The end of the world came and went, leaving a trail of death and destruction in its wake. The beautiful world that the people once knew is no longer. The world is now in shambles, and people have lost their humanity. There is no rule or order. No, there is one rule that everyone follows, and that is the Jungle rule: Survival of the Strongest
With a dash of fantasy thrown in, each of the novels is the best of the best in terms of world and character building, as well as writing quality.
Here are the three best Post Apocalyptical Novels:
1. Embers Ad Infinitum
Set in a post-apocalyptic world where society has slowly begun to recover, this novel follows our main characters as they venture out into the dangerous world to explore, solve mysteries, and discover the cause of the old world’s destruction.
The world is not as simple as it appears. Gods, awakened humans, factions, new religions, monsters, and other unexplainable horrors abound.
This novel has the most unique main character.
Shang Jianyao, is crazy—literally crazy. He behaves in perplexing, comical, and cunning ways. As an example, he always wants to dance and brings a speaker with him to listen to music even when he is in a dangerous situation. You never know what he’ll say or do next. It’s so amusing when a new religion is introduced and he immediately becomes interested in what food their communion offers.
He has a grand dream: to save all of humanity.
I like how the main characters don’t just come up with unrealistic grand plans to save humanity. They take things one small step at a time.
The power system is extremely well-executed. The Powers are well explained, and, as in Lord of the Mysteries, each power has its own strengths and weaknesses.
This Chinese-translated novel is packed with adventure, action, mysteries, and intelligent and interesting characters, and it keeps us on the edge of our seats.
Check Out: Best Novels with Smart Main Characters
Chapter 1: Central Assignment
The outer walls of the 495th floor’s Zone C were grayish-green. Six or seven girls walked into the Rec Center that was covered with all kinds of graffiti. Their expressions were colored with excitement, anticipation, and nervousness.
Their clothes were simple, and their colors were nothing gaudy. They were mainly blue, black, white, and green in color, but that did not obscure their beautiful facial features. All of them were in the prime of their youth.
While looking at the only LCD screen on the entire floor, the girl right in front couldn’t help but whisper, “I wonder what kind of husband the company will assign me.”
Beside her, a girl in a green top and blue pants bit her lip and said, “The main question is what kind of person he is.”
Brought up as second-generation youths when genetic enhancement drugs had widespread use, they were not worried about their future husbands’ looks and height. They were definitely all above average.
The girl in the lead glanced at her companion. “Have you forgotten that besides those of our age, there are also those whose wives have already passed away? Some of them are already in their forties or fifties. They are highly defective due to the lack of genetic enhancement while they were embryos.”
In order to ensure that there were enough newborns, the company they belonged to had a rule: “Anyone at the age of 20 or university graduates, who hasn’t acquired a spouse by choice, will have a partner assigned to them by the company. Anyone in defiance of this regulation will be punished by the Order Supervisory Department. The first violation will have the said person’s energy allocations and contribution points reduced. A second violation will result in said person’s banishment from the company, and they will be left to fend for themselves in the Ashlands.”
Similarly, those who had lost their spouses and had yet to have children were forced to participate in a central assignment of spouses three years after their loss if they had yet to turn 60.
Another girl joined in the discussion, making a joke. “Besides, ignoring this batch of people, don’t you have any hopes that your future husband will be from an M-rank family?”
The company was divided into three classes: D-rank employees, from D1 to D9; M-rank management, from directors at M1 to the corresponding board members and chief scientists at M3; and finally, a rank without an alphabetical code name. It only had one title: ‘Big Boss.’ It was held by an unusually mysterious lady.
The girl in the green top and blue trousers curled her lips and said, “When have people from normal levels ever been assigned spouses from Floors 346, 347, 348, and 349?”
Floors 346–349 were where the M-rank managers lived. They were given a generous energy supply quota, and the per capita housing area was more than ten times the average employee’s residential floor. Moreover, these four stories had their own independent elevators, potable water, ventilation, drainage, and education system. Their children normally didn’t make contact with the average employees.
The only exception was at the stage of advanced education because there was only one university in the entire company, which was situated on the 350th floor.
Children of ordinary employees needed to take exams to determine if they needed to start working or enter university. In contrast, children from M-rank families were exempt from taking the exams.
Within the company, there was nobody who didn’t want to join management, nor was there anyone who didn’t want to be associated with management.
As for ‘Big Boss,’ the ordinary employees didn’t even know what she looked like, much less had a chance to interact with her. Only at the end of the year, the beginning of the year, or when there was a major event, could they hear her voice through the radio. Therefore, it was rare for people to fantasize about catching the Big Boss’s eye and immediately getting promoted to management.
Of course, rare didn’t mean no chance. There just weren’t many such occurrences.
