Dominion’s End Volume 3: Ice-Bound Splendor and Majesty
Original novel in Chinese by: 御我 (Yu Wo)
Chapter 10: Returning Home, Part Two—translated by Michimochi (proofread by Arcedemius & Lala Su; C/E edited by lucathia)
When I regained consciousness, it was because I was starving.
My stomach growled a whole symphony. I struggled to sit up. The entire room spun. I touched my chest; it didn’t hurt. My injuries should be healed. This dizziness is completely caused by hunger.
Sitting up, my feet brushed against a sapling. Jiang Xiaorong had been placed beside the bed. He didn’t react at all. I bet he’s sleeping? Is there such a thing as plants needing sleep? I really don’t know. However, Xiaorong can walk, shiver, and eat aberrants. Sleeping wouldn’t be abnormal at all.
Slowly, I got out of bed, wanting to call Shujun over to make something for her almost-starved-to-death èrgē. Just when I gripped the doorknob, I heard voices outside and stopped immediately.
“How’s your èrgē doing? Has, has he been…”
This was Dàgē’s voice, hurried and miserable. He didn’t even finish. Have I been what?
“I checked while I helped wipe Èrgē down.” Shujun said quietly, “There was no visible trace. But if it’s been too long, it can also be undetectable.”
Wait a minute, when you helped wipe me down, you did what to me? Why do I have a very bad feeling about this?!
“Is that so?” Dàgē said in a calm voice. It was only a few short words, but they carried deep grief and remorse. This manner of speaking was too much like the Ice Emperor. My chest suddenly felt tight. Not wanting to continue listening to them speaking in such a way anymore, I pulled open the door. The two of them even jumped in surprise. This kind of remorseful and unsettling appearance made me both angry and amused.
“Shujun, when you wiped me down, what did you do? And why are you the one who helped wipe me down?”
I looked at Dàgē, shooting merciless stares filled with dissatisfaction. You let a girl wipe down a man? Siblings or not, one is eighteen and the other is fifteen. Do you think this is proper?
Dàgē awkwardly said, “Shujun insisted on it. She said she can’t relax if I do it, saying that she was afraid my actions would be too rough and hurt you.”
I’m already tier two. How rough can you be to injure me when wiping me down? Do you think you’re the Ice Emperor…? Ugh, I can’t make that kind of comparison. My chest hurts.
I peered at Junjun, carrying a disapproving look.
Junjun, on the other hand, had red eyes and was even crying. Before the apocalypse, she didn’t cry this much. After the apocalypse, people clearly became stronger, yet how did she become such a crybaby?
She cried, “Èrgē, you don’t remember how terrible you looked when you came back. The clothes on your body were all tattered and ragged. Your upper body was only left with a bit of tattered cloth.”
Sigh, damaging clothes is unavoidable on the battlefield. It’s not like those clothes were made of aberrant skin. They’re easily damaged. Plus, Thirteen and I had fought, then I got shot several times by the MORC. To have these clothes still hanging on after that, these materials must actually have been pretty good.
“And you were barefoot. You weren’t even wearing any shoes!”
In order to practice my ice ability, to be ready to fight at anytime, the Ice Emperor forbade me from wearing any shoes, so what could I do?
“And you were carrying a potted plant on your back. Your whole image looked completely wrong!”
That’s Jiang Xiaorong.
Junjun’s tears poured forth again. I followed her line of sight and found out that she was looking at my arms.
“Your arms are even branded with tattoos… Èrgē, you, were you caught by someone?”
I couldn’t help but become depressed. Looking at the ice pattern just reminded me of the Ice Emperor’s shattered disappearance. My eyelids felt hot. My chest tightened. I couldn’t even grate out one word. I’m so scared that it would come out as sobs, rather than words.
Junjun cried on my chest. I put my arms around her, even more afraid to speak, afraid that I may follow her lead and cry. Men dripped blood, not tears. I already shed too many tears. Junjun’s becoming a puddle of tears could be attributed to how it’s said that women are made of water. The me in this life is a guy made of mud, a crybaby!
