Dominion’s End Volume 2: Aberrant City
Original novel in Chinese by: 御 我 (Yu Wo)
Chapter 10: Next stop, Luo’an—translated by Elkin (proofread by Arcedemius & EvlNabiki; C/E edited by lucathia)
“Huh?” I was stunned by his question. I hadn’t a clue why Jiang Xiaotian was asking about this, but I replied honestly nonetheless, “Yeah, I’ve killed before.”
Jiang Xiaotian glanced over me with a somewhat conflicted expression, then nodded and said, “Then never mind. I was originally thinking to give you some practice.”
Whoa, suddenly I feel like I’ve just saved a bunch of innocent lives. I wiped away my cold sweat. As expected of the Ice Emperor who’d lived through ten years of the apocalypse: he no longer put much value on human life. Although I was much the same, I hadn’t reached the stage where I could kill a person just to polish my skills. This was probably because I’d stayed in the safety of the colonies for too long in the later stages of the apocalypse.
But before that, I had killed my fair share of people too, particularly after my mom died and Xia Zhengu started collecting women like they were goods. The me at that time couldn’t care less about human lives, either.
“Let’s go?” I ventured the question, wanting to get Jiang Xiaotian away from these people as soon as possible and prevent the Jiang family from becoming responsible for the extinction of all mankind.
“Okay…” Jian Xiaotian’s tone of voice suddenly changed as he asked, “Shuyu, are those Hummers behind the minibuses?”
What?! I immediately looked. He was right. They’d been blocked by the minibuses, so I hadn’t spotted them until now. More importantly, those Hummers weren’t the civilian models, but military Humvees in camouflage colors!
“Dàgē, can I run away?” I asked in all seriousness.
Jiang Xiaotian gave me a look and said slowly, “You leave, you don’t run away. If you want to run away, then I won’t let you leave.”
The whole business about “running away” versus “leaving” baffled the hell out of me. Whatever it was, we had to go. My energy levels were almost zero, so this wasn’t a good time to cross paths with the military or mercenaries.
“Okay, let’s leave.”
When I saw the cars approaching the intersection we were at, I quickly wheeled around the motorcycle to go. But we hadn’t even gone ten meters when we heard a voice coming from a megaphone,
“Stop the motorcycle right now or we will shoot!”
Why do you care so much about a motorcycle? Please just let me go? Don’t you know I’ve got a nuclear missile at my back? Don’t be so keen to commit suicide!
A sudden, cold laugh burst out from behind me, and a voice growled so deeply that it was terrifying, despite being a child’s voice, “Hmph, doing things the hard way, are you?!”
“Dàgē, are you okay?” Something was very wrong. Jiang Xiaotian’s mood seemed exceptionally rotten today. I could only think of one thing that had happened between this morning and now, and that was him seeing the map. Did the discovery about parallel universes affect him that much?
Jiang Xiaotian patted my shoulder, reminding me, “Don’t space out. They’re coming.”
I glanced at the rearview mirror. Just as I’d feared, they really were soldiers, all dressed in uniform. Still, that was better than mercenaries. Generally speaking, mercenaries were more ruthless than soldiers, and they tended to be the less savory types. Not every mercenary was as sweet as the ones in my invincible troop.
Three soldiers made their way over with guns at the ready. But once they got closer, their grim expressions relaxed a little, probably because of the sight of Jiang Xiaotian. People tended to be less wary when they encountered someone toting a three year-old around with them.
I got off the motorcycle. When I turned to gaze at the three soldiers, they looked a little surprised.
The three soldiers lowered their guns, no longer pointing the muzzles at me. They seemed decent enough people.
The soldier with the crew-cut asked, “Kid, why’re you wandering around with such a young child? It’s dangerous!”
“Shit, man, look at that face! Hehe, even those celebs on TV can’t compare.” The other guy who looked like the unruly sort stared fixedly at my face with bright eyes.
