Book 1 Prologue - If Life Was Like When We First Met
War wiped out an entire era, yet war created a new world as well.
No one knew exactly when it started, but the nights were no longer shrouded in darkness.
Under the curtain of night, two small, dim glimmers emerged in the distance. They drifted about in the air.
Thick, dark green sewage that consistently released its dense putrid odor flowed everywhere around the area encompassed by these fireflies’ weak lights. The sewage emanated a dismal green glow even in places that were relatively darker, lighting up a small region. Other than the unbearable filthiness of this place, the most dangerous aspect of this place was the radiation present in the sewage which could be found everywhere.
Within the puddles of accumulated sewage, pieces of cloth that had long lost their original colors, thoroughly rusted pots, rotting corpses of unknown creatures, and all types of filthy things floated up and down. From time to time, giant rats over a meter in length would emerge from unknown locations, screeching as they rushed past the sewage before disappearing into the darkness again. The enormous rats seemed almost unaffected by the radiation that was strong enough to kill a robust horse. However, pieces of flesh and hair would occasionally fall from the enormous rats’ bodies, and upon closer inspection, one would find that the flesh had long rotted. It seemed like not even the giant rats were completely unaffected by the radiation.
The two lights rose several meters before stopping at the very top of an inclined steel beam. They then gazed down upon the world in this dark evening. Reflected within those red lights were large buildings left with only their outer shells, houses with half their walls collapsed, and the remains of cars dispersed everywhere.
The gloomy green fluorescence could be seen everywhere under the night sky.
This place was considered a ruin fifty years ago, but now, it was known as a city.
A dazzling flame suddenly erupted at a street corner not too far away. Crazy and hysterical shouts sounded, and the noise was quickly approaching.
The red lights seemed startled, and four transparent wings spread out as they quickly flew high into the sky. A fiery light shone over; a meter-long giant beetle was flying away.
The individual carrying the torch didn’t seem interested in the beetle at all and continued to run after the stream of people in front of him. Occasionally, beast-like roars could be heard.
The flame disappeared into the distance, and the enormous beetle once again concealed itself within the darkness. However, an intense gust of wind suddenly blew past. The giant beetle immediately released a miserable shriek. Its legs that were as sharp as a blade continuously struck down on the bricks and steel bars, drawing forth bright sparks. The four wings continuously fluttered as it struggled for its life, yet it was still slowly dragged into the darkness.
Soon after, what accompanied its screeching sounds were crunching noises.
Within a dark alley, hurried footsteps suddenly sounded. A woman that seemed rather flustered rushed in. As soon as she entered the small alley, she immediately noticed a figure leaning against a wall.
The individual was completely covered by a black blanket, and with its head drooped, it was impossible to make out a face. From the rather petite build, the body seemed to belong to an eight- or nine year-old child.
The woman clenched her teeth and rushed over with a few steps. She forcefully stuffed the cloth wrapping from her arms into that individual’s bosom. With a bitter voice, she said, “I beg you, please save her!”
The fluorescence from the pool of sewage beneath the wall illuminated the woman’s facial features. Even though the light was rather dim, it revealed an extremely young and beautiful face. Her appearance seemed like she was around twenty years old. She had snow white skin that was rarely seen in this era, so much so that it was enough to make other women want to cut her face a few times out of jealousy. Her neck was also long and slender. Frow underneath her jaw, a near perfect curve was outlined. Continuing downwards, her white skin sudden stuck out, drawing out a deep cleavage. Her clothes were extremely thin, and only a few buttons were carelessly buttoned, leaving most of her large breasts exposed. Two alluring protrusions could vaguely be seen from the clothes, and around that area, a few small wet spots were visible. They were likely left behind after feeding a child.
All of this did not even take a full second. Without even waiting for that person to reply, the woman suddenly got up and ran towards the depths of the alley. After running for more than ten meters, she suddenly released an earsplitting scream. Her scream traveled far throughout the rather noisy night. The loud and hysterical group not far off immediately released cries of joy and excitement, and before even a minute had passed, the alley was lit up by torches. More than ten individuals clad in tattered clothing rushed into the alley. Their faces revealed expressions that were both cruel and stimulated as they forced their way into the alley depths.
A rather robust individual waved a large wooden club with iron nails sticking out. His arms shoved the people in front out of the way, and as he chased, he shouted, “When we catch that woman, I want the first taste! I am going to smash apart the head of whoever disagrees!”
Behind him, a slender middle-aged man spoke with a volume that did not match his physique. He laughed loudly and teasingly said, “Fine, Black Duncan. However, that woman had slept with a demon before, so who knows what kind of stuff her body carries. Are you still going to fuck her? Aren’t you scared that when you put it halfway in, your little fellow will rot inside?”
Black Duncan retorted, “Maybe not. I can handle more radiation than you guys.” However, his voice now clearly carried a bit of hesitation.
His hesitation immediately raised the roaring laughter of many people. “Black Duncan, you even dare to fuck a mutated swine, so what are you scared of? Could it be that your little fellow is already rotten? However, your little fellow truly doesn’t seem to match your actual body!”
Black Duncan roared a few times in fury. “I don’t care anymore! If you think your thing is big, then go up. Either way, I’m not going to do it anymore!”
Suddenly, someone screamed, “If you guys aren’t going to, then I will! Either way, my thing is already half rotten. If I can do it with a fair-skinned woman, then it’s worth it even if it completely rots!”
The one that yelled was a skinny and shriveled old man. Other than the filthy cloth that covered his body, he didn’t seem to have anything. His skinny body was covered in rotting wounds and his head was almost completely bare. Only a bit of white hair could be seen on it. He gasped for breath as he ran over, his chest released hulu hulu sounds, as if he was a living ancient wind box. He was only barely able to keep up with the group. However, the dark thing below his waist was like a short and skinny steel rod as it suddenly stood straight against his stomach.
The alley was not long, and in the blink of an eye, the dozen or so thugs rushed through the other end. After the flickering flames passed by, darkness once again consumed this area. The fair woman held all of the violent and lustful mob’s attention, so they never even noticed that the lump in the corner was a person. In reality, even if these thugs did see him, they wouldn’t pay him much attention. After all, dying figures lying in pools of radioactive sewage weren’t rare at all.
