Greg was still in a state of stupor when he stepped out of the manor's main gates.
He halted and looked back, observing the other guests whose faces seemed to have some sort of strange glow that he couldn't sense. At first, they seemed to be really happy with the banquet's conclusion, but in truth, everyone was greedily licking their lips as if wanting to bite a piece of succulent meat.
The cold wind blew and Greg shivered. Then, he jerked his head toward the depths of the manor and inhaled sharply.
Just for a moment, he had sensed extremely strong aether fluctuations, at least seven or eight of them. But in just an instant, only one—the strongest—remained.
And now, he couldn't even sense that one.
However, Greg could imagine that at that moment, there must have been several transcendent beings who couldn't hold themselves back and reached out for those five books. Then... they all died.
"It's not that hard to figure it out... Ji Bonong publicly announced his collaboration with the bookstore because he isn't afraid of others trying to steal them. These bunch have their rationality completely affected by those five books."
There would likely be... another bloodbath at A16 manor in three days’ time.
Greg shook his head and couldn't help but grimace.
In fact, how could he believe that he himself hadn't already been influenced by the bookstore owner? Otherwise, why would he start to have slight distrust of Secret Rite Tower...
"Speaking of which, I haven't seen Fitch since I ran to the side hall looking for Boss Lin," muttered Greg as he looked around. "Something has been wrong with him ever since he gained a portion of that Supreme-rank's memory and learned that he was a test subject of the Path of the Flaming Sword. I wonder where he's gone to?
"And Charlotte... Wait, where's she?!"
He suddenly became alert and returned to his senses, running against the crowd and glancing all around to get a glimpse of Charlotte.
She had been with him just a moment ago, yet disappeared in the blink of an eye when he was distracted.
Damn it! I let her escape... Greg cursed inwardly.
He had contacted once more after the matter concluded, and Secret Rite Tower would immediately send personnel over to capture Wilde's aide with the codename of 'Snowflake.'
Yet, at such a crucial juncture, Greg had let her escape.
Panting heavily, Greg stopped somewhere in the manor and pounded the wall beside him. He had a very ugly look on his face and, at the same time, he felt extremely dejected.
His teacher's fate was unknown, and he couldn't even accomplish such a simple task...
Just as he was greatly disheartened, he looked up for a moment and saw the ice-cold aristocratic young lady smiling at him from the opposite corner. She elegantly lifted the hems of her skirt and gave him a curtsy.
Without Charlotte's arms covering the book over her chest, its appearance was now fully revealed. The edges of the book were fascia flesh, connecting the book to Charlotte's clothes and the skin around it. Right at the center was a mouth full of sharp teeth with a thick forked tongue inside, swaying about like a snake, waiting for an opportunity to strike.
A sticky corrosive fluid dripped from the tongue, making a spine-chilling sizzle as it hit the ground.
Greg was taken aback, his face turning pale as he subconsciously took half a step backward.
However, for some reason, a gleam of light caught his attention. There was now a strange yet gorgeous ring on her previously unadorned finger. The scarab-shaped gem was extremely eye-catching.
Charlotte stuck out her own tongue revealing the teleportation array inscription on it. "We'll meet again. Send my regards to Joseph. He won't be so lucky next time..."
The usually cold voice of that young lady seemed strangely fused with another older voice.
"You!!!" Greg snapped back to his senses. With widened eyes, he reached his hand out and took a few steps forward.
However, the young lady had already vanished.
Fitch had already left Area A and returned to 136th Avenue, where he had spent the most of the year wandering at; randomly picking an alley in this slum and sat down.
He rolled up his sleeves and eyed his semi-translucent arm that was constantly twitching.
The colorful skin rippled constantly like the surface of water, occasionally emitting flashes of light that appeared to take physical form as they dispersed into the air as if they were connected to a certain crack.
"Huu..." Fitch trembled and raised his head, revealing half of his already assimilated face.
A huge energy was gathering and bubbling restlessly within his body. If not for trying his hardest to control it, he would have blown up right away like a water balloon.
Haniel's complete death had caused all of her power to leak out.
While most of the power had erupted between spatial and dream cracks, it had formed a spatial turbulence which caused a large part of Norzin's underground frame to collapse.
However, a portion of that power was drawn toward a higher concentration of the same mysticism and surged toward Fitch, who had previously obtained a part of Haniel's power.
And when Haniel died, it wasn't only her power that dissipated but her innate control over time as well.
In other words, after the death of Haniel, her power and authority over time were all inherited by Fitch.
In fact, the Clockwheel Worms squirming around at a loss having lost their only Supreme-rank now sensed the new ownership of authority and thus rebelled and went to support Fitch.
At this moment, the corporeal glimmers of light on Fitch's body was his connection to these Clockwheel Worms.
The void rippled, and a figure in a thick and tattered black robe appeared.
“How can this be? How could Haniel have died?! She wields time! Such a powerful domain concept..."
There was shock in the Void Intermediary's voice.
