Trespasserby; C/E edited by Amgine & lucathia)
I finally managed to get out of the office, feeling dead tired. Having done overtime for the past few days, today, I could finally… only work two more hours of overtime.
Being able to get off work on time was like that LV1 handbag in the shop window—it was something you couldn’t help but drool over, but had no way of affording! But never mind, the company’s overtime pay was pretty decent and was in line with labor laws. Doing more overtime also meant more money, which was always good. That apartment I saw last time with Mom had looked quite decent, but it was such a pity about the price. After doing some calculations, I had realized that I had no way of affording the down payment, so I had no choice but to give up on it.
It’s better if I continue working for two more years. By then, I’ll be able to afford a house within that price range. Right now, the ones that are within my budget really aren’t up to scratch…
I looked over, watching in surprise as a boy with a sunny expression jogged up to me. This fellow was always rash and careless like a kid. Every time I put on make up to go out on a date with him, people would always mistake me for his older sister. Damn it! I’m younger than him by a year, okay?!
I glowered at his vest, beach shorts, and slippers and asked, “Zhengu, why’re you here?”
Xia Zhengu grinned as he replied, “To pick up my girlfriend!”
I purposely asked back, “Oh, your girlfriend? Is she pretty?”
He frowned a little, and shook his head as he clicked his tongue, “She looks kind of normal.”
I unhappily gave him a shove.
Xia Zhengu blinked, feigning innocence as he said, “Just the normal kind of pretty is all. Really not all that pretty.”
He really can’t sweet talk to save his life! I rolled my eyes at him. Fine, normal kind of pretty is acceptable too. In any case, I wasn’t any sort of beauty to begin with, so having the word “pretty” was already quite good for me.
Xia Zhengu slipped his hand into mine. He always habitually held my hand, no matter how many times I tried to train him out of it. I had sweaty hands! It was very embarrassing to have hands as clammy as these, and even though he always insisted that it was fine… All right, honestly, I was secretly quite happy about it myself.
“Exhausted,” I replied weakly.
He scratched his head as he asked, “Why work so hard? I’ve already told you that I have a house of my own. So just live at my place—you don’t have to buy one!”
I rolled my eyes at him again. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t considered marriage, but I was only twenty-five. Although I’d been dating this fellow for three years, it was hard to know what the future would bring. Besides, no matter what, I still had to give Mom a place of her own.
He said unhappily, “What, you don’t believe me?”
Too tired to be bothered to argue with him, I just responded carelessly, “No, no, no, I believe you.”
The careless tone of voice obviously pissed him off. He flung aside my hand and walked off ahead by himself. I gazed at his tall, slender silhouette and felt sorry for myself. Not only did I have to exhaust myself with overtime work, I even had to deal with my boyfriend’s temper tantrum.
I jogged to catch up. “What’s the matter? You’re angry already? You’re so petty!”
“I am petty!” He snapped back huffily as he looked back at me, and he even threw something at me. It was good that it wasn’t big and I didn’t get hurt; otherwise, I was not letting him off for this. We haven’t even gotten married yet, and there were already signs of domestic violence!
The thing I had caught on my chest was a small box—it actually looked like a gift. I was bewildered. Is it a special day? It’s not my birthday, it’s not our dating anniversary, it’s not the anniversary of the first day we met, and it’s not either the Chinese or Western Valentine’s Day… I opened the box.
And inside was a diamond ring.
Judging from the size of the diamond, and factoring in Xia Zhengu’s salary, he probably had to save up a year’s pay without eating or drinking in order to afford this.
I tore my eyes away from the ring to see him grinning cheek to cheek. He was still in his vest, beach shorts, and slippers, kneeling down and staring up at me. Even the homeless looked more dignified than he was. He was lucky he was a bit good looking. Otherwise, he’d really look like a hobo. Which was to say, good looks were important because you could run around naked and they would still call it art.
“Weijun, will you marry me?” His smile was as bright as the sun.
I laughed. I really had been waiting for this question for a very, very long time—for ten whole years!
“Xia Zhengu never proposed to me, ever!”
Even though we had weathered the moment of judgment together, even though I had saved his life a hundred times, even though diamond rings had become trash that you could pick up them from the roadside in the apocalypse, he had never once thought of getting one and proposing to me!
I crushed the box with my hand. Now, what I was holding was no longer a small diamond ring, but a long staff that emanated an icy chill that was as cold as my current state of mind.
“Weijun?” Xia Zhengu stared at me in a daze, then stammered out a question in a frightened and helpless manner, “W-what’s going on with you?”
I swung my staff down at that damned face, snarling, “I’m Jiang Shuyu!”
The man’s face shattered the moment the ice staff hit. Not just the man, but the entire world shattered like a mirror with that one strike.
Awesome! Xia Zhengu, I’ve wanted to hit you for a very long time now, hahaha—but now wasn’t the time to be happy. It wasn’t as if I was hitting the actual person. What is there to cheer about when it’s just smashing apart an illusion? …Though that still felt awesome! Aw yes!
Calm down, calm down. I still have to find Dàgē and the others first. Looking around, I found myself in a corridor with doors on both sides. The dimness was impairing my vision, making it difficult for me to see too far into the distance, but weren’t those people lying on the floor our mercenaries? Cain, Lily, Zheng Xing… Strange, where’s Dàgē?
