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    Asianovel

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    Chapter 87

    After executing an array of dazzling actions, Lane didn't have the chance to savor the feeling of omnipotence that allowed him to alter reality at will. A wave of weakness surged from deep within his being.

    It was as if the fatigue originated from the depths of his soul, draining every neuron and spirit he possessed. A surge of drowsiness threatened to overwhelm him. With his last ounces of strength, Lane expelled all the players from the dreamland and began sealing off the Divine Realm.

    The players who had just bidden farewell to Master Myrddin were promptly ejected from the dream, returning to reality.

    In Lane's Divine Realm, Cree lowered his gaze to examine the instrument in his hand. The stability indicator was fluctuating wildly, signaling the imminent closure of the entry and exit points. Once the exits sealed, anyone remaining would be trapped like a turtle in a jar.

    Cree reluctantly glanced one last time at the floating campus overhead before turning and running back along the path they came. As he passed an empty ward, he sensed something amiss. After a moment of hesitation, he stopped at the door and pushed it open.

    "What... is going on here?"

    Before him lay several people he recognized, the very team from the Audit Bureau that had entered the dungeon earlier. However, their current state was far from ideal. Each of them looked as if they had just emerged from a fierce battle, their appearances disheveled.

    Compared to their physical injuries, it seemed their mental states had suffered even more. Cree squatted down in front of Job and waved his hand in front of the man's face, but received no response.

    At that moment, the instrument in his hand issued another warning. Cree raised an eyebrow, then effortlessly turned and left without a hint of burden or guilt towards his teammates.

    Yet, strangely, where was Eugene?

    At this moment, in the Players' Forum.

    Fresh from a intense dungeon battle, the players were now bursting with unspent excitement, and thus took to the forums to vent their emotions through endless posts.

    Especially on the front page, posts are virtually dominated by the two keywords—Lann and Mida University.

    Among the most popular, it wasn't the dungeon streaming threads, nor the posts from various gaming gurus analyzing the game's newly emerged mechanics. Instead, it was an emotional outburst post.

    "Ah! Ah! Ah! My MIT! Give me back my MIT!"

    The bold red characters seemed to foreshadow the intense emotions of the original poster and the forum respondents. The replies in the thread were mostly similar outbursts of distress.

    Original Poster (OP): How could this be? We've created a map of MIT, we've launched the replica instance – it should have been a double dose of joy. So why, why is this happening?

    OP: Whenever I realize that it's just a replica, and no matter how well we do, the real MIT has still been destroyed, vanished – I can't help but feel overwhelmed with sorrow, qwq.

    1st Reply: You're right, sob sob sob. We braved the hardships alongside MIT's faculty and students, yet in the end, we're still faced with separation.

    2l: Ahhh, the thought of losing my beloved Mida University and such excellent professors makes me want to weep. We all worked so hard and successfully cleared that dungeon, qwq.

    3l: Indeed, replaying the dungeon is just heartbreaking. All that joint effort led to nothing but emptiness. I'm on the verge of losing motivation.

    4l: The rewards don't even feel satisfying anymore. I'd rather forego them and have Mida University back,orz.

    5l: Same here! I already had my acceptance letter!

    Insane: Aren't you worse off? The professor promised to recommend me for the combat department...

    6l: Heh, sorry, but it's a bit amusing, albeit insensitive.

    7l: Aaaaah, I want to be in the combat department too! I want to be at Mida University!

    8l: There were still so many places I didn't get to explore, qwq.

    9l: Exactly! Mida University's map was clearly complete, why not release it as a permanent feature? Come on, the planners really need to bow down to the artists and programmers, right?

    10l: Even if Mida University vanished in the storyline, they should at least keep the NPCs...

    11l: Sobs... I really can't accept that it was just a replica. When Professor said Michigan University would always welcome us at the end, I took it to heart!

    12l: No, isn't this obvious? It's just a replica, guys. You're taking it way too seriously (nosepick).

    13l: Yeah, replicas repeat past events endlessly. Those touching moments you see now are just pre-programmed scripts.

    Druid: Hmm, not exactly. Maybe it feels so real that's why everyone feels indignant when Michigan vanished.

    Druid: Like in the auditorium, many players noticed that if not for the players' intervention, the professors were prepared to sacrifice themselves to save the students.

    14l: That's right, I was there too. I can confirm that the professors were absolutely ready to give their lives. In the original scenario, they might have done just that.

    15l: This is getting sadder and sadder... How kind the professors were, qwq.

    16l: If players weren't present, the damage in the auditorium alone would've been devastating.

    Druid: Yes, did anyone else notice how vividly the NPCs behave in this replica? Though the game's NPCs have always been highly intelligent, I've never felt like this before – as if I'm not playing a game but interacting with genuine human beings.

