Dominion’s End Volume 3: Ice-Bound Splendor and Majesty
Original novel in Chinese by: 御 我 (Yu Wo)
Chapter 1: The Guard Tower—translated by Elkin (proofread by Arcedemius & elisa; C/E edited by lucathia)
I looked up to see that Chen Yanqing had dropped by again.
“Is the boy doing okay?” he asked with concern.
I shook my head, gazing at the slumbering Xiaotian, an unspeakable sadness in my heart.
Ever since the child fell asleep that day, he hadn’t once woken up and he even burned with a fever. If not for the fact that he didn’t look like he was on the verge of death, I’d have run away with the child. Although people still hadn’t figured out the specific conditions for a human to turn into an aberrant, it wasn’t hard to reason that the dead turn into aberrants.
Even Auntie Chen, who had originally been quite pleasant, started having her doubts, and she huddled at the other end of the tent with Beibei in her arms. If not for the fact that Chen Yanqing came by three times a day, I’d probably have been chased out of the tent… No, more like been chased straight out of the camp?
These few days, I clutched tightly to Xiaotian and didn’t leave the tent except to go to the washroom.
But even so, rumors had spread, probably thanks to the piece of shit Zhang-dàshū. He detested me and would glare at me every day. If Chen Yanqing hadn’t warned him, it was likely… I’d have beaten him to a pulp long ago!
This was the fourth day, but I still hadn’t managed to get into the military zone. With Xiaotian ill to this extent, there was no way we’d be let in.
“You…” Chen Yanqing looked at me with an aching heart, but his hands were tied.
I said calmly, “I’m leaving.”
Chen Yanqing’s eyes bulged as he stared at me.
It wasn’t like I had a choice. If this continued, sooner or later, the people nearby would gang up to chase out Xiaotian and me, and this would probably happen within the next two days. Recently, that man had been sneaking out for most of the day, secretively doing something or other. But judging from the look in his eyes every time he looked at me, I was positive this guy was up to no good.
Although I wasn’t scared of him, right now Xiaotian wasn’t well. I didn’t want any complications to arise, so I was better off finding some place close by to wait. It also meant it’d be easier to take care of Xiaotian. With the way things were, even if I wanted to wipe down Xiaotian’s body with some warm water, I wouldn’t even be able to heat up any. It was a pain.
“What’re you on about?” Chen Yanqing yelled angrily, “Where d’you think you can go with a kid? Lots of kids have fallen sick recently, but they recovered after a few days, so it’s not a big deal. And it’s the fourth day already, so he should be recovering soon. If you really are worried, I’ll go talk to my bosses and stay the night here.”
The children are falling sick, probably because their abilities are awakening? Children didn’t have much stamina, so they often fell sick during the ability awakening process.
It’d be great if Xiaotian really was awakening to his powers, but I knew the truth was otherwise. I didn’t know how many days Xiaotian would be ill for, and if possible, I still wanted to go hunt for some crystals. Even if it was useless, it’d be good to use the crystals as candy for Xiaotian. Right now, I was almost driven crazy by this feeling of helplessness!
“Really? Okay, then I’ll wait. You don’t have to stay overnight,” I lied blithely. In any case, I had to make sure this guy wouldn’t stay and get in the way of my escape.
Unexpectedly, Chen Yanqing narrowed his eyes with a look of suspicion, then turned to leave. “I’ll go speak with my bosses.”
Sigh, okay. So now I’ll have to pack up and run for it before he comes back.
“Pick up your boy and come with me.”
Shit, are you trying to kill me here? I shouted angrily, “What makes you think you can dictate my life? We don’t even know each other!”
I’d originally wanted to add things like “you’re disgusting” or “like I can’t tell you’re up to no good” to provoke him, but I couldn’t bring myself to do so. Perhaps this guy really did like me, but he’d never made a move on me. If I really was a man, perhaps I could still dislike him, but the soul inside was a woman’s, so I was more used to being chased by men than chasing after women myself!
Chen Yanqing turned his head and started scolding me, “What kind of times do you think we’re living in? This is for your son, so stop kicking up a fuss!”
I’m far clearer on what kind of times we’re living in than you are. Although I knew he had good intentions, these good intentions were a pain in the butt. I couldn’t accept them but couldn’t reject them either. I didn’t know what to do.
“Keep your nose out of my business!” I said coldly. “Who knows what you’re up to? You’ve been searching for my family for so many days with no results, so you’re probably not even looking for them in the first place. The dangers out there are nothing compared to you!”
Chen Yanqing’s face flushed red.
