Cui Zuojing woke up in a pure black coffin.
The moment he opened his eyes, the first thing he saw was the pink sky. He quickly climbed out and walked through the rose field toward the front of the church. Under these blooming flowers were the corpses of countless believers.
He entered through the main entrance, arrived at the hall, and joined Wang Que, who had woken up in the rose field and was already waiting. They sat on the benches and waited for a while. Everyone woke in succession from coffins in various locations, confirming that Kether had purposefully separated them. But, after having shared intels with one another, everyone was able to move with the fastest speed.
This was far from the first time that Cui Zuojing encountered someone else’s dilemma. He immediately confessed to the white-robed Holy Son, Dong Linhai, accurately stating his sin related to the forest ranger’s death.
Dong Linhai’s movement was very unskilled as he drew a cross in front of him, saying, “I forgive you.”
The moment Dong Linhai’s voice fell, the cross he drew took shape, turned into a pure white cross, and fell at Cui Zuojing’s feet.
“So this is it.” Cui Zuojing picked up the cross.
Wang Que had also previously found out what her sin was and so she confessed to Dong Linhai and received the same kind of cross. Because they didn’t have enough time to explore, the others hadn’t found enough clues regarding their own sin. But it didn’t matter. They didn’t plan to follow the play set by the box and confess to the Holy Son. They just wanted to see what would happen.
Everyone went to the second floor. Cui Zuojing walked to the hidden room where he had previously discovered the woman. He twisted the cross next to the secret door 180 degrees. With the sound of the machine turning, the secret door opened, and the smell of blood rushed toward his face.
“Wait!” Dong Zheng suddenly frowned. He stared at the inverted cross with Jesus Christ hanging upside down. On the second floor of the temple in his kernel, the image of Murphy’s meme suddenly flickered with an image of an inverted cross. “The meme is attached to this thing!”
The pagan they’d encountered in the kitchen did indeed make an inverse cross to Cui Zuojing, wanting to deliver a certain message, but Cui Zuojing hadn’t understood at the time. Now, he raised his eyebrows in surprise. “So only if you see this thing, will you suffer from memetic harm? All the opening mechanisms to the secret rooms in this church have crosses like this, right? Does that mean that the moment we try to open the secret door, we’ll be infected?”
Dong Linhai had a sudden realization. “No wonder! At that time, I was hiding in the secret room. The reason the situation worsened so badly was probably because there was an inverted cross on the wall of that room!”
Victor’s face sank. “Kether knew I could resist all diseases, so she deliberately used this meme to lay a vicious trap. She simply didn’t want us to go out alive.”
Lin Hangzhi said, “If that’s the case, aren’t we all infected again?”
Victor calmed down. “It’s okay. I’m here. Even if we’re infected, we won’t get sick. You just need to be careful not to become separated from me.”
Cui Zuojing entered the secret room. The female had just finished giving birth, and she was at her weakest state. Like the first time, he promised that he would treat her baby well and left with the newborn baby.
Dong Linhai took off his white robe and wrapped it around the baby. Victor, who was the only one who had ever had a child, held the baby while Dong Zheng tore a piece of cloth and blindfolded the baby to ensure that he wouldn’t be affected by the meme.
They immediately arrived at the door of the hidden gallery. Dong Zheng unlocked the mechanical lock, and when the gallery opened, Cui Zuojing and Dong Zheng walked in while the others waited at the door. Walking past the paintings, Cui Zuojing saw the painting of himself in a maid’s skirt, and next to this painting, was the strange blank canvas.
Cui Zuojing pressed a hand to the canvas. The power of chaos sensed the power of time in his body and immediately echoed it. But it was far less powerful than before, which had once been so strong that Cui Zuojing could faintly perceive it from outside the hidden gallery.
Nana had left.
The echo of chaos power in the canvas indicated that she had once stayed there—or more accurately, that she was once imprisoned there.
“She’s gone,” Cui Zuojing replied to Dong Zheng, his voice echoing in the narrow gallery. “Then let’s start.”
