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    Asianovel

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    Chapter 137

    From the angel's bizarre posture, Lane gradually realized that this was the same angel he had seen hovering above the hospital before.

    But what on earth was this appearance?

    Back then, at the hospital, Lane had seen the true form of the headless angel. Although it was eerie, it still resembled a human being, albeit one without a head.

    But what was this creature in front of him now?

    In his previous life, Lane had read the Bible and knew that angels didn't actually look like the handsome and beautiful beings commonly imagined by people. However, no matter how he looked at it, this was just too much!

    The angel standing before him seemed to be a collage of legends - the six-winged creature from Isaiah, the all-seeing entity from Revelation, and the Seraphim from Numbers, originally meaning "burning ones," often depicted as a six-winged, four-legged flame dragon or serpent.

    All these elements combined to create the image of the angel he was seeing now, with its head divided into an ugly half and a beautiful half, a masculine side and a feminine side. This dichotomy made its appearance even more eerie.

    Yet, the general public seemed to perceive it differently. Lane witnessed many people weeping tears of joy at the arrival of 'Gabriel,' whose radiance was blindingly brilliant.

    Among them were journalists, soldiers, and even players. It was as if they couldn't see the creature's monstrous transformation. The closer they got to 'Gabriel,' the more they exhibited signs of alteration. Some grew a third eye, while others developed feathers or fish scales on their faces.

    This is... contamination.

    Realizing this, Lane was struck with a sudden understanding. He knew he could achieve the same effect, turning all of Orland into a deathly domain akin to his previous world's Silent Hill, if he only spread the fog throughout the city.

    Sure enough, the Evil God was the source of corruption.

    But now the question arose: how could he prevent the other side from doing the same?

    Lane pondered for a moment. The only solution he could think of was to counteract poison with poison. After a brief hesitation, he removed the white cloth that concealed his face.

    The cloth had been personally crafted by Ogul and given to Lane as a means to mitigate the effects of the Evil God's corruption. It prevented people from going insane at the sight of him, at least until his true form appeared. Lane hadn't taken it off in a long time.

    As the white cloth fell, revealing Lane's divine visage, the black cat beside him was left stunned. If not for Lane's power supporting it, the feline would have already transformed into a twisted plant.

    Similarly affected players and residents were also drawn to Lane, like two radioactive sources colliding and neutralizing each other. Some became even more frenzied, while others briefly regained clarity amidst their inner conflict.

    Take the Druid who had previously failed his Sanity Check. In an instant, he snapped out of the divine hallucination and returned to reality.

    "What the hell is going on here?!" The Druid stared in shock at the half-wooden body of the black cat, which managed a crooked smile. "You've got some nerve talking to me like that. Maybe you should look in the mirror."

    The Druid was in no better state than the black cat. His skin was sprouting with a dense network of feather roots, while the other half displayed withered, ring-like patterns akin to tree trunks.

    He resembled a monster – no, he had indeed become one.

    Just as the Druid regained consciousness for a few fleeting seconds, the system's sanity assessment notification sounded again. Glancing at his SAN value, he nearly leaped from where he stood in shock. "What the hell, so little SAN left?!"

    Now, his SAN was merely in the single digits. If it dropped to zero, he would plunge into eternal madness.

    Disjointed comments flooded the live stream:

    "Wow, a miracle! Last time, when Lane revealed his true form, the screen went black. Now there's still a signal."

    "Hurry up, Druid! While there's still a signal, show us your wife's face!"

    "Quickly pan the camera, quickly!"

    The Druid was exasperated by these lustful viewers. Amidst such a crisis, their first thought was still to see her face. Nevertheless, he acquiesced to their wishes and, out of curiosity, turned the camera around to see if the officials had made any changes.

    The live stream began to stutter, making it difficult to see clearly. However, miraculously, the frozen frames didn't result in a distorted model; instead, the viewers, catching glimpses of his divine visage, were left astounded by its impact.

    Though the frozen images were unappealing, Lan's face was so breathtaking that the buffering only intensified the viewers' frustration. They yearned to witness such beauty in motion.

    "Ah, ah, ah, what are you doing, official! Ah, ah, ah!"

    "It's so beautiful, ah, ah, ah, too gorgeous qwq, but why is the quality so choppy? It's killing me."

    "Is this the new strategy of the officials... First, they black out the screen whenever Lan appears to build mystery? Now, they're using buffering to push us into the game? Clever tricks, official!"

    "I wish I could enter if only you'd open up spots, official!"

    While some viewers continued to grumble, others picked up on something from the grim expression on Lan's face in the glitchy stream.

    "I can't take it anymore, Druid, switch the camera angle quickly! I've got enough screenshots; I'll just admire them privately!"

    "Hold on, what is Lan looking at? Is something coming towards him?"