The girl in the lead smiled and said, “That’s why I’ve been encouraging you gals to date freely while in school. Look at Chen Bei. Her husband was earmarked by the Supply Management Department the moment he graduated. He must have some background!”
“Meng Xia, you have the cheek to say that? Why didn’t you follow what you preach?” the other girls mocked.
“It’s not like you don’t know me. I’m all talk.” Meng Xia wasn’t ashamed at all to admit that she didn’t have the courage.
After laughing for a while, the girl in a green top and blue pants curiously asked, “Meng Xia, do you know what rank the family of Chen Bei’s husband is? You two have always been close.”
Meng Xia looked around and said in a suppressed voice, “Rumor has it that he’s the chief inspector of the Security Department’s Operations Group.”
“Wow…” While the girls were exclaiming, a group of young men walked into the Rec Center.
The two groups of people sized each other up for a few seconds before they looked away shyly. After all, no one knew if their future husband or wife was just across them.
A man—about 1.75 meters tall with a refreshing crew cut—glanced at the few old tables, the benches, and the high-back chairs around them in the Rec Center. He then nervously spoke to his companion beside him. “Shang Jianyao, what kind of wife do you think the company will assign me?”
His companion was about 1.85 meters tall, with straight eyebrows and bright brown eyes. His face was deeply contoured, and his black hair was slightly messy, covering half of his forehead.
The young man named Shang Jianyao turned his head to glance at his companion and said, “First, you’ll have to be assigned before we can discuss what she’ll be like.” He was wearing a dark-blue, two-piece suit. The muscles on his arms bulged, creasing the fabric ever so slightly. He looked masculine and strong.
“Ha, I won’t be that unlucky, will I? There are only two more men than women this time.” The 1.75-meter-tall man with average features laughed. His expression gradually turned solemn as he rambled. “Could it be that they won’t like me? I’m only 1.75 meters tall after genetic enhancement. I’m not handsome either. My grades are only average…”
Shang Jianyao said solemnly, “That’s not the point. The point is your feminine name.”
“Feminine name? What’s wrong with the name Long Yuehong? My father’s surname is Long, and my mother’s name has the word ‘Hong’ in it. How meaningful is that?” Long Yuehong muttered to himself in confusion. “That’s true. The company’s assignment doesn’t care about how tall or good-looking I am. It’s said that it’s all random after any blood-related possibilities are eliminated… Ah, will they mistake me as a woman because of my name and assign me to a husband? What should I do if that happens?”
Shang Jianyao sized up Long Yuehong and said, “Organ transplant, neural reconstruction, artificial uterus. A perfect solution.”
Long Yuehong laughed awkwardly. “Haha, how is that possible? I mean, how can they get it wrong? Every document about me states that I’m male! What a strange train of thought you have. Shouldn’t a normal person be thinking of making a complaint?”
Without waiting for Shang Jianyao’s response, he added, “So, why is my name the key?”
“A name represents a person’s destiny. A random assignment is all about one’s destiny,” Shang Jianyao replied seriously.
Long Yuehong’s expression froze for two seconds. “I knew you couldn’t give me any constructive ideas!” Just as he said that, he asked, “What kind of wife do you want?”
Shang Jianyao lifted his chin and said, “I don’t need one. The company has insufficient resources, and the humans above the Ashlands are in dire straits. The curse of famine, infection, mutation, and beastification still cloaks the entire world. How can I marry?”
“…” Long Yuehong laughed. “You’re getting better at joking.”
Shang Jianyao looked at him and said without a smile, “I’ve already applied to give up today’s central assignment.”
“Are you serious? That’s impossible. How could the company agree to your request!? Haha, I almost believed you!” Long Yuehong was shocked at first, but then he let out a sigh of relief.
As soon as he finished speaking, Chen Xianyu—the person-in-charge of the Rec Center on the 495th floor—left his seat. He walked to the LCD screen and began to adjust it.
This old man with white hair and staggering footsteps was once part of the Security Department. He was in charge of expedition members and had always been a D7 team leader. Later, he left the Security Department due to his age and was promoted to become a D8 manager, who was in charge of the Rec Center on this floor.
Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong were very curious about the old man’s past. They had a penchant for coming to the Rec Center and asking all sorts of questions. However, Chen Xianyu strictly adhered to the confidentiality regulations and only selected things that everyone knew about for conversations. He was like an ordinary employee who was born, grew up, studied, worked, matured, and aged in the Inner Ecosystem. He had never left the underground building or seen the real sky.
“Alright, it’s about to begin.” Chen Xianyu held onto a remote control and pressed down heavily.
The display flickered a few times before emitting a faint light.
Long Yuehong, Meng Xia, and the others held their breaths as they waited for the assignment’s results to be announced.
They were not worried that the names would scroll down too quickly, preventing them from reading it clearly.. This was because the Rec Centers on each floor only showed the results related to the residents on the respective floor.