    17l: And this person was even trying to save me (sobbing).

    Druid: First, the professor's inexplicable protection of the students, then their insistence that we leave first, and finally the human shield formed by the students as Professor Alders cast his spell... Honestly, all these events touched me so deeply that even if I ever stop playing this game, I will never forget this moment, nor the University of Michigan.

    Druid, followed by more players, chimed in with their own experiences of support from Michigan students or professors within the building.

    18l: Absolutely, sometimes I forget it's just a dungeon. The sense of crisis was so intense; it was easy to get completely immersed in the atmosphere.

    19l: Yeah, I would have been panicked without the dice roll. I pushed myself to the limit after that. Is this what they call immersive gaming? It sure is immersive (falls over).

    20l: There are times when this game makes me forget it's just a game. The NPCs' reactions feel so genuine, I've even seen glimpses of humanity in them. Can this really be the result of artificial intelligence simulation?

    21l: Perhaps the more beautiful it is in the game, the crueler it is in reality. In the real world, Michigan University vanished, leaving all its students and faculty with uncertain fates.

    22l: We've arrived, but too late. The acceptance letters from Michigan came, yet the school itself has disappeared.

    23l: We strained every effort, only to alter an illusion. It was as if we had merely dreamed a sweet dream...

    Not Crazy: P-Please, don't stab me qwq

    Druid: Ah, this familiar sting (Pained expression)

    Black Cat: As I said, don't trust tabletop games, and don't get emotionally attached to NPCs – it only leads to misfortune. (Sigh)

    24l: Anyway! Strongly protesting that MiDa is just a replica! Now that the illustrations are done, release MiDa promptly! Let it out, let it out!

    25l: Absolutely right! I refuse to accept this ending! The cradle of investigators, MiDa, where many legends were born, shouldn't meet its end here! Urgent request for the official team to reopen the map!

    Countless replies followed, with the original poster even creating a separate thread due to the overwhelming response, all in an effort to catch the attention of the developers and hoping they would reconsider reviving MiDa.

    On the other side, players who didn't follow the auditorium route couldn't relate to the intensity of emotions felt by those who did. Thus, their discussions were mainly centered around Lahn's divine manifestation.

    Title: Lahn's Complete Form Revealed!

    Nightly: No words, just pure awesomeness.

    1l: Oh my god, Complete Form Lahn (squee squee)

    2l: What's happening? What's happening?! I can't see QQ I'm so anxious! What does the complete form look like?

    3l: Images, images! Hurry up and post pictures! What are you waiting for?

    Nightly: Couldn't upload the image, but the moment I saw it in the game, I lost my mind. The live stream went black, how could there be no pictures?

    4l: What?! How can this be?! This is pure hype marketing! The officials have gone too far!

    Ah Long: No, this time we're misunderstanding the officials. Hmm, let me put it this way, that level of appearance is beyond what a photograph can capture. Even if there were photos, they wouldn't do it justice.

    5l: So what's it like? You guys are making me curious.

    Nightly: Yeah... It's indescribable.

    Barbie: Exactly, indescribable.

    Majority Rules: Agreed.

    Not Crazy: Indeed, hard to put into words.

    6l: ??? What are you guys talking about?

    Nightly: Seriously, you'll understand once you see it in the game. For those who haven't, I can't really explain it in detail. Even if it drives you mad with just one glance, I don't regret having seen it myself.

    Seeking Even Numbers: I get it, I really do. My heart is still trembling, but if you ask me to describe it, I'm at a loss for words.

    Seeking Even Numbers: Honestly, I'm genuinely curious now. How did the developers achieve this? That feeling of being pushed to the brink of madness is so realistic, it's a bit spine-tingling when you come back to your senses. Is this truly something achievable with modern virtual immersion technology? Were no forbidden techniques used?

    Matcha Milk Green: Yes, now I understand why Black Cat logged off for so long after seeing it. I needed a long time to cool down after watching too, spending hours watching videos and browsing forums to recover.

    Matcha Milk Green: It's a beauty that borders on insanity. You feel like it's the most beautiful thing you've ever seen, yet your mind feels... off. Like eating an uncooked Blue Meanie mushroom in real life and seeing countless tiny figures – you just can't control yourself.

    Cosmic Machine: Exactly that feeling! And then later, you know the risk, but still crave those wild mushrooms, just like the Yunnan people.

    7l: Thanks, I totally get the analogy now.

    8l: As a Yunnan native, I'm dying here, and even more curious! I have to play this game! Give me a spot, please!

