Dominion’s End Volume 2: Aberrant City
Original novel in Chinese by: 御 我 (Yu Wo)
Chapter 3: Red as Blood, Dazzling as Flowers—translated by Elkin (proofread by EvlNabiki & Arcedemius; C/E edited by lucathia)
Today was the third day after Dàgē’s departure. These past few days, I had left Yunqian’s training to Shujun, wanting to get the ice spear to a somewhat usable state as soon as possible.
This new weapon had to last me a good three to five years, so I took it very seriously. Every layer of ice crystals was compressed into a very fine layer, and that meant that I had to expend even more effort. Thankfully, I was more powerful than before, so I was able to compress more layers each time. Judging from the progress, it would probably take me around a month—oh wait, there’s a spearhead as well this time, so that would add another ten days to the count.
Dàgē had wanted to go to Zhongguan City while I stayed behind to mind the house, and since I needed to craft my spear and all, everything worked out just fine.
But what about afterwards? I can’t keep watching the house every time, right? Even if I keep getting my share of crystals, I’ll miss out on actual combat experience, which is a no go.
But we’ll need someone to mind the house. What a headache…
“Èrgē, it’s time for dinner!” Shujun poked her head in and looked curiously at the ice spear, giving an admiring sigh. “Your long spear is becoming prettier and prettier!”
Yes, no matter how fugly it was, it would still look presentable when wrapped in layers of compressed ice. And this time, I had made sure to compress it extra well, so the clear ice had turned a little milky white, which was perfect for concealing the true nature of the spear—that of a broken knife tied to a broomstick handle.
I stood up and followed my sister, carrying the ice spear with me.
“Èrgē, why are you bringing it to dinner?”
I looked down at the spear, replying, “I kind of got used to carrying it around. And the cold feels pretty nice.”
It was now September, and the weather was still fairly hot. This was pretty similar to what had happened in my previous life. Global temperatures started fluctuating more dramatically. As time wore on, the temperature differences would only grow more and more extreme, to the point where the four seasons were so clearly delineated that even a visitor from another universe could tell which season it was the moment they stepped into this universe. Thankfully, the temperature differences would stabilize five years into the apocalypse; otherwise, it would get to the stage where even aberrants wouldn’t be able to survive, much less humans.
In the days to come, spring would herald an explosion of life and all sorts of aberrants would start evolving like crazy, particularly the plants. During this period, it was best not to leave the city; that said, however, the bounty was rich if you did. Summers would be so hot that you could die from dehydration. No small number of people had died in fights over a mouthful of water. Autumn was a good season. You could survive just on the fruits you picked. As for winter, it was fairly obvious that it was the season with the greatest number of deaths each year.
“It’s been pretty hot recently.”
The two of us headed to the living room together. Shujun seemed to think of something, and she asked worriedly, “Èrgē, with your ice powers, does it mean you’re afraid of the heat? Maybe I should switch on the air conditioning?”
The small electric generator wasn’t quite enough to supply electricity to the whole house, so we never really switched on the air con in the house.
Seeing Shujun worrying about whether or not her èrgē would melt, I burst into laughter. “You’ve got it the wrong way around. I’m definitely the person who’s least afraid of the heat. I’m already a walking freezer myself, and once I become stronger, I can act as the air conditioning unit in the house.”
Shujun went “oh” with a look of realization, then she asked with interest, “Èrgē, are you afraid of the cold?”
I shook my head.
“That’s so nice! Then, is Cain unafraid of the heat as well?”
“Yup, actually, once you eat more evolution crystals, you’ll be increasingly immune to the heat and cold, because your body will grow stronger and adapt better to the environment.”
Shujun nodded, comprehension dawning as she said, “No wonder. It’s been so hot recently, but it’s still somewhat bearable. I used to be unable to eat or sleep because of the heat without the AC on.”
Back in the living room, Uncle, Yunqian, and Chen Qianru had all gathered. The one deadweight left behind had enough self-awareness that she helped Shujun with cooking and housework these past few days, making her less of an eyesore. However, Shujun said that she should only help to cut meat and chop up vegetables. We really couldn’t let her do any more than that.
When stir-frying meat, she threw in a whole tablespoon of salt as seasoning, and she even managed to burn half the dish, so Shuj¬un ended up having to feed the meat to the chickens after washing it— yes, that was correct. Chickens that survived the apocalypse lay large, round eggs that were extremely tasty, but we only had two of them, so there weren’t enough eggs to go around. I hope Dàgē will be able to find more livestock in the city.
“I wonder if Dàgē can find us some seeds to grow,” Shujun remarked as she frowned at the table that was covered with plates of meat, with only some canned or frozen vegetables like corn and peas as an accompaniment. “I really miss eating fresh veggies.”
I wanted to eat fresh vegetables too, but I didn’t dare voice it out loud. In my previous life, hot food was already a luxury I didn’t dare to dream of, especially during the first three months of the apocalypse. But now, I was so spoiled that I even wanted to eat fresh vegetables.
“Èrgē, have an egg.” Shujun smiled as she passed me a fried egg that was larger than my palm. “I purposely kept the yolk runny for you.”
I looked at the egg. The yolk and the egg whites were separate and fried to perfection. Shujun’s culinary skills were improving by the day.
