Dominion’s End Volume 3: Ice-Bound Splendor and Majesty
Original novel in Chinese by: 御 我 (Yu Wo)
Chapter 3: MORC—translated by Elkin (proofread by EvlNabiki & Arcedemius; C/E edited by lucathia)
Shuyu, I don’t know where you are. We’ve searched everywhere, but we couldn’t find anything to go on…
Of course, it’d be weird if people chasing a person who had been snatched away by a bird had something to go on. The snatched person might have been splattered into goo in a fall or eaten clean by the aberrant—so you’d have to travel from the lands of the living to the dead to find that person!
I hope that the fact that the guard tower has become a refugee site wouldn’t create too many variables.
There’s something fishy going on here. Every time people are let into the military zone, some number will disappear. But whoever is doing this is being very subtle. Given the state of the world and the harsh reality that no one looks out for others anymore, if not for the fact that we were thoroughly investigating the place to look for you, we probably wouldn’t have noticed the disappearances either.
If you are here, you must be careful. Leave ASAP and find us. We will now head eastwards toward Old Town, which is next to “Lan City.” There’s a famous clock tower there, and unless we find some hard evidence on the way or if something goes wrong, it will be the base for our search for you for some time. We will change our scouting pattern to expand radially outward from that spot.
Shuyu, come back as fast as you can. Recently, Shujun refuses to stop practicing her special abilities and has fainted a few times. She keeps blaming herself for not being strong enough, for allowing you to get snatched away because you had to protect her, she… In any case, come back soon.
From your gē,
“Junjun! My silly mèimei, what if you hurt your health!”
I was so worried that I wanted to tear down a wall to vent my frustration, but unfortunately for me, there wasn’t a single wall around me, so I could only grab the tip of the tower and shake it furiously. I really wanted to rip the tower apart.
“Lan City”? Jiang Xiaotian frowned.
Lan City sounded very familiar—it was one of Meisia’s three largest cities, but I didn’t remember anything about Old Town. In any case, I’d find out where it was soon enough once I checked the map.
I scanned the words carved on the ball a few more times before reluctantly climbing down the tower. When I looked down to survey the situation, my expression sank.
The situation was worsening. As more and more aberrants slipped through the blockade—evidence that the military’s firepower was slowly losing its effect—the experiments would sneak an occasional attack from behind them, making it impossible for the soldiers to focus on just one side. They had to be constantly vigilant about their surroundings, because the moment they slipped up, they’d be jumped on by the experiments and end up resting in pieces.
A chill gripped my heart as I watched. Are Chen Yanqing and Guo Hong down there? And that group of soldiers who joked around with me—Ah Nuo, Fatty, Blackie, the Lieutenant… But given the situation, I wasn’t quite sure I dared to go help them.
Although a lot of the aberrants looked like they had evolved erratically, they were remarkably powerful and hard to take down—they were probably even on par with tier one aberrants. And not to mention their astounding numbers, with yet more pouring from the door. There was no way of knowing how many of them there were.
I murmured in astonishment, “Those things are a bit too OP. I wonder if they have crystals?”
Then I can use them to feed Xiaotian. I was suddenly struck by the impulse to snatch a few of them.
“Don’t even think about fighting those things.” Jiang Xiaotian glared at me as he warned me, “Even if they have crystals, you don’t know what the MORC have done to them. Do you even dare to eat those crystals?”
…We had adulterated food before the apocalypse, and now after the apocalypse, we don’t dare to eat adulterated crystals. Okay, fair enough. The former would make you die a slow death, but it was hard to say what the latter would do to you. Worst case scenario, you’d drop dead after popping it into your mouth. It really isn’t something worth risking my life over.
Jiang Xiaotian said with a frown, “Shuyu, it’s best that you leave. Don’t go inside to investigate. There are too many experiments down there, and there’s no way you can handle so many.”
I was thinking the same thing. With a nod, I started my climb down the tower.