    Uncle Hao: Uh, why are you all talking about appearance? As someone left guarding the live stream, I can't join in at all. Why does it have to be me this time, qwq?

    Nights: Haha, next time it'll be your turn to watch, and we'll guard the live stream.

    Uncle Hao: Hmph, I don't need your pity, you fools. You only see the superficial aspects. The real wonders lie beyond, but none of you mention them.

    Baba: Could it be that we're all insane and missing the bigger picture?

    Uncle Hao: I know, that's why I'm showing off.

    Short Video.jpg

    The content displayed an A-class anomaly vanishing bit by bit into thin air. To avoid blacking out the screen, Uncle Hao didn't capture Lane in the shot, but everyone at the scene knew who was responsible.

    Aside from Lane, no other entity present possessed such immense power.

    Matcha Milk Green: That's an A-class anomaly, right? Damn, isn't this the strongest anomaly to have appeared in the game so far?

    Yeye: Yeah, it's on par with the one Lane once tamed.

    Baba: Thanks for mentioning it; now the A-class anomaly seems less impressive.

    Cosmic Machine: It's understandable, considering Lane's status is clearly much higher. After all, he's a deity; it wouldn't surprise me if he could instantly destroy an A-class anomaly.

    Cosmic Machine: With that said, there's not much to brag about here. Seeing Lane in his complete form would be more worthwhile.

    Uncle Hao: What about this one then?

    ShortVideo.jpg

    The subsequent short video released showed Lane's Divine Kingdom manifesting over Miskatonic University, which was none other than the scene of Arkham Hospital.

    9th Comment: This is Arkham Hospital, right? Why is it in the sky?

    10th Comment: Must be something Lane did. No clue what he's up to, but it's quite an impressive sight.

    11th Comment: Exactly, it's like the world has been turned upside down.

    12th Comment: Suddenly, I have a bold idea. Is the official storyline planning to rescue Miskatonic University?

    13th Comment: Seems highly unlikely. The main storyline has already established Miskatonic's destruction. Bringing it back would be a plot hole.

    Insane: Or could it be possible that Miskatonic might reappear as the main story progresses?

    Druid: It feels rather difficult. Based on the information given so far, Miskatonic has sunk into the Dreamlands. How would they even retrieve it? (Sighs in concern)

    Black Cat: Not necessarily.

    Druid: ! Do you have another theory?

    Not Crazy: Quick! Stuff the microphone into the Seer's mouth!

    Black Cat: He's not a Seer, hahaha, just some thoughts.

    Black Cat: Remember when we first triggered the quest, Orgge said that Lane needed us?

    Black Cat: And the goal of this dungeon is to prevent Mage University's catastrophic fate.

    14l: So what? Isn't that just standard NPC dialogue when entering a dungeon? Doesn't matter who comes or how many times, they'd always say something like that.

    Black Cat: That's true for other games, but not this one. Think about it, has any quest in this game ever respawned?

    Black Cat: Most quests are one-time deals, unrepeatable for players. I used to think the amount of unique quest text would be overwhelming and unsustainable, but I was proven wrong. They're actually pulling it off (sweats).

    Black Cat: So I'm wondering, can we really enter this dungeon repeatedly? Since it's a limited-time reenactment, could it only appear once?

    15l: Oh no, please don't! I haven't even experienced the University of Michigan yet, qwq. This can't be happening.

    16l: It's already outrageous that it only appears in dungeons, and now it's a one-time thing? No, I won't accept this!

    Black Cat: Hold on, everyone. I'm not done yet. I was thinking, since we entered this dungeon because we received a message from Lane asking for our help, could it be that the main objective of the dungeon is actually Lane's core purpose?

    If that's true, surely Lane's goal isn't just for us to clear the dungeon, right? Given the game's nature, every NPC's actions have their own underlying logic.

    Druid: Are you suggesting that Lane might have a way to reverse reality? To save the University of Michigan??

    Black Cat: Well, it's just a guess... That's what I'm hinting at, hhh. But this time, I feel like there's no need to speculate anymore. @Majority Rules, thank you, brother, for the clue. Without further ado, let's watch the video.

    The video Black Cat shared showed Professor Alders' frenzied revelation towards the end of the dungeon.

    "It was all just a dream..."

    "They are the true rulers of the dreamscape! Ordinary inhabitants can only alter things within themselves and their domains, but They can change the entire dream world! Through dreams, They can even reshape reality – They are personifications of the rules!"

    "The Elder One"

    This video is packed with information!

    The players were instantly stunned, and once they recovered, a flood of comments refreshed the screen.

    17l: Damn, the amount of info in this clip?!

    18l: Lane, turns out to be an Ancient God? An Old God?

    19l: What are these two things?