Xia Qiongyun’s throat felt a little itchy. She lifted her head and cleared her throat. Her action seemed to have triggered a chain reaction. Dong Linhai and Lin Hangzhi also felt uncomfortable and began to cough.
“It’s this fast?” Lin Hangzhi was surprised. The first time he was here, he was caught up outside and didn’t have a chance to explore the church. Therefore, he was completely unaware of how serious the memetic harm was.
Only Wang Que was okay. She froze, and then she fished out the confessional cross she’d received from her pocket, and said, “Could this thing resist the attack of the meme?”
“It’s possible. If the meme is a pagan’s curse, as stated in the priest’s last words, it is indeed possible that the Holy Spirit could resist it,” Victor said, still holding the child. When he saw Cui Zuojing and Dong Zheng came out, he asked, “How was it?”
“She’s gone. Let’s start according to the plan.” Before Cui Zuojing even finished talking, Dong Linhai had already stretched out his hand and directly knocked down the large delicate vase next to him. The vase rolled down the stairs one step at a time, breaking into pieces.
Everyone was taken aback: “…”
Dong Linhai said quite innocently. “What? Didn’t you tell us to do this?”
He did indeed say that. Cui Zuojing pulled out his sword and cut down the railings, while Dong Zheng grabbed a candle and began lighting the curtains on fire. Xia Qiongyun lifted the cross statuette and smashed it against the rose window, causing the stained glass to shatter to the ground. Wang Que called out with her heart, and countless insects crawled out of the ground outside the church, densely converged into a black river, and began gnawing at the building. Lin Hangzhi directly took out his shotgun and fired a few shots into the wall. In this way, all fragile items couldn’t escape the fate of being crushed.
Victor covered the baby’s ears to prevent the loud sounds from frightening him and gently shook his arms. The child’s eyes were blindfolded and he could not see anything, but Victor’s warm breath made him feel very at ease, unlike when he was carried by Cui Zuojing.
The six members of the team were unscrupulously sabotaging, beating, smashing and burning everything, and with the blessing of their abilities, they set off from the second floor, went up to the third floor, and then went down another staircase, leaving a wreckage in their wake.
The pagans in the underground cavity heard voices and went up to check, but Wang Que and Dong Zheng’s detection capabilities allowed them to clearly inform everyone through the communication channel Dong Zheng had established. See one kill one; see a pair, kill a pair. Anyway, Cui Zuojing had already been cleansed of his sins, and no matter how much he killed, he wouldn’t be branded again.
Destruction was indeed a hidden evil instinct of human nature, and it made them very happy. This violent catharsis was far more pleasant than anything else, because it was too relaxing. Listen! The sound of the broken rose window was so clear and beautiful. Look! The appearance of the collapsed cross was so magnificent and moving, and the Virgin Mary that was so holy and beautiful was smashed like this!
They went through the church like demons, and quickly turned back from the third floor to the large hall. The priest’s body was still in the unopened coffin, but right now, no one cared about him.
Lin Hangzhi smashed the window sill behind the preaching altar with one shot. Dong Linhai stood on the coffin and looked at the rows of seats in the hall. Cui Zuojing looked up at him and said with a smile, “Why are you standing on the priest’s grave? Be careful that he doesn’t come to find you and hide under your bed.”
Dong Zheng was still setting fire. He lit the rows of wooden seats and the carpet between the walls. The flames soared quickly, burning everything. The flames were reflected on everyone’s faces, burning in their eyes.
Cui Zuojing drew a card from his pocket. He clamped the card between his fingers, and threw it out. He was Slayer, and his power made the card extremely strong and sharp. The card flew out and sliced through the rope that held the chandelier up.
The huge glass chandelier slammed into the ground and shattered all over the floor. Tongues of flames licked up the building and its furnishings, burning with a crackling sound. Cui Zuojing sat on the coffin. The cross on the coffin board was a bit in the way so he directly snapped it off, lifted it and threw it into the sea of fire.
In the blink of an eye, the entire hall was turned into ruins. They walked out of the church. From the outside, the magnificent church had almost no intact windows, and heat and smoke churned out through the opened doors and windows.
