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    Asianovel

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    Chapter 133

    He had arrived.

    Even those without a shred of inspiration could now perceive the angel's existence. When everyone could see Him, chaos ensued.

    Though the angel that materialized in the sky was not divine, its presence was enough to taint the minds of those who beheld it. Like lost souls, they gathered beneath it, kneeling and praying in a daze.

    As their voices rose, the angel's incomplete form in the heavens grew more tangible. Bumps emerged on its gradually forming skin, each developing into grotesque faces with distorted features. With each flap of the angel's wings, these growths fell from the sky, ignoring the praying humans below and targeting those outside the area, untouched by the angel's grace.

    The calamity began to spread.

    A neighborhood where the church was out of sight.

    The clothing store owner grunted as he packed away his belongings, complaining to the cafe owner beside him, "I just moved here from Arkham. You know Arkham, right? It was all over the news. I thought Orchid City would be safe, but barely a few months after I moved, there was a terrorist attack."

    The cafe owner joked, "Oh, then you should be grateful. Terrorist attacks are quite rare around here."

    "Should I be thanking them for that?"

    "Haha, don't worry, the police will take care of those guys soon enough."

    The café owner said, suddenly noticing a dark shadow dart behind the clothing store owner. "—Watch out!"

    "What?" The clothing store owner was taken aback. He fell silent for a moment as he saw his reflection in the glass window of his shop, revealing a creature behind him.

    A monstrous being, resembling a tumor with fungal-like, spindly limbs, was closing in on his back.

    The clothing store owner sucked in a sharp breath, too terrified to even turn his head. He scrambled out, rolling and crawling, while the café owner, trembling, hastily followed suit.

    Strangely, the tumor monster kept a distance, neither chasing them away nor attacking, like a sheepdog nipping at their heels from time to time.

    Pursued by the creature, the two men found themselves inadvertently running towards a neighborhood near the church. Upon reaching there, their pace slowed, and their faces were overcome with intense fear.

    They had noticed something amiss.

    Given the terror inflicted by the extremists, most people in the city center should have evacuated by now. However, inexplicably, the more they ran in this direction, the more people they encountered. Some, after casting a glance at the sky, became zombie-like, kneeling down with blank expressions as they stretched out their arms toward the heavens in fervent devotion:

    "Praise the Angel Gabriel!"

    "Blessed are you, servant of the Lord, bearer of His might!"

    That was certainly no angel.

    It was evident that something utterly terrifying lurked above the heavens, something one dare not gaze upon directly.

    The monster's intention behind herding them towards the city center became clear to the clothing store owner, and he broke out in cold sweat. He didn't wish to fall into the lion's den, but the moment he showed signs of fleeing in another direction, the tumor-like creature behind him suddenly surged forward, severing his arm.

    "Aaaah!" The clothing store owner screamed, collapsing to the ground. He seemed to hear the cafe owner's cries, or perhaps not. In that moment, an intense desire overtook him – he wanted to look up and see the looming terror in the sky, even if it meant meeting his end with understanding.

    A voice suddenly shouted, stopping him, "Don't look!"

    The clothing store owner's head was forcefully pressed against the ground, preventing him from lifting it. Before he could resist, a black cloth was swiftly tied around his eyes, ensuring he could no longer raise his head.

    After all that, the one who had prevailed fired at the tumor while averting their gaze from the sky. They shouted, "Hurry up and come over! There are several of them here!"

    "Here they come!"

    An even number of vehicles, driven with panache, plowed straight through the obstacles in their path, coming to a stylish halt before the principle of "majority rules."

    In the carriages behind them sat several humans, their eyes bound with identical black cloths – all of them rescued by the players.

    The minority yielded to the majority, and the boss got into the car. The thug with the protruding tumor on his face also climbed into the passenger seat, grumbling, "Damn it, these damn minions just keep coming."

    "Because it's still falling incessantly from above," the Oddity grumbled irritably. "And I have to be careful not to look up, plus there's a Sanity Check every ten minutes. If I fail, I'll definitely glance upward – it's infuriating."

    "Nevertheless, thanks to him gathering the remaining people in this area, it has made our rescue efforts more convenient," said the one advocating majority rule, "The progress bar is skyrocketing."

    Those in the back of the carriage couldn't make out their conversation. The tailor shop owner couldn't resist asking, "What exactly is going on here?"

    The player glanced at him. "As you've seen, that creature in the sky deliberately spawned these minions and set them after humans, driving them into this area. What do you suppose its purpose could be?"

    The shop owner was confused, but upon recalling how some of his peers had prostrated themselves on the ground with fervor, the creature ceased its pursuit.