Not far from the alley, the mob’s shouting suddenly became increasingly louder, and mixed within was the miserable screaming of a woman that no longer sounded like that of a human’s. Not long after, the woman’s outcry became muffled, as if something was stopping her from making any more noise. The mob’s roaring laughter became louder and louder, and in the end, the woman’s voice was completely drowned out.
Within the dark alley, the figure wrapped in the black blanket suddenly moved, his drooping head slowly lifting. An infant appeared below the blankets, and from the edges, part of a small hand was exposed. The tender outline clearly belonged to a child that had not matured yet, but despite that being the case, the child’s skin was clear and smooth. It was so bright that it was somewhat dazzling, greatly contrasting with the surroundings. From within the blanket, a deep green light shone; it came from his eye. At this moment, he was silently observing the infant within the cloth wrapping.
The infant did not cry or fuss. A pair of large blue eyes also looked back at the deep green light. Her skin shone with a luster similar to that of the highest grade of cream, completely different from the large patches of dark blue and ashy green skin found in infants of this generation. Her small lips were well defined. In short, she was extraordinarily beautiful, especially for an infant that hadn’t stopped drinking milk yet.
He blinked, and the green light on the baby girl’s face also flickered. Finally, he reached out and loosened the tight cloth a bit. The baby girl could also hear the surrounding sound. She could hear the mob’s roars, as well as the woman’s wretched screams every now and then.
Her slender white arm and delicate long fingers were like clouds in a night sky. After blossoming into view momentarily, they once again returned into the blanket.
The baby girl’s head was slightly tilted to the side. Her ears were trembling slightly, as if she was taking in all of the surrounding sound; she seemed to be completely engrossed in listening. Only now did he realize that the ends of her ears were pointed, making them a bit longer than that of normal humans.
In the distance, the brutal and immoral feast did not continue on for long. Following a shout that was full of despair, the mob gradually quieted down. Soon after, fiery light erupted. Thick smoke rose into the air, bringing with them waves of burnt odor. A large fire blazed, and from time to time, it would even rush ten meters into the air. It was so great that the light from the flames momentarily lit up the dark alley.
There was nothing left in the alley but sewage. The child wrapped under the dark black blanket was nowhere to be seen.
The sun rose as usual.
The scorching sunlight beamed through the thick gray clouds, scattering down on the ground that alternated between black and yellow. From time to time, a strong breeze would push aside a piece of the gray clouds and allow the sunlight to shine down unobstructed. The strange and bizarre animals would scatter in all directions in search of shade or underground caves to hide from the harsh and fatal solar rays. The only living things that weren’t scared of the sunlight were a certain species of tall vegetation. The sickly white stems were of half-meter long spikes. Each time the sunlight beamed down, it would turn itself to absorb the powerful light. It would then grow frantically at a visible speed.
Bang, bang! Noisy sounds clamored about, disturbing the early morning tranquility. An old fellow around fifty years of age was ferociously beating on a metal pipe that stuck out from the ground while shouting hoarsely, “Time to work! All of you bastards better crawl out here right now! Let this Old Hans see just how many lucky fellows there are left!”
Over a hundred people immediately emerged from the ground and ran in this direction. However, they all voluntarily stopped five meters before the old man, as if there was some kind of intangible barrier that prevented them from taking a step further. There were a few among the group that were not aware of the customs who pushed and shoved their way forward. The large and robust males around them immediately scolded, “Newcomers start at the back! What are you shoving around for?” Those individuals immediately realized what was happening. Their faces already suffered from several fists, and their bodies were lying on the ground. The people around them immediately contributed relentlessly with their arms and legs. Only after a while did those robust men toss these nearly dying individuals outside the ranks. They even spat a mouthful of spittle hatefully at the newcomers.
Old Hans had long grown accustomed to these savage acts. He simply shrugged his shoulders indifferently towards the act. Currently, he was wearing a leather jacket that had completely lost its luster outside a dull red coarse checker-patterned shirt. Below was a pair of oil splattered jeans, and on his feet was a pair of tall military boots. Compared to the refugees around him who looked no different from beggars, Old Hans was simply like a king. His attitude was also just like that of a king’s. In front of his chest dangled a silver emblem. The backdrop of the emblem was a faraway city, and embedded at the center was a tank. Under the sunlight, the emblem shone brilliantly, making it extremely eye-catching. The hundred pairs of eyes would frequently drift past the emblem. Among those gazes, there were some that revealed fear, others that revealed jealousy, but the most common were looks resembling the ones starving wolves had for meat.
Faced with these hundred or so wild wolves, Old Hans didn’t seem to be scared in the slightest. He moved behind a metal table and retrieved a few cans with indiscernible labels. He slammed it onto the table and roared, “Same as before! A hundred kilograms of ore can be used to exchanged for five cents! The price for food is the same as yesterday. Out of pity for you bastards, there are even a few cans here today. It’ll depend on you guys to see who walks away with what! Don’t crowd your way forward, come over one by one!”
These people were well aware of the rules. After lining up properly, they walked over to the metal table one by one. Old Hans seemed like a butcher picking out his meat as he swept his eyes through their bodies, skin color, and complexion. He would then casually shout out “You’re okay, you can go over there and work!” or “You’re no good!”
The refugees that obtained approval immediately hurried towards the pile of tools. After grabbing a metal pick and a basket to wear on their backs, they immediately sprinted for the mines several hundred meters away, fearing that if they were even a second slower, Old Hans might change his mind and deem them as a useless person and say the terrifying words “You’re no good.”
“Why am I not good enough?” A muffled roar pulled back everyone’s attention. It came from an individual who was about 6’2 in height. A black individual with the build of a mountain bear smashed his fist down on the metal table and roared towards Old Hans.
Old Hans brought out a clean handkerchief and slowly wiped away the saliva that landed on his face. He pointed towards a large bowl-sized rotting lesion and said unhurriedly, “You’ve contracted an illness! If I let you go down into the mines, then you’ll infect my strongest workers. Who will complete the work then?”
“I can work! I need to eat, and I have three children to raise!” The black man did not attentively listen to what Old Hans said. He continued to shout while beating loudly on the metal table.
Old Hans frowned. He stroked his beard and hinted towards the people behind him. As soon as a bang noise sounded, the black man’s shouting abruptly stopped. As he looked at the large cavity that appeared in his chest with disbelief, his throat tried to make sounds, but not a single word came out.