“Dà…” Just as I was about to yell, I shut my mouth again and spun around quickly. I stared hard at the dark corner and could just about make out a silhouette there. Is it the sixth person?
I raised my ice staff, but at this moment, the door behind me opened. Xiao Sha burst in through the door, then instantly slipped into a trance. He even started sleep-talking. “No! Gē, I’m not you, I won’t follow your footsteps…”
What to do? I kind of want to listen more.
With a deep sorrow that I couldn’t hear the story to its conclusion, I dashed forward to give Xiao Sha two hard slaps to his face.
Half-dreaming and half-awake, Xiao Sha turned to look at me and, while still in a daze, gave a forced smile as he said, “Gē, stop hitting me, I’ll listen to you.”
He blinked, his expression clearing up. Then, he instantly flushed red and stared straight at me, unable to say a single word.
“It’s an illusion. It activates the moment anyone enters.” I explained simply, “I got trapped by it too.”
So stop acting shy about it. Besides, everyone has an ex-boyfriend they don’t want to remember. Oh, it could be an ex-girlfriend too. No wait, ex-brother—ah, whatever!
I pointed at the mercenaries who were lying on the floor all around us, then looked over at the silhouette in the corner. Xiao Sha immediately went on guard, forgetting about whatever ex-girlfriend or ex-brother he had had. As expected of a professional.
At that moment, the silhouette stepped forward and we instead relaxed immediately. I patted my chest in relief. “Dàgē, what’re you doing simply standing there? Do you want to scare your younger brother to death?”
Xiao Sha grabbed me, hissing, “Something’s wrong with Boss!”
Like I needed you to point that out. I could see it myself too—those eyes of Dàgē’s were so red, it looked like blood could drip out from them at any moment. And that terrifying aura of his was like a demon king’s! That mighty aura was materializing almost to the point where you could see it with the naked eye!
I couldn’t help but take a step backwards. Glancing sideways at Xiao Sha, I saw that he looked frightened as well. When he noticed that I had stepped back, he even immediately retreated two steps. Obviously, my dàgē’s state had also freaked him out.
With Dàgē’s every step forward, we retreated one step backwards. Forget that sixth person or whatever; Dàgē was the number one person we had to worry about!
“What’s with Boss?” Xiao Sha asked in horror.
“He should be trapped in an illusion.”
“Maybe slap him twice like you did just now?” Xiao Sha proposed tentatively.
Fuck, why don’t you go do it yourself?
“Boss would never kill you,” Xiao Sha hastily added.
I glared savagely at Xiao Sha. “He’s trapped in an illusion, so the me he sees might not be me. He might even be seeing the face of his most hated enemy who stole away his woman!”
“Such a person doesn’t exist. No one can take anything from Boss.”
True—no, wait! The point is, I wouldn’t dare to approach Dàgē the way he is now!
By now, Dàgē had already closed the distance between us to just a few steps. Xiao Sha and I had nowhere to retreat anymore. If we went any further back, we could only open the door and run away. But as it was, with the mercenaries lying around everywhere on the floor, a Dàgē in an unknown condition, as well as a mysterious sixth person who was hiding somewhere, there was no way we were leaving like this.
Dàgē’s eyes were completely red, almost as if blood would start coming out of them at any mo— no, he really was crying tears of blood. Even though he was so furious that his rage could scorch the very heavens, two streams of red tears were drawn down that Asura2-like face, his pain and agony so intense that they even overpowered his burning wrath. It was almost like he had turned into a living reincarnation of pain and agony.
We were both shocked by the sight.
“Give me back my family!”
Family? I started, instantly realizing what kind of illusion Dàgē was seeing. To him, his family is probably the most important thing in his life, isn’t it? Of course, that’s not to say the merc troop isn’t important, but it’s obviously on a different level from family.
Family is something to be protected, an irreplaceable existence. If he let them slip through his hands… Mom, just what was it that you wanted to say to me in your very last moments? I’ve kept replaying that scene over and over again in my head for ten years, but I still can’t come to a conclusion.
Xiao Sha suddenly yanked me to the side. Bang! I looked up to see Dàgē aiming a gun right at the two of us, and he had even fired a shot!
A wave of anger surged up within me. Dàgē, you’re the leader of the most powerful mercenary troop. You’re Jiang Shutian! Are you telling me that a little thing like an illusion is enough to make you shoot at your own little brother? And you dare call yourself my mighty dàgē?!
Terrible things happen when you shatter a dìdì’s image of his gēge!
I resolutely decided to beat sense into this Dàgē who had strayed from his path and make him return to the straight and narrow as soon as possible. So I immediately lashed out with my ice staff. If I don’t leave a few penitent marks on his face, I’m not Jiang Shuyu!
Unexpectedly, Dàgē grabbed at my ice staff, his strength so great that I couldn’t pull it back. A strange, slick feeling came from my hand. Strange, Jiang Shuyu isn’t Guan Weijun. This body shouldn’t have sweaty hands?
I looked down to see a puddle of water on the ground, all of which had trickled down from the ice staff.
The ice staff had somehow melted.
I almost spat blood when I saw that I was holding onto the shaft of a broomstick. What happened to his healing power? How the hell did he melt away the ice staff that I had gone through sweat, blood, and tears to make, while enduring days of splitting headaches?!
