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    Asianovel

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    Chapter 108

    The player with the ID "Depraved Idol" blinked, and successfully entered the game.

    Welcome to: The Wheel of Destiny!

    "I know, I know," grumbled Depraved Idol, then his face lit up with excitement. "After waiting for so long, finally! Finally!"

    As one of the many cloud gamers eagerly following the forums, Depraved Idol had finally lived up to expectations, breaking away from bad luck and embracing fortune. He had resisted the temptation of both new and experienced players' advice and managed to snatch the Arkham login spot amidst the thousands!

    After a simple character customization and attribute selection, Depraved Idol maxed out his looks (APP) and vocal skills without hesitation. After a moment's pause, he allocated all his skill points to mysticism.

    His character was designed as an aspiring idol who hadn't yet gained fame, thus resorting to mysticism to make ends meet, occasionally cursing black fans and attempting esoteric routes to stardom.

    Of course, he would attend Miskatonic University – not because he couldn't support himself, but because he decided it was the perfect place to launch his career! (Just kidding)

    After a straightforward process of creating a character and undergoing an unexpected review... yes, this game actually had a review stage. Perhaps due to the brilliant creations of the 'troublesome' players that had touched the AI's sensitive nerves, the queue for approval was unusually lengthy.

    Fifteen minutes later, Depraved Idol finally logged into the game.

    Awakening, he found himself in an empty alley, a traditional start according to the guides he'd read on forums. The Insidious Idol remained composed as he messaged his in-game friends from the previous version, then stepped out of the alley.

    Outside was an ordinary street, somewhat outdated compared to the era the players were in. There were few pedestrians, and the Insidious Idol waited with an air of boredom for his friends.

    A message popped up:

    Who Isn't Crazy?: I checked, we're almost at your location. We'll see you soon.

    Insidious Idol: Hold on, you haven't seen your character's appearance yet. Give me a clue—

    No response came after sending the message. The Insidious Idol sighed, standing helplessly and bored. Suddenly, he heard a commotion.

    The sounds of multiple footsteps and vehicles approached from a nearby street, yet strangely, there wasn't much noise or commotion.

    Soon, the Insidious Idol understood why his friend said they would see him soon.

    An enormous funeral procession was heading in the direction where he stood.

    At its forefront was a solemn group carrying coffins. As a rather enthusiastic cloud gamer, the Insidious Idol had memorized the appearances of NPCs shared occasionally by veteran players on the forums. He could recognize that the coffin bearers were Kamui, distinguishable by their distinct brown skin.

    As time went on, the Dishonorable Idol was increasingly astonished. There was no other reason – there were simply too many people, and the atmosphere on site was eerily quiet.

    He even spotted several familiar players among the crowd, like Black Cat, Druid, Troublesome Squad, and...

    In the nearby chat channel:

    Crazy Is Inevitable: Over here!

    The Not Crazy from the funeral procession was waving at him.

    The Dishonorable Idol promptly joined his friends. Amidst the solemn ambiance, only the players' faces betrayed a more relaxed expression, though they still respected the gravity of the situation, reserving their exuberance for their own player channels.

    Through the constantly updating information in the player channel, the Dishonorable Idol finally grasped the current situation.

    Black Cat: Didn't expect to see such big news right after logging in.

    Druid: Yeah, I thought this version would be similar to the last one.

    Nightly: From what we've investigated so far, it seems manageable. Everyone has learned from the previous incident.

    Baba: What kind of hellish experience is this?

    Uncle Hao: It's not bad. Although the faction contribution we can earn might be lower, this city will recover from its darkness more quickly.

    Ah Long: Who would have thought? I initially believed that the Godly figures on Earth were powerful enough, but for Lan En to actively guide and participate in the narrative animation is truly remarkable. Now I realize what true greatness is – having a multitude of NPCs voluntarily join the funeral procession!

    Indeed, this funeral cortege was organized by in-game players to escort Norman King's remains to the church. Not only did people from Arkham City participate, but also those from neighboring cities and many online who had learned of the news.