Suddenly, a huge explosion went off, making me cling tightly to the steel tower. I glanced down to see the soldiers starting to use the heavy duty firepower—even grenades and RPGs made their appearances. Seriously, why didn’t they do this earlier instead of waiting until now to show their true colors? They lost a bunch of people for nothing…
But the soldier standing next to the firer shoved down the RPG, roaring, “The hell are you doing? We’ve still got our men and a bunch of researchers down there. If you collapse the door, they won’t be able to make it out!”
“I’m saving your ass!” The soldier holding onto the RPG growled, “Don’t tell me you fucking believe they’re still alive?!”
A soldier scowled and bellowed, “I don’t fucking care whose ass you’re saving. Stop the blasting! Lieutenant, Ah Nuo, Ah Qing, and Old Guo… They’re all still inside!”
It was actually Blackie. I quickly climbed lower to better catch what they were saying.
“We can’t let them get out no matter what. They’re all civvies outside!”
Someone else cut in. “We can’t blast them down. The brass say there’s some Professor Wu we have to rescue.”
“Fuck that professor. They’re the crazies messing around inside and making these works of art. And you still wanna save them?”
At that moment, a series of explosions sounded out from within the lab. All the soldiers’ faces darkened at that.
Jiang Xiaotian tapped me, reminding me, “Shuyu, if you don’t leave now, it’ll be harder to get away once their defenses completely collapse.”
“Dàgē,” I said quietly, “tell me, if I ran away every time I encountered danger and think I couldn’t win, will I really be able to become the Ice Emperor in the end?”
Jiang Xiaotian jolted and fell silent.
I grimaced as I spoke, “I really want to run away. Just seeing what’s going on down there scares me. I just want to go home, to escape all the dangers. All I need is to stay with my family, for everyone to be alive.”
In my previous life, Guan Weijun had done exactly that. You could say that I survived ten years of the apocalypse precisely because I did that, but in the end, I still died. The only difference was that it made no difference whether I lived or died then—in any case, I was already a dead person walking, because there was no future to speak of.
But this life is different, dying in this life is completely different! If I was stronger and didn’t get beaten to a pulp by the flock of birds, would Shujun blame herself and train her abilities to the point of fainting?
It wasn’t the end of the world that I got snatched away this time. At least I was able to protect Shujun. But next time, if I fall, will the people behind me really make it?
Truth be told, I’m terrified. Terrified that I’ll end up ripped to shreds like those soldiers, guts spilling everywhere. That’ll hurt like hell—and this isn’t me speaking hypothetically. I’d died exactly in that manner in my previous life! And what’s more, what terrifies me much more than the pain is never seeing Dàgē and Shujun again!
But I’m even more scared that, some day, I won’t be able to protect my family. If the person who got shredded wasn’t me, but Shujun… my heart aches just imagining that scene.
I sucked in a deep breath. I swore that I won’t run and I won’t hide, that I’ll become the Ice Emperor. Don’t forget your oath.
“I can’t run away.”
Jiang Xiaotian’s expression was complicated. If I had to describe it, it’d be like that of a mother bird watching her fledging leave the nest. That expression of mixed dismay and pride… on a three year old’s face, it was distressing this fledging. Please, Dàgē, can you act like a proper three year old?
“In the past, you didn’t fear anything. But now, you’re scared of everything. That said, I’d rather trust my back to this you.”
I immediately puffed up my chest, my heart feeling like it was about to burst with happiness. Being entrusted with the Ice Emperor’s back was the most incredible honor!
“I mean in spirit. In practice, you’ve still got some ways to go in terms of ability.”
Can’t you just skip the clarifications?!
“But no matter how brave you are, even you, Shuyu, can’t take down so many experiments. This is a fact.”
I tilted my head as I watched the soldiers down below, firing non-stop but still getting jumped on periodically. They looked like they were on the verge of defeat. And I asked, “What if I got those soldiers to cooperate?”