Xiao Sha rushed forward. I froze and watched helplessly as he was sent flying by a kick that Dàgē had intended for me. He crashed hard into the wall, dropped to the floor, and even coughed up a mouthful of blood. But he just quickly wiped his mouth and yelled, “Jiang Shuyu, run!”
Run? This woman has sworn to never run away in this lifetime, even if facing off against Dàgē!
I flung the useless broom handle to the ground and crafted ice blades under my feet, once again gliding to close in on him. This time, Dàgē actually dared to fire two more shots at me—even as an unfilial daughter, I never dared to point a gun at my own mother. So you sure have guts to brandish your weapon at your younger brother!
I crafted countless ice knives and fired them at Dàgē, but I wasn’t a bastard like him as to raise a hand against my own family. I just targeted the weapons he was carrying, aiming to freeze all those dangerous things he had on him.
But as expected of Dàgē, he still managed to dodge the majority of ice knives despite not having his full wits. Though it was such a pity that the weapons he was holding were knocked away by the continuous stream of ice knives. He made a motion to draw the gun at his waist, but the gun had long been frozen to its holster, so even if he were able to yank the gun out, he wouldn’t be able to pull the trigger.
By now, I had already charged right in front of Dàgē. I gave him a black eye with one furious punch. Then, spinning around, I dodged his kick and lashed out with another punch, to finish off the set of black eyes!
Dàgē stared at me in astonishment, seeming to have snapped out of it—as if I cared! Using the ice blades under my feet, I whirled around to pick up speed and leapt up at him with a flying kick, sending Dàgē stumbling back a good number of steps. The moment I landed, I dashed forward and used the forward momentum to send him flying in the air. He even crashed against Cain, who was lying on the ground, the two of them skidding on the floor until they crashed to a stop against the wall.
Yes, I was taking revenge under the pretext of doing something proper, and I had intentionally picked the direction I had kicked him in. So what, Cain? Bite me.
The raging fury and explosive combat made me a little short on breath, and I panted as my eyes swept around the room. Everyone had woken up and was looking at me like I was a ghost. Good, no one is still stuck in an illusion.
I looked at the shadows in the corridor, narrowed my eyes threateningly, and glided over. In the blink of an eye, I was already at one of the doors, and I crashed directly into it without stopping. If I were to give my opponent any time to react, then it might be possible I wouldn’t be able to open the door again.
There, inside, was a person who looked like a person, but wasn’t a person.
Scenes kept flashing before my eyes, but I already knew those were all fake. They were illusions created based on my memories. If my opponent wanted to entrance me, he would have to be of a much higher tier than me in order to succeed. I was already tier one. I didn’t believe he could be tier two!
No matter how unlucky the Jiang family was, there was just no way they’d encounter a tier two aberrant within three months of being thrown into the apocalypse!
Then again, this thing in front of me was a rare specimen. I’d originally thought it was a psychic-type aberrant, which was already rare enough in itself—most aberrants had evolved to strengthen their bodies, and it was very unusual for them to develop other types of abilities.
No, he was a brainwight, an extremely unique creature. Although they were few in number, every time they made an appearance marked the start of a reign of terror because their illusions were simply too tricky to deal with.
He was mostly human-shaped, except his head was exceptionally large, with his brain exposed and visible through a thin layer of transparent membrane. His only remaining facial features started below the nose.
In my previous life, I luckily never had to encounter something like this. I’d only heard rumors. It was said that brainwights were able to talk from the very beginning. There were also some who said that they were actually humans, but their abilities transformed their appearance in such a bizarre way that they were treated as aberrants.
But there were also the dissenters who felt that if brainwights were human, then where should the line be drawn between aberrants and humans? The line became even blurrier once aberrants started talking, and some even began developing the ability to morph into a humanoid shape.
Even more confusingly, brainwights ate both humans and evolution crystals. At the beginning, they mostly ate humans, probably because it was easier to handle humans than aberrants at that point in time, but this also made them fall definitively into the “aberrant” category. However, in the later stages of the apocalypse, they actually started to prefer eating evolution crystals.
“If you let me go, I’ll tell you everything you want to know.”
The brainwight actually started speaking to me. His voice actually sounded quite young, not much different from the voices of the university freshmen outside. So perhaps that story about the meet up and traffic accident was true, except that the sixth person had never gone to the hospital.
I gave a snort of contempt and responded, “You can only read my memories. You have no way of knowing things that I don’t know about!”
But did this brainwight really manage to sift through so many memories in the short time I was under the spell of the illusion? Isn’t he a little too strong? This is just the third month into the apocalypse— don’t tell me he’s tier one as well? A tier one brainwight?
The Jiang family really does have bad luck!
“Memories reside in the brain. Even with your very strange condition, you will still have memories.”
The brainwight tilted his head to one side, causing the huge brain sac to wobble—it looked like it was going to drop to the ground any second and turn into mashed tofu.
No wonder there were so few brainwights. That exposed brain was a super big weakness right there, making it nearly impossible to survive the early stages of the apocalypse.
Not to mention their illusion abilities weren’t very strong in the beginning. It was actually quite difficult to mesmerize people. It was probably because we had walked into the rooms he had prepared in advance that he was able to successfully enthrall so many people with his illusions.