Dàgē raged furiously, “Who dared to do this to, to you…who dared to injure you? And even forcibly tattoo your body. I will absolutely not let them get away with this!”
Sigh, the one who injured me was the MORC, and the one who tattooed me was the Ice Emperor… Wait, this isn’t even tattoo, hey!
I was about to explain clearly. Who knew that raising my head up and looking at Dàgē’s face would remind me of the Ice Emperor, and my tears are on the verge of escaping once more? I hastily lowered my head, not daring to look at him again.
Dàgē mournfully said, “It’s Dàgē who didn’t protect you. Everything is all my fault…”
“That’s not the case!” I interrupted him. I can’t continue like this. Dàgē and Xiǎomèi are feeling guilty already, I can’t continue this crying but not crying. They will feel even more remorseful.
I hastily blinked, blinking back all my tears, then decisively said, “Junjun, make me something to eat. Your èrgē is almost dying of starvation.”
Hearing this, Junjun nodded her head at once, saying, “Okay. I’ll go make your favorite dishes.”
“Make something watery.” I hesitated for a moment, then confessed, “I think I haven’t eaten for several days. I’m a bit muddled with time.”
Junjun pouted, “Okay, I’ll go make you some porridge.”
Seeing Junjun immediately turn and leave, I wanted to follow her down the stairs.
Dàgē said in a strained manner, “Where are you going?”
“I’m gonna get some water to drink.”
Dàgē immediately said, “I’ll go get it for you instead!”
I looked at him strangely and said, “My wounds are pretty much healed. Dàgē, you’re the one who healed me, weren’t you? Isn’t it perfectly clear? I can go myself.”
Dàgē “oh”-ed, scratched his nose, and said not a word, even though he still closely followed me. I’m too lazy to care about him. If either Dàgē or Xiǎomèi went missing and didn’t come back for a long time, I’m pretty sure that I would also nervously follow along closely behind.
Stepping down the stairs, I found that this building was actually enormous—a rectangular structure spreading horizontally. On the two sides, there were numerous rooms. In the back, there was a spacious courtyard.
This wasn’t even a residential building. No, I should say this was a residential house a long time ago, and it was even a house for the rich. But now, it was a historical site. It had the feel of a vintage villa. The house looked Western, but the back courtyard had a small bridge, a murmuring brook, and a pavilion that were Chinese in style. What made me speechless was that there was a clock tower on one side. A mishmash of Western and Chinese—now that’s strange. I was pretty sure that it was a foreigner who had lived here.
I took a bottle of mineral water, drank a little, and meandered. On the way, I met Uncle and Auntie. They seemed as if they had also come to see how I was doing. It was probably Junjun who told them the news that I was awake.
“Xiao Yu!” Auntie rushed over. Her eyes reddened, the same reaction as Junjun. This made my heart feel warm. To have family is really a nice thing.
Uncle, on the other hand, kept repeating, “It’s good that you are back.”
“How come you’re not wearing more clothing? Just wearing a t-shirt, when the weather is this cold. What if you get sick?” She glared at Dàgē who was behind me and nagged, “Do you know how to take care of your younger brother? You are his dàgē. Can’t you be more considerate?”
“I’ll go get a jacket immediately.” Dàgē once again revealed a remorseful look.
I chuckled and said, “No need. It’s not cold. I have the ice ability. Even if I’m frozen, I wouldn’t be cold. I’m not affected by the cold weather.”
Of course, I was only tier-two. A very intense chilly gust could still hurt me. For example, the Ice Emperor’s chilly ice ability could still easily freeze me into a popsicle, but this trivial weather condition couldn’t do anything to me. Unless I was mental and stood outside when it’s negative twenty or thirty degrees for many days, there was still a higher probability of me collapsing than getting frostbite.
“Is that so?”
Auntie finally relaxed, then examined me. She kept asking concerned questions along the lines of “does it hurt,” “did you get injured,” “are you hungry?” Uncle, who was next to her, didn’t say anything, but he listened very closely.
I repeatedly replied “I’m all right” and didn’t feel annoyed. I only felt warm and cozy, itching for Auntie to ask me everything again.
