Chapter 67 Going home now
Water spurted out from Mr. Li’s breathing hole on his back. “Damn, no way!”
Lin Zhaohe asked, “What is that thing?”
Mr. Li said, “Do you remember when Alfarr mentioned that some witches used specific magic circles during the night of extreme daylight?”
Lin Zhaohe said, “Yes, I remember. Is this the magic circle? What is it for?”
If Mr. Li were human at that moment, his face would have turned pale. He said, “It seems like they are summoning something… and it looks like the magic used by the wasteland witches.” Even from a distance, he could feel the dark aura. Black clouds surged beneath the summoning circle, accompanied by flashes of lightning and thunder. The once bright sky gradually became covered by the dark clouds, making the enormous summoning circle even more noticeable.
“What should we do?” Floating on the sea, Mr. Li saw witches scattered along the shore, desperately trying to flee. However, an invisible barrier blocked their path, even preventing them from entering the sea. They struggled like helpless insects caught in spider webs.
“Let’s go back,” Zhuang Lao said. “Qi Mola’s potion isn’t ready yet.”
“Okay,” Mr. Li didn’t ask Zhuang Lao for further instructions, he simply agreed. He had an unexplainable trust in Zhuang Lao, like an instinctive intuition.
So Mr. Li took a few people and arrived at the shore, where they saw a group of panicked witches, including Qi Mola. When she saw Mr. Li and the others returning on their own, she couldn’t believe it and said, “You escaped and came back? Are you trying to get yourselves killed?”
“We remembered your unfinished potion,” Lin Zhaohe replied. “What is that thing in the sky?”
“It’s a madwoman’s summoning circle,” Qi Mola’s face turned pale. “She wants to sacrifice all of us to the demon god.”
“Can’t you run away?”
“Once you’re inside, you can’t get out! It’s cursed!”
“What about the person performing the sacrifice? The demon god hasn’t appeared yet. Can’t we stop it?” Lin Yan asked.
“She’s the first sacrifice, herself,” Qi Mola said. “A complete lunatic—others usually have a purpose when they set up a summoning circle, but this witch only did it to damn herself. So after setting up the circle, she cruelly sacrificed herself, knowing that the moment the spell is activated, the summoner dies, and the summoning can’t be stopped. The demon god she summons will devour all the creatures present as offerings.” Such a self-destructive lunatic, once in a hundred years. Qi Mola didn’t expect to be so unlucky to encounter her.
“What do we do now?” Lin Zhaohe didn’t know what to do anymore. After thinking for a while, he whispered, “Do magical girls count as witches?”
“No,” Qi Mola said mercilessly, “We’re on the adult channel, while magical girls belong to the children’s channel.”
Lin Zhaohe’s eyes welled up with tears and said, “That’s occupational discrimination, and besides, there are magical girl genres where heads roll. You can’t generalize.”
“So what can we do now?” Mr. Li asked.
Qi Mola replied, “Write a concise will for your family. Choose your words carefully.”
The group: “………”
The summoning circle in the sky began to emit a brighter and brighter light. At the same time, the whole world grew dark. The once bright sun in the sky was obscured by thick clouds. Darkness surrounded them, making it impossible to see even an inch ahead.
The witches stood on the beach, reciting incantations. They emitted various colors of light, like countless stars trying to rival the bright moon.
However, it was all in vain. The witches’ spells couldn’t even slow down the speed of the summoning circle. A massive black hole gradually revealed itself at the center of the circle, causing despair to appear on the faces of everyone witnessing it.
“No, I refuse to die here!” The previously lazy and carefree pure white witch suddenly burst into action. The white light emanating from her body became dazzling and fiery. Then, it transformed into a beam of white light and flew towards the black hole.
Like a moth to a flame, the white light was instantly consumed upon contact with the black hole. The pure white witch, who had been standing in place, let out a horrifying scream and, before everyone’s eyes, turned into an egg white.
Qi Mola cried out, “Tina—” tears filling her eyes, “You’re not alone!”
“Wait!” Zhuang Lao tried to intervene.
However, Zhuang Lao was a bit too late. Just as his voice came out, a similar radiance emanated from Qi Mola’s body. The light grew brighter and brighter. Within the black hole above their heads, a massive blood-red eye appeared, coldly observing everything like a beast. Soon, the once circular black hole began to distort and tear, as something struggled to break free from within. The witches, witnessing this sight, displayed even more despair on their faces. The light radiating from their bodies converged into a beam of brightness, but in the presence of the black hole, it was like a firefly against the moon.
From within the black hole came a wild beast-like growl, shaking the earth.
Then, a wing emerged from the black hole, accompanied by an immense pressure that made everyone struggle to breathe. Lin Zhaohe caught a whiff of a nauseating odor, as if rotting flesh had been decaying for ages. The stench alone was enough to induce nausea. With the emergence of the wing came a pair of blood-red compound eyes and a mouth covered in slime.
“It’s over,” came Qi Mola’s weak voice, “It’s Beelzebub.”