    No need for the audience's prompt, as the Druid had already noticed – or, rather, couldn't help but notice.

    As Lane began to 'contaminate' his surroundings, the players and a few soldiers regained their brief sanity, naturally drawing the angel's attention.

    The angel altered its course in mid-air, flying directly towards Lane without any preamble, launching an assault on him.

    Red divine flames rained down from the sky. Lane focused, and countless seeds immediately burst forth from the ground. These black plants grew frenziedly, intertwining to form a massive shield.

    Fire usually subdued wood, but unfortunately for the angel, Lane's plants defied natural laws. Under his control, the tree trunks exuded a thin layer of special oil that insulated them from the flames.

    This was Lane's first battle against a genuine evil deity outside of a Divine Realm. Honestly, he wasn't overly confident, but despite this, he chose to engage in combat. Apart from a small act of kindness, it was also an opportunity to test his own strength.

    Based on the information Ogier had divulged earlier, Lane's adversary was no pushover, and the enigmatic 'Judas' might also be involved. Thus, Lane needed to be prepared, making plans ahead of time.

    For instance, regardless of what the enemy was plotting, Lane would simply disrupt it.

    The angel drew closer, its colossal size dwarfing Lane, exerting immense pressure. Lane raised an eyebrow, releasing hundreds more seeds. These rapidly grew into a massive Pan in the air, with goat horns and a human body - though the features of this giant Lane were more blurred compared to his true form.

    The collision between these two enormous deities surpassed Lane's expectations. They weren't just fighting with brute force. Upon approaching the giant Pan, the angel's tumors became active, sprouting countless tentacles and mouths that frenziedly tore at the giant's flesh. After taking some damage, Lane quickly reacted. He waved his staff, and the tender shoots on the giant Pan detached from their roots, parasitically attaching themselves to the tumors, feeding on their festering wounds.

    The entire scene was sanity-diminishing, and the druid dared not look anymore, fearing he might lose his reason. The black cat initially held out, but as time passed, it too felt an itchiness, immediately lowering its head.

    "Oh, my heavens!"

    "Good grief, it's revolting, horrifying, and breathtaking all at once..."

    "I've never seen a Lovecraftian deity clash before."

    "Yeah, this scene is enough to make anyone lose their sanity. I guess the game's public release age rating just went up to 21+."

    Compared to the players, those who barely managed to regain their composure, such as soldiers and defending civilians, fared much worse. Simply witnessing this battle claimed lives or drove them mad.

    Yet, the humans aligned with the angel maintained their illusionary, blissful smiles.

    However, the Gigantic Shepherd was merely one of Lane's tactics. On the surface, it seemed to possess only the trait of gigantification, but in reality, Lane employed dice, wands, and the abilities of the Clown and Albert to augment each attack.

    This was the first time he had stacked so many powers, and his eyes gradually turned black, with his green irises transforming into terrifying golden-red orbs. His pupils resembled those of a goat, horizontal lines, and a crimson-gold eye opened in the center of his forehead.

    The continually growing plants overpowered the angel's might, while the contest of corruption versus corruption reached its climax on another front.

    The humans who had stood not far behind the angel suddenly plummeted from their illusory paradise. They briefly regained their senses only to let out screams at the horrifying sight before them!

    This was a stark contrast to what had just transpired. There were no clean streets, no beautiful angels descending from the church, spreading the gospel, or guiding believers to heaven. Instead, it was a hellish street littered with blood, organs, and limbs, filled with monstrous humans and a horned, satyr-like creature battling a terrifying angel before their eyes.

    This was the grim reality, but people couldn't accept such a descent from paradise to hell.

    "S-Satan..." A believer pointed at the colossal Pan, his hand trembling, "He's Satan! The devil has descended!"

    Lane: ...

    Well, this is awkward.

    Indeed, Pan's image had once been considered by theologians as one of the origins of the devil, particularly due to his horns and goat hooves.

    The frenzied humans suddenly 'came to their senses.' In the face of true madness and illusory calm, some would always cling to what they believed, even if they had no prior faith. Upon witnessing this scene, they fell to their knees, trembling, praying to God and the battling angel for victory and redemption.

    Without even looking, Lane knew that more and more anchor points were connecting to the angel fighting him, making Its appearance increasingly divine. The wounds on Its body were healing, and not only that – the ground beneath the angel's feet began to emit a radiant white light.

    Lane's expression turned grave. At last, he understood why those gods would specifically choose 'angels' and 'God' as vessels for their descent.

    Christianity is the world's most widespread religion, particularly in the Western world, where it is omnipresent among its followers.

    Unlike Ronn, who started from zero, those who already held beliefs found it easier to transition into true believers after witnessing the descent of an "angel." Their existing faith served as a foundation for embracing this newfound divine presence.