“Ah Qing’s not only helping you look for them, he’s also asked a lot of his bros to help out. But there isn’t a single person with a surname of Jiang!”
I didn’t expect Guo Hong to come over as well, and that honest-looking face of his was dark with fury.
I didn’t say a thing as I gave them both a cold look. But on the inside, my conscience was writhing. I’d been hurt in my previous life, and in this life, I was hurting others. Is this some kind of karma? But I’m not liking this the slightest! Please can we just make everyone happy?
Besides, he had said that they hadn’t been able to find anyone. So Dàgē and the others really aren’t in the military zone?
Chen Yanqing proclaimed, “Anyway, you’re not going anywhere!”
“Why do you even bother with him?” Guo Hong was extremely frustrated.
I stood there with a cold expression and a pain twisting in my heart. That’s right, why do you still bother with such an ungrateful bastard like me? Please, just give up and let me fend for myself, okay?
I blinked then quickly dove back into the tent for a look. Jiang Xiaotian was already sitting up, and he breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of me, his tightly knit brows smoothing over. Then, when he caught sight of Chen Yanqing and Guo Hong poking their heads in for a look, he immediately put on a stupid look and even said, “Gēge, I’m hungry.”
…Hey now, Jiang Xiaotian, did you short-circuit your brain with the fever or something? It’s Daddy! Don’t call me inconsistent things. I don’t even know how to explain it away now!
Chen Yanqing and Guo Hong goggled at me, and I had no choice but to say, “Since Xiaotian’s awake, I won’t leave for now.”
Chen Yanqing clearly still didn’t believe me.
“Or you can just sleep here!” I said irritably, “But you’ll have to sleep sitting up.”
Here, Jiang Xiaotian suddenly raged, “Who are you saying you’re sleeping with? I’ve told you that you’re not allowed to have puppy love, but you actually dare to not listen to your Dà-?”
I hastily covered his mouth, calmly explaining to the two… no, even Auntie Chen had been startled—three people, “He’s probably still a bit muddled by the sickness. I don’t know where he learned this kind of stuff. Boy, it’s so hard to raise kids nowadays, hahaha.”
Fortunately, Jiang Xiaotian seemed to snap out of it and peacefully rested in my arms, like he didn’t have any energy… Damn, he probably isn’t pretending at all!
The two soldiers stared suspiciously at this father-son or sibling pair.
“He’s probably dreaming.” Auntie Chen reassured them, “Children are always doing silly things. Beibei also learns a lot of dialogue from cartoons, so it’s not unusual.”
Guo Hong clutched at his head, mumbling to himself in confusion, “So is he a dad or a gēge? Probably a gēge, right? Xiao Yu’s still too young.”
Suddenly, Chen Yanqing’s expression changed and he looked at me, then back at Xiaotian. His face drained of color, to the point where he was pale enough to compete with the sickly Jiang Xiaotian.
What the hell are you thinking of now? Please, don’t tell me!
Chen Yanqing said helplessly, “I-I’ll get you some rice porridge for your son to eat. We found some rice in the army. Wait here for me and don’t go anywhere.”
I hesitated for a moment before nodding. It would be good to feed Xiaotian a little porridge. At least, before we left, I’d secretly let him know about the crystals as repayment for what he did for us.
The two soldiers finally left, Guo Hong’s face remaining as dark as it had been at the beginning, while Chen Yanqing kept throwing a few worried looks over his shoulder. Amazingly, he didn’t seem to mind how much of an ungrateful bastard I was pretending to be.
Even if you really like Jiang Shuyu’s face, you’re still a soldier with the benefits that comes with your job, while I’m just an eighteen-year-old kid. And this is the apocalypse! But not only do you not bother with threats or bait or violence, you even keep compromising for my sake. You must be born to be a masochist!
But you should count yourself lucky for being born this way; otherwise, you’d have turned into a corpsicle a long time ago.
From the distance came Guo Hong’s unhappy voice.
“Ah Qing, what on earth are you doing? Even if you like him, you don’t need to kiss his cold ass to that extent!”
“You shouldn’t blame him. If it was with his mother… wouldn’t that make him both a dad and a gēge?”
“What?!” Guo Hong exclaimed.
…I turned around, wiping their conversation from my memory, and focused on Jiang Xiaotian’s condition.
“It’s great that Xiaotian’s awake,” Auntie Chen said honestly.
Since Xiaotian had woken up, she didn’t cling onto to Beibei as tight, and her complexion looked much better than before. When she looked at us, there was even a trace of guilt hidden in her expression. I could hardly blame her. In times like these, who wouldn’t be afraid?