The rose field had been turned into a mess by underground insects. The bright flowers are uprooted, revealing the rotting human bodies below. Dong Zheng threw the burning candle inside, and the scattered corpses were quickly ignited.
At this moment, the child in Victor’s arms seemed to have felt something and began to cry loudly. Noticing an unusual fluctuation, Dong Zheng raised his head. This fluctuation seemed to be coming from inside the box, echoing from every corner of this place.
With a crack, the wooden frame of the church was completely shattered by the burning fire.
The tallest spire collapsed in heavy smoke, sending the cross above it crashing down.
As they watched, the baby suddenly became illusory, and a series of numbers composed of 0s and 1s emerged from the pink sky. This time, Cui Zuojing and Victor also felt the unusual energy that was overflowing from all directions, emerging from churches, roses, corpses, land, and everything.
The box had suffered too much damage. The plot had collapsed to the point where it could not adjust by itself. The program was out of control, and Kether’s unit determined that it was invaded by an abnormal virus. All the concrete bodies in the box had morphed into a string of data, constituting a program that was so complex that it was difficult to understand—this was the original appearance of Kether’s unit (box).
In a moment, all the colors and all things disappeared.
There was no sound, no wind, no temperature, and the crying child in Victor’s arms turned into data and floated to the sky to interweave with the data there. Even the flames that were constantly burning and leaping had turned into moving numbers.
Everyone stood closely together. Except for Dong Zheng and Cui Zuojing, everyone looked with horror at the sudden change in front of them.
Dong Zheng’s kernel presented a similar scene, represented by 0 and 1. All changes and reactions were just the movements and calculation of numbers. The concrete products of these procedures now had their faces torn away, presenting their true appearance in front of everyone’s eyes.
The data became more and more chaotic. The entire sky seemed to have become a huge display screen, and the numbers were moving frantically, simply challenging the limit of human vision.
Suddenly, a strong wave appeared.
Dong Zheng shouted in a low voice, “It’s coming!”
As everyone watched, a crack appeared in the sky, and a few strings of data flew out, transforming into five people wearing black tactical uniforms that were floating in the air.
They were holding guns and wore goggles, and their black tactical uniforms were quite handsome. But when he saw the familiar touch of red between them, Dong Zheng was stunned.
The man looked about 25 to 26 years old. He was tall and strong, with slightly messy red hair, sea-blue eyes that were hidden behind the transparent goggles, and freckles sprinkled across his cheeks. Every aspect was incredibly familiar.
“Allen?!” Cui Zuojing stepped forward and cried out into the silence. Dong Linhai’s eyes widened and he could hardly believe his eyes.
Even Xia Qiongyun recognized that this was the person in the portrait that was hanging in the living room of the castle. As everyone watched in astonishment, the five people in the sky flew in different directions, and “Allen” went straight toward the graveyard behind the church.
“Allen!” Dong Zheng yelled.
Seeming to hear his voice, “Allen” stopped. He followed the sound of the voice, looked down, and found several small people submerged in the torrent of data.
He gave a suspicious “Eh,” turned, and flew down.
“Allen” slowly landed in front of them. Vigilantly holding his gun pointed at them, he said in a stern voice, “You disrupted the program?”
“Brother Len, you don’t remember us?” Dong Linhai couldn’t help but say. Allen looked the same. He really didn’t expect that he would actually see Allen again one day!
“Allen” frowned. With a guarded and unkind face, he glanced suspiciously at the young man who looked very excited and said forcefully, “Please answer my question.”
“You don’t remember us but it’s okay. All of us still remember you,” Dong Zheng whispered. He looked at the person in front of him and said, “Your name is Allen. You used to be our best teammate. Unfortunately, in a certain box, you had to left us.”
“Allen” felt inexplicable. He had no idea what strange things these people were talking about. “You said I am called Allen? You must be joking. I am Task Force A01002, responsible for repairing abnormal data. Looking at this box, something really wrong must have happened to produce strange viruses like you.”
