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    Chapter 124

    Nightfall arrived, silent and unannounced.

    In the heart of the Investigative Bureau's underground complex, a shadow silently emerged from behind a security guard. The guard let out a muffled groan before collapsing to the ground in quick succession.

    A figure clad in stealth attire crept through the corridors, this being the area with the strictest surveillance. Cams dotted every corner, but tonight, their vigilance was doomed to falter.

    Swiftly, a black-clad silhouette passed through a corridor, strangely bypassing the security cameras without triggering any response. In the monitoring room, the supervisor yawned, bored by the empty hallway on the screen, oblivious to the tampered footage.

    The enigmatic figure reached the end of the corridor, stopping before a grand door. There, he utilized a pre-prepared device to manipulate the lock. In no time, the device disrupted the lock's code, and the door swung open, allowing the mystery person to proceed deeper inside.

    Suddenly, he halted his steps, having detected the sound of human footsteps.

    Beyond this threshold, the level of alertness escalated. Guards patrolled each corridor, and from their footsteps, it was evident that they were no pushovers.

    Undeterred, the intruder silently crouched in the shadows, biding his time. Seizing an opportunity as one guard separated from the group, he pounced from the darkness, covering the man's mouth.

    Then, golden flames ignited in his hand. However, this time, the golden flames flickered briefly before piercing into the target's body. The guard, overwhelmed by searing soul pain, rolled his eyes back and crumpled unconscious to the floor.

    Albert deftly dragged the man into a dark corner, swiftly swapping clothes with him, then proceeded undeterred towards the central area.

    After knocking out several more patrolling guards, someone finally noticed the anomaly. Instantly, warning red lights illuminated the entire area. Unfazed, Albert set his bombs in place before turning to leave in another direction.

    Footsteps echoed behind him, seemingly aware of his location, relentlessly pursuing him no matter which way he turned.

    In the end, Kurt and his men cornered Albert at a crossroads. Dressed in a black coat, Kurt coldly addressed the intruder, "Surrender now, and you might still have a chance at survival."

    Albert chuckled, his mocking expression barely visible beneath his black mask. With a raspy voice, he replied,

    "Do you know that I've implanted twelve flames within their bodies, and not a single soul can escape judgment?"

    "And you, dear Secretary-General, is your soul tainted with guilt?"

    Kurt narrowed his eyes, slowly rolling up his sleeve, "Feel free to try."

    "Never mind," Albert said casually, "Unfortunately, this is where our encounter ends for tonight. We'll have another opportunity to clash in the future."

    "This isn't a place you can enter or leave as you please," Kurt retorted. Just as he spoke, a blast echoed from the depths of the corridor. His face contorted, his gaze turning murderous as he stared at Albert, "You actually planted bombs?!"

    Albert didn't bother with any further discussion. While the others were distracted by the explosion, he swiftly broke through. Those who attempted to stop him were intimidated by the blazing golden flames on his body; anyone who approached would risk setting themselves ablaze.

    "Kurt, should we pursue?"

    Kurt's attention was fixed on the site of the blast, which was dangerously close to the Director's location. "No pursuit. Have those outside seal off the exit. We'll extinguish the fire!"

    That night, the entire Investigation Bureau was stirred into action. It had been a long time since anyone dared to infiltrate their premises. The last large-scale invasion occurred during the conflict with another church, but the Director had swiftly apprehended all the attackers before they could reach Sector C. With the Director's 'surveillance,' no one in history had ever breached such depths.

    This incident stirred undercurrents within the bureau.

    Investigators still in Orland were urgently recalled. The newcomers, having recently joined the bureau, wore puzzled expressions, unable to understand the solemnity on the faces of their seasoned colleagues.

    ...

    Meanwhile, in Judith's guest room, Lane lay in bed with his eyes closed.

    He pondered over the anomalies he had witnessed at the hospital that day.

    Judith and the players might have missed it, but Lane's intuition far exceeded theirs. From the moment he entered the hospital, he sensed something amiss.

    Especially in the upper levels, some patients did indeed have fleshly tubes connected to the back of their heads, just as Justice of Face had described. From the outside of the hospital, one could even see the headless angel hovering above it.

    There was undoubtedly something deeply amiss within the hospital – a major issue, no less.

    What were those tubes for? Feeding the angel? What exactly was that angel? A new deity of evil? The embodiment of fate itself? Did the Director of the Bureau of Investigation know about this?

    A string of questions swirled in Lane's mind. He relayed the information back to the Prophet via his phone, who was equally perplexed.

    "I'm not sure what that is either, nor can I confirm if it has anything to do with fate. I haven't had contact with him for a very long time. But if you want to know more, I can try using my abilities to uncover the truth."