I relaxed my expression and nodded, then ask softly, “Xiaotian, do you want to go to the toilet?”
Jiang Xiaotian looked up at me, then nodded obediently and said, “Yes.”
“Auntie Chen, I need to pop out for a bit.” I walked out of the tent, making sure to take my backpack with me. Just because we had reached an understanding didn’t mean that I could let my guard down.
I stepped out of the tent with Xiaotian in my embrace. I even wandered around the vicinity, originally intending to let the people around us see that my son had recovered from his sickness to ward off trouble. As it turned out, I ran straight into trouble instead.
A few men barred my way. This time, no one was paying any attention to my face, and all eyes were fixed on my backpack, a look that I was all-too-familiar with plastered on their faces.
When I saw them, I immediately stepped forward sharply and lashed out with a kick, targeting the tallest and burliest looking guy. I kicked hard at his stomach—he hadn’t expected me to dive straight into action without saying a word—and he was sent flying in the air.
I gazed around me with an icy expression, implicitly asking “So who’s next?” Only after I saw their shocked expressions and their reluctance to step forward did I straighten my clothes and stride away.
“Well done,” Xiaotian murmured a word of praise. “Stunning everyone with one decisive attack can put a stop to any brewing conflict.”
I pretended I hadn’t heard him and walked to the side of a road close by. Although there were still a few people a short distance away from us, it didn’t matter. I was just looking for somewhere to give my child a good scolding.
I tossed the child onto the ground, placed my hands on my hips, and snarled, “Jiang Xiaotian, don’t you dare do that again!”
Jiang Xiaotian raised his head, blinked his widened eyes, and called out my name, dumbfounded, “Shuyu, what…?”
“Oh, so now you’re not randomly calling me daddy and gēge?”
I had already accepted the fact that I had become a dad at the tender age of eighteen. You just had to go and mix up the two and call me both things. Now people think I’ve done stuff with my mom. How could you do this to your mom and mine?! How could you insult two moms at once?!
“I already told you that what’s most important is that the whole family gets together, so why do you still have to be so reckless?” I said angrily, “I’d reach tier two sooner or later anyway, so is it that you don’t trust me? To the point where you’d make yourself like this to raise my tier?! It’s not worth it!”
Xiaotian looked at me with a complex expression on his face, almost as if he couldn’t recognize his own dìdi.
“Actually, it’s really not your fault. The aftereffects of traveling through space time are more severe than I’d imagined. Even if I hadn’t helped you raise your tier, as long as I used my abilities, I’d run into this problem.”
Iciness gripped my heart at the words and I hastily shouted, “Then, you’re forbidden from using any abilities!”
Xiaotian didn’t respond.
I wanted to pull my hair in frustration. What am I supposed to do, pick up Jiang Xiaotian and smack his bottom? And even if he promised me now, it’s likely that he’d be just as reckless later on.
“Dàgē, don’t be so reckless. You’re the only one I have with me right now. If something happened to you, what would I do, all by myself?”
Jiang Xiaotian patted me, saying, “Don’t worry. Follow the trail of clues, and we’ll be able to find them very soon.”
I hesitated for a moment but decided to say it anyway. “They might think I’m dead and give up on leaving clues.”
This was a terrifying thought. Thinking back to what had happened, it wouldn’t be surprising if everyone thought that I was dead! Even if Dàgē and Junjun couldn’t bring themselves to accept my death, given enough time, they would have no choice but to accept reality. And when they did, they would probably stop leaving me clues.
The world was a big place, and we no longer had an easy way of communicating. If I didn’t have Dàgē’s clues anymore, how many months or years would it take for us to be reunited? Would I really have to wander the apocalyptic world alone until then?
I had to go through so much to get my new family, and I was already determined to become Jiang Shuyu, so why did I have to lose them again?
“Don’t worry. As long as I haven’t seen your bodies with my own two eyes, I’ll never give up on you and Shujun.” Jiang Xiaotian said firmly, “That was what I had done in the past. Even if I was on a completely different continent, I would still come back to find you!”
And then what? I didn’t dare to ask the question. Dàgē had sacrificed everything to travel through space and time, and had shrunk to a miniature who couldn’t even use his abilities. Just how terrible a fate must the Jiang family have had in that previous world to make him act with such reckless abandon?
“So it’s true that the older you get, the more things you’ll be afraid of.” A hint of nostalgia tinged Jiang Xiaotian’s face, and he sighed, “In the past, there wasn’t a single thing you were afraid of. You’d even laugh if the sky came crashing down on us. Shujun had always said you were a heartless person.”
