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    Asianovel

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    Chapter 143

    The citizens awoke.

    The old man abruptly rose from his seat, looking around in surprise as he realized that he was no longer in a pitch-black void. He touched himself and found everything to be intact.

    "I'm back?"

    The driver, sitting beside him, slowly came to, his expression dazed. "I think I had a bizarre dream?"

    "Oh? What dream?"

    "I dreamed that the world was taken over by devils. They defeated God and turned all humans into trees, but humanity still lived on in another world," the driver said groggily while holding his head. "But in that other world, humanity was already extinct."

    "Coincidentally, I had the exact same dream." The old man sighed, holding the object in his embrace. "Unfortunately, I can't recall what the devil or his followers looked like now. I only remember something about a Forest Church?"

    "The Forest Church…"

    Everyone who had woken up murmured the name quietly. All they could remember was that the Forest Church worshiped the Shepherd God, who had vanquished God.

    Some wore fear on their faces, while others felt despair at the vision of the future they'd glimpsed. Still others murmured the name of the Forest Church with fanatical yearning.

    ...

    Having dealt with a few trifling matters, Lane hastily returned to his divine realm alongside Ogier's avatar.

    He had been scared out of his wits; that trip nearly cost him everything.

    Up until encountering the angel, things had been under control. But once that God appeared, everything changed, and the final projection of fate by the Netherworld only made Lane wish he could strangle his past self for deciding to investigate the truth at the Bureau of Scrutiny.

    No, he should have gone straight for Fate and strangled it first!

    Now, although Fate had delayed the time and Judas failed to seize the position of God, the information on Lane's side had still been exposed!

    Lane didn't fully understand the significance of his identity, but from the second timeline and Ogier's usual nervousness, he could tell it was something serious. However, to know the specifics, more information was needed.

    And Ogier held that information.

    Upon returning to his divine realm, Ogier was already waiting for him. He seemed to have a vague understanding of what had transpired, and placed his hand on the ground to reclaim the shadow.

    Lane’s fingers twitched, a hint of discomfort flickering in his eyes. Ogar, ever observant, sensed Lane’s resistance and asked, "What’s the matter?"

    "No problem," thought Lane, for some reason recalling the Pan from that alternate world line.

    The shadow is akin to an embodiment of Ogier, yet it differs from the red-haired youth that Renn had previously separated. The shadow that Ogier divides does not possess an independent consciousness; to put it bluntly, it is akin to his hands and feet, endowed with a portion of the original's power. Upon reintegration, it will have knowledge of the events that transpired during that period.

    With the shadows receding, Ogler naturally became aware of the fragments that Lane had unconsciously perceived earlier, and understood the reason behind his somber expression.

    "Ogre, I need more intelligence."

    This time, Augur didn't refuse Lane's request.

    Before the conversation began, Lane couldn't help but ask, "Does your oath not matter anymore?"

    Previously, Augur hadn't been able to share such information with him due to an oath he had sworn.

    "You already know, so it doesn't matter," Augur said, his tone pausing for a moment. "The original purpose of the oath was to prevent other malevolent deities from gaining this knowledge. But now, the information has likely already been leaked. If we remain ignorant, we'll be at a disadvantage."

    "Still, there's no need to be overly anxious."

    Noticing Lane's frown, Ogier whispered soothingly, "It's because we're not entirely powerless now. The secrecy was initially necessary to protect you through the early stages, but it was never going to remain a secret for long."

    "Hmm?"

    "Because you've started awakening the power to open doors," Ogier said. "Using that power will alert the Dreamworld's gods, so it was only a matter of time before they found out anyway."

    Ah, Lane recalled. He had used that key when he opened the Ark's 'chest' previously.

    "Now that you have the Ark and a divine kingdom, things aren't as grim as they seem," Ogier consoled him.

    Ogier's words did help ease Lane's tense nerves. He frowned in thought. "There are still many things I don't understand about the timeline Fate showed me."

    "Firstly, in the first timeline, do you know the identity of that old god traitor?"

    Ogier nodded and then shook his head. "We can confirm that he is a member of the Thirteen Perfect Ones council, but who exactly he is remains uncertain."

    "The Thirteen Perfect Ones council?"

    "It's the remaining organization of old gods in the Dreamworld," Ogier explained. "When you saw the first timeline, didn't Amos mention 'Perfect Ones' and 'Celestials'? He was right. Earth wasn't originally humanity's home, and humans weren't called humans at first. They were known as Perfect Ones."

    "A Perfect Being?" The religious-sounding term made Lane frown. "Similar to the mythical Golden Humans or the First Generation of humanity?"

    Ogar: "Somewhat similar. Perfect Beings are a species born in the Dream World, beloved by it. In the Dream World, they can control or influence everything around them with their will and mental power."

    Lane was taken aback. He recalled what Professor Alders had said in the main storyline: "Words become law? Thoughts manifest? A world of subjective idealism?"

    "Um, something like that," Ogar replied.

    Lane frowned. "But wouldn't that be chaotic?"

    For instance, if one person wished for milk to gush from the ground, while another wanted fruits to grow, wouldn't that be utterly contradictory?