Behind Old Hans, a bald robust man once again pulled the trigger on the double-barreled shotgun in his hands. Another loud sound exploded, sending several hundred pellets into that black individual’s chest. His wounds doubled in size, and this time, it completely blasted through his thick and sturdy chest. The robust man was wearing a black suit that had so many wrinkles that it became completely shapeless. There were many holes in it as well, revealing just how ancient the clothing was. There were a total of three robust men like this behind Old Hans.
Once Old Hans finished wiping his face, he said to the empty air in front of the metal table, “Also, ****, your saliva stinks!” From his manner of speaking, it seemed as if the black man was still standing in front of the table.
There were still more than a hundred refugees that had not entered the ore mines yet. As of this moment, a bit less greed and a bit more fear could be seen in their eyes. Several individuals walked over. They dragged away the large black man’s body and dropped it somewhere several hundred meters away.
The line in front of the metal table quickly shortened. Before the sky had even brightened, most of the refugees had already entered the ore mines. The ones that had not been chosen began to walk towards the city in search of potential opportunities.
“The number of sick laborers is getting higher and higher. This month’s amount seems to be a bit tight…” Old Hans frowned. He stood up and stretched out his sore waist and back. However, when he had only stretched back halfway, he suddenly stopped. He then propped himself up with two arms and leaned forward to look at the child that was barely taller than the metal table.
The child was covered in a blanket that was so filthy that its original color had long disappeared. The child’s face, arms, and every place that was exposed was covered densely in cloth strips. Only the left eye could be seen, and it was currently looking calmly at Hans. The child seemed roughly eight or nine, and it was unknown if the child was male or female.
Originally, Old Hans definitely would not waste any time on an obviously unsuitable refugee. However, it might be because he was feeling a bit of charity, maybe the sight of blood just now made his heart soften, possibly the anxiety from lacking laborers this month, or even the child’s gaze, but regardless, he hesitated. Suddenly, he opened his mouth and asked, “You want to work?”
The child nodded his head.
“Fine! However, are you male or female?” Old Hans asked.
“Male,” the child finally spoke. Compared to other children of similar age, his voice was clearly deeper and possessed an indescribable type of attraction.
“Good. Boy, go over there to grab your tools. Follow the others. For every hundred kilograms of ore you dig up, you can exchange it for five cents. This is the best treatment I can give you. From the way you are dressed, don’t tell me that you are hiding some kind of disease? Alright, you don’t have to worry. At least there isn’t any smell coming from your body. Old Hans’ nose is still pretty good. Go, the sooner you finish, the sooner you can feed yourself. Once you can’t work any longer, find Crippled Peter. He’ll tell you how much money or food you can exchange for.”
Under Old Hans’ chatter, the boy picked up the metal pick that was taller than himself. The basket on his back nearly touched the floor as he slowly walked into the depths of the mines.
Only when his figure disappeared did Old Hans shake his head. He suddenly turned around and faced the large men in black suits and said, “Did I speak too much today?”
In front of this seemingly nervous old man, the bull-like robust men in suits couldn’t help but take a few steps back. They immediately hurriedly and decisively shook their heads.
Old Hans released a few forced chuckles and said, “You are quite smart, and that’s why I made you the leader of the guards. However, you have to remember that in this place, I am the company’s sole agent. I can easily make you kill those dog-like refugees, and I can also turn you into a dog tomorrow. Older people tend to have some some eccentric traits. You only need to do your job properly, understand?”
“Understood, Mister Hans.”
“You should call me your majesty Hans!”
“Understood, your majesty Hans!”
Old Hans hummed a mysterious tune and walked into a small house made out of metal sheets. This small house, invulnerable to wind and rain, could also be considered a type of luxury.
Dusk soon approached. The rotting wolves that slept an entire night in hunger woke up and released long howls. They began to wander about like ghosts in search of things to fill their stomachs.
Old Hans pushed open the small house’s metal gates and walked out. His eyes squinted as he looked at the sun that was about to set. He felt much better after taking a nap. The mines were already completely deserted, for the workers had long left. They had finished their portions, so they returned to where they lived. Once the sun dropped below the horizon, the messy mines would be covered in vicious meter-long rats. These creatures were ridiculously ferocious, with sharp incisors that could easily bite through steel rods over two centimeters thick. Even the toughest rocks were useless before the rats. Once the sun rose, the vicious rats would dig underground and go into slumber, leaving the miners with most of the day to excavate ore.
As soon as the sun was about to completely disappear, the small figure appeared from the mine entrance. Behind the boy was a basket of ore that was almost as tall as himself. He was currently walking over unsteadily.
Old Hans’ eyelids jumped a few times. There wasn’t a single word or movement from him as he watched the small child make his way to the small mountain of ore and pour the contents from the basket on his back. He then slowly walked over while holding the slip of paper he received from the foreman. The strips of fabric wrapped around his body were splattered with large patches of red, yellow, and various dark colors from the mines.
Seeing the boy walk over, Old Hans moved towards the back of the house. There was a large shed next to the metal house. Crippled Peter, who was missing half a leg, moved his body that exceeded a hundred kilograms in weight with difficulty and shouted, “Boy, come here!”
The boy arrived before the shed and handed over the paper slip. When Crippled Peter swept his eyes over it, he couldn’t help but release a whistle. “Youngster, not bad! You’ve done more than a lot of the others.”
Peter used his thick finger to point towards a long list of items, and the boy began to look at the list as well. His gaze stopped momentarily at the words ‘drinking water’, and then continued to look down until it was blocked by Peter’s thick finger.
“Just this one.” The boy pointed at the list with a cloth wrapped finger.
Peter immediately cried out, “Ah ha! Grade three drinking water! Youngster, you are definitely from nobility, right? I’ve heard that the nobility’s bodies are so weak that they can only drink pure water. It has to be water without any impurities or the slightest bit of radiation!”
“Just this one.” The boy pointed at the list. His voice did not fluctuate in the slightest, making others doubt if this really was the voice of a manual laborer.
Peter shrugged. From the wooden chest behind him, he brought out a beverage with a similarly unrecognizable production date and threw it towards the boy. “Here! Grade three drinking water, extravagant brat.”
