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Prologue – If Life Was Like When We First Met

Prolog – Jika Hidup Seperti Saat Kita Bertemu Pertama

Perang.

Perang memusnahkan seluruh era, namun perang juga menciptakan dunia baru.

Tidak ada yang tahu persis kapan itu dimulai, tetapi malam tidak lagi diselimuti kegelapan.

Di bawah tirai malam, dua kecil, cahaya redup muncul di kejauhan. Mereka melayang di udara.

Limbah hijau tua yang tebal yang secara konsisten melepaskan bau busuknya yang lebat mengalir ke mana-mana di sekitar area yang dikelilingi oleh cahaya lemah kunang-kunang ini. Limbah itu memancarkan cahaya hijau suram bahkan di tempat-tempat yang relatif lebih gelap, menerangi wilayah kecil. Selain kekotoran yang tak tertahankan di tempat ini, aspek paling berbahaya dari tempat ini adalah radiasi yang ada di selokan yang dapat ditemukan di mana-mana.

Di dalam genangan air limbah yang terakumulasi, potongan-potongan kain yang telah lama kehilangan warna aslinya, pot-pot yang benar-benar berkarat, mayat-mayat yang membusuk dari makhluk-makhluk tak dikenal, dan semua jenis benda kotor melayang naik turun. Dari waktu ke waktu, tikus raksasa dengan panjang lebih dari satu meter akan muncul dari lokasi yang tidak diketahui, memekik ketika mereka bergegas melewati selokan sebelum menghilang ke dalam kegelapan lagi. Tikus-tikus besar itu tampaknya hampir tidak terpengaruh oleh radiasi yang cukup kuat untuk membunuh seekor kuda yang kuat. Namun, potongan-potongan daging dan rambut kadang-kadang akan jatuh dari tubuh tikus besar, dan setelah diperiksa lebih dekat, orang akan menemukan bahwa dagingnya telah lama membusuk. Sepertinya bahkan tikus-tikus raksasa itu sama sekali tidak terpengaruh oleh radiasi.

Kedua lampu naik beberapa meter sebelum berhenti di bagian paling atas dari balok baja miring. Mereka kemudian menatap dunia di malam yang gelap ini. Tercermin di dalam lampu-lampu merah itu adalah bangunan-bangunan besar yang hanya tersisa kulit luarnya, rumah-rumah dengan setengah dindingnya runtuh, dan sisa-sisa mobil tersebar di mana-mana.

Fluoresensi hijau yang suram bisa dilihat di mana-mana di bawah langit malam.

Tempat ini dianggap sebagai reruntuhan lima puluh tahun yang lalu, tetapi sekarang, itu dikenal sebagai kota.

Api yang menyilaukan tiba-tiba meletus di sudut jalan yang tidak terlalu jauh. Teriakan gila dan histeris terdengar, dan suara itu dengan cepat mendekat.

Lampu merah tampak kaget, dan empat sayap transparan menyebar saat mereka dengan cepat terbang tinggi ke langit. Lampu berapi menyinari; kumbang raksasa sepanjang satu meter terbang menjauh.

Orang yang membawa obor sama sekali tidak tertarik pada kumbang dan terus berlari mengikuti arus orang di depannya. Kadang-kadang, auman seperti binatang buas bisa terdengar.

Api menghilang ke kejauhan, dan kumbang besar sekali lagi menyembunyikan dirinya dalam kegelapan. Namun, embusan angin yang kuat tiba-tiba bertiup melewati. Kumbang raksasa segera mengeluarkan jeritan sengsara. Kakinya yang setajam pisau terus menerus menghantam batu bata dan batang baja, menghasilkan percikan terang. Keempat sayap terus berkibar saat berjuang untuk hidupnya, namun masih perlahan terseret ke dalam kegelapan.

Segera setelah itu, apa yang menyertai bunyi melengkingnya adalah suara yang berderak.

Di dalam gang yang gelap, langkah kaki yang terburu-buru tiba-tiba terdengar. Seorang wanita yang tampak agak bingung masuk. Begitu dia memasuki gang kecil, dia segera melihat sesosok yang bersandar di dinding.

Orang itu benar-benar ditutupi oleh selimut hitam, dan dengan kepalanya terkulai, tidak mungkin untuk melihat wajah. Dari tubuh yang agak mungil, tubuh itu tampaknya milik seorang anak berusia delapan atau sembilan tahun.

Wanita itu mengepalkan giginya dan bergegas dengan beberapa langkah. Dia dengan paksa menjejalkan kain yang membungkus lengannya ke dada individu itu. Dengan suara pahit, dia berkata, "Aku mohon, tolong selamatkan dia!"