The moment the words left his mouth, the temperature immediately plummeted by quite a few degrees. It definitely isn’t my doing! I quickly scooped Jiang Xiaotian into my arms and planted Jiang Xiaorong into his hands. It was better if those two small hands were occupied with holding a potted plant than busting people’s heads open.
Suddenly, the oldest looking soldier of the three balked and barked out, “You there, say something!”
I blinked, replying, “Good morning.”
“…” The soldier glared at me, but he looked less fierce than before, and he even breathed an almost imperceptible sigh of relief.
Nice sense of caution, Mister. You even have the sense to suspect whether I’m an aberrant. Even though aberrants now were all very ugly, one couldn’t discount the possibility that there would be some that looked like humans. So currently, the easiest way of differentiating between aberrants and humans was indeed to get them to speak.
“Colonel,” Crew-cut Soldier said in a troubled tone of voice, “Orders, sir? They’re both children.”
“Take them with us,” the colonel replied unhesitatingly.
Unruly-looking Guy immediately perked up and looked at me excitedly on hearing that. The surrounding temperature slipped even lower. These autumn days are chilly enough, Jiang Xiaotian. Stop making it colder already.
“Sorry, I’ve got to go.” I immediately moved back to the motorcycle. The moment the situation turned sour, I’d hop onto the seat, rev hard on the throttle, and whiz away. I didn’t think that these soldiers would be nuts enough to shoot people they saw as children.
The colonel snarled, “Don’t be ridiculous. All survivors in the vicinity are to go to Luo’an City. There’s a central shelter set up there.”
I froze. “You’re going to Luo’an City?”
“Didn’t you hear the broadcast?” Unruly-looking Guy asked in amazement, “Aren’t you going to Luo’an City because of the broadcast? This road leads to Luo’an City, so even if you want to go somewhere else, you have to pass through there. It’s not that far away.”
I really hadn’t heard the broadcast. My goal was to find Dàgē and the others, and I couldn’t care less about where other survivors were heading.
I contemplated my options. If Luo’an City had become the gathering spot for survivors, then things were going to be tricky. Just getting into that city was hugely problematic. With everyone deathly scared of aberrants, we’d have to get past checkpoints in order to get into the city. If I were by myself, being held up was the least of my concerns. I was more worried about people with few scruples.
In chaotic times like this, I didn’t think being a man would keep me safe when I had Jiang Shuyu’s face.
Even with my ice powers, I couldn’t win against numbers or guns. I wasn’t so arrogant to think that I could hold my own against a row of guns as I was. I could probably make an escape in such a situation, but I needed to get into Luo’an City, so I could hardly just run away in the first place.
“I did. That’s why I’m going there to find my missing family.”
I adopted a wary expression as I darted a few glances at Unruly-looking Guy. He rubbed his nose before being dragged back a step by Crew-cut Soldier, who explained, “He’s not a bad guy.”
That was true. Although he sounded like he didn’t care much for rules, the only thing he’d done so far was just stare at my face. He didn’t make a single move on me, and his hands remained firmly gripped on his gun. He just so happened to be the kind of guy who ran his mouth.
I frowned at the colonel, occasionally throwing a worried look at Unruly-looking Guy, pretending like I wanted to follow them but was worried about my own safety. While I was acting out my role, Jiang Xiaotian had his head up, eyes boring into me. I had to do my best not to break character. Ice Emperor, your Majesty, are you training my acting skills or something? Can you stop staring at me like that?
The colonel spun on his heel and strode off, snapping, “Enough chit chat. Get him to gather his belongings and get in the car. If he doesn’t want to go, force him on board!”
Crew-cut Soldier looked a bit flabbergasted at that and told me, “We really don’t mean you any harm. Just come with us. Even if you don’t care about yourself, think about your dìdi’s safety. Once you’re at Luo’an City, you can go wherever you want. No one will stop you.”
