Dominion’s End Volume 2: Aberrant City
Original novel in Chinese by: 御 我 (Yu Wo)
Chapter 2: The Bitterness and Sweetness of Coffee and Chocolate—translated by Elkin (proofread by EvlNabiki; C/E edited by Amgine & lucathia)
As my hands worked to compress the ice crystals, my ears picked up gossip like, “Èrgē is so handsome, both men and women fall for him. Dàgē even said that he isn’t sure about his preferences!” On the fifth day of my despair over her upbringing, there was finally a little change.
After dinner, Dàgē grimly called me to his room for a chat. Everyone in the mercenary troop looked at Dàgē, and then at me. Going by the looks of worry on their faces, it was as if the two of us weren’t going to have a chat, but a death match instead.
I nodded and followed after Dàgē as the sounds of gossip came from behind again, though this time it wasn’t the voices of the girls, but of the mercenaries.
“Do you think the gēge or the dìdi will win?”
“Before, I’d definitely declare that Boss would be the victor, but Shuyu was pretty strong last time! I mean, he sent Boss crashing into the wall with a kick!”
“Don’t tell me the person who’s boss is gonna change?”
“Fuck! Then gēge, do your best! I don’t want an eighteen year-old boss.”
It wasn’t just my mèimei. Even the mercenaries’ upbringings were failures.
I angrily stormed after Dàgē to his room.
Once in the room, Dàgē was momentarily stunned when he turned to look at me, then he said helplessly, “Shuyu, don’t be so angry. You’ve been scowling at me for the past few days.”
I growled, “I’m very angry!”
You actually told Junjun that I’m not sure about my sexual orientation! Even though that’s true, you don’t have to tell this kind of stuff to a fifteen year-old girl, okay? Junjun’s upbringing is ruined, thanks to you!
Dàgē said awkwardly, “I’ll pay you back.”
“There’s no point!” Junjun’s upbringing was already ruined, so what can you pay me back with? You think you can repay me a pure Junjun?
Dàgē frowned, seemingly to have realized something, and then said simply, “Then tell me, what can I do? I can’t make you an ice staff, so I’ll do my best to get you anything else you want.”
Right, so we’re on completely different wavelengths. I’m talking about Junjun, and you’re talking about the ice staff. Our thought processes aren’t even operating in the same realm, so no wonder we can’t get through to each other!
Although the ice staff had melted, forcing me to start anew, honestly speaking, that ice staff had been my first attempt. It looked like a test product, and its quality was mediocre. Although I felt that it could still be used for the next year or so, seeing as it was already destroyed, I might as well create a new one. I could use the opportunity to add on a spearhead, so I actually didn’t mind it too much. I never imagined that Dàgē would be more worked up about it than I was.
I shook my head, saying, “Forget about the staff.”
Dàgē started, then asked in bewilderment, “Forget about it? Then what on earth have you been angry about the past few days?”
Angry about what? I immediately roared, “Never talk to Junjun about my sexual orientation ever again!”
“…Oh.” Dàgē’s eyes drifted evasively off into the distance.
“…What else did you tell Junjun?”
“What. Did. You. Say?”
“I just mentioned that Xiao Sha might be a good partner for you.”
You’re an absolute criminal to people’s upbringings! No wonder I keep hearing about waist lines and who’s topping who. I thought Junjun was talking about naughty stuff, so I’ve spent the past few days fretting about whether I should correct her. But being a total mess myself, there’s no way I’m in any position to tell anyone off. I’ve been so stressed about this whole thing the past few days, I’ve lost a lot of hair, you know!
My anger having settled into a pool of icy calmness, I said coldly, “Dàgē, I’ve thought of a way you can repay me.”
“Um, it’s late now. Let’s discuss tomorrow.”
“Stand right here and don’t move for the next half an hour. That’s a simple enough punishment for you, right?” I completely ignored him, flexing my wrists and moving my ankles in circles, as I started doing warm-up exercises earnestly.
Dàgē watched me and said with absolute seriousness, “There’s still a scavenging mission tomorrow.”
“You’re a healing type. You’ll be fine.”
I threw a punch.
Whew~ I strolled out of the room, and the first thing I saw was the group of mercenaries crouching in the corner, clearly eavesdropping.
“What’re you crouching there for? Don’t you have actual things to do?”
The mercenaries responded in unison, “No, Boss.”
My voice cooled and I said in frosty tones, “Your boss is in there, healing up. You want to join him?”
I thought it over. Yup, maybe I should train up this lot a little. I can’t just neglect the mercenaries’ upbringing. So I headed back to my room immediately to pick up my ice staff. Although I’d only been working on it for five days, it would be enough to beat up some people.
We assembled in the garden at the back of the house. The mercenaries were standing in orderly rows, and even the three deadweights weren’t forgotten—every one of them stood ramrod straight, fairly deliberately. Every so often, they would let slip the odd guffaw when they couldn’t hold back their laughter anymore.