    Ordinary folks couldn't perceive it, but players with heightened intuition could see it.

    Upon entering this area, people's minds would be influenced. Upon crossing a certain threshold or witnessing the 'Angel' in the sky, a fleshy conduit would stretch down from the heavens and connect to the back of their heads. As more conduits emerged and more people gathered, with their fervent prayers, the Angel's terrifying appearance began to recede, its skin transforming into a pristine, holy white.

    He was drawing closer, and the image of the "Angel" in people's eyes was evolving.

    Based on prior information, players speculated that the unknown deity required the faith of multiple humans – brainwashed ones would do as well, but in large numbers – to manifest as the "Angel Gabriel." This was why, assuming their plan had been exposed by Nightly and their group's actions, they had decided to act prematurely.

    "Tsk, we still weren't quick enough," they mused.

    Nayue watched the barrage of comments on the livestream with a furrowed brow. Already, citizens were claiming to have spotted bizarre creatures in the skies above Orland City, and it had been less than 40 minutes since their intimidation plan began. Undoubtedly, many people hadn't had time to evacuate.

    "The main mission is progressing nicely," The Strongest Man said with a grin, his eyes glued to the soaring contribution points. He had to admit that the Artful Squad's tactic was brilliant. Reasoning might not convince the citizens, but fear surely would.

    "Alright, let's go. We need to move on to the next location!" Crazee called out to them.

    Nayue switched off the live broadcast. Soon after, the police rushed in, but the Artful Squad, already prepared, had taken the escape route beforehand.

    Outside on the street, Black Cat's vehicle was waiting to pick them up. Once the squad boarded, they immediately headed towards the church.

    Along the way, they witnessed numerous rescue vehicles, ambulances, and what appeared to be investigators all heading towards the church.

    Coincidentally, as Black Cat and the others drove towards that area, they collided head-on with the Majority Rule group.

    "Stay away from the center!" Odd Number leaned out from the driver's seat. "There's no saving anyone there, not even the police or investigators. The boss hasn't activated yet, and it's too high up to reach. A single glimpse drives people mad; it's unapproachable."

    As he spoke, Odd Number felt helpless – the boss was just too challenging, and victory seemed impossible.

    Black Cat asked, "So we do nothing?"

    Majority Rule replied, "Of course not!"

    From the passenger seat, he fired a shot, hitting the tumor-like creature trailing behind Black Cat's car.

    "At this point, these monsters pose a threat to ordinary people. We should eliminate them and save those on the outskirts. It'll also boost our contribution points," Majority Rule sighed. "Damn this hellish difficulty level – there's no sign of victory."

    The Druid watched the blaring sirens around them and the armed helicopters in the sky but remained silent.

    Players still had the option to retreat, but for those maintaining order, their mission was one without hope.

    As the armed helicopter approached the church, it couldn't help but notice the multitude of people kneeling in prayer on the ground, as well as the existence in the sky that defied their understanding of the world. The pilot's eyes widened in awe, his irises reflecting the gradually materializing figure of the angel. His pupils dilated, and an inexplicable madness began to infect his mind. The once-steady helicopter abruptly plummeted!

    The armed helicopter crashed into the crowded ground, yet strangely, amidst the deafening noise and the scythe of death looming overhead, the crowd remained oblivious and indifferent. They continued to devoutly gaze at the 'angel' above them.

    CRASH —

    The impact triggered a small explosion, leaving charred earth and flesh scattered across the land. However, those who still breathed picked themselves up, resuming their prayers without pause.

    The Doctor watched this scene with a smile on his face, also looking up. "Excellent, most excellent."

    The Fulfillment Plan was nearing completion.

    The Doctor had two missions: to seize the Ark from the Audit Bureau and to bring the 'Angel' back to Earth. This was an experiment, a crucial one, for its success or failure would determine the actual descent of the Lord.

    Despite some setbacks, the plan seemed to be progressing smoothly.

    As for the Ark... With the Director unable to lead, the only way for the Audit Bureau to hinder the arrival of the deity was to resort to this ultimate measure. No action was needed from him; those in power would compel them to act.

    ...

    "Yes, yes, we understand. We'll definitely find a way to address... No, we will solve it!"

    "Most sincerely, we did not anticipate this situation."

    "Acknowledged! We're already taking action."

    In the Audit Bureau, phones rang incessantly, all from high-ranking officials demanding or pressuring the bureau to come up with a solution to the angel hovering in the sky.