Chapter 2: Follow-up Review
After the second hand on the Rec Center’s old, hanging clock creakingly spun three and a half rounds, lines of text finally appeared on the LCD screen.
Meng Xia and the others quickly searched for their names before they heaved a sigh of relief one after another.
Most of them weren’t necessarily satisfied or excited, but they weren’t unhappy either. To them, this was no different from participating in exams. It didn’t matter as long as the results weren’t too bad. After all, their parents and grandparents had been through the same.
The others were more confused because they didn’t know who their marriage partner was, what floor they came from, or which department their parents belonged to. Even though they had all entered university and received higher education, the people they knew were still limited to their classmates and neighbors on the same floor.
Long Yuehong looked up and down the list carefully and seriously. Finally, he could not help but mutter to himself, “Why isn’t my name on the list?”
“Because your name sucks.” Shang Jianyao’s expression didn’t change.
“…” Long Yuehong wanted to refute, but sadly, he found himself agreeing with Shang Jianyao’s conclusion.
Thousands of people had met the conditions and were forced to participate in the central assignment, but there were only two more men than women. If not for their ill fate, a sucky name, or bad luck, how could they have been one of the two unlucky fools?
Long Yuehong paused for a moment before indignantly saying, “Your name isn’t on the list either!” He did not notice Shang Jianyao receiving any successful assignment of a female.
Shang Jianyao raised his right eyebrow and said, “Didn’t I tell you? I’ve already applied to give up on this marriage assignment.”
“Seriously? Why would the company agree…” Long Yuehong was stunned and confused. He felt like his world had been turned upside down. He had lived for 21 years. In the past, he had indeed heard of people who fit the criteria but did not participate in the marriage assignment. However, they had sufficient reason for doing so. The other party was either bedridden and could die at any moment or had participated in the Security Department’s expeditions. It was even a question if they could return.
Nobody who was healthy and fit in the company dared to violate the rules if they met the criteria. This was one of the core duties of a company employee.
Long Yuehong’s sadness was washed away by this matter. He looked at Shang Jianyao and asked, “Are you prepared to accept a reduction in energy rationing? That’s not too bad. The scariest thing is to have contribution points deducted. You won’t even have enough to eat when that happens! People like us—who are only at D1—only receive 1,800 points every month, affording us meat just once a week. Having one-third deducted at once speaks volumes!”
“The company has agreed to my request. There won’t be any deductions.” Shang Jianyao smiled.
“No, impossible, impossible…” Long Yuehong muttered to himself as he suddenly thought of something. If Shang Jianyao really applied to give up on this marriage assignment, it means that there should only be one more male than female participants. Just one more person…
I-I am the only unlucky bastard… Long Yuehong’s mouth fell wide open, and a deep sense of sorrow rose from his heart.
At this moment, the display began to flip the pages. It briefly introduced the basic information of the people who had successfully matched up with this floor’s residents so that they could find each other and register their marriage at the Order Supervisory Department’s various branches.
“Meng Xia, your husband is an outsider!” The crowd stared at the screen for a while when an exclamation came from the women’s side.
Meng Xia’s expression was slightly solemn. Her eyes darted about slightly as she muttered, “Zhang Lei; Male; Born: Wilderness nomad; Age: 25; Recruited by the company three years ago; Performance has always been good; There are no latent problems with his body; Residence: 622nd floor, Zone A, Room 192; Employee Level: D4; Electronic Card Number: 04311029189…”
“There really are outsiders…” Long Yuehong was also attracted by this matter and started discussing it with his companions.
They all knew that the company would periodically take in nomads from the wilderness to supplement the population and perfect their genes. However, residents of this floor had never worked with outsiders before, and nobody had ever married them, so everyone treated this matter as an interesting piece of news.
“Meng Xia, it’s actually not that bad. Although he used to be a nomad in the wilderness, he’s now a D4 employee. He’s only 25 years old. That’s very impressive!” The girl in the green top and blue pants consoled her friend.
D4 meant that he had gone from an ordinary employee to a senior, high-ranking employee. He could be the deputy of a small research project, a factory production line’s supervisor, an assistant team leader of the Security Department, or the Order supervisor of a certain floor’s zone. His monthly compensation was at least 2,000 points higher than D1 employees.
A young man beside Long Yuehong muttered, “However, the effect of genetic enhancement after adulthood isn’t that good…” At this moment, he saw the information of his betrothed.
“Zhou Qi; Female; Born: Internal employee; Age: 30 years old; Had a former husband who died five years ago, currently raising a child; voluntary application to participate in this marriage assignment; There are no latent problems with her body; Residence: 569th floor, Zone B, Room 27; Employee level: D4; Electronic Card Number: 01609052558…”
“Yang Zhenyuan, your wife is ten years older than you…” Long Yuehong also saw the information.