Fluoresensi dari genangan air limbah di bawah dinding menerangi fitur wajah wanita itu. Meskipun cahayanya agak redup, itu mengungkapkan wajah yang sangat muda dan cantik. Penampilannya sepertinya berusia sekitar dua puluh tahun. Dia memiliki kulit seputih salju yang jarang terlihat di era ini, begitu banyak sehingga cukup membuat wanita lain ingin memotong wajahnya beberapa kali karena kecemburuan. Lehernya juga panjang dan ramping. Meletakkan di bawah rahangnya, kurva yang nyaris sempurna diuraikan. Melanjutkan ke bawah, kulit putihnya tiba-tiba mencuat, mengeluarkan belahan yang dalam. Pakaiannya sangat tipis, dan hanya beberapa kancing yang kancingnya sembarangan, membuat sebagian besar payudaranya terbuka. Dua tonjolan memikat samar-samar dapat dilihat dari pakaian, dan di sekitar daerah itu, beberapa titik basah kecil terlihat. Mereka kemungkinan tertinggal setelah memberi makan seorang anak.

Semua ini bahkan tidak mengambil satu detik penuh. Tanpa menunggu orang itu untuk menjawab, wanita itu tiba-tiba bangkit dan berlari menuju kedalaman gang. Setelah berlari lebih dari sepuluh meter, dia tiba-tiba melepaskan teriakan yang memekakkan telinga. Jeritannya melaju jauh sepanjang malam yang agak bising. Kelompok yang keras dan histeris tidak jauh dari situ segera mengeluarkan tangisan kegembiraan dan kegembiraan, dan bahkan sebelum satu menit berlalu, lorong itu diterangi oleh obor. Lebih dari sepuluh orang yang mengenakan pakaian compang-camping bergegas ke gang. Wajah mereka mengungkapkan ekspresi yang kejam dan terstimulasi saat mereka memaksa masuk ke kedalaman lorong.

Seseorang yang agak kuat melambaikan tongkat kayu besar dengan paku besi mencuat. Lengannya mendorong orang-orang di depan, dan ketika dia mengejar, dia berteriak, “Ketika kita menangkap wanita itu, aku ingin rasa pertama! Saya akan menghancurkan kepala siapa pun yang tidak setuju! "

Di belakangnya, seorang pria paruh baya ramping berbicara dengan volume yang tidak sesuai dengan fisiknya. Dia tertawa keras dan menggoda berkata, “Baik, Black Duncan. Namun, wanita itu telah tidur dengan setan sebelumnya, jadi siapa yang tahu benda apa yang dibawanya. Apakah Anda masih akan menidurinya? Apakah Anda tidak takut ketika Anda meletakkannya di tengah jalan, anak kecil Anda akan membusuk di dalam? "

Black Duncan balas, “Mungkin tidak. Aku bisa menangani lebih banyak radiasi daripada kalian. ”Namun, suaranya sekarang jelas membawa sedikit keraguan.

Keragu-raguannya segera membangkitkan tawa gemuruh banyak orang. "Black Duncan, kamu bahkan berani bercinta dengan babi yang bermutasi, jadi apa yang kamu takutkan? Mungkinkah si kecil Anda sudah busuk? Namun, anak lelaki Anda tampaknya tidak cocok dengan tubuh Anda yang sebenarnya! "

Black Duncan meraung beberapa kali dengan geram. "Aku tidak peduli lagi! Jika Anda pikir benda Anda besar, maka naiklah. Apa pun itu, aku tidak akan melakukannya lagi! "

Tiba-tiba, seseorang berteriak, "Jika kalian tidak mau, maka aku akan! Either way, barang saya sudah setengah busuk. Jika saya bisa melakukannya dengan wanita berkulit putih, maka itu sangat berharga bahkan jika itu benar-benar membusuk! "

Yang berteriak adalah lelaki tua kurus dan layu. Selain kain kotor yang menutupi tubuhnya, ia sepertinya tidak punya apa-apa. Tubuhnya yang kurus tertutup luka-luka yang membusuk dan kepalanya hampir sepenuhnya telanjang. Hanya sedikit rambut putih yang bisa dilihat di sana. Dia terengah-engah saat berlari, dadanya melepaskan suara hulu hulu, seolah-olah dia adalah kotak angin kuno yang hidup. Dia nyaris tidak bisa mengimbangi grup. Namun, benda gelap di bawah pinggangnya seperti batang baja pendek dan kurus karena tiba-tiba berdiri lurus di atas perutnya.

Gang itu tidak panjang, dan dalam sekejap mata, selusin preman bergegas melewati ujung lainnya. Setelah api berkedip-kedip lewat, kegelapan sekali lagi mengkonsumsi daerah ini. Wanita cantik itu memegang semua perhatian gerombolan perusuh dan bernafsu, jadi mereka bahkan tidak pernah memperhatikan bahwa benjolan di sudut adalah seseorang. Pada kenyataannya, bahkan jika para penjahat ini melihatnya, mereka tidak akan memperhatikannya. Lagi pula, angka kematian yang tergeletak di genangan limbah radioaktif tidak jarang sama sekali.