    Lan had almost forgotten that the Prophet's abilities didn't quite align with his title. Prophets couldn't actually see the future; their "prophetic" gift was more literal. They could perform a unique ritual to communicate with the Dreamworld and thus obtain information unknown to most people.

    In simple terms, it was similar to Sphinx's ability.

    There couldn't be two Prophets in the world. When Sphinx awakened, it signified the end of the Prophet's life.

    However, he seemed content with this, and had been diligently grooming Arch in Lane's Divine Kingdom to become a capable successor during this time.

    Soon, the Prophet's report arrived.

    The Headless Angel's true identity remains unknown, seemingly in a state of transformation. Its appearance is unrelated to fate, and even fate itself is unaware of its existence.

    Lane was taken aback and promptly replied,

    "Isn't fate's power the ability to see the future? How could it have overlooked an unknown evil god right under its nose?"

    The Prophet swiftly responded, illustrating with a classic example, "Have you heard of Schrödinger's cat? Before opening the box, no one knows if the cat is alive or dead – not even 'Fate' can observe its existence."

    Not even fate knew of its existence?

    Lane's heart pounded as he covered his forehead.

    If not fate, then who could it be? Who had such intimate knowledge of fate's powers and dared to plot under its watchful eye? What was their purpose?

    Lane recalled the many investigators who had gone mad at the hospital, many of them connected to that same fleshly conduit, linking them to an indescribable entity.

    At that moment, his phone received another message. Lane looked down and saw it was from Albert.

    Albert had followed his instructions, infiltrating the core area of the Audit Bureau where the Bureau Chief's essence resided.

    When Lane entered the Audit Bureau during the day, he had already instructed "Shadow" to investigate. There was a heavily guarded area beneath the bureau, surrounded by numerous protective enchantments. Shadow couldn't penetrate without attracting attention, so it could only let Albert launch his attack at night.

    The secretaries' reactions confirmed that the Director's true body was indeed there.

    Furthermore, Albert's successful planting of bombs, infiltration, and escape indicated that the Director's condition was so dire that even 'Future' couldn't observe him, possibly leaving him in a coma.

    Lane noticed Judith, who was sleeping in the master bedroom next door, suddenly rise. She must have received an order from the Audit Bureau and hurried out.

    This was the perfect opportunity to visit the hospital and uncover the truth.

    Silently, Lane got up and ventured towards the internal hospital under the cloak of the dim moonlight.

    As expected, the Audit Bureau was brightly lit at this late hour, with bustling figures everywhere. The internal hospital, situated in a relatively unnoticed outer layer, saw Lane crouch down to touch the shadows on the ground. Shadow promptly responded, and Lane's figure vanished.

    He reappeared on the hospital's rooftop.

    Currently, no one was up there except for the patients, sound asleep in their rooms. The fleshly pipelines connected to them wriggled, seemingly conveying something.

    The red-haired youth, aided by the shadows, stepped into the ward and placed his hand upon the patient, once more invoking the power of his true form.

    His consciousness delved into the dreams of his patients.

    Upon entering this realm of subconsciousness, Len was astonished to discover that it was not merely the dream of a single individual, nor was it the mental world of one person. The function of those conduits, it seemed, was to interconnect the mental worlds of everyone.

    The "dream" was immense, with all the patients clad in simple white wraps, kneeling in devout prayer. The surrounding environment and architecture were quaintly classical, and strangely familiar. Lane dug through his memory to recognize a similar architectural style, suddenly realizing why it felt so recognizable.

    This place resembles a renowned site from my past life, the holy land of Christianity, Jerusalem.

    In the holy city of Jerusalem, the headless angel that Lane had seen hovering above the hospital before was suspended here as well. Compared to its appearance during the day, in his dream, Lane could see it with much greater clarity.

    The creature appeared to be only halfway through its transformation, its white wings still ethereal. Lann focused his gaze and discerned, through the illusion, translucent tendrils desperately attempting to conceal their form, twisting and contorting in an indescribably repulsive, elongated mass as it curled its body.

    "I beheld the Lord seated upon a lofty throne, with His robe descending and enveloping the sanctuary. Above Him stood Seraphim, each having six wings. With two they veiled their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they soared aloft." *

    Below, the people persistently chanted verses from the Bible, their incantations causing the amorphous being's wings to materialize gradually. From these 'followers' emerged threads that stretched out, anchoring themselves to the form that resembled an evil deity.

    This silk thread was very familiar to Lane.

    Anchor.

    The crisp sound of dice rolling echoed in Lane's mind, and inspiration flowed through him.

