Volume 1: Chapter 1 – Don’t Die a Second Time
Zhang Mu was half buried in a pile of corpses, his whole body drenched as though he had just been fished out of a pool of blood. He had nearly been chopped in half; a mortal wound stretched from his left shoulder down to the right of his stomach.
It was cold. Very cold. His life was slipping away, and his consciousness was gradually fading too.
The eastern sky appeared snow white. The break of dawn would end as quickly as it came.
The entire population of Jiang City had been exterminated in just 70 some days!
Four million people, wiped out!
The formerly large and bustling city had been reduced to a monster’s paradise.
It was probably the sound of breathing that caught the attention of the monsters. Heavy footsteps sounded nearby, and before long, a creature built like a small mountain appeared, blocking the light of dawn. The monster stood at three meters tall, had dark green skin, sinister tusks, large copper eyes, and wielded a blood-stained white wolf’s fang as a weapon.
The man-eating ogre, upon finding a survivor who was struggling on death’s door, could not resist letting out a brutal and merciless cry before raising his wolf-fang club and swinging it heavily downwards.
Zhang Mu lost consciousness.
July 16, 2015.
It was only a brief moment, yet felt as though a century had passed. His consciousness, which had sank to the depths of nothingness, was suddenly dragged back from the abyss, and he jerked up into a sitting position on the bed as his consciousness flowed back to his body like a torrent.
‘Where is this?’
Zhang Mu surveyed his surroundings before finally locking his gaze onto a mirror opposite of him. Its reflection showed a youthful face with dark hair and a disheveled appearance that was neither too handsome nor too ugly. His features weredelicate and refined, though with a somewhat pale complexion. He had cold sweat dripping down his face.He looked as though he had just awoken from a nightmare, with a face full of cold sweat.
“Is this my apartment?” Zhang Mu touched himself over his entire body and with disbelief written on his face, he said, “Didn’t I die in that battle?”
Was all that really just a nightmare?
He took a few deep breaths. The first thing to do is to calm down. The clock on the wall indicated that it was 21:30. If his memory was correct, only two and a half hours were left before the games began. Of course, it could just be a coincidence, but at this moment a familiar ringtone sounded.
Zhang Mu’s heart abruptly became crystal clear. Something that had originally seemed like it belonged in the vague and distant future, slowly gained clarity in his mind.…… He realized that all of this was exactly the same as the scenes that played had played out in his memories. This phone call should be from Sun Lin, his girlfriend from university… at least she still was, for now. If he wasn’t wrong, once he answered the phone, Sun Lin would immediately ask “Where are you?”
A female voice was heard through the cell phone, “Where are you?”
Zhang Mu’s heart sank as he replied, “At home.”
“Why don’t you come up?”
“Nah, you come down, there’s something we need to discuss, just the two of us. I’ll be hanging up now.”
Sun Lin abruptly ended the call, and all Zhang Mu could hear was the sound of static. His confusion returned as he realized these exact same events had occurred in his dream. This was a serious problem; if his dream was actually true then that nightmare was going to happen in reality. It would be like a replay of a film.
Sun Ling was waiting on the bottom floor. What she wanted to tell him had to be said face to face.
Zhang Mu thought for a bit before putting on his clothes and heading downstairs.
It was a chilly night. The streetlights pierced through the mist with a scarlet red glow. The world looked as if it was soaked in a bloody mist, saturated with a peculiar sensation.
Sun Lin stood under the streetlight in a beige t-shirt, cropped jeans and carried an expensive brand-name bag. She was young and pretty with blonde curly hair draped over her shoulders, and radiated an aura that caused passersby to turn their heads. On seeing Zhang Mu walking towards her, her beautiful expression immediately frosted over.
“Did you sleep the entire day?”
He’d once read a horror novel that claimed night air was more prone to inspiration and had affected a habit of staying up all night and sleeping during the day. But, seeing Su Lin’s face with that same cold expression from his dream, Zhang Mu was overcome by an alien feeling. It is said that time can numb emotions and dull perceptions, but the grief and sorrow of this scene are only memories from my dream.
Sun Lin’s face was expressionless and her gaze shifted to the side before she stated, in a voice devoid of emotions, “There’s something that’s been on my mind for quite a while already. Can we find a place to talk?”