Just as I was about to agree and go with the flow, Jiang Xiaotian suddenly wrapped his arms around my neck, crying out, “Daddy!”
“…” Ice Emperor, your Majesty, what on earth are you thinking?
A soft warning came from the bundle in my arms, “No puppy love. What’s important now for you is to train up your power, not to fall in love. You need to train properly for at least the next two years, so no dating allowed!”
One dàgē is asking his dìdi to hook up with someone, and the other dàgē isn’t allowing his dìdi any puppy love. Don’t you know you two are killing me here?
Under the startled gazes of Crew-cut Soldier and Unruly-looking Guy, I silently gathered up my supplies, shouldered on my backpack, reluctantly abandoned the handy motorcycle, and followed the two into the cluster of cars.
Unruly-looking Guy suggested eagerly, “Come sit in our Humvee! If you like motorcycles, you’ll definitely love our Humvee.”
I did in fact like Humvees, because these kinds of vehicles could bash aside ordinary obstacles without any worry of breaking down. Unfortunately, it wasn’t easy finding a Humvee on the streets.
“Shut up!” Crew-cut Soldier smacked his head and turned to instruct me, “Get into the bus at the back of the convoy.”
I nodded and silently climbed onto the bus. Inside, all eyes swiveled to look at me. At first, there was discontent, probably because I had slowed them down—but then the expressions became more varied. Generally speaking, the women started radiating passion and love while the men looked away and some even started mumbling to themselves.
Although the reactions were divided between the two camps, it was just a momentary diversion. Most people still looked unsettled, shutting out me and everyone else around them. They simply huddled in their seats, filled with fear and despair.
This behavior was all too familiar, reminding me of the days of bitter despair in my past life. I had no intention of interacting with anyone myself. Only the front half of the bus had occupants and the back half was empty, so I sat myself at the very last row. Then, I looked down at Jiang Xiaotian.
“Dàgē. Luo’an City’s not far away. Traveling with this group might slow us a little, but it’ll be easier to avoid notice when traveling with a group if we run into any checkpoints. Is this okay?”
I had no chance to ask Jiang Xiaotian about this until now, but at the same time, he hadn’t given me any hints or signs either, so I had treated it as his agreement to travel with the group.
“Decide for yourself.” Jiang Xiaotian gazed at me and said with mixed feelings, “Shuyu, you have a steadier head on your shoulders than I remember. I thought that after the apocalypse, my other self would protect you and Shujun, but actually, that’s not the case, is it?”
I was silent for a moment before responding, “Dàgē, I dreamed a dream that was ten years long, and I even lost my memories. I don’t remember what happened in the past. When I first woke up, I didn’t even know who I was.”
When he heard about my amnesia, Jiang Xiaotian’s eyes widened slightly and he stared at me. But even if he stared at me this way, I would never say I wasn’t Jiang Shuyu anymore, because I was Jiang Shuyu!
“You lost your memories?” Jiang Xiaotian asked softly, “You don’t remember anything?”
“I’ll remember bits and pieces every once in a while.”
“No wonder you don’t know who you are.” Jiang Xiaotian frowned and asked, “Do you still wonder about it?”
“No.” I gave a small smile. “Now, I only want to find everyone in the Jiang family and live on in this apocalyptic world together.”
Jiang Xiaotian patted my shoulder in silent acknowledgement. Then, he looked down and pondered for a while, before asking, “In that ten year dream of yours, did you ever see me? Some of the ways you fight seem very familiar.”
“Yes, once. I saw you fighting with an aberrant.”
Jiang Xiaotian asked with a hint of curiosity, “What kind of aberrant?”
I described everything I had seen, how he had glided on ice knives, and the snow paths that filled the skies, without disguising how much I worshipped the Ice Emperor.
Jiang Xiaotian nodded, remarking, “You can pull off those combat skills once you hit tier four. They’re not that hard. But it will eat up a lot of your energy, so it’s not very practical. You can only completely disregard the energy expenditure in creating those snow paths once you reach tier five or higher.”