Nonsense. Jiang Xiaotian, you’ve lost your wits again. Junjun’s an absolute protector of her èrgē, so how could she possibly tell me off for being heartless? She’ll say her èrgē is the strongest and most reliable person in the world!
“Junjun would never say that.”
Jiang Xiaotian barked a “ha” and said, “And you’re still the same as before. You can say all you want about your mèimei, but you won’t let anyone say a single bad thing about her.”
What on earth did I say about Junjun? Isn’t Jiang Shuyu a sis-con who can’t be saved? I frowned, hoping that I could dream more. The best would be if I could dream back all my memories.
“Anyway, Jiang Xiaotian, you’re not allowed to be so reckless anymore. I’ve already reached tier two, so there’s not much that can trouble me now. So just sit back and let your dìdi handle everything!”
Jiang Xiaotian spoke in a patient tone of voice, “So does tier two make you invincible? In the past, you were indeed fearless, and the only person who could put some sense in you was me. And now you’re scared of everything except your dàgē?”
“How can I not be scared of Dàgē? You’re the one and only mighty, supreme Ice Emperor. I’m so terrified I’m shaking!”
I’m terrified you’ll accidentally kill yourself!
The child shot me a look and asked me innocently, “So who are you referring to when you’re calling for ‘Jiang Xiaotian’?”
“Ah, actually, that’s my future son. I just called his name by accident.”
The Ice Emperor rolled his eyes at me at that, and I even heard him mutter to himself, “A child isn’t a bad idea. If he has one now, they’ll grow up to be nine or ten years old in ten years’ time, and they’ll be ready to fight. But falling in love at a young age would affect his training. Hm…”
He even had the audacity to look very troubled at the two options. Jiang Xiaotian, just what do you take your dìdi and your dìdi’s kid for?!
“Why don’t you have one yourself?” I snapped irritably.
Jiang Xiaotian blinked at me innocently, then spread his hands helplessly as he looked down at his small figure.
“…Dàgē, don’t tell me you’ve forgotten that the you in this world is already twenty-seven?”
A look of comprehension dawned on Jiang Xiaotian’s face.
He really forgot. I held my head in my hands. Ever since this Dàgē’s biological age had dropped to a three year old’s, it seemed like his intelligence was tending toward that age as well. This… Never mind. Anyway, I had originally already steeled myself for one more dìdi.
“Dàgē, do you need the toilet? If not, then we should go back, or that Chen Yanqing is gonna tell me off again.”
Jiang Xiaotian instantly transformed from a three year old into a thirty year old. His eyes narrowed and he said in a dangerous tone of voice, “He dares to scold you?”
Ah, that Chen Yanqing must be really unlucky to have met me. He works his ass off only to be rewarded with my sneers and scolding, and now he had even garnered the hatred of the Ice Emperor. Who did he piss off to deserve such a tragic fate?
“Actually, he’s just worried about me. You were passed out with a fever, so when I told him I wanted to take you away from here, he scolded me.”
Jiang Xiaotian frowned, saying, “So the reason you haven’t entered the military zone is because of me as well? Then we had better quickly go in. The more we delay, the harder it’ll be to find them.”
I nodded, but deep down inside, I had accepted the fact that we’d probably be unable to find them.
Dàgē and the others were looking for me, and I was looking for them. The fact that I hadn’t caught wind of anything even with the help of Chen Yanqing, who could freely enter the military zone, meant that they were probably already gone. The reason I was still entering the military zone now was to find more clues. But of course, I still wished that we could find Dàgē and the others directly.
Back in camp, I saw three people standing outside the tent in the distance. Chen Yanqing and Guo Hong were faces I knew all too well, but the third belonged to a much older person dressed in uniform with a stern expression. After a moment’s thought, I finally recalled that this was the colonel who was in charge of the two during our first meeting.
Of the three, one looked furious, one had a sour look, and one was stern. Who did I piss off now? Other guys had flocks of pretty ladies going after them with their good looks, so why did it feel like I was attracting a crowd of parents and older siblings instead?
“I was just taking my child to go to the toilet,” I immediately explained, lifting the child into view.
When he heard that, Chen Yanqing’s expression became less severe and he said, “Pack up your things and follow me in.”
But this only provoked Guo Hong to rage at him, “You sure are getting more and more ballsy. You dare speak first before the Colonel?”
Chen Yanqing’s face stiffened for a moment, then he gave the colonel a begging look.
The colonel looked me and Xiaotian over for a few moments, then glanced at Chen Yanqing and asked again to confirm, “You are sure you want to give your family quota to these two people?”