Jiang Xiaotian said in a ponderous voice, “They have heavy firepower, but they’ve lost their nerve. If no one steadies their nerves, they’ll scatter. What you want isn’t to seek their cooperation, but to deliver them a huge shock! And make them obey your commands within the shortest period of time.”
I was bamboozled by his words. An eighteen year-old pretty boy needing to astound a bunch of veteran soldiers sounded like mission impossible.
“What’s next will depend on what you do, whether it’s fortifying the defense perimeter, or pushing forward toward the tower. The latter will be much more difficult—these soldiers have lost their nerve and probably won’t be willing to go inside. But whatever it is you want to do, if you don’t do it now, you can forget about getting off this tower.”
He was right. There were originally only a few soldiers slipping away here and there in the confusion, but as the battle became more and more intense, a fair number of soldiers were now retreating as they fired their guns. Those specimens only needed to make one big push, and the whole line would collapse.
Just as I was thinking that, I watched a specimen that stood over three meters tall dash over. Although it still looked humanoid, its skin and flesh were as gray as stone. If he had been crouched by the side of a road, he would look exactly like a big rock.
The soldiers gaped with bulging eyes, but stuff like this could hardly faze me. After all, at the start of the apocalypse, when I was crippled and without any special abilities, Muscle Man had appeared in our house. While this thing in front of me was indeed stronger than Muscle Man, I wasn’t a cripple anymore.
The specimen suddenly chose this moment to let out a huge roar. Everyone finally snapped out of their shock and started firing like crazy. Unfortunately, his skin was crazily hard, to the point where ordinary bullets didn’t seem to do much to him within a short space of time.
What was worse, the other specimens weren’t just dallying around as spectators; they even had the sense to follow behind this big rock and surge forward in a wave. This meant that the soldiers could no longer just fire at the rock—they had to divert their attention to attack other specimens. This in turn reduced the pressure on the rock, and he immediately rushed up in front of the soldiers, and with a wave of his hand, grabbed onto a soldier in each hand and held them up in front of himself as a shield.
“Hold fire!” The soldiers were horrified and had no choice but to shoot the other specimens, letting the big rock rush straight out of the blockade of gunfire.
How can he be so smart? It isn’t possible for aberrants to be so powerful at this stage. Given the size of this guy’s head, it’s obvious that he isn’t an aberrant that solely focuses on developing his intellect. Something seems very off with these specimens. Jiang Xiaotian’s right, I do need to check it out. I won’t get such a good opportunity as this in the future.
Just as I was hesitating about what to do, whether it was to let Big Rock rush out and never see him again, or to make a move and attack him to shock the soldiers, Big Rock made my decision for me.
He broke through the blockade yet displayed no intent of leaving. If anything, he started stirring up trouble among the military. When soldiers retreated while firing, Big Rock would rush forward. The closer soldiers would freak and start running, while the soldiers further away wouldn’t dare to shoot for fear of friendly fire.
I put Jiang Xiaotian and the backpack onto the tower and drew my spear from the bottom compartment of the backpack, and then I was jumping down. I glided over some distance, catching up to Big Rock, then two blades of icy wind shot out from below and froze his feet., sending him crashing to the ground and causing the ground to tremble a little.
The ice blade slid up his back but was unable to even so much as scratch him. But I had anticipated this. At this moment, he roared and swung a hand behind him. I leapt to one side in the nick of time. Without even bothering to stand up, he lunged over at me in the next breath, probably with the intent to crush me to death in his embrace.
I dodged his arms with a glide backwards, and he once again sprawled on the floor, but only to his knees this time—he didn’t fall flat against the ground. But this was enough to send him into a rage. He let out a furious roar, and he looked up with a glare, only to widen his eyes—the double muzzle of my gun was pointing right at his eyes.
Bang bang bang—
After being fired at like crazy, he was still able to let out a howl of pain. He first pressed his hands against his face, then started running around crazily, wanting to try his luck and see if he could hit me.