Tier five. That’s a hard, distant goal.
I suddenly remembered something else. “Oh yeah, even though I didn’t realize that the Ice Emperor was you, Dàgē, the aberrant you were fighting was quite big, so I could see him quite well. He looked very unique. He was covered in blood-red lines. The two blood lines running straight down from his eyes were especially remarkable, like tears of blood were streaming down his face.”
Now that I thought about it, they resembled the blood tears that Dàgē had shed when he was being entranced by the brainwight.
Jiang Xiaotian’s expression immediately crumbled.
Shocked, I called out, “Dàgē?!”
Hearing me call him, he looked over at me, his eyes filled with terror. The sight stunned me for a moment, and I couldn’t help but ask him again, “Dàgē, what’s wrong?”
But Jiang Xiaotian had recovered his composure and replied calmly, “He was indeed very strong, and he had a very unique power. At the time, he was already the ruler in the area. If not for me, he probably would’ve grown much more powerful. Shuyu, you must never lose to him!”
The last sentence that came out of the blue placed an immense pressure on me.
I gave Jiang Xiaotian a once over. Somehow, this Dàgē didn’t seem too right today, so I couldn’t help but say, “Dàgē, I’ve told you everything. So if you have something on your mind, don’t hide it from me either, okay?”
Jiang Xiaotian gazed at me solemnly, replying, “As long as you and Shujun are fine, what does Dàgē have to worry about?”
For some reason, I couldn’t relax the slightest after hearing him say that. If he had brought up his suspicions or theories about parallel worlds, I might’ve felt a little better, but he didn’t ask anything at all. So he doesn’t really care about it? Or is it weighing on his mind too much?
Jiang Xiaotian patted me and said, “Shuyu, rest well. Recover some of your energy so we’re prepared for any situation. I’ll keep watch while you’re sleeping.”
Once he said that, there was nothing to do but obediently go to sleep. If all went well, we should be able to reach Luo’an City by evening.
No matter what the crisis, nothing was as important as finding Dàgē and the others.
Knowing that Jiang Xiaotian would be guarding me, I slept extremely well. I was vaguely aware of the sensation of some clothing being placed over me, then Jiang Xiaotian slipping in under the clothes and sprawling on my chest. My arms naturally wrapped around him in a hug, and I rested my chin on the child’s head, sleeping more comfortably.
I slept soundly for some time, and by the time I woke up, the sky was awash with the reds of the setting sun. It was already evening. I’d literally slept from morning to evening. But after catching up on my sleep, I felt fully recharged. Not only had I restored the flagging energy levels in my body, I even felt like I’d grown stronger.
Wait, this feels a bit too good to be true. Whoa, don’t tell me I’ve risen to tier two?
I’d heard of tiering up in the middle of a fight, but I’d never heard of tiering up in the middle of slumber!
I looked down at Jiang Xiaotian. He was munching on a cookie, looking quite normal… my ass! His face is white as a sheet! Who does he think he’s tricking?
“Dàgē, what did you do?” I grated. Your energy levels are so low that you’ve shrunk into a three year-old kid, and you still dare to mess around?
Jiang Xiaotian dodged the subject. “We can see Luo’an City already. The people up front were just saying that we should be there in about ten minutes’ time, so now we’ve probably only got five minutes to go. Pack up your stuff quickly and prepare to get off.”
Pack what stuff? The two backpacks are already sitting there, and I didn’t even open them. All we need to do is pick them up and go. I glared hard at him. Don’t think you can get away so easily!
“What’s done is done. I can’t turn back time, so there’s no use looking at me.”
True. I took in a deep breath and said in a steely tone of voice, “Promise that you’ll never do anything like this, ever again!”
Jiang Xiaotian nodded. “There’s not much I can help with now. I was able to give you a little push because you weren’t far away from breaking through before.”