I spoke. “It has only been a little over three months into the apocalypse. I had originally felt that you’d be fine even without knowing how to use your powers—after all, these are still times when machine guns are much more practical than special abilities. But we encountered a brainwight a few days ago, and even that Lu Renjie was better than you lot are at using his own powers. You do realize that there’s no way he has eaten more evolution crystals than you have, right? So I feel like things are looking pretty bad.”
Everyone started to sober up and no longer stood so stiffly. Finally, they were taking things more seriously.
“Shujun’s way better than you at controlling her powers.” I watched them—they didn’t seem to have much reaction to this news. Seems like I need to make more of an impact. “Or perhaps you think Shujun’s powers are only good for charging electronics.”
I turned to look at Shujun, then pointed at a tree in the garden and said, “Cut down a branch.”
Shujun blinked and lifted a hand, looking like nothing more than a gentle girl reaching out for help. But suddenly, a bolt of bright light shot from her forefinger, and there was a loud crack of snapping wood. Everyone’s eyes widened, and they quickly spun around to look at the tree. A chunk of the tree’s dense foliage was missing, and there was even white smoke rising from it. Lying on the ground were the charred remains of a single branch.
She was able to take down precisely one branch—no more and no less. This was why I always said that Shujun’s skill with lightning was godlike, and this was by no means an exaggeration.
Both Dàgē and I didn’t want Shujun to have to fight, but this didn’t mean that I’d let her be completely helpless either. If anyone dared to bully my xiǎomèi, they would definitely end up crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, and smelling of roast.
Everyone tore their eyes away from the blackened branch with great difficulty and all stared at me and Shujun, their eyes shining so brightly that you could use them as flashlights.
“Wanna learn?” I quirked my lips in a slight smile, intentionally tantalizing them with the question. I was seen as a joke before, but now? Heh, now it’s my turn to hear you scream!
“Shut up, I don’t want to be Boss.”
“Yes, Boss Jr.!”
…I really have to do something about these mercenaries’ upbringing.
I hefted the ice staff. When I was teaching Shujun, I had to be gentle, so there was no way I could do something as brutal as freezing her using ice energy. I had to spend a lot of time and effort in order to make Shujun this amazing at using her abilities. But this lot standing in front of me wasn’t my own mèimei. Not only were they thick-skinned, burly mercenaries, they were ones with terrible upbringings!
“Split up into groups of two and try to block my ice staff with your powers; otherwise, you’ll be frozen into a popsicle! If you can’t take the cold and want to hit me, bring it on. For every punch you throw, I’ll return the favor ten times over. For every kick you make, I’ll break a bone. Besides, we’ve got Dàgē here anyway, so I don’t have to worry about crippling any of you.”
”Crippling”? Everyone turned to look at the person standing behind me, their puzzled expressions asking the unsaid question, “Why does Boss still have black eyes then?”
Yes, so I specifically aim for the face when I hit people. Bite me.
After thinking for a moment, I said, “Cain, come over for a demonstration.”
He grumbled as he walked up to the front, “I knew you hated me.”
“Your ability is fire, so in theory, you should be resistant to my ice powers.”
Seriously, I’m not taking revenge in the name of conducting business this time.
“Even if that’s true,” the jackass still continued his line of complaints, “you still hate me.”
After a moment of silence, I stopped caring anymore and yelled, “Yeah, I hate you! You were the one who just watched me leave the house without stopping me previously. You didn’t even care if I lived or died!”
“Huh? Why would I stop you from leaving the house?” he shot back with a question of his own, confused.
Still pretending to be innocent? I raged, “Don’t you think it’d be dangerous if I went out by myself? I’m just an eighteen year-old kid!”
I ignored all the gazes around me that were saying, ”Yeah, it’s really dangerous. For the aberrants, that is.”
“We made all the aberrants nearby the last in their family line.”
You don’t use “last in the family line” that way!
Cain continued, saying, “And you’re eighteen already. Shouldn’t you already know where you should and shouldn’t go?” like it was the most natural thing in the world.
“…” I felt like our thought processes were running in different directions again.
Cain patted my shoulder, revealing brilliant white teeth as he grinned. “It’s okay, Yunqian hates me too. So, having one more person doesn’t make much difference. Just don’t hit my face, okay? Boss’s black eyes give him character, but I don’t need it as well. Let’s just let the Boss keep it, yeah?”
…Why, how generous of you.
I suddenly felt that my mind had narrowed even more in its petty-mindedness. Although I’d been bearing a grudge for such a long time against a super soldier whose smile was worthy of toothpaste commercials, he had never born any ill intentions toward me.
The tips of my ears felt hot. I snapped back in pretend anger, “It’s the apocalypse now, so all this business of hating or not isn’t important. Staying alive is the most important. So I’ll make sure to train you well,” trying to make up for my petty-mindedness.
Then, I forcefully gripped Cain’s arm and channeled my ice power.
A muscular, macho man screamed at the top of his voice, “AHHhhhHHHHHhhh—it’s cold, it’s super cold! Please don’t hate me. Please let gooooo!”
What the hell are you screaming your head off for? Where are your balls? Look at that… Yunqian, she didn’t even make a sound! Now that’s what I call a real man!
Then again, she did have the water ability, which is fairly strong at adapting to ice powers.