The boy carefully placed the small can carefully into the blanket and turned around to leave. Crippled Peter shook his head and brought out a fist-sized piece of bread that was as large as a fist. He threw it towards the boy and said, “Youngster, mining is a strenuous task. You won’t last long if you don’t eat. Take this and remember that you owe Crippled Peter five cents. I’ll take it out from your payment tomorrow!”
The boy caught the bread and carefully put it away in a similar fashion. He then bowed deeply towards Crippled Peter before leaving into the darkness.
Within the dark wilderness, ten pairs of wolf-like eyes focused in on the boy. Whispers continuously rose and fell.
“That brat seems to have done quite a bit of work. Why don’t we take a look to see how much he exchanged for? There might even be half a loaf of bread.”
“I bet he has a large piece of roasted rat meat!”
From the side, a lazy yet fierce voice interrupted their conversation. “Hey, stupid newcomers. Don’t you know Old Hans’ rules? Within his territory, no one is allowed to rob exchanged items.”
The voices from before didn’t seem to be convinced. “Old Hans? What is he going to do about it? I can beat up ten old farts like him!”
The seemingly lazy person laughed. “Just you? You aren’t even qualified to lick his ass!”
Those that were called stupid newcomers became indignant. Just when they wanted to fight back, who would have guessed that the other individual suddenly lost interest and shouted, “Guys, chop these fellows who want to cause a disturbance into pieces and feed them to the rotting wolves!”
Ten more figures responded and surrounded this place.
Miserable cries sounded briefly, and the wilderness became peaceful again. Everyone wanted to rest as much as possible to mine out another piece of ore tomorrow.
From the shed, Crippled Peter could no longer see the boy’s figure. He scratched his nearly bald head and muttered, “Where is that youngster going? If he gets eaten by the rotting wolves, then I would’ve lost those five cents. Hey, Old Hans, do you think that I’ll lose those five cents?”
Old Hans, who was leaning against the shed, raised his hands and said, “Who knows.”
Crippled Peter stood up with difficulty and began to clean up the food and inventory list. His remaining leg was thick and solid enough that it could support his body that was over a hundred kilograms in weight without crutches. He picked up the slip of paper he received from the boy and was about to throw it away when he suddenly remembered something. He looked at it again and said to himself, “Grade three drinking water… I really don’t know what he needs such a thing for. The radiation inside the mine is many times more powerful than the sewage outside. This isn’t something that drinking a bit of clean water can get rid of.”
Old Hans took the slip of paper from Peter and looked it over. After sweeping his eyes over the number, he crumpled it up and threw it into the fire pit outside the shed.
Old Hans coughed a few times and spat on the ground. “Peter, go and tell Mad Dog Mida to deduct ten less kilograms from the child’s basket. If he can work here for a full month, then count it as the full amount.”
Peter said, “That seems a bit unfair.”
“He’s raising a kid.” Old Hans lit a cigarette that only had half of its length remaining. His voice sounded a bit gloomy.
Peter was somewhat startled and raised his head. “What? With his age, how could he be raising a child?”
Old Hans blew out a smoke ring and said, “If a child under three years of age only drinks water without radiation and eat clean things, right, if only ridiculous things like grade three water and food are consumed, then there won’t be any mutations when growing up.”
Peter’s eyebrows jumped. “Heavens! I always assumed that everyone would mutate. How do you know this?”
Old Hans calmly replied, “Because I have also raised a child before.”
Peter was shocked. “You never spoke about these things before! How old is he? He should be about twenty now, right? Lord have mercy, he absolutely cannot turn out as ugly as you.”
Old Hans chuckled and said, “I was very poor then and couldn’t find enough clean water and food. Mutation happened when he was five, and he wasn’t able to make it.”
Peter didn’t know what to say. After a moment of silence, he said, “Old fellow, sorry about that. I shouldn’t have said those things. You know that… I have never encountered a woman that has been able to give birth in this lifetime and never had the chance to raise a child.”
Old Hans deeply inhaled the smoke and gazed into the faintly green night sky. “Partner, you don’t need to say things like that to me. Back then, if it wasn’t for you, I would have became food for the rotting wolves already. I wouldn’t be in this position as the company’s agent either.”
Peter lifted a fifty kilogram storage trunk. His sole leg bent, and he immediately jumped over a meter into the air to gently place the trunk on the highest shelf. He then shook his head and said, “I didn’t intentionally save you… You have to remember that I was a wrestling expert. My defense strengthening was already at the second level, so that wolf king couldn’t bite me to death no matter how hard it tried. However, it was different for you. For frail people like you magic users, it could tear off half your bottom with a single bite!”
Old Hans gave the remaining bit of the cigarette to Peter and patted his shoulder. “Partner, don’t sleep too late. No woman would come here at this time.”
Peter sucked in a deep breath and held it within his lungs. Only when he couldn’t hold on any longer did he exhale. Old Hans had already returned into the metal house. Only a thump could be heard, implying that he had already thrown himself onto the bed. Peter brought out a green metal box from below the main table, and from within, he carefully brought out a magazine that seemed to be on the verge of breaking apart. Borrowing the bonfire’s light, he began to flip through the page one by one, his breathing gradually getting heavier.
The magazine’s cover suddenly detached and fell onto the floor. The beautiful and sexy bodied woman on the cover had already become blurry due to the passage of time, but the striking words ‘Playboy’ could still be seen on its cover. Below those words were a line of small words that revealed the magazine’s publishing date: February 1982.
Regardless of how many new refugees came from the wilderness or how many refugees mysteriously disappeared, the sun would always rise as usual.
The young man was the same as yesterday. Within the mine bathing in sunlight, the amount of ore he dug up was the same as yesterday. The items he exchanged for were the same as well. The only difference was that the amount of money he owed Crippled Peter went from five to ten cents.
A month later, whether due to having enough to eat, or because the boy became stronger himself, the amount he earned each day increased a bit. As a result, the amount he owed Crippled Peter gradually lessened.
Life in the wilderness monotonously repeated. A year of time quickly passed just like that.
In this era, being able to live monotonously was already a rare luxury. There was no need to fight against the rotting wolves over food, and he also had water without too much radiation to drink; what else could he ask for? As for boredom, that was simply a question of extravagance. Only madmen would rarely think about such a thing.
