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    Asianovel

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    Chapter 131

    Placing Amos back into his petri dish can, Lane pondered the implications of his words, sensing that something significant was about to unfold.

    At that moment, Lane suddenly felt a disturbance from the plants he had placed in Alder's Research Institute. It was as if the hyacinths in the air were conveying a message to him.

    He focused, and the voice of the hyacinth echoed in his ears.

    "Do you recall something now?"

    "I...,"

    In Alder's laboratory, Job sat dazedly on the workbench, with the weary faces of Alexis and Alder before him. The two had been working tirelessly to restore the strange consciousness within Job's body.

    The black cat and Druid were also lending a hand. Their patience in not rushing to join the main storyline on the new map was due to Job being the most significant breakthrough. Besides, the two professors couldn't freely communicate with the outside world within the Divine Kingdom, so their presence also served as an intelligence channel for the players.

    Their decision to stay bore fruit.

    Under the tense gaze of the two players and professors, Job murmured softly, "I remember... I lost my way in the mist and suddenly found myself in another world."

    "Another world?" Aldis frowned and inquired. "What kind of world is that?"

    "It's wondrous and terrible..." Job spoke slowly, as if he had regressed to a babbling child, each word requiring immense effort to recall and deliberate over before it could be uttered.

    "The earth was black, devoid of vitality or verdure. The plants that managed to sprout were colossal, contorted, and eerie. They were not sustenance but predators. The water was tainted, shimmering with a lurid pentachromatic hue."

    Each creature was as grotesque and horrifying as the next, surviving on a diet of one another, hunting each other down… Job drawled.

    Alders and Alexis listened intently to Job's tale, with Alders promptly jotting down the man's words in a notebook, while the Druid and the black cat looked on in confusion.

    "Are there any prominent geological features there? Like towering trees or valleys?" Alders inquired.

    "...Yes," Jobe replied, his gaze fixed absently on the ceiling of the research facility as if he were looking through it, recollecting the past. "There's a gigantic, red full moon. It's enormous, almost taking up a third of the sky. It seems so close, as if it's within reach."

    A red, full moon?

    The black cat and the druid exchanged glances, both recognizing the astonishment in each other's eyes.

    When one spoke of a red moon, the first thing that came to mind for players was the red moon seen in the opening cinematic of the primary storyline, behind the portal to the Dream World.

    In other words, did the oddity within Job enter the Dream World?

    Certainly, the two gamers' excitement surpassed the professors' solemnity at this moment.

    What did this imply? A new map!

    And it was none other than the highly challenging map that had been hinted at since the game's inception - the Dream World.

    As everyone knew, the higher the difficulty of a map, the more bountiful the rewards!

    Alders continued, "Do you recall how you returned to this person's body?"

    The professors, though still grave, couldn't hide their eagerness to explore this new information.

    The existence of oddities and the Dream World was no secret to MIT, but knowledge about the origins of oddities and their study was scarce, if not blank. Now, they had a communicative oddity before them, one that was once human. This could potentially be the key to unlocking the mystery of oddities. How could they not be thrilled?

    "I... I only remember wanting to go home," Job said, suddenly welling up with tears. "I want to go home, I want to go back, I want to go back!"

    He began to convulse again, and the signs of writhing insects beneath his skin reappeared. Alexis promptly sprayed the aerosol at Job's face. Job coughed twice, gradually regaining composure.

    Oldes asked, "Are you alright? Can you continue?"

    Job didn't respond immediately but then spoke, "I must have wandered on the ground for a long time... so long that I've lost track of those years. Then, I think I encountered..."

    His words suddenly trailed off.

    "What's wrong?"

    "...I don't have that memory anymore." He clutched his head, his expression dazed. I can't recall it. I just know that I suddenly returned from that bizarre world to the fog, where I couldn't see or hear anything. The only salvation, the one we knew, was to find people, find those entrances, devour, kill, devour, kill...

    His voice started to tremble, and even the spray seemed less effective this time. Still, he continued, speaking hastily, "I devoured that person, and I was back here. There were many people around me, they were all applauding, smiling."

    "Alright, no need to rush. Calm down," Alexis said, suppressing the goosebumps on his scalp as he placed a hand on Job's shoulder. "We'll figure something out, you don't have to push yourself so hard."

    Job fell silent abruptly. He lifted his head, staring intently at Alexis with an expressionless face, almost eerie.

    "He said, find the Ark and offer it to that Lord."

    "He says that the angels are about to descend upon the land, proclaiming Their arrival."

    The reactions of those present were varied.

    Alders and Alexis grew more solemn, sensing from Job's words the impending conspiracy drawing near. The players, naturally, were thrilled; these two sentences were clearly crucial clues for the main storyline missions!

