Dominion’s End Volume 3: Ice-Bound Splendor and Majesty
Original novel in Chinese by: 御 我 (Yu Wo)
Chapter 4: The Laboratory, Part Two—translated by Elkin (proofread by Arcedemius & EvlNabiki; C/E edited by lucathia)
However, I just stayed right where I was and said, “That sounds like a trap. When you guys saw that monster just now, you fired off so many rounds and still weren’t able to take it down. So what are those few shots gonna achieve? I can’t think of any reason for doing that other than to bait us over there.”
When he heard that, the second lieutenant’s face darkened and he asked, “Then what now?”
How should I know?! Guan Weijun had at most snuck into a marketplace or a warehouse. She’d never broken into somewhere as high security as this place. This was a freaking secret laboratory full of aberrant experiments. If this had happened in my previous life, I’d have rather put a bullet in my own head than to come to a place like this. There were a million ways to die here.
I looked down at Jiang Xiaotian. The Ice Emperor was definitely the person with the most experience in breaking into places like this.
Jiang Xiaotian chuckled. “I wanted to see how far you could get. Are you throwing in the towel so quickly?”
“I’m still new at this.” I didn’t mind asking him. There was nothing shameful about asking the Ice Emperor for help. In my previous life, forget about hugging the Ice Emperor’s leg to beg for help, I had never seen hide nor hair of him except from afar, so since I had the opportunity to hug the entire person, I had to make the most of it.
“Judging from the situation, the computer system isn’t completely down. Send most of the troop ahead to scout, while we sneak into the control center. From there, we should have access to most of the security feeds in the lab.”
Then, Jiang Xiaotian pointed at Blackie and said, “Take this guy along with you. He should be an information technology specialist, so you can let him handle any repairs.”
Everyone stared at Jiang Xiaotian like they had seen a ghost. I couldn’t be bothered to help cover up for him anymore, so I just said, “So that’s that. My Xiaotian knows best. You guys keep going ahead, but don’t move too quickly, or else I won’t be able to inform you guys in time if we discover something.”
I beckoned at Blackie and said, “Come on, Blackie.”
Stunned, the second lieutenant exclaimed, “Wait a sec, how can you just go? If there’s danger ahead…”
“If there’s danger ahead, you seriously need me to protect you guys?” I glared and snapped, “What the fuck, guys?! Thirty soldiers aren’t as good as a kid, a university student, and one soldier? Calm down and don’t fucking panic. None of the existing aberrants can just brush off shots from thirty guns. The only thing you need to know to deal with them is this—blast their brains apart from far away. That’s all you need to do!”
Finished with my tirade, I ignored them, turned my back on them, and left. Even if Blackie didn’t come with me, it didn’t matter. I’d save who I could, and if I couldn’t, abandoning them wouldn’t make me feel a shred of guilt!
“A-aberrant?” came the mumble from the second lieutenant, and only then did I realize I had accidentally let slip the term. Whatever, even if they found out, it wasn’t a big deal. Soon enough, this word would become commonplace.
Blackie ended up coming along. He asked, “Xiao Yu, can you really take me to the control center all by yourself? The first thing the Lieutenant would have done is to order some IT specialists to head over there first. Of course, he’d send a couple of good men as well, to prevent the IT specialists from being killed off.”
Here, he threw Jiang Xiaotian a look of alarm and suspicion.
I said irritably, “Well, your second lieutenant wanted me to protect thirty soldiers. So what do you think?”
Blackie looked back to his far away comrades and said with embarrassment, “Yeah, we’re really not up to scratch. Everyone’s scared shitless by the attack just now, and without someone to command us, we don’t know what to do. If the Lieutenant or Ah Nuo were here, or even, or even Ah Qing would do, we wouldn’t be like this. Believe me! That second lieutenant’s just a boot, fresh out of military school, so his head’s crammed full of textbooks, and he’s hopeless in actual combat.”
I gave him a look, then shook my head and sighed, “You guys can even follow Ah Qing? You really have no standards.”
“…” Blackie bit the bullet and tried to explain, “Don’t get fooled by Ah Qing’s character. He’s really strong when he’s serious. Have you ever seen semi-automatic firing with machine guns? He can bust a head with every bullet he fires. He doesn’t fuck around!”
Now you make me want to take him with me again… Maybe that Ah Qing is really quite the good souvenir? I can definitely try when it’s time for me to leave.