    The second disaster in Arkham City was officially declared a terrorist attack. But only those who lived there knew the truth of what they had endured. This time, however, the people didn't cause a commotion. Perhaps it was because the truth was too obvious, or maybe it was due to Pantheus' appearance, which led most of Arkham's residents to become believers in Lan En, swelling the ranks of the Secret Church to an unprecedented size. In just a few short days, it had become the largest religious force in the region.

    These past few days, Carmen had been swamped with work, but the expansion process had proceeded unusually smoothly, as if everyone was clearing the way for the deity who had saved Arkham City. Of course, the Bureau of Investigation and other publicity departments were still striving to salvage their reputation in cities outside of Arkham. There, the incident was still being portrayed as a terrorist attack.

    The news of Norman Kin's death in a terrorist attack stirred massive waves on the internet. Players who had logged out during those two days missed the spectacle, but Lane had witnessed it all from the start.

    To put it bluntly, virtually every major website had turned grayscale that day, with numerous news articles and videos paying tribute and mourning. The nation's attention was drawn to this city, suspected to have suffered a terrorist attack.

    Thanks to nationwide donations, Arkham avoided a secondary blow from inadequate post-disaster logistics, as it had experienced previously. Hence, when players logged back in, they found the situation much better than anticipated.

    As for the funeral procession, due to various reasons, Norman King's body was only displayed for a day or two before the decision was made to bury him. Moreover, the local funeral customs here favored simplicity; otherwise, there would have been even more mourners.

    Actually, it's quite a considerable crowd now.

    The Disgraced Idol looked at the gathering crowd behind them with a whistle.

    Disgraced Idol: This is too much!

    God Among Us: I have to agree.

    Black Cat: Big shot!

    Druid: How does it feel to attend your own funeral, big shot?

    God Among Us: Not much of a feeling, really. I'm more excited about the new features, especially the Church of Celestial Wisdom. I assume that's where I'll be laid to rest, right?

    Black Cat: Don't worry, big shot. I've already checked. The funeral service and burial will take place in that church.

    God Among Us: That's good to know.

    Yeyue: Hehe, the scale isn't that exaggerated. If you're familiar with computers, just go online and take a look. The traces left behind from before on the internet were truly extravagant.

    Every night, screenshots were taken of several top headlines from websites, which included all kinds of outrageous news. Some claimed that Norman King was assassinated by radicals during the process of evolution, while others said that Norman King died protecting a child with brown skin.

    Of course, there were more absurd rumors, like the one claiming that Norman King's death was a curse from a devil, who also took away his supporters. Naturally, this rumor was quickly shot down by netizens, giving way to another highly upvoted comment.

    'Norman King was not taken by a devil; he was escorted by the divine to His heavenly realm.'

    The number of upvotes on this comment was unprecedentedly high, with numerous IP addresses tracing back to Arkham sharing their accounts, claiming to have witnessed the scene themselves.

    Certainly, it's likely that many of those who hit the like button don't genuinely believe it themselves; they merely see it as a form of psychological comfort, an amiable fiction.

    Little did they know, the Arkhamites were dead serious.

    Master Fox with a Cemented Heart: Waaa, what is this grand display of favor! The officials are being too indulgent!

    Yes, I have a ten-day break for May Day: is this the grandeur of being a big shot?

    Black-eyed Bean Cat: Isn't it a bit too exaggerated?

    Druid: Not too far-fetched, actually. It's quite realistic, considering the timing of the big guy's death during the peak of the anti-discrimination movement.

    Black Cat: Tsk tsk, look at this insane online buzz and all these celebrities chiming in. No need to be so authentic with the blood-sucking frenzy, I bet there'll be even more famous faces at the church and cemetery later.

    Three Or Two Bean Cakes: Self-awareness is key, so they're wise not to bet against the big guy in a losing game.

    My Lord is a Dog Fan: This is way too real, is this really just a game?