    Orrin held a status similar to New York in the real-world United States - it was an absolute financial hub, an international metropolis, and home to numerous significant government institutions. Compared to the remote Arkham, it held far greater importance, with more wealthy and influential individuals residing there.

    As for the Tax Bureau, well, what was the point of tax inspections at a time like this? They had more pressing matters to attend to first.

    Judith hung up the phone, exhausted from speaking with a government agency. She gritted her teeth and asked Kurt, "Is the Director really not going to intervene?"

    Kurt pursed his lips and replied coldly, "Didn't you hear what I said earlier? The Director is currently in a coma, and we have no information on their condition."

    "Tch, just our luck that it had to happen now!" Judith slammed her fist on the desk. Kurt was displeased with her attitude, but he couldn't voice his discontent.

    One by one, the investigators dispatched to probe the sudden appearance of the Fallen Angel God vanished, and everyone knew what that implied. Furthermore, judging from the intervals between their disappearances, they couldn't last even a few minutes.

    Even the elites of the Secretariat were no exception. Some had participated in multiple investigations of gods, but they remained hopelessly vulnerable when confronting the divine beings themselves.

    No, perhaps vulnerability was the norm. Whenever humans faced a god, they were as insignificant as ants...

    The reason why the Investigative Bureau's agents could protect humanity for so long was mostly due to the director's mysterious ability to obtain 'precognitive' intelligence. They would always intervene before the heretics could conduct their summoning rituals, meaning that most of the agents dealt with mere mortals, Beyonders, or servants.

    Directly facing a god was an experience that no agent would ever have, for those who did wouldn't live to tell the tale.

    "Is there truly no way out?" Judith covered her eyes, her voice laced with agony.

    The most despairing part was that despite knowing there was no chance of victory, she still had to continually send her team of investigators on suicidal missions.

    For this was the mission of the Investigative Bureau, and at this moment, they could not afford to retreat.

    Even if they knew that ahead lay an abyss without a bottom.

    This hopeless battle was utterly wretched.

    A flicker of struggle appeared in Kurt's eyes. He said, "Yes, there is still a hope. The Bureau has an item that might be able to deal with the evil god."

    "Why didn't you say so earlier?!"

    "Normally, that item can't be used. Besides, the Director isn't here right now…" He didn't finish his sentence when he saw Judith's menacing gaze. He quickly added, "That leaves us no choice but to retrieve it ourselves."

    Judith abruptly stood up and grabbed Kurt's collar. "What are you waiting for? Go get it!"

    Kurt sighed, but looking at the bloodshot eyes of the other senior management members in the conference room, he knew that if he didn't go after the Ark, they would tear him apart.

    Their subordinates were being sent on suicidal missions every minute. As long as there was any hope, humans would disregard everything.

    However, he failed to notice that a few of the managers had revealed cold and greedy expressions.

    ...

    "F*ck, what kind of ghost story is this? Where did the guy go?"

    The Saint of Thieves looked at the petri dish in horror, even switching perspectives to confirm that the man inside had truly vanished, and it wasn't just his eyes playing tricks on him or some illusion.

    In other words, it was a rather frightening situation. Thief Saint instinctively turned on his live stream, not for any other reason but to find someone to talk to. If he had known, he would have kept it on all along; that way, when he disappeared, his viewers could keep an eye on things for him.

    Due to the title of his live stream reading "Found the Ark," which was currently the most discussed topic among players, a wave of spontaneous viewers flooded in.

    "Damn, guys, you scared me! I just got my hands on the Ark, and now Destiny's gone. Can you guys help me look for him?"

    However, the audience didn't have time to mock his fear. One after another, messages filled the live stream.

    "Thief Saint, are you underground? The taxman just posted on the forum that Kurt and the others are back and heading down!"

    "Thief Saint, get out of there! According to the quest, if the Ark falls into the hands of the anomalies, it's an automatic failure. I bet they have some way to directly hand it over to the doctor."

    "Inspectors are coming down now. Who knows how many anomalies are disguised among them. With the information we have, it's impossible to tell who's human and who's not without killing them on the spot."

    Thief Saint's heart nearly leaped out of his chest. He hastily opened the box and pulled out its contents. Inside was a smaller golden box, roughly the size of a pencil case, adorned with intricate silver patterns. It was still manageable to hide, but as soon as he picked it up, a system notification popped up.

    "You've been cursed - Seven Sins. Every minute, you lose 2 HP, 3 MP, 10 Strength points, 10 Agility, 20 Constitution, and experience intense pain. After five minutes, the curse enters its second stage, deducting 5 HP, 6 MP, 10 Strength points, 10 Agility, 20 Constitution, and 20 Sanity every minute.