    In fact, Lane was even forced to give a push during the process.

    This is what religion, this is what culture implants in people... an unconscious realm.

    "A divine realm?" Destiny murmured.

    "No, at most a pseudo-divine kingdom," the Prophet turned the pages of the book. With each word that emerged, 'He' seemed to grow older by a fraction.

    Such information was not easily obtained, even for a Prophet, especially considering the burden shared by the vessel.

    Those who dared to pry into the divine domain have never met with favorable ends throughout history.

    "So it is," Fate closed her eyes and sighed softly. "No wonder they targeted 'Gabriel' first."

    In mythology, Gabriel was the messenger of God, tasked with conveying the news of Jesus's conception and birth, and it was He who sounded the trumpet of the Last Judgment.

    Nothing could serve as a more fitting harbinger of God's descent and the impending Day of Judgment than this angel's arrival.

    The prophet couldn't help but ask, "Even in a false kingdom of gods, the divine blessings are immense. Could He actually lose?"

    As soon as he finished speaking, he realized he had asked a foolish question. If fate already knew the outcome, there would be no need for such elaborate maneuvers.

    True to form, Fate didn't respond, only casting her gaze afar, towards the direction of the Bureau of Inquiry.

    On the player forums at that moment.

    "Live Battle of Gods!"

    "Angel vs. Satan: Evil Deities Confront Each Other!"

    Amidst the prominent titles in the live-stream section, the heat was soaring. Of course, due to the Druid's proximity, his stream was actually the most popular.

    New and returning players, having respawned, were watching the live broadcast and engaging in discussions.

    Unrepentant Gamblers: "What an awe-inspiring cinematic! The developers really put effort into it. It's both disgusting and sanity-dropping, yet I can't look away."

    Favored by the Dice God: Money's burning away!

    Blonde and Tanned AP90: Hilarious, they spent all the budget on this version.

    Dice Goddess, Why Do You Just Watch?: But it seems Lane is at a disadvantage now. He was initially in the lead, so why did the angel suddenly surge forward?

    Demonic Overlord of Ruin and Balance: It probably started when those citizens went crazy.

    Skill Maxed in Holy Light: Is he really going to lose? Qwq, oh no, my Lane, my Lane!

    Clarity in Present Joy: Should we start preparing for defeat? (Gathering energy)

    Planning to Be Someone's Dog: What's going on? Normally, we should be worried about Lane not dying or getting corrupted, right? That angel's true form looks so sanity-dropping. What if Lane ends up like that?

    Victory of the Pup: Damn, you're right. No, no, I can't accept Lane turning into that!

    The forum's aesthetics enthusiasts erupted. After all, they had just witnessed Lane's divine appearance in the live stream. How could they tolerate his face being tainted?

    Strawberry Mapo Tofu: Calm down, we're already dead, and this isn't something we can control.

    The girl's little dress: Indeed, it depends on the players still in the game. As of now, both sides are at a stalemate in the live stream, and Lane isn't about to lose that easily.

    In other words, the decisive move for victory lies in that enigmatic Ark.

    Forum users who understood this rushed to watch other players' streams, eager to share the news with those who couldn't log in.

    Not only did the players realize this; the Doctor was also aware.

    At this point, the Doctor's mission was nearly complete. The cost of serving as a temporary vessel for the Meatpipe had left him a desiccated corpse, his flesh drained, eyes sunken, barely more than a skin-clad skeleton.

    Yet, he was not the slightest bit worried. He believed that the Lord would reward him as long as the plan succeeded.

    So that he might ascend to the eternal heavens before the end arrives.

    So close, almost there...

    As long as he fulfills the final mission entrusted to him by his master.

    A flicker of determination flashed in the doctor's eyes; he bit down hard on his tongue, expending the last of his vitality to issue a command to the abnormalities still within the Bureau.

    'At any cost, regardless of exposure, we must locate the Ark!'

    ......

    The Inspection Bureau shifted into high alert, with all personnel working tirelessly, even those in non-field support roles who were diligently seeking ways to assist the investigators on the frontlines in their efforts to aid the public.

    Well past lunch hour, yet not a single person had abandoned their post.

    In one of the offices, a team leader rubbed his temples, a habit born from his chronic stomach condition. He was prone to discomfort whenever he missed a mealtime, yet they simply hadn't the luxury of time for breaks.

    The investigators were all battling on the front lines, so enduring a little discomfort was nothing unbearable.

    At that moment, a knock sounded at the office door. The cafeteria lady pushed her food cart inside, smiling as she said, "I assume you haven't eaten yet. Ms. Judith asked me to bring meals for everyone. You don't need to leave your posts; I'm here to serve you."

    "How can we accept this?"