Although things were going by so well that I was starting to feel a bit guilty, I hoped that these heavenly days would continue forever.
Yup, with Dàgē here, everything will be fine! I cut out a piece of the egg with my chopsticks and started eating it appreciatively.
Unexpectedly, just as I took a bite, a frenzied clucking came from outside. No way, the chicken knows I’m eating its egg?
Yunqian immediately stood up and said, “I’ll go take a look.”
I looked at the egg longingly. Only Uncle and I had eggs to eat, and having someone else do the work on top of that made me feel really uncomfortable, so I quickly stopped her. “I’ll go. You’re tired from keeping watch all day as well, so sit down and have some more food. Those chickens are probably just fighting each other again.”
Yunqian didn’t protest. She just gave a shrug and sat back down again.
I pushed aside the chair, forgetting for a moment that the ice spear was leaning against it, and with a smack! it fell to the ground. I scooped it up casually and headed to the back garden.
The chickens were cooped up in a stainless steel cage that was meant for large dogs. The chickens were now double the size compared to before, and they wouldn’t lose to a dog in strength. Together with those large, hard beaks, they’d be able to peck their way through wood any time, so they couldn’t be kept in anything but a metal cage.
But for some reason, these two chickens hated each other. The slightest thing would set them off, and they’d squabble. Unfortunately, Dàgē couldn’t find another cage as large as this one; otherwise, we’d just split up the two of them. Sigh. I’d forgotten to remind Dàgē to look for some cages as well. I hoped he would remember, because we were going to accumulate a lot of livestock in the future.
As expected, the two chickens were in a frenzy, jumping around, kicking at the cage and pecking at the lock. They were even crazier than usual.
I frowned. The two chickens aren’t having a go at each other. What’s going on?
I racked my brain trying to recall whether I had seen similar situations before. I remembered whenever we had found temporary shelter, I had insisted on raising livestock. The days of constantly being hungry and on the run had traumatized me, and I’d then become obsessed with stocking up on food.
I didn’t know how many times I had to stop that idiot, Xia Zhengu, from immediately eating every single animal or aberrant he captured, especially things like chickens and ducks that could lay eggs. If he dared to eat them, I would eat him alive! Of course, this was before he became strong.
I seemed to remember that those animals would also start going crazy for no reason at all, especially when…
I jolted and instinctively spun to look around me. The surrounding residences were as quiet as ever, without a single sound to be heard. But the houses, the walls, and the trees blocked too much. I couldn’t make out anything from where I was standing, so I immediately ran into the house and dashed up toward the attic and the roof-top balcony.
On the balcony, I looked around. There wasn’t any movement to be seen in the neighborhood. Dàgē and the others had been extremely thorough in their clean up, and you couldn’t even find so much as a dog on the streets.
Am I being too paranoid? Maybe the chickens are just being crazy and having a hell of a work out —wait, the sky in the distance seems…
I squinted. It was dark, with no polluting lights around. The stars were very pretty and all, but the lack of a light source also made it hard to see anything. I just felt like a part of the sky seemed to be especially dark, and it even seemed to be… moving?
I stared at it for a while, regretting a little that I hadn’t made Lily stay back. She had good eyesight.
A flock of birds!
I started and immediately rushed from the balcony to the attic. I looked through the porthole, observing the direction the flock was taking.
If those were normal birds, they would still avoid coming into houses by force of habit. But if those were aberrant birds, then all bets were off.
The flock’s trajectory across the sky wasn’t looking good. If they stayed on track, they would definitely pass by this place.
I quickly headed downstairs. I had to tell Shujun and the others. We had to keep absolutely quiet. If it was a flock of aberrant birds, and they discovered that there was “food” here, then we would really turn into their dinner!
When I arrived at the living room, Shujun immediately called out to me, “Èrgē.”
I immediately made a “hush” sign and quietly explained the situation about the birds’ attacking and made everyone remain quiet. This wasn’t difficult at all. After I motioned them to be silent, the four of them didn’t say a word.
The company I had kept in my past life really couldn’t hold a candle to them. Thinking back, whenever we had encountered aberrant attacks, all sorts of chaos had ensued. We had had screaming housewives, kids running around unattended, muscular guys who thought they could make a dash for it—you name it, we had it. It was almost impossible to control the situation back then.
I gave a simple explanation, and just as we were planning to quietly wait for the danger to pass, I suddenly heard the unexpected sounds of clucking.
Shit, the chickens are still outside!
I immediately ran out to the back garden with Yunqian hot on my heels, and we yanked open the metal cage. The two chickens immediately pounced on us. Naturally, it was not to jump into our warm embrace, but to try to run away. Me and Yunqian each grabbed one, but the chickens had gone completely mad and struggled like crazy, refusing to let us bring them into the house.
Actually, the chickens’ struggles didn’t mean much to either of us; we were just worried that if we were too forceful, we would accidentally kill them. If they turned into aberrant chickens, then it would be even harder to raise them. Although aberrants were edible, there was no guarantee that they’d taste good. A lot of aberrants were even poisonous, so if we had the choice, we would rather eat plants and animals that hadn’t mutated.