If mesmerizing people was hard enough, then mesmerizing aberrants was simply impossible. Aberrants in these early days were just focused on eating, eating, and eating. Their instincts were simply too strong, not to mention they didn’t have many memories to speak of as newborns, so it was very difficult to conjure any kind of illusion to mesmerize them.
“Jiang Shuyu’s already dead. Don’t you want to know more about this?”
My entire body stiffened.
“After that accident, his heart stopped for a while. It only restarted after you came. This memory is far too vivid, so I didn’t need to search too deeply to see this memory. If you’re willing to let me dive in deeper, I can tell you even more things. I can even search other people’s memories. I don’t have to eat humans. Just give me some of the evolution crystals you’ve talked about and I can help you with things.”
The brainwight kept talking and talking, with only one purpose in mind—to trick me into letting him go or even raising him as a pet, much like that Lu Renjie outside. But the difference was that, while it was hard to say who was the master in the master-pet relationship he and Lu Renjie had, it’d become even trickier to determine the master between him and me after the brainwight really matured.
Behind me came the soft crunching of footsteps and Dàgē’s voice, which carried hints of embarrassment and guilt. It was amazing how expressive even Dàgē’s voice was.
I suddenly leapt forward, crafting an ice staff out of thin air and swinging it at that huge brain sac. Even if this ice staff wasn’t very sturdy, it was enough for dealing with soft brain tissue.
I kept hitting it over and over in a frenzy. Even if that brain did explode after one blow, I couldn’t let him go so easily. Even when I beat it to bits, to a pulp, to a puddle of goo, it wasn’t enough to make that sentence go away.
Jiang Shuyu is dead.
“Xiao Yu, Xiao Yu, stop.”
I panted, my heart a frozen lump in my throat, and I almost didn’t have the guts to turn around to face Jiang Shutian. But I didn’t have any choice in the matter. I looked at him—he had a slight frown creasing his forehead and a hint of worry on his face. It didn’t seem like he had heard what the brainwight had just said.
Dàgē asked with concern, “Xiao Yu, are you okay?”
“This thing made me fall into an illusion again.” I lied, pretending like I was desperately trying to hide my pain, “I saw things that I didn’t want to see.”
Dàgē fell silent for a moment before asking, “Was it about Guan Weijun?”
I nodded carelessly and snuck him a look. I never imagined that Dàgē would remember my name.
“Don’t think too much.” Dàgē reached out a hand, as though he were going to ruffle my hair, but reconsidered and pulled back his hand at the very last moment.
I frowned a little and remarked, “Everything should be fine now that we’ve dealt with this. We don’t have to bother with digging up the evolution crystal for this aberrant because he doesn’t have any. Dàgē, go look for your ammo. We should head back soon; otherwise Junjun will get worried.”
Dàgē nodded and seemed almost eager to turn away and order the troop to split up for their tasks. For some reason, Xiao Sha was still in charge of following me. Don’t tell me I still haven’t proven myself enough with my fighting ability so far, so they still think I need a bodyguard?
With nothing to do, I just left the room and regretted it the moment I stepped out through the door.
Lu Renjie had grabbed onto Chen Qianru, two hands tightly gripping her head, and he snarled, “If you take one step closer, I’m gonna snap her neck—”
I had no expression whatsoever as I held out the gun, then tossed it back to Xiao Sha. This was a gun I had snatched from his waist holster just now.
Striding forward, I kicked aside Lu Renjie’s corpse. Chen Qianru, the idiotic girl that she was, couldn’t even break free of a corpse. Dying because you were crushed by a corpse rather than being bitten to death in the apocalypse was just about the most ridiculous and laughable death possible.
“Are you an idiot? The most worthless thing in the apocalypse is human life. So what do you think you’re doing, threatening me with a random person?”
As Guan Weijun, I was a woman who had survived ten years in the apocalypse. In order to survive, just how many lives do you think I had abandoned or taken? Do you think I’m Mother Teresa, wanting to rescue every single person I come across?
I looked at the others, and they were just Su Ying, Ding Jun, and Chen Qianru. For some reason, Li Yarong had already turned into a corpse in one corner, and judging from how her brains had turned into mashed tofu, it was likely that she had been killed by Lu Renjie when she tried to escape.
“What are your special abilities? Don’t talk, just show me.”
With that, I took out Xiao Sha’s gun and pointed it at them three. To people in these early days, a gun was still much more threatening than special abilities.
Ding Jun remained as a grave as usual, though his color was a bit off. He probably wasn’t a heartless person, but he was just naturally unable to show much emotion. If he really has no heart to speak of, then I have to take him out as soon as possible!
There was a saying that went: if they can live keeping their silence, then their silence damns them to abnormality. These days, such abnormalities were too dangerous, so it might be best to just kill him instead.
He grabbed at the remains of a metal shelf nearby, and then opened his palm, revealing a single screw that was flipping and turning in mid-air, floating a few centimeters away from his palm.
“Can you change its shape?” I asked coldly.
Ding Jun stared blankly, then shook his head. “No.”
In theory, he should be able to, but it was likely that he was still too weak.
I looked at the two girls… never mind, I only had to look at Su Ying. Chen Qianru had already fainted, and I couldn’t be bothered to wake her up.
Su Ying was sitting on the ground, so scared that her face was sheet-white, and she was covered from head to toe in blood. She could be featured in a horror movie looking like this. Terrified, she stammered, “I-I can’t show you. M-my power isn’t t-that kind. I, I can just hear people’s thoughts s-sometimes. Really, only once in a while!”