Yang Zhenyuan was the same as most of his peers in the company. His face was fair and clean, and his body was muscular. He looked good, but he had slightly androgynous features and appeared more introverted.
Yang Zhenyuan’s face flushed red when he heard Long Yuehong’s words. He wanted to say something but couldn’t say a word.
After a while, everyone finally memorized their partner’s corresponding information. They then left the Rec Center one after another, preparing to find their betrothed or return home to wait for the other party to come looking for them.
At this moment, a voice suddenly sounded in the hall when only five or six people were left. “Who is Yang Zhenyuan?”
“Me, what is it?” Yang Zhenyuan—who was chatting with Long Yuehong and Shang Jianyao—subconsciously turned to look at the door.
A woman walked into the Rec Center. Her appearance was mature and charming. Although she wore simple and plain clothes, they could not hide her impressive figure. “I’m Zhou Qi.”
The woman glanced at Yang Zhenyuan and nodded in satisfaction. “Shall we go to your house for a chat?”
Yang Zhenyuan was shocked at first, but he quickly nodded. “Sure, sure.”
“Then let’s go now?” Zhou Qi smiled like a blooming flower.
“Sure, sure,” Yang Zhenyuan said as he walked over quickly.
Long Yuehong watched the couple leave the Rec Center and couldn’t help but sigh. “What should I do next?”
Shang Jianyao turned his head and looked at him in all seriousness. “A great cause awaits you.”
“…” Long Yuehong’s facial muscles twitched. “Speak human!”
Shang Jianyao smiled. “Wait for next year’s marriage assignment.”
“That’s true.” Long Yuehong sighed. “Sigh, forget it. I hope I can get assigned a good position in the company tomorrow. Also, I feel like you’re becoming more and more abnormal. I’m referring to your brain.” As he spoke, he pointed at his temple.
The most important thing for them next was to wait for the allocation of jobs. This would directly determine their future. Apart from those who had special talents in certain areas and were earmarked by corresponding departments, the rest of the graduates with higher education qualifications had to wait for the job allocation.
Before Shang Jianyao could reply, Long Yuehong saw Chen Xianyu, the PIC of the Rec Center, turn off the display. He held a cylindrical metal cup that had been excavated from the Old World’s ruins as he slowly walked over.
Long Yuehong asked nervously, “Grandpa Chen, what department do you think we will be assigned to?”
Chen Xianyu coughed. “As far as I know, those who have just gotten married and are about to have children will be assigned to relatively safe internal positions. Those who have not been assigned a partner or won’t have any need for children might get assigned to temporary positions that might be a little dangerous.”
Long Yuehong’s expression collapsed. “I-I have to go back and tell my father and mother regarding my marriage assignment’s results.” He didn’t wait for Shang Jiyao’s response. With a gloomy expression, he walked out of the Rec Center.
“Your dad and mom haven’t gotten off work yet…” Shang Jianyao muttered to himself before leaving and entering the corridor outside.
This was the underground building’s 495th floor. There was no sky, only a four-meter-high ceiling. Long light tubes were mounted on the ceiling, and relatively bright light shone down.
To the employees of the company, the switched-on lights represented day. When switched off, they represented night.
Shang Jianyao looked up at the street lamp in front of him before making a turn to enter another area in Zone C.
On both sides of the path, the rooms closely neighboured one another—about only two meters apart. They resembled beehives in textbooks that had been projected onto the same plane.
Compared to them, the Rec Center was as spacious as a square.
After walking down two ‘streets,’ a relatively open area appeared in front of Shang Jianyao, where 12 elevators were installed.
These were the elevators that led straight to the Research Zone.
In this underground building that originated from the Old World, the elevators that led to the Factory Zone, Research Zone, and the relatively small but special Indoor Ecosystem Zone from the Residential Zone were separated in order to prevent congestion and accidents. They were located in different zones of the building.
The Administrative Zone and Energy Zone were combined with the Research Zone. Authorized personnel could only reach them by swiping their electronic cards.
Shang Jianyao waited for a while before entering the elevator in the middle. He casually pressed the number ’21.’
As it was working hours, the elevator did not stop midway. It steadily descended all the way.
During this process, Shang Jianyao suddenly took out an electronic card and swiped at the corresponding area. He then pressed the metal button representing the third floor.
The elevator continued to descend, only stopping after a while.
Shang Jianyao exited the elevator and made a left turn. He saw a large metal door that was tightly shut. There were four armed security guards wearing bionic armor, which made them look like lizards.
Shang Jianyao did not attempt to approach the metal door. He walked along the aisle outside the door and went right.
Several rooms were lined up at the end of the corridor, but none of them had door signs.
Under the ceiling lamps’ illumination, Shang Jianyao knocked on the door in the corner.
“Please come in.” A gentle female voice was heard.