I stared as Chen Yanqing nodded his head firmly.
All right, besides telling him about the secrets about the crystals, I’d better give him a few crystals as well. But this was all dependent on him not making any moves on me. If he dares, hmph, forget about crystals, he’d just turn into a giant ice crystal himself!
“I don’t have any family anyhow,” Chen Yanqing chuckled, and said casually, “And I took a shine to these brothers.”
I shot him a look. Thankfully, he didn’t say anything too obvious, like good looking or liking, otherwise Jiang Xiaotian would have definitely gone on a rampage.
Guo Hong still looked like he was sucking on a bitter lemon, but the colonel didn’t seem to mind. He examined Jiang Xiaotian, then said with a nod, “This child is fine. Pack up your things, and we’ll head in together.”
There wasn’t anything to pack since everything I owned was in my backpack. Even my potted plant, Jiang Xiaorong, had been planted in the big compartment of my bag. With everyone starving, I was really scared that the moment I looked away, Jiang Xiaorong would be turned into a serving of vegetables, so I had no choice but to carry it around.
Having said that, my backpack was originally packed to the brim, so there was no way I could shove in something as big as a pot. So my only option was to stuff some earth into the big compartment, just enough for Jiang Xiaorong to root itself there, and it even had to pitifully curl up into a knot of branches. If you didn’t look too closely, it almost looked like a decorative Christmas wreath. The poor thing.
This was also one of the reasons why I wanted to leave ASAP. Hearing the rustling noises coming from the backpack every night and constantly worrying about whether the movement in the backpack would attract people’s attention was extraordinarily stressful.
I entered the tent and greeted the mother and daughter inside.
“Auntie Chen, I’m leaving.”
Auntie Chen had probably overheard the conversation just now. She nodded, speaking with a little regret, “It’s good that you can go in. You should go now.”
“Gēge!” Beibei rushed up to me and hugged me. Tears glistened in her eyes as she pleaded, “Don’t go.”
I tweaked Beibei’s cheeks and chuckled, “Gēge is going to give you some candy. Come on, open your mouth.”
Seeing that, Auntie Chen didn’t mind at all and she even shot me a grateful smile. I smiled back at her, shook out a few crystals from the silver canister at my hip, and stuffed them all into the little girl’s mouth. I said softly, “If you swallow them, you won’t have to be scared of the sounds from underground anymore.”
Beibei blinked and her little face turned red as she worked hard to swallow the crystals. I quickly took out a bottle of those trashy drinks that were high in sugar and calories and had absolutely no nutrition whatsoever. “Here, drink something.”
The little girl took a few sips, then turned to pass the drink to her mommy. She really was an adorably cute and obedient child. When you added in the fact that she seemed to be developing special abilities already, it was so tempting to kidnap her!
Struggling to suppress the urge to kidnap the little girl, I said to Auntie Chen, “I’m headed off.”
Auntie Chen said with a small smile, “Thank you. I’m sorry, I haven’t been able to help you these past few days, but you keep giving us things.”
“Don’t be silly, I really like Beibei.” I stroked Beibei’s head and told her, “Beibei, you must protect mommy, okay?”
Beibei nodded forcefully.
I gazed long and hard at Beibei and murmured softly, “I’m Jiang Shuyu, the jiang from jiangyu, dominion.”
At this age, the little girl probably didn’t know the word—in fact, she probably couldn’t read yet, so she’d probably forget it in the blink of an eye. However, this was only the case for children before the apocalypse. If Beibei hearing sounds was really a special ability manifesting, then her intellect was beginning to develop. Maybe she could remember, or maybe she couldn’t—after all, this was just the start of the apocalypse. But in any case, it was a possible connection between us.
“I’m called Beibei. Mommy says it’s the bei from baobei, precious.”
I smiled, gave her one last stroke of her hair, then turned on my heel and left.
Exiting the tent, I scooped up Jiang Xiaotian and followed the three soldiers to the main gates. Expressions of jealousy and rage followed us every step of the way.
“Why can he go in?” someone finally couldn’t resist yelling, “They said I could go in after three days, but it’s already day five!”
Guo Hong shouted back, “They’re relatives.”
But this had the opposite effect than intended and the people started getting agitated, yelling and howling in fury.
“What makes the military so great?”
“If you guys had the balls, you’d wipe out all the monsters in the city!”
“What a bunch of cowards, they only know how to hide here and eat all our food!”
Chen Yanqing and Guo Hong both flushed red, in embarrassment or in fury—or perhaps a mix of both.