I nodded. I had guessed it earlier. With psychic powers, she wasn’t mesmerized by the brainwight, and she was even able to give me a warning, unlike Chen Qianru, the walking bait and rations who was so entranced that she couldn’t make heads or tails of the time and how the events had played out.
“What about Chen Qianru?”
Su Ying shook her head. “I don’t know.”
I nodded, then crouched down and leaned in close to her ear. This move attracted Xiao Sha’s attention and he looked over. So what? I want to talk to her in secret, so bite me.
“No matter what thoughts you hear from me, if you ever dare to tell them to anyone, including my Dàgē, you’ll end up with the same fate as Lu Renjie. Understood?”
Her eyes brimming with tears, Su Ying trembled non-stop as she nodded, then joined Chen Qianru in the passed-out party.
In the end, we scavenged twelve boxes of all kinds of ammunition at the police station, along with twenty useless bullet-proof vests and all kinds of miscellanea that we weren’t sure we needed, but which we took with us anyway.
There were also the three deadweight university students.
The secret behind how these people had been able to survive three months in the basement of a police station turned out to be not much of secret after all—there was another exit from the basement that was close to a supermarket. So these brainwight’s rations had been living pretty well. Only when Lu Renjie had not been able to lure in passersby for some period of time did they need to consider which of them was going to become the next dish for the brainwight to enjoy.
The meet up that Chen Qianru had spoken about had actually happened, with its participants being the brainwight, Lu Renjie, Chen Qianru, Li Yarong, and a few others who had turned into aberrants and had gone god knows where. Su Ying and Ding Jun joined in afterwards and weren’t part of the meet up.
This expedition could hardly be said to be fruitful, and if we factored in the loss of my ice staff as well, it was a tragic loss.
The moment I remembered my ice staff, I scowled deeply. Just when I was thinking of adding a spearhead—well, great, now even the spear shaft had disappeared. My head hurt just from the idea of having to start from scratch.
Back home, Shujun had said that she wanted to make sure her èrgē who had gone out on his first mission was being fed properly, so she cooked up enough medicinal dishes to cover the table. Of course, she didn’t forget to include chicken soup and Chinese medicinal soup, so even my stomach hurt too.
During everyone’s first experience with the brainwight today, they had all recalled painful things from their past, and so were incredibly spiritless. If not for the fact that we had to deal with the three university students, everyone would have probably gone back to their own rooms after the meal.
Actually, there were too few of us, so it was better to have some fresh blood to help out as well. But out of these three, Chen Qianru was spaced out, Ding Jun was dead silent, and Su Ying was extremely high-strung… Fine, I’ll admit the last one is my fault. I went a little overboard when scaring her just now.
No matter how you looked at it, the three of them weren’t fresh blood but deadweight. No one looked particularly pleased with them, but none of the mercenaries were so cruel as to throw them out to fend for themselves, given that we had adequate supplies at the moment.
Dàgē spoke, “Shuyu, you will go to sleep with Shujun. They’ll stay in your room.”
I blinked, agreed with an “okay,” and wanted to immediately head back to my room to pack my stuff. Besides, I had no lingering attachment to a room that was riddled with bullet holes, not to mention that it was where a bunch of people had died too.
To my surprise, Dàgē added, “It won’t be for long. We’ll clean up the house next door and knock down the fence, so that it will be connected to this side. Then everyone will be able to have a room to themselves.”
“Okay.” I glanced at him. Dàgē sure was talkative today.
Dàgē seemed to still have more to say so I stood there quietly, waiting for him to speak his mind. But in the end, he just waved a hand dismissively. “You’re tired too. Go get some rest soon.”
I nodded and returned to my room to sort out my stuff. Most importantly, I had to dig up all the weapons I had hidden around the room and hide them all again in Shujun’s room.
Soon, I was sitting on my hospital bed, figuring out how the heck I was supposed to create a new weapon. Because it was hard to move the bed that was originally in my room, I just moved the hospital bed to Shujun’s room instead. Anyhow, I had slept for a fair amount of time on this bed, so I was pretty used to it.
Shujun was patting dry her glistening hair as she exited the bathroom. Instead of drying it off with a hair dryer, she came directly to my bed and asked with puzzlement, “Èrgē, what happened today? Seems like everyone’s pretty out of it. Even Dàgē’s strange. He frowns whenever he looks at you.”
I was silent for a while. Don’t tell me he heard those words anyway?
“My ice staff is gone. Dàgē broke it, so I beat him up for that.”
Unexpectedly, Shujun just blinked those large eyes of hers without the slightest bit of surprise. Moreover, she even nodded understandingly as she said, “No wonder Dàgē’s so strange. He must feel super guilty. Had he broken anything else, he would have found you a replacement no matter what, but there’s no way he can make an ice staff. Breaking something so valuable and not being able to replace it, well, sigh, I don’t know how you will torment Dàgē this time.”
She looked at me with her bright eyes and begged, “Èrgē, don’t bully Dàgē too much. It’s dangerous outside right now, so if you punish him too much, it might affect Dàgē’s actual work when searching for supplies.”
“…Did I punish Dàgē a lot in the past?”
That’s absolutely ridiculous no matter how I think about it! How can a Jiang Shuyu with no special abilities punish Dàgē? Tell me, I want to learn!