“No need, just say it here.”
“I’m breaking up with you!”
Though what happened earlier could be explained as a coincidence, this confirmed his suspicions that he had really experienced this before!
Zhang Mu took a deep breath and calmly asked, “Because of Huang Kai?”
“You knew? That’s great, I don’t want to hide it any longer either.” Sun Lin seemed to deliberately raise her voice, and quite a few of those passing by gave them odd looks. “You steadily improve yourself and treat others with care, but you lack passion. Though you give me a sense of security, but this era isn’t about that, these days girls want passion and romance! I feel like you not only don’t understand life, you don’t understand love either, so I don’t want to continue this relationship any further! ”
Zhang Mu’s face was still as a lake without ripples. He was calm and reserved, his black pupils seemed like there was an endless depth to them. This lack of response was unexpected; he was way too calm, frighteningly so. His eyes seemed like they could see through a person’s heart. Their depth gave Sun Lin an uncomfortable feeling.
She was a bit flustered, but still opened her mouth to speak without waiting for Zhang Mu’s reply. “That’s right, I used to like you, but then I realized that you weren’t the type of guy for me. Huang Kai is generous and easygoing, he can give me everything I want. Unlike you, the one who only knows how to type on his keyboard in his room all day. I hope that you understand that you can’t force feelings!”
Sun Lin knew all too well that he had a less-than-fortunate childhood, and because of that, Zhang Mu was not good with words. As person who liked to read and write, starting from high school he was a somewhat well-known author in the horror novel scene. All the money he earned was spent on university fees, the cost of Sun Lin’s extravagant shopping, replacing home appliances and paying for the new computer for his sister who had just started attending university. In other people’s eyes, he was a reserved and gentle person. He would not show anger in front of others and was delicate in his actions. When facing a problem, at times, he looked like an ancient well without ripples, but he would take the time to mull things over whilst coming up with a plan to deal it.
It can’t be denied that Zhang Mu was an outstanding person. It was just that the disparity in status between Huang Kai and him was too large. The Huang family was the most well-known family in Jiang City, it could be said that the family was a thriving financial power. Sun Lin was a materialistic girl, there was no way she would pass this opportunity to become a phoenix who would rise to the peak, so she decided to abandon Zhang Mu.
Zhang Mu’s sharp eyes turned threateningly cold as he said, “ You think Huang Kai is better than me?”
“Of course!” When Sun Lin looked at his cold eyes there was a chilling sensation that she had never felt before. Those cold eyes of his were frightening. “You need to understand, I don’t owe you anything. I found a better life, if you’re a true man you should be magnanimous and wish me all the best!.”
Zhang Mu softly replied, “You’re right, everyone has the right to pursue their own goals, this is inevitable. However, you shouldn’t talk about my dignity as though I was just a stepping stone in your life.”
Sun Lin was losing her temper, “What, what are you talking about……”
Zhang Mu went on without skipping a beat, “Seeing as you think your wuss of a new boyfriend sent you out to talk to me instead of doing it himself is better than me, as a man, there’s something that I must do.”
There was a black BMW stopped alongside the road about hundred meters away.
Zhang Mu suddenly dashed towards the car like he had caught the wind and yanked the door open, pulling out a fashionably-dressed man with a silver earring adorning his ear.
Huang Kai loudly bellowed, “ What are you doing? Are you insane!?”. He was taller than Zhang Mu by half a head and was rather athletic, yet, at this moment, he was the one being dragged out of the car and thrown heavily on the ground like a sandbag.
Sun Lin screamed, “Stop it!”
Huang Kai had kept the fact that he had been chasing after Sun Lin for half a month a secret from everyone.Today he was going to announce publicly that he had succeeded. He had specifically come here today to see Sun Lin dump Zhang Mu, hoping for a show, so that he could take Sun Lin away in his new car in front of everybody and enjoy the despair on Zhan Mu’s face. Sun Lin didn’t mind putting Zhang Mu down, so she was happy to help Huang Kai with this plan.
Who’d have thought that Zhang Mu would not only be able to recognize Huang Kai’s new car, but that he would also do something that went against his calm and level-headed nature; Zhang Mu had unexpectedly lost his head and committed an insane act in public!