Tidak jauh dari gang, teriakan massa tiba-tiba menjadi semakin keras, dan bercampur aduk di dalamnya adalah jeritan menyedihkan seorang wanita yang tidak lagi terdengar seperti suara manusia. Tidak lama kemudian, teriakan wanita itu menjadi teredam, seolah-olah ada sesuatu yang menghentikannya dari membuat kebisingan lagi. Tawa massa gerombolan itu menjadi semakin keras, dan pada akhirnya, suara wanita itu benar-benar tenggelam.

Di dalam lorong gelap, sosok yang terbungkus selimut hitam tiba-tiba bergerak, kepalanya terkulai perlahan mengangkat. Seorang bayi muncul di bawah selimut, dan dari tepiannya, sebagian tangan kecil terbuka. Garis tender jelas milik seorang anak yang belum matang, tetapi meskipun demikian, kulit anak itu jelas dan halus. Itu sangat terang sehingga agak menyilaukan, sangat kontras dengan lingkungan sekitar. Dari dalam selimut, lampu hijau tua bersinar; itu datang dari matanya. Pada saat ini, dia diam-diam mengamati bayi di dalam pembungkus kain.

Bayi itu tidak menangis atau rewel. Sepasang mata biru besar juga melihat kembali ke lampu hijau. Kulitnya berkilau dengan kilau yang mirip dengan krim tingkat tinggi, sangat berbeda dari bercak besar berwarna biru tua dan kulit hijau pucat yang ditemukan pada bayi generasi ini. Bibir kecilnya terlihat jelas. Singkatnya, dia luar biasa cantik, terutama untuk bayi yang belum berhenti minum susu.

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Dia berkedip, dan lampu hijau di wajah bayi perempuan itu juga berkedip. Akhirnya, dia mengulurkan tangan dan sedikit melonggarkan kain ketat itu. Bayi perempuan itu juga bisa mendengar suara di sekitarnya. Dia bisa mendengar raungan gerombolan itu, dan juga jeritan buruk wanita itu sesekali.

Lengan putih ramping dan jari-jarinya yang panjang dan halus seperti awan di langit malam. Setelah muncul sebentar, mereka kembali ke selimut.

Kepala bayi perempuan itu sedikit miring ke samping. Telinganya sedikit gemetar, seolah-olah dia menerima semua suara di sekitarnya; dia tampaknya benar-benar asyik mendengarkan. Baru sekarang dia menyadari bahwa ujung telinganya menunjuk, membuat mereka sedikit lebih panjang dari pada manusia normal.

Di kejauhan, pesta brutal dan tidak bermoral tidak berlangsung lama. Mengikuti teriakan yang penuh keputusasaan, gerombolan itu perlahan-lahan menjadi tenang. Segera setelah itu, cahaya berapi meletus. Asap tebal naik ke udara, membawa gelombang aroma terbakar. Api besar berkobar, dan dari waktu ke waktu, ia bahkan akan melesat sepuluh meter ke udara. Sungguh luar biasa sehingga cahaya dari nyala api sesaat menerangi lorong yang gelap.

Tidak ada yang tersisa di lorong kecuali selokan. Anak yang dibungkus selimut hitam gelap itu tidak terlihat.

Matahari terbit seperti biasa.

Sinar matahari yang membakar berseri-seri melalui awan kelabu tebal, berhamburan ke tanah yang berganti-ganti antara hitam dan kuning. Dari waktu ke waktu, angin sepoi-sepoi akan mendorong sepotong awan kelabu dan membiarkan sinar matahari menyinari tanpa terhalang. Hewan-hewan aneh dan aneh akan menyebar ke segala arah untuk mencari tempat teduh atau gua bawah tanah untuk bersembunyi dari sinar matahari yang keras dan fatal. Satu-satunya makhluk hidup yang tidak takut pada sinar matahari adalah spesies vegetasi tinggi tertentu. Batang putih sakit-sakitan dari paku setengah meter panjang. Setiap kali sinar matahari berseri-seri, ia akan berubah sendiri untuk menyerap cahaya yang kuat. Kemudian akan tumbuh dengan panik pada kecepatan yang terlihat.

Bang, bang! Terdengar suara berisik, mengganggu ketenangan pagi hari. Seorang lelaki tua berusia sekitar lima puluh tahun dengan garang memukuli pipa logam yang menjulur dari tanah sambil berteriak dengan suara serak, "Waktunya bekerja! Kalian semua bajingan lebih baik merangkak keluar di sini sekarang! Biarkan Hans Tua ini melihat berapa banyak orang yang beruntung yang tersisa! ”

Lebih dari seratus orang segera muncul dari tanah dan berlari ke arah ini. Namun, mereka semua secara sukarela berhenti lima meter di depan orang tua itu, seolah-olah ada semacam penghalang tak berwujud yang mencegah mereka mengambil langkah lebih jauh. Ada beberapa di antara kelompok yang tidak menyadari kebiasaan yang mendorong dan mendorong mereka ke depan. Laki-laki besar dan kuat di sekitar mereka segera memarahi, “Pendatang baru mulai dari belakang! Untuk apa Anda mendorong? ”Orang-orang itu segera menyadari apa yang sedang terjadi. Wajah mereka sudah menderita beberapa kepalan tangan, dan tubuh mereka terbaring di tanah. Orang-orang di sekitar mereka segera berkontribusi tanpa henti dengan tangan dan kaki mereka. Hanya setelah beberapa saat orang-orang kuat itu melemparkan orang-orang yang hampir sekarat ini di luar barisan. Mereka bahkan meludahi seteguk ludah dengan kebencian pada para pendatang baru.

