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    Asianovel

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    Chapter 157

    Just as the deity issued its warning on Earth, the Druids had managed to lure the frenzied Blood Cultists out and steer them towards other floors' node rooms.

    It had to be said that the Blood Cultists were indeed formidable in their frenzy, but fortunately, their minds seemed to have been sacrificed along with their enhanced physique. One of the cultists announced in the player channel that he couldn't control his body anymore— serves him right!

    Leaving behind an amused emoji in the local channel, the Druid started his struggle for survival under the pursuit of the frenzied Blood Cultist.

    Druid: This isn't how it was supposed to go! Weren't we supposed to showcase Miskatonic University's prowess now? Weren't we going to demonstrate the brilliance of MU investigators by thrashing these cultists?

    Druid: Why am I being hunted down like a dog by these cultists? !

    Baldy: Hehe, we've already stolen the spotlight (puffs chest)

    Blood Cultist: What are you thinking? Isn't this the Cultist Simulator led by the great God on Earth? Hhhh New Harbor is the cultists' territory, so naturally, it's ours too!

    Black Cat: Isn't this still fine? The spotlight, whether on MU investigators or cultists, ultimately falls on the players.

    Madman: And wasn't the initial arena your suggestion, hahaha?

    Druid: Even so, pollution like this is totally unfair (muffles a gasp with a handkerchief). It's like a boss transformation! How are we supposed to fight this?

    God Among Men: @Druid @Black Cat, be careful! There's a monster heading your way!

    Black Cat: ?!

    Druid: ?!

    Black Cat immediately sounded the alarm, and the player squad warily scanned their surroundings, hearing hurried footsteps and something being smashed.

    As Druid rushed into the corridor, they nearly ran head-on into a hail of bullets from fellow players: "It's us! Hold your fire!"

    Black Cat lowered her gun, her face drained of color: "You scared me half to death. I thought it was the monster God Among Men warned us about."

    "In fact," Uncle Hao, the last member of the Druid team, swallowed hard, "it seems like it really is here."

    The players turned sharply towards the end of the corridor, where a creature resembling semi-solid tar emerged from the corner. Upon seeing this monster, everyone heard a system notification in their ears:

    "C Sanity Check: Success"

    "Cognitive Appraisal: Failed"

    "Cognitive Appraisal: Successful"

    After various degrees of sanity loss, the players gasped in awe, while the Druid and the Black Cat stared dumbfounded at the creature. "Wait... It looks somewhat familiar... A Shoggoth?!"

    Shoggoths were classic creatures from Lovecraftian mythology, supposedly inspiring the origin of slimes in Western fantasy. From this information, it was clear that, like slimes, Shoggoths had a gooey, unsettling semi-liquid form.

    However, unlike slimes, a Shoggoth's true form was far more terrifying and powerful. It resembled a massive, tar-like amoeba with glowing eyes – a mere glimpse could potentially drive an investigator into the depths of madness.

    The Druid and the Black Cat recognized it swiftly, not only due to their real-world knowledge of Lovecraft but also because Professor Alexis, their monsterology lecturer at the University of Michigan, had discussed these creatures in class.

    Of course, Shoggoths weren't anomalies; they were more accurately a servant race. Created by an ancient, highly advanced civilization for servitude, they didn't fit the typical definition of a monster.

    Upon recognition, the Black Cat and the Druid immediately pulled the other players to flee.

    Druid: "A Shoggoth? Why would there be a Shoggoth here... Oh, right, it is a Lovecraftian game, but isn't releasing such a creature a problem!?"

    Previously, the Druid and his group were being pursued by frenzied Blood Cultists. However, they no longer needed to worry about them, as the cultists who had been following them were now engulfed by the Shoggoth's tentacles, seemingly buying them some time.

    God Among Mortals: The ritual is entering its final stage. The new bishop must be revealing their trump cards. We need to hold our ground!

    Druid: Do we even have a choice?

    The players had fled immediately because the Hugog behind them looked utterly menacing!

    Its massive body nearly filled the corridor as it pounced, resembling a black flood that swallowed the frenzied bloodlings without a ripple.

    Black Cat: Guys! Send your coordinates! Let's gather and take this monster down together!

    Insane: We're not far. Head straight to the third floor hall; there's more space there.

    Black Cat and the others quickly reached the third floor hall, finding Insane and the rest already waiting. They hadn't been idle during the wait, busy setting traps with bombs and magical potions throughout the hall. Black Cat also noticed NPCs hiding in a corner.

    Insane casually explained, "We brought them along when we destroyed the nodes. It would've been more troublesome if they scattered while fleeing."

    Black Cat nodded. "We broke the nodes and the prison, but the NPCs captured for sacrifice managed to escape. I hope they're safe."

