"Will he really believe that you're his illegitimate child?" I asked, wanting to get our stories straight. He better not randomly call me Daddy or Gēge again. I didn't even know how to explain that away!
We were approaching the place Dàgē had written about in the letter he had left me. I couldn't prevent my hopes from rising even when I knew I could be setting myself up for disappointment. I'd traveled for so long and met so many obstacles along the way that reuniting with Dàgē, Junjun, Uncle, and Auntie seemed almost an impossible dream. It was more likely that I'd come across another crisis that I couldn't ignore!
They have to be here! Dàgē said they'd be here waiting for me!
There really was no helping me. I was choosing to believe again.
My steps quickened. It didn't matter if it made me look impatient or frenzied. It didn't matter if I might attract aberrants. I wanted to see Junjun again, that darling sister of mine, even if it were only a second faster. I wanted to see Dàgē again, the one and only, even if I had to crawl my way back!
"He'll believe it," Xiaotian answered, leaning against my shoulder. "I've already told you so."
I nodded and patted Xiaotian on the back. Toddlers were really wonderful to hold. So soft and cuddly! Physically, Xiaotian was a toddler through and through, but the resemblance to his grown-up self was there. Just going by appearance, it wasn't a stretch that Xiaotian could be Dàgē's son. He looked exactly like a miniature Dàgē. Dàgē holding a miniature Dàgē. My gods, that scene would be way too much!
And with how hot Dàgē was, I didn't doubt that he must have had plenty of admirers before the apocalypse. Now, with half of humankind gone and the rest in deep peril, Dàgē's strength was even more captivating. Even his younger brother can't stop drooling!
So, I wasn't surprised by Xiaotian's implication that Dàgē had probably done it with plenty of people before, at least enough so that it wouldn't be strange for him to suddenly have a son show up out of nowhere. Besides, I was his younger brother, so I shouldn't mind so much. Isn't it a good thing to have a mighty older brother?
Still, I couldn't help but feel like Dàgē was being taken away... by another woman! A younger brother shouldn't think this way, right?
"Won't he ask who the mother is though?" I wondered.
What then? Surely you can't just name some random person?
Xiaotian said into my shirt, "We don't have to go into specifics. He'll jump to his own conclusion."
"But if he doesn't?"
"Then, I'll just say she's from some other continent. There's no way to check now."
Dàgē, are you that careless?!
But his words weren't wrong. After the black fog, there was no easy way to travel between continents. No planes flew anymore, not unless one could secure a private jet or was part of the government. Even then, there were avian aberrants to deal with. Traveling by ship wasn't ideal either. Plenty of sea aberrants lay in ambush. If I hadn't told Dàgē to return before the 20th, he would have been stuck on the other continent, just like Jiang Xiaotian.
No, it's not the same.
In that other world, it was likely that the entire Jiang family, Jiang Shutian being the only exception, had perished on the 21st. Without forewarning and preparation, Junjun, Uncle, and Auntie couldn't have survived being attacked by the nurse and Lin-bó. Jiang Shuyu had even less of a chance—he had probably still been confined to bed after getting hit by a tile, and died just like that, unable to survive through the moment of judgment. Jiang Shutian had spent ten long years before he could even return to the continent, only to find that his entire family had perished.
It's not the same. Even if Dàgē had been stranded in the Arctic, I'd protect Junjun to death and make sure the family stayed together so we could one day reunite!
I hugged Xiaotian close. You're part of the family too now, Jiang Xiaotian!
"You haven't seen Junjun for pretty much a decade, right? You'll be surprised! She's turned even more beautiful lately..."
Xiaotian snorted, mumbling something about how I was still spoiling our younger sister too much.
You will too, Jiang Xiaotian. I hugged him more tightly. I may not be your younger brother, but Junjun is Junjun. Stay, if only just for her.
Xiao Sha was the one who spotted us.
"Xiao Yu!" he shouted. He was only stunned for a moment before he ran up to us in rare excitement. "Xiao Yu, you're alive!"
In my arms, Xiaotian stiffened. I felt him lift his head and peer over at Xiao Sha. His tiny hands twisted my shirt.
In Xiaotian's world, Xiao Sha was dead, killed by Thirteen, who even kept the aberrant from his corpse as a pet. Xiaotian had never been able to avenge him, and then, Xiaotian had chosen to desert the future, as well as Lily and the rest of his comrades.
What must he be feeling now?
I patted Xiaotian's back. I'd yet to run into anyone I had personally known as Guan Weijun, but if I did run into someone I hadn't been able to protect... What would I feel? Would it be regret, or would it be relief?
If I were to meet my mom again, I... I would be happy that somewhere in the universe, she was still alive. No thanks to me, but even knowing that she's still living and well would probably bring me to tears.
"I'm back," I said, throat constricting. How am I supposed to talk like this?
Let me be able to save my family this time.
Let me be able to stay with them the entire way!
After Xiao Sha shouted for the others, he asked, "Xiao Yu... who's the kid?"
I sent my turbulent emotions packing and grinned, pulling at Xiaotian's hands. He easily let go of my shirt, no longer twisting my shirt so hard that he could probably rip a hole into it. As expected of the Ice Emperor. He already had his emotions back under check. I turned him around and waved Xiaotian's little hand as a greeting.
I was truly getting very daring, treating the Ice Emperor like an actual toddler. It couldn't be helped. Who told him to turn into a kid? Not only that, he didn't even take his own health into consideration, helping me power up instead, causing his situation to worsen. "This is Jiang Xiaotian. Jiang Xiaotian, meet Xiao Sha."
"Jiang Xiaotian...?" Xiao Sha blinked and peered at Xiaotian, startled. "He..."
Xiaotian stared fixedly back at Xiao Sha. That was truly an intimidating look coming from a toddler. I was wrong. Xiaotian doesn't have his emotions under check at all!
I couldn't fault him. Xiao Sha was dead in his world. I merely said, "He looks a lot like Dàgē, right?" I paused for a moment, letting Xiao Sha digest my words before dropping the bombshell. "That's a given. He's Dàgē's illegitimate child."