Old Hans sudah lama terbiasa dengan tindakan biadab ini. Dia hanya mengangkat bahu dengan acuh tak acuh terhadap tindakan itu. Saat ini, ia mengenakan jaket kulit yang benar-benar kehilangan kilau di luar kemeja bermotif kotak-kotak merah kasar. Di bawah ada sepasang celana jeans yang penuh minyak, dan di kakinya ada sepasang sepatu bot militer tinggi. Dibandingkan dengan para pengungsi di sekitarnya yang tampak tidak berbeda dengan pengemis, Hans Tua itu seperti raja. Sikapnya juga sama seperti sikap seorang raja. Di depan dadanya tergantung lambang perak. Latar belakang lambang adalah kota yang jauh, dan tertanam di tengahnya adalah sebuah tank. Di bawah sinar matahari, lambang bersinar cemerlang, membuatnya sangat menarik. Seratus pasang mata sering melayang melewati lambang. Di antara tatapan itu, ada beberapa yang mengungkapkan rasa takut, yang lain mengungkapkan kecemburuan, tetapi yang paling umum terlihat menyerupai yang dimiliki serigala yang kelaparan untuk makan daging.

Dihadapkan dengan ratusan atau lebih serigala liar ini, Old Hans tampaknya tidak takut sedikit pun. Dia pindah ke belakang meja logam dan mengambil beberapa kaleng dengan label yang tidak bisa dilihat. Dia membantingnya ke atas meja dan meraung, “Sama seperti sebelumnya! Seratus kilogram bijih dapat digunakan untuk ditukar dengan lima sen! Harga makanan sama dengan kemarin. Karena kasihan padamu, bajingan, ada beberapa kaleng di sini hari ini. Itu tergantung pada kalian untuk melihat siapa yang pergi dengan apa! Jangan memajukan jalan Anda, datanglah satu per satu! "

Orang-orang ini sangat menyadari aturannya. Setelah berbaris dengan benar, mereka berjalan ke meja logam satu per satu. Old Hans tampak seperti tukang daging mengambil dagingnya ketika dia menyapu matanya melalui tubuh mereka, warna kulit, dan warna kulit. Dia kemudian dengan santai berteriak, "Kamu baik-baik saja, kamu bisa pergi ke sana dan bekerja!" Atau "Kamu tidak baik!"

Para pengungsi yang mendapat persetujuan segera bergegas menuju tumpukan alat. Setelah meraih pick logam dan keranjang untuk dipakai di punggung mereka, mereka segera berlari untuk tambang beberapa ratus meter jauhnya, takut jika mereka bahkan lebih lambat kedua, Old Hans akan berubah pikiran dan menganggap mereka sebagai orang yang tidak berguna dan berkata kata-kata menakutkan "Kamu tidak baik."

"Kenapa aku tidak cukup baik?" Raungan tertahan menarik kembali perhatian semua orang. Itu berasal dari seorang individu yang tingginya sekitar 6'2. Seseorang berkulit hitam dengan tubuh beruang gunung menghancurkan tinjunya di atas meja logam dan meraung ke arah Hans Tua.

Old Hans mengeluarkan sapu tangan yang bersih dan perlahan-lahan menyeka air liur yang mendarat di wajahnya. Dia menunjuk ke arah lesi busuk seukuran mangkuk besar dan berkata dengan tidak tergesa-gesa, "Kamu terjangkit penyakit! Jika saya membiarkan Anda turun ke tambang, maka Anda akan menginfeksi pekerja terkuat saya. Siapa yang akan menyelesaikan pekerjaan itu? "

“Aku bisa bekerja! Saya perlu makan, dan saya punya tiga anak untuk dibesarkan! "Pria kulit hitam itu tidak mendengarkan dengan penuh perhatian apa yang dikatakan Hans Tua. Dia terus berteriak sambil memukul keras di atas meja logam.

Old Hans mengerutkan kening. Dia membelai janggutnya dan mengisyaratkan ke arah orang-orang di belakangnya. Begitu suara ledakan terdengar, teriakan pria kulit hitam itu tiba-tiba berhenti. Ketika dia melihat rongga besar yang muncul di dadanya dengan rasa tidak percaya, tenggorokannya mencoba mengeluarkan suara, tetapi tidak ada sepatah kata pun keluar.