Shang Jianyao turned the doorknob and pushed open the door. He saw a lady in a white coat.
The lady sat behind a mahogany table. She looked to be in her thirties and wore a pair of gold-rimmed glasses. Her hair was neatly bundled up, with only a few stray strands hanging down.
“Ah, it’s you.” The lady glanced at Shang Jianyao and smiled as she pointed at the chair opposite the table. “Have a seat.”
Shang Jianyao sat down and smiled as if he was returning home. “Good afternoon, Dr. Lin.”
“Good afternoon, Jianyao.” Dr. Lin tucked her stray hair strands away and took a folder from the side before opening it. Then, she twirled the black fountain pen and casually asked, “How are you feeling lately?”
“My appetite has increased a little. My sleep has been normal, and I’ve been healthy.” Shang Jianyao spoke as he made a move to highlight his biceps.
Dr. Lin nodded. “I’ve already applied for you to give up the marriage assignment. I guess you know of the outcome?”
“Yes, thank you.” Shang Jianyao smiled and said, “Can I sing a song to thank you?”
“There’s no need.” Dr. Lin shook her head without hesitation. She then tapped her pen. “Actually, I’m curious. Why did you insist on giving up the central marriage assignment? Your condition isn’t really serious.”
Shang Jianyao’s expression turned serious, and he said in a deep voice, “To save all of humanity.”
“…” Dr. Lin picked up her pen and drew a circle on the document in front of her.
There was a line of words in the circle: “Moderate psychosis (suspected delusional disorder, awaiting observation).”
2. The First Order
The First Order is another good novel that explains in detail the structure of the post-apocalyptic world after the world has been destroyed.
While Embers Ad Infinitum‘s main theme is adventure and the search for answers, the main theme of this novel is survival and the search for a place to call home.
People begin to awaken various powers in a chaotic world filled with starvation, death, monsters, and greedy strongholds. Controlling fire, water, and luck, for example. However, the main character awakens a strange power, a leveling system that grants him various quests.
Most of the quests given by the system are completely random like “Get 100 ‘Thank you’s “, “Give money to the robber” etc.
The main character grows strong and mature from setbacks and is ruthless. Other characters are also fleshed out and recur.
Despite the fact that the people awaken various powers, their chances of survival do not improve significantly due to the various unknown dangers present in the wastelands and wilderness.
The world and character development are excellent. Every detail is thoroughly explained, and there is a strong emphasis on human emotions and behavior. We see discrimination against refugees, desperate attempts to survive in the wilderness, grit and determination in protecting loved ones, conflict between awakened and non-awakened people, and many other things.
This Chinese-translated novel begins light and fun and gradually becomes heavier. However, the author does a good job of balancing comedy and serious situations. The action and fights are engaging.
Check Out: Best Fantasy Novel with Leveling System
In the chaotic darkness, the young Ren Xiaosu awoke and started wiping off the sweat on his forehead. Then he looked towards the boy of around 14 who was standing at the door.
“Liuyuan, did anything happen?” Ren Xiaosu asked.
Addressed as Liuyuan, the boy’s full name was Yan Liuyuan.
From his appearance, Yan Liuyuan looked like a very harmless and innocent person. However, he was holding a bone knife in his hands and standing guard at the door. It was deep into the night at the moment, but he did not close his eyes even though he looked very sleepy, as he had to keep watch through the night.
Yan Liuyuan shook his head and said, “No, everything is fine. Hmm, what exactly is this sickness you’re experiencing in your head? Even the town’s doctor can’t diagnose what’s wrong with you?”
“You don’t have to worry about such things. What I’m experiencing is not a sickness.” Ren Xiaosu said firmly, “It’ll be dawn soon, and I’ll be going out to hunt. You should sleep for a while so that you can get up in time for school.”
“OK.” Yan Liuyuan nodded, glum. “But what’s the point of studying in a wasteland like this…”
“It will be useful for you in the future,” Ren Xiaosu said in an irrefutable tone.
“I want to go out to hunt too.” Yan Liuyuan pouted.
“Who’s going to keep watch at night if something happens to you? Me, who’s unconscious?” Ren Xiaosu stood up and prepared to go fetch water from the town center as it was less dangerous to do so after dawn broke.
During the night, it was a lawless land out there.
Dark clouds were building up without rest in the cloudy sky. A drop of acid rain eventually fell from above. It got blown about by the strong winds and finally landed in front of Ren Xiaosu.
Ren Xiaosu was lying on the ground in the wilderness. He frowned and felt that he was a little unlucky today as the acid rain arrived before his prey appeared.
Someone mentioned that he must be careful of the beasts while moving around in this wasteland.
But Ren Xiaosu felt that the person left everything else unspoken, because many things could still kill a person out in this wasteland. One of them was the acid rain.