    "This curse is irreversible and cannot be cured."

    The Saint of Thieves took a glance but didn't have time to ponder; he had long since adjusted his pain tolerance to zero. Gripping the Ark, he concealed it in his embrace and darted out the door. However, as soon as he stepped out, footsteps echoed from down the corridor ahead.

    Damn it!

    That corridor was the only way back upstairs; the other end was a dead end. The Saint of Thieves had no choice but to retreat into the room again, hiding behind the door. He drew a deep breath, focusing his energy at his dantian.

    "System, I need to go stealth mode! Full speed ahead!"

    "Activating Stealth to evade conflict!"

    "A crucial moment for stealth!"

    Fortunately, Lady Luck favored the Saint of Thieves this time. His stealth maneuver succeeded. The very second he hid, Kurt and his team burst through the door.

    Kurt's expression changed dramatically upon seeing the Director's vanished figure inside the incubator and the open box on top of it.

    "Something happened here?" Judith asked hastily.

    Kurt instantly recalled the employee who had conveyed the "false" message earlier, and his face darkened significantly.

    "What's going on?"

    "Someone approached me earlier, claiming there was an issue upstairs that needed my attention," Kurt explained succinctly.

    In retrospect, it was uncertain if that person was truly from the Inspection Bureau.

    "Are you an idiot?!" Judith was on the verge of losing it.

    Kurt remained silent. For safety's sake, there was no signal underground, and with the Director present, the Ark's unique curse made it impossible for ordinary people, or even Beyonders, to lift it. His carelessness stemmed from this assumption.

    Even now, Kurt couldn't fathom how the thief had taken the Ark away. The curse on it would spread regardless of whether it was wrapped in cloth or placed in a box. The reason it was kept on the petri dish was because the Director had been suppressing the curse with special methods. Any ordinary person who came into contact with the curse would wish they were dead. Let alone taking the Ark, a single second of contact would be more torturous than any earthly punishment.

    "Stay calm, Judith," a senior official from the bureau behind them spoke calmly. "I'll use my ability to search. You know I won't miss a single trace."

    This high-ranking official was a Tracker, as the name suggested. Once a target was locked onto, any clue would automatically surface, making it an incredibly useful ability for investigations.

    Removing his glasses, the official touched the corner of his eye. Red patterns immediately appeared before him, stretching from the entrance to above the petri dish. This indicated that someone had indeed climbed up to open the box. The red trail then vanished—

    Saint Thief sensed an ominous premonition. Without hesitation, he pointed at the door and shouted the moment the system notification sounded, "There's a shadow outside! Little thief, don't you dare run!"

    The live-stream viewers erupted in laughter.

    "Talk about the thief crying wolf!"

    "As expected of you, Thief Saint."

    "What a quick response!"

    "Hahaha!"

    Indeed, the moment Thief Saint shouted those words, he darted out in a flash. Dressed in the staff uniform, it looked as if he was chasing after the thief. The bureau members inside the room were momentarily stunned. Judith instinctively yelled, "Chase after him!"

    The others followed suit. Thief Saint led the way, with the investigators hot on his heels. Upon reaching a fork in the road, before they could react, Thief Saint shouted again, "You go left, I'll go right!"

    "Got it!"

    Without hesitation, the two investigators split up.

    "D*mn it,"

    "Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!"

    "You truly live up to your reputation! You can still create a dramatic effect even in such a tense situation."

    "Ahhhh, I'm so nervous! We have to run, or we'll fail the main quest!"

    The Thief Saint ran for two minutes, with no sound of footsteps behind him. At this point, he couldn't help but laugh, though he spat out black blood while doing so.

    He looked down and noticed black patterns gradually spreading across his wrists, ankles, and neck.

    A system notification sounded.

    "The Cursed Stage Two has been activated."

    The Thief Saint clearly felt his speed decrease, and his health bar started to plummet rapidly. Black spots appeared before his eyes, and dizziness overwhelmed him. To make matters worse, it seemed his luck had run out. The path he'd chosen was a dead end, leading only to a restroom.

    Footsteps echoed from behind again, indicating that the investigators had caught on. The Thief Saint gritted his teeth and dashed into the restroom.

    Inside, a janitor was working, wearing headphones and humming a tune, oblivious to the world around him. The Thief Saint hastily hid in the last stall, but he knew it was a futile effort; soon, the footsteps grew closer and closer.

    "Knock, knock."

    There was a tapping on the door.

    The Thief Saint tensed up and asked, "Who's there?"

    There was a pause from outside, followed by a jovial response, "I'm here to take over the shift."

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