Di belakang Old Hans, seorang lelaki kuat botak sekali lagi menarik pelatuk senapan laras ganda di tangannya. Suara keras lainnya meledak, mengirim beberapa ratus pelet ke dada individu hitam itu. Ukuran lukanya berlipat ganda, dan kali ini, lukanya benar-benar menembus dadanya yang tebal dan kokoh. Pria kuat itu mengenakan setelan hitam yang memiliki banyak kerutan sehingga menjadi benar-benar tak berbentuk. Ada banyak lubang di dalamnya juga, mengungkapkan betapa kuno pakaian itu. Ada total tiga pria kuat seperti ini di belakang Old Hans.

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Begitu Old Hans selesai menyeka wajahnya, dia berkata ke udara kosong di depan meja logam, "Juga, ****, air liurmu bau!" Dari cara bicaranya, sepertinya orang kulit hitam itu masih berdiri di depan meja.

Masih ada lebih dari seratus pengungsi yang belum memasuki tambang bijih. Pada saat ini, sedikit lebih sedikit keserakahan dan sedikit lebih banyak ketakutan dapat terlihat di mata mereka. Beberapa orang berjalan mendekat. Mereka menyeret tubuh lelaki hitam besar itu dan menjatuhkannya di suatu tempat beberapa ratus meter jauhnya.

Garis di depan meja logam dengan cepat memendek. Bahkan sebelum langit cerah, sebagian besar pengungsi sudah memasuki tambang bijih. Orang-orang yang belum dipilih mulai berjalan menuju kota untuk mencari peluang potensial.

“Jumlah pekerja yang sakit semakin tinggi dan semakin tinggi. Jumlah bulan ini sepertinya sedikit ketat … "Old Hans mengerutkan kening. Dia berdiri dan meregangkan pinggang dan punggungnya yang sakit. Namun, ketika dia hanya membentang setengah jalan, dia tiba-tiba berhenti. Dia kemudian menopang dirinya dengan dua tangan dan mencondongkan tubuh ke depan untuk melihat anak yang hampir tidak lebih tinggi dari meja logam.

Anak itu ditutupi selimut yang begitu kotor sehingga warna aslinya sudah lama menghilang. Wajah, lengan, dan setiap tempat anak yang terpapar ditutupi dengan kain tebal. Hanya mata kiri yang bisa dilihat, dan saat ini menatap Hans dengan tenang. Anak itu tampak kira-kira delapan atau sembilan, dan tidak diketahui apakah anak itu laki-laki atau perempuan.

Awalnya, Old Hans pasti tidak akan membuang waktu untuk pengungsi yang jelas tidak cocok. Namun, itu mungkin karena dia merasa sedikit beramal, mungkin melihat darah barusan membuat hatinya melunak, mungkin kegelisahan karena kekurangan pekerja bulan ini, atau bahkan tatapan anak itu, tetapi terlepas dari itu, dia ragu-ragu. Tiba-tiba, dia membuka mulutnya dan bertanya, "Kamu ingin bekerja?"

Anak itu mengangguk.

"Baik! Namun, apakah Anda pria atau wanita? "Old Hans bertanya.

"Laki-laki," akhirnya anak itu berbicara. Dibandingkan dengan anak-anak lain yang seusia, suaranya jelas lebih dalam dan memiliki jenis daya tarik yang tak terlukiskan.

"Baik. Boy, pergi ke sana untuk mengambil alat Anda. Ikuti yang lain. Untuk setiap seratus kilogram bijih yang Anda gali, Anda dapat menukarnya dengan lima sen. Ini adalah perawatan terbaik yang bisa saya berikan kepada Anda. Dari cara Anda berpakaian, jangan bilang bahwa Anda menyembunyikan semacam penyakit? Baiklah, kamu tidak perlu khawatir. Setidaknya tidak ada bau yang keluar dari tubuh Anda. Hidung Old Hans masih cukup bagus. Pergi, semakin cepat Anda selesai, semakin cepat Anda bisa makan sendiri. Setelah Anda tidak dapat bekerja lebih lama, temukan Crippled Peter. Dia akan memberi tahu Anda berapa banyak uang atau makanan yang bisa Anda tukarkan. "

Di bawah obrolan Old Hans, bocah itu mengambil pick logam yang lebih tinggi dari dirinya. Keranjang di punggungnya hampir menyentuh lantai saat dia perlahan berjalan ke kedalaman ranjau.

Hanya ketika sosoknya menghilang, Old Hans menggelengkan kepalanya. Dia tiba-tiba berbalik dan menghadapi orang-orang besar berjas hitam dan berkata, "Apakah saya terlalu banyak bicara hari ini?"

Di depan pria tua yang tampaknya gelisah ini, pria-pria kuat seperti banteng berjas tidak bisa membantu tetapi mengambil beberapa langkah mundur. Mereka segera buru-buru dan dengan tegas menggelengkan kepala mereka.

