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    Asianovel

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    Chapter 174

    The deity of darkness that had already infiltrated the swamp froze, its physical form becoming ethereal like a mist, vanishing from reality in an instant.

    The creatures under the deity's command, who had been coerced into obedience, were like battery-less toys that suddenly lost their purpose. They stood frozen in place, blankly staring ahead.

    As Lane approached, their gazes shifted to him, their faces revealing the familiar expression of both longing and fear that Lane recognized.

    It was strange that Lane could discern emotions on the peculiar faces of these creatures, each with their unique appearance. He shook his head, dismissing this odd thought, and then directed the plants to release the mutated villagers. As expected, there was no immediate way to rouse them from their nightmares.

    Perhaps it was for the best that they remained unconscious. If they woke up to see their current state, the shock might render them senseless.

    Lane sighed and decided to take these villagers back to the Divine Realm first, then figure out a solution later. He circled around the village once more, confirming that no one else was active within.

    Wait, no.

    Lane looked at the initial cultist who had died, his expression thoughtful.

    The malevolent deity's aim was to remain in the mortal realm. Judging from the state of the villagers since he entered the cottage, they had been unconscious for quite some time but were still alive, thanks to someone preserving their most basic life signs.

    This must be the task of these cultists.

    If Lane hadn't discovered the deity's descent, there might have been more remote villages like this one suddenly plunged into an eternal slumber, worshiping the deity in their dreams and forming anchors, allowing the deity to lurk unseen in this world.

    Perhaps when Their power had accumulated sufficiently, that would mark the beginning of the assault.

    Contemplating this, Lane let out a deep sigh and rubbed his temples.

    There was no respite, every moment, the threat of apocalypse and malevolent deities served as a constant reminder to Lane that he couldn't afford to let his guard down just yet.

    First, he would return to the Divine Realm to check on Archie.

    Just as Lane was about to lead the villagers away, one of the eerie creatures, which had only dared to observe from a distance, exhibited peculiar behavior. It recklessly approached, attempting to hinder Lane's departure.

    Lane paid it no heed. A creature of B-rank didn't warrant even a fraction of his attention now. His spiritual plants extended their vines, binding the creature's legs.

    The creature fell to the ground and desperately stretched its body. Limbs, three or four times the length of an ordinary human's, protruded from its skeletal frame, barely grazing Lane's ankle.

    "%*&¥……Master…"

    Lane paused and looked down at the skeletal creature curiously. "Did you just speak?"

    "…l#* Lord…"

    Logically, this bone creature didn't possess vocal cords to vibrate, nor did it have flesh, tongue, or throat. Nonetheless, its voice, in an unknown language, somehow materialized directly within Lane's mind.

    "Lord… Sir."

    "I… Want to go home."

    Lane's pupils constricted slightly as he gazed down at the creature. Its skull bore empty eye sockets, but in that moment, he could almost see tears streaming down its face.

    It was already known that these creatures were formed from souls that had ventured into the upper echelons of the Dream Gap and been corrupted by the fog.

    Human beings originated as Perfect Beings. Their descent into the Dream Gap might be a form of regression, no wonder the place was referred to as the Tower of Babel, the Stairway to Heaven. For upon ascending, one truly became complete. Perfect Beings were the closest to divinity, they were even the subjects of the Old Gods.

    These Perfect Beings, corrupted by the malevolent deities, lost their minds and contaminated the Dream World, leading to their banishment to Earth.

    Wouldn't that corrupted Paragon be...

    At this moment, Lane suddenly understood why the strange creature had treated him with such peculiar emotions: obsession, fervor, longing, and fear.

    In their eternal madness, they might have brushed upon secrets hidden deep within the soul.

    They wanted to return home, to their dreamland of origin.

    Back to millions of years ago, to live carefree lives under the protection of their Lord.

    ...

    In the end, Lane still took the bizarre creature with him, aside from a hint of compassion; he needed to conduct some experiments to see if the creature could regain its humanity.

    Upon returning to the Divine Realm, Lane visited Arche. Perhaps due to the Evil God's return to the Dream World, Arche's condition seemed much improved, and the swelling on his face was gradually fading under the treatment of tree sap.

    This also made Lane realize that while the Prophet's abilities were useful, involving the Evil God or the Dream World would pose an extraordinary danger to the Prophet's own body, regardless of accuracy.

    Lane placed Arche's body in the ICU of the Night Hospital and returned to the central courtyard. With a wave of his hand, a villager and the creature were bound by plants and presented before him.

    In his hand once more appeared the Ark of the Covenant.

    The essence of the Ark was derived from the mental power and innate talents of the Perfect Man, allowing it to effortlessly erase the anchors and connections that humans had with the evil gods. Fundamentally, it removed their subconscious belief in these deities.

    However, the Ark was not yet fully unsealed; only two seals had been broken so far.