    "Oh, then the one we encountered on the way might have been freed by you. Look, there they are."

    The black cat paused, then turned its gaze towards the corner. A young man with black hair stood out from the others, and for some inexplicable reason, the cat felt a strange sense of familiarity with him.

    But where had they met before?

    Lost in thought, the black cat nudged its companion, who seemed oblivious to the situation. "Right, since you know about this monster, do you perhaps know any of its weaknesses?"

    "Shoggoths typically don't have any distinctive vulnerabilities, but they often prefer dark environments. In some adaptations, they might be shown to have weaknesses to light, sound waves, or fire. I'm not sure how this game has implemented it, but we can try all those options."

    "Got it. Then what are we waiting for? Quick, let's move!"

    Xorgus's massive form squeezed into the living room, eliciting terrified shrieks from the NPCs in the corner, who could hardly believe such a horrifying creature existed on Earth. The moment Xorgus appeared, Insanity immediately pulled the rope, triggering the pre-prepared flashbangs and fragmentation grenades whose explosive force engulfed the behemoth.

    Without giving it time to recover, the long-awaiting players unleashed their barrage upon it, showering Shoggoth with enchanted bullets as if they were worthless.

    "Keep going, don't stop! Hogarth has the ability to regenerate. We must keep attacking until he can no longer recover!" the black cat yelled.

    "Take turns to shoot, retreat to reload when your magazine is empty, and maintain stable aggro! Those who are injured should withdraw in batches to receive first aid!"

    Observing the players on the surveillance screens methodically battling the monsters, the Cardinal fell into deep thought.

    "Why do they seem so adept? And they know about this creature?"

    The Cardinal was perplexed. He had conducted numerous experiments, and no one could remain calm upon seeing the monster for the first time—no one! Even the most powerful of wizards would be terrified by its nightmarish form. In that instant of terror, the black monster would consume them entirely.

    This had always been the end result whenever he awakened it, without exception, until the players appeared.

    "From their demeanor, they seem to have some knowledge of this monster," God Among Men chimed in promptly, mindful of their mission to advance the Great Arrival. He feigned analytical insight, "Perhaps they've encountered something similar before, or they've learned about it through other means..."

    The Cardinal remained silent, his emotions mirroring those of the Bishops who had just been defeated:

    These were college students?!

    "MIT..." The Cardinal sighed. "What kind of institution is this school?"

    God Among Men didn't respond, nor did he offer a detailed explanation. He simply hinted, "I'll conduct a more thorough investigation into this school later."

    The Cardinal nodded, then relaxed slightly. "Let's retrieve their bodies later and investigate properly. Although this school might be powerful, these students aren't up to the task."

    God Among Men raised an eyebrow, surprised by the confidence in Cthulhu's strength.

    "Also, proceed with the ceremony," the Cardinal clapped his hands. Somehow, footsteps echoed from the stairway leading to the surveillance floor. It seemed that without anyone noticing, the God in Human Form looked up and saw a large group of NPCs escorted by believers entering.

    Players had only reached the fourth level. Before the Cardinal dealt with the Bishops, he had ordered the believers to bring the sacrificial offerings held in the Node Prison. Now, they had arrived.

    Confused, God in Human Form asked, "But don't these offerings need to be sacrificed at the Nodes?"

    A strange smile tugged at the corners of the Cardinal's mouth. "Dear Austin, do you think I would have no backup plan for such an important ritual?"

    "These offerings are merely backups. The real ceremony has already begun long before I informed you."

    God in Human Form pretended to understand, inwardly cursing the cunning old fox. He glanced at the escorted sacrifices. "So, what about these people? Are they not needed?"

    "Certainly not. They still have a crucial role to play… to please the Evil God with their pain after Its descent."

    Speaking, the Cardinal looked at the screen. "Oh, of course, if the suffering and blood of heretics can serve as material for the deity's arrival, I'm sure It will be even more pleased."

    Upon hearing this, God in Human Form looked back at the screen. As expected, the initially favorable situation for the players was gradually shifting.

    It was clear that enchanted bullets could deal damage, but their quantity was limited. Even the wealthiest veteran players had a finite stock, so players cherished their enchanted bullets, using them sparingly alongside regular bullets. However, despite this conservation, the enchanted bullets were depleted soon after the second round of suppressing fire began, and Xorgus started pushing back against the bullets.

    Inky tendrils lashed out, ensnaring and devouring players. Due to the immense size of the Shoggoth, players' efforts to resist were practically futile; once seized by a tentacle, their fate was sealed.

    NPCs, who had previously huddled in the corners of the hall, began fleeing in all directions. With no players attempting to stop them, and no need for sacrifices, those able to escape naturally did so.