Holding onto the wildly kicking chickens, I looked up at the sky. The birds were already clearly visible, but due to the darkness, I could not make out their appearance.
“Shuyu,” Ceng Yunqian whispered, “from this distance, there’s something off about the size of those birds. They’re too big. Their wingspan looks to be at least two meters long, and some might even be three meters.”
When I heard the clucking coming from one hand, I immediately reached out with my other hand and wrung the chicken’s neck. Then, I also snapped the one in Yunqian’s hands, and froze them over; otherwise, it’d be troublesome if they turned into aberrants.
I passed the dead chickens to Yunqian and said softly, “Go back to the living room and arm yourself. Pass guns to Uncle and Shujun as well. I’ll go watch from the attic.”
As for Chen Qianru, I wasn’t being biased against her. It was just that she’d never shot a gun before, and so was equally likely to accidentally shoot friend instead of foe when flustered. It was better if she just quietly stayed in the back and out of trouble.
Although Shujun’s abilities were quite strong and Yunqian’s weren’t half bad either, judging from the size and the number of birds in that flock, they probably wouldn’t have enough energy to last a fight against a flock. So they would still have to use guns.
Back in the attic, I picked up the military binoculars that had originally been left there. This was something Dàgē had bought, so obviously they were great. With them, even at night with only starlight, I could see the birds’ appearances clear as day.
The birds were as crimson as blood.
Ceng Yunqian was right. Their wingspans were at least two meters long, but the leader’s definitely looked to be over three meters. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was over four meters long. And their bodies were not covered in feathers; instead, they had thin, membrane-like wings. Just going by the wings, they were more like bats than birds, but at the same time, their heads looked like birds. But neither bats nor birds were covered by a layer of scales.
Those birds spell BIG trouble… I rediscovered just how terrible the Jiang family’s luck was. I kept revising the number upwards, a number preceded by a negative sign!
No wonder the Jiang family were so mighty. With this kind of luck, the bloodline would have long died out without super specs. How else could the bloodline have continued until me, Jiang Shuyu?
The flock flew closer and closer. My guess was that there was no point hoping that the leader would change the path by even a little. The Jiang family’s bad luck was just unbelievable, but if all else went well, the birds wouldn’t stay. The neighborhood had been cleaned out very thoroughly, so there was no reason it would attract the attention of the birds… Wait, isn’t it a problem if it’s too empty as well?
D-don’t tell me the birds are that smart?!
Frigging hell, there’s no guessing that with the Jiang family’s luck!
I lifted the binoculars, watching the flock gradually approach the house. I focused especially on the leading bird. It was so big that it was a bit ridiculous. Judging from how he looked pretty similar to the other birds around him, they had probably mutated from the same species of birds. Which meant that the reason he was especially big was probably because he was of a higher tier than the others…
Tier one aberrants were fast becoming an everyday occurrence in the Jiang family! I’d better train myself harder; after all, it wouldn’t be strange if I ran into a tier-two aberrant one day while innocently walking to the supermarket to search for a packet of instant noodles.
A tier one aberrant leading the flock. My heart pounded especially hard. Suddenly, my oath to never run away sprang to mind, and I couldn’t help but give a wry smile. What a lie. As if things are ever that simple. At least for the moment, I didn’t even dare to make a squeak.
I really was too much of a coward. We were both first tiers, and while he was out there, flying boldly in the skies, I was crouched here, hiding in the house. I didn’t even dare breathe too loudly. They say that you can’t compare yourself with others. Now, I can’t even compare to a bird!
Was I too relaxed lately? So many aberrants had already evolved to tier one, so in actual fact, my advantage of being reincarnated wasn’t putting me too far ahead of the aberrants. And I’d actually thought to just stay home while leisurely crafting my ice spear, and to spend more than a month to do so, to boot.
Not long ago, I had been out there fighting aberrants while crafting my ice spear. Just what reason is there for me not to leave the house just because I don’t have a weapon? If there are enemies like Dàgē who could melt my ice staff, then would it mean that I’d have to resign myself to being someone’s meal if I lost my weapon?
No, I’d be wasting the advantage of reincarnation if I continue the same way as I have. Even if Dàgē chains me up after this, I have to sneak out occasionally for some solo hunting. If I leave a note and disappear for five to ten days in Zhongguan City, I wondered how angry Dàgē would be?
The flock was close. With no time to even think or daydream about random things, I watched the lead bird intently with wide eyes. Then, a name flashed across my mind.
The carrion-bloom bird.
Red as blood and as dazzling as flowers, they were covered in scales and had excellent vision. They had a tendency to flock together, as well as some other unique characteristics that I’d forgotten.
Actually, I hadn’t encountered very many types of aberrants. After all, I had been so weak that if I had made the slightest sound, I wouldn’t manage to escape with my life. So there was simply no way I was hanging around to observe what the aberrants looked like. But there were rumors aplenty.
For some reason, in that small colony of ours, I got along fairly well with people. Aside from being disliked by whichever woman was currently in Xia Zhengu’s favor, other people didn’t have any bones to pick with me. If anything, they loved chatting with me, which I didn’t mind in the slightest, since I had nothing much to do. Xia Zhengu never allowed his “girlfriend” to do any work because he found it utterly humiliating, so I ended up listening to many stories in my free time. And naturally, the majority of stories during the apocalyptic days would be all sorts of tales of how they had escaped from the jaws of aberrants.