However, Ren Xiaosu still did not make a move. If he couldn’t catch some game today, he and Yan Liuyuan would starve to death before they could die from the disease caused by the acid rain.
Ren Xiaosu’s eyes popped when he heard a bird’s wings flapping. However, the rhythm of his breathing did not change.
Ren Xiaosu had used a tree branch to prop up a black cauldron and scattered some black bread crumbs underneath it a short distance ahead of himself.
That large bird landed beside the cauldron and looked around sharply with an alert gaze. The size of the bird was not that much smaller than the cauldron, in fact.
As it stood in the same spot preening its feathers, Ren Xiaosu did not make a move and continued waiting.
The bird finally seemed to let its guard down as it started sneaking towards the cauldron as a thief would.
However, when it entered into the boundary under the cauldron and was about to lower its head to peck on the bread crumbs, Ren Xiaosu pulled hard on the rope in his hand. Right after, the young man jumped up and rushed towards the cauldron like an unbridled wild donkey. Before the large bird could flip the cauldron over, he mustered all of his strength and used his body to pin down the cauldron!
Ren Xiaosu heaved a sigh of relief as he had waited an entire night just to catch this sparrow. Fortunately, his efforts had not gone to waste today, especially since such good opportunities were hard to come by.
Clattering came from inside the cauldron as the struggling sparrow battered its tough wings against it. At this moment, the short melody of the bell striking the hour rang from the refugee stronghold.
Ren Xiaosu turned around and looked at the town. He wondered when he could finally bring Yan Liuyuan to live inside the stronghold.
To Ren Xiaosu, the people living in the stronghold were fortunate because they did not have to face the dangers of the wastelands.
However, not just anyone could enter that place as they wished.
Right at this moment, the activity in the cauldron quieted by a lot. He let out a sigh and checked if the ragged cloth was wrapped firmly around his hand. Then Ren Xiaosu slowly lifted the cauldron up to create a tiny opening and put his hand in. He attempted to grab hold of the large sparrow by its legs!
However, life was not always that smooth sailing. Ren Xiaosu yelped right after putting his hand under the cauldron.
Ren Xiaosu pulled out his hand and had a look at his palm. The web between his thumb and forefinger was bleeding, as not even the ragged cloth could protect it against the sparrow’s sharp beak.
Ren Xiaosu got angry. He removed his ragged jacket and wrapped it around his hand. Then he thrust his hand under the cauldron again and grabbed the sparrow by its neck this time.
He took the sparrow out from under the cauldron and tucked it in his arm. With a strong twist of his hand, the sparrow’s neck broke and it went limp.
At this moment, Ren Xiaosu felt a pinch in his heart because the large sparrow’s claws had punched several holes into his jacket.
Suddenly, his mind went blank, and Ren Xiaosu fell to his knees. It was as if a massive copper bell had been struck inside his head. Then he descended into a chaotic darkness.
Oh no! In the past, this sickness only occurred at midnight, but now it came earlier?
This was not the first time his sickness had “acted up.” Almost all the people in town knew there was something wrong with his head, and his pain would flare up at random times.
Only Ren Xiaosu knew that it was not pain but a state of confusion that he was experiencing.
Wait a minute. This time, it was different from the past. The black mist in his mind had dispersed and revealed a “palace” beyond it!
Ren Xiaosu’s eyes flew open, and he stood up. He looked at himself in disbelief. “I came to this quickly?”
He originally had a chance to get a closer look at the palace’s appearance, but he knew better. There was no difference between remaining unconscious and dying out here in the wilderness. Right now, he had to rush back to the town that was situated outside of Stronghold 113 before the heavens opened up with the acid rain!
Ren Xiaosu tied the sparrow’s legs together and slung it over his shoulder. Then he lifted the big cauldron and inverted it onto his head before running away. Pitter-patter. Raindrops started falling on the cauldron.
The cauldron had turned into his umbrella.
Before he could run far, however, the silhouette of a person holding a bone knife stood in his way. “Give your catch to me—”
But before the person could finish his sentence, he saw a big cauldron swinging in closer and closer, until it smacked into his face!
“Damn!” The robber fell backwards. He had not expected Ren Xiaosu’s attack to be that swift! And it was so forceful too!
Then he saw Ren Xiaosu lower the pot before swinging it back up and placing it over his head to use as an umbrella, all in a single, continuous motion…. The robber had not even fallen to the ground, yet Ren Xiaosu was already running off into the distance!
The robber laid on the ground facing the sky as the acid rain came down. It was a little painful and stung his face. There was something about this that he could not understand.
In most situations, shouldn’t there be some interaction between them? Just how many times had this young man encountered a similar situation to react so instinctively!?
Something was not right. He could hear that young man’s footsteps approaching again!
The robber hurriedly sat up and turned around to look. He discovered that the young man was coming back to him!