Old Hans melepaskan beberapa tawa paksa dan berkata, "Kamu cukup pintar, dan itulah sebabnya aku menjadikanmu pemimpin para penjaga. Namun, Anda harus ingat bahwa di tempat ini, saya adalah agen tunggal perusahaan. Saya dapat dengan mudah membuat Anda membunuh para pengungsi seperti anjing, dan saya juga bisa mengubah Anda menjadi seekor anjing besok. Orang tua cenderung memiliki beberapa sifat eksentrik. Anda hanya perlu melakukan pekerjaan Anda dengan benar, mengerti? "

"Dimengerti, Tuan Hans."

"Kau harus memanggilku Yang Mulia Hans!"

"Dimengerti, Yang Mulia Hans!"

Old Hans menyenandungkan nada misterius dan berjalan ke sebuah rumah kecil yang terbuat dari lembaran logam. Rumah kecil ini, kebal terhadap angin dan hujan, juga bisa dianggap sebagai jenis kemewahan.

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Senja segera mendekat. Serigala-serigala busuk yang tidur sepanjang malam karena kelaparan terbangun dan melepaskan lolongan panjang. Mereka mulai berkeliaran seperti hantu mencari hal-hal untuk mengisi perut mereka.

Old Hans mendorong membuka gerbang logam rumah kecil dan berjalan keluar. Matanya menyipit saat dia melihat matahari yang akan terbenam. Dia merasa jauh lebih baik setelah tidur siang. Tambang sudah benar-benar kosong, karena para pekerja sudah lama pergi. Mereka telah menyelesaikan bagian mereka, jadi mereka kembali ke tempat tinggal mereka. Begitu matahari turun di bawah cakrawala, ranjau yang berantakan akan ditutupi tikus-tikus panjang yang ganas. Makhluk-makhluk ini sangat ganas, dengan gigi seri tajam yang dapat dengan mudah menggigit batang baja lebih dari dua sentimeter tebal. Bahkan bebatuan terberat tidak berguna sebelum tikus. Begitu matahari terbit, tikus-tikus ganas itu akan menggali di bawah tanah dan pergi tidur, meninggalkan para penambang sepanjang hari untuk menggali bijih.

Begitu matahari hampir sepenuhnya menghilang, sosok kecil muncul dari pintu masuk tambang. Di belakang bocah itu ada sekeranjang bijih yang hampir setinggi dirinya. Dia saat ini berjalan terhuyung-huyung.

Kelopak mata Old Hans melonjak beberapa kali. Tidak ada sepatah kata pun atau gerakan darinya ketika dia melihat anak kecil itu berjalan ke gunung kecil bijih dan menuangkan isinya dari keranjang di punggungnya. Dia kemudian perlahan berjalan sambil memegang secarik kertas yang dia terima dari mandor. Potongan-potongan kain yang melilit tubuhnya dipenuhi bercak-bercak merah, kuning, dan berbagai warna gelap dari tambang.

Melihat bocah itu berjalan mendekat, Hans Tua bergerak ke arah belakang rumah. Ada gudang besar di sebelah rumah logam. Peter yang lumpuh, yang kehilangan setengah kakinya, menggerakkan tubuhnya yang beratnya melebihi seratus kilogram dengan susah payah dan berteriak, "Nak, kemarilah!"

Bocah itu tiba di depan gudang dan menyerahkan slip kertas. Ketika Crippled Peter menyapu matanya, dia tidak bisa menahan peluit. “Anak muda, tidak buruk! Anda telah melakukan lebih dari banyak yang lain. "

Peter menggunakan jari tebalnya untuk menunjuk ke daftar barang yang panjang, dan bocah itu mulai melihat daftar itu juga. Tatapannya berhenti sejenak pada kata-kata 'air minum', dan kemudian terus melihat ke bawah sampai terhalang oleh jari Peter yang tebal.

"Yang ini." Bocah itu menunjuk daftar dengan jari terbungkus kain.

Peter segera berteriak, “Ah ha! Air minum kelas tiga! Anak muda, Anda pasti dari kaum bangsawan, bukan? Saya pernah mendengar bahwa tubuh bangsawan sangat lemah sehingga mereka hanya bisa minum air murni. Itu pasti air tanpa kotoran atau sedikit pun radiasi! ”

"Yang ini." Bocah itu menunjuk ke daftar. Suaranya tidak berfluktuasi sedikit pun, membuat orang lain ragu apakah ini benar-benar suara pekerja kasar.