The flock flew past the roof. I could hear flapping wings and the propulsion of air as they occasionally flexed their wings while gliding. From the rhythm, they were going to fly right past us. I breathed a sigh of relief. Thank god they didn’t stop.
I froze. Is that a gunshot? It sounds like it came from downstairs.
Before I even had time to worry about what was going on down there, I heard a change in the flapping of wings. It was no longer the soft beat of gliding motions, but a continuous series of frenzied flaps, the beating of wings to make an emergency stop.
Then, the red birds landed, covering the entire rooftop balcony.
I held my breath, not making a single sound, praying fervently that they wouldn’t make any more sounds downstairs. But what’s going on down there?
Suppressing the anxiety in my heart, I quietly looked down through the porthole. Thankfully, there weren’t any birds in the back garden. They had all landed either on the balcony or the roof.
Just go! There isn’t enough meat to even fill your beaks!
On the balcony, a huge carrion-bloom bird was stretching out its head and continually peering in through the windows at the inside of the house. I could only keep myself pressed tightly against the wall to avoid being seen. But one bird pecked apart a glass window and stuck its head inside for a look. Its scaly head was right above where I was. I’m done for.
I gripped my ice spear, trying to swallow back my terror. What I had to do now, and the only thing I could do now, was to stab this bird right through its brain, then make a break for the outside like a madman. This was in the sliver of hope that these birds would all be led away by me, so they wouldn’t notice Shujun and the others…
That bird suddenly yanked back its head, literally an instant before I was about to act.
I turned my head at an excruciatingly slow pace to look through the porthole. All the birds on the balcony were looking in the same direction. That light… car lights! Dàgē and the others are back!
There was a sudden screeching bird call and the flock of carrion-bloom birds all took to the air. Seeing that, I immediately dashed downstairs, using the railings as a slide and even kicking off against the wall, practically flying my way into the living room.
All four people were there, and not a single one of them was missing. Without any time to take in their expressions, I snatched the machine gun from Uncle’s hands.
Ceng Yunqian said in embarrassment, “Shuyu, I’m sorry. I couldn’t control the situation…”
I ignored her, kicked open the front door, and charged out. Then, I started firing like crazy at the sky.
Dàgē and the others were sitting in their car, and with the darkness of night, if such a large flock of birds rushed at them, it was possible that even the car would get turned over. I had to warn them, and hinder the flock while I was at it.
Filling the sky, the carrion-bloom birds made a large turn and started circling in the air. They all stared at me, and with the gazes of so many aberrants boring into me, my heart started racing. Terror flooded my mind, alongside just the slightest hint of… excitement.
That leading bird was the same tier as me: tier one. “Depressing” wasn’t enough to describe the situation just now when he was soaring high in the skies while I was hiding far below, but with so many birds under him, just having each bird spit a mouthful of spittle was enough to drown a person… No, in this lifetime, I would probably never die drowning. Although I wasn’t a water-type ability user, I was still an ice user. So even if you threw me into an ocean, I could still conjure a small boat of ice.
In any case, he had his flock of birds and I had my dàgē. Let’s see who should be afraid now! Tonight, we’re having an extra serving of bird, to make up for the passing of the two chickens.
I ignored the red birds that had filled the skies, turning instead to stare directly at my rooftop. The tier one carrion-bloom bird was perched there, above the attic. It was almost as big as that small attic, making the attic look just like a toy on first glance.
The carrion-bloom bird was staring right at me. He had a pair of black irises, so large that you almost couldn’t see the whites of his eyes, no different from any other bird. But because of his size, his eyes naturally became much bigger as well, and they sent chills running down my spine.
But the gaze leveled at me was not one of a bird’s. If not for his appearance, it felt exactly like being stared at by a person. He had his head held up arrogantly as he judged me, like he was assessing whether or not I was worthy of being his opponent.
I hefted the machine gun in my hand. This was an assault rifle, and if my guess was correct, it was a LA85A1. With a gun like this in the first year of the apocalypse, as long as you had bullets, survival wasn’t an issue. But to fight that thing on the rooftop with firearms, I’d probably need a Barrett M95.
In my previous life, I’d survived the most dangerous place, the city, with just a broomstick handle, but in this life, I had to use a Barrett to survive in the suburbs. I really didn’t know whether I should envy the Jiang family or not. Don’t tell me this is all about how “greater power brings greater responsibility,” so every hero has to face an endless torrent of misfortune?
The flapping of birds’ wings from behind me grew louder and louder, but what followed instead was a string of gunshots. Dàgē and the others had reacted.
In that moment, the carrion-bloom bird lifted his head to give out a long cry. There was a ring of white around his neck. That’s right, this should be a female. Back when I had first heard this story, that person had said that female birds would have patterns on their necks.
Behind me, the sound of the flock grew a bit more distant once again. They must have gone to fight against Dàgē and the others, while my opponent was this white-necked carrion-bloom bird. She stared at me, the look in her eyes as clear as day. It was almost like she was declaring, I am your opponent.