Is he telling the truth? It was hard to tell. I’ve never heard of anyone helping others to break through before, so it’s probably pretty difficult to do so? But then again, Dàgē is the Ice Emperor. I’ve never reached his heights, so who knows whether there’s some secret technique?
The only thing I could do was plead with him, “Dàgē, whether or not you can turn back to normal, what’s important is that we can be together as a family, right?”
Jiang Xiaotian smiled, replying, “Of course.”
He stood on my thighs to be tall enough to be able to ruffle my hair.
No matter what happens to Dàgē, he’ll always ruffle my hair! I chuckled and mussed up his hair even more, and I didn’t stop until his hair was all poofed up. Hehe, serves you right for always ruffling my hair!
When I saw Jiang Xiaotian’s messy, nest-like hair and his extremely resigned expression, I sniggered like some kind of weird uncle for a good while.
Then, when I next looked up, I saw a young girl standing in front of me. Seeing her wide eyes, I started breaking out in cold sweat. I’m not a weird uncle, don’t misunderstand!
“Gēge, Mommy said to give this to you.”
I blinked. The girl had already stretched her hands up at me, and in her hands were a pair of flip flops with a pink Hello Kitty design.
I was currently barefooted, but it wasn’t because I had lost my shoes. Well, technically speaking, my shoes had been thrown away by Dàgē, but it was mostly to train my special abilities rather than a lack of footwear.
I accepted the flip flops; they really were quite handy. It would be too eye-catching if I wandered around the city with bare feet, so having these flip flops was much better. If I really needed to fight, I could kick off the flip flops without any hassle. Little girl, you’ve opened my eyes to the wonders of the super useful flip flops!
I took out a few pieces of chocolate and a can of mixed rice porridge from my backpack and passed it to the little girl. When I next looked up, I saw a woman staring my way anxiously. I smiled at her, and she relaxed and nodded in return. There was a man sitting next to her as well. Originally, he hadn’t looked at all happy, but when he saw the chocolate and mixed rice porridge, a hint of delight flashed across his face. Obviously, he felt like he’d gotten the better deal out of this.
I rubbed the little girl’s head. She was holding onto her chocolates, looking very happy, but she didn’t eat them immediately. Instead, she insisted, “Gege, wear the sandals!”
I smiled as I put on the flip flops. The size was about right, slightly on the small side. I couldn’t tell if the flip flops were especially large or if Jiang Shuyu had small feet.
Pink Hello Kitty flip flops are for girls, right? There’s even a crystal ribbon on it! I suddenly felt like I wasn’t much better off wearing the sandals compared to being bare footed.
The little girl smiled and waved her hand as she said, “Bye, gēge. Bye, dìdi.”
I smiled as I waved goodbye too, my mood suddenly lightening. Then, the vehicle came to an abrupt stop. I craned my head to look outside. There weren’t any skyscrapers to be seen, and it looked like we were in a rural area. A little distance away, there were walls and barbed wire. This is… a military zone?
“We’re here!” The bus bustled with activity as everyone stood up and stuck their heads out of the windows.
I frowned. “This doesn’t look like the city.” Was I tricked? But there were all kinds of survivors here, and they didn’t seem like they were part of the same gang. If this place really wasn’t Luo’an City, they wouldn’t react this way. Surely not everyone came from another world like me and didn’t recognize the cities in this world?
“The shelter won’t be in the city. They were probably referring to the suburbs when they said Luo’an City.” Jiang Xiaotian patted me. “Look over there.”
At his prompting, I immediately turned over to look, and saw the skyscrapers some distance away on the other side.
Jiang Xiaotian said, “You don’t have to rush to get into the city. The me in this world won’t ask you to go into the city to look for clues. That would be too dangerous. The tower he mentioned is probably on the outskirts of the city and will definitely be a big landmark, so you can find it easily. Let’s follow the others first, then decide what to do once we know more.”