Peter mengangkat bahu. Dari peti kayu di belakangnya, dia mengeluarkan minuman dengan tanggal produksi yang sama tidak dikenalnya dan melemparkannya ke arah bocah itu. "Sini! Air minum kelas tiga, bocah yang luar biasa. ”

Bocah itu dengan hati-hati meletakkan kaleng kecil itu dengan hati-hati ke dalam selimut dan berbalik untuk pergi. Peter yang lumpuh menggelengkan kepalanya dan mengeluarkan sepotong roti seukuran kepalan tangan. Dia melemparkannya ke arah bocah itu dan berkata, “Anak muda, menambang adalah tugas yang berat. Anda tidak akan bertahan lama jika Anda tidak makan. Ambillah ini dan ingatlah bahwa Anda berhutang lima sen kepada Petrus yang lumpuh. Saya akan mengambilnya dari pembayaran Anda besok! "

Bocah itu menangkap roti dan dengan hati-hati menyimpannya dengan cara yang sama. Dia kemudian membungkuk dalam-dalam ke Peter Crippled sebelum pergi ke kegelapan.

Dalam belantara yang gelap, sepuluh pasang mata seperti serigala terfokus pada bocah itu. Bisikan terus naik dan turun.

“Bocah itu tampaknya telah melakukan sedikit pekerjaan. Kenapa kita tidak melihat-lihat berapa banyak yang dia tukarkan? Bahkan mungkin ada setengah roti. ”

"Aku yakin dia punya sepotong besar daging tikus panggang!"

Dari samping, suara malas namun ganas mengganggu pembicaraan mereka. "Hei, pendatang baru yang bodoh. Apakah Anda tidak tahu aturan Old Hans? Di dalam wilayahnya, tidak ada yang diizinkan untuk merampok barang yang dipertukarkan. "

Suara-suara dari sebelumnya sepertinya tidak diyakinkan. "Hans Tua? Apa yang akan dia lakukan? Aku bisa mengalahkan sepuluh kentut tua seperti dia! ”

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Orang yang tampaknya malas tertawa. "Hanya kamu? Anda bahkan tidak memenuhi syarat untuk menjilat pantatnya! "

Mereka yang disebut pendatang baru bodoh menjadi marah. Tepat ketika mereka ingin melawan, siapa yang akan menduga bahwa orang lain itu tiba-tiba kehilangan minat dan berteriak, “Kawan, potong orang-orang ini yang ingin menyebabkan gangguan berkeping-keping dan memberi mereka makan ke serigala yang membusuk!”

Sepuluh figur lagi merespons dan mengelilingi tempat ini.

Tangisan menyedihkan terdengar sebentar, dan hutan belantara menjadi damai lagi. Semua orang ingin beristirahat sebanyak mungkin untuk menambang bijih lain besok.

Dari dalam gudang, Peter yang lumpuh tidak bisa lagi melihat sosok bocah itu. Dia menggaruk kepalanya yang hampir botak dan bergumam, “Kemana anak muda itu pergi? Jika dia dimakan serigala yang membusuk, maka aku akan kehilangan lima sen itu. Hai, Pak Hans, apakah Anda pikir saya akan kehilangan lima sen itu? "

Old Hans, yang bersandar di gudang, mengangkat tangannya dan berkata, "Siapa yang tahu."

Peter yang lumpuh berdiri dengan susah payah dan mulai membersihkan daftar makanan dan persediaan. Kakinya yang tersisa tebal dan cukup kuat sehingga bisa menopang tubuhnya yang lebih dari seratus kilogram tanpa kruk. Dia mengambil secarik kertas yang dia terima dari bocah itu dan hendak membuangnya ketika dia tiba-tiba teringat sesuatu. Dia melihatnya lagi dan berkata pada dirinya sendiri, "Air minum kelas tiga … Aku benar-benar tidak tahu untuk apa dia membutuhkannya. Radiasi di dalam tambang berkali-kali lebih kuat daripada kotoran di luar. Ini bukan sesuatu yang bisa diminum sedikit dengan air bersih. "

Old Hans mengambil secarik kertas dari Peter dan memeriksanya. Setelah menyapu matanya ke nomor itu, dia meremasnya dan melemparkannya ke dalam lubang api di luar gudang.

Old Hans batuk beberapa kali dan meludah ke tanah. "Peter, pergi dan beri tahu Mad Dog Mida untuk mengurangi sepuluh kilogram lebih sedikit dari keranjang anak. Jika dia bisa bekerja di sini selama sebulan penuh, maka hitunglah sebagai jumlah penuh. ”

Peter berkata, "Itu agak tidak adil."

"Dia membesarkan seorang anak." Old Hans menyalakan sebatang rokok yang hanya tersisa setengahnya. Suaranya terdengar agak suram.

Peter agak kaget dan mengangkat kepalanya. "Apa? Dengan usianya, bagaimana ia bisa membesarkan anak? "

Old Hans mengeluarkan cincin asap dan berkata, "Jika seorang anak di bawah usia tiga tahun hanya minum air tanpa radiasi dan makan hal-hal yang bersih, benar, jika hanya hal-hal konyol seperti air dan makanan kelas tiga dikonsumsi, maka tidak akan ada setiap mutasi saat tumbuh dewasa. "

Alis Peter melonjak. "Surga! Saya selalu berasumsi bahwa semua orang akan bermutasi. Bagaimana Anda tahu ini? "

Old Hans dengan tenang menjawab, "Karena aku juga telah membesarkan seorang anak sebelumnya."

