Dominion’s End Volume 3: Ice-Bound Splendor and Majesty
Original novel in Chinese by: 御 我 (Yu Wo)
Prologue: Three Days—translated by Elkin (proofread by Arcedemius & Trespasserby; C/E edited by lucathia)
Dàgē and the others are right there!
“Calm down. You can go in after three days.” Jiang Xiaotian patted my shoulder, the picture of absolute serenity.
I ground my teeth, gazing at the tall walls that were topped with barbed wire. This is no obstacle to me. I just have to get across, and Dàgē and the others will be there, waiting for me!
“I want to go in. I miss Junjun, I miss Dàgē, I miss Uncle and Auntie, and even the rest of the troop!”
Jiang Xiaotian shook his head, replying, “If the me from here were inside, then you could go ahead and force your way in. You’d be able to break out together in that case. But the mercenaries inside probably aren’t them.”
Why not? I glared at Jiang Xiaotian. It has to be them!
“Not a lot of the JDT have come over. I don’t think I would blatantly declare myself as a ‘mercenary troop.’ I’d probably split them into two teams, each team pretending to be civilians who banded together.”
I froze. That makes so much sense. How stupid would you have to be to declare yourself to be a mercenary troop in front of an army? You’re just asking to be subordinated! My dàgē would never do something so stupid.
After finally regaining my senses, I pondered for a moment, then said, “There won’t be two teams. Not all of them would come over. The JDT is carrying around too many supplies, so if they brought them all here, the supplies would definitely get taken away. So they probably only sent a few people, and the others would be somewhere close by, to protect the supplies but also be ready to jump in at any time.”
Jiang Xiaotian gave a nod and continued, “In terms of personnel, I’d definitely be sent over. Yunqian would be on watch on the perimeter of the camp, using her sniper scope. For the remaining people, we can eliminate Uncle, Auntie, and Junjun from the list. Cain is a foreigner and Lily is a mix, so they’re too eye catching. So it’s probably Zheng Xing and Xiao Sha who are accompanying me. Xiao Sha and I could pass off as brothers, while Zheng Xing would probably be an uncle or something.”
“Auntie might come.” I gave the glaring Jiang Xiaotian an innocent look and said, “The last time Dàgē went to salvage supplies in the city, he took Auntie along with him. She has the ability to sense living things in her surroundings, so it should be pretty handy for finding people. And you’ll be less suspicious if you have a middle-aged housewife in the group!”
Dàgē, Zheng Xing, and Xiao Sha is a combination that’ll definitely get suspected!
Jiang Xiaotian frowned and nodded, not raising any objections. “So don’t be in such a rush to get in. We can look for Yunqian in the surrounding area. She’ll probably be hiding in a high vantage point close by.”
When I heard that, my eyes lit up and I immediately set off to find Yunqian. But the moment I turned around, I saw a group of people with clearly hostile intentions. If their eyes weren’t fixed on me, they were pinned to my backpack. Thankfully, they were mostly focused on my backpack, so there were at most a few glances at my face.
But of course! This is just four months into the apocalypse, so there’s no way there’ll be so many morally bankrupt and desperate people running around, wanting to rape someone in broad daylight. And we’re talking about raping a guy, okay? That’s too extreme.
“Yo, looks like you got quite a lot of stuff in that backpack, huh!”
I quietly examined them. There were five people, all men. Right now, women didn’t have the power to rob others and had no choice but to be the victim. Of course, this was talking about women other than those like Lily, Yunqian, and Feng-jiě.
There were another dozen-odd people standing a few steps away, who looked like they still had some morals intact, so they hadn’t come up front to rob me directly. But if these five people made the first move, the others probably wouldn’t mind dashing in to snatch up whatever fell out of my backpack, like cans and such.
“Kiddo, why duncha you help out a pal?” one of them couldn’t resist but blurt out first, his eyes greedily staring at my backpack.