The colonel frowned deeply upon seeing the situation deteriorate. The people were starting to surround us, and a fair number of them were even holding onto things, many of which were long metal objects, such as metal bats.
Bang! The colonel immediately raised his gun and fired a shot at the sky.
Only then did the surrounding people freeze, looks of fear warring with their reluctance to back down.
This was familiar, all too familiar to me. In my previous life, Guan Weijun had frequently experienced these situations, but the difference was that she was one of the angry and discontent.
Xia Zhengu had been even more livid, and his face would scrunch up. He would curse these people with special rights and keep muttering about how someday, he’d be stronger than the rest. And when that day came, he would make these people who looked down on him meet terrible ends.
“Stay close.” Chen Yanqing worriedly moved to shield me.
I kept my head down, hugging Jiang Xiaotian tightly and not daring to look at anyone.
We had hardly taken a few more steps when there came the sound of rapid footsteps from the front. I immediately looked up to see soldiers, who first saluted the colonel, then started breaking up the crowd of people.
Then, the main gates to the military zone swung open. I was finally able to get in. In the instant I looked inside, I had the illusion that I saw Dàgē, but on closer inspection, it was just another crowd of lost-looking people, who at most looked to be a little better off than those outside.
“We almost had a riot!” the colonel raged, “All of you are not to exit the military zone for the next few days. If you have so much time on your hands, go into the city and scavenge food, or else the people outside are going to say the military are freeloaders!”
The two of them were so humiliated by his scolding that they couldn’t look him in the eye.
Chen Yanqing said weakly, “All this food is stuff our brothers-in-arms had to risk their lives getting in the city. Why don’t those people follow us in and get some themselves? And they say it’s their food…”
I kept my silence. They didn’t have guns, they had guns but no training, they were terrified by the aberrants, they were cowards, they had given up—there were too many reasons that could explain why people normally didn’t dare to enter the city, but at the same time, you could also say that none of these were excuses.
In the apocalypse, if you don’t stand up to live, you can lie down to die!
The colonel snapped, “Cut the bullshit. Get the kids to a safe place then come back and find me. It seems like the two of you are bored shitless, so I’d better give you some missions, or you’ll just stir up more trouble.”
While they were being yelled at, I was inspecting my surroundings. The military zone was quite sizable, and if it hadn’t been turned into a refugee camp, it would be hard to fill up the space otherwise.
The place was quite clearly split into a few zones. The common people still lived in tents, the majority of which were on the open ground in the south-eastern area—which looked like it had originally been some kind of training ground. There were many others who had crammed themselves in whatever space was available. This camping zone looked like it was packed to the brim with people, and the only spaces left were paths for people to walk on. No wonder no more people could come in from the outside.
There were buildings all around us. Some were residential buildings, while others were large warehouses, probably places to store military goods. They were large enough to even accommodate tanks, but the probability of having tanks in a military barracks near a city wasn’t high, so it was best I didn’t get my hopes up.
The camping zone wasn’t small in the slightest, but it really was crammed full of people. Although there were many buildings, there were tents set up everywhere. So the entire place looked pretty messy and cramped.
Where would Dàgē and the others leave the clue? It couldn’t be too obvious, or it would make people suspicious, and they might even destroy it. But it wouldn’t be hidden too deeply, or there was no way the amnesiac dìdi could find his gēge’s clues just relying on the brotherly bond between them.
“Go look at the iron tower,” Jiang Xiaotian whispered. “One of the ways I’d leave clues might be to carve it on the tower.”
I blinked and looked at the large iron tower at the center of the camping zone. I vaguely remembered Chen Yanqing calling this the guard tower. Although it wasn’t as big as some of the famous national landmarks, it wasn’t small either. My guess was that it was probably ten stories tall, so it would be no easy task to find a line of writing on this tower.
What was more, there were soldiers with guns on guard at the base of the tower. It looked like it was a high security area, so it was probably home to some highly-ranked officials. The lower levels of the tower were all sealed up and looked like a house, so it should be livable.
“Go climb to the top of the tower to take a look when it’s late at night,” Jiang Xiaotian said like it was the most natural thing in the world. “The top of the tower is a very obvious target, yet it’s also hard for people to discover the clue. And Shuyu, you have the ability to climb up there as well. If it was me, I’d definitely carve the clue up there.”
Hearing that, I breathed a sigh of relief. Thank goodness I have Jiang Xiaotian. Otherwise, who knows how much time I’d have to spend to find the clue?
“Xiao Yu? Xiao Yu?!”