I nodded. Although they were Dàgēs from two different worlds, Dàgē was still Dàgē, and his judgment was probably correct.
Except, they were two people from two different worlds, but at the same time, they were the same person. If I meet the Guan Weijun of this world, will she still be me?
“There were quite a few examples of military zones that were converted into shelters. Things were chaotic after the black fog, but once things settled down a little, government organizations finally started operating again. As it turned out, places with stationed troops were the best places to build shelters.”
Jiang Xiaotian gazed at the barb wire wall, a three year-old with a troubled expression. Just looking at him troubled me greatly as well.
“But these shelters only existed at the beginning stages of the apocalypse. As food became scarcer, governments collapsed, and the military turned into warlords and started carving out their own territories. All of them are like cancer!” He turned to look at me. “Shuyu, if you are to search for clues in there, you need to be careful. Don’t reveal your actual capabilities without good reason.”
I picked up the backpacks, the child, and the potted plant, and joined at the end of the queue of people waiting to get off the bus. Then, I replied, “Don’t worry, Dàgē. Your dìdi looks like a delicate and weak pretty boy, an easy target for bullying.”
Jiang Xiaotian gave me a hard look, then sighed, “You really do look even better than you did in my memories. Shuyu, you need to be strong.”
I nodded gravely. In fact, when I got back, I had to train Shujun properly. She was a real pretty girl and was in far more danger than I was!
Once we got off the car, I lifted my head to look at the military zone, and I balked.
As expected of signs left by Dàgē, they were really easy to spot. As long as I traveled in this direction from our house, there was no way I could miss this big, black tower that was looming over me. It sat in the military zone and was extremely eye-catching, as there was not a single tall building around it.
“You like the watch tower?”
I turned to see Unruly-looking Guy, who had wandered over without me noticing, his face full of smiles.
“There’s a story behind this tower, you—”
I cut in with a question, “Can we go in there?”
There were a fair number of tents and lots of people outside the military zone. I didn’t know why they hadn’t gone inside. Are there some rules governing who can enter?
“There are too many people.” Unruly-looking Guy explained, “All newcomers need to register and wait for three days outside before they are let in. It’s a preventative measure against people hiding infected wounds.”
I nodded to indicate my understanding. At this stage, people still weren’t hardy enough and they’d die very quickly if their wounds got infected. And problems kicked in once they died.
“You’ve got to stay outside for three days as well. But don’t be scared, I’ll come check on you.”
Jiang Xiaotian gripped my hand, evidently disliking this guy.
“Oh yeah, I’m called Chen Yanqing. How about you?”
Before I could reply, Crew-cut Soldier rushed over in a hurry, yelling, “Qing, quit troubling the kid.”
Chen Yanqing immediately looked back at him and hollered furiously, “Guo Hong! Just tell me how am I troubling him?”
Guo Hong stopped, looking a little surprised. He looked at Chen Yanqing, then at what he was holding, then at me hesitantly.
“He’s just helping me hold stuff,” I replied truthfully.
It was obvious that this guy was very interested in me, but he didn’t do anything, so he was someone I could befriend first. We were in a military zone and these two were soldiers, so a rapport with them would come in handy, whether it was to ward off any trouble or even to help locate Dàgē and the others.
Guo Hong frowned, saying, “We’re supposed to round up the civilians and take them to the gathering point. Everyone’s busy so you have no excuse not helping out some of the civilians as well.”
“So he doesn’t count as a civilian?” Chen Yanqing said smugly, “Besides, look at his face. If we don’t keep an eye on him, I guarantee that something bad’s gonna happen to him immediately. You haven’t forgotten about those mercs who came by recently, right?”
I became extremely agitatedly and demanded, “Where? Where are the mercenaries?”
The two looked at me in surprise.
“Right there.” Chen Yanqing pointed at the military zone, and I became so excited that I started trembling unconsciously.
Dàgē, Shujun, Uncle, Auntie, the JDT mercenaries…
They’re right there!