    "Calm down, calm down! Its attacks must follow a pattern!" the Druid shouted. "We just need to find that pattern, then we can take it down like any other boss!"

    "Like we didn't know that!" Crazed grumbled, his gaze also fixed on the Shoggoth.

    Black Cat: Its tentacles target the nearest player first, then the most threatening one. Before attacking, the fluid around the tendril slightly contracts. Use that to predict its direction!

    Crazed: Acknowledged! As expected from a pro!

    Alerted by Black Cat's insight, the previously chaotic players regained composure. For gamers, as long as they could discern the boss's attack rhythm, no matter how high its level, victory was achievable.

    With Black Cat's keen observation, the Druid, during the Shoggoth's next assault, acutely sensed the telltale contraction preceding the strike.

    "Dodge: Successful"

    The Druid evaded the tentacle, eliciting a collective sigh of relief from the players. Their spirits lifted: It could be done!

    Unseen by them, a cardinal watching from the surveillance floor couldn't help but sneer at the scene.

    Before Shugers launched its next assault, Uncle Hao noticed the retracting tentacles were aimed right at him. He instantly braced himself, preparing to dodge. In the next instant, the tentacle struck with breathtaking speed—grabbing Babba on the other side.

    Babba: ?

    Black Cat: ? How could this be!

    The players panicked. At that moment, the druid murmured, "Wait a minute, since this game emphasizes freedom, could it be that the boss's actions are also free?"

    Players: ???? Who wants this kind of freedom? !

    Unfortunately, the druid's speculation seemed to be correct. Shugers' attacks were unpredictable, and to their horror, it appeared to possess intelligence. Evidence of this was when, instead of targeting the most threatening player, it attacked Matcha Milk Green and Not Crazy, who were healing the team – seemingly aware that taking out the healers first was key.

    With such a powerful boss, no discernible pattern, and intelligence, how were they supposed to fight?

    As the players struggled more and more, Black Cat panted, staring at Shugers and brainstorming whether a strategic retreat was necessary to prevent the entire team from being wiped out. Perhaps lost in thought, Black Cat failed to notice a tentacle zeroing in on him.

    By the time the black cat became aware, it was already too late. As its gaze finally locked onto the writhing appendages, its only hope lay in the roll of the dice.

    "Dodge (Penalty Die): Failure"

    Doomed.

    Once caught by a Shoggoth, it was almost impossible for a player with current strength to break free. The black cat instinctively closed its eyes, anticipating the revolting touch, but the sensation never came. It opened its eyes again, only to see a young man with black hair standing protectively in front of it.

    The man held the attacking black tentacle, leaving the black cat astonished – it hadn't been dragged away immediately!

    What kind of monstrous strength was this?

    The clown turned around, his bizarre makeup catching the black cat's gaze. The distinctive feature prompted an involuntary exclamation, "Edmund?!"

    The clown tilted his head without speaking, but the swirling knives in his hand spoke louder than words.

    Wait, why is Edmund here? !

    The black cat was utterly confused. Those followers seldom strayed far from Lane. If Edmund was here, then where was Lane?!

    Has he also descended?

    While the players were desperately fighting the Shoggoths, the deity on Earth was engaged in a fierce inner struggle. The cardinal had closed his eyes, proceeding with the final steps of the ritual. He was facing away from the deity, seemingly defenseless, creating an ideal opportunity for a sneak attack.

    If they didn't act now, wouldn't all their efforts be in vain if the malevolent god truly descended?

    However, since discovering that the cardinal had already prepared most of the ritual beforehand, the deity on Earth saw him no differently from an old coin. The cardinal had pretended that the ritual wasn't complete, deceiving the other bishops. Clearly, he had long intended to test his subordinates!

    Who knew if this was another trap to test their trust?

    The deity on Earth, seldom plagued by indecision, suddenly noticed that Black Cat had sent a new message in the channel.

    Black Cat: Edmund is here, guys! Could it be that we're saved? !

    Edmund?

    The deity on Earth was taken aback. He had entered during the second iteration and was unfamiliar with this disciple. But at that moment, his neural waves matched those of Black Cat's.

    If Edmund was present, then... was Lane also here?

    The divine presence in the mortal realm felt its heartbeat quicken unexpectedly, involuntarily conjuring up the scene of the conclusion of the second main storyline.

    That surreal scene still occasionally surfaces in the depths of midnight dreams, and even finds its way into my waking thoughts amidst everyday tasks.

    When God was in His third iteration on Earth, He didn't return to Arkham. In some ways, it could be said that He was allowing Himself time for contemplation, to cool down. Unlike the Black Cat, whose affection for Lane was openly displayed, He had already quietly amassed a collection of souvenirs in reality.