Suddenly, someone touched my shoulder and I reflexively grabbed his hand and spun him around, ending up with one hand holding onto that person’s right hand, and the other pressing down on his shoulder in a lock. Just as I was about to dislocate his arm for safety’s sake, Jiang Xiaotian, who had been clinging to my neck the entire time, reminded me in a tone of amusement, “It’s the two soldiers!”
I took a closer look and discovered that I was holding onto Guo Hong. I hastily released him and apologized awkwardly, “Sorry, I spaced out.”
To one side, Chen Yanqing was staring at me with wide eyes, with an expression like he had just seen a ghost.
Shit, I was so out of it that I forgot that I was a gentle, pretty boy. But oh well, I’m in here already. Think you can kick me out? I’ll kill you with two fingers if you try!
“Where’d you learn that?” Chen Yanqing asked in astonishment, “You were even able to knock down Guo Hong? He’s quite strong.”
Guo Hong was staring at me, startled, as he flexed his shoulder gingerly.
I continued playing the role of a cool, pretty boy as I kept my expression flat, and said coldly, “My dàgē is a fighting instructor, so he’s taught me a few moves.”
Jiang Xiaotian chuckled, but thankfully, no one would care if a three year old kid started chortling to himself.
Suddenly, a huge shadow appeared behind Chen Yanqing and even propped himself against his shoulder. His face split into a huge grin as he said, “No wonder you can survive out there on your own. You’ve got skills there, boy!”
Chen Yanqing snapped irritably, “Ah Nuo, stop leaning against me. You weigh a ton and you still want people to carry you?”
Ah Nuo sniggered as he replied, “I’m helping you work out. Otherwise, you won’t even be able to win against a kid, y’know?”
Chen Yanqing growled, “How can I lose against Xiao Yu!”
Um, you really will.
“Why not?” Ah Nuo asked in disbelief, “It’s hard to say who’ll win when you and Guo Hong get into a scuffle, but this lad can even take down Guo Hong.”
Guo Hong coughed and explained, “I wasn’t paying attention just now. Didn’t expect him to have a few moves in him, okay?” He gazed at me and asked, not wanting to admit his loss, “You wanna spar a little? I’ll go easy—I won’t hurt you.”
The surrounding soldiers started clamoring in.
But I don’t know how to go easy on you. I’ve killed too many aberrants, so it’s already become a reflex to bash heads to bits. How am I supposed to search for clues if I accidentally bust your head?
I said firmly, “I only know a few defensive moves. I don’t know how to spar. If you make any moves on me, I’ll scream for help!”
“Might be a bit more useful if you screamed molester.” Ah Nuo gazed at my face as he rubbed his chin and exclaimed in amazement, “That face of yours is… really dangerous.”
What a perfect description. I couldn’t agree more. It’s too dangerous, especially if we let the Jiang Xiaotian next to me drop the temperature lower!
Guo Hong said uncomfortably, “Okay, okay, we won’t fight. Just don’t scream or anything.”
Here, a few soldiers crowded around us, chuckling among themselves and babbling, “So you’re the Xiao Yu that Ah Qing keeps talking about!”
“Geez, just look at that face. No wonder Ah Qing’s lost his wits. He’s been tramping around these few days looking for some Jiang surname. We’ve found a bunch of rivers and gingers, but no sign of any territories. That surname of yours sure is special.”
Do you really want to die? I was feeling very cold. The Jiang Xiaotian in my arms was like a block of ice, so I could only hold onto him tightly to prevent the mighty Ice Emperor from lunging at them to bite them because he couldn’t use his abilities. That would be simply too humiliating.
“Shut up!” Chen Yanqing explained as he broke out in cold sweat, “I really don’t mean anything. I just want to help.”
All the soldiers gave him a look.
“Stop scaring Xiao Yu,” Chen Yanqing said awkwardly. “I’m really not planning that kind of stuff. He’s just a kid. You guys are such a load of bull.”
“The one who’s normally the most full of shit is you, so who are you to talk!”
A slightly chubby soldier squeezed in next to me and chuckled, “Xiao Yu, call me Fatty-gē. You don’t hafta be scared, Ah Qing doesn’t mean anything. He’s a total looks kind of guy, and only ever helps out when someone’s a looker.”
“I’m Kun-gē,” a dark-skinned soldier also pushed forward to report his nickname.
The others immediately tore him down, laughing, “The hell d’ya mean by “Kun-gē,” Blackie is Blackie. Come on, “gē”? What a joke!”
Stop telling me your names. I don’t want to get to know you. If I find my clue tonight, I’m definitely getting out of here ASAP. I don’t care if you’re blackie or whitey.