    Ah Long: Trust me, you're not the only one wondering that (dog emoji)

    God Among Us: ...

    Amidst the players' comments, they soon arrived at the church, just as Black Cat had predicted. The place was already swarmed with journalists, snapping away at the coffin, and various celebrities were expressing their sorrow over Norman King's passing in front of the cameras.

    God Among Us: Exactly, I don't recognize any of them (sigh)

    Given the limited space inside the church, not everyone could fit, so Carmen, who was overseeing the funeral, opened the doors to allow those who had come to pay their respects to witness the event.

    Fortunately, the crowd was solemn, and no extra effort was needed to maintain the quiet atmosphere. After the ceremonial proceedings, Kamui's people carried the coffin to the graveyard behind the church for burial.

    As the coffin lid closed, Yeye couldn't resist prodding the God-on-Earth who had just switched to a new character card. "Honorable one, doesn't it stir up a peculiar mix of emotions to witness your own burial?"

    God, who had been somewhat absent-minded among mortals, snapped back to attention at his words. "It's... alright, I suppose. It just feels like Norman's life has come to a close."

    A wistfulness tinged his voice, and the Druid let out a sigh. "I understand. I feel the same way every time I emerge from an immersive roleplay."

    "It was an illusion, yet it didn't feel like one. It was as if the man named Norman King had truly lived a lifetime in this world."

    Carmen's solemn voice echoed beside the graveyard:

    "He was a pioneer of human rights, a champion in the fight against discrimination. Under his leadership, countless marginalized individuals were illuminated by the first rays of equality..."

    "His deeds and virtue are such that even the gods would pause in admiration, and upon his passing, he shall enter a divine realm devoid of suffering and prejudice."

    "What denomination does this church belong to? The secretive one that's gaining popularity lately?" someone whispered from the back of the crowd. "I heard Norman King was a pastor in this church before he became a speaker."

    "No, sir."

    A voice sounded from beside him, and the man turned his head. A freckled redhead, unfamiliar to him, gazed at him with his green eyes, which held an enchanting, mesmerizing charm. "This place doesn't belong to any church."

    "This is the eternal haven for the luminaries of humanity."

    Only players were aware of the uniqueness of this cathedral.

    The names etched on the gravestones were stars that shimmered with the brilliance of human virtue.

    ...

    As the funeral concluded, the players, having held their excitement in check, dispersed swiftly to embark on their own adventures. After all, witnessing others' accomplishments stirred a sense of shared glory, for they were all players. But when it came to gaming, nothing beat personal experience.

    Eagerly, the players moved on to the next attraction, the long-awaited Miskatonic University.

    After the ceremony, they flocked to Carmen, who, having received instructions from Lane beforehand, remained calm and composed. "If you pray to our Lord, you shall attain the fruits of your desires."

    Indeed, Miskatonic still resided within Lane's divine realm. There was no alternative, as this wasn't something Lane could decide alone. Arkham had indeed become an earthly divine kingdom, but that didn't guarantee Miskatonic's manifestation in reality. Unless, of course, Lane was willing to pay a hefty price.

    But why bother? There was no compelling reason for Miskatonic to exist in reality. Besides, the destruction of Miskatonic in the past had yet to be fully investigated. It was safer to remain within the dreamlike divine realm.

    As for those players who hadn't joined the Secret Church, one could only say that Miskatonic was not meant to be for them, at least not yet. Perhaps during the open beta, Lane might find a way to bring Miskatonic into the real world.

    "However, after entering our Lord's Divine Kingdom, please follow the designated path. Do not venture into unauthorized areas," Carmen warned the players with a solemn expression. "Otherwise, something truly terrifying might happen."

    The veteran players nodded seriously, while some newcomers, who had yet to grasp the reality of the game, seemed indifferent.

    The Depraved Idol wasn't too fixated on joining a particular faction, and he was equally intrigued by Lane. Thus, he promptly joined the Secret Church. After following the prayer ritual, he closed his eyes and opened them again to find himself in a different map.