    The purpose of the third-party force within the Bureau of Investigation had finally come to light!

    Black Cat took a deep breath, opened the mission template, and submitted the information. As expected, the first act mission was completed, and even the second act had popped up as finished.

    The second act was to apprehend the suspect, but it was already marked as accomplished the moment it appeared. The MVP was undoubtedly that tax officer.

    It was absurd that the mastermind, Dr., had actually been sent to jail thanks to his actions.

    Then, the third act mission appeared.

    "Act 3: The descent of the Angel

    Mission Objective: He is about to walk upon the earth, but not to bring good tidings but destruction. Orland will become the altar for His descent. Please do your utmost to prevent the 'Angel' from arriving or save the afflicted populace.

    Task Difficulty: Hellish

    Number of Players for Quest: Unlimited.

    Quest Reward: Regional Reputation unlocked up to Amicability, significant boost in Charisma, Persuasion, and Combat Skills."

    "Act 4: The Ark

    Quest Description: You've learned from the monsters the true intention of the mastermind behind it all. What is this Ark? Why do they crave it? Unknown, but whatever the villains seek, we must seize it first.

    Task Difficulty: Nightmarish

    Number of Players for Quest: Unlimited

    Quest Reward: Expertise, Stealth, significant increase in Combat Skills, but beware, it may provoke hostility from the Bureau of Investigation."

    Two quests have appeared at once! This confirms that their choice was indeed correct, greatly advancing the main storyline!

    "As expected of Druid and Black Cat, even pushing the main questline from outside Orland."

    "Hahaha! It feels like the main storyline is reaching its climax!"

    "I'm ready! I'm so ready!"

    Both the Druid and the Black Cat were brimming with excitement as they bid farewell to the professors promptly.

    Oldus inquired, "Where are you off to?"

    "Of course, we're heading to Orlanda. The people there need us!" The Druid declared with righteousness.

    "Indeed, a great calamity is imminent, and the citizens are oblivious. We must save them!" the Black Cat echoed.

    Oldus stared at them, dumbfounded. After a moment's silence, he reached out and patted each of their shoulders. "I find it impossible to dissuade you, even though I've lost countless exceptional students to similar endeavors."

    "Professor..."

    "Go ahead," Oldus said, "But make sure you come back alive!"

    Alexis, standing by, hesitated for a moment before taking an old, rusted necklace from his pocket. "Take this with you as well."

    The Druid took it in confusion, and upon recognizing the pentagram on it, he looked at Alexis with astonishment.

    The monster-oriented professor chuckled. "This was my amulet from when I was young, the secret to how I survived countless encounters with evil deities."

    "Of course, it's just a loan. You'll have to return it," Alexis pointed at the Druid's chest. "You'll have to return it personally."

    The Druid gripped the old talisman tightly, his words momentarily stuck in his throat.

    He wanted to say that he might not make it back alive, that death held little significance to them, and that after this main quest, who knew how many veteran players would return unscathed.

    Yet, looking at the professors' faces, those words couldn't find their way past his throat.

    Death was easy; it was living that was difficult.

    "Alright, don't make the mood so somber," Aldas said with a touch of humor. "You've left our students in a daze. Go on, our adventures when we were young weren't any less than yours, and yet here we still stand."

    The black cat was momentarily tempted to retort but held back. He and the Druid exited the research institute to find professors from other faculties waiting outside.

    "Eh, Professors, aren't you supposed to be teaching your classes?"

    Professor Larking, the Potions expert, rolled his eyes. "With all the students gone, what's the point of having classes?"

    The black cat smiled awkwardly. Well, since the main storyline was happening in Orland, everyone had rushed there for the excitement.

    "You're going there too, right? Take this as well," Larking said, moving aside to reveal a large sack behind him.

    The Druid stepped forward, his eyes wide with astonishment. The sack was filled with potions, mostly healing red ones, but still, it was a huge quantity!

    "Larking couldn't run fast enough, so he didn't have time to give it to her," the professor explained. "I know it's hard to stop you all, but at least these might come in handy when the time comes."

    "Whimper, is this the power of veteran players? Qwq"

    "Heavens, there are such perks to attending MU? Ancient Seals and free potions, how wonderful!"

    "@NotCrazy, your professor really loves you!"

    "NotCrazy: No, he's just being his usual proud self. He wasn't brewing potions when I left; he must have heard about the upcoming event and prepared these."

    Not only the Potions professor, but other lecturers from different departments had also sensed something from the disappearance of the veteran players. They followed Larking to this gathering. Not all professors had brought items, but they shared their invaluable experiences from their younger days.