I made every one of the mercenaries scream, working my way from one end of the row to the other and back again. I didn’t let the three deadweights off either, and even the normally dead silent Ding Jun yelled a lot in agony. Fortunately, Dàgē and the others had cleared out the aberrants in the vicinity a while ago, otherwise we’d definitely be waist deep in aberrants from the way these guys were screaming bloody murder.
It was only when I’d wrung out every drop of my ice powers that I finally announced to everyone, “That’s the end of today’s training session.”
Everyone acted like I was pronouncing that they had been spared the death sentence. They were so happy that they started crying and laughing at the same time, and there wasn’t a single shred of a professional mercenary anywhere to be seen.
I headed back, picking up the ice staff that I had left to one side on the way, and only then did I remember that I had used up all my powers. This meant I would make zero progress on my ice staff today. If I kept training these mercenaries like this, then I might as well forget about crafting my ice spear.
Thinking back, everyone had participated in the training today, even Uncle and Auntie. If I had made Uncle and Auntie scream in such agony before the apocalypse, I’d have taken the crown for being the most unfilial, abusive child and reigned supreme for a lifetime. But now, well, hah, I’d even get thanked for teaching them.
Out of everyone, only Shujun didn’t participate. She no longer needed this kind of basic training. Perhaps I could get Shujun to take over half the training and specialize in teaching those who fall behind in progress.
“In the future, Shujun and I will be your trainers. So split yourselves into two groups…”
The space around me cleared instantly, and everyone clustered over on Shujun’s side. I gave a cold laugh.
“Shujun, why don’t you give it a try first?” I pointed at Yunqian. Just now, she was the one who had had it the easiest, and she hadn’t even made a sound, making her the real man of the day.
Shujun nodded, gently held Yunqian’s hand, and even revealed a cute smile.
“Yunqian-jiě, I’m starting now!”
In the end, even the last real man in the mercenary troop disappeared.
Very good! Now time to wash up and go to bed.
I walked out of the bathroom, and just as I was about to ask Shujun to help me blow dry my hair, I saw Dàgē. The mighty god of men was sitting on a pink floral bed with a backdrop of lavender colored wallpaper, his eyes still black with bruises.
Dàgē, do you realize that you’ve completely destroyed your own image?
Wait, why does the thing Dàgē is fiddling with look so familiar…?
“Let go of that spear!” I yelled quickly.
Although this baby’s only five-days old, five days are still five days! I had even planned on working on it for two more days before using it for a hunt. If it gets melted into a puddle of water again, I’ll, I’ll… I really don’t know what to do against a Dàgē who’s completely fine with meeting people with two black eyes.
Dàgē lifted his head and asked, “So, Xiao Yu, you like using long spears? What about swords or knives? It shouldn’t be hard to find a decent blade.”
All right, I know that spear is fugly, but please let go of it first? I beg you, spare its life!
Dàgē finally set the long spear on the bed, prompting a sigh of relief from me. Only then did I respond, “Back then, the only weapon I had that could be used in the beginning was a vegetable knife tied to a long stick. After using it for a while, I kind of got used to it. I mean, I also know how to use blades, but I’m better at wielding staves.”
Everyone wanted to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the aberrants. If not for the fact that bullets were in short supply, no one would duke it out with the aberrants mano a aberranto. So naturally, the longer the weapon, the better. The best weapon was one which lets you stab to death an aberrant from far, far away, so a long stick was the best makeshift weapon out there. Later on, I became very proficient at using long staves, and that had carried over to here.
Dàgē nodded. “Then, I’ll try to find you a long spear.”
“It’s okay, long spears are hard to find. This weapon is temporary anyway.”
“Temporary? Then what’s the actual one?”
“A long spear and dagger made from only compressed ice crystals.”
I drew out a piece of ice from my breast pocket. It was only half the size of my palm and extremely thin, no more than the thickness of three to four sheets of paper. But this thin piece of ice was strong enough to block a blow from the five day-old long spear, or even the one month-old ice staff from before.
However, I was only able to create such a small piece so far, so I always kept it over my heart for protection. In the future, it would become my secondary weapon, the dagger. And once I become more proficient with the technique of creating and compressing ice crystals, I would make my main weapon, the long spear. This process would probably take over five years. It couldn’t be rushed.
Dàgē took that shard of ice and flipped it over and over, knocking it every so often. He too realized the exceptional hardness of the ice shard, and he gave a sigh of admiration, “Xiao Yu, you really are something.”
I didn’t think I deserved the praise. Had it been Dàgē who had been reborn, he’d probably have conquered half the continent by now. As for me? I’m still creating a newbie weapon, so what’s there to be proud of?
But Dàgē, what do you want to talk about in the middle of the night? Hurry up, Junjun needs the room back for sleeping—staying up late is the bane of beauty!
Dàgē looked over at me, and I couldn’t help but blurt out, “Dàgē, just make those black eyes go away!”
“What now? You’re the one who gave them to me, and now you can’t even stand looking at me?” Dàgē said wryly, but he vanished the black eyes in a blink of the eye all the same.