At first, many newcomers had their eyes on the boy, but the cloth strips around his body scared them away. There were at least ten greatly infectious diseases, and there were no medications that could cure these conditions. In addition, all of these illnesses had a similar trait, and that was precisely rotting. Many people had already begun to make their guesses as to how badly he had rotted under the cloth strips. They even made wagers on how much longer he could live. However, when even the date that the most daring gambler bet on passed, there were four newcomers that were daring and ignorant enough to follow the boy into the darkness. Three of them were never seen again, and the one that returned lost track of the boy. Early the next morning, the refugees found that individual hanging from the tall wooden pole outside Old Hans’ house. The bodyguards in black suits had used their dual-barreled shotguns to fire a total of ten rounds at him, yet he had not taken his dying breath yet. It seemed like on the field of torture, these men in black were quite talented.
From that day forth, the refugee newcomers all knew never to provoke that boy.
Three years passed.
The amount of ore the boy mined had already quadrupled his initial amount, but the amount of food he needed to exchange for also continuously increased, so he never had much savings. The amount of wrinkles on Old Hans’ face had also deepened a bit, and Crippled Peter’s ‘82 playboy also went from fifteen to ten pages.
During the fifth year, the amount of ore that could be mined from the caves began to gradually decrease. The happiness of a simple wilderness life had also reached its limit.
One evening, after he once again received the food and drink from Crippled Peter, Old Hans stopped him. The boy from back then that had now become a man entered into the steel house with Old Hans. The house was full of junk, but there was a bed. There really was a bed, one with a pillow and bedding. Just this bed alone was enough to distinguish Old Hans from everyone else. The youth did not give the bed more than a glance, but rather had his eyes glued to the hand-drawn map hanging from the wall. The map was extremely crude, and there were large patches of blank areas. There were even some areas that were clearly marked as dangerous in red.
“This is where we are.” Old Hans pointed towards the map. Then, his finger moved to the west and stopped at an area circled in red to indicate its danger before continuing, “This area is the lair of the flaming ants, and those meter-long things are extremely troublesome. They can’t shoot flames, but you still need to be particularly careful around them. The sour liquid they shoot out will hurt even more than being burnt alive. The worst thing about this place is that those fellows always travel in large numbers, but they also carry good stuff on their bodies. Their front claws are even tougher than steel, yet they weigh a lot less. Not many people dare to kill these flaming ants, so they can be sold at quite a few places at a decent price. Behind their hind legs, there is a small piece of flesh without radiation or poison. The only problem is that the amount really is bit too small.”
The youth silently gazed at the map, as if he was trying to carve every stroke into his mind. The single eye that could be seen was a deep green, and around the pupils were a few gray patterns. It was sparkling and translucent, as if it was a piece of jade of the utmost quality. After all these years, this was the first time Old Hans was able to take a good look at the youth’s eye.
Old Hans cleared his throat and then pointed again at the southern extremity of the flaming ants’ lair. There was only a ‘w’ there, and it was unknown what it represented.
“There is a cave here, and inside is a pond of sewage. Inside of the pond is a large mutated leech. If you feed it with your blood, it will expel the excess fluid from its body. This water will only contain an insignificant amount of radiation. There is not much inside and will be barely enough for a five-year-old child.”
“The flaming ants’ nest should be about a hundred kilometers or so from here, so you might have to walk a few days. The mine is going to close tomorrow, so you don’t have to return.” Old Hans waved his hand, and the youth quietly left the metal house. Before exiting through the door, the youth looked at Old Hans and softly gave his thanks.
The youth’s voice was as gentle as the wind and possessed a mysterious type of allure. If he was placed in an earlier era, he might have the potential to be a great superstar.
Early the next morning, the sunlight chased the rotting wolves back to their lairs. However, frantic winds began to whistle about, bringing with it fist-sized rocks and sand. West of the mines was a barren desert that stretched as far as the eye could see. The fiery red rocks were transformed into stone pillars that were riddled with holes. Only a few short plants covered in sharp spikes could be seen, and around their branches and leaves were a few poisonous sand berries. The rock scorpions and the enormous black-bellied wasps here were extremely deadly, but the most dangerous part of it all was that there was no water here. Not even the radiation-filled sewage could be found here.
When the rock scorpions all concealed themselves within stone cracks to avoid the sunlight, a youth appeared at the edge of the desert. His entire body was covered tightly in a felt blanket, and his completely bandaged arms were leading a small child wrapped similarly within a black blanket.
Under the compound eyes of the rock scorpions, two figures, one large one small, slowly walked hand in hand into the depths of the desert. Suddenly, a frantic gale blew about, blowing back the blanket covering the small child’s head. A head of gray, silk-like long hair scattered down. Under the sunlight, it released tens of thousands streaks of dazzling radiance.
The youngster stopped his footsteps and carefully gathered her long hair before once again covering her face with the blanket. He then once again picked up her hand to continue walking into the depths of the desert.
They continued like this for an entire week before finally reaching the cave that Old Hans spoke about, and they finally found the mutated leech. The youth helped the girl settle inside the cave. Under the cover of night, he walked towards the flaming ants’ lair alone.
Only during dusk on the third day did the youth make it back with difficulty. The small girl was quietly sitting at the cave entrance, waiting for his return. It was unknown just how long she had sat there for.
That night, the young girl’s brows were furrowed as she used her snow white little teeth to tear at the clear white flaming ant flesh that was as hard as rubber. The ant flesh was both tough and smelly, but she earnestly chewed and swallowed. Even the liquid sticking to her fingers was licked clean.
Within the depths of the cave, the youth began to deal with his wounds under the cover of darkness. The injuries were so deep that even his bones could be seen.
The mutated leech that had sucked enough fresh blood crawled out from the porcelain bowl and soundlessly slid into the sewage pond flickering with green light. It submerged itself into the pond, and left behind was half a bowl of clear water.
A single trip to the flaming ant’s nest required three days. As a result, the youth, little girl, and leech’s lives would revolve around these three days. The process was like a cycle, returning back to the start every three days.
Three years later, the leech died.
Once again, regardless of any change, the sun would always rise again.
The youth and little girl stood shoulder to shoulder at the cave entrance. The strong winds blew through their tattered blankets, and from time to time, a piece of cloth would fall off.
“We should find another place to live.” The youth’s voice was always gentle yet decisive. The voice’s previous enticement had now become much greater.
The girl had now grown up to the young man’s chest. She leaned against the young man’s body and wrapped the blanket tightly around her body. In a soft voice, she muttered, “I’m scared.”