This bird had real character, and that wasn’t good in the slightest. From the looks of things, it seemed like the days when aberrants could speak weren’t as far away as I’d first heard. Rather, it had probably taken some time for this information to disseminate to the general public.
Ceng Yunqian, Shujun, and Uncle rushed out, each of them holding a gun. Only Chen Qianru was absent, probably because Ceng Yunqian felt that she would only get in the way and banned her from coming out.
I jabbed a thumb behind me, saying, “Go fight against the flock with Dàgē.”
They had their backs to the white-necked carrion-bloom bird, so they hadn’t noticed her existence. But I wasn’t worried that she would launch a sneak attack on them. This bird had her pride, like she was a queen sitting on her throne, while that flock were the knights serving under her. It was likely that she would only act if she was challenged by another tier-one being like me.
Shujun hesitantly asked, “C-can I go too?”
In contrast, I didn’t have any hesitations sending her out to fight. Judging from how even staying at home could attract such a disaster to descend from the heavens, the might of the Jiang family’s bad luck couldn’t be underestimated. Shujun needed to start getting some actual combat experience as soon as possible, so that she could protect herself some day if the unexpected truly happened.
This was also the perfect chance for her to start by fighting non-human aberrants. Although none of the aberrants really counted as human, as long as they had a human’s appearance, the psychological pressure from having to kill them was that much greater.
I really didn’t want Shujun to have to deal with the stress from killing people right from her very first fight, so bird-shaped aberrants could be said to be quite a good beginning. You could just treat them like you were killing chickens or ducks, and the parts that weren’t charred black by electricity could even be eaten!
“Shuyu, what are you looking at—“
Just as Uncle was about to turn in bewilderment to have a look, I shouted, “Don’t look, run!” sending him jumping into the air in fright. Fortunately, Uncle was very obedient, and he froze in mid-turn. Then, Shujun immediately grabbed at him and, together with Yunqian, the three of them hurriedly brushed past me.
“Èrgē, be careful. Don’t get hurt,” Shujun reminded me.
I raised an eyebrow. How’s it possible not to get hurt? My opponent is a tier one carrion-bloom bird.
Hearing the footsteps fade into the distance, I gripped my gun in my left hand and my ice spear in my right. This time, I didn’t craft ice blades under my feet. I wasn’t familiar enough with those moves to risk using them in such a critical fight. The slightest mistake was enough to make me kiss the world goodbye.
The white-necked carrion-bloom bird spread her wings and gave a long cry, then she dipped her body, with her tail feathers pointing to the sky, ready to rush downwards at any moment. And that was exactly what she did, without a moment of hesitation. She came rushing at me like a bird-shaped missile. If I was struck head-on by that, I would probably turn into a pile of delicious minced meat.
I immediately raised my gun and stared firing wildly at her, but as expected, it wasn’t much use. This bird had probably encountered more than one attack with guns, so she had evolved in the direction of becoming bullet-proof, resulting in the evolution of scales.
I tossed aside the gun and stayed stock-still where I was. The moment just before the bird’s imminent impact, I leaped up, using my ice spear to push against the ground and propel me even higher. At that moment, below me turned into a sea of red feathers, or perhaps I should say, red scales. This carrion-bloom bird’s aberration wasn’t complete yet, so there were still feathers on her wings. She hadn’t yet entirely changed to scales, but instead, she was covered half in feathers and half in scales.
I felt a lot better. If this was how far a tier one carrion-bloom bird had evolved, then those tierless subordinate birds of hers were definitely vulnerable to bullets. Even if Dàgē and the others weren’t able to use their abilities very well in a fight, it didn’t matter all that much, as they just had to keep firing bullets like crazy.
My upward ascent slowed, and I immediately used my downward momentum to stab toward the bird’s neck. Unfortunately, she was extremely alert, and instantly rolled to one side, making a big turn in mid-air. The tip of my spear only brushed past her neck, slicing off a few feathers. I had no way of knowing if she had gotten hurt from that blow.
As I landed, I conjured ten ice knives and fired them at her belly. Although only a blow to the head was lethal, creating multiple wounds had its uses, and animal-shaped aberrants typically were softer around their bellies as compared to other areas.
Even before I touched the ground, the knives pinged and panged off of her, littering the ground. As I watched the bird’s movement, I silently counted the number of sounds my knives made. Exactly ten of them. What a pity.
The carrion-bloom bird gave a short squawk of anger. No way, I got her with the blow to her neck?
Although you could only truly kill an aberrant by smashing apart its head, if you severed its neck and left only the head, there was nothing to fear, even if the head could spit lightning from its mouth. This bird had quite a scaly head, evidence that she had purposely strengthened this weak spot, so it was probably easier if I just snapped her neck instead. So I decided to focus my attacks on her neck.
The biggest problem now was that she was flying around mid-air. Only when she was swooping down to launch her attack did I have the chance to fight back. This gave me no choice but to use the strategy of countering against a person’s attacks—no wait, a bird’s attacks. I couldn’t help but recall the Ice Emperor’s battle at that moment. When will I able to reach such a height of ice powers, to be able to create ice paths that span the skies, to the point where there’s no difference whether I’m fighting on land or in the air?