    God, in human form, unconsciously began scanning the surroundings. His gaze passed over the cardinal muttering prayers and the devout believers who were escorting the offerings forward. Suddenly, his eyes widened slowly, fixing their gaze on the center of the sacrificial NPCs.

    The white-haired youth was gazing at him with a gentle smile.

    God, in His mortal form, instinctively took a step forward. But He quickly regained composure, adjusted His expression, and approached the believers. "You, guard the entrance. We are at a critical juncture now."

    "Yes, yes!"

    The devotee, dispatched by the deity amidst mortals, hadn't even had the chance to witness the god attempt to engage Lann when suddenly he observed the white-haired youth's gaze lock onto the floor.

    The patterns above began to emit a soft glow.

    With Edmund's assistance, the player battling the boss lifted his head, and a soft glow began to emanate from the patterns adorning the entire building.

    As the moon ascended high into the sky, the air was at its thickest with magical essence.

    The deity was about to descend.

    "At last, we have waited far too long for this moment," the Cardinal said emotionally, his gaze fixed on the center of the ceremony.

    The god took a deep breath in the mortal realm, instinctively looking at Lane, only to notice that the color of his eyes had shifted. The original emerald green had transformed into a blazing gold, as if molten lava swirled within.

    None but Lane could see it.

    In Lane's eyes, an ethereal figure began to rise, using the believers as anchors and the ritual as a conduit, attempting to stretch its tendrils into reality.

    But had he given permission?

    Just as the shadowy form of the malevolent deity was on the verge of breaking through the threshold between reality and dreams, a door suddenly materialized before it.

    "A door! It's a door!"

    The deity's ethereal form suddenly became agitated, rushing towards the door without hesitation. Lane hadn't expected such initiative, raising an eyebrow as the door swung open for it. Behind the portal lay a scene unique to the realm of dreams.

    "No, no—" The unknown deity realized its predicament and attempted to escape, but it was seized by the branches extending from beside the door, dragging it inside.

    "You should have stood with us!" the deity shrieked towards Lane. If an ordinary person had been standing there, they would have lost their sanity immediately upon hearing such an blasphemous voice. However, Lane could comprehend the deity's meaning in his ears.

    The branches paused, and Lane pressed on, "What do you mean?"

    "You were meant to be ours, part of the one who created…."

    Not giving Lane a chance to hear more, the deity exploited the momentary slack in the branches' grip and exerted a sudden burst of strength. Its festering sores erupted with a yellowish-white fluid that corroded the branches like concentrated acid, attempting to break free from Lane's constraint and invade reality.

    The cardinal could already discern its form. Blood began to stream from his eyes, yet he reached out eagerly, "You have finally come!"

    Before he could begin his prayer, suddenly, everyone witnessed a massive door materialize behind the deity. Engraved upon it was the symbol of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, though its lower section was severed. Countless intertwining branches transformed into thick tentacles, extending from the door to mercilessly pull the deity back into it.

    "No, let me go—"

    As a mere spectral remnant, the deity was powerless against the force behind it. In the cardinal's stunned gaze, it was unceremoniously slammed shut within the door.

    This path led nowhere.

    Bang!

    As the phantom of the malevolent deity was pulled into the portal by the branch, the grand gate slammed shut, leaving all the cultists in a reverent silence.

    They couldn’t help but look at the cardinal. Was that it? Was that all?

    The cardinal was utterly dumbfounded, let alone the congregation; he himself could not comprehend what was happening.

    With the divine presence among mortals, he turned his head eagerly towards Lann, only to discover that the white-haired youth had vanished from the spot at some unknown moment.

    Yet, the divine knew that They had once graced the mortal realm.

    The bewildered believers asked, "Your Excellency Bishop, what should we do now?"

    The cardinal: ...Who am I to ask?

    The ritual never mentioned what they were supposed to do if the deity were summoned and then dragged back. Surely, they couldn't conduct another summoning ceremony!

    In the meantime, with Edmund's assistance, the players bombarded Cthugha into smithereens, forcing the colossal black monster to flee. Their cheers filled the air.

    Major Quest: The Mysterious Arrival.

    Current Progress: 20%

    Lane observed the threads slowly emerging in the sky, signifying that the Mysterious Arrival was becoming visible to some individuals.

    Ah, perhaps it also indicated that the number of players falling victim had increased.

    While the Black Cat team was tackling the new Bishop dungeon, other players were not lagging behind, given the abundance of cults in the new harbor.

    However, recalling the cryptic words left behind by the malevolent deity, Lane's initial sense of ease was once again replaced with suspicion.

    Who was that...? What was the issue with his origins?

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