Not long after, Junjun rushed over to say, “Èrgē, food’s ready. Come and eat.”
Once I heard of food, I almost salivated. I followed her to the dining table at once.
There was a huge bowl of porridge placed on the table. It didn’t seem like it was merely plain porridge. There were a ton of ingredients, but they were all chopped into pieces so small I couldn’t really tell what they were.
Junjun hastily said, “Èrgē, you can just eat porridge. You shouldn’t be eating anything else. In the porridge, there are a ton of tiny fish pieces. It’s not plain porridge. If you don’t like it, at least have some. I’m brewing soup right now.”
Plain porridge or fish porridge, as long as it can fill the stomach all are good porridge. Just don’t add chicken soup and Chinese medicine and it’s all good!
Already unbearably hungry, I picked up the soup spoon and began to dig in. It was a bit hot, so I chilled it with a bit of cool air. I ate spoonful by spoonful, not daring to eat too quickly to avoid a stomachache.
Watching me eat, Junjun relaxed and murmured, “Fortunately, Èrgē didn’t become anorexic.”
Now, I’m stumped. Why would I get anorexic out of nowhere? Are all the other ways of dying in the apocalypse not enough?
“Are the others not eating?” I wondered. Going by the clock on the wall, it’s almost noon. It should be around lunchtime.
Junjun nodded her head. “I’m almost done. I’ll go serve the dishes. Dàgē, help me call everyone to lunch.”
Dàgē hesitated for a moment and even glanced at me. I was unable to make heads or tails of it, and returned a bewildered look back at him. What do you want? You’re being so odd. Dàgē, did you also get hit on the head by a tile?
“Okay, I’ll go.”
Then, while I ate my porridge, I watched as the mercenaries walked in. One by one, I counted until not a single familiar face was missing. Then, I released a breath but also discovered that there wasn’t a single person more. Dàgē actually didn’t take in any new people!
You know, when I was wandering around by myself out there, I had my eye on several people that I wanted to bring back… Wait, how come I don’t see any of those college students?
Forget it, I’ll ask after I’m done eating. After all, those guys aren’t important.
“Xiao Yu.” Lily smiled. “You lost so much weight. Eat some more.”
I nodded my head.
After that, Dàgē said in a deep voice, “Everyone, dig in.”
It’s so quiet at the table. How is this like the silly mercenaries from before? It’s nothing less than a group of ladies and gents. When did our group start to become particular about being silent while eating?
I bewilderedly watched this silent group. Everyone had their heads ducked and were digging into their food. No one dares to say anything. What’s going on?
“After I was caught by the bird, did anything happen in the group?” I asked uneasily.
Dàgē calmly said, “Nothing. We were searching for you.”
“Oh, I was also searching for you guys. Although I wanted to come back earlier, I encountered many things…” I stopped saying anything, not sure how to continue so I could completely skip over mentioning anything about the Ice Emperor.
Cain, who was sitting to the side, suddenly said, “Those things don’t matter at all. You can just think of it like being bitten by a dog.”
Huh? Right now, which kind of dog can actually bite me? Cerberus? I was completely baffled and looked around at everyone. In my heart lurked a bad feeling. Did everyone misunderstand something?
Cain patted my back and consoled, “You are a guy anyway. We don’t need to care about that chastity stuff. Don’t mind this kind of thing.”
Before I could react, Ceng Yunqian suddenly blew up. She jumped up and punched Cain fiercely. Once she knocked the other down, she even followed that up by rushing forward and kicking him. She roared, “Keep your trap shut! What nonsense are you saying! Can you be even more stupid? Everyone, help me beat him to death!”
All the gang rushed over to trample over Cain, and even Dàgē put on a frosty face and turned a blind eye. He seemed as if he also wanted to join in kicking the person.
Chastity stuff? And matching that with Dàgē and Junjun’s conversation outside the room, I finally thoroughly understood and was also stumped. Did everyone actually think I was raped?
Holy crap. Considering how Shujun described the condition I was in when I came back, it really did sound like the condition of a mentally imbalanced lady who had suffered from violence.
My expression turned dark.