The carrion-bloom bird came in for another attack. From the short and harsh squawks, I could tell that the bird was furious, reminding me that aberrants now were not the same as the ones ten years into the apocalypse. They were newly “born” babies who weren’t even six months old, and they were mainly driven by animal instinct. But tier one aberrants had started to develop consciousness so, like a child, they were mercurial and impatient in temperament.
I once again created ten ice knives, the quality worse than the previous ones. Taking the opportunity as the bird swept low, I flung them out in twos and threes. I’d originally thought that she’d change her trajectory slightly to avoid them, or perhaps knock them down with her wings. But after swooping in a few times, she seemed to have realized that these flying knives simply posed no threat to her. They couldn’t even hurt a feather, much less a scale. So she stopped caring about those small ice knives and focused on attacking me.
After a few exchanges with the bird, we had both accumulated injuries. Her beak had sliced past my left arm, while I had hit her wing with the shaft of my ice spear. Neither posed much of an injury to either of us. While they weren’t exactly small injuries, as long as they didn’t hinder our movement, they didn’t amount to much. I didn’t even feel the pain with the adrenaline from the tense fight pumping in my system.
The bird facing off against me obviously didn’t think much of the injury to her wing, either. If anything, it simply served to make her even angrier. Then again, that was understandable. As a tier one aberrant leading such a large flock of birds, there probably weren’t many opponents who could make so much as a scratch on her.
The bird circling in mid-air suddenly let out a long cry to the distance, and I quickly spun to take a look. The battle behind me was pretty heated, but the mercenary troop, who had ample ammunition, quite evidently had the upper hand. Unlike the one I was fighting, the other carrion-bloom birds weren’t unafraid of bullets. With the wild bursts of machine-gun fire blasting into the air, the flock didn’t even dare to fly too low. The corpses littering the ground warned them all too clearly of the fate that awaited them if they drew too close.
However, Dàgē and the others could do nothing against the flock that was flying too high above them. Thankfully, this white-necked carrion bloom bird’s long cry broke the stalemate. This impatient baby no older than a few months had probably ordered them to attack. Once again, the flock dropped from a height to rush at them, only to be peppered with shots and come crashing to the ground one by one.
Seeing that, the white-necked carrion-bloom bird became outraged. She spread her wings, evidently wanting to switch fights and rush over to deal with Dàgē and the others. I immediately reacted with another high jump, firing out a dozen-odd ice knives in mid-air. She didn’t care in the slightest, until one stabbed right into her neck. She gave a screech of pain and immediately swerved back to face me.
What stabbed her was not an ice knife that I had conjured randomly out of the air but my ice dagger. Those useless ice knives just now were merely camouflage to make her lose vigilance against them, so that she wouldn’t be on her guard when I used the ice dagger as a throwing knife.
She returned to the attic and perched there, flapping her wings frantically and occasionally giving a screech of pain. But the ice dagger wasn’t something that could be tossed aside that easily. Although ice powers had a disadvantage in that they froze the wounds closed, for the same reason, the ice dagger was frozen in the wound and couldn’t be pulled out easily.
For birds that had no opposable thumbs, the only way they could get rid of the ice dagger would be to beat it off with their wings, which would only exacerbate the wound. It wouldn’t be strange if a chunk of meat was torn off along with the dagger. But the wound was on her neck, so the carrion-bloom bird couldn’t use too much force, or else she could possibly rip apart her own throat, which would be a far worse injury.
While she was doing that, I rushed up toward the attic. I leaped up to the second floor balcony, then I ran up the wall, creating a thin ice shelf with every step I took. The moment I kicked off a step, it would shatter, but it provided enough time for me to propel myself upwards to the next step.
As long as there was somewhere I could step on, no high wall posed an obstacle to me.
The moment I arrived at the attic, the white-necked carrion-bloom bird immediately wanted to take to the air when it spotted me. But I immediately fired out a dozen-odd ice knives, and, not daring to be careless anymore, she was forced to land back on the balcony to dodge the knives. Seizing the opportunity, I raised my staff and charged at her, then swung it toward her neck. Although I missed, the next horizontal sweep struck her body.
In furious anguish, she twisted her head and bit at the shaft of my ice spear. She didn’t let go, even when I shot out more ice knives at her that she had no way of dodging. She just let the knives hit her body. However, it was such a pity I didn’t have a second ice dagger, otherwise… No, I still have the ice shard!
Just when I was about to take the ice shard from my chest pocket, the white-necked carrion-bloom bird started beating her wings. More importantly, she was still biting onto the shaft of my ice spear, refusing to let go. My heart leapt into my throat. I was dead meat if she took me up into the air.
I immediately pulled hard, trying to yank my ice spear free, but unexpectedly, the bird fought back. She bit hard, not letting go, while I simply couldn’t release my grip. If she snatched away the ice spear, she would be able to fling it far, far away with only a few flaps of her wings. If that happened, then our only hope was that Dàgē had found a Barrett.
In desperation, I had no choice but to freeze myself, freezing my hands to the ice spear and my feet to the balcony. And thus began the bizarre tug-of-war with a bird.
