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    Asianovel

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    Chapter 110

    In Arkham City, beside the psychology clinic that Lane previously operated.

    Originally, a clothing store was situated next to the clinic. However, at some point, the clothing store owner had moved away, likely having realized during the two consecutive disasters that Arkham was no longer a safe place to stay. For the sake of his own life, he relocated his shop to Orchid City overnight.

    Consequently, the store stood empty for a while. Nonetheless, it didn't remain unoccupied for long as another person rented it and converted it into a flower shop.

    Today, the sky over Arkham was unusually clear, and the flower shop enjoyed brisk business these past couple of days, despite most of its sales being chrysanthemums for mourning purposes. A man with somewhat disheveled hair entered the establishment.

    "Welcome," the owner of the flower shop, a man with black semi-long hair, looked up. His gentle features, accentuated by the flowers, were just as captivating. His semi-long black hair was tied into a ponytail, draping softly over his shoulder, exuding a delicate tenderness.

    Upon recognizing the visitor as Cree, Amos' eyes lit up. He stepped forward, flipping the open sign at the entrance to indicate that the shop was now closed.

    As Amos turned back, peculiar occurrences began within the store. The plants suddenly started trembling and growing frenziedly. Flowers bloomed and withered rapidly, and before long, the floor was covered in layers of petals, resembling a carpet. Upon this floral layer, a figure gradually materialized, illuminated by a radiant glow.

    Amos' eyes widened in excitement, not wanting to miss a single moment. Cree, on the other hand, was more self-aware, lowering his head to count the petals on the ground.

    Lane's descent was unmasked this time. His pristine white hair, divine green-golden irises, and transcendent beauty were all exposed to the air.

    Amos seemed to hear faint hymns ringing in his ears, praising and extolling His supreme beauty. Those spiritually corrupting whispers softly described the marvel of being a tree, a flower, or a dandelion in His forest, how delightful it would be for leaves, petals, and seeds to brush against His hair as He strolled through the woods.

    Fortunately, Amos withstood this contamination. He didn't turn into vegetation in front of Lane, but merely trembled slightly before straightening up. A radiant smile lifted the corners of his mouth.

    "I have finally come face to face with you, the Upturner of Fate, the Unspeakable Mystery, and the new lord of Nature and the forest."

    Each word from Amos was spoken with an obsession that Lane couldn't comprehend.

    Lane wasn't too surprised that Amos had survived, but he was taken aback that Amos wanted to talk to him.

    Where did he get the courage to think Lane wouldn't kill him? From Azathoth?

    The reason Lane had agreed to this meeting so readily was that within Arkham's borders, he had no fear of what Amos could stir up. No matter what Amos intended, Lane had one goal in coming here.

    To utterly eliminate the threat that Amos posed.

    "It seems you've accepted your fate to be dealt with by me?"

    "May I have a moment to explain myself before you act?" Amos requested.

    Lane replied, "No."

    Lane had no interest in understanding what was going on in the mind of this amusement seeker. It was impossible for an ordinary person to grasp the logic of a madman anyway. Regardless of Amos's intentions or whether they aligned with Lane's interests, he had no desire to know or comprehend.

    One could only say that Amos displayed great courage by appearing before Lane after the Arkham incident.

    Since the disaster, Arkham had become Lane's terrestrial paradise, mostly covered by invisible spiritual plants, including the flower shop.

    Amos sensed an unseen force binding his body, tightening its grip with a strangulating intent.

    "Eugene targeted the Secret Church because of Miskatonic," Amos struggled to say. "The Director of the Investigation Bureau was behind Miskatonic's destruction. He couldn't tolerate any blemish on his object of faith."

    Lane didn't even frown. He had already known from Albert's dream that the Investigation Bureau intended to dismantle Miskatonic. It wasn't surprising if it was the director's will behind it.

    "The true form of the Director of the Investigation Bureau is an ancient monster who has existed for thousands of years," Amos croaked, his ribs cracking. If this continued, they might pierce his lungs.

    Yet, despite his dire situation, Amos felt no resentment. The mere fact of being observed filled him with immense pleasure.

    He observed that not even a crease appeared on Lane's brow despite the revelation of information that could have sparked turmoil outside their world.

    Indeed, He already knew...

    Lane: "Is this your final statement?"

    Before the invisible vines crushed Amos's body, the next piece of intelligence he divulged made Lane pause his actions.

    "He will soon arrive in this city, not only for you but with an eye on your disciples."

    Disciples?

    Lane was momentarily taken aback. Amos didn't use the term "followers," as Lane had many devotees throughout Arkham City. However, those who could be called disciples were few and far between within the Secret Church.