    Were they... summoning?

    Who were they summoning? From their words, it seemed to be an angel as described in the Bible?

    No, Lane recalled the Prophet's mention of something "still evolving," and now, the apparent disguise of an indescribable entity. It was...

    Infiltrating.

    Suddenly, the voices around him rose in pitch. They lifted their faces, their eyes glowing with fervor as they gazed at the angel in the sky:

    "Each of the living creatures had six wings, and they were full of eyes within and without. Day and night they never cease to say, 'Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.'"*

    As the crowd chanted below, the wings finally took shape, just as described in the Bible, covered in countless grotesque eyes. Those eyes scanned the humans below, eventually focusing on Lane, who stood out prominently among the kneeling believers.

    The entity let out a roar. The sound waves were tangible, shaking the heavens and earth, followed by flames and lightning descending. Yet, none of them struck a physical target.

    Realizing the gravity of the situation, Lane promptly withdrew from the scene.

    Opening his eyes in reality, Lane landed directly on the ground, his shadow whisking him away. Just five minutes after he left, the Doctor hurriedly arrived on the rooftop, muttering to himself as he gazed at the empty air.

    The doctor who followed him was filled with confusion. "Doctor, what exactly has happened? The Bureau is now in complete disarray."

    The Doctor immediately composed himself, speaking with a mature and steady tone. "Hmm, perhaps something unforeseen has transpired. In times like these, we must remain calm and ensure the safety of this place above all else."

    "Yes!" The doctor didn't doubt the Doctor's words for an instant.

    Unbeknownst to him, the Doctor's face twisted slightly when he wasn't looking, a suppressed excitement shimmering in his eyes.

    The unbreached Bureau symbolized absolute control over fate.

    But what if the opposite were true?

    If the Bureau had been infiltrated, the Secretary's Office staff, despite their usual diligence, had started to exhibit signs of confusion in their eyes, as the Doctor could discern.

    The Secretary's Office served as the Director's loyal hounds, carrying out orders without question. But with the one giving those orders absent, the hounds were now lost and adrift.

    For those lurking within the Audit Bureau, this was an opportunity that came once in a lifetime.

    After the doctor left, the Doctor turned around, recalling the persistent Inspector lady.

    Helping that persistent inspector had originally been a casual move by the Doctor during his leisure time, but it seemed she could now serve a greater purpose.

    For instance, to completely shatter the fragile balance currently maintained within the Audit Bureau and seize the "Ark" that the Director kept hidden within its depths.

    ...

    Back at Mrs. Judith's home, Lane sorted through the information he had obtained and sent it to the Prophet.

    Things seemed to have become a bit complicated. He had initially come to settle scores with Fate, but who would have thought he'd stumble upon something significant?

    There was a plan to resurrect an unknown malevolent deity hidden within the Audit Bureau?

    What was Fate up to?

    The Prophet responded swiftly, calling Lane directly with an astonished tone: "You really saw all of this?"

    "Yes, can you use your ability to find out what they're planning?"

    The Prophet fell silent for a while before responding, "My ability has been deteriorating significantly lately. I've already exhausted my quota for the day."

    Oh, Lane recalled that when he asked Sphinx, he was also limited to three questions per day.

    "But personally, I have some insights. Do you know what's typically required for an evil god's descent ceremony?"

    An evil god's descent ceremony?

    Lane pondered for a moment and ventured a response, "A certain number of believers, sacrificial offerings, specific rituals, and specific conditions?"

    "Mm-hm, that's right. The most crucial element is the 'anchor' for the evil god's descent. It's necessary, much like how anomalies need to be perceived by humans to affect them in reality. The conditions for an evil god's descent are even more stringent. For them to 'manifest' in this world, they first need sufficient anchors, and the more believers, the better."

    Upon hearing this, Lane subconsciously thought about Ogar's words - the more anchors, the more power a deity could wield in reality.

    "Thus, no matter what roles we play in this world, our primary task is to combat cults, at the very least preventing them from openly expanding their influence."

    Lane found it odd. "But isn't there a policy of religious freedom now?"

    "Yes," the Prophet sighed from the other end. "Well, there's quite a complicated story behind it. In short, we took care of the cultists secretly. The remaining religions, many of them, are human inventions with no corresponding deities. We've left them be. So there are no gods like Jehovah or Buddha, but their followers are widespread."

    At this point, Lane recalled everything he had seen in his dream. The indescribable deity transforming into a Biblical Seraph as it received the prayers of its believers. His pupils narrowed slightly. "So they're planning to possess one of these beings to manifest?"