Chen Yanqing pulled me over angrily and snapped, “Let’s go. Ignore these guys. I’ll take you to the tent.”
I shook off his hand, and Chen Yanqing flushed red as he said, “I really don’t… Never mind. I’ll take you to the tent. After that, be a good boy and wait there. Don’t go running around again.” Halfway through his explanation, the soldiers started hooting and jeering. These terrible friends of his made him give up on explaining himself.
Sigh, I know you mean well. But the thing is, Jiang Xiaotian looks like he’s about to rip your right hand off to make red knuckle stew. So for the sake of both your hands, just keep your hands off me, okay?
He led the way, threading through all kinds of obstacles, tents, lost citizens, and their belongings, and we arrived in a patch of empty land. This was much more spacious than the other areas.
I lifted the tent flap—there was no one inside. I couldn’t help but throw a suspicious look at Chen Yanqing. Surely he doesn’t have enough authority to let someone take up a tent to themselves?
“Another batch of people will be coming in tomorrow. This was prepared for them.” Chen Yanqing explained, “I’ll see if I can arrange for that family who shared a tent with you before to join you again. You guys seem to get along quite well.”
I nodded. Although the guy in that family was a pain in the ass, he had no balls. If he could get in here and eat his fill, he probably wouldn’t kick up a fuss.
“Stay here. It’s much safer in here. If people create any trouble, they’d get chased out. So, no one should come looking for trouble with you. You still have food on you, right?”
“Yes.” These past few days, Chen Yanqing had been giving me food and drink, so I hadn’t consumed very many of my own supplies.
He nodded, but said in a worried tone of voice, “I better get you two something to eat. If the food you’re carrying with you isn’t gonna go bad, then it’s best to save it for now.”
I continued nodding. When we had been scavenging, we focused on finding food that wasn’t easily perishable. My backpack was filled with cans and crackers, all of which were things that could be kept for some time.
“What the hell’s with that guy?” The moment the soldier left, Jiang Xiaotian exploded, raging, “And didn’t I tell you, no puppy love?”
He’s the one with a crush on me, not vice versa. So why are you blaming me?
“I don’t have a crush on him. It’s just that if I don’t use him, it’d be tough getting in here,” I said blandly. Although I could sneak in, it would make much life easier if I could straight up walk through the door rather than having to sneak around.
When he heard that, Jiang Xiaotian froze. Emotions warred across the three year old’s face, making me feel bad.
“Dàgē, I feel like these barracks are too lax.” I changed topics, taking the chance to voice the discomfort I was feeling, and said, “Although the people outside are starting to starve, it hasn’t reached the stage where they lose all control. The soldiers in here can still laugh as well, so it seems like there haven’t been too many casualties either. But this doesn’t make sense. With so many people here and a whole four months into the apocalypse, some aberrants must have been able to make their way in here. Life shouldn’t be this easy for them.”
Jiang Xiaotian had a think before replying, “Really? I suppose my situation was a little unique so I can’t really compare. Back then, I had a whole mercenary troop with me, about to start a large-scale mission. We had a lot of firepower and plentiful supplies, so average aberrants weren’t our match.”
I knew it, there’s no point in comparing lives.
I mumbled in dismay, “And now that I’ve called this world’s you back home, this you has nothing, and you even have to keep searching everywhere for your dìdi.”
Jiang Xiaotian barked a laugh and said, “Believe me, he’s much luckier than I am.”
I gazed at Jiang Xiaotian and asked for the first time, “So you’re the last of the Jiang family left over there?”
Jiang Xiaotian froze, then gave a silent nod.
I enveloped Jiang Xiaotian in a hug and even pushed my chin down hard on his little head. Then I stuffed him a pack of crackers.
As for him, he didn’t seem to mind the weight of his dìdi, and didn’t care about his image. He just let me hug him and sat in my arms, silently munching on his crackers.
“Say, once we find Dàgē and the others, if I lied to everyone, saying that you’re Dàgē’s illegitimate son that I happened to pick up on the way, do you think they’ll believe me?”
“Dàgē, you’re terrible!”
“Men don’t need to care about that stuff.”
“Then what about me?”
Jiang Xiaotian narrowed his eyes as he snapped, “No puppy love!”
That’s totally unreasonable! I laughed so hard that I fell over, still hugging to him all the while. Whereas Jiang Xiaotian, despite knowing that he was unreasonable, maintained a stony expression without any sign of changing his mind, and continued eating his crackers even though he was now lying on his side.
Gosh, my dàgē can’t possibly be this cute. Hahaha~