    Yes, it referred to Albert, Carrens, Archy, and Edmund—the four whose presence had left a glow in Lane's Glimpse of Dreams.

    Furthermore, Lane had verified through multiple tests that this seemed unrelated to devotion. There were still followers in Arkham City who fasted and prayed for three days in dedication to their deity, Lane. Lane didn't believe Albert and the others were more devout; he simply couldn't fathom the reason behind the appearance of the glowing points.

    The binding vines released Amos, and he fell to the ground, coughing up blood laced with organs from the near-crushing.

    "Why?" Lane asked.

    "Are you willing to listen to me now?" Amos inquired.

    Lane didn't respond directly but instead asked, "What's your purpose? Speak it out."

    Risking his life to approach Lane through Krick, Lane couldn't fathom what this man truly aimed for.

    "My purpose has always been the same," the man coughed, his voice hoarse. The blood from his cough stained the petals as he struggled to lift his head, his eyes burning with an unsettling zeal. "I wish to be by your side, to become your devoted follower."

    Lane couldn't help but laugh. "And then use your abilities to stab me in the back?"

    While others might not know about Amos's abilities, Lane was all too familiar with them. Not just him, but countless players in his previous life who had fallen victim to Amos's schemes were also well aware!

    Amos would nurture and assist his target until they reached their peak, only to betray them, stealing their Origin Abilities.

    This was information that players from his past life had deciphered through harrowing experiences. Amos's bounty pool had long been a staple on the player forums, with rewards continually flowing in as players attempted, some successfully, to claim it. However, Amos seemed to possess an uncanny ability to cheat death. He repeatedly returned to wreak havoc, leading players to speculate if he was actually an incarnation of Nyarlahotep.

    "No, why would you think that?" Amos replied. "Your beauty surpasses any flower in a vase; you're a rare bloom that thrives on the precipice of a cliff. Simply gazing at you brings me immense happiness."

    Lane remained silent for a moment before he bent down and pointed at Amos's heart. "Do you feel this emotion?"

    He looked into Amos's eyes, which were indeed filled with obsession and fervor, but deep down, they were empty.

    During the time when Amos was most despised, many threads on the forum were dedicated to denouncing him, analyzing his abilities, speculating on his whereabouts, discussing counter-strategies, and identifying ways to distinguish him from other characters.

    Of course, character analyses were also abundant. After the Fate Reversal Open Beta became an internet sensation, every prominent NPC had their own thread. Despite being known as the "most hated NPC by players," Amos was no exception.

    From a psychological perspective, Amos's personality model drew the attention of several psychologists, including Lane, as he exhibited classic traits of a high IQ antisocial personality.

    Lane knew him well; that was no jest. He almost wrote his graduation thesis on Amos's storyline in the game because some of his characteristics perfectly aligned with those of a high IQ antisocial personality.

    Arrogant and narcissistic, he viewed NPCs as flowers and himself as their gardener, with the authority to cultivate and prune them—a clear indication of placing himself on a pedestal and dehumanizing equals.

    He was adept at manipulating conversations, affable, and able to win everyone's affection. His versatility in assuming different roles was also the reason for his favor with NPCs.

    His attitude toward morality and ethics was astonishingly indifferent. He was fiercely devoted to his goals, disciplined, willing to sacrifice everything for their attainment, only to discard them promptly once achieved, then swiftly move onto the next objective.

    In essence, these sequential goals or the act of collecting "flowers" provided a rare sense of fulfillment to someone like Amos, who was emotionally detached. Coupled with his ability to do so, everything fell into place naturally.

    As a result, his mention of "happiness" only made Lane find it ridiculous.

    "I also dislike the way you look at me," Lane said.

    Amos's eyes revealed a new depth, but before he could react, his vision darkened. A withered branch sprouted from his pupils.

    "Much better this way," Lane commented.

    Amos grunted, his entire body trembling as he suppressed any screams. "I never intended to go against you. Why won't you give me a chance?"

    "How do you call your previous actions not going against me?" Lane asked, astonished.

    "If we're talking about when I was an Outsider, then yes, it was my mistake," Amos lowered his head. "But ever since Sauron's death, I haven't done anything to harm your interests."

    Lane was almost amused. "You easily overlooked the disaster in Arkham?"

    Amos was puzzled. "Are you very concerned about human deaths?"

    "All those who perished in the disaster were Arkhamites; their numbers would make no difference to you, would they? Even among the Kamuy, there would be no shortage of devotees to replace them," Amos said. "Once you reveal yourself, the remaining inhabitants of Arkham will become your followers, and the city of Arkham will effectively be your domain. These benefits should offset the risk of the Kamuy's demise."

    Besides, aren't they not all dead yet?

