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    Asianovel

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    Chapter 134

    When the Bandit Saint shouted that there was someone outside, Judith and the others initially didn't react. But after the first person chased out, the higher-ups who had activated their perception abilities suddenly realized, "Wait, that person matches the trail I found!"

    "It's the employee who informed me about the incident upstairs!" Kurt's voice followed promptly.

    Judith's expression tensed as she found it hard to believe that the suspect had just fled right in front of them. "Hurry and chase after him!"

    The investigators who had received the notice and rushed out returned with their tails between their legs. They hastily ran into another alley. Fortunately, they managed to correct their mistake in time. The suspect's luck wasn't that great; the path he chose was a dead end, leading only to a restroom.

    A uniformed janitor was mopping outside, and the two investigators asked, "Did anyone run in here just now?"

    The cleaner pointed inside the restroom, and the investigators hastily rushed in. They opened each stall door one by one, and as expected, something seemed amiss when they reached the last one – it was locked from the inside.

    One of the investigators exchanged a knowing glance with the other, who promptly positioned himself to block the bathroom entrance.

    In that moment, the investigator kicked open the door to the final stall. As anticipated, the Saint of Thieves was inside – albeit in the form of a corpse.

    The curse was irreversible and had already entered its second phase. Even though the Ark had left the Saint of Thieves's possession, its power still claimed his life effortlessly.

    To the investigators' astonishment, although his exposed skin and limbs were as brittle as dried wood, revealing the immense pain he must have endured before death, there wasn't a hint of agony or distortion on the Saint of Thieves's face. Instead, it held a subtle, peaceful smile, as if he were merely sleeping.

    Footsteps echoed in the room.

    Kurt rushed in. "Did you find it?"

    Startled back to their senses, the investigators hastily searched the thief's body. After a while, one of them said, "N-No, we didn't."

    "How could it be missing?!" Kurt, flustered, brushed them aside and started searching himself. True to his words, besides an array of suspicious lock-picking tools, there was no sign of anything resembling the Ark on the Saint of Thieves.

    Seeing Kurt's terrifying expression, the two investigators grew anxious. "We followed him all the way here. He definitely went into the bathroom! The body is right here!"

    "The body isn't fake," Judith knelt down. "On your way here, did you see anyone?"

    "There was nobody along the way... Wait!" One of the investigators suddenly recalled something. "There was a janitor mopping outside just now!"

    They swiftly turned towards the door, only to find that the janitor had vanished without a trace.

    A player with the ID Cleaner, who was indeed a cleaner in-game, hummed a tune as he had already slinked away from the entrance when the two investigators entered the restroom. Now, the Ark rested safely in his arms.

    The constant loss of health was starting to make it difficult for Cleaner to maintain his poise, and he began to run swiftly.

    Player Channel:

    Thief Saint: Thank goodness you're here, buddy. Otherwise, we'd be toast. But I'm pretty much done for now.

    Cleaner: No problem. When the Tax Collector came downstairs, I followed to set an ambush. It seems I was able to help.

    Cleaner: However, this curse is tricky. I can't hold out for much longer.

    Just as Cleaner finished speaking, his expression changed. He heard hurried footsteps behind him.

    They're here so soon!

    He swore under his breath and called out on the player channel while running: Quick, someone take over! I can't last much longer!

    Fortunately, during his work, Cleaner had taken the opportunity to familiarize himself with the map. He could navigate the Bureau of Investigation blindfolded. Upon receiving a response from another player, he darted towards the nearest escape route, attempting to lose his pursuers.

    Judith and Kurt weren't fools; they wouldn't foolishly chase after the janitor. Once Judith learned that the janitor had fled to the surface, she immediately called the surveillance room, requesting footage. Kurt, using the bureau's internal communication system, instructed the investigators to intercept anyone in a janitor's uniform.

    "Strange," Judith murmured while waiting for the surveillance team to locate the man. "Which faction are they from? And what was that thing they took? You said it's the bureau's ultimate weapon, but why haven't I heard of it? What does it do?"

    Kurt's face darkened. He hadn't expected the bureau to be infiltrated by an outside force. If the Director were awake, this wouldn't have happened. Moreover, why was the Director missing? Did that person do it? No, no, that person is already dead, and the Director is too powerful to be kidnapped. So, did he leave on his own? But why...