“The control room is this way. I was keeping an eye out for it.” Blackie pointed at one of the corridors, and then added awkwardly, “I should’ve suggested to go there right at the start. I just didn’t get around to saying it ‘cause I’m used to listening to the Lieutenant’s orders.”
I glanced Blackie over. This one isn’t half bad either. What to do? I want to take everyone with me. Is it really okay for me to be so happily picking from the Lieutenant’s men?
Jiang Xiaotian spoke up. “Shuyu, we need to find another escape route in the control room. From the looks of things, those experiments probably intentionally kept the elevator running, to draw people down here to their deaths.”
I looked down at Jiang Xiaotian. Those gun shots did feel like they were fired to draw attention, but I still found it hard to believe. Are these things humans or aberrants? Humans haven’t evolved to be that strong, while aberrants aren’t that smart yet.
He continued, “The experiments that got out shouldn’t have the ability to decimate this lab. There has to be a leader, and he’s probably quite powerful. Seeing as how the top troops have been trapped here, that guy is probably still around and didn’t escape with the other experiments.”
“So I have no chance of victory?” I was a bit despondent. Don’t tell me that ascending to tier two this quickly still isn’t enough?
Jiang Xiaotian looked up at me and said, “I don’t know if you can win, but it’s only five months or so into the apocalypse. He can’t be strong enough to overturn this research center by himself, so there must be some other experiments under him obeying his commands. As for you, you only have disobedient soldiers with zero combat experience against aberrants. So what do you think?”
“Hold it there!” Blackie said quickly, “We’re listening to you already. I mean, aren’t I coming along with you?”
Jiang Xiaotian glanced at him and asked, “If I told you to take a gun and lead the charge against a group of aberrants, would you?”
Blackie stared at the three year old, his dark face growing darker by the moment. You couldn’t really blame him, though. If an average person was told to obey a three year old, it was hardly unusual to be very hesitant to do so. Of course, if this was toward the later stages of the apocalypse, then the commander could take the form of anything.
Jiang Xiaotian ignored Blackie and said directly to me, “Go to the control room, find the Lieutenant or the Ah Nuo he’s talking about. If you can get them to listen to you, then they can contribute in a fight. If we can’t locate them, then we’re looking for an escape route and leaving immediately. Blackie can go find his own crew to let them know that they should leave, too.”
“So it isn’t enough to find Ah Qing?” I was pretty sure I had a way of making Ah Qing listen to me, but as for the Lieutenant and Ah Nuo, I really wasn’t that close with them. It wouldn’t be easy getting them to entrust the lives of a whole troop to a teenage boy they barely knew.
“A guy who’s rated as ‘even Ah Qing would do’ probably has the same leadership abilities as you do, so he’s no use even if we do locate him.”
I secretly shed a tear of sympathy. Poor Ah Qing, being rated as useless so quickly.
I suddenly stepped on something soft. This sensation… I shone the light down and lifted my foot, revealing a hand in military green clothing. Although it was soaked in blood, I could still make out that it was a military uniform.
I heard a short sharp breath being sucked in to one side. Blackie was staring at the hand in alarm, but then he relaxed and said, “No, that’s not one of ours.”
I asked in confusion, “Not one of yours?” Is the shock so much that you can’t think of him as one of your own?
Blackie nodded and gestured toward the upper part of the severed hand, remarking, “Look. Even though they look alike, the sleeve and buttons are different. This isn’t an official soldier, so it’s probably the private army.”
“Like mercenaries?” Jiang Xiaotian asked in a thoughtful tone of voice, “Even if you are only responsible for guarding the outside, you still need people on the inside. This is even more the case if we take into account the missing people mentioned in the letter. You can’t possibly keep asking researchers to be the ones to abduct people, so if this wasn’t done by the military, then it has to be done by the private army owned by the MORC.”
“Letter?” Blackie stared at Jiang Xiaotian blankly.
He was right. The letter left behind by Dàgē did mention the mysterious disappearances among the people entering the refugee zone. Did they turn into the experiments? Just seeing the news about Junjun was a huge shock, and the only thing on my mind at the time was my worry about my Xiǎomèi. So the fact that other people had gone missing had completely gone over my head.
“Shuyu, we should hurry. Prepare yourself for combat.” Jiang Xiaotian frowned and said, “It might not be safe in the control center.”