Shujun pondered for a moment and then gave an example.
“Back then, Dàgē was always very busy. He’d rarely come home because he was always on business trips. Once, he promised to join my graduation ceremony, but he didn’t turn up. I was still very young back then, and I couldn’t help but cry during the ceremony. You were so angry that you changed all the locks in the house so Dàgē couldn’t get in. That time, Dàgē had to stay at a hotel for a whole month. He couldn’t enter the house nor could he just leave, because you told him, ‘Dàgē, if you dare to leave the country, I’ll immediately transfer away all your savings, and move with Junjun to a place where you won’t ever be able to find us.’”
The “run away with the savings” plan? Jiang Shuyu, how old were you back then? You really were something, knowing not only to make a clean escape, but to take all the money as well!
“Èrgē, you’re normally very gentle, but you’re very vicious when angered. Even Dàgē gets scared of you!” She giggled. “Actually, even Uncle and Auntie were punished by you before. They love going around to archaeological digs, and they’ll go to the most dangerous of places, no matter how many times you tell them not to. Once, when they were dragged into a local conflict, Uncle got shot and Auntie fractured her leg. You would go hit Uncle and Auntie’s wounds every night while they recovered at home, and you even said, ‘It’s best if these wounds never healed. Better to stay at home recovering from them than to die out there.’”
And so, I ended up listening to Shujun describe all kinds of things about Jiang Shuyu.
It was entirely possible that the actual master of this household was Jiang Shuyu, not Jiang Shutian as I had originally thought. Though that wasn’t strictly true either. Jiang Shutian was the oldest brother who took over the father’s role as the breadwinner of the family. Jiang Shuyu was the second brother who took over the mother’s role as caretaker of the siblings and his uncle and auntie. What hardworking kids.
Can I even compare in terms of hard work?
“Èrgē,” Shujun pressed her forehead against mine, “don’t worry, you’ll definitely remember.”
I stroked the back of her head, feeling the silky smoothness of the raven black hair, and instructed her, “Go dry your hair. Don’t sleep with wet hair, or you’ll get a headache.”
“Okay.” She slipped off the hospital bed and skipped over agilely to pick up the hair dryer. Then, she started drying her hair after holding onto the socket—her control over her lightning ability truly a marvel to behold.
But Shujun, I can’t remember. I’ll never remember anything.
I repeatedly compressed ice crystals, but after a whole day of work, there still was only a thin layer of ice coating the staff. I really wasn’t doing much than just polishing the broom handle. There was at least a whole month of work ahead of me before I could even get anything approaching an ice staff again. But whatever, this time, I would work on it together with the spear head, so the connecting point between the spear shaft and head wouldn’t be too fragile.
“Èrgē, time for dinner!”
“Okay,” I replied, then headed over to the dining room. There were only Uncle, Auntie, Junjun, and the three university students sitting at the table.
To keep an eye on the three new faces in the house and because my ice staff had been melted, I just conveniently stayed home to work on my weapon, opting not to join the others in their resupply mission. The target this time was the supermarket next to the police station.
Although Shujun could zap all three of them dead with a bolt of lightning, there was no way I was letting Shujun get her hands dirty. Frying someone with lightning would make them crispy on the outside but leave tender, succulent meat on the inside—but whatever reason you could come up with, it was still a no go. Or at least, there wasn’t any need for Junjun to take the stage right now.
The three university students were originally eyeing the food on the table hungrily, but the moment they saw me, their complexions changed. This was especially true for the two girls, who looked at me like I was a demon. As if there were any demons as handsome as me. Hmph, my good looks are wasted on you.
“Shuyu, come eat.” Auntie tugged at my hand. She seemed to be in a good mood, and even smiled at the three university students as she said, “Eat up, everyone. You don’t need to be shy. You’re all Xiao Yu’s classmates. Don’t hold back.”
Actually, only Chen Qianru was my classmate, but I couldn’t care less since I didn’t know any of them anyway.
The three university students immediately dove into the dishes, abandoning all pretenses of manners and going at the food like they’d been starving for three months. Technically, that was likely the case—even though they had a supermarket nearby, they had no way of cooking up meals when they had no electricity or fire. And even if they did have electricity and fire, they probably could only cook instant noodles.
I watched the three closely, Chen Qianru in particular. I still didn’t know what her special ability was, so I’d better ask her afterwards.
Chen Qianru started feeling uncomfortable under my stare, and she had wanted to run away a few times. At the same time, she didn’t dare to move from her seat under my gaze. As she grew more and more anxious, she suddenly threw out a question. “Jiang Shuyu, do you still remember Miao Xiangling?”
I glanced at her, suppressing the rumbling volcano inside of me, and decided that the next time she asked another question like ‘do you still remember so-and-so?’ I’d beat the wits out of her so she wouldn’t remember anything.
Chen Qianru went “oh” and still plowed on, “She was always feeling very guilty, and she didn’t even dare to go visit you at the hospital.”
Guilty about what? I was totally confused. Did the tile drop from the roof of her house?
“You were actually going to meet up with her that day.”
So my ex-girlfriend really has shown up? My expression darkened instantly. Seeing the two girls who were so frightened that they were about to bolt from the dining table, I barked, “Sit down!”
Chen Qianru and Su Ying immediately sat down, backs straight and proper, like they were long-extinct noble ladies from the past.