    Though Amos didn't come right out and say it, his meaning was clear.

    Indeed, he was helping Lane in his own way, and his actions were entirely in line with the tenets of a cultist. One might even say that if Lane truly were an evil god, he would applaud this man's scheme.

    While Lann remained silent, Amos seized the opportunity to press on, saying, "I was earnest when I said I wished to become your devotee. I can accomplish what others cannot, clearing all obstacles from your path, including standing against the Audit Bureau."

    "Very soon, this city will be swarming with oblivious organizations or other factions. I know they're no more than ants to you, but even an ant colony can become a nuisance to the owner of a house, wouldn't you agree? I can take care of anything that poses a threat to you or your assets."

    Lane knew he was capable and turned his head to look at Kerry, changing the subject. "You know Kerry Chapman?"

    Amos: "We're online acquaintances."

    Kerry: "I don't really know him. We're not close. You know how it is these days – who knows if the person typing on the other side of the screen is a human or a dog."

    Amos: ?

    Amos turned his head in confusion, while Kerry changed his stance.

    "See," Lane chuckled, "even a researcher can see more clearly than you."

    "Amos, I am indeed not human, but compared to you, I think I might have more of a human side."

    Lane snapped his fingers, and the vines bound Amos once more, this time without hesitation, snapping his neck.

    Yet, Amos continued to look at him calmly, even in the final moments of his life. There was no resentment in his gaze directed at Lane, as if he would willingly accept death, as long as it was handed down by Lane.

    "Shall I help with the body?" Kerry asked tentatively.

    Lane merely glanced at him indifferently. "No need."

    The vines wrapped around Kerry's ankles, pulling him back into the Dreamland Kingdom. Lane intended to take Amos's corpse along.

    In his previous life, Amos had died many times, only to bounce back after a while. Lane had no intention of letting him go. Once inside the Dreamland Kingdom, Amos would be at his mercy, regardless of any tricks he might possess.

    Lane would try every means to kill him. If all else failed, using his remains as fertilizer beneath the peas wouldn't be a bad option. In any case, he wouldn't give Amos another chance to wreak havoc.

    The same applied to Kerry. Lane hadn't fully trusted him yet, so he decided to leave him in the Dreamland for the time being. Of course, considering his past as a teaching assistant at MIT, Lane wouldn't do anything harmful to him. He would still allow him to roam freely around MIT, with the plants keeping an eye on him.

    Upon returning to the Dreamland, Lane reappeared at MIT. He casually tossed Amos's corpse to a mutated carnivorous plant for digestion and set up a surveillance eye to monitor it. Then, he led Kerry back to the auditorium.

    By then, most of the players had already left to enjoy their lives at MIT. To Lane's surprise, he found the Black Cat still sitting in the same spot when he returned.

    "Lord Lane!" The Black Cat's eyes lit up upon seeing Lane, and he quickly stood up.

    When Lane returned to the Dreamland, he had put the white cloth back over his face. Seeing the familiar player, the Black Cat, his tone softened. "Is there something you need?"

    "Lord Lane, I... I have something I'd like to ask you. I wonder if you have the time?" The Black Cat said nervously.

    Lane looked at him and the curious glances from the other players who had also stayed behind. "Follow me."

    As they spoke, both the Black Cat and Lane vanished from the auditorium. The Black Cat found himself on a small path at MIT, surrounded by no one but a carnivorous plant chewing on something.

    Lane asked, "What is it that you want to know?"

    The Black Cat struggled to divert his gaze from the fingers sticking out of the carnivorous plant's mouth, trying his best not to imagine whose misfortune it was. "It's about the previous disaster. We didn't manage to uncover the culprit behind it, and it's been bothering me."

    The Black Cat, along with many players, believed that the players' unruly actions were what had caused the storyline to deviate from its original path. As a result, most players were now in the dark about the true nature of the disaster.

    "Amos and Eugene were the culprits," Lane paused before continuing, "You've likely met Amos, and Eugene was from the Audit Bureau."

    Crucial information!

    The Black Cat's pupils constricted slightly as they stammered, "The Audit Bureau? But why would someone from the Audit Bureau commit such heinous acts?"

    "I was going to say that an individual's actions don't represent the whole organization," Lane sighed, "But now, who knows? From what I've gathered, they did this to prevent the return of Maw to the world."

    Seeing that the Black Cat still had many questions, Lane waved them off, "That's it. The masterminds behind the scenes are gone, and the precise truth will remain unknown. Let's go back."

    With that, the figure of the Black Cat vanished from his sight.

    Yet, the intel Lane had disclosed stirred up countless ripples within the Black Cat's mind, ripples that would undoubtedly spread throughout the forums.