I nodded and armed myself with the same combination of a handgun in one hand and an ice dagger in the other. But what I really wanted was my ice stave, even if it didn’t have a spear head. Perhaps Xiaotian’s worries were correct. I didn’t even have a convenient weapon at hand, so perhaps I was being a bit unrealistic in thinking that I could go toe-to-toe with a large group of experiments.
The three of us picked up our pace. We didn’t see any irregularities along the way, and finally our footsteps brought us to a large, transparent corridor with glass walls on either side. Of course, most of the corridor was missing the sheets of glass, and the only things left of them were the shattered shards littering the floor.
This was the lab. I’d wanted to come here from the very beginning but gave up on it after hearing the gunshots. But as it turned out, we needed to pass through this place on the way to the control center anyway.
Even though we needed to leave ASAP, we unconsciously slowed our steps. The sight before us was just too shocking. Although we’d seen countless scenes of human experiments in movies, it was a completely different experience when you were actually stepping into a place like this.
The most unbearable thing wasn’t the sight, but the smell. The intense smell of disinfectant made me want to rip off my nose, but it still wasn’t enough to mask the metallic tang of blood. The smells of fresh and rotting blood had mixed together, and the putrid mix of all these stenches was just absolutely indescribable.
Next was the sound. As we stepped on the glass and jumble of liquids, the crunching reverberated through the silent laboratory. It felt like we were going to draw the attention of something at any moment, and as much as we wanted to stop, we had no choice but to forge on.
Last but not least was the sight. This place was brighter than the corridor just now. It was originally probably as bright as day, but with half the lights smashed and some of the remainder flashing on and off, the flickering between light and dark was enough to drive one crazy with the fear that the next time the lights came back on, something would appear where there was nothing before.
Corpses were everywhere. Most of them could only count as pieces of corpses, scattered everywhere across the table, the floor, and even draped on various pieces of equipment. We had everything from severed limbs, to skeletons, to organs. Large quantities of blood had been sprayed against the wall as well, turning the originally pristine, snow white surface into a bloody mess of graffiti.
Blackie couldn’t help but clap a hand to his mouth at the surrounding scene. He didn’t dare to say a word. Then again, if he breathed in the air in here while opening his mouth to say something, the soldier just might dash off to find a corner to vomit into.
But Guan Weijun had lived for over a decade in the apocalypse. No amount of corpses in any shape or form could scare me. Except for those in the glass cylinders.
All the surrounding individual test labs had lots of transparent glass cylinders. Each cylinder held a corpse, or at least what I thought was a corpse. Although they had lots of tubes connected to them, given that they hadn’t come crawling out already, they were probably dead.
The corpses came in all shapes and sizes. Some had transparent skin and muscle, with veins and organs clearly visible underneath. Another corpse had completely turned into a mass of tentacles from head to toe, enough to outnumber the number of tentacles that any jellyfish or squid had any right to have. But the most disgusting corpse was one of a girl. She was completely naked, with beautiful facial features and a fine body. Unfortunately, she had a few too many faces, with as many as thirty faces covering her body.
Blackie trembled as he said softly, “W-what the fuck did they do?”
Sigh, they made the spectacle that you are seeing in front of you.
I lowered my head and asked, “Dàgē, are these aberrants?”
Although they looked disgusting, and they didn’t look like they had evolved properly, you could link just about every one of them to a similar aberrant. For example, the transparent guy would eventually become completely transparent, and could even change shapes, and would specialize in engulfing its prey to dissolve and digest. Furthermore, it wasn’t a picky eater and wouldn’t turn its nose up at eating even car tires.
An originally terrifying species, but perhaps because their brains became transparent, whatever wits they had also vanished. And when you tagged on the fact that they ate anything they came across, they simply wouldn’t starve and didn’t have to try hard to scavenge for food. So whether it was a human or an aberrant that got engulfed by one, you only had to struggle very hard to break free.
Later on, some bored folks even started treating it like a pet. In any case, it ate whatever you fed it, making it easy to raise, and some people even started calling it “glasster.”
Jiang Xiaotian said flatly, “Dead humans become aberrants, so does it really matter whether they’re humans or aberrants?”
True. If you want an aberrant, all you have to do is kill a human.
“What do they want to achieve?” I didn’t understand. Aren’t there enough weird and strange aberrants already? What’s the point of creating even more weird and strange things?
Jiang Xiaotian said frigidly, “What I want to know is whether they made these before or after the 21st of June.”