As for me, I was gliding in front of him and examining his face. His sockets had turned into a paste of blood and white goo. His eyeballs should be smushed. In theory, bullets entering his eyes should have been able to penetrate his brain, but he must have closed his eyes in time. This guy’s eyelids were also incredibly tough.
At this moment, a few other specimens leapt at me. I spun around and held the gun to one specimen’s forehead. One shot blew out half his brain.
Jin Feng’s guns really had quite the firepower.
Just as I was about to deal with the other two, they were ventilated into beehives. I glanced to one side to see Blackie holding up a light assault rifle, its muzzle still smoking, a look of disbelief on his face as he stared back at me.
In that moment, heavy footfalls sounded. I looked to see Big Rock get up and start sprinting—he looked like he wanted to get away.
I glided after him, casually icing the spear to my waist. Then, I crafted two long and narrow ice blades and threw out a patch of ice in front of Big Rock. He shattered the ice with one stomp, tilting off balance, but he didn’t fall over. But this momentary pause was enough. I stepped on his calf, then leapt to his back, leap frogged over his head, and landed in front of him.
My ice blades were left deep in his eye sockets.
After swaying for a bit, Big Rock collapsed onto the ground, motionless. I walked up, and when there was no response after kicking him twice, lifted his big head and twisted the two ice blades. Only then did I relax and drop his head back to the ground. In this day and age, everyone’s vitality was very strong, and there was no way I could relax unless I had turned my opponents’ brains into complete mush.
I frowned as I gazed at Big Rock. There was something off about him. He was hard, sure, but he was also very slow. As long as you knew what his weakness was, it wasn’t hard to deal with him. Even if he posed a greater threat than a tier one aberrant, his true strength wasn’t up to par. It was almost like he had evolved just to act as a shield for gunfire, and he had sacrificed everything else for this one purpose, creating the end result of being very strong but also very easy to defeat.
It was very easy to go wrong with this kind of extreme evolution model. Jiang Xiaorong was a perfect and pitiful example of this, completely wasting the evolution crystals that he had swallowed, changing from a tree that had touched the heavens into a bonsai plant.
So did this Big Rock also pick the wrong evolutionary model, or did the MORC do something?
Whatever, I’ll find out once I go in.
I turned around to see that the soldiers’ battle was also coming to an end. Although corpses of the specimens littered the ground, a fair number of them must have gotten away; otherwise, there was no way the soldiers could end the fight so quickly. But it wasn’t a big deal if they got away. The world was full of man-eating aberrants, so the addition of these specimens wasn’t going to make much of a difference. There were too many to begin with, anyway.
I picked up the light assault rifle from a dead soldier in an offhand manner and walked up to the soldiers, scaring them to the point where they all pointed their guns at me.
“Blackie!” I yelled, and all the soldiers turned to glare at Blackie.
“Ah Qing and the others are trapped inside?”
Blackie nodded, dazed.
“Wanna save ‘em?” I asked in a taunting manner. Although I wanted to shock these soldiers, I was too young, I had a ridiculously pretty face, and I had appeared out of nowhere. So even if I was very strong, it was probably hard for them to agree to follow me, so I could only use the idea of saving their brothers-in-arms to rally them to my cause.
If the person who leapt down from the tower was the Ice Emperor, he probably won’t have it so hard. He’d just have to wave an arm and call out, and everyone will follow him there and then! Damn it, I- I-… can only wait until I grow up. What else can I do?
Blackie’s eyes lit up, and together with his dark complexion, it gave the impression of two search lights being switched on at night.
“Damn right we do!”
I nodded and said, “Anyone who wants to go in with me should re-equip themselves, and follow me in to save your brothers-in-arms in thirty seconds. We can’t wait any longer than that.”
Without waiting for their response, I turned to climb back up the tower to find Jiang Xiaotian. Just as I was about to put him and the backpack on my back, he shook his head and said, “I can carry the bag. You need to fight, and you mustn’t get dragged down by this.”