“Don’t be scared. I will protect you.” The young man’s voice was firm and resolute. As for how much confidence he really had, only he himself knew.
The young man brought with him four flaming ant forelimbs that he carefully selected. Old Hans had previously said that items like these would sell for good prices in inhabited areas, and good prices implied that they would have food and clean water to drink. He had learned from his experiences in the mines that items of value couldn’t be carried in excess, or else it would bring problems.
The young man walked in front, and the girl followed while holding onto the corner of his clothes. The sight of the two walking through the desolate land gave off a feeling of despair.
Yorktown was an inhabited area that had developed only in the last ten years. There were already five to six hundred figures living within this small town. Bars, hotels, restaurants, grocery stalls, and clinics were lined up one after another. There was even a sheriff standing guard to maintain public order, with the submachine gun he carried further emphasizing his presence.
What the sheriff believed to be grounds for justification would precisely be the grounds for justification.
That day, a great figure had arrived in Yorktown, so some of the town’s influential figures had left the town to welcome the guest. Those that did not have the qualifications to go with this group were all excitedly discussing about this great figure even though they didn’t even know if this figure was male or female. As a result, none of the residents paid particular attention to the youth that had just entered the small town.
The city’s butcher also happened to operate the town’s sole inn. After receiving a high quality flaming ant blade, he became extremely happy, offering the young man and girl a room as well as a complimentary dinner. Of course, if he wanted goods with low radiation, a single flaming ant blade was not enough.
The young man allowed the girl to rest within the room. He, however, brought the remaining flaming ant blades with him and left the inn. He had heard that these things could be sold for even better prices at the markets. Before leaving, the young man carefully laid out an inconspicuous mechanism by the room door.
From the butcher’s unnatural smile, the young man had already guessed that there might be some trouble, but he never expected it to come so soon. As soon as he passed an intersection, he was stopped by two individuals. From the square wooden clubs they were holding restlessly, it was obvious that they did not come with good intentions.
“Hey, brat! I heard that you have flaming ant blades for sale. Our leader wants to have a chat!”
The youngster hesitated, but he still followed the three individuals to a small secluded alley. He then entered a large house that could still be considered relatively intact.
The leader felt rather satisfied when he looked at the young man with his head lowered. “Youngster! You can call me Viper. I heard that you have flaming ant blades. Good, no matter how many you have, I want them all. This is your reward!”
The youngster looked at the rock hard loaf of bread that rolled down to his feet and slowly bend down to pick it up. At the same time, he threw the three flaming ant blades on the ground.
When he stood up again, he noticed that the three individuals did not have any intention of letting him go. The wooden clubs in their hands were still aggressively held in their hands.
Viper stood up and pulled a hand-made single barrel pistol and laughed maliciously. “You know how to behave and adapt to the circumstances. Originally, I would have left you alive after completing this transaction. However, the butler told me that you brought a fair-skinned little girl, so it can’t be helped. In fact, I’m not the leader, but rather the second in command. The leader is called Black Bear, and he is probably energetically climbing up and down that little girl’s body right now! What can I do? The leader’s body is close to becoming mutated, and he likes little children. Alright, youngster, I should send you along your way! Hopefully, the girl hasn’t died yet by the time I get there!”
At that very moment, the young man’s ears that were covered under bandages suddenly heard a weak drip sound. This was the sound created when the metal piece he placed in his room broke. This kind of high frequency sound wave was not something that ordinary people’s ears could pick up.
He suddenly raised his head. Even though his face was deeply concealed within the blanket’s shadow, his single left eye suddenly shone. It was as if a green flame had ignited!
“You…” Viper cried out in fear. When the shouts ended, the loud noise of gunpowder firing echoed through the room. The bullet shattered the last intact window, and the smell of gunpowder immediately filled this place.
The youngster wrapped in a black blanket was like a ghost, suddenly appearing at the entrance to the butcher’s inn.
The inn’s door that was carelessly put together with pieces of wood was half opened. The distinct smell of blood could be smelled from quite a distance away. The inn was unusually quiet. Inside, a small voice was softly sobbing.
The young man hesitated a bit before walking into the inn. Behind him was a trail of blood.
The butcher was at at the entrance of the young man’s room. His eyes were widened to their limit, and a look of utter fear was plastered across his face. Only his head remained; his body was nowhere to be found.
The door to the room was not tightly shut. Blood flowed out continuously from below the door like water, and there was so much that it was rather frightening.
The young man stood within the blood. He could feel that the blood was still rather warm. He gently pushed open the door, and became completely silent.
The girl was sitting in the middle of the room while holding her knees, and her head was buried deeply within her knees as she sobbed softly. The black blanket that was always wrapped around her body was thrown off to the side, and the bed that was crudely crafted from wood was completely broken. The young girl was wearing a rather crudely designed yet extremely clean dress. The skin that was exposed, regardless of whether it was her arms or her small legs, were so white that it made those that saw it go mad. Even though she was still young, even if she existed in an earlier era, she would still turn all the men within the city into wild beasts.
The inside of the room had become hell.
There were pieces of flesh and limbs scattered everywhere, making it so that there was almost no good place to step on. There were a few organs that seemed to still be wriggling about on the ground, and the walls had been thoroughly dyed a dark red. Blood flowed out from pieces of limbs and other body parts, forming pools of blood that were several centimeters deep. It was unknown if the butcher’s body was here, or if these chunks of flesh belonged to Black Bear. Even less clear was whether or not these belonged to three or four different individuals. Everything had been chopped up and then mixed together.
The girl sat on the ground at the center of this hell formed from blood and body parts.
Her beautiful gray hair that seemed like silk fabric scattered down like a waterfall. The tips of her hair were dipped in blood. Beside the girl was an enormous rectangular executioner’s blade that was over a meter in length stabbed into the ground. The edge of the blade was covered in nicks, and strips of muscles and flesh dangled from it. Only when dealing with ferocious violent plated bears whose bones were tougher than rocks would the butcher use this rectangular executioner’s blade forged from stainless steel.
After hearing the door move, the girl raised her head and saw the young man. She immediately revealed a smile that was like a blossoming rainbow. Under the sunlight that seeped in from the window, the teardrops hanging from the corners of her eyes were like two resplendent diamonds.
The young man sighed. He carefully found places within the ground full of corpses to step on and walked towards the girl.