Dàgē’s powers really were strange. They just didn’t match up with the powers of healing. Back then, Xiao Qi’s healing abilities were nowhere as powerful, not to mention she could never melt my ice staff. But I couldn’t figure out what kind of power could both heal wounds and melt an ice staff.
Then again, Guan Weijun was a frog in the well. She had never encountered any of the higher-tiered powers. A lot of things she knew were all from rumors and hearsay, so there was no way of knowing how much of them were true.
The advantages of being reincarnated would probably last no more than one or two years. If the Jiang family continued this streak of super bad luck, then I’m afraid even the cheat known as reincarnation wouldn’t be enough!
Tier one aberrants, Lu Renjie, the brainwight… none of them were things we were supposed to encounter at this stage of the apocalypse.
“Cain was born in the slums, and children there grow up fast. To him, an eighteen year-old boy like you is already a full-fledged adult, and therefore should be responsible for your own safety. He didn’t have any other intentions.”
I looked at Dàgē. So he’s here to explain Cain’s actions back then.
“I was a little angry myself at him for that last incident. But after discussing this with the others, we felt that all the aberrants nearby had been wiped out, and we didn’t expect you to go too far, based on the duration of your trips and the amount of supplies you brought back. So we decided to let you head out for a breath of fresh air; otherwise, your temper tantrums would worsen the more bored you became.”
After some thought, I finally got it. Jiang Shuyu didn’t know how to drive, so from their point of view, even if I had stolen a car, I had no way of starting the engine without the ignition key. So they used my walking speed to estimate the distance I could cover. But as it turned out, I had in fact driven instead of walked.
So the incident mostly boiled down to misunderstandings. At first, I had pissed off the mercenaries when I had hidden the existence of evolution crystals from them, so everyone likewise treated me very antagonistically. Then everything that followed made me think of things in the worst light possible.
“Dàgē, am I really that petty-minded?” I asked, a little dejected. Was Guan Weijun such a petty-minded and rotten woman that she couldn’t forgive any trespasses against her, any more than she could tolerate a grain of sand in her eye?
Dàgē ruffled my hair and said indulgently, “You’ve lived in the apocalypse for ten years, so don’t ask too much of yourself. Just speak out if you have any questions or problems in the future. Keeping it all bottled up inside only makes matters worse.”
“…” I was silent and continued to keep my silence, until I finally couldn’t hold back and demanded accusingly, “Dàgē, why did you pour away my coffee back then? Did you really think I would poison you?”
A look of embarrassment crossed Dàgē’s face, and he explained feebly, “There was one time when I teased you a bit too much, so that night, you brought me a cup of coffee. The next day, I had such bad diarrhea that I couldn’t make it onto my flight, and I was forced to delay a very important mission.”
…Jiang Shuyu, you really are something! You actually dared to give laxatives to Dàgē. I feel like even my triumph of giving Dàgē two black eyes when he was feeling too guilty to fight back pales in comparison!
“You were only twelve that year,” Dàgē admitted with a look like he was suffering from a massive headache, “and your expression as you brought in the coffee was exactly the same as back then, so I didn’t dare to drink it.”
As it turns out, I was sold out by the Shuyu of the past. How is it possible to get tripped up this badly by yourself?
“But I won’t say that the thought that you would poison me had never crossed my mind.” Dàgē stopped abruptly, then clarified, “And I’m not talking about the harmless kinds of poison like laxatives.”
“Actually, if you hadn’t told me about Guan Weijun, Shujun and I would probably have never noticed anything wrong with you. We would have thought that you had just lost your memories.” Dàgē said wryly, “So your confession actually planted a seed of suspicion in me that would sprout up from time to time. So back then, when you were kicking up a fuss, I couldn’t help but over think the matter. And it was only a cup of coffee, so I didn’t think it would be a big deal and poured it away.”
That was certainly true. If it was just a cup of coffee, tipping it away wasn’t much of an issue. But it meant that he had suspicions about me, and now that the seed of suspicion had been planted, would it grow to blossom and bear fruit?
Back then, I still had hope, hope that Guan Weijun was Jiang Shuyu’s previous incarnation, hope that I had just forgotten about Jiang Shuyu, hope that I really was Jiang Shuyu!
But Jiang Shuyu was dead, and now my heart was colder and more frigid than my ice powers.
“Shuyu.” Dàgē looked at me very seriously. “Many people were resuscitated after their hearts stopped. Are you saying that they aren’t who they used to be?”
I knew it. He heard it. I clenched my fists.
“You don’t have to force yourself to be ‘Jiang Shuyu.’”
So he found that out too.
Jiang Shuyu was very easy-going, and you could even say that he was sometimes a goodie-two-shoes. But actually, he wasn’t afraid of Dàgē in the slightest, and once angered, he would even dare to hit his Uncle’s and Auntie’s wounds.
This was the Jiang Shuyu that Shujun had described.
Am I like him?
Jiang Shuyu isn’t afraid of Dàgē, but I…
“Dàgē, I’ve always been scared of you.”