Ren Xiaosu had not planned to return, but he distinctly heard a voice reverberate from the palace in his mind, “Quest: Gift your catch to someone else.”
Who said that? Ren Xiaosu turned around and walked back to the robber with some uncertainty.
The robber said in panic, “Let’s talk this over…. Hey, that’s not right, I’m the victim here….”
Ren Xiaosu sized up the robber. He noticed that there were no others nearby.
“You want this sparrow?” Ren Xiaosu asked.
The robber’s eyes lit up. “I do!”
“Here, take it.” Ren Xiaosu stuffed the sparrow into the man’s arms without explaining himself.
That unfamiliar yet neutral voice intoned again, “Quest complete. Awarded: Basic Skill Duplication Scroll. You may use it to learn another person’s skills.”
Ren Xiaosu was stunned, because he could feel a leather parchment appear within his mind!
A Skill Duplication Scroll that he could use to copy another’s skills? Like hunting? Survival? Or some other skill?
The robber hugged the large sparrow tightly in his arms and began to express his gratitude. “You’re a good person—”
Before he could finish speaking, he saw Ren Xiaosu grab the sparrow back before leaving again.
The robber was confused.
He stared at Ren Xiaosu’s receding figure as he scurried away…. The fuck is this guy! What is he after?
Ren Xiaosu returned later than usual because of the robbery and his sudden loss of consciousness. Since he saw the sky darkening, he knew that it would be extremely dangerous to pass through the town with his catch at this time.
During the day, people from the stronghold still came out to maintain order. But at night, those people would return back to the stronghold.
Of course, the people from the stronghold were not doing this with good intentions. They were only worried that if the town got too chaotic, it would affect the manual labor that the refugees were performing.
“Oh, looks like Ren Xiaosu got quite the harvest today!”
When Ren Xiaosu ran back into town carrying the cauldron, someone with a dirty face greeted him. It was as though he had not washed his face ever since the day he was born.
Most of the people in town looked like that. On most days, they went to the nearby coal mine to work in exchange for some food. The coal they mined would be delivered into the stronghold, and in turn, the workers would receive just enough black bread or potatoes to survive on.
It wasn’t only the mining of coal. All the necessary dirty work the stronghold needed to be done would be performed by the refugees.
Since the well water in town was rationed, the amount that everyone got per day was fixed, and no one dared to even think of asking for more. Besides, barely any clean water sources existed nearby. Or rather, any clean water source was too dangerous to go to since feral beasts would gather there to drink. Hence everyone in town would always look so dirty that no one could see their faces clearly. Ren Xiaosu was no exception either.
However, Ren Xiaosu had never worked in the coal mine before. He had his own way of surviving.
Ren Xiaosu did not respond to anyone who greeted him. He just wanted to get back to his shack as quickly as possible.
As Ren Xiaosu took an alternate way into town, he could see the towering stronghold walls from a short distance away. It felt very oppressive, for he could not even see the top when he looked up.
Not many stone structures could be found in town as most people only stayed in shacks.
Ren Xiaosu had started out quite relaxed. But he went on guard the moment he entered town and even drew the bone knife from his waist. The atmosphere on the street grew tense as though some kind of danger lurked within the shacks. But with Ren Xiaosu holding a bone knife in his hand, the people with threatening intentions restrained themselves.
The first thing Ren Xiaosu learned while staying here was not to trust anyone… other than Yan Liuyuan.
Whispers came from the shack next to the road. “Ren Xiaosu has caught more game meat.”
“How does that count as game? It’s only a sparrow.”
“But it’s different from the sparrow that we saw in the ancient textbooks. I reckon that the eagles from before The Cataclysm were also around this size?”
“Don’t provoke him.” A voice ended the whispering from inside the shack. Someone seemed to know about Ren Xiaosu’s past.
Ren Xiaosu lifted the curtain door to his shack. The warmth in it made him less tense.
When Yan Liuyuan, who was sitting in the shack and doing his homework, saw Ren Xiaosu return, he looked pleasantly surprised. “You caught a sparrow?”
“Why didn’t you light the kerosene lamp?” Ren Xiaosu asked while frowning.
Yan Liuyuan was usually a wayward child, but in front of Ren Xiaosu, who was like his elder brother, he became surprisingly docile. “I wanted to save some fuel for us.”
“What if you become nearsighted?” Ren Xiaosu put the sparrow down.
Yan Liuyuan’s eyes lit up. “The schoolteacher mentioned something called ‘spectacles’ that existed before The Cataclysm but can only be found in the stronghold now. If we have something like that, we won’t have to worry about being nearsighted anymore.”
Ren Xiaosu treated the statement with disdain. “I’ve seen someone wearing the thing that you mentioned before. But to have your vision depend on something that could be dropped at any time out here in the wilderness, that’s as good as death. Don’t listen to your teacher’s nonsense. Not everything he says is right.”