Peter kaget. “Kamu tidak pernah membicarakan hal-hal ini sebelumnya! Berapa umurnya? Dia seharusnya sekitar dua puluh sekarang, kan? Tuhan, kasihanilah, dia benar-benar tidak bisa seburuk kamu. ”

Old Hans terkekeh dan berkata, “Saya sangat miskin saat itu dan tidak bisa menemukan cukup air bersih dan makanan. Mutasi terjadi ketika dia berusia lima tahun, dan dia tidak mampu melakukannya. "

Peter tidak tahu harus berkata apa. Setelah terdiam beberapa saat, dia berkata, “Pak tua, maaf soal itu. Saya seharusnya tidak mengatakan hal-hal itu. Anda tahu bahwa … Saya belum pernah bertemu dengan seorang wanita yang mampu melahirkan di kehidupan ini dan tidak pernah memiliki kesempatan untuk membesarkan anak. "

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Old Hans menghirup asap dalam-dalam dan menatap ke langit malam hijau samar. "Rekan, kamu tidak perlu mengatakan hal-hal seperti itu kepadaku. Saat itu, jika itu bukan untuk Anda, saya sudah akan menjadi makanan bagi serigala yang membusuk. Saya juga tidak akan berada di posisi ini sebagai agen perusahaan. "

Peter mengangkat bagasi penyimpanan seberat lima puluh kilogram. Kakinya yang satu menekuk, dan ia segera melompati satu meter ke udara untuk dengan lembut meletakkan koper di rak paling atas. Dia kemudian menggelengkan kepalanya dan berkata, "Aku tidak sengaja menyelamatkanmu … Anda harus ingat bahwa saya adalah seorang ahli gulat. Penguatan pertahanan saya sudah di tingkat kedua, sehingga raja serigala tidak bisa menggigit saya sampai mati tidak peduli sekeras apa pun ia berusaha. Namun, itu berbeda untuk Anda. Untuk orang yang lemah seperti kamu pengguna sihir, itu bisa merobek setengah bagian bawahmu dengan sekali gigitan! ”

Old Hans memberikan sisa rokok itu kepada Peter dan menepuk pundaknya. “Rekan, jangan tidur terlambat. Tidak ada wanita yang akan datang ke sini saat ini. "

Peter menarik napas dalam-dalam dan menahannya di paru-parunya. Hanya ketika dia tidak bisa bertahan lagi dia menghembuskan napas. Old Hans sudah kembali ke rumah logam. Hanya bunyi gedebuk yang bisa terdengar, menyiratkan bahwa dia sudah melemparkan dirinya ke tempat tidur. Peter mengeluarkan sebuah kotak logam hijau dari bawah meja utama, dan dari dalam, ia dengan hati-hati mengeluarkan majalah yang tampaknya hampir pecah. Meminjam cahaya api unggun, dia mulai membolak-balik halaman satu per satu, napasnya semakin lama semakin berat.

Sampul majalah tiba-tiba terlepas dan jatuh ke lantai. Wanita bertubuh cantik dan seksi di sampul sudah menjadi buram karena berlalunya waktu, tetapi kata-kata mencolok 'Playboy' masih bisa dilihat di sampulnya. Di bawah kata-kata itu adalah sederetan kata-kata kecil yang mengungkapkan tanggal penerbitan majalah: Februari 1982.

Terlepas dari berapa banyak pengungsi baru yang datang dari hutan belantara atau berapa banyak pengungsi yang menghilang secara misterius, matahari akan selalu terbit seperti biasa.

Pemuda itu sama dengan kemarin. Di dalam tambang yang bermandikan sinar matahari, jumlah bijih yang dia gali sama dengan kemarin. Barang-barang yang ditukar juga sama. Satu-satunya perbedaan adalah bahwa jumlah uang yang dimilikinya. Peter lumpuh naik dari lima menjadi sepuluh sen.

Sebulan kemudian, apakah karena punya cukup makanan, atau karena bocah itu menjadi lebih kuat sendiri, jumlah yang ia dapatkan setiap hari sedikit meningkat. Akibatnya, jumlah utang yang dimilikinya, Peter yang lumpuh berangsur-angsur berkurang.

Kehidupan di hutan belantara berulang secara monoton. Setahun waktu berlalu begitu saja.

Di era ini, bisa hidup monoton sudah menjadi barang langka. Tidak perlu bertarung melawan serigala yang membusuk demi makanan, dan dia juga punya air tanpa terlalu banyak radiasi untuk diminum; apa lagi yang bisa dia minta? Adapun kebosanan, itu hanya masalah pemborosan. Hanya orang gila yang jarang memikirkan hal seperti itu.

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.

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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.

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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.”

"Jangan takut. 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.

"Hei, bocah! 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. "Pemuda! 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! Apa yang dapat saya? 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. "Minggir! 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. Baik! 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.”

“…Su.”

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.

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