I better switch to using a luggage case in the future. At least you can’t tell if a box has anything inside, but my backpack is crammed to the max, so it’s super obvious from just one look that it’s full of supplies. That is, unless I’m some idiot who likes carrying around bricks.
Someone else urged them on, “Shut your trap. Just take it and go; otherwise, none of us are getting anything if those soldiers come around!”
When everyone heard that, they shut their mouths and closed in on me. Someone even raised his fist, probably planning to knock me down, take my bag, and go.
I frowned at them. It wasn’t a problem for me to beat up these people, but I didn’t want to draw the attention of the military because things would get very complicated afterwards. The best way to avoid any complications was to run away.
I’d better take care to avoid people’s attention in the future; otherwise, robberies like today would keep happening. Besides, who could blame them? Jiang Shuyu looked like a frail, pretty boy who was easy to rob.
“What’s going on!”
I turned to see the two soldiers, Chen Yanqing and Guo Hong. The former was holding onto a baguette, drawing the bystanders’ gazes and making them drool. If he hadn’t been in a military uniform and wielding a gun, he was even more likely to get robbed than me!
Sensing something off about the situation, they rushed over with looks of anger. Chen Yanqing glared at me, scolding, “Didn’t I tell you to wait by the registration counter? What are you doing out here?”
I looked down, pretending to be apologetic, in time to see Jiang Xiaotian yawning. But the moment he sensed my gaze, he put on a nonchalant look. However, his sheet white face betrayed him.
By the time Chen Yanqing had finished telling me off, the five had gone their own ways with bitter looks. Judging from their expressions, if not for the fact that Chen Yanqing had a gun, they probably wouldn’t have been so willing to back down. It seemed like food supplies were starting to run low. Only hunger would make people fearless in the face of death.
With over half the human population wiped out in one go, food wasn’t too difficult to come by during the first year into the apocalypse. Far more people died at the claws of aberrants rather than due to starvation. But probably because there were too many people gathered here, they’d run out of food in the neighborhood. As for Luo’an City that was right next door, only the military dared to venture in there. With limited personnel, of course food was in short supply.
People had to starve a bit more before they would dare to pick up weapons and fight it out with the aberrants.
I lifted my head. Chen Yanqing was still glaring at me in anger. How unusual, he clearly hadn’t seemed the caring type before, but he looked like he was pretty concerned today… Please don’t tell me you fell in love at first sight and are treating it as true love. You’ll be diced up by my Dàgēs for dog feed, and the two of them will do it at the same time!
“What’d you run out here for?” Guo Hong said with a look of deep disapproval, “Times have changed, and you’re still carrying around your… son with you. Don’t you know you should be avoiding danger? Why’d you run out here?”
“To look for people.” I gazed at the military zone, not needing to disguise the anxiety I felt.
“Why’d you come to the more distant camps when you’re looking for people? This isn’t the main entrance…” Guo Hong grumbled in confusion.
Chen Yanqing asked sharply, “Don’t tell me you were thinking of climbing the wall?”
I froze. They had guessed correctly. I was, in fact, looking for a more remote area to see if I could get over the wall.
The two soldiers stared at me in disbelief.
I forcefully changed the subject, asking, “Is that bread for me? But what I need isn’t food but a place to stay. My little Xiaotian’s falling asleep. We haven’t slept much the past few days because we’ve been rushing around…”
I subtly pinched Xiaotian, and he immediately gave a huge yawn, leaning against my thigh with half-closed eyes, looking as if he were about to doze off any moment. It was so realistic that I felt like he wasn’t acting at all but that he really was feeling that exhausted.
“Your son doesn’t look well. Is he sick?” Guo Hong asked as he ruffled Jiang Xiaotian’s hair, causing the child’s face to look even worse.
“He’s not sick, just tired.” I hastily explained, then added sadly, “It’s all my fault. I’ve been so focused on finding people that I’ve tired Xiaotian out.”
“Is he really your son?” Chen Yanqing asked softly.
This was embarrassing as hell but Jiang Xiaotian gripped my thigh unrelentingly, so I had no choice but to nod.