“Can you carry it?” I stared at Jiang Xiaotian dubiously. The bag was almost as tall as he was.
“Yes.” Jiang Xiaotian gave me an odd look and asked, “Surely you aren’t thinking I’m really a kid, are you?”
I rubbed my nose as I replied, “You’re the one who said you can’t use your abilities.”
Jiang Xiaotian chuckled. “I can’t, but I can still freeze and shatter a few hearts.”
Sigh. Fine. This is the gap in our abilities. To the Ice Emperor, freezing a few people to death doesn’t count as using his special abilities. It‘s probably the same as sneezing a few times for him.
Carrying the child, I leapt down the tower. The soldiers really were all at the ready. There were about thirty of them—they weren’t that many in quantity, but they made up for it in quality. Probably because of their military training and the fact that they were living fairly decently even after the apocalypse, they hadn’t fallen to the level of becoming evil warlords yet.
Although a lot of specimens had gotten out, there were probably still quite a few left down there. As insurance, it was better to bring along some helpers. Some of them might even know their way inside, which would be of a great help to me.
Blackie walked up to me, sucked in a deep breath, and said, “We’ll go in first. The others need to check how the civilians outside are doing.”
I nodded and replied, “Then let’s go.”
Then, I stared at them, and they stared back at me. Neither of us moved.
“Lead the way!” I gave them a strange look. “Don’t tell me you want me and my three year old son to lead the charge?”
The soldiers flushed red and quickly looked away, and in the end, the highest ranked person, a second lieutenant, took charge and ordered the group to stand in a few rows to enter the tower. The ones at the very front were the scouts, the ones in the middle formed the bulk of the group, while the ones standing at the back were responsible for guarding the rear.
Seeing how organized and well-trained they were, I felt much better about the whole thing. From the looks of things, as long as they could maintain their state of mind, these soldiers had a fair bit of combat power. Their poor performance just now was purely down to the chaos right from the start and Big Rock’s charge without any fear of bullets that had thrown them into disarray.
Everyone gazed at the entrance to the Guard Tower that was in ruins, grim looks on all their faces, but they still stepped forward without any hesitation.
Blackie had been assigned to stand next to me, probably because he was the only person in the group who knew me. He glanced at Jiang Xiaotian and frowned. Some soldiers had suggested that I leave the kid behind, but I had refused.
“Xiao Yu, do you want me to find a pair of boots for you?” Blackie couldn’t resist making this offer as he gazed down at me feet, “The inside has been blasted to pieces, so if you go in barefoot, you’re gonna be in big trouble the moment you step on something sharp.”
I widened the layer of ice that was under my feet and showed him.
The soldiers around me gawked at the ice, and Blackie stammered, “Xiao Yu, h-how did you make that?”
“It’s nothing unusual. Most people have special abilities.”
Someone mumbled, “But no one can use it like that.”
Blackie couldn’t help but blurt out another question, “Can you teach us to be as strong as you?”
“Let’s focus on rescuing the guys first.” Then I’ll be gone like the wind.
Everyone’s faces lit up with hopes when they heard that, making me break out in cold sweat. T-this… fine, if they do well, I’ll consider telling them about the evolution crystals.
Anyway, the MORC should have discovered the existence of these crystals long ago. Given that they have locked up so many aberrants for experimentation, I find it hard to believe that they haven’t dissected a few already.
Even though they know about it, they have chosen to keep it to themselves. If humanity had found out about the use of these crystals earlier on, will humans be in a better situation in the future?
Before long, we arrived in front of the elevator. This was probably a cargo lift—it was so large that it wasn’t a problem fitting thirty people inside.
I said calmly, “It’s not too smart to take the elevators in times like this.”
Blackie said softly, “We don’t know other paths, and we’ve only ever watched people go in. We’ve never gone down ourselves. The research guys only ever let us guard the outside and maintain order in the refugee camp.”