    "I once engaged in combat with a pagan attempting to summon an evil deity. I initiated with a dose of pepper spray, which left him unable to utter his incantations. Then, I followed up with a well-placed kick to his groin – highly effective," the combat professor shared.

    "Well, it seems you're quite the cunning one, aren't you?"

    "Indeed, when death is at the door, one need not worry about dignity," the history professor said slowly. "If all else fails, you can prepare fecal bombs in advance."

    "The mop soiled with excrement, as if Lu Bu himself were here, hhhh."

    "I'm now quite intrigued by the professors' experiences in their younger years."

    "I wonder when this replication dungeon will become available."

    The physics professor discreetly pulled them aside and cleared his throat. "If you really can't defeat them in combat, you might want to try... pulling down their pants. It could yield unexpected results! Ahem, don't mention that I suggested this to anyone else."

    "Professor, it's too late. Now everyone knows."

    "When I come back to school with leverage on the professor, I'll threaten to expose him unless he gives me extra tutoring."

    "Sob sob sob, I want to attend Michigan University so badly. Please give the child a chance!"

    In a straight line, the distance from the school gate was no more than 200 meters, but the Black Cat and Druid took a full ten minutes to reach it. During this time, they received various items like wisdom from professors, weapons, potions, and herbs for emergencies. They had no intention of hoarding these treasures; instead, they had agreed with other players in the live stream to share them once they reached Orlandu, not as plunder, but as a collective gain.

    Finally, they spotted Lane's figure at the entrance.

    "I... Lord Lane," Black Cat blurted out.

    "Be on your guard, Black Cat. Did you just almost address him like the other followers of Lane, as 'My Lord'?"

    "It seems I'm gradually transforming into Lane's shape."

    "No wonder you're the top fan leader of the Secret Church."

    "Lord Lane, is there something you need?" The Druid's eyes sparkled. Perhaps Lane had some divine artifact to entrust to them?

    Oh, how could they accept that!

    "There's nothing," Lane replied. He had merely been standing there to receive messages from Hyacinth, not expecting Black Cat and Druid to come all the way here.

    But now that they were here, it would be rude not to involve them.

    Lane pondered for a moment, realizing that if an epic conflict did break out, he would inevitably be swept into the turmoil. It was better to take precautions now than to regret later.

    With this in mind, he said, " Extend your hands."

    The Druid and the Black Cat, confused, obediently held out their palms upward. As Lane's hand swept over them, intricate patterns instantly emerged on the players' palms, forming a complex array when connected.

    "What is this?" they asked.

    "It's a means to summon me through a targeted incantation," Lane looked deeply into the eyes of the Druid and the Black Cat. "Of course, there will be a price to pay."

    Indeed, this was the forbidden array that had appeared long ago, capable of connecting to various malevolent deities through different rituals and incantations.

    In his previous life, it had been stolen from the depths of the Investigative Bureau by a player; this time, it was offered willingly by Lane to the players.

    "The Black Cat inquired, somewhat redundantly, "Will you be involved in this affair?"

    "Who else but I, as His eternal rival?" Lane replied with a hint of profundity.

    His words suggested a deeper connection between him and the mysterious third force lurking within the Investigative Bureau. In reality, however, there was none; Lane was merely seeking an excuse to participate.

    Yet, the statement wasn't entirely false. If 'It' were to descend in the name of God, Pan, as the origin of devilish entities, would indeed be an adversary to this deity.

    However, the player seemed to have misunderstood something, as the black cat's eyes gleamed with newfound understanding.

    "Many humans within the Bureau have been replaced by anomalies," Lane said. "Be cautious not to let the Ark fall into their hands."

    The black cat promptly caught on. "Their goal of replacing humans with anomalies is to obtain the Ark?"

    "Exactly."

    "What on earth is this Ark?" the cat inquired.

    A good question, Lane thought, if only he knew himself.

    Certainly, he couldn't reveal it directly. Recalling Dr. Crane's words as relayed by Clay, Lane paraphrased, "It... is a covenant between God and humanity."

    The black cat and the Druid exchanged glances. ...Alright, they got it. Just another riddle from him.

    "And one more thing," Lane suddenly pointed at their MIT badges. "When rescuing people, make sure to wear your MIT insignia."

    The black cat was taken aback. How could he know that we were going to save someone?

    And what's the point of wearing a Miskatonic University badge...?

    ...

    The players departed.

    When Lane finished listening to Hyacinth's information, it wasn't particularly surprising.

    Dr. R's intention to substitute anomalies for humans was something Cree had already conveyed to him, and Job's account now enriched that information from another perspective. It seemed that the doctor possessed a unique method of brainwashing or suggestion that also affected anomalies, making them firmly remember their assigned missions.