    Player Forum

    The front page was currently flooded with posts about Maw, mostly from players who had successfully enrolled, boasting pictures of campus life, improved attributes, or newly acquired professions.

    1. Unlucky on Leave: Surprisingly, it can even change to a student profession. How magical.

    2. Head Chef Cooking: As a student, you can change professions when enrolled in any school, but honestly, it's not that useful. It's similar to the skill and attribute points of an unemployed youth, and you'll regularly lose money because of tuition fees...

    3. Silent Night: Sobs, don't make me do this. I want to be a student at Midas University!

    4. Annerata: Look at your wimpy selves. Who cares about the fictional Midas University? Who cares about the fictional Midas University? Who cares about the fictional Midas University? (Sour grapes)

    5. Blood Pressure Simulator: Actually, Orlandu is quite fun too, a modern metropolis with many factions. You can even join the Audit Bureau... sniffle, sniffle (Trying hard to console myself)

    6. Tofu Devouring Century Egg: New Port is nice as well. There are plenty of cults here. My team members were dragged to another recruitment talk today. It's quite RPG-like (Consoling myself)

    7. All Are Actors: That's enough, guys. It's too heartbreaking.

    8. Pure Love Forever: The official arrangement seems reasonable. You can still gain attributes while AFK. I just hope there are more extracurricular activities at Midas University.

    9. Luo Jiuchen: Hilarious! Aren't you all doing daily tasks for the Secret Church in your free time? What's the point? You should attend its rival school, the one that converts heretics. Your extracurricular activities would surely get full marks.

    10. Waiting for My Bread Person: I bet the Secret Church has food enthusiasts, or maybe Lane is the God of Food. Otherwise, why so many culinary delights? It's a paradise for chef side professions.

    Black Cat: It's so lively here!

    Unworldly Novice in Peril: The big shot has arrived! Which department did you choose, big shot? Maybe we have a chance to be classmates.

    Black Cat: I picked the Department of Mysticism. But wait, I uncovered some incredible news today. I'll start a new thread.

    Title: "The True Culprit Behind the Second Main Quest: Darkness Sprouts from Light (Prelude)"

    Black Cat: I got intel from Lane. The mastermind behind the second main quest is Amos and Eugene from the Investigative Bureau.

    Will Adolescent Androids Dream of Beautiful Gods?: AMOS! (Sharpening knives)

    Slacking-off Scattered Poet: As expected of that guy!

    Good Guy on Parole: The Investigative Bureau is involved too? This organization must be completely corrupt.

    Doll Sketcher for You: I had that feeling too. Although in online games or novels, the Church of Light often plays the villain, the Investigative Bureau... (Complicated emotions)

    222-=222: They're officially recognized as Cthulhu investigators, how did it come to this? (Sobbing)

    Mommy Hungry for Food: It's understandable, they tread on the razor's edge of danger and madness, one misstep away from ruin. Perhaps they've already stumbled.

    Black Cat: Everyone, calm down. The situation is still unfolding. The Bureau of Investigation hasn't officially entered the scene yet. Let's not jump to conclusions.

    Black Cat: But it shouldn't be far off. With the new map, Orland, released by the officials featuring their headquarters, and now knowing that Eugene from the Bureau is one of the true culprits behind the second main storyline, 'Darkness Grows in Light,' it's almost certain that this storyline refers to the Bureau. This prelude suggests that the previous main storyline was merely a setup for a greater arc.

    Druid: ...So you're saying.

    Black Cat: Exactly, I suspect – no, we can now fairly confirm – that the third main storyline will be connected to the Bureau of Investigation, unless something unforeseen occurs.

    Matcha Milk Green: Are we finally going to confront the most powerful evil force within the game?

    Alon: So exciting! It feels like it's going to be a grand spectacle!

    Weakness is Money: Ahh, it seems so intriguing! The officials, please hurry up and release the main storyline!

    No Longer Fond of Serene Nights: I have an idea. Why don't we join the Bureau of Investigation in Orland right now, and when the main storyline comes...

    Night Night: A betrayal?

    Washing hair with boiling water: What a brilliant idea! If the main quest really unfolds, those players who secure high positions in the Audit Bureau will have a massive advantage, easily obtaining information or even backstabbing others!

    Tiny Piglet: Makes sense!

    Longing Without Yearning: Hahaha, here comes the new players' counterattack! Gaining maximum benefits from this main quest, and presenting the intel beautifully to my spouse.

    Bunny Star: Overtaking on the bend! Professor at MIT must give me a recommendation letter!

    Druid: MIT professors must be regretting now, wondering how there could be such genius minds among you all (laughs while crying)

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