After this, he prepared to shoot. Dong Zheng grabbed the barrel of his gun, completely turning Allen’s data into concrete form. After all, what Dong Zheng was best at was data.
Perceiving the invasion of Dong Zheng’s kernel, A01002’s eyes immediately changed as he looked at him. He was now completely certain that this group of people were viruses! The box actually produced a new type of virus! He needed to quickly eliminate them and report them to the administrator!
Cui Zuojing quickly said, “Kether has washed away all your memories, so when you see us, we seem like a group of strangers who are like abnormal viruses. Don’t rush to deny it. You might as well think carefully. Think about what I said.”
“Do you remember what happened before joining the task force? Do you remember your name, age, and where you came from? Do you remember who you once loved? Remember the woman who was waiting for you at the hot spring hotel in District XII?”
No. A01002’s expression momentarily changed. Dong Zheng followed Cui Zuojing’s lead and said, “Remember, in Hamelin, the first time we met, you took the initiative to talk to me and Linhai. Then later, we worked together to escape from the dungeon and later from the hospital in the illusion in the Labyrinth of Time. You were the first friend I made in the Pure White Realm, and when I found you under that cliff, you asked me if you became an NPC, you would still remember us.”
“Allen’s” facial expression was guarded, and he genuinely didn’t seem even a little moved. Dong Zheng’s heart gradually sank. Allen’s companions were repairing data elsewhere, and it probably wouldn’t take them long to complete their tasks. There wasn’t much time left for them.
Cui Zuojing took a deep breath and said, “I know that right now, despite what we’re telling you, to you, we’re strangers you’ve just met for the first time. Although you find it hard to believe our words outright, please believe that we have a very, extremely important mission that involves the entire Pure White Realm and the fate of all the people within. If we’re discovered by the other members of the task force, they’ll try to obliterate us.”
“We need your help,” Dong Zheng looked into Allen’s blue eyes and said firmly. “We will help you find your memory. We definitely can do it.”
A01002 didn’t speak. Tears had overflowed Wang Que’s eyes since she saw Allen. She squeezed her hands tightly in front of her and finally spoke in a trembling voice, “Brother Len, you really…really don’t remember us?”
Something seemed to be surging within the depths of Allen’s mind, desperately trying to break through the invisible barrier that imprisoned it. But no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t break free from it. At that moment, A01002 almost believed them, and the reason was that their emotions were so strong. All their tears and forcible suppressed emotions thoughted his heart, which had been dead for so long.
But he really couldn’t remember anything. Perhaps, as the youth had said, his memory was completely erased. In his earliest memory, he was assigned to be a part of a five-member team and was named A01002. His tasks were to kill viruses, clean up abnormal data, and obey Administer 03, who often dispatched him to serve the supercomputer named Kether.
“Okay, what you said might be true.” A01002 sighed, combing his fingers casually through his red hair, a habitual movement that he often did back then when thinking about something troublesome.
He glanced in the directions of his other companions. He moved one hand away from his gun and held it out, palm up. A string of characters appeared in his palm. He looked at Dong Zheng and said in a low voice, “The programming for this box has been urgently stopped so that you all can be completely erased. This is the key to the emergency passage. Before the others see you, leave quickly.”
“Thank you.” Dong Zheng reached out, and the moment his fingertips touched the string of characters, they transformed into a stream of data that submerged into his kernel. A door opened next to them, revealing an information highway that extended out into unknown places.
Dong Zheng led the team and entered through the door first. After all, in this world of data, he was the strongest in the team. Cui Zuojing decidedly followed. Next went Lin Hangzhi and everyone else. Allen stood alone, watching them leave. He took off his goggles. As he looked at this scene with blue eyes, he felt a thread of something that he couldn’t understand.
When the emergency passage was finally closed and the group of people completely disappeared in front of him, Special Task Force member A01002 put his goggles back on.
—Do you remember anything before joining the task force?
—We used to be your most trusted teammate.
A01002 still behaved very capably, and began to firmly implement Administrator 03’s orders. But those words were quietly buried in his heart, waiting for a day to sprout.
Xixi: Thank you for the condolences, you guys. 🙁