    Kurt found himself in an unprecedented state of confusion. As Secretary-General, he had never experienced such uncertainty. He was accustomed to following the Director's orders, as the Director never made mistakes. After witnessing the future in the Fourth Layer of the Dream Gap, they believed that only the Director could save humanity. Yet, why would such a person disappear when humanity needed him most?

    Or perhaps this situation was within the Director's expectations? If so, what should they do?

    "Hey, are you even listening to me?!" Judith grabbed Kurt's collar, shaking him fiercely. "In a crisis like this, you're daydreaming? Snap out of it and take responsibility!"

    Kurt instinctively brushed off Judith's hand. "...You never had the right to know... Only I and the Director were aware of that item."

    A vein pulsed on Judith's forehead. "So what? Where is the Director now? He should be taking control! What exactly are you enigmatic riddles doing all day?!"

    "The Director has his plans..." Kurt spoke his usual words, but even he didn't notice the lack of conviction in his tone.

    Judith took a deep breath and pulled out her phone to stream the live footage from the daring journalists on the scene, who dared not look in that direction themselves. The cameras captured more and more humans succumbing to Him as followers, while those unbrainwashed were being slaughtered by the tumors, their intestines and organs spilling across the ground.

    Several police cars were parked there, but the officers were assimilated the moment they stepped out, even those with blindfolds on. It seemed that once within a certain proximity, seeing or not seeing was irrelevant; one would either join the ranks or die outright upon approach.

    "Is this the plan you were referring to?" Judith's voice trembled, recognizing the faces of her dispatched investigation team among the corpses.

    They were all young, barely in their twenties or thirties, with lives barely begun and abruptly ended. One of the girls had playfully confided in Judith just two days prior about her boyfriend's proposal, inviting Judith to attend their wedding.

    But now, she too was counted among the deceased.

    Kurt was speechless.

    His gaze was blank, and Judith had lost all hope in him. Disregarding the fool who turned into a blockhead without the director around, she addressed the control room, "Have you found him?"

    "We have, Ms. Judith! We've traced him to the first floor, and he's heading towards the cafeteria."

    "Excellent! Keep him under surveillance at all times. If he has any contact with investigators or staff, report it immediately, particularly if he's passing on any information."

    "Understood!"

    The investigators were already mobilized, and Judith was making her way to the control room in the grand hall. She needed to maintain stability amidst the chaos; others relied on a steady hand to guide them through it all.

    Traditionally, that role had been fulfilled by the Director, but this was the first time someone else was stepping into those shoes.

    A step echoed behind her, and Kurt caught up, his words tumbling out quickly, as if to prevent second thoughts. "The Director once shared with me intelligence about the Ark. In a sense, it's the very reason the Bureau exists – we safeguard humanity's future and the pact between gods and men. The Ark embodies that covenant."

    "It represents... the broken Tower of Babel, a bridge to the heavens. If fully unlocked, it could even alter the subconscious of modern humans, acting as the ultimate key to unlocking the full potential of our minds."

    Judith paused, staring at him in disbelief.

    Kurt: "I wasn't lying. The Ark is indeed an extravagant existence."

    Judith: "No, what surprises me is that you're explaining this to me. Where's your arrogance, Kurt? Who are you?"

    Kurt: ...

    "Alright, enough with the jokes. You mentioned complete unsealing. How can the seal be removed?"

    Kurt didn't expect Judith to accept the premise so quickly: "It's impossible to remove the seal. It was imposed by the Thirteen Council of the Dream World. Humans have no means to do it. Moreover, it's cursed with the Seven Deadly Sins. Anyone who possesses it for too long will die, unless they can suppress the curse, which only the Director can do."

    Judith paused, her mind recalling the body of the Thief Saint slumped in that stall, a mix of complexity and astonishment flickering in her eyes.

    The complexity stemmed from having heard such secrets, while the shock came from...

    Just who were these people? What convictions did they hold that allowed them to carry out their missions with such unwavering determination, as if they feared neither death nor pain, all for some supreme belief in their hearts...

    What weighed even heavier on her heart was this:

    How many more of such individuals existed within the Inspectorate?

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