    "Very possible," the Prophet replied. "Based on your description, that entity seems to be targeting a mythological Seraph for possession."

    Lane fell silent, his mind wandering to another matter.

    If they could possess an angel, why not simply possess 'God'? Wasn't God the most widely worshiped deity in the human world? Or had that position already been taken by another malevolent deity?

    "In any case, if our assumptions are correct, what's happening there won't be trivial," the Prophet said, his tone grave. "What's the situation with Fate now?"

    "I'm not sure. If my people have reached the doorstep without any response, it seems Fate is preoccupied."

    "Tsk." The Prophet had already silently condemned Fate. What was going on? Weren't these events supposed to take place within its domain? Why did it fall asleep during such a major occurrence?

    Oh, right, it was Lane who caused this. That makes sense then.

    "I'll continue to send you information using my abilities tomorrow," the Prophet said. "Be cautious over there. There's still an unknown force lurking within the Bureau of Investigation."

    "I'm aware," Lane replied. As he spoke, he heard Kerry's voice coming from the Prophet's end, but the call was abruptly disconnected.

    In Lane's Divine Realm, the Prophet hung up the phone and looked at Kerry with a complicated expression. "Do you know what you're saying?"

    Kerry frowned at the now-disconnected call and clicked his tongue. "Of course I do."

    During Lane and the Prophet's conversation, Kerry had been present, and the Prophet hadn't made any attempt to hide the information from him. Therefore, Kerry had also learned of these developments.

    Just before the Prophet hung up, Kerry had intended to tell Lane through the phone that he could return to the Bureau to assist him.

    "The Bureau has become the epicenter of the storm," the Prophet told Kerry. "I even suspect that Fate might have intentionally led Him there. Undoubtedly, the third force lurking within the Bureau has grand plans. Fate, the Secret Church, and this unknown force will become grinding machines once the conspiracy unfolds. Anyone without sufficient strength will be devoured if they venture there."

    Kerry responded, "I know."

    Prophet: "You weren't this reckless in the past."

    "That's only because there wasn't anything worth my risk back then."

    The Prophet paused, surprised. "You can't be serious about becoming one of Them, can you? I thought you'd only kneel before the Goddess of Science."

    "I am," Clay replied. "Now, It is the puzzle I seek, and I'm convinced that the answer might elude me my entire life."

    After witnessing Lane's apotheosis, he finally understood why his mentor had said, 'They are the rules and truth themselves.'

    This world was too vast for science to grasp all its answers. The principles governing the universe, the mysteries and secrets, were boundless. Yet, there existed entities beyond human comprehension. They embodied these truths.

    However, humans could not comprehend them, to the point that even just observing or approaching them would taint one's reason.

    But Clay didn't view it as contamination. He believed it was merely a matter of humanity's lowly existence being unable to reach the heights of these beings. Humans were too fragile to even qualify for an audience with truth.

    Fortunately, Lane's emergence seemed like a last bit of mercy from the heavens for scientists seeking truth.

    "I stand before a truth that humans can't grasp in a lifetime. There's no reason not to pursue it," Clay mused.

    Yet, he was not yet worthy to be by Lane's side.

    He appeared to have come too late; the positions around Lane were already taken. Over the past few days, he had discreetly conversed with Lane's other followers. Some had been with Lane from the beginning (Edmund), while others had made invaluable contributions to Their Esteemed One (Carrance, Carmen), holding significant roles in Lane's circle (Archie).

    There was nothing particularly remarkable about Kerry that set him apart from the others. Just like now, when Lane acted with Albert in tow, leaving Edmund and Archie to guard the Divine Kingdom. But for Kerry, there were no specific arrangements made. He wasn't excluded, but neither was he drawn close; he was allowed to roam freely within the Divine Kingdom.

    This also meant that Kerry hadn't been included in Lane's "selection."

    Of course, Kerry wouldn't be content with just being a decoration. He wanted to prove that he could do something for Lane as well, just as Archie and Edmund did.

    The Prophet's gaze became incredibly complicated, a mix of relief at seeing a child grow up and confusion at his own pig suddenly maturing, ready to root around in someone else's cabbage patch.

    "Well, since you've made up your mind, I can't stop you," sighed the Prophet. "Where do you plan to start?"

    "Doctor Hans," Kerry replied without hesitation. "I had a decent relationship with him during my time at the Audit Bureau. I could sense that he was trying to win me over. I didn't know the reason before, but now I have a guess. He probably knows about my past, and the person he truly wants to recruit is you."

    "Indeed," the Prophet acknowledged Kerry's plan, indicating that he saw Kerry was not acting impulsively. "Then, be careful on your journey."

    Kerry: "I will."

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