    "Yes, that's right. That's why there's the system of lords," Ogar explained. "The relatively weaker Perfect Beings would attach themselves under stronger ones, making the latter the lord of a region. Gradually, the Perfect Beings discovered that the more revered a lord was, the more their mental power would strengthen and grow. A powerful lord could protect more weaker Perfect Beings, and lords would be responsible for establishing rules within their domains. This is how the Old Gods initially came into being."

    "Of course, not all Old Gods evolved this way. Since Perfect Beings are children of the Dream World, they are nurtured by it. Some are born with the power of rules. These Perfect Beings are gods from birth, usually more powerful than the 'Lord Old Gods.' Their domains would attract the largest number of Perfect Beings."

    Lane slowly digested the information Ogar conveyed and began to jot down notes silently. What is this? This is background intel for the next version!

    "Is the Council of Thirteen Perfect Beings composed of the thirteen most powerful Old Gods?"

    "Somewhat, initially, it was formed to facilitate discussions on how to address the various issues that arose in the Dreamworld. But eventually... it changed."

    A hint of surprise flickered in Lane's eyes. "What happened later?"

    "Foreign gods, or what you call evil gods, invaded the Dreamworld."

    Evil gods...

    Lane instantly recalled the scene he witnessed after briefly opening the gateway to the Dreamworld: the blood-red moon obscuring the sky, the mist enshrouding the world, the seemingly contaminated land and skies, and the massive arm descending from the celestial canopy.

    Wait a moment. It's a given that evil gods would cause mental corruption. If this is a world of subjective idealism... Lane's pupils narrowed slightly.

    Ogar's following words confirmed Lane's speculation. "That's right. Due to the arrival of the evil gods and the pollution they caused, everything spiraled out of control."

    If the Dreamworld's order and structure were constructed by the Perfect People's minds and wills, then when their thoughts descended into madness, it was inevitable that the Dreamworld would be corrupted in return.

    Whether it was the lifeless black earth or the night sky with only a blood moon hanging overhead, devoid of the sun, all were consequences of the Perfect People losing their minds.

    "Of course, upon realizing this, the Old Gods united to respond actively. However, before they could mount an effective offense, the Chief Arbiter's Dream World would fall first to the corruption of the Perfects, forcing them to abandon most of their inhabitants and send the less tainted Perfects to Earth,"

    This is how humanity as we know it came to be. No wonder the 'Anchors' of humans hold such significance to those foul deities and Old Gods.

    More accurately, present-day humans can be seen as descendants of the original 'seeds' of the Old Gods, for their thoughts and spirits innately carry power.

    "But Earth was a complete hostile environment for the Perfects. In the Dream World, they never fell ill or worried about aging. Here, however, the moment their connection to the Dream World was severed and they set foot on this land, they'd fall sick – a kind of ailment that could be likened to homesickness, gradually eroding their souls. And due to their eternal lifespan, there was no escape from this suffering."

    "Therefore, a change had to be made. An Old God of Life came up with a solution: sacrificing their eternal lives in exchange for genes that allowed future generations of humans to adapt to the environment."

    "No wonder Sauron suffered so much later on," Lane realized. Then, he took out his greatest gain from this journey, the Ark. "So, what exactly is this thing?"

    Ogar's gaze also fell onto the quill in Lane's hand, a hint of nostalgia in his expression. "It's a pact – a pact between lords and their subjects, between the Old Gods and the Perfects."

    "Given that the corruption of the foul deities was irreversible, the Perfects were defenseless against them except for the Old Gods themselves. These Perfects would, in turn, contaminate the Dream World. Thus, some were forced to leave their homes and settle on Earth. To prevent the foul deities from locating Earth through the overly active spirits of the Perfects, the Old Gods had to sever any hope of the Perfects returning to the Dream World and cut off their innate talents."

    "You used the Ark to manipulate and deceive the subconscious of the citizens of Orland City earlier, right?"

    Lane nodded.

    "The Ark, you see, contains the distilled remnants of those former Perfect Ones, transformed into artifacts – it can be considered the core or a sort of controller. Because of it, the Perfect Ones were demoted to humans, and even if they revisited the Dream World, they no longer had the power to interfere within it."

    "However, it's rumored that if the Ark is unsealed, one might attempt to mend the severed dreams of humanity once more," Ogier paused, "But that's just what I've heard. There's another tale in circulation."

    "What's that?"

    Ogier fell silent for a moment before he continued, "The Ark has no means of being opened. The Old Gods deceived their people; this change is irreversible. The Perfect Ones have been forsaken by the Dream World. When the Old Gods severed the talents of the Perfect Ones, they also allowed the tainted parts to seep in. No Old God can now open it without being contaminated themselves."

    Lane recalled the mist that appeared when he had previously attempted to open it. The mist hadn't disappeared; it was merely temporarily suppressed within the Gap of Dreams. "Can the Old Gods be corrupted too?"

    "Certainly, though it's difficult, quite a few Old Gods have joined the ranks of the Evil Gods," Ogier replied. "Didn't you already encounter one suspected of betrayal?"

    Judas...

    Lane fell quiet for a moment. "Then, what exactly am I?"

    This question had long plagued him. If the Evil Gods caused corruption and triggered mutations, why had he managed to retain his sanity?

    Ogier looked at him intently.

    "Am I a Dark God, or an Old God?" Lane stared into Ogler's eyes and asked.

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