    The familiar Kamui district had transformed into a nocturnal hospital, or rather, Arkham Hospital no longer resembled a hospital at all. It now looked like a vast botanical garden or a small forest, with a gigantic pea vine spiraling towards the sky like a fairy tale.

    Although there had been spoilers, seeing it firsthand in the game was an entirely different experience. The Depraved Idol gaped in astonishment, instinctively taking screenshots that he deemed wallpaper-worthy.

    His curiosity reached unprecedented heights. As a semi-scenery enthusiast, he was fascinated by these uniquely scenic new maps, and it seemed that these plants were unlike any he had seen in reality.

    However, he had neglected Carmen's warning and veered off the prescribed path, venturing into the vegetation.

    Lane had once been obsessed with experimenting in the Divine Kingdom to see what kind of plants the Spirit Seeds could produce. He had conducted numerous experiments, and the forest now covering most of Arkham Hospital was the result. Honestly, even he wasn't aware of how many hazardous plants lurked within.

    A subtle, blue-hued flower swayed quietly, emitting a captivating fragrance. The Depraved Idol was so captivated that he didn't even notice the system warnings. Before he knew it, he was deep in the forest, unable to retrace his steps.

    "..." Cold sweat trickled down the Depraved Idol's face as he hurriedly sent his location to his friends and family.

    Indeed, he had found the forest enchanting from a distance, but now, separated from the group, its eerie atmosphere was palpable. The bark of the trees before him seemed to form ghostly human faces, transforming the surroundings into a horror game.

    "Listening: Success"

    At that moment, the Depraved Idol heard rustling behind him, accompanied by indistinct whispers.

    A glimmer of excitement flashed in his eyes as he hurried towards the source.

    "This map is quite extensive."

    "You shouldn't wander off. Didn't Carmen warn us against it?"

    "Sigh, you're listening to him? He's just an NPC, what can he do to us?" A new player dismissed the caution with a scoff, completely disregarding Carmen's advice. "Come on, let's explore this area. It's called a divine realm, but I don't think it's that impressive."

    "..."

    "Why are you looking at me like that?"

    The Depraved Idol paused, a vague sense of foreboding creeping into his mind. Instinctively, he lightened his steps and crouched down cautiously, attempting to remain unseen.

    "Cloak: Success"

    In the next moment, a scream echoed from the woods ahead. Through the gaps in the branches, the Depraved Idol caught a glimpse of a colossal figure rising from the ground, its indistinct black silhouette lashing out at its surroundings with reckless abandon.

    The mere silhouette visible through the cracks was enough to send the Depraved Idol's heart pounding uncontrollably. His nerves got the best of him, causing his foot to slip on a pile of dried leaves.

    Snap!

    At that instant, the Depraved Idol wished he could turn back time and strangle his previous self for his idiotic behavior – this was straight out of a horror movie!

    Having witnessed the disappearance of several players before him without knowing their fate, whether they were devoured or not, the vague monster started moving towards him. Panic-stricken, the Depraved Idol frantically searched for the game's exit button.

    "Come on," a pair of hands suddenly grabbed his flailing arms from behind, pulling him forcefully in another direction. Startled, the Depraved Idol instinctively followed, noticing that it was a man with disheveled hair, dressed in a white lab coat – attire typically worn by doctors or researchers. Most notably, he had no identifier above his head.

    An NPC?

    "Don't be afraid," the man said. "It should just be a messenger and a guard, tasked with driving off those who stray from the path. As long as you return to the right track, it won't follow. Of course, if you persist in running around aimlessly, chances are you'll be ejected."

    As he spoke, the man had already halted. Indeed, he had returned to the path where the Depraved Idol first appeared. Quite a number of players had gathered there. The Depraved Idol looked back and found that the NPC who had led him here was nowhere to be seen.

    "Ah, why are you here? I've been looking for you everywhere just now. What was that coordinate you sent earlier?" An intimate acquaintance approached the Depraved Idol, only to find him staring blankly at the plants beyond the pathway. "What are you looking at?"