After a moment’s hesitation, Chen Yanqing asked, “Are you looking for your wife?”
“…” I braced myself and admitted, “Yes! If you know a woman called Ceng Yunqian, please let me know. She’s quite a bit older than me, almost in her thirties. She boxes so she’s very fit, with toned arm muscles, and she has very short hair…”
After describing every one of Yunqian’s characteristics in detail, I went on and gave them information about Dàgē, my Èrgē, Xiao Sha, and Auntie, in hopes that they might be able to help look for them in the military zone.
Guo Hong and Chen Yanqing’s eyes were bulging so widely that I felt really bad. That was to be expected. Xiaotian looked to be all of three, and I was only eighteen, so just how young was I when I was procreating? And I vaguely remembered that under a certain age, it was considered to be sexual assault under the law, no matter whether it was consensual or not…
As Chen Yanqing continued staring at me in disbelief, Guo Hong patted my shoulder, remarking, “Let’s go. We’ll help arrange for you to share a tent with a family with a child. That’ll be safer for you.”
I bent down to scoop up Jiang Xiaotian, and he reflexively hugged me and sprawled on my shoulder. He looked like he was still pretending to be a sleepy child, but in fact, I could feel the weight of his head pressing against my shoulder, and his entire body was slack, a completely different sensation to all the previous times when he had hugged me back with energy.
I better let Xiaotian get some rest soon! I really wanted to yell at myself for dragging Jiang Xiaotian on a wild goose chase around the campsite, so intent on finding Dàgē and the others that I hadn’t realized there was something wrong with mini Dàgē who was right next to me.
Following the two soldiers, I traveled through more than half of the campsite. Just now, I’d been too focused on finding a place to get into the military zone, so I had completely ignored the condition of the campsite. Well, now I had a good view.
The campsite really was quite large. As expected of the refugee camp built by the military, there were tightly packed tents everywhere. But there were even more people who were just sleeping in open air, an obvious sign that there weren’t enough tents to go around. With autumn setting in, the night breezes were quite chilly, so they had covered themselves in a medley of warm things, ranging from coats, blankets, and sleeping bags to even thick skirts.
Perhaps I should thank these two soldiers for being able to snag a tent to share… No, the thanks should go to Jiang Shuyu’s face!
The two of them brought me to a tent that was quite close to the main gate of the military zone. It seemed like people measured distance by how far places were from the main gate, which was fair enough. Everyone wanted to get into the military zone, so the closer they were to the main gate, the better.
After a moment’s thought, I realized it was possible that Dàgē and the others might come out to find me. Living close to the main gate meant you could see all the comings and goings through the gate, so it was also possible that we’d run into each other entirely by accident.
Guo Hong lifted the tent flap, saying, “You’ll be staying here in this tent. Don’t go running around again for the next three days.”
I obediently nodded as I replied, “I understand.” But this didn’t mean that I was going to listen to him.
Chen Yanqing declared loudly, “I’ll be visiting you over the next few days…” He paused, then dragged me away from the tent and asked quietly, “I still don’t know your name?”
I replied without any hesitation, “Jiang Shuyu, the ‘jiang’ from bianjiang, boundary. My surname is quite unique. It’ll be great if you could help check if my family are inside.”
The two soldiers nodded. Guo Hong said honestly, “It’s not likely we’ll be able to find out. There are too many people inside.”
I was well aware of that. Although Dàgē was very eye-catching, in places like this, he’d try his best to blend in and wouldn’t attract people’s attention.
“It’s fine.” I said in an understanding tone of voice, “In any case, I can go in after three days and search for myself.”
The two soldiers nodded.
“Be careful, okay?” Chen Yanqing said, unable to relax, “If anyone does anything to you, just run and wait by the main gate. Those people won’t dare to kick up a fuss there. I’ll also be visiting you every day. I’ve got your back.”
I really didn’t know what to say to that. This guy was actually serious, dispelling any thoughts I might have had of using him. I can’t abuse other people’s sincerity!