“Then why are Ah Qing and the others down there?”
“We received an SOS from the lab, so the Lieutenant took some guys down there. Then those monsters started swarming out of there.”
So it’s a secret underground lab? I mournfully hoped that it wasn’t too big of a laboratory; otherwise, those specimens that had gotten out would just be the tip of the iceberg.
The scouting soldiers pressed the elevator button, and everyone immediately shifted into guard formation. The elevator doors opened, revealing a few white-robed doctors lying on the floor, none of the corpses intact.
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
The second lieutenant gestured everyone in, but he barred my way with an arm and asked with a hint of tension, “Why did you come inside? You want the research…?”
“Come on, look at the world we’re in now. Why don’t you just say it straight, that I want to go in to steal the goods? I just owe Chen Yanqing a debt,” I replied calmly, “and I never let my debts go unpaid.” But I will lie.
The second lieutenant hesitated, glancing at Jiang Xiaotian, before lowering his arm and getting out of my way.
Come to think of it, no one would take a three-year old with them to steal research information. Jiang Xiaotian really is a good cover!
Using the white-robed doctor’s identification and eyeball, the elevator started operating smoothly.
I glanced at the display on the elevator. In actual fact, all the buttons were fake. All you needed was the identification card and eyeball, and the elevator would start moving by itself.
To one side, Blackie chuckled, “Ah Qing’s really lucky. We originally kept joking that he liked bringing trouble onto himself, but we never thought he’d help someone powerful like you. But seriously, Xiao Yu, who the hell are you? Those moves of yours ain’t normal. I doubt anyone in our troop can win against you in a fist fight.”
“My family is a long line of martial arts practitioners,” I continued my web of lies, ignoring Jiang Xiaotian’s laughter. Keeping my cool, I continued adding to it, “I mean, I should be asking what on earth you guys are doing here? Why are you keeping those ab… monsters here? Those things were mostly focused on getting away, but I’m sure there are still a lot of deaths among the civilians out there.”
“Hell if we know!” Blackie paused, glancing at the second lieutenant. When he saw that he too had a look of apprehension on his face but made no move to stop him, he continued, “We only know that there’s a research lab down here, and those people were researching these monsters, to find out their weaknesses and why they turned into monsters. But we really had no clue that there were so many of them down here. We thought they only had a few to research on.”
Someone else raised their voice in anger, “If we’d have known, you think we’d still be guarding this shit hole? We’d have tossed in a few grenades to blast those fuckers to death!”
I asked suspiciously, “You’re official military, right? If you’re not a privately hired army, why do you need to protect a laboratory?”
Blackie replied perfectly naturally, “Of course we’re the proper army. And since our superiors assigned us here, this research lab is probably connected to the government. At the very least, the government probably owns some part of this lab.”
I went “whoa” and cast a quick look downwards at Jiang Xiaotian. Even the government’s involved now, Dàgē! Do you really want your dìdi to make enemies with this research center?
Jiang Xiaotian shot me a look and said utterly fearlessly, “The Flame King is part of the government’s military, and I’ve never been scared of him.”
Everyone looked down to stare at Jiang Xiaotian. As for me, I was sweating bucket-loads. The Ice Emperor was indeed mighty. He didn’t care the slightest that these people would hear what he said…
“What’s the Flame King?” Blackie asked in confusion.
I replied seriously, “The Mighty King of Flames, or ‘Flame King’ for short, was a very popular cartoon long ago. My Xiaotian loves it!”
Jiang Xiaotian froze, but fortunately, he didn’t open his mouth to rip me a new one.
The surrounding soldiers looked like they couldn’t decide whether they wanted to laugh or cry, but when the elevator jolted to a stop, everyone’s expressions reverted to a solemn grimness. Under the second lieutenant’s orders, we grouped into a defensive formation and all muzzles were pointed at the elevator door.
I lifted up both guns and squeezed past Jiang Xiaotian to stand in front of him.
Then, the elevator doors opened.