Victor winked at the others. Lin Hangzhi and Xia Qiongyun walked out first, followed by Dong Linhai and Wang Que. Meanwhile, Victor turned his back as he waited. Finally, Cui Zuojing couldn’t help it anymore. Cupping Dong Zheng’s face, he kissed him deeply.
The breath between them was quick and hurried. This kiss had nothing to do with passion and everything to do with the outpouring of emotions from the bottom of their hearts. Dong Zheng wrapped one arm around Cui Zuojing’s waist and stroked his face with his other hand. Warm liquid flowed between his fingers, filling his heart.
Red-lipped, Cui Zuojing looked at him, eyes full of tenderness and reluctance. Dong Zheng wiped the tears from the corners of his eyes and whispered, “You’ve been my hero for so long. Now, I can be your hero for once.”
Cui Zuojing smiled. “But you’ve always been my hero.”
If it weren’t for Dong Zheng, he would never have reached the central area so quickly. If not for Dong Zheng, Cheriyu Nana would have defeated him inside the painting in Rose Church, resulting in the loss of his power and perhaps even his life.
Cui Zuojing lowered his head and rubbed his tears on Dong Zheng’s shoulders, sniffling. Knowing that there was no time to delay, he pretended to relax. “I’m leaving.”
“Go.” Dong Zheng pressed a light kiss onto his forehead, like a feather falling on the surface of a stream, setting off faint ripples. Just like on Dusk Island, when Dong Zheng, disguised as Domingo, gave Cui Zuojing that first kiss.
Cui Zuojing turned around, walked into the dynamic key passage with Victor, and left the computer program.
The string of dynamic numbers shrunk back down and flew over to hover above Dong Zheng’s hand before digging into his palm and disappearing. It re-appeared inside his kernel, where it would remain unless taken out again.
Dong Zheng took a deep breath, suppressed all the emotions in his chest, and turned around. He sat on the back of the crawler, and under the gaze of countless security bacteriophages in the sky, he moved in a certain direction along the information superhighway.
Some people who died in the box may choose or be randomly selected to become prisoners, NPCs, or supervisors. After Allen died, Kether collected his soul and washed away all of his memories. He became a member of a task force that was automatically dispatched to patch up random errors. Kether couldn’t intervene in this process, unless she informed Administrator 03 in advance to prevent him from being dispatched.
This allowed the Wonton Insurgency to encounter Allen by accident and obtain the task force’s exclusive emergency access key. What’s more, from the CPU’s mouth, Dong Zheng learned where many things were placed in this supercomputer, including the NPC’s memories as well as discarded information.
Dong Zheng didn’t want to harm Memory and the CPU, both of whom had their own individual personalities. Therefore, he only had one recourse.
If a person destroyed a trash can, no one would say anything, right?
As they moved from inside to outside via the configuration of the dynamic key, they felt almost no discomfort as they shifted from data to physicality.
The sky was blue. Clean clouds floated leisurely overhead, and the breeze carried the scent of grass and flowers unknown. The sun was invisible, but the brightness was just right.
Everyone in the team couldn’t remember the last time they saw such good weather. In District VII, they had long suffered the rainy weather, and now, suddenly breathing the dry and fresh air and standing under the warm sun, they felt shocked.
Not far away was a square area surrounded by bushes and trees. The area was very large. Everything looked so beautiful, but soon everyone discovered an oddity—there was no sound at all.
There were no birds singing, no wind blowing on the forest top, and no other sounds. It was so quiet that its silence became terrible, like a beautiful dream that turned out to be false.
Lin Hangzhi looked around and asked in a low voice, “Where is this place?”
Cui Zuojing had recognized this place at first sight. He and Victor looked at each other and he slowly said, “God’s Back Garden.”
This was where the Queen’s Castle was located. It was the place where pilgrims on the last leg of their pilgrimage must enter, where they would face the Queen’s heirs before finally being able to walk in front of her.
“It seems that our journey has reached its final destination.” Victor looked around at the maze constructed by plants, and the scene of that year seemed to have appeared in front of him again. But this time, some people were no longer here, and standing by his side were new companions.
“Is the Queen in there?” Wang Que stood on tiptoe. From here, she could see a castle looming in the middle of the tall maze. It was the same castle Wang Que had seen in Luo Yan’s dream, the same dream that a clown who wasn’t a clown and a Queen were sitting at the long table, discussing the issue of hunting down the meme Murphy.
“Yes, generally speaking. You won’t leave the back garden.” Cui Zuojing took a deep breath. After eleven years, he finally came here again.
He’d failed back then but had luckily kept his life. Today, he would not allow the same thing to happen again!