Dàgē stiffened and his expression sank, but at the same time, he didn’t look too surprised. I guessed he had been able to tell, even though my recent beating up of him was pretty much like I was playing around, in order to be the “Jiang Shuyu” who wasn’t afraid of his dàgē.
“Why are you scared of me? I’ve never hurt you.”
I remained silent for a long while, but in the end, I still steeled myself to confess, “Ever since I woke up, I knew I was Guan Weijun. The nicer you guys were to me, the more scared I became of you guys discovering the truth. Then, I finally couldn’t stand the pressure anymore and told you everything. But after confessing everything, I started to worry again. Maybe someday, you’ll throw aside the idea of past and current lives and no longer think of me as your dìdi. And then you’ll strangle me to death!”
“Never!” Dàgē roared, “Shuyu, just how much do you doubt me? I’m your dàgē, and I would never hurt you!”
Looking at Dàgē’s expression of fury, I really wanted to say, ”Dàgē, why don’t you just throttle the life out of me right now? Otherwise, when the whole world is telling you that I’m ‘not Jiang Shuyu,’ you will still have to treat me as your dìdi, your real dìdi!”
But I couldn’t bring myself to say it. It was asking for the impossible—the current Jiang Shutian would never be able to strangle me to death, right? Right now, I had Jiang Shuyu’s appearance, and there was no way he could kill his own dìdi when he had no way of being sure of just who was inside this body.
I gazed at him for several moments, then declared decisively, “Dàgē, you only need to suspect me one more time—just once!—and I will leave both you and Shujun. We’ll never see each other again. That’ll be the best for all of us.”
When I said that, Dàgē shuddered, and he said dryly, “I’m not god. Do you honestly expect your dàgē to never make mistakes?”
“You made a mistake with the coffee, and I didn’t leave,” I said stubbornly, “so if you make any more mistakes, it means you don’t believe me. And since I’m such a petty-minded person, I’ll never let that go. I don’t want to be the brother of someone who’s suspicious of me and someone I’m afraid of!”
“Well said!” Dàgē nodded in agreement. His eyes softened as he gazed at me, taking a real, good, hard look as though looking at his own dìdi for the first time.
Taking in a deep breath, he said in a steady voice, “You really are Shuyu. There’s no mistake about it. Shujun’s always been better than me at judging people, and she’s never suspected you.”
My eyes suddenly flooded with heat. No, this can’t do. I hastily blinked a few times, trying to suppress the stinging in my eyes.
All right, then Jiang Shuyu is Jiang Shuyu! As long as Dàgē believes in me and Shujun believes in me, I’ll believe that I am Jiang Shuyu!
If their belief is misplaced or the truth comes to light, perhaps I’ll still be able to run away then. Or perhaps I really would be strangled to death, but anything is better than spending day and night fretting about the trustworthiness of the people beside you. I’ve had enough of those days in my previous life. Now that I’ve finally gotten a new chance at life and even a family who’ll never doubt each other, how can I afford to make the same mistake again?!
Dàgē reached out and ruffled my hair, saying, “Don’t worry, Dàgē will protect you all.”
My eyes got hot again. Dàgē, stop talking, okay?
But even if the waterworks were threatening to burst, I still couldn’t resist asking, “My personality really hasn’t changed?”
At least Jiang Shuyu couldn’t possibly be as much of a cry baby as I am?
I was starting to find his personality very peculiar, especially since I was a woman. If I have a similar character as a man’s, is it Guan Weijun who was too tomboyish or is it Jiang Shuyu who was too girly…? Then again, normally, a thirty-five year old woman in the apocalypse should be more generous and forgiving than an eighteen year-old kid who had lived comfortably all his life.
Dàgē said slowly and methodically, “Not by much, so you don’t have to keep pretending. When you’re pretending, it makes me feel like something’s not quite right, like how overly lively you’ve been the past few days.”
I see. Zero points for the unnatural acting.
“There is one thing that’s changed from before.”
“What is it?” I grew a little curious but also a little anxious at the same time. But I tried to tell myself not to worry too much about it. In any case, Dàgē and Shujun both believe me, so what’s there to be afraid of?
Dàgē’s mouth quirked a smile, and he said with amusement, “You didn’t used to sneak looks at my chest and abs.”
…So he’s noticed me sneaking peeks at him long ago! Shit, isn’t this too much of a difference? Jiang Shuyu definitely wouldn’t be drooling over men’s chests, right?!
“You would always just look at it directly.”
“…” Fine, you win, Jiang Shuyu. Forget race horses, you’re so far ahead of me that I couldn’t even catch you on a rocket. You’re just a huge pervert who’s both a sis-con and a bro-con!
Dàgē ruffled my hair, explaining, “You were always very jealous of my muscles, and you had even said that, after your exams, you would buy a bunch of fitness machines to train your body to be as muscular as mine. Now you look much studier than before, so keep up the good work.”
I see. Sorry, man, I took it the wrong way. But Jiang Shuyu, don’t waste your money. I’ve been eating the health foods Junjun has been cooking every day, consuming a whole bunch of evolution crystals, and even fighting a few death matches with aberrants. But all I’ve managed to get are these measly, flimsy muscles. If you want to train to be like Dàgē, it’d be quicker if you got struck by lightning and got sent to another world!