The girl did not seem to care that much, however. She immediately jumped into his arms, sending pieces of flesh and blood flying everywhere. The young man softly rubbed the long gray hair that was just as soft as before. Even though it had made contact with blood, none of the droplets of blood lingered on her head.
“I’m scared!” the girl quietly said. Her small hands tightly gripped the cloth wrapped all around the young man’s body, pulling until it probably left him in quite a bit of pain. The young man knew that she was truly scared, yet he didn’t know how to comfort her.
Places where people lived always brought about trouble, but within the wastelands, it was truly becoming harder and harder to find food. What he lacked the most was clean water. In this era, the first thing every single person worries about is survival. Before survival, there was no such thing as leniency, and no such thing as sharing with others. The existence of any person might only equate to clean food and water in the eyes of another.
Noisy voices suddenly sounded outside the inn. Someone shouted loudly, “An outsider has committed murder! The butcher has died! I just saw them inside!”
The shouts became louder and louder, and from time to time, the contrasting clanking of metal could be heard. There were at least ten people surrounding this four roomed inn. The youngster quietly patted the girl and silently pulled out a flaming ant blade. This blade had been cut in half, and only the sharpest part remained. Sharp teeth lined the blade that shone with a deep green light. In addition, a grip had been carefully polished and was carefully wrapped in thick cloth strips. It seemed quite powerful; an item like this was already comparable to the military daggers from the former times.
The young man tightened his grip on the blade as he quietly awaited the moment when the group of people would break in. The girl also stopped weeping. Her beautiful blue eyes darted around the room and landed on top of that rectangular executioner’s blade. She reached out her small hand towards that blade, because it was an item she was comfortable using.
The young man’s left hand stretched out and pulled back the girl, not allowing her to touch the blade. He moved the girl behind him and calmly watched the door and window. Even though the window was nailed shut with wooden strips, it wouldn’t last long against those that wanted to break in.
“Quiet!” Outside the inn, the forceful voice of the sheriff sounded. The clamoring immediately quieted down by a bit, showing the authority of the sheriff. However, it wasn’t powerful enough, as there were still muttering going on. “Let me see what is going on first! Fuck, it reeks of blood. Just how many people died inside?”
With a crash, the door of the room was kicked open, causing the group of people to immediately cry out in alarm. Following that, with thunderous sounds, the sheriff’s uzi already began to rapidly fire.
Right at that time, an extremely cold and deep voice that was full of killing intent sounded. “Get out of the way! Make room for the madam!”
The young man immediately heard a miserable cry and the sound of something dropping onto the ground. It was obvious that the arriving individuals did not give the others any time to move out of the way. However, the noisy commotion outside had completely disappeared. The group of people, including the sheriff, had all become deadly silent. No one dared to make a single sound or movement, let alone speak out in rebellion.
Then, following a rumbling sound, smoke and dust rose everywhere as the inn’s walls, entrance, and roof were forcibly dismantled. A ripping sound could be heard. A hand covered in dark black leather grabbed the thin metal strip blocking the wall. It was completely torn off and casually tossed more than ten meters away. It was done by a tall, handsome, and arrogant youth with a cold expression. His short blonde hair stood up straight, as if they formed a burning flame. On his body was a half-body armor forged from a greyish silver alloy that covered his chest, back, lower abdomen, and other key areas. Underneath the armor was a dark black uniform with golden stripes stitched in, and on his feet were tall leather boots that were polished until they shone brightly, making him completely stand out from the dirty and disordered people around him. Just now, it was precisely this individual who bare handedly tore apart everything from the streets ten meters away to this place, creating a great five-meter wide path.
The young man, girl, and the room’s hellish scene was completely displayed in front of everyone’s eyes.
The girl raised her head and felt overwhelmed as she looked at the surrounding people. This was the first time she had seen so many people gathered together. She instinctively felt danger and wanted to grab that rectangular executioner’s blade again, but she was tightly held in place by the young man.
The instant the girl’s facial appearance was revealed, a wave of deathly stillness swept through the crowd. Even the arrogant blonde warrior’s expression froze somewhat.
Every single person’ breathing reverberated clearly through the youngster’s ears, and it was clearly becoming more crude and heavy. He sighed and lifted his head to look behind the blonde warrior.
On the other end of the path that had been torn open a few minutes ago rested a carriage. It was an eighteenth century four-in-hand carriage with a black and gold colored body. Even the copper framed carriage lights were sparkling clean, giving the carriage an antique and elegant appearance. Pulling the carriage were four tall horses, and it was rare to see four horses with similar snow white unblemished fur.
No one in Yorktown could have recognized that these were four pure-blooded horses. However, it didn’t matter, because regardless of what kind of horses they were, they were a luxury that far surpassed the limits of their imagination.
In front and behind the carriage each stood eight fully armed warriors with alloyed armors that were exactly the same as the blonde male’s. The only difference was that the blonde male did not carry a weapon, while the sixteen warriors were armed to the brim with firepower. Compared to those four minimi heavy machine guns, the sheriff’s uzi was simply like a toy.
The four attendants brought out a large roll of red carpet from the cargo wagon in the back. Starting from the four-in-hand carriage, they laid out a path that directly led to the young man and girl.
The room was a hellish area of flesh and blood. The thick, scarlet carpet was laid down over the half-solidified blood, and the attendants continued to place the ridiculously expensive carpet layer after layer on the ground until it reached five centimeters above the blood. Only when the blood definitely wouldn’t get onto the carpet did they stop.
The items that the four attendants wore, regardless of whether it were their black swallow-tailed coats, snow white shirts, or neatly worn bow tie, were all items that did not belong to this era. In Yorktown, even the relatively dignified individuals could only be compared to beggars in the olden days. There was a large hole on the sheriff’s jeans, but since the opening wasn’t around his buttocks, the article of clothing properly represented his identity. In addition, since water was precious, the townspeople did not shower.
Unlike other people, the young man was looking at the attendant’s feet. They gracefully stepped on pieces of broken body parts and were as nimble as a butterfly. The body parts’ muscles had clearly loosened, yet they only dipped slightly when the attendants stepped on them. When they finished laying the carpet and left the room, only the bottoms of the eight polished and shining black leather shoes had a bit of blood. After seeing this, the young man’s green eye slightly narrowed.
