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    Chapter 127

    In that instant when the needle pierced him, Crane's mind instantly recalled his conversation with the Prophet before he came.

    "I wonder what will happen if I go this time?"

    "The reason I'm called 'Prophet' is because of the knowledge and information I gain beforehand, not because I can actually see the future," the Prophet had explained.

    "Yet, you could still foresee some aspects of the future, right?"

    "It's possible, but are you sure you want me to do that?" The Prophet's smile was ambiguous. "If I were to tell you that you wouldn't return from this trip, would you give up?"

    Without the Prophet's further elaboration, Crane understood his meaning. If he knew the outcome in advance, his purpose for going this time wouldn't be achieved.

    Unlike Edmund or Archie, who didn't have the Prophet backing them up before their adventures.

    This, however, contradicted Crane's way of thinking. He was an individual who solely revered rationality. Before making any decisions, he always pondered whether it was worth it or what escape routes he would have if things went wrong.

    It was precisely due to this rational mindset that after joining the Bureau of Investigation, Crane believed he was only there to pursue his own goals. There was no need for him to risk his life for the investigation missions. Whenever he found himself in danger, he would withdraw without hesitation, indifferent to the ridicule from his fellow investigators.

    Understanding what one desires and exerting the necessary effort to attain it, while minimizing unpredictable variables – this was Kerry's mindset, and he had always operated this way, seeing no fault in it.

    But the Prophet's counterquestion sealed off the path of foreknowledge, even implying an unspoken query.

    What if, this time, he had to forsake 'rational' thinking to gain the desired trust?

    Kerry had no answer.

    ...

    As the liquid from the syringe entered his body, Kerry's eyes rolled back, and he lost consciousness. The Doctor, anticipating this, caught him. Laying Kerry on the ground, the Doctor placed a hand on his forehead, casting a suggestive spell.

    The Doctor's haste to retrieve Kerry, disregarding the suspicious signs, stemmed from his own agenda.

    A long time ago, he had accidentally noticed a symbol on the back of Kerry's hand, recognizing it as the mark of the Omniscient Order.

    The Omniscient Order was established by the Prophet, one of the Three Sages, but unlike Destiny, this fellow Sage maintained a low profile. Since parting ways with Destiny, there had been scarce news of him. If not for the Doctor's alternative sources of information, he would not have known that the Omniscient Order was under the Prophet's influence.

    The reason for seeking Kerry's allegiance was because the Doctor urgently needed to know something – an important task entrusted to him by his master.

    It was to seek the "Ark," an immensely crucial artifact, whose whereabouts had been concealed by the whims of fate.

    Initially, the Doctor had planned to sow discord within the Inspectorate, then seize the opportunity to gauge the situation and search for the artifact. But with Crane now before him, presenting a shortcut, he would certainly explore this option, even if it meant using Crane as a spy within the Omniscient Order.

    With a blink of his eyes, Kerry found himself in the Rift of Dreams, but this time, the circumstances were vastly different. Previously, they had absolute control over themselves when entering the Rift. However, this time, Kerry's soul seemed to have detached from his body, helplessly watching as 'himself' strode without hesitation down the stairs to the next level.

    No, wait a moment!

    Kerry was averse to losing control, especially since he had been confident in his abilities when he initiated the Rite of the Dream's Rift before. However, he knew nothing about the fourth level, and from the doctor's words, he could tell that the situation was likely grim.

    One couldn't simply barge in recklessly!

    But unfortunately, his personal will didn't count. Under the gaze of Crey's despair, his body still strode forward under this unknown control, disregarding the corruption of his consciousness by the frenzied fog as he plunged into the fourth level's platform.

    The moment his feet touched the platform, the scenery before Crey's eyes instantly changed.

    He found himself no longer within the foggy space of the Dream Gap; instead, it was as if he had returned to reality. Confused, Crey stood on a street, recognizing that he seemed to be on Hutter Avenue, the busiest thoroughfare in Orland City. People bustled about on the commercial street, none of them noticing Crey standing there.

    Suddenly, a shrill and eerie sound rang in his ear. Crey instinctively covered his ears, only to discover that it did nothing to block the sound from entering his mind—it was as if it originated from the depths of his consciousness itself.

    "Woah, look up at the sky!"

    A passerby, filled with awe and confusion, pointed upward. Keri also lifted his gaze, only to have his pupils tremble in the next moment as he realized that the celestial pattern had utterly transformed.

    The day of the stars' alignment...

    A crimson full moon ascended into the night, leaving no time for onlookers to capture the sight with their phones before an earthquake struck, sending everyone tumbling to the ground. The asphalt beneath them cracked open into an abyssal chasm, swallowing buildings and terrified fleeing people alike.