Guo Hong gave Chen Yanqing the evil eye and quickly explained, “He doesn’t mean you any harm, seriously.”
Seriously, he only means love.
I said a little awkwardly, “I know.”
Chen Yanqing snapped angrily, “I’m not gonna do anything, I just don’t want to see him getting into trouble. I know I talk, but since when have you ever seen me try and pull something, huh?”
“Never.” Guo Hong rubbed his nose before mumbling, “But maybe you will this time?”
I saw Chen Yanqing’s face start twitching, a sign that he was about to beat up his colleague, so I hastily changed the topic, saying, “I’ll take my child in so he can sleep.”
The two glanced at Jiang Xiaotian and Guo Hong urged me, “Go in. Children are the most precious.”
I breathed a sigh of relief, pushed aside the tent flap, and ducked under it. There were three people in there, two adults and a child…
I blinked. The child crawled over and looked up at me, her little face wreathed in smiles. It was the girl who had given me the pair of flip flops!
“Hello, we meet again,” I replied with a smile. As expected, the other two turned out to be the couple from the bus.
The man kept stealing glances at the bread in my hand and my backpack, greed showing on his face, but the mother and daughter next to him looked to be good people. It was like seeing a beautiful flower planted on a piece of cow shit that had even sprouted a little flower bud. It made me speechless.
He asked eagerly, “Can you really get in after three days?”
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. Isn’t he giving away the fact that he was eavesdropping by asking the question? I replied with a question of my own in confusion, “Can’t we get in three days after registration?”
“Don’t be an idiot!” the man immediately refuted. “There are too many people, so they choose who gets to go in. I’ve heard that women and children are easier to be selected, and for men, unless they join the army, there’s no chance of getting selected at all. And joining the army basically means you’re going to be cannon fodder!”
But Chen Yanqing said that I could go in after three days. Did he say this to make me stay put for a few days, or does he have some pull so he has a way of getting me in for sure?
Neither option sounded good. The first meant that I wouldn’t get in, while the second made me feel like I was taking advantage of his feelings. I really didn’t do anything. I didn’t even throw a flirtatious look at him! I blame Jiang Shuyu’s looks for this!
“Why are you telling him this?” the woman said irritably, “Can’t you see that boy’s almost fast asleep? Let them come in and get some rest.”
To his credit, the man didn’t object, but he did grumble, “It’s already so cramped and now we have two more people.”
“Other tents are even more cramped!” The woman snapped back, “I saw six adults crammed in the tent next to us. I have no idea how they’re all going to fit in. If we didn’t have these two children with us, we’d definitely get more people staying with us.”
When he heard that, the man stopped complaining.
The woman gave Jiang Xiaotian and me a smile, and she remarked, “What an adorable pair of children. What are your names?”
“He’s called Xiaotian. You can call me Xiao Yu.”
She nodded and introduced herself as well. “My family name is Chen, so just call me Auntie Chen. This is my daughter. We like to call her Beibei.”
I immediately greeted her politely as “Auntie Chen,” never mind that she only looked to be in her early thirties and was probably younger than Guan Weijun had been when she died. It felt pretty odd to call someone “Auntie” like this. But since I’d decided that I was Jiang Shuyu, this meant I was an eighteen year old young man. I’d be calling a lot of people “Auntie” and “Uncle” in the future, so I’d better get used to it!
The man twitched his lips and said, “Why make us sound so old? Just call me Zhang-gē.”
Your wife is Auntie Chen, so don’t you feel ashamed if I called you Zhang-gē?
I called out, taking care to enunciate every syllable extra clearly, “Nice to meet you, Great Uncle Zhang!”
Auntie Chen muffled a laugh while Zhang-dàshū’s face twisted up in rage. I even saw him clench his fists, but only for a moment, before he relaxed his hands again. If I guessed right, he probably didn’t dare to upset someone who had been personally escorted here by two soldiers. But he was lucky that he didn’t have the guts; otherwise… hohoho!