    "Oh no, no, no. You're all busy with world-saving matters of greater importance. Let me take care of this minor task."

    Before anyone could protest, the cafeteria lady lifted the lid of the cart, revealing the tantalizing aroma of the food. The staff, who had initially tried to decline, instantly swallowed their saliva and obediently returned to their workstations, continuing their tasks while eagerly awaiting the arrival of their meals.

    The canteen lady served plate after plate, placing the first one on the nearest desk. A female staff member, noticing the black patterns extending from the lady's arm, couldn't help but comment, "Auntie, your tattoo is so cool."

    "Yes, I think so too," the canteen lady replied with a smile, glancing out the office window where someone was already frantically whispering to others.

    Moving on to the next person, she glanced at his white ID tag.

    Endless Stars and Seas.

    "What would you like?"

    Realizing something from the chat in his live stream, Endless Stars and Seas smiled and replied, "Anything you give me is fine."

    "Oh, then here's a reward for this good child who doesn't pick at their food." The canteen lady lifted the lid of the tray, revealing a golden-edged Ark resting on a white plate.

    After the lady finished serving and left, an intruder suddenly burst into the office.

    "Wasn't someone just here giving out food?!"

    The staff members, who were hastily eating, froze. Their team leader stepped forward, "Uh, yes, wasn't it arranged by the higher-ups?"

    "Tsk, hurry up and chase!" Realizing they were too late, the person immediately ordered the rest to continue the pursuit and seal off the office. "Did anyone else leave besides that cafeteria lady?"

    "Yes, John went to the restroom..."

    Before the team leader could finish, they noticed the grim expression on the intruder's face.

    "Missed again." Judith couldn't help but clench her headset as she fixated her gaze on the screen displaying the cafeteria lady entering and exiting. Since there was no way to tell if she had taken the Ark, they had to dispatch people to chase after her and also search for John who had gone to the restroom.

    Soon, Judith's earpiece crackled with an update. The cafeteria lady had been found dead at the end of the corridor, and the food cart had been searched – the Ark was nowhere to be found.

    They were passed once more.

    Judith briefly removed her headset, covering her eyes.

    There was no antidote to the curse of the Seven Deadly Sins; contact with it meant death. Judith couldn't fathom why so many people would actually prefer to die?

    Just then, the control room was suddenly breached. Judith lowered her hand and gazed coldly at the intruder.

    It was a high-ranking manager, Basil Castler. Judith's relationship with him was neither good nor bad. Compared to the rather unpopular Kurt and his Secretariat, Basil could be considered diligent and conservative in his approach.

    Now, Basil's expression was coldly detached, almost unrecognizable: "Cut all connections and mobilize the entire Investigative Bureau to locate the Ark."

    Judith was taken aback. "Do you know what you're saying?"

    Let her explain. At present, the Investigative Bureau wasn't solely focused on finding the Ark; most of its investigators were out assisting in disaster relief efforts. The remaining staff were supporting them from behind the scenes, using satellites and street surveillance to inform them of safe zones, locations needing rescue, places to replenish supplies, and potential dangers.

    That was why Judith and her team had consistently fallen one step behind the players passing the Ark. The bureau simply didn't have enough manpower to spare.

    Cutting off the lines would mean that those investigators in the field would no longer receive any information, intelligence, or support. More importantly, the constant ability to connect gave them a thin thread of hope, assuring them they hadn't been abandoned.

    Once the lines were severed, those investigators would be exposed to unseen dangers.

    "You heard me right, I said immediately," Basil stated. "The only way to break this deadlock is through the Ark. Haven't you realized the situation yet? How long do you plan on letting yourselves be toyed with?"

    Disregarding Judith's protest, Basil promptly took charge of the situation: "Connect all lines here. Cut off any unauthorized access first."

    In the monitoring room, over a third of the personnel acted without hesitation, following Basil's instructions: "Lines switched."

    Judith was stunned, staring at them in disbelief.

    Basil ignored him, his gaze icy and rigid, almost inhuman. "Attention all personnel, an Emergency Audit Bureau mission is now in effect at the highest priority level. Effective immediately, anyone found with black markings on their body is to be terminated on sight. No one is to approach them, and if any individual is seen approaching and later attempts to leave, they are also to be eliminated."

    With that, he deftly sidestepped Judith's outstretched hand.

    Judith exclaimed, "Are you insane?"

    "Of course not," Basil replied. "You're the one who's mad. This is the only way to resolve this situation. It's better to kill than to let them escape."

    Judith pressed her lips together, clearly disapproving, but unable to refute him from this perspective. "We've already ordered all entrances and exits to be sealed. We'll catch them sooner or later... Unless, your true intention is to force them to speed up their transmission."

    Basil offered no confirmation or denial. "We'll see just how many of them will fall."

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