    But this was just the beginning.

    More harrowing scenes unfolded before Keri's eyes. With the emergence of the red moon, mist and bizarre creatures appeared once more. However, these creatures were no longer humanoid or remotely similar in size.

    Monstrous beasts, towering over five meters tall, emerged with elongated tusks protruding from their bodies like bony weapons, ravaging the earth beneath their feet.

    Columnar beings, piercing through clouds and fog, emitted multi-colored radiance that cast an eerie glow upon anyone they touched, causing them to mindlessly wander toward the earth's crevices.

    Gigantic octopus legs rose from the depths, dragging islands into the ocean. Unprecedented tornadoes, typhoons, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions wreaked havoc upon human civilization.

    And finally, even the sun vanished from the horizon.

    It was as if the doomsday bell had tolled for the world itself.

    Despair and madness completely enveloped Kerry, making him forget that he was in the midst of the trial of the Dream Gap. It felt as though he had genuinely lived through this scene, or perhaps his subconscious already knew that humanity would inevitably face such a calamity, causing him to feel genuine despair for their future.

    In front of the cataclysm named Doomsday, humanity could be so insignificant. He involuntarily fell to his knees, his once-prized rationality vanishing entirely. At that moment, even if any savior were to appear, he would have bowed before them as a master.

    Just then, the hypnotic spell cast by the Doctor from the outside began to take effect. Kerry saw a beam of light pierce through the dark clouds covering the sky.

    An angel descended, horn in hand, and the light was so holy in Kerry's eyes. Having grown up in Orlandu, where churches were a common sight in the neighborhood, this scene perfectly matched the religious imagery etched in his mind.

    As the Bible foretold, on the Day of Judgment, those who believed would be saved.

    Kerry's mind was in a trance, on the verge of complete submission, when suddenly, a searing pain shot through his arm.

    He jolted awake from the illusion, remembering that he was not actually experiencing doomsday.

    But it made no difference. The horror of the fourth level of the Dream Gap lay in its revelation of the truth, exposing humanity's vulnerability like ants moving before an earthquake or fish leaping from the water. This level posed no test; it was as if his subconscious knew that this day was inevitable.

    Was this the final act of mercy? Or a cold reminder?

    Kerry observed the unfolding scene before him. He lifted his head slightly, noticing a colossal table suspended high above, adorned with thirteen chairs. Shapeless entities sat in these seats, frenziedly devouring the feast spread across the tabletop.

    But where did this food originate?

    Reaching down from their lofty perches, these beings plucked the monstrous entities that had once devoured humans, snatching them up to be ruthlessly torn apart and consumed on the table. The remnants of their bloody flesh rained down upon the earth, contaminating those they touched, spawning extra eyes, limbs, and causing bodies to dissolve.

    It was as if a grotesque food chain had come to life.

    Kerry mused, and without a doubt, humans were at the very bottom of it.

    People were preyed upon by the creatures, which in turn were hunted by even more formidable entities – was this the end of humanity?

    The vision before him suggested otherwise.

    As humanity dwindled, the creatures were also consumed by the thirteen entities above. Then, one indistinct figure rose from the table, reaching out to seize another nearby entity. With brutal force, it ripped it apart, adding it to the feast.

    The other indescribable beings on the table seemed to wail in despair, yet they were powerless to intervene. One by one, they vanished until only one figure remained, standing tall above the now-empty table.

    With the long table disappearing, angels encircled this entity, serenading with sacred hymns. Those humans still alive on earth became devout followers, chanting the entity's name in reverence.

    Kerry also heard the voice, urging him to find eternal redemption in the apocalypse by placing his faith in this mighty being.

    Yet, he refused to yield, closing his eyes to recite a prayer to the God of Shepherds.

    If there was one entity to whom he must offer his devotion, it would never be this presence before him.

    Kerry's resistance seemed to enrage It, and the surviving humans around him lunged at him recklessly. In their reflected gazes, Kerry saw his own appearance—a '666' symbol now etched on his forehead, seemingly marking him as brainwashed by the devil. But looking at them—

    Their faith had distorted the light in their eyes, rendering them blind to their gradual transformation into creatures utterly distinct from humanity.

    The abnormalities swarmed upon Kerry, knocking him to the ground. They tore at his flesh with teeth and claws, not only causing excruciating pain but also delivering a torrent of intense corruption through his wounds.

    Kerry's prayer became distorted, and he fell to the ground in agony, his clear mind once again consumed by madness, rationality fading away entirely.

    In that instant of complete loss of reason, Kerry sank into the depths of his madness, instinctively grabbing the sole beacon of light within his grasp.

    It was a spiritual plant that he had ingrained into his very flesh.

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