“Shuyu!” Dàgē anxiously said, “Don’t mind him. Cain always spouts nonsense! We all know that you’re O.K.”
He looked at Cain. How rare. He used a very dangerous glare to face his own mercenary gang, making Cain panic. Dàgē’s face showed that he couldn’t wait for everyone to trample Cain even harder, and it was best if they beat him close to death. Let the big boss appease his anger.
I hastened to clarify, “Really, I’m O.K.!”
They all worked hard to show a “yeah, you’re really O.K.” kind of expression.
Even jumping into bleach can’t clear this up. I can’t really talk about the Ice Emperor in front of the troop, but there is something else that I can at least explain clearly.
I rushed back to my room, almost got lost, then came back carrying a pot. I raised the pot high and said, “This is Jiang Xiaorong.”
Everyone looked at me with pity in their eyes. Junjun and Auntie stood at the side carrying dishes, sobbing until they couldn’t catch their breaths. Dàgē looked as if he was going to go insane.
I released a bit of cold air, freezing Jiang Xiaorong ruthlessly. He got so cold that he jumped out of the pot. He landed on the ground then coiled into a ball. He was just as pitiful as he appeared.
Shujun’s tears stopped. They stared stupidly at the little sapling that was shivering on the ground. Dàgē narrowed his eyes at Jiang Xiaorong. His face seemed even more dangerous!
Dàgē, how can we make you drop that dangerous attitude? Feel free to say it, Dìdì will carry it all out!
“He’s a banyan tree that I picked up on the way. He originally grew really big, then he withered. Only this tiny bit was left, so I brought him back with me. Xiaorong is very obedient and isn’t an aberrant. He is a banyan tree that has experienced the black fog.”
I picked up Jiang Xiaorong from the ground, then raised one of his branches and waved it.
“Xiaorong, here. Come and say hi to the big brothers and big sisters.”
He wiggled a bit. Once he had struggled free, he shrank beneath my clothes, not wanting to come out and meet anyone.
“As for this…” I looked at the ice pattern on my hands, gave a wry smile, and said, “This isn’t a tattoo. It can be said to be a type of power.”
I concentrated a bit. The silvery blue ice pattern emitted a glow, and I delightfully looked at everyone’s stupefied expressions.
“So that means, you for sure didn’t get raped, right?” Cain blurted, then quickly covered his own mouth. But he still received everyone’s simultaneous glares. He was so scared that I didn’t even want to say anything anymore.
Cain better level up his fire ability, or else one day he’ll definitely die from that mouth of his.
“Heck no!” I rolled my eyes, purposely using especially crude words to shout, “In this life, only I can fuck others! No one can top me! If anyone wants to try, take off your own pants first!”
People laughed at the crude, vulgar words. They finally believed that nothing had happened to me. They even squinted at Cain’s lower half, scaring him to the point of quickly holding onto his pants and fleeing. Afterwards, Cain poked his head back in and looked around, only for his leader to roll his eyes at him. But Dàgē was now obviously in a cheerful mood, and had no intention of giving him a hard time anymore.
I huffed, “What you looking at? Come over and eat.”
Only then did Cain come in and sit down to eat.
From then on, the dining table finally became noisy. Ceng Yunqian mocked Cain non-stop, calling him big chested and brainless. Yeah, big chested and brainless. His chest muscles were so big that he lost only to Lily.
How noisy. My lips curled. Finally, I can eat with no worries.
“Èrgē, so you want to be a seme, huh?” After knowing it was a misunderstanding, Junjun happily, even ecstatically, said, “Then, how about Xiao Sha? His figure is more suitable!”
Xiao Sha almost spit out the food in his mouth. Under the teasing eyes of the group, he grabbed his bowl and fled.
Cain howled in amusement.
I said in a cool voice, “No, I like muscular men better.”
The number of people grabbing their bowl and fleeing went up by one.
“Is that so?” Junjun pondered for a moment and said, “But Cain looks unfaithful to me. Èrgē, you should find one outside the group in the future.”