I mournfully looked down at my skinny body. There was indeed a little meat on my arms, and while you couldn’t say that there were abs on my stomach, it was at least very toned. But all this was nothing when compared to the Dàgē next to me!
Fine, us mortals shouldn’t compare ourselves to the godly Dàgē, I’ll—I’ll compare myself with Xiao Sha!
Junjun said that his waist might be narrower than mine, so next time, I’ll go measure it myself. If he dares to be more buff than me, I’ll ask Junjun to starve him until he’s thinner than me!
I didn’t know where I had heard it from, but someone had once said that all special abilities came from the same root—it was just a question of how you used them. The black fog that came every year actually carried a type of energy that unlocked a switch in human bodies, allowing people to access this energy.
But forget about the end of the ten years, even from the very beginning, Guan Weijun had lagged far behind the others. If she were in a race, she would only have run about three meters past the starting line. The highest tier aberrant she had ever faced was only a third tier, and this only happened eight years into the apocalypse.
On the other hand, Jiang Shuyu was able to kill two tier one aberrants within the first three months of the apocalypse. There was a saying, there was no point in comparing because there would always be something or someone better. You’d forever be holding trash, and you’d forever be trash!
Then again, Jiang Shuyu had eaten far more crystals than Guan Weijun. I tried to console myself that my previous self wasn’t entirely useless but just very stupid. There was no way she could have become strong if she kept on giving all her evolution crystals to her trash boyfriend.
Although I had sworn that I would become the Ice Emperor during this lifetime, that Ice Emperor was probably already leading his mercenary troop to conquer the world by now. The news just hadn’t reached us yet simply because we were on wholly different continents … Um, or at least I don’t think we’re on the same continent?
Although the continents’ names were different, they could still roughly be mapped to each other. Meisia was probably Asia, and while I didn’t remember which continent the Ice Emperor was on, I was absolutely certain that he wasn’t here during the early days of the apocalypse. As for the top elite in Asia, who was that again…? I forgot.
Xia Zhengu had always told me off for not being able to remember the three human elites. But I couldn’t have cared less at the time—remembering where there were supplies was far more important back then. That lazy ass hadn’t even known where supermarkets were at the beginning of the apocalypse. Did he think that knowing the names of the three elites would help fill his belly?
By the way, I’d originally thought that the Oceania here and the one there were one and the same, but I was wrong. The Oceania there corresponded to Glacia1 here, which was also the place where Dàgē almost got trapped.
The Ice Emperor was far away on another continent, so that was that. In Asia… well, Meisia, there had in fact been one elite. If we could get them to join the mercenary troop, wouldn’t we reign supreme in the apocalypse? But then I couldn’t remember his name, only that his surname was very unique. What is it?
“Èrgē, what are you thinking about?”
I replied without thinking, “Thunder.”
“You want to eat chocolate?”
I looked up and stared at Shujun in confusion. “Huh?”
Shujun gave me an innocent look as she said, “We don’t have Black Thunder chocolate in the basement. Dàgē says that one is too sweet and he hates it, so I didn’t get any back then. Is Godiva okay?”
There really is no comparing people! I nodded with grateful tears in my eyes. In the past, I couldn’t afford to eat these chocolates, so I was going to make up for it now! In any case, I needed more calories to build up a muscular body.
Speaking of muscles, I beckoned to Xiao Sha, who was practicing his knife throws.
Xiao Sha walked over, his eyes filled with resignation as he said, “Is it my turn to train?”
“Hold up your arms.”
He obediently did so. Although Dàgē said that my acting skills were quite terrible, they were still good enough for dealing with the mercenary troop. Right now, they listened to every word I said, so they really were treating me as the Boss Jr. of the mercenary troop… That sounds kind of wrong. Anyway, beating up Dàgē twice has really yielded some benefits.
I took out a measuring tape to measure Xiao Sha’s waist.
He was one inch wider.
From today onwards, I will eat Godiva as part of my meals! And Xiao Sha will only eat vegetables!
In the end, Shujun said that vegetables were even more precious than Godiva and forbade him from turning vegetarian. I had no choice but to give up on the idea with tears in my eyes and resigned myself to eating more Godiva instead.
At the dining table, I spoke seriously, “Dàgē, when you’re out looking for supplies and you encounter someone with very strong lightning powers with a very unique surname, can you ask for their name? Get to know that person and leave them a way to contact us, then come back and tell me their name.”
“Already done,” Dàgē replied calmly.
I jolted and asked quickly, “Really? What’s his name?”
…Shujun has very strong lightning powers and a unique surname, “Jiang.” Holy shit!
“The Thunder God is male.” Such a pity. So close—but I couldn’t bear to have my cute little sister change sex, so I tearfully gave up on the notion.
“Thunder God?” Everyone perked up with interest.
“You mean the chocolate?” Yunqian licked her lips, “Those are sweet and delicious.”
“It’s a person!” Is food the only thing that’s on their minds?! I raged, “Ice Emperor, Thunder God, and Flame King—these are the top three human elites, so remember these names!”