A chill ran down my spine. This was very critical. A lab wasn’t something you could just build off the cuff. If they weren’t originally doing experiments like this, where would they even find facilities like this, once the apocalypse arrived? Were those glass cylinders originally used for storing specimens? What about those tubes? Were they for making glow sticks?
“What are you talking about?” Blackie asked pitifully, “I don’t get what you’re saying at all. D-do we still need to go to the control center?”
Just as I was about to reply, “Of course,” Jiang Xiaotian suddenly sprinted off, charging into one of the test labs. He then glared at one of the glass cylinders. Or to be more precise, he glared at the monitor above the cylinder. The cylinder had been broken and whatever had been in it was long gone.
“Dàgē, what’s wrong?”
I ignored the startled Blackie and walked in to join him. This test lab was larger than the others, and the equipment looked more sophisticated and complicated. It was probably the main test lab.
I was about to resume my questioning as I walked up to Jiang Xiaotian’s side, but instead, my heart leapt to my throat. That little face of his was twisted into a demonic mask of fury!
“It’s him!” he raged through grated teeth, “Thirteen!”
I froze, instantly understanding who Jiang Xiaotian was talking about. Even if my memory for names was terrible, this name was one that struck fear in the heart of every Asian. The only Asian elite aberrant, he had a name that was not a name—Thirteen.
Thirteen had committed countless massacres in Asia, and he only ever targeted humans, completely disregarding plants and animals. It was to the point where it was almost like he killed humans on sight. Even if his subordinates were so full that they couldn’t fit in another mouthful, they still faithfully slaughtered humans. No one knew why Thirteen hated humans so much… All right, I think I might have found the answer today.
If I had been caught and stuck in a glass cylinder to be an experiment, I probably would kill humans on sight once I got out as well.
Jiang Xiaotian gazed at the monitor that was currently displaying information about the experiment in the glass cylinder. The top left serial number was 013. So Thirteen was his experiment number?
On the monitor was a long humanoid form, looking no different from an ordinary human being. He looked like a man of around thirty years old, but he had a tail that was as thick and scaly as a dinosaur’s. It probably packed a punch and could be used as a weapon.
Jiang Xiaotian gripped my arm and said, “Shuyu, let’s go! We have to find him!”
My face drained as white as a corpse on hearing that. Hey, hey, hey, Dàgē, that’s the guy that made humanity skip the number thirteen when counting. He’s even scarier than the four of death or the 666 of Satan, and you’re asking me to find him?
“Why?” You can at least give an explanation of why you’re sending someone off to his death, right?
“He killed my men!” Jiang Xiaotian roared, “Xiao Sha ran into him when he was taking the troop out with him, and all of them died! More than twenty good men eaten clean. We didn’t even have enough parts to piece together one whole corpse.”
My mind blanked. Xiao Sha died? “The Xiao Sha here is still well and alive, Dàgē.”
“My Xiao Sha’s dead!”
So he does know that this is a different world? I kept quiet. If Xiao Sha is already dead to Jiang Xiaotian, then what about Jiang Shuyu? No, rather, what about the entire Jiang family?
Jiang Xiaotian was so outraged that he didn’t notice his verbal slip. He stared at me, his eyes blazing with anger, and said, “Shuyu, all the twenty-odd crew of mine were eaten. Only Xiao Sha was left whole. He turned into an aberrant, and was shut in a cage by Thirteen as a pet. He wasn’t even a subordinate, but a pet!”
No wonder Jiang Xiaotian went crazy when he saw Thirteen. Dàgē cared a great deal about his godly troop, and he was already being very rational by not charging into the aberrant camp to fight Thirteen to the death, having seen Xiao Sha reduced to a pet.
“Okay, kill Thirteen.” I gave a simple nod of the head. I was already planning to duke it out, if not for Jiang Xiaotian stopping me earlier. And since he absolutely wanted me to fight now, then I’d fight!
Furthermore, far too many Asians had died at the hands of Thirteen in the apocalyptic world. If not for Thirteen and the aberrants he led, another hundred thousand people would still be living in Asia. And this number was a conservative estimate!
In the other world, Thirteen had established the aberrant camp, and was so powerful that even though the Ice Emperor hated his guts, he had no way of getting revenge for Xiao Sha. The current Thirteen here wasn’t an elite. Now that we had the opportunity, we had to kill him!