She frantically beat her wings, occasionally striking at my body, causing spasms of fiery pain to flare up all over. When the bird discovered that she had injured me, she became so excited that you’d think she’d won the lottery or something, and she kept sweeping her wings at me non-stop. The scales on those wings were as sharp as knives, and if not for the fact that I had created a layer of ice over my skin to block them, I’d have turned into sliced meat, so thin that I’d be perfect for hot pot.
But even if I could block the sharp scales, this didn’t soften the impact in the slightest, and each blow raining down on me made my entire body ache like crazy. Cough, blood was even starting to trickle from my mouth.
Damned bird! I channeled my ice powers along the length of the ice spear right to the bird’s beak. At first, she didn’t seem to mind, but as the ice power grew stronger, she became so cold that she gave up on attacking me and immediately released my ice spear. Shivering, she flung her head from one side to the other wildly. Taking advantage of the moment when she was so cold that she had started to become dizzy, I immediately struck at her head with the shaft of my ice spear, sending the entire bird crashing onto the balcony.
Losing all rationality in her rage, she no longer cared about her advantage of flight and started running at me, her legs pumping like pistons. Those legs of hers weren’t the thin, frail legs of birds, but thick and strong instead. If I got kicked, I’d probably cough up my liver.
I wanted to dodge, but one wing of hers was enough to cover the entire balcony, so there was almost nowhere to run. I’d have to leave the balcony to evade her attack, but I couldn’t do that, either. I had finally managed to make the bird furious enough to forget about flight, so I had to keep her from remembering. I had to finish her off, now!
I once again stole a glance at the battle going on below. Dàgē and the others already had control over the battle, and at least half of the birds that had been circling in the sky were now lying on the ground. Good, I no longer need to keep anything in reserve. As long as I can deal with this bird in front of me, Dàgē can handle the rest.
I tightened my grip on the ice spear, and ice energy rushed out in an unending torrent until it coated the entire ice spear. The ice spear started emitting a chill from tip to tip, and if anyone aside from me dared to hold it, half of their body would freeze over on contact, unless they had equal or greater power than I did.
The white-necked carrion-bloom bird glared pure hatred at the ice spear, but she didn’t seem all that scared. Given that we were both tier one, she wouldn’t get frozen over by my ice powers, but I had confidence that it would at least affect her movement.
I jabbed out with the ice spear. This was more than just the outward movement of the spear. The thrust also carried a large amount of freezing energy so that the spear left a trail of frost wherever it passed. Even the carrion-bloom bird, a tier one like me, frosted over when struck. She shivered and countless bits of ice showered from her body, many of her movements hindered by the cold, making her unable to land a direct hit on me.
But it only affected ”many” and not ”all” of her actions, so I was still struck by a kick and two blows from her wings. Two attacks in particular were especially bad. The wing that caught my chest made me spit blood and my left calf was kicked hard. Fortunately, I had managed to twist in time to deflect some of the force, so the kick didn’t land squarely on my leg. Otherwise, bone would be sticking out of my leg right now. Even so, these injuries impaired my movements dramatically.
Fortunately, the bird’s injuries were even worse than mine. The ice spear had hit her solidly five times, and the blow to her right wing had even ripped apart her wing’s tendons. Ever since that injury, she had stopped using her right wing when attacking me, and she couldn’t take to the air anymore. She probably couldn’t even fly properly now.
The whole balcony and the small attic had been completely devastated by our fight. The railings were long gone, and even the floor was cracking and falling apart, so I was fast running out of sure footing. But the bird was in an even sorrier state than me. Given her huge body mass and the unstable balcony that was on the verge of collapse, any step she took would cause the balcony to shudder violently.
She wanted to leave, but the injury to her wing made flying difficult. I once again took advantage of that and refused to let her take to the sky. In desperation and rage, she once again rushed at me, completely forgetting the lessons learned from the past. I’d used her momentum against her quite a few times already to succeed in stabbing my long spear through her scales.
I thrust the long spear at her, but to my dismay, the spearhead snapped off! My pupils shrank in shock. Shit, this long spear wasn’t sturdy enough, but I didn’t have much in the way of choice. Even without the spearhead, the jagged top of the staff should still be able to hurt her.
Enraged, the bird completely disregarded that the long spear had stabbed into her flesh, and she became even crazier. Another portion of my broken spear snapped off. As expected, the ice became much more fragile the moment there was a crack.
I gritted my teeth, ignoring the crack, and jammed in the remaining length of the spear into her. By now, the bird and I were close enough that she could just open her beak and bite at me. And she did just that.
I immediately jerked my head to one side, and at the same time, kicked hard at the end of the spear jutting out of her. The spear went in even deeper, but I lost my balance as a result, and her beak slammed hard against my chest. This blow was so heavy that the wind was knocked out of me. Everything started to go dark, and if not for the fact that I could hear the impact of the beak against the shard of ice protecting my heart, I’d have thought I was dead.
The long spear had gone right into the bird’s chest, with only half of it still exposed outside, but still the bird continued attacking me. An aberrant’s tenacity to life couldn’t be underestimated at all. Not daring to kick the spear in any further, I could only attack the bird’s head while dodging her attacks, wringing out every last drop of ice energy to use against her. But the bird seemed to have made up her mind in her fury, and charged at me like she was determined to drag me to hell, even if it meant dying herself.