Our mercenary troop had all three of their abilities—ice, lightning, and fire. But in my previous life, we didn’t have a single person who stood out. What a failure!
“Don’t tell me…” Cain said solemnly, “that I’m actually—”
“No,” I dashed cold water over him, “the Flame King isn’t on this continent. The person in Meisia is the Thunder God.”
Cain instantly deflated, while the others collectively looked toward Shujun. Ever since that training session, their respect for Shujun had grown in leaps and bounds by the day. They even had a revelation of “so just by doing housework, you can train to be so awesome,” and so they all started scrambling to do the housework.
Ceng Yunqian focused on doing the laundry, Lily swept away every single speck of dust in the house, Xiao Sha was responsible for hanging the clothes and drying them while he was at it, Zheng Xing was tilling the fields to grow crops, and with Cain around, we didn’t need to worry about fire whenever we ran out of gas.
The Jiang Dominion Troop was about to be renamed as the Jiang Housework Troop.
In contrast, it was the three deadweights who were the most leisurely, and watching the three freeloaders eating and drinking their fill was starting to tick me off. Su Ying and Chen Qianru weren’t too bad, because they could keep Shujun company, and they could also contribute a little to doing the housework. But for that silent as a morgue Ding Jun—hmph, I’m going to make him so busy, he’ll wish he were dead!
Lily stuttered in absolute astonishment, “D-don’t tell me the Thunder God is Sh-Shujun?”
I became speechless. Didn’t anyone hear what I just said? “The Thunder God is male.”
Everyone breathed sighs of relief, pissing me off so much that I ground my teeth, wanting to scream, “Every one of you, out! We’re gonna start training!” Do they have any idea how much I wish that Shujun is the Thunder God? Then we would rule this apocalyptic world!
“I want to check out Zhongguan City today,” Dàgē suddenly interjected, “so I’ll keep an eye out for this Thunder God of yours. But the likelihood of running into him is quite low.”
I know it’s unlikely, just saying. Still, Dàgē suddenly wants to go into the city? I thought about it for a moment. No, it’s not very unusual. The police station was already on the outskirts of the city, so they had probably run out of things to scavenge in the neighborhood. We weren’t short on supplies—we had long run out of space in the basement, but we were short on ammunition. Even the police station operation hadn’t yielded much, so if they wanted to find more, they had to head into the city.
“Shuyu, stay here and watch over the house.”
I blinked, and then said quickly, “Dàgē, I should be going with you.”
Dàgē shook his head in reply. “It’s a long journey to the city, so we will need to stay the night there if we’re to find something good. And if I’m going for more than a day, I can only trust you to watch the house. I’ll leave Xiao Sha here to guard with you.”
…Dàgē, you keep putting Xiao Sha together with me at every opportunity you get. Are you sure you’re not up to something?
I pondered over the facts. If Dàgē and I left, neither of us would be able to stop worrying about the house, so we had to leave one of us behind. But we couldn’t let Dàgē stay at home—after all, the troop could only be led by Dàgē. I was just a stronger individual fighting unit but was no good at commanding.
“Why don’t you leave Ceng Yunqian here? She can snipe, and that’s not something I’m good at.”
Guan Weijun had never been so lucky as to be able to find something as high-spec as a sniping rifle.
I glanced over the deadweight trio and said, “Dàgē, why don’t you take Ding Jun along? He needs to work for his meals.”
Ding Jun looked me in the eye, still refusing to speak a single word.
I admit to being a chauvinist—making life difficult only for Ding Jun but going easy on Su Ying and Chen Qianru. I just instinctively felt that girls should stay at home and shouldn’t fight whenever possible. So even if Shujun’s abilities had plenty of attack power, Dàgē and I still didn’t want to let her go with the mercenary troop. She should be protected as much as possible.
It’s really not a good thing, but I can’t help it. I really can’t bear to see Shujun…
“Shutian, Xiao Yu,” Auntie suddenly spoke up, “I’ll go too.”
I blinked and blurted, “No way!”
“My ability is sensing all living creatures around me, so I can help Shutian and the others avoid danger. You should let me go, if you don’t want Uncle and me to worry.”
I’d almost forgotten Auntie’s powers—they really would come in handy. I hesitated and looked at Dàgē.
Unexpectedly, Dàgē only pondered for a heartbeat before he nodded, “All right, Auntie, come with us. Also, Su Ying, you must come as well.”
Su Ying became flustered, and even turned to look at Shujun, but Shujun didn’t back her up. As expected of my mèimei, she knew that Dàgē was right and listened to him.
Su Ying had no choice but to agree.
I understood the reason for taking her along—she had psychic powers, and she had spent a long time in the presence of a brainwight. If they encountered psyche-type aberrants like the brainwight, she would have better resistance against their powers and could wake up the others.
Dàgē stood up and addressed everyone, saying, “The operation will be conducted in Zhongguan City, and the duration will be three days. Prepare your things now, and we will set out in one hour.”