    "This game, indeed, is a Lovecraftian one."

    Not Crazy: "Huh? What else do you think it is? Do you think it's a romance game?"

    "Oh, not really," the Depraved Idol regained her composure. "I almost lost myself just now and was nearly taken down by a monster."

    "You entered the forest? Didn't Carmen tell you not to wander off?" Mad Not looked at him peculiarly. "Let me warn you, getting kicked out might mean losing your chance to enter the Mystic University. There are already posts on the forum about curious players who strayed from the path and encountered monsters. They either returned in time or had their sanity scared away, resulting in them being expelled and unable to enter for a while."

    "Alright, as long as you're okay. Let's go. We still don't know how to enter the Mystic University. If someone beats us to it, we're done for." Mad Not pulled him along the narrow path quickly.

    Players were beginning to appear one after another, guided by the plants towards the Pea.

    Indeed, plants.

    It felt like a treatment straight out of a fairy tale. From the hospital entrance to the courtyard where the Pea was located, there was a designated path with signposts along the way. The plants even bent down to point the way. If it weren't for the bizarre shapes of the plants and the fact that looking at them closely could decrease one's sanity, Depraved Idol would have sworn he was playing a fairy tale simulator.

    "Speaking of which, there are quite a few big shots around us," the Insidious Idol whispered, unable to resist, as he caught up with Crazed Immortal's pace.

    Crazed Immortal looked around in confusion. "Really? Who are these big shots?"

    "The Black Cat, Druid, and Troublesome Squad... Oh, I forgot you're one of them too."

    "Haha, you're overthinking it. They aren't big shots. There's only one universally acknowledged big shot in the forums, right? Everyone is quite friendly, so relax," Crazed Immortal said, patting Insidious Idol on the shoulder. "Besides, this game is a bit different from traditional online games. People don't judge each other based on combat power. Of course, if you're powerful enough to single-handedly challenge an Evil God, then you'd indeed be considered a big shot."

    "You see, God Amongst Men is recognized as a big shot, but his combat strength isn't that strong. On the contrary, he's quite inexperienced. He's not even an old player; he's still relatively new."

    Insidious Idol fell into deep thought upon hearing this. "Then, what's the standard for being a big shot?"

    "Hmm, that's a good question..." Crazed Immortal couldn't help but ponder.

    Azurite casually interjected, "Executing ridiculously audacious moves and succeeding in them?"

    "If that's the case, wouldn't the Troublesome Squad have already become gods?" Matcha Milk Green quipped.

    Only then did Insidious Idol realize that he had unknowingly been surrounded by veteran players. Or perhaps, unlike the new players still exploring the game, these veterans had a clear objective from the start, targeting the Mysterious Academy, leading to their encounter here.

    Druid: "Black Cat, what do you think?"

    Black Cat pondered for a moment before responding, "Perhaps it's about staying true to oneself, or adhering to the character card's persona and beliefs."

    "Are you talking about role-playing?" Druid mused. "Indeed, this game originated from tabletop RPGs, so role-playing might have been its hidden core all along, even if the developers didn't explicitly say so."

    Black Cat's eyes curved into a smile. "That's right. They always say in tabletop games, when your character shines, Lady Luck will be on your side."

    Aron chimed in abruptly, "But what if the role-playing goes terribly wrong?"

    "Well, then that would just be fate, wouldn't it?" Black Cat looked up at the sky.

    Seeing so many familiar forum usernames, the Insidious Idol felt a surge of excitement. Recalling the NPC he had encountered earlier, one he hadn't seen on the forums before, he thought to ask the veteran players if they recognized it. However, as he was about to speak, he noticed everyone looking towards the end of the path.

    "It seems we've arrived."

    They walked past the small lane, and a two-meter-tall figure stood silently there. Ogler held a lantern, saying, "Welcome to Miskatonic University. Freshmen, follow me, and watch your step."

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