    20l: It's a concept from the Cthulhu Mythos. Actually, Ancient Gods and Old Gods refer to the same thing – a pantheon that opposes the evil gods, known for their more benevolent attitude towards humans.

    21l: I always thought Lane was one of the evil gods...

    22l: Hmm, I had a feeling. How could an evil god be so friendly to humans? Now it makes sense as an Ancient God; they're generally more amicable towards us than the evil ones.

    23l: Is that all there is to it? I have a feeling there's more to the story.

    24l: I don't care about that! So does this mean my beloved Miskatonic University finally has a chance at redemption? !

    Black Cat: Let me go through my deductions step by step. First, do you recall when we first entered the dungeon and speculated that the Audit Bureau's target might be Albert?

    25th Post: What old story is this? I've forgotten.

    Black Cat: Haha, well, now you remember (laughs and cries). Anyway, let me show everyone the notification Druid and I received - our mission has been completed.

    26th Post: ?

    27th Post: ?

    28th Post: What did you guys do? Isn't this like freeloading?

    Black Cat: Ahem, calling it freeloading is a bit much. We did put effort in the dungeon too. Initially, I was a bit puzzled, but after watching this video, I might have an idea. Professor Alders mentioned dreams initially. So whose dream could this be?

    Black Cat: Actually, there's only one answer - Albert's. Among all the NPCs that have appeared, he's the only one who studied at Michigan University and still remembers it. So, this can only be his dream. In other words, Albert is indeed within Lane's Divine Realm.

    Black Cat: This corresponds to my initial speculation when we entered the dungeon - the Audit Bureau's recent focus of investigation might be Albert. The reason why Lane couldn't contact him before might lie within this dungeon, which explains why player assistance was needed.

    Black Cat: And as for Lane's objective, it's highly likely that he aims to acquire Michigan University.

    Black Cat: I wouldn't dare claim it was for the sake of saving or some positive motive. Perhaps it was for the sake of Mira's forbidden knowledge.

    Druid: I don't care! No matter what Lane's purpose was, as long as he rescued Mira, he's a great god in my book!

    Crazy +1: Insanity level up, please! The child really needs that Mira acceptance letter!

    Yeyue: If that's the case, does it mean the dungeon is over? Did Lane succeed in his mission? (Anxious)

    Black Cat: I'm not sure. We were kicked out of the dream directly. Damn it, I wish we could have stayed in the divine realm for just a while longer to see what was happening above the hospital.

    Druid: I think he succeeded. The dungeon was cleared, and the task to stop the Investigative Bureau was completed as well.

    Black Cat: Speaking of the Investigative Bureau... I recall there was still a team inside Lane's divine realm, right? What's their situation now?

    Druid: Who knows... If their true objective was indeed to target Albert, all I can say is, may they not have it easy. 😛

    Druid: And Lane, oh, my wife, I only care about my wife now. What's the situation within the divine realm?

    The players were concerned about the state of the divine realm.

    The atrium of Arkham Hospital.

    Albert jolted awake from his dream, his chest heaving, a solitary tear trail still lingering on his face.

    "I... Where exactly am I..."

    "Shh."

    Albert turned his head, only to find himself surrounded by an unfamiliar scene. A backdrop of twisted, black branches stretched out as far as the eye could see. Beside him lay a bed constructed of similar branches, upon which reclined a youth of otherworldly beauty, his eyes tightly shut, seemingly plunged into a deep, sweet slumber.

    It was Ogar, standing beside Lane, who had just given the silent signal. He had been standing there for an unknown amount of time, his gaze fixed entirely on Lane, not diverting his attention to anything else around him.

    Albert, having encountered the neighbor once before, was taken aback by this first sight of him with his hair restrained, revealing his handsome features.

    "Shh," the enigmatic tall figure whispered, "Keep your voice down."

    "He is weary and still resting."

    Albert opened his mouth, then closed it, not daring to disturb Lane’s rest. He lifted his head slightly and caught a glimpse of the reflection of Arkham Hospital above the courtyard’s grove.

    It was Miskatonic University — the campus that had once been destroyed and now miraculously revived.

    Fate, it seemed, had truly taken a different turn.

    For a moment, Albert pressed his lips together tightly. He lifted his head, his eyes carrying a mix of complexity and relief. After a while, he stood silently beside Ogler.

    Ogler glanced at him but didn't speak; nor did he chase him away. He tacitly approved of Albert's voluntary act of protecting Lane.

    In the meantime, Lane had returned to the familiar realm of the Dream Gap. Several points of light orbited around him, one of which, a newcomer, pointed towards the ascending staircase.

    It was the newly emerged third level of the Dream Gap.

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