I twisted my head to look at Junjun. How did my gentle and cute Junjun become like this in a mere five months of the apocalypse? As expected, since people change fast after the apocalypse, my cute and gentle little sister has become this unrestrained fujoshi. Sob!
To the side, Dàgē had on a “You’re the one who led her astray” kind of expression, wanting to be completely left out of this.
Forget it. In any case, Junjun had even inspected me while wiping me down. Now, I understood where she had inspected. Just thinking about it makes me want to spit a mouthful of clotted blood. How come I feel a faint sadness like my chastity is gone?
After clearing up the misunderstanding during mealtime, Dàgē and Junjun no longer carried any grief or reddened eyes. Junjun even joyously said that she and Auntie were making cake to celebrate my safe return. Even during the apocalypse, I can eat handmade cake. No happiness can beat this!
“Dàgē, take me for a look around. I want to look at the surrounding environment.”
I came back, had my share of pain, and could no longer keep drowning in my mourning. Because I still have this whole family to protect. The most important thing right now is to inspect the surroundings. I can’t let whatever bird flock come again and risk losing another member.
Dàgē nodded his head, and led me around the outside of the house, explaining one detail after another. This Western house actually had stone walls. It really is a pretty good place to reside in.
In the end, we sat in the clock tower in the courtyard. I completely understood why Dàgē had chosen this western house. Just the view from this tower is already worth it.
“Old Town is pretty nice. Lan City, which is nearby, is even bigger than Zhongguan City. In the daytime, we can go there to search for supplies, then come back at night. The residence is located on top of a hill, in a high topographical location. As long as we add a monitoring station here in the clock tower, we can see pretty far in every direction. This location is even better than our house.”
I nodded in agreement and said, “You must have spent a ton of effort to conquer this kind of mansion.”
Dàgē indifferently said, “It was only some aberrants and some bullets. If there were people living here, then that would have been a problem. But since it’s so close to Lan City, there’s probably no one who would dare to live here. At least up until now, we still haven’t found anyone.”
At the foot of the mountains lay a forest of urban skyscrapers, like a ferocious monster ready to bite people at any time. If the average person could escape from there, then they would indeed try to get as far away as possible. They would definitely not want to stay in this town that was so close.
“From here on, we will stay in Old Town.” Dàgē said calmly, “We will fortify our defense. We should not just rely on the outer walls for defense. To the aberrants, there’s not much a difference between those walls and paper paste.”
I looked at Dàgē. He and the Ice Emperor really are different. Although the former’s domineering attribute is more obvious than the latter’s, it’s not the kind that would make people feel oppressed. On the other hand, when the Ice Emperor reveals his true power, it’s like you’re on pins and needles, and you’d feel a cold sweat all over.
One had a little brother, a little sister, an uncle, an aunt, and a mercenary troop, while the other had lost everything. The discrepancy just got bigger and bigger. Although I could make out many similarities between the two, it was kind of like a comparison between brothers rather than the exact same person.
But I still liked Dàgē the most. Even though it was the Ice Emperor who had helped me level up to tier two, taught me how to use my ability, and even used up his remaining power to turn into weapons for me, in the end he wasn’t my dàgē and I wasn’t his dìdi.
Now that I thought about it, the Ice Emperor knew this point clearly, too. As a result, he had not been willing to live any longer. Throughout his life, he had lost too many, far too many people. In the very end, he had lost his entire world, so how could he continue living freely?
Even if he wasn’t Dàgē, the Ice Emperor was still a very important family member. It could be said he was another older brother and it wouldn’t have been wrong.
He had said that he wanted to see how I would bring about a different future.
I silently looked at Lan City below. Will this be Thirteen’s base of operations in the future?
“Dàgē, will a small town be enough to satisfy you?”
Dàgē turned his head to glance over and said not a single word in reply, yet he had a look of anticipation for his younger brother’s next sentence.
I narrowed my eyes at the enormous city that devoured people—Thirteen’s aberrant base, huh? Hmph!
“The Jiang territory will conquer Lan City!”
This time, Lan City is the Jiang’s base, not Thirteen’s!
Dàgē curled his lips into a smile and didn’t at all look like the weathered Ice Emperor.
“As you wish.”