With this little interlude, Beibei, who’d originally wanted to jump over, no longer dared to anymore. She huddled in her mother’s arms, staring at Jiang Xiaotian and me with round eyes.
Seeing that, I couldn’t be bothered to talk to them anymore. In any case, we’d be going our own ways in three days’ time, so we shouldn’t get too attached. Otherwise, my saint complex would kick in and I’d be trapped between a rock and hard place.
I laid out some clothes on the floor and let Xiaotian sleep on them. His face was still incredibly pale, and he was so deeply asleep that we hadn’t woken him up at all. This was really worrying, but there was nothing I could do about it. Right now, the highest tier crystals out there were just tier one crystals, but even those amounted to peanuts for someone as high tiered as the Ice Emperor. They were of little use to him.
I tore off a third of the baguette and passed it to Auntie Chen. She looked a little startled but still accepted it with thanks, and then she immediately split it with her husband and daughter.
But Uncle Zhang glared unhappily at the remaining loaf, complaining, “There’s just one of you eating such a big piece of bread. Aren’t you worried you’ll choke to death?”
I frowned. If not for the fact that this bread had been a gift, I wouldn’t share it with anyone. After all, if Dàgē and the others weren’t here, I’d continue on my chase after them. More food meant less time needed to fill my belly. But I couldn’t be bothered to argue with this piece of shit. There’s only one thing I have to say on this matter: you can go to hell for all I care after the three days are up.
After eating and drinking my fill, I lay down. The tent wasn’t very big, so I had to curl up to avoid crowding the others.
I hugged Jiang Xiaotian to my chest, and when I sensed the chilliness of his little body, I became more worried. But the only thing I could do was secure him in my arms and try to warm him up with my body heat. But probably because I’d slept for the whole day, I couldn’t fall asleep and all sorts of stuff kept going through my mind.
Going forward, I can’t just focus on catching up with Dàgē. I also have to keep an eye on Xiaotian’s condition. I can’t afford to let him help me strengthen my powers—it’s obviously bad for his health!
I wonder if Dàgē’s healing powers will work on Xiaotian?
If it doesn’t work, will Xiaotian slowly grow up? Or will he remain a three year-old until powerful enough crystals make their appearance…?
As I drifted between sleep and wakefulness, I suddenly felt someone grab onto me. Angrily, I turned over. If Zhang-dàshū was making a move on me, I’d immediately make his wife a widow!
But instead, I saw a little girl hugging my waist from behind, staring at me with her large, soulful eyes.
I relaxed. I really was too nervous. The world hadn’t gone off the rails to the point where a husband would make a move on a boy when he had his wife and daughter next to him. Most people now were still normal.
“What’s wrong? You can’t sleep?” I asked softly, rubbing Beibei’s head.
Beibei said in a small voice, “Dà-gēge, I heard lots of strange sounds.”
“What kinds of sounds?” I was a little curious. Perhaps it’s another peculiar ability.
Beibei said with a little difficulty, “Lots of sounds.”
I sank into deep thought. Perhaps she’s the same as Suying and has the power to read people’s minds? So she’s now hearing the thoughts of people around her?
“There’s a person. He sounds very scary.” Beibei whimpered, “Mommy says it’s not real, b-but Beibei really can hear him. Below!”
Below? I blinked.
Beibei’s embrace became even tighter, and she asked anxiously, “Dà-gēge, is it those scary monsters we saw that are crying out?”
I quietly reassured her, “You don’t need to be scared. Lots of people here will protect you.”
“Gēge, protect Beibei!”
Beibei refused to let me go. I looked between Xiaotian and Beibei, then I cast a hopeful look at the girl’s mother, but no luck, she was sound asleep and hadn’t realized that her daughter had slipped out from her arms to snuggle in someone else’s.
I had no choice but to hug Xiaotian with my right arm and Beibei with my left. As I lay there in the odd situation of holding two children to sleep, a bad feeling about this blossomed in my heart.
Some people say that the saint complex is incurable.