With that, everyone gave a cheer and scattered. The good progress in their training made me feel a lot more comfortable about this extended trip. After all, Dàgē had been able to break out of the city at the beginning, whereas now he was just going to wander around the outskirts. And everyone’s abilities had improved a little, so there shouldn’t be any problems.
Yet after issuing the order, Dàgē didn’t go to pack his things, because Shujun was doing it for him.
He turned to look at me. “Shuyu, is there anything you want me to bring back?”
I thought briefly before replying, “Godiva.”
When Shujun came by with the luggage, she brought me another plate full of sweets, the majority of which were chocolates.
“Èrgē, don’t worry. Back then, I took many boxes of chocolates!”
I remembered you had only gotten a few boxes of stuff—don’t tell me that they only contained chicken soup, Chinese medicinal herbs, and chocolates? Come on, even the sanitary napkins were things that I got for you!
Shujun turned to Dàgē. “Dàgē, bring back a small fridge then. Èrgē loves eating sweets, so we can put the small fridge in his room, and I can stuff it full of chocolates.”
I suddenly felt danger to my waistline in the horizons. I only want to be a little fatter than Xiao Sha, nothing more. No, seriously.
“We should also get another small electric generator, and the more gas and petrol, the better,” I hastily added. Although I was pretty sure Dàgē knew to get these things, I couldn’t help but nag at him—if I didn’t remind him, I wouldn’t feel at ease.
I hesitated, but still spoke up in the end, “Dàgē, don’t bring back too many people. Just bring back those who don’t look too sly or calculating.”
Dàgē gave me a look and said slowly and deliberately, “Actually, I wasn’t planning on bringing anyone back.”
I never imagined that Dàgē would be even more ruthless than me. It was true that keeping the status quo and not accepting any newcomers was safer—after all, the more people you had, the messier it became. Even if Dàgē’s mercenary troop could enforce order, once the newcomers hit a critical mass, they would always start fighting among each other, and there would even be those plotting their own schemes. By then, they would form their little cliques and circles.
But if we didn’t take in people now, we would risk running short on manpower in the future. So rather than looking for people in the future, it would be easier to raise a more loyal bunch if we took them now instead.
Judging from how things would develop, colonies were guaranteed to spring up. After all, humans were communal and social creatures—not to say there weren’t lone wolves, but even lone wolves ultimately relied on colonies for survival. And for us with our own organized group, there was no way the colony leaders would let us develop and grow. If they didn’t kick us out, we would be forcibly annexed into their group and split up from there.
I simply couldn’t imagine Dàgē being subordinate to anyone or having to obey orders. I also wasn’t willing to let the mercenary troop be dismantled.
“We need more people. In the future, we will establish our own colony.”
Dàgē stared at me. “You want to establish a base? Why?
I blinked. Why? Because if we don’t build one ourselves, then we would have to live under other people’s command. Dàgē is so mighty that it’s hard to imagine anyone not being daunted or intimidated by him. And Xiǎomèi is so young, pretty, and cute that it’s hard to imagine anyone not lusting after her. Even I myself have a face that attracts lots of trouble, so I have no idea how on earth we could possibly survive in other people’s territories!
“I just want everyone to live safely and peacefully together.”
Shujun immediately jumped over and hugged me tightly. “We definitely will!”
Dàgē gave a faint smile. “All right, then let’s establish a base. I’ll make the preparations, so don’t worry yourself too much. Dàgē will take care of everything.”
He reached out with both hands and ruffled Shujun’s and my heads. Just how much does Dàgē like rubbing people’s heads?
“Shuyu, you’re only eighteen, just three years older than Shujun. You’re still a child, so you don’t have to worry about so many things.”
“This is the apocalypse, Dàgē.” I rolled my eyes at him and said huffily, “Aberrants don’t give a damn how old I am when they bite me.”
“With Dàgē around, no aberrants will be able to bite you.”
Al right, I admit this line does make me feel awesome. Even if I knew I’d never accept being protected by someone in this lifetime, the fact that someone was willing to protect me still made me very happy indeed.
“If you have nothing to do, go out and find love. You’re already eighteen.”
…Dàgē, I really haven’t figured out which gender I like. Please, give me some time to think about this.
I shot back with an equally punchy question, “Dàgē, you’re twenty-seven already. When will you give me a niece or nephew to play with?”
Dàgē thought a little, then said, “Yunqian had asked me before, whether or not I could have a child with her. If you want one, I’ll tell her yes.”
Dàgē! What happened to your morals? Did they get eaten by an aberrant?! How can you accept being a tool for making babies?!
“No!” Shujun exclaimed in anger, “Dàgē, you can only have children with your future wife. If you dare to have kids with anyone else, I’ll throw those children away!”
Well said, Shujun! Throw them away!
Dàgē gave a low chuckle and spoke as he ruffled his sibling’s heads, “All right, I won’t, I won’t. Throw them away as you like.”
Shujun was still pouting, but she snuck me a secretive, meaningful glance. I returned with a look of “got it.” Siblings’ minds think alike indeed.
We have to keep a close eye on our Dàgē!
1 “Glacia”: Used to be translated as the Arctic. After receiving more information, we have now decided to translate this continent’s name as Glacia.