“Although we got here faster than planned, now that we are here, we have no reason to turn back.”
Dong Linhai said, “Of course. Even if you want me to turn back now, I won’t be able to. We just need to walk forward and we’ll soon be home.”
Everyone’s eyes instantly lit up at the word “home.” Yes, home. Standing in this place, this was probably the closest they’d ever come to that word.
Everyone nodded, and they firmly agreed. “We all must move forward.”
Cui Zuojing’s gaze swept over everyone’s faces. Finally, he returned his gaze back to the maze and he said, “Since you’ve decided to move forward, please remember my next words. These reminders may determine your life or death.”
Everyone looked at Cui Zuojing with eyes full of firm determination.
“After entering the maze, something will definitely happen to separate us. This is inevitable. After being separated, the heirs will find us alone and try to kill us.”
“We now know that the Queen’s heirs are Cheriyu Nana, J, Midnight the Cat, Chang Hui, Worm of Mystery, and Kether. Dong Zheng will deal with Kether, but which heir will you face? This is an unknown. If you encounter an heir, do not panic. The moment you panic, you will definitely lose and the price of losing is your life.”
“I suspect that J will look for me or Uncle first. But, just remember to be careful about J’s disguise. Once you see a snake around, he would definitely be there. His weapon is a nine-section whip. It is poisoned so when you fight against him, try not to get hurt. Meanwhile, Midnight will summon spirits and change you into a cat once you become weak. Watch out for cats, because they’re likely Midnight’s spies.”
“The best way to fight against Worm of Mystery is to separate the book from its host, but in this process, you must be careful not to have any contact with the book. Otherwise, you will immediately become its next host. As for Chang Hui…if you can avoid getting caught by the rain around her, you can try to make a deal with her.”
Cui Zuojing paused, then said, “We’ve reached the final juncture. In the face of danger, use any means and any trump cards you can think of. Don’t worry about the price, because only in getting through the maze and reaching the Queen can we finally have a chance to leave.”
Everyone listened carefully, keeping every word he said firmly in their hearts. Cui Zuojing stretched out his hand and said, “Come on. I’ll see you in front of the queen.”
They put their hands on Cui Zuojing’s hand one by one. Six warm hands, six young hearts beating in their chests, following the thirst for life and the desire for freedom.
Dong Zheng approached the recycle bin.
The huge trash can was still collecting useless information. The garbage data from all sides of the computer were gathered here, and all were thrown in.
Dong Zheng jumped off the crawler. The crawler, transformed into existence by his spiritual power, had been working hard. Now, having finally completed its mission, it turned into a string of data and dissipated in the air.
He stood in the very center of the path, looking up at the bin. A safety bubble woven by programs and data rose from the ground to securely protect him inside, making the data flow around him so that he wouldn’t be disturbed.
Dong Zheng closed his eyes and sank into his kernel. Murphy once left a “gift” somewhere in his brain.
Walking along the 361 steps of the magnificent temple, with the six-winged fallen angels guarding both sides, Dong Zheng pushed open the temple doors and walked in.
The first floor of the temple was magnificent, with star sand flowing into a pool. The Naive Bayes Algorithm, data compression, the Diffie-Hellman Key Exchange Algorithm…all of Dong Zheng’s awakened programs and algorithms were displayed on this layer.
Walking up the spiral staircase, Ding Zheng soon reached the second floor. Victor’s power of body that was stored here, along with the energy from the collapse of the temple, had already dissipated. But Murphy was still sitting quietly in her wheelchair. She seemed to notice Dong Zheng’s arrival, and so she raised her head and opened her dark eyes to look at him.
“I’m here for the gift you gave me.”
Murphy had left, but her meme would always remain in the heart of the infected person. This meme that spread through visual contact would never disappear, unless its host had amnesia.
He didn’t know where the real Murphy was, but Dong Zheng was certain that she must know what was happening here.
“Murphy” stretched out her hand and opened her bloodless lips. Her voice rang out into the empty temple.
“I will give what you wanted, as a reward for saving me.”
Dong Zheng raised his hand and placed it on the girl’s slender palm.
The invisible explosion erupted from their hands and quickly spread out from the temple to the entire kernel. The ensuing wind blew back Dong Zheng’s hair and clothes. The kernel was now connected to the meme, allowing Dong Zheng to see the countless Murphies inside the port of other people’s memories.
In one and a half year since she’d left her imprisonment, the meme named Murphy had infected nearly the entire Pure White Realm.
And through this Murphy on the second floor of his temple, Dong Zheng could access all these connecting ports.
This was the gift she’d left for him.