    Looking at the quill in his hand, one seal had automatically dissolved the moment he first touched the Ark, while the other he had recently unlocked himself.

    It seemed likely that Ogar had done something in the Dream World, successfully breaking the second seal.

    After the second seal's release, the Ark's influence on human subconsciousness became more apparent. The Old Gods were inherently skilled at manipulating dreams, which were a manifestation of the subconscious. The Ark seemed to embody this authority, as evidenced by when Lane had outwitted God previously. If the Ark had already been unsealed then, he wouldn't have needed Satan's victory over God to expel Him from the dreams of the people of Orland.

    Now, he intended to use the Ark to attempt to reclaim the rationality lost by the anomalies.

    But as much as he spoke of it, when the time came to act, Lane found himself staring at the bone anomaly, unsure of where to begin.

    Did anomalies truly possess a subconscious? Did they dream?

    They appeared to be nothing more than monsters driven by madness.

    At that moment, Lane suddenly noticed that the skeleton's eerie silence was strangely peculiar. Looking up, he saw that the hollow sockets of the skeleton's eyes were fixated on the Ark in his hand, filled with boundless longing.

    A thought struck Lane, and he voluntarily brought the Ark closer to the creature. The instant the quill of the Ark touched the skeleton, Lane sensed fragments of a shattered scene being transmitted from the other side.

    A little boy and girl were playing in a garden when suddenly, a crimson moon appeared in the sky. Under its red glow, the innocent smile on the girl's face froze. Confused, the boy watched as the girl's body began convulsing. The surrounding flowers and grass withered instantly, like a fading painting. From the girl's corpse, the skeleton emerged.

    Snap!

    The scene ended there.

    Lane returned to reality, only to see the once-compliant creature now frenzied, relentlessly attacking the plants binding it.

    Was that... the scene seen by a Perfect Human before their transformation?

    Just as the skeleton was about to break free, Lane reined it in with more plants. He tried a few more times, but the previous scene did not reappear.

    Perhaps the Ark's permissions had not been unlocked to that extent, or perhaps too much time had passed, and the creature no longer possessed any rationality left.

    Lane sighed, waving his hand to send both the villagers and the creature to the psychiatric area of the hospital first. He would figure out a way to proceed gradually later.

    In addition to this, the issue at hand concerned the malevolent deities. To be honest, the prospect of dealing with them troubled him more than the Perfect Man. Knowing the suffering they inflicted upon the Perfect Man and the corruption they brought to the Dream World, he couldn't allow them to wreak havoc unchecked in the real world. Otherwise, reality might someday resemble the dystopian Dream World.

    It was also impractical for him to put out every fire individually. While Lane could indeed teleport momentarily, his range didn't cover the entire globe. Moreover, if more deities descended, he couldn't abandon all his responsibilities to intervene.

    What should he do? Expand the Divine Kingdom to encompass the entire world?

    Once again, the path of the second timeline flashed through Lane's mind, but he immediately dismissed it. If he followed that route, wouldn't all his previous efforts have been in vain?

    With his current Fifth Layer abilities and the Seeds of Spirituality, he could remotely seal doors without turning all humans into forests. However, the prerequisite for sowing these seeds was true believers, and each true believer had a limit to how many seeds they could bear. This meant that if he wished for the Seeds of Spirituality to spread across the world, he first needed true believers to be present worldwide.

    And there he was, back to square one – the problem of church expansion.

    Lane couldn't help but cover his forehead and let out a deep sigh.

    "Camden,"

    Carmen, who had just returned from a business trip to New Port, paused for a moment before promptly responding, "My Lord."

    "Please investigate the current state of our church's development and the total number of devout believers."

    "Certainly, I'll attend to it immediately."

    Soon, Carmen presented the information to Lane.

    Lane glanced over the current state of the church's progress. He couldn't help but commend Carmen's abilities. Perhaps it was due to his experience managing Camul, coupled with his heritage as a descendant of a Sage, making him a natural priest. The church was well-organized, with no glaring mistakes.

    However, its expansion seemed limited by experience, proceeding at a moderate pace. Apart from Arkham, its influence only reached neighboring small and medium-sized towns, with an estimated 100,000 devout followers.

    This figure was roughly in line with the number of true believers Lane sensed, around 80,000. Considering that Arkham wasn't a particularly large city, most true believers were converted during that fateful night of the second main storyline. Under normal circumstances, having one true believer out of a hundred would be commendable.

    But this number was far from sufficient for Lane.

    Even if he weren't focusing on developing a divine kingdom, but simply spreading the seeds of spirituality worldwide, he would need at least three times this number of true believers.

    Unfortunately, he didn't have that much time left.

    Lane observed the data in silence, yet his mind was drawn to Amos's feats in the second timeline.

    In terms of manipulating people's hearts, that fellow was indeed formidable. Currently, Lane could only think of Amos as the one capable of propelling the Secret Church to such heights in a short period.

    Should he risk employing him?

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