A relatively older butler walked in front of the carriage before slowly and gracefully opening the door. Afterwards, he placed a clean white towel on his arm.
An arm reached out from within the carriage. It was elegant like an orchid, slender and exquisite as it placed itself onto the butler’s arm. The ring on her middle finger had a dark blue gemstone embedded within that was the size of a quail egg, and it seemed to leave everyone amazed. The only thing that felt a bit odd were her five-centimeter long fingernails. They were in excellent condition, and on top were scary alternating black and red patterns.
From within the carriage walked out a woman wearing splendid ceremonial clothes from the medieval age and hair arranged into a spiral fashion by golden japanese flower styled bands. From her appearance, she seemed to be around twenty. Her light gray eyes carried the coldness and indifference of a noble, and her skin was so soft that it seemed as if it would be damaged if wind blew on it. She was beautiful no matter what angle you looked at her from, even if she was judged based on outdated beauty standards.
When the woman got off the carriage, Yorktown’s residents seemed to forget the neighbor at their feet that had been shot dead. Suddenly, the place became noisy as everyone pushed and shoved about to get a better look. The majority of people here had never seen a woman with such bright and clean skin before, let alone the clothes and jewelry that would even make upper-class women from the olden days jealous.
The woman did not seem to have a single item around her that matched this era. To be precise, everything around her was so extravagant that it had long surpassed what the people here were capable of understanding.
The excited and moved group shoved about and gradually crowded towards the carriage. Within the crowd, even the most cowardly individual would feel a strange sense of bravery, let alone the people in this era where most of them were like wild beasts.
Right when everyone was about to go crazy, a guard suddenly raised a firearm. The minimi’s muzzle suddenly fired out a blazing stream of bullets. Within the storm of gunshots, hundreds of bullets tore through the wall of flesh in front of the guard. A large hole was carved out through the crowd of people.
Only when the entire belt was emptied did the guard lower the already burning hot heavy machine gun. No expression could be seen from his face, as if the ones he had killed just now were not a dozen or so humans, but rather a dozen or so livestock. In the ears of Yorktown’s residents, the sound of the guard reloading a new belt of bullets was clear and extremely cold. The sheriff swallowed a mouthful of saliva and quietly hid the uzi behind his back.
The woman did not seem to notice the massacre around her in the slightest. From the moment she stepped off the carriage, her eyes were glued to the girl. She gracefully raised her hand and pointed her black and red fingertips at the girl. “I want this girl.”
She spoke in an unquestionable tone that could not be disobeyed. At present, it was spoken towards the young man, as well as towards her butler. The butler bowed slightly and said, “As you wish, madam.”
The young man clearly understood that this was an order completely without the slightest leeway for discussion. His head had been lowered the second she left the carriage and hadn’t given her a single look. However, his body still began to shake uncontrollably. Each step the woman took made his body shake a bit more violently.
The old butler that served as an armrest also followed her, only, he was walking respectfully and cautiously outside the carpet. Even though he walked on the blood tainted ruins, not a single speck of filth appeared on the old butler’s leather shoes. Moreover, unlike the attendants, even the soles of his shoes were completely clean; none of his steps completely made contact with the ground.
The woman continued walking until she faced the young man. She reached out her hand and pulled the girl from behind him until the two were face to face. She leaned over slightly and carefully observed the girl’s extremely delicate face. Only after some time had passed did she release a sigh and say, “What beautiful eyes.”
The girl had been ridiculously beautiful from the day she was born. As she matured, her beauty only grew with each passing day. Perhaps due to her age, the girl did not really understand fear and similarly gazed at the woman.
During this entire process, the young man’s head was lowered as he stood there without moving a muscle, allowing the woman to pull the girl away. Even though a thick blanket covered him, it couldn’t completely mask his trembling.
The woman looked at the young man with amazement. With a nod, she said, “The one you are scared of is me and not those under me. Good! Seeing how smart you are, you should understand what you should do. What do you think are the choices I’m about to give you?”
The young man was silent for a while. He then said, “I live, and she goes to you. Otherwise, I die, and she is still yours.”
The young woman became even more astonished. However, it was not because of his response, but because of his voice. Her tone became a bit more gentle as she asked, “Tell me your name.”
Before speaking, the young man would always remain silent for a moment. He needed to control his body’s shaking in order to maintain a steady voice.
The woman revealed a slight smile. “Alright, Su. My whole name is Angelina Von Lanaxis. I am going to take this girl away. You can’t protect her right now, and only by staying with me can she display her full potential. Remember my name. If you become strong enough one day, then you can find me.”
Her body leaned forward. With the long fingernails on her left hand, she tilted the young man’s head upwards. The two faces were not more than ten centimeters apart, and the mysterious fragrance from her breathing seemed to completely envelope his face. Then, she used two fingernails to slowly pull back the bandages surrounding his face. The bandages appeared to be incredibly filthy, yet for some reason, there wasn’t any odor.
The sharp, black and red fingernails slowly stroked his skin.
The old butler standing to the side’s head was lowered, and he only looked at the tips of his leather shoes. The guards had all of their bodies turned with only their backs facing this direction. The weapons in their hands were aimed at the surrounding group. The muzzle of the dark black gun seemed to make Yorktown’s residents become a bit smarter as well. They realized that lowering their heads was no longer enough, and that only by turning around would they have a chance of living.
Under the extreme silence, everyone’s sense of time itself seemed to have become distorted. What was a moment in reality seemed like an extremely long time.
Unknowingly when, Angelina had once again pulled the young man’s bandages up. She laughed while covering her mouth and said, “I look forward to the day you look for me!”
After speaking, Angelina pulled the girl to the carriage. Behind her, that melodious, resounding, unrestrained, and ambiguous laughter continuously sounded along the crimson carpet.
The girl did not cry, nor did she resist in the slightest. She only looked back repeatedly until the carriage door obstructed her deep blue eyes.
Angelina suddenly pulled up the curtain covering the carriage window, revealing half of her beautiful face that was full of classical beauty. She spoke towards the young man, “In this age, the most difficult thing is living a life of dignity. Hopefully, you did not choose this terrible path.”
Only when the four-in-hand carriage had completely left Yorktown did the young man slowly raise his head.
At that moment, he still did not know what the name Lanaxis represented. He also did not know what the Blood Parliament’s Spider Empress signified.