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    Asianovel

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    Chapter 135

    The cleaner's trajectory was obvious, heading straight for the cafeteria nearest to him. Along the way, he noticed the surveillance cameras swiveling to follow his movements. He curled his lips into a smirk and deliberately approached the investigators he encountered, getting extremely close before swiftly pulling away before they could notice.

    Passing investigators: ?

    After repeating this act five or six times, the cleaner darted into the cafeteria. It wasn't yet lunchtime, or rather, even if it was, few had the appetite to eat. There weren't many people queued up for food. He approached an empty counter, where the cafeteria lady asked habitually, "What would you like?"

    The cleaner smiled. "Spaghetti with tomato sauce and a tender beef steak."

    With the cafeteria's surveillance camera situated behind him, in a blind spot, the cleaner pulled out the Ark from under his arm. "I'll pay with this."

    Cafeteria Lady: "No problem."

    Before anyone else took notice, she casually stashed the Ark in her pocket and served up a heaping plate of spaghetti with tomato sauce and a mountainous pile of steak. "Enjoy your last chance to freeload at the Investigative Bureau's cafeteria."

    The cleaner took the plate and began eating in a corner of the cafeteria.

    Within ten minutes, the entire cafeteria was locked down, with no one allowed in or out. Judith and Kurt strode in, their gaze quickly settling on the man in the corner, calmly savoring his meal.

    He was even still clad in his janitor's uniform, the telltale signs of wear on the sleeves and hems indicating he'd been working here for some time.

    Just as Kurt was about to order the man's arrest, Judith raised her hand to stop him. She sat down in front of the janitor and watched him eat with apparent interest.

    From Kurt's earlier account, she already knew that those who had touched the Ark were cursed and doomed to die. For a man seeking death, torture or interrogation would be futile.

    Judith said as she sat down, "If the Ark is on you, it would be wise to surrender it promptly."

    The janitor replied, "If you truly believed it was on me, I should have been pinned to the ground already."

    "Handing it over to someone else or hiding it will be in vain," Judith took a deep breath before continuing, "We've reviewed the surveillance footage along your route and intercepted all individuals who have come into contact with you. Who are you, and why do you wish to prevent us from using the Ark?"

    The janitor twirled his fork nonchalantly and smiled. "Us... Please don't misunderstand, we're not terrorists."

    "Then what is your true objective?"

    The janitor didn't answer immediately. His gaze shifted to Kurt behind Judith and the other investigators behind them.

    Exactly how many people within the Audit Bureau had been replaced remained unclear. It was only known that if exposed directly, the bureau might collapse altogether. At this crucial juncture, if even the Audit Bureau could no longer be trusted, Orland would truly be lost.

    This is why Justice Is Skin-Deep didn't consider reaching out to the trustworthy Judith first. There must be many pairs of eyes watching her now; they couldn't afford to act rashly.

    The cleaner didn't reply to Judith's question but continued chewing on his steak. Judith raised an eyebrow. At that moment, someone rushed over to her side, glanced at the cleaner, and whispered something in her ear. Judith's brows furrowed. "Not found?!"

    The cleaner chuckled. "Seems like we're still one step ahead."

    Judith gritted her teeth. "Do you even know what you're doing? You keep insisting you aren't terrorists, but what's the difference between your actions and theirs? With every passing minute, more lives are lost outside!"

    The cleaner attempted to say something else, but as he opened his mouth, thick, dark red blood oozed out, dripping onto the remaining half of his steak smothered in sauce.

    "And what a shame," he said, "I wasn't finished yet."

    "Wait! Tell me where exactly you took the Ark!" Judith surged to her feet and seized the janitor by his collar. Only then did she notice the intricate web of black markings spreading from his heart beneath his shirt collar.

    The janitor remained silent. Noticing that his life was ebbing away, he felt a sudden urge to play the role of a riddler.

    "The darkness...">

    "What!?" Judith refused to let any clue slip, leaning in anxiously to catch his words.

    The janitor's voice was barely audible:

    "Darkness takes root in light; we await the dawn."

    With those words, the janitor's gaze grew vacant, and the patterns on his body spread visibly.