As I was forced back to the edge of the balcony, I propped my feet against the stumps of the railings. Both of us were preparing for the final showdown in this fight between caged beasts, and only one of us was going to make it out of this alive!
The white-necked carrion-bloom bird gave a sorrowful cry to the sky, then ducked down its head to peck at me, but I had grabbed onto her lower beak, channeling my ice powers with all my might. Even if I wasn’t as physically strong as the bird, I made up for it with the help of the freezing cold!
The bird’s beak drew closer and closer, until its tip touched my forehead. With the sound of shattering ice, pain stabbed at my forehead. This was once again another tug-of-war, a war where we were wagering our lives. Either she pecked through my skull, or I turned her brains into frozen tofu…!
Suddenly, flapping wings sounded all around me. Shit, this darned bird’s sorrowful cry was a cry for help!
I was trapped between a rock and a hard place, and the momentary lapse of concentration triggered a wave of pain to my forehead. I hastily focused my mind and ignored everything else. The bird before me was my true enemy, and once I had dealt with her, none of the other birds really posed any threat to me…
I could see my own reflection in her huge pupils, my face screwed up like a devil’s and not a trace of any of Jiang Shuyu’s handsomeness to be seen.
In the apocalypse, the only path for survival was to turn yourself into a devil.
“I didn’t reincarnate to die at the wings of a bird!”
Holding nothing back, I forced out all my ice energy in one explosive blast. What followed was an intense headache. For a moment, I couldn’t tell if this was the pain from expending all of my power or the pain from my skull bursting open…
“Èrgē, watch out—!“
I was a little disorientated, then there was a sudden explosion of light, a very familiar light, accompanied by an equally familiar crackling. I relaxed and dropped onto my backside, then looked up to gaze at my first true enemy in this life. She had already turned into a bird-shaped ice sculpture.
I couldn’t help but laugh, and delight welled up in my heart.
Crick crackle crackle.
“…” The person being squashed by a bird expressed his extreme discontent, especially since this bird had a wingspan of two meters and, furthermore, smelled extremely burnt.
Shujun rushed over and kicked away the charred bird corpse in a very un-ladylike manner. Then, she helped me up, and as she looked over my wounds, her expression turned both frustrated and furious. If not for where we were and my current condition, I was positive that she would start beating her èrgē while crying.
“I told you not to get hurt, so why did you get so many injuries?”
I could only laugh dryly. How’s it possible not to get injured? I’m lucky to be alive.
“How’d you come so quickly?”
I looked away evasively and changed the subject, hoping to divert Shujun’s attention to something else.
After all, when the white-necked carrion-bloom bird had called over the flock, I hadn’t been able to afford to focus on anything except for her. My only hope was that Dàgē and the others would help shoot them down, but I had never imagined that the first person to arrive would be Shujun. With one blast of lightning, she had turned a bunch of birds into charcoal, so charred that they had become inedible.
Shujun carefully helped me up into a sitting position and said unhappily, “Dàgē told me to keep an eye on you. He said that you’d definitely do something crazy, and that you would only restrain yourself if I was next to you.”
Dàgē really is a big brother who knows what makes his dìdi tick. I didn’t dare give a response to Shujun’s words.
Shujun stared at my numerous wounds and didn’t dare move me too much. After some hesitation, she still ended up speaking. “Èrgē, I’ll help you off this place. It looks dangerous, like it’ll collapse at any moment.”
I nodded. Although every part of me was aching, the balcony was already swaying, and if I really did drop from here, it would hurt even more. I stood up, glancing at the corpse of the white-necked carrion-bloom bird uneasily.
“Junjun, I can manage going down myself. Call Dàgē over and get this bird’s crystal out.”
Although it was thoroughly frozen, it was hard to say whether or not the bird could revive if we defrosted it. But I’d been too traumatized by how terrible the Jiang family’s luck was, so I wanted to deal with the problem as soon as possible and not leave anything to chance.
Shujun looked very worried, so I quickly took a few steps and ended up aching so much that I almost grimaced. Without any life-threatening danger to distract me, I discovered that every part of me was in agony.
I forced a smile, and only then did Shujun reluctantly say, “Fine, I’ll call Dàgē over.”
She turned, and just when I was about to follow, my chest tightened. I instinctively looked up at the sky.
A black shadow was rushing at us.
With no time to worry about the pain in my body, I rushed forward to push Shujun to one side, then I felt a powerful force slam into me.
Splintering sounds came from my chest, and I sprawled onto the floor. The blow was so strong that it knocked out all the air from my lungs, and I couldn’t breathe even with my mouth open. I felt like I was suffocating. Just how bad are the wounds to my chest…
As I slipped into unconsciousness, another memory of the story I had heard before came to mind in the most untimely manner.
Ma’am, y’know, this carrion-bloom bird isn’t something you want to mess with. Even if you win in a fight against it, don’t engage unless you have to. Those birds come in pairs with their mates, so if there’s one, there’s bound to be another around. And they will definitely be of the same tier.
I heard the faint shriek from Shujun, but it seemed to fade into the distance. Am I going to pass out again?
No, I can’t. If I pass out now, then I’m as good as dead. I can’t faint, I can’t—