    In the meantime, Lane sensed an impending storm. There was no way the doctor would abandon his plan just because players had interfered once; on the contrary, he might even advance it.

    Contemplating this, Lane didn't immediately shift his consciousness back but instead closed his eyes and entered the realm of dreams.

    He ascended to the third platform, as expected, and the fourth platform opened up to him as well.

    Cree's luminous point hovered by Lane's side, guiding him up the stairs. Lane followed the glow, eventually reaching the newly accessible fourth platform.

    As before, the fourth platform held a stone table with two objects upon it.

    One of them was an unusual key. It was primarily silver and red in color, with its lower half shimmering silver-white while the upper part seemed to be adorned with a smooth, red cat's eye gemstone. A stripe resembling an eye ran through the center, with the red gemstone enclosed by a silver-white frame that resembled sunbeams radiating outwards.

    Lane's gaze involuntarily drifted towards the key, an intense longing surging within him, a desire he had never experienced before. By the time he realized what was happening, the key was already in his grasp.

    Instantly, the key transformed from solid to ethereal, vanishing into the palm of Lane's hand as he clenched his fist, leaving behind only a tattoo of the key's design.

    Unlike before, no immediate information appeared this time. Yet, Lane instinctively understood the function of this item.

    And that function made his heart race.

    This key could unlock any door in the world.

    Of course, it included doors to the Dreamworld as well.

    This was a power distinct from that of the God of Pastures, a proximity to his true essence.

    Lane slowly exhaled, calming his agitated emotions, then turned his attention to the second object.

    This object was even more enigmatic, seemingly formless and hovering no more than a millimeter above the stone table, like a deep blue jellyfish. It appeared docile and inviting to poke.

    Unable to resist, Lane prodded it gently. Indeed, it felt cold and squishy, akin to a jellyfish.

    When 'jellyfish' was poked, it lifted its non-existent head vacantly. Though it had neither a face nor eyes, Lane intuitively sensed it turning towards him, as if trying to identify something. After a second, it floated up before his eyes and merged into his body.

    Initially, it seemed as if the jellyfish was about to integrate with Lane's brain, but halfway through, the dice intercepted it. Lane could almost visualize the mysterious force drawing the jellyfish into the die.

    Soon, a stream of information flooded his mind.

    "Significant boost in Intelligence/Creative Insight."

    Lane: ...

    So, Cree's origin ability is something like expanding one's mental capacity and enhancing inspiration. That would indeed be beneficial for research, though not so much for combat.

    ...

    Player Forum.

    Black Cat and the Druid did not hesitate to share their findings from Alders Institute on the forum.

    Title: New Dream World Map and Crucial Clues for Main Quest

    Aaron: Wow, loads of information! What's this 'Angel Descending'? Something from mythology?

    Phinoss: It could be a metaphor, perhaps? It can't actually be an angel from the Bible, right?

    Overnight Fortune: Dream World's setting seems fascinating. They'll probably release a dedicated map in the future, looking forward to it.

    Daily Exercise Fan: Current intel: 1) The Bizarre are mutated human souls lost in the fog. 2) The Bizarre might return to Dream World. 3) Those Bizarre who return can find their way back to the Rift of Dreams. 4) The Doctor has the ability to brainwash or control the Bizarre, aiming to locate the Ark within the Inspectorate. 5) The 'Angel' is about to descend.

    Maggie: 6) Players will have to save the world again!

    Bai Li Mingyue: The key to this mission should lie in that 'Mysterious' Ark.

    Black Cat: Yeah, it must be inside the Inspectorate, otherwise, there'd be no need for such elaborate plans from this mysterious force. How's the situation in Orland now?

    Matcha Milk Green: I'm already on the new map, everything seems normal.

    Druid: Should we do something, like warn the citizens here in advance? If the evil deity appears in the city, it'll likely result in more casualties.

    Xuanhui: Uh, hold on. Aren't non-playable characters (NPCs) just generated with a single click? (Whispers softly)

    Idle Fish: Not in this game. The AI is too sophisticated. Oh well, regardless, I'd still save people if an evil deity were to descend, in line with my character's personality.

    Hikikomori Otaku: Immersive role-playing, everyone! I'm in; I've got nothing to lose in a game.

    Fig: Count me in too!

    Black Cat: Alright, when we arrive in Orland, those who want the red potion can wait for us at the airport. The rest can try to save people and inform the locals about the impending disaster. Players still in the Investigative Bureau should, if possible, locate the Ark's position. We mustn't let the anomalies get their hands on it.

    Ink White: Understood.

    Exsiflj: Okok~

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