    He was gone.

    Judith silently laid the janitor's body down, gazing into his eyes that held no fear or despair of death, only a subtle sense of fulfillment and anticipation.

    What was he fulfilled by? And what did he anticipate?

    Judith couldn't fathom it, but from the janitor's parting words, she sensed a hidden, colossal entity lurking beneath.

    During her time as an investigator, she had crossed paths with countless cultists and villains, yet never encountered someone like him, someone who defied classification as either good or evil.

    "Ms. Judith?"

    Judith snapped back to reality. Now wasn't the time for such contemplation; regaining possession of the Ark was paramount.

    "The Inspection Bureau is under emergency lockdown! Not even a mouse should be allowed out from now on!" Judith pressed her headset to her ear, her mind racing. The investigators behind her had already checked the cleaner's body and found no Ark. So where could he have hidden it?

    Wait a moment.

    Judith's gaze shot to the tray in front of the cleaner. Didn't he have contact with one more person? And wasn't the portion of spaghetti with tomato sauce and tender steak on his plate rather large?

    "Where's the staff member who served him?" Judith asked urgently.

    "Well, we locked down the canteen just now, so they should all be in the kitchen."

    Judith and Kurt sprang into action, but failed to find the staff member in the kitchen.

    Kurt was furious. "What's going on? Didn't we say nobody was allowed to leave during the lockdown?"

    The canteen supervisor trembled. "Sorry, before the lockdown, an investigator in the hall needed food. Considering the emergency, we sent someone to deliver it..."

    "Tsk, why didn't you mention this earlier?"

    "Terribly sorry! We'll go catch up with them right away!"

    "Let's check the surveillance," Judith murmured, massaging her temples. "Where on earth are they transmitting to?"

    Did it even matter? Or were they simply buying time?

    A valid question.

    Because the players themselves didn't know their destination either.

    In the player forums, the recently deceased Thief Saint and Janitor were engaged in a lighthearted banter, even though they should no longer be part of the main storyline. But who cared? They felt that their actions had been epic.

    Thief Saint: Hey, let me tell you, what does it really mean to be a 'Thief Saint'? Stealing such incredible stuff, wouldn't that count as the pinnacle of my profession?

    Janitor: Hilarious! Without me, how could you have succeeded? You would've been caught ages ago.

    Thief Saint: Hey, we're all players here, no need to be so formal (pats shoulder).

    Burning Dove: Sobs, it was so cool! I want to participate too, I want to join in qwq

    Security Guard: Don't worry, everyone should get a chance. Why? Because I just saw the Investigative Bureau lock all the doors leading outside (smiley face).

    A Sneaky Cat: Damn, how are we supposed to pass on the Ark now?

    Slime Bunny: I'm curious too.

    Message #64: Wait, where exactly do you plan to send the Ark? We still have no idea how to break this deadlock!

    I Am Glasses P: The evil deity hovering above the church is an instant kill. Forget about shooting it a few times, we can't even scratch its surface, qwq. The players outside have temporarily given up and retreated from the central area.

    After all, no player wants to waste their character cards unnecessarily.

    Pudding Meowmeow: Maybe we need to wait for the boss's second phase, but even if it does, will we actually be capable of defeating it?

    Pudding Meowmeow's words left everyone in silence. Yes, was there really any hope of victory just because the second phase would begin? If not, wouldn't their efforts to pass on the Ark be in vain?

    100,000 Ways to Lose Sanity: It's not necessarily so. Generally, if there's a main storyline, there should be a chance to overcome it. Otherwise, could it be that the hope lies within the Ark itself?

    Thief Saint: I've tried, but it won't budge. It's completely sealed.

    Point-Line-Surface: Indeed, usually, there would be a way to complete the main quest. But haven't you forgotten that we forcibly triggered this one?

    Midnight Bell: Ah, seems like there's some truth to that.

    Upon this remark, all the players recalled the crimson warning when the Bureau of Investigation's main quest began, and they fell silent.

    Victim: Haha, thanks to those 'smart' ones acting on their own, we're probably going to fail this main quest now.