Actually, I didn’t want to learn about my ex-girlfriend, but seeing as Shujun, Uncle, and Auntie’s eyes were shining so brightly, it was best that I got it over with. Otherwise, I’d end up being the only person in the family who didn’t know who my ex-girlfriend was.
“Miao Xiangling was my girlfriend?”
Chen Qianru shook her head immediately, then hesitated, before saying, “She was the school’s Madonna, and she had already told everyone early on that she wanted to get together with you, the school’s Prince Charming. This was very famous and the entire school knew about it.”
What a bold and passionate school Madonna. The school’s Prince Charming concedes his defeat.
“Then did she get my èrgē in the end?” Shujun pushed at me unhappily, complaining, “Èrgē, you never told me that you had a girlfriend.”
You’re blaming me? Even I didn’t know Jiang Shuyu had a girlfriend.
“No, no! They hadn’t started dating yet.” Chen Qianru hastily corrected her, “Jiang Shuyu said he needed to get into university, so he didn’t have time to date a girlfriend. He said he’d think about it once he finished his exams, so that was their first time going out. But in the end, Miao Xiangling kept waiting and waiting with no sign of Jiang Shuyu. She thought that he had stood her up and kept cursing him for days! But later she found out that Jiang Shuyu had gotten into an accident precisely on the day that they had arranged to meet up.”
Hearing that, Shujun, Uncle, and Auntie’s expressions darkened. Although that accident had nothing to do with Miao Xiangling, it was difficult not to get upset when it involved your family member’s life.
Chen Qianru realized that this wasn’t a good topic to discuss, so she hastily tried to smooth over her mistake, “Um, anyway, Jiang Shuyu is fine anyhow.”
You mean he’s dead.
“What do you mean, ‘fine’?!” Shujun pouted and grumbled, “You only think that because you hadn’t seen what Èrgē looked like before—he was as thin as a stick! He looked so pitiful and sorry, and we had to nurse him for a long time before he looked like this again.”
None of the three dared to say anything to that. Su Ying even stared daggers at Chen Qianru, her glare clearly saying, ‘why’d you have to tick them off?’
But Chen Qianru was clearly an idiot, and she still continued her line of questioning, “Jiang Shuyu, you woke up before the apocalypse, right? But I don’t remember hearing about it.”
“I woke up three days before the apocalypse.”
“You managed to survive that night?” The normally taciturn Ding Jun opened his mouth and said with full respect, “No wonder you’re so strong.”
Shujun immediately puffed up and boasted, “My èrgē didn’t just survive the night, he even picked up a baseball bat to fight an aberrant. He saved the whole family!”
“Aberrant?” Ding Jun paused. “You mean those zombies?”
Zombie, my ass. They’re alive and they evolve much faster than humans. If you don’t get serious now, you’ll be overtaken by the zombies—wait, I mean the aberrants. Why did I start calling them zombies as well?
Although at the beginning of the apocalypse, many people called them “zombies” or the “living dead,” they quickly discovered that neither were quite the right terms. Those “zombies” not only didn’t rot, but also evolved to be stronger and stronger. If a corpse could evolve faster than a living person, then humanity might as well all hang themselves and get it done and over with.
So then, they switched to the word “monster.” Later, once those “monsters” started talking, a new term surfaced – “aberrant” – and that was how the name stuck. I felt that, in this life, things should be pretty much the same. Or at least, up until now, this world was going down a fairly similar path as the original one.
“Èrgē, don’t worry.” Shujun watched me with worry and said consolingly, “Maybe your girlfriend is still alive!”
I’m wishing she were dead!
“Don’t be silly, we didn’t even go out once, so she’s not my girlfriend.”
Shujun stuck out her tongue, saying, “Fine, she’s not if Èrgē says she’s not. I originally wanted to say at least you’ve dated before.”
What do you mean, ‘dated before?’ Don’t make it sound like no one wants me, okay? I’ve said it a million times before and I’ll say it again, with Jiang Shuyu’s looks, there’s not a single woman out there who won’t fall for him. He’s unrivaled the moment he lifts his head!
Chen Qianru and Su Ying screamed and fled the table like it was a sinking ship.
That’s not the way it should have played out.
Shujun cracked up.
“Come back here!” I growled. I still don’t know what Chen Qianru’s powers are!
The two girls quivered as they returned and quivered as they sat, then quivered as they looked down, not daring to look me in the eye. I decided to give up on healing their mental trauma and got to the point.
“Chen Qianru, what’s your special ability? Don’t say it, show me.”
Chen Qianru said quietly, “I don’t have any.”
I remained silent, thinking hard as to whether or not she was lying. As it turned out, the silence seemed to freak her out again and she immediately lifted her head, exclaiming, “It’s true! I don’t have anything. If you don’t believe me, ask Ding Jun and Su Ying. I really don’t have any abilities!”
This was actually consistent with what Su Ying had said before, and from when we had first met, I had never felt any trace of energy waves from her. Perhaps she was the same as Uncle and Auntie in that they all had very hard to detect powers, but if that were the case, it seemed like it wouldn’t be a bad idea to keep her around for her potential.
I nodded, pondering as to what to do with the three of them. Although they were deadweights, they should be able turn into fresh blood for us with a little training. Now, the question came down to the degree of their loyalty.