“Oh…” Yan Liuyuan nodded and said, “Then why do you still insist on sending me to school?”
Ren Xiaosu choked on his words. “Why do you keep blabbering?”
“When can I go hunting with you?” Yan Liuyuan continued to ask.
“You’re only 14. Why would you want to go hunting? If you do well in school, you won’t have to go hunting.” Ren Xiaosu said, “Isn’t it much better to learn accounting, physics, or chemistry rather than hunting?”
“Aren’t you only 17?” Yan Liuyuan was unconvinced.
In this era, even savages recognized the importance of knowledge.
This was also why a teacher could survive in town. Whatever trouble happened in town, a teacher would always be the safest person since no one would target them.
However, tuition was expensive. Otherwise, Ren Xiaosu would have gone to attend classes himself as well.
Ren Xiaosu propped up the cauldron and skillfully dissected the sparrow at the same time. “What did the teacher talk about today? I can only let you eat the sparrow’s offal. I have to sell off the rest of it at the market tomorrow.”
“Did you get injured?” Yan Liuyuan frowned when he saw the wound on Ren Xiaosu’s hand. It had been pecked by the sparrow, and the wound was still bleeding.
The big cauldron was hung on a rod, and the flicking fire in the shack’s fire pit illuminated Ren Xiaosu’s face every now and again. “It’s just a scratch.”
It fell silent in the shack. After a while, Ren Xiaosu ladled out the cooked organs of the sparrow from the pot and handed them to Yan Liuyuan. “Eat up.”
Yan Liuyuan’s eyes suddenly reddened. “I don’t want it. You should have it instead since you need to heal your wound.”
“I’ll just have some soup.” Ren Xiaosu said, “I still have some black bread that I can eat.”
“I’m not eating. Your wound isn’t a scratch at all. I saw someone in town die as a result of an infection a few days ago because we don’t have access to any medicine for treating cuts and scrapes,” Yan Liuyuan stubbornly said as tears nearly rolled down his face.
Ren Xiaosu suddenly slapped Yan Liuyuan across the face and said, “Remember this, you and I can never cry as long as we are living in this world. This world doesn’t trust tears.”
Ren Xiaosu continued, “Look at what kind of people are around us. What will happen to me if you don’t eat well and someone rushes in and stabs me to death at night? I send you to school because I hope you won’t become someone like me, who only knows how to hunt. You have a unique skill. As long as you study hard, you will not need to work all day in the wilderness like me to earn a living. The reason I send you to school is because I don’t want you to become savages like them!”
Yan Liuyuan suddenly took the sparrow offal from Ren Xiaosu and gobbled them down. He managed to hold back his tears in the end as he wanted to learn to be as strong as Ren Xiaosu.
“Ahem, come over and help me dress the wound with a clean cloth after you’ve eaten,” Ren Xiaosu said.
“OK,” Yan Liuyuan responded.
“You’re normally full of mischief when we’re outside, so why do you behave like such a doormat whenever we’re home?” Ren Xiaosu sighed. “Did anything happen in town today?”
“Oh yes!” Yan Liuyuan said as he looked for a clean cloth, “A group of people came out of the stronghold saying that they were looking for a guide to lead them to Stronghold 112. They want to head there by going straight through the Jing Mountains.”
“They want to go to Stronghold 112?” Ren Xiaosu was stunned for a moment before frowning. “They’re even insisting on getting there via the Jing Mountains?”
“Do you think they’ll come looking for you? Everyone in town knows that you’re familiar with the lands outside.” Yan Liuyuan blinked and said, “I heard that they’re musicians and singers of a band in Stronghold 113 who have been invited to perform at Stronghold 112. I’ve never seen a singer before though.”
“I’m not going.” Ren Xiaosu shook his head and said, “Let those people go via the Jing Mountains if they want. I want you to stay away from them. There’s something strange about those people.”
At this moment, Ren Xiaosu had conflicted feelings. In a world like this, there were still professional singers and musicians in bands? What on earth was it like inside the stronghold?
Ren Xiaosu was suddenly looking forward to finding out.
3. The Perfect Run
This novel, like the first two on the list, has a richly detailed world, as well as fleshed-out and memorable characters with distinct personalities.
Ryan “Quicksave” Romano is an eccentric adventurer with a strange power: he can create a save-point in time and redo his life whenever he dies, similar to Mother of Learning.
The story starts as he arrives in New Rome. We follow Ryan as he tries to achieve his goals in that chaotic city ripped apart by mega-corporations, sponsored heroes, superpowered criminals, and true monsters.
Overall, The Perfect Run is a well-written and well-thought-out story full of action and adventure, with good world building, three-dimensional characters, and a humorous main character.
Check out: Best Novels with Time Manipulation
Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment your thoughts on the article and also mention your favorite apocalyptical novel.