    Tiger Black Dog: Can't you just speak straightforwardly?

    Victim: What did I say? Isn't it the truth? This kind of confrontation with an evil deity isn't something that should be unlocked at our current stage, right? Weren't you the ones who took matters into your own hands, and now others have to bear the consequences?

    Victim: You all got carried away without considering the aftermath, so deal with it yourselves.

    Tofu Brain Super Delicious: You didn't object back then either.

    Victim: Why, am I your mother, reminding you of everything and ensuring you can walk independently?

    Druid: Enough bickering, actually, there might still be a way to handle this.

    Druid: Besides, confronting an evil deity at any stage in this game seems unlikely, but the current game difficulty is challenging yet not entirely impossible.

    In truth, if not for Lane's words in the Divine Realm, both Druid and Black Cat would indeed be feeling stuck. But for some reason, knowing that Lane would intervene gave them an inexplicable sense of reassurance.

    At this moment, Druid and Black Cat were still driving around the city center, doing their best to protect citizens from the monster's gunfire. This creature wasn't actually that strong; it seemed slightly weaker than a D-class anomaly. With accurate shots, one bullet could take it down. The citizens' panic earlier had mainly stemmed from its terrifying appearance.

    Now, some people had regained their composure. Led by Druid, Black Cat, and other players, citizens had started driving alongside to assist or provide support.

    The tumor monsters, realizing the difficulty in hunting their prey, learned from their mistakes. After rescuing several humans, they began to gather in groups, using their numbers to overwhelm their opponents. This sudden change in strategy made things more challenging for Black Cat and the others.

    Druid drove with heightened tension when suddenly, the glass on the driver's side shattered. A tumor monster reached inside through the window—

    "Bang!"

    Before it could sink its teeth into Druid's neck, it was shot and fell to the ground. Looking outside, still shaken, Druid saw an old man in a neighboring SUV holding a pistol, smiling at him and shouting, "I feel young again!"

    Seeing no player ID above the old man's head, Druid gaped in astonishment, thinking to himself, Truly a land of freedom...

    "Amazing, grandpa!" Black Cat couldn't help but exclaim.

    "Hehe, you're not bad either. I didn't expect today's college students to have such grit. It reminds me of my youth!" the old man replied loudly. "Which university do you attend? I'll recommend my grandson to apply there!"

    The black cat looked down at the elaborate emblem on its collar, recalling Lon's earlier suggestion. It chuckled and said, "Miskatonic University!"

    The nation's armed forces made their entrance at this juncture. Unlike Arkham, Orlane had actual military presence, and now they deployed a vast array of fighter jets, tanks, and infantry. With overwhelming firepower support, the once-troublesome tumor monsters were eradicated. Swarms of fighter jets flew overhead, and with each volley of fire, countless monsters fell to the ground.

    Their vehicle was flanked by a few well-equipped armored cars, and from one of them, a soldier in the passenger seat, upon seeing the battle-scarred car carrying Black Cat and the rescued citizens, gave them a thumbs up.

    "Fine young folks, do you need assistance in escorting you to a safe zone?"

    "No need," the Druid cried. "Be cautious, there are still many civilians in the central area who haven't been rescued. Whatever you do, don't look at that thing!"

    "Rest assured, of course we do," the soldiers replied confidently, striding past stylishly.

    "Woah!" The druid exclaimed, looking excited, "Maybe we won't even need Lane to intervene..."

    The black cat retorted, "Do you even believe that yourself?"

    The druid's expression froze. "Alright, I guess not..."

    They watched the departing army with solemn expressions, genuinely praying for their safety.

    The military couldn't deploy large-scale weapons, as there were still many citizens gathered beneath the bizarre angel. They had to fire tranquilizer rounds while carefully carrying unconscious civilians out and setting up warning perimeters around hazardous areas, clearing away the tumors.

    Initially, this tactic seemed effective; the angel remained motionless in the sky. But as time passed, a moment arrived when things changed.

    The faith of the people caused the angel's eerie form to gradually fade. Suddenly, It stirred, unfurling Its wings.

    Blocking out the sun.

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