The other 'Angels' had already arrived for the current Path of the Flaming Sword gathering, and only Haniel was late. Sandalphon, the original contact, had died. Thus Zaphkiel, who could freely travel through the void, assumed the role and went forth to search for Haniel.
But shortly after he had followed the information provided by the void and came, he sensed the fall of Haniel. He spent the next two days searching but to no avail.
No matter how much Zaphkiel thought about it, he had no choice but to accept this fact.
"Looks like I can only return... This bookstore owner really has to be dealt with carefully. In just half a year, several Supreme-ranks have fallen in succession, and even Haniel..."
Just as Zaphkiel was about to leave, he suddenly received new information from the void.
"Hmm? This is... Why would the Clockwheel Worms suddenly... They still have a Supreme-rank?!"
Zaphkiel's tentacles tore through the void as he followed the flow of information and came to a small alley.
In that dark alley, a lanky young man seated on the curb was dressed rather sloppily, but flowing lights glowed brightly on the parts of his body that were exposed. Countless rays and gleams of colorful light passed through the gaps in time and connected with those Clockwheel Worms on the man's body.
While the young man's appearance and bearing wasn't at all similar to Haniel's, the powerful aura of authority over time couldn't be faked.
Zaphkiel breathed a sigh of relief as he appeared before the young man and said, "I knew you didn't die... Dividing a portion of your power to occupy this mortal's body, sacrificing a rook to save the king. How decisive indeed, Haniel."
Fitch was, at first, stunned when he eyed the unfamiliar Supreme-rank in black robes. Then, drawing out memories of this being from Haniel's memories, he raised an eyebrow and revealed a knowing smile. "Yes... It was too dangerous this time round."
Fitch then got up and dusted off his clothes, acting casual and asked nonchalantly, "Why are you looking for me, Zaphkiel? Where's Sandalphon? You don't seem the sort to be a messenger."
While Zaphkiel did feel somewhat strange for a moment, his doubt faded the moment Fitch mentioned both his name and Sandalphon's.
He took a step forward, made the void expand and cover the area, bringing the two of them to the place of the original covenant.
"Sandalphon is dead... Let's talk about that later. You are the only one left for this gathering. Hurry up. We must make the dream barrier crumble this time round. Also that bookstore owner... You nearly died at his hands this time, but that would mean you were able to sense his true strength. It would be of great help to us...
"It's time to work together and eliminate this threat!"
The Truth Union, Machine Loop.
The lower levels that had collapsed were not utter ruins. At present, many scholars in exoskeleton suits were cleaning up, lifting and removing debris and placing them aside.
"How long will this take…" A scholar working in a corner quietly complained to a companion beside him, "I haven't finished my project yet."
His comrade sighed. "Just be content. Kleist's and the labs of many others are right here among these ruins." Stamping his foot on some of the wreckage, he continued, "All their data is lost, and the projects have to be started from scratch again."
The first scholar was slightly taken back for a moment, then he started gloating, "For real? I remember that their experiments had already been going on for two whole years. If they were to do it all over... Tsk, tsk tsk."
His waist and legs immediately felt less sore, and he could continue digging up another ten tons of rubble with no issue.
The scholar who was chatting with his comrade suddenly paused. He vaguely saw some movement in the ruins a short distance in front of them as if something was about to come out from below.
A chill ran down his spine, and he thought to himself, No way…
A slender hand suddenly emerged from beneath a pile of rubble.
"Ahhh!" The scholar took two steps back in horror and fell to the ground, causing his companion to raise his gun warily. "What is it?!"
"Oh… Rick? And... Yalvis?"
A dust-clad woman with long black hair slowly got up from the rubble and patted her tattered white coat. Her sky-blue eyes were like prismatic gems that surveyed the two as she pushed her glasses higher up the bridge of her nose.
The two scholars were flabbergasted. "Chair-Chairman Maria?! You are still alive... No, why did you come out from there? Weren't you in seclusion to break through to Supreme-rank?"
"Yes, yes. I was indeed trying to break through to Supreme-rank, but the method was somewhat special and now I'm out... It seems like Andrew has done something incredible while I was away, huh."
Maria glanced around, then looked up, meeting the somewhat sinister gaze of Andrew who was looking down from high above. With a bright smile, she took out a notebook and waved it. "I found something interesting in the Lower District."
This novel is available on bit.ly/3Tfs4P4.
Lin Jie hummed a tune as he strolled over the snowy ground on his way back to the bookstore.
"I wonder if anything happened to Mu'en during the days I was away?"
While freeloading on free and drinks at the manor has been fun, the bookstore still gives me a much greater sense of security. As the saying goes, there's no place like home...
He took out the key and opened the door. As he entered, he announced loudly, "I'm back! Mu'en..."
Lin Jie stopped in his tracks and stared at that old and familiar face lying on the recliner with bandages all over his body.
Joseph struggled to raise a hand in greeting. "Hi, Boss Lin."