Huang Kai swore, “Motherfucker, do you know who I am!? My dad is the bureau chief and if you dare touch a hair on my head, I’ll order your entire family’s death……”
Zhang Mu dragged Huang Kai up and bashed his head on the car, then followed it up with a left hook that knocked out a couple of Huang Kai’s teeth, before nearly breaking his nose with a right.
Huang Kai was beaten to the point of him seeing stars and could not put up any resistance. Zhang Mu had already kneed him violently in the stomach, nearly causing his dinner to splatter across the pavement. Zhang Mu raised his arms and used his open palms to smack Huang Kai back and forth to the point where he could no longer tell left from right, leaving him reeling with cheeks swollen like a pig.
Sun Lin screeched in panic. The people passing by, attracted by the spectacle happening in front of them, surrounded the two men while discussing among themselves.
“Why is there a fight going on?”
“That rich kid was trying steal someone’s girl, so he’s getting wrecked!”
“What’s there to say? He deserves a beating, it’s the right thing to do, thrash him!”
Several delighted youngsters were watching the scene unfold. After finding out what was going on they chose to stand around and watch rather than breaking up the fight, because, like many others, they hated the attitude of the rich and sympathised with their fellow commoners.
“Do you think I’m a soft egg that you can push around because your father has some power?” As Zhang Mu said this, Huang Kai tried to push himself off the street with his bloody nose and swollen face. Zhang Mu then cradled Huang Kai’s arm and said tranquilly, “Come. Call me your father and I’ll release you immediately.”
”Fuck you…argh!” Huang Kai roared furiously. Before he could even finish his curse, the sound of his bones going kacha echoed through the streets, his arm twisted in an unnatural angle. It was so brutal that some people were starting to call the cops.
Zhang Mu grabbed Huang Kai’s remaining arm. “You’ve still got an arm and two legs.You have three seconds.”
“Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!”
With tears flowing, Huang Kai shouted three times before fainting from pain.
Zhang Mu gave the unconscious Huang Kai a kick, “Good boy!”
Sun Lin was stunned, “You ….. have you really lost it?!”
“Those who only wish to rely on others in order to live their lives, will forever remain as unwanted goods. Instead of handing your dignity and pride over to others, shouldn’t you be grasping onto it instead? Sun Lin, that is the last advice I’ll ever give you; from now on, we will have nothing to do with one another.” Zhang Mu said hoarsely, looking up at the night sky, “The times are changing. I wish you the best.”
Huang Kai lay sprawled on the ground like a dead dog, motionless. Sun Lin blankly stared at Zhang Mu’s back as he left. This man who was usually gentle and reserved suddenly revealed a tough and violent side. It caused Sun Lin to be unable to calm her heart down, her mood mixed; it felt as though she had lost something precious, something she could never get back.
Zhang Mu returned to his rented one-bedroom apartment. It was not very big, but it was clean and tidy. There was nothing else of value in the room apart from the computer that he worked on every day. Zhang Mu was simply a 21-year-old from Yan City and fourth year student majoring in Chinese at Jiang City University.
After a simple change of clothes, he put on a baseball cap, and immediately strode out the door.
There were security guards in the floors below who were in the midst of investigating Zhang Mu’s place of residence. He brushed shoulders against them as he walked past nonchalantly, headed towards a corner of the building that was shrouded in darkness, vaulted over the wall, and left the district. He could not steady his mind nor calm his thoughts as he walked through the bustling main street, as he hadn’t yet managed to fully understand the situation he was currently finding himself in.
How could a dead man be reborn in the past?
Perhaps this wasn’t the so-called rebirth after all.
Only, due to some special opportunity that was afforded to him, Zhang Mu had been fortunate enough to be granted a vision of the future. He was the equivalent of a beta tester for a game. Two months of special close quarters combat training had provided him with a lot of precious information as well as a sharpened constitution. His starting line was far ahead of any other player.
Zhang Mu could not bear being humiliated a second time, nor did he want to die a second time!
Zero, the game shall start on time! Heavenly Calamity Chapter 1 – Don’t Die a Second Time