If we trained them, then them running away was the least of our concerns. It would be a pain if they were planning to take over, but the worst case scenario would be if they stabbed us in the back. I could never let that happen!
“What about your families?”
Ding Jun shook his head. “I’m from an orphanage and became independent when I turned eighteen. I’m now twenty and have to take care of myself. That’s why I went to work in the supermarket. I was trapped there for almost one month, then I got caught by Lu Renjie.”
No ties whatsoever. Good, we’ll take this one!
I looked at Su Ying. She was the psychic type, and although I didn’t know much about the theory behind our special abilities, I knew that such people were extremely rare and, more often than not, useful. So if there weren’t any problems with her, let’s keep her.
Su Ying shivered, then said softly, “Dead, one ate the other …”
Her voice became so quiet when she mentioned which parent ate which that I couldn’t make out a word she said, but I didn’t mind at all. In the apocalyptic world, the biggest wound that people could never bear to talk about was the case where family ate family.
Chen Qianru’s eyes reddened, and she choked back tears as she said, “I don’t know. My family’s in Zhongguan City and there’s no way we can get back there.”
They all seemed fine. But actually, the reason everything was fine was thanks to Dàgē’s mercenaries. In my previous life… well, it didn’t really count as a previous life anymore. Anyway, back when I was Guan Weijun, there wasn’t much personal space within the group, so even though we spent all day running for our lives, there were always people who wanted to be the leader, people who coveted other people’s things, or even people who wanted to take advantage of women—in a word, it was “chaos.” Even when sleeping, I would fret about being stabbed by someone and having my strawberry bread taken away from me.
But now, Dàgē’s mercenary troop was too overpowered, so these three university students had no way of stirring up any trouble.
Want to play leader? If they’re already shaking in their boots when they see me, do they even dare to face Dàgē?
Want to stab us to death? Every person in the troop handles knives better than them, so they would be better off learning how to first chop cabbage with a vegetable knife!
Want to steal my strawberry bread? The whole table is covered with plates of fish and meat, so they aren’t starved in the slightest. Why would they even need to steal bread?
Want to take advantage of women? We have Lily, the ambidextrous shooter; Ceng Yunqian, our one-shot-one-kill sniper and Shujun, the expert at manipulating lightning. If you’re asking to be killed, I’m telling you, you’d absolutely get slaughtered. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
And who really cared about second lives? The biggest cheat code is having Dàgē!
“Èrgē, why don’t you go daydream in our room?” Shujun gave me a friendly suggestion, “With you here, none of them dare to even lift a finger. I feel so sorry for them, sitting there so stiffly and all.”
I silently stood up, turned, and headed back to our room.
From behind came Chen Qianru’s terrified voice, saying, “Jiang Shuyu’s became so scary! He used to be so kind in the past, and he had even taught everyone how to do problem sets before exams. He’d never refuse to help if you had questions either!”
This woman really is an idiot. Is it too late for me to throw her out of here?
Shujun said excitedly, “Oh, that was before you pissed off my èrgē. I’m telling you, my èrgē is scarier than my dàgē! There was once a time when…”
Shujun, you’ve not only given up on healing their mental trauma, you’re sprinkling chili powder over their wounds. What kind of impression would they have of me from now on? Sigh, whatever, it’s rare that anyone thinks I’m mightier than Dàgē. Since this is such a rare opportunity, I’ll let them worship the cool, suave, and handsome me.
I returned to my room to continue my handicraft.
First, I split open a fissure at the head of the well-polished broomstick handle, then took apart a dagger, keeping only the blade. Then, I wedged the blade in the fissure and bound it tightly with metal wire, thus completing the basic shape of a spear. Yup, to call this shape ugly would be quite an understatement.
If I’d woken up earlier, I’d have spent a fortune trying to get hold of a real spear. Unfortunately, I’d woken up too late, so I was left with just a broomstick and a worthless dagger. This would have to make do.
I started the long, arduous process of repeatedly compressing the ice crystals. The next few days were a continuation of this dry, tedious work. Had I known that going to the police station would turn out like this, I would have resolutely insisted on working solo from the very beginning.
The only good thing that came out of this was that Shujun seemed very happy, and she would always be chit-chatting with Chen Qianru and Su Ying. Although these two were older than her by a few years, well, girls will be girls, and could always find shared interests.
For example, between Dàgē and Cain, which of them had C-cup sized pecs; whether Èrgē or Xiao Sha had a slimmer waist; which of them three Yunqian would like the most—no, none of these topics were at all like girl talk.
I facepalmed, not knowing where I had gone wrong with her education.
Although I wanted to yell at Chen Qianru and Su Ying for being a bad influence on my Junjun, the problem was that the person doing the corrupting was my Junjun.
So after a dìdì’s image of his gēge is destroyed, will a dìdì’s image of his mèimei meet its apocalyptic end as well…?
Whatever, isn’t it the end of the world already?
1 “LV”: Stands for Louis Vuitton, a famous French brand.
2 “Asura”: Asura, in Hindu mythology, are supernatural beings akin to demigods in western mythologies who vie for power with the more benevolent devas. Asuras were initially good, virtuous and powerful in Indian mythology. However, their nature gradually changed and they came to represent evil, vice and abuse of power. In Shiva Purana, they evolved into anti-gods and had to be destroyed because they threatened the gods.