Beelzebub, one of the seventy-two demons, representing the sin of gluttony. Its appearance meant that no one present would escape. It would devour everything it laid eyes on. The monstrous creature called Beelzebub was unknown from which work it originated. It had the head of a fly and the body of a human, with enormous wings extending from its back. Its entire body was covered in foul-smelling slime, with countless maggots wriggling about. Just the sight of it was nauseating. It landed heavily on the ground, causing a cloud of dust to rise. The previously calm sea churned violently upon its arrival, accompanied by thunder and lightning, as if it were doomsday.
Mr. Li’s face turned grim. It was unclear what he was thinking, but he kept shaking his head vigorously. “No, no, no—absolutely impossible—don’t even think about it.”
Lin Yan said, “Won’t you give it a try?”
Mr. Li replied, “It looks too unappetizing. I can’t bring myself to eat it!” Worried that nobody would believe him, he quickly explained, “There’s something sacred about it. I’m no match for it.”
The breath emanating from Beelzebub weighed heavily on Lin Zhaohe, and the other witches around him were in no better condition. Some of the weaker ones had already collapsed, barely clinging to life.
Lin Yan clenched his teeth and said, “I’ll give it a try!” He couldn’t let so many witches perish.
The witches were also making efforts. Countless witches had exhausted their powers and transformed into eggs, just like the pure white witch. But their strength was nowhere near the level of the demon before them. It was as if, one day, the god they believed in appeared before them, and all they could do was struggle feebly and beg humbly.
However, the demon had no mercy for its followers. It eagerly accepted the summons, impatient to indulge in a magnificent feast. Its enormous mouth was filled with sharp teeth, and it suddenly sucked in everything on the ground with tremendous force, attempting to devour everything in sight.
Lin Zhaohe was almost sucked in as well, but luckily Zhuang Lao grabbed hold of him. The surrounding witches weren’t as fortunate, screaming in agony as they were about to meet their demise.
“That’s enough,” Zhuang Lao frowned.
Lin Zhaohe looked at Zhuang Lao and noticed a change in his expression. It reminded him of the person he had seen in Lin Yan’s memories — emotionless, devoid of joy or sorrow.
Zhuang Lao raised his gun.
A tremendous and indescribable pressure suddenly appeared. In that moment, Lin Zhaohe couldn’t even stand straight and was forced to kneel halfway to the ground. However, the source of the pressure wasn’t the demon in front of him. It was Zhuang Lao, by his side.
Lin Yan, Mr. Li, and everyone present were not spared. They looked at Zhuang Lao with fear and confusion, as if they were gazing at a monster.
Zhuang Lao pulled the trigger of his silver handgun. With a bang, the silver bullet, accompanied by flames, raced towards Beelzebub. Beelzebub also turned to look at Zhuang Lao. Miraculously, Lin Zhaohe caught a glimpse of the emotion called fear in its numerous compound eyes.
The tiny bullet hit its body, and Beelzebub lowered its head to observe the minuscule bullet hole.
How absurd! The wound wasn’t even as thick as one of its hairs, but intense pain ignited throughout its body like fire. It opened its mouth and let out a piercing howl.
Countless flies gushed forth with the sound. Its body began to crack and fragment like a melting candle, continuously falling apart.
Beelzebub turned to retreat into the black hole, but despite exerting all its strength, it could only manage two more steps.
Its colossal and terrifying body collapsed with a thunderous crash. In front of Lin Zhaohe, it rapidly turned black and transformed into an uncountable mass of swarming flies.
Beelzebub was dead. With just one shot, Zhuang Lao destroyed its physical body and soul. The horrifying pressure instantly dissipated, as if everything that had just occurred was a collective illusion.
The once joyous atmosphere of celebration fell into a deathly silence. It was not until a young witch couldn’t bear it any longer and let out a mournful wail that the frozen crowd seemed to come back to life.
Lin Zhaohe, who was forced to kneel on the ground, raised his head in astonishment and looked at Zhuang Lao. His gaze fixated on the silver handgun in Zhuang Lao’s hand. He had seen Zhuang Lao use it before, but he had always thought it was an ordinary handgun. However, when he saw the distinctive silver markings on the gun, Lin Zhaohe wore an expression of disbelief. He even thought he might have been mistaken and wanted to take a closer look. But Zhuang Lao had already put the gun away, and he lowered his head, extending his hand towards Lin Zhaohe. “Xiao He.”
Lin Zhaohe grasped Zhuang Lao’s hand and was lifted from the ground by him.
“Are you alright?”
Although they were unharmed, the scene before their eyes was chaotic. Cries and shouts mixed with roars as the witches desperately searched for their companions, trying to confirm their safety.
“This is bad,” Mr. Li exclaimed, wide-eyed. “Lin Zhaohe, according to my stargazing, it seems you were destined to face this calamity.”
Lin Zhaohe also understood why Mr. Li said that because in front of Mr. Li, there was a black egg. There were many such eggs at the scene, but the rose patterns on this one and the strong scent of liquor emanating from it informed him of its identity—Qi Mola, the witch who had promised to help him concoct the magical potion in the afternoon. Now, things took a turn for the worse as the witch had transformed into an egg…
“What do we do now?” Lin Zhaohe was dumbfounded.
Mr. Li volunteered and said he would go and ask. He then grabbed a nearby witch and asked if there was any way to save the witch who had turned into an egg.
The apprehended witch was a bit afraid of the group and explained in a low voice that it was indeed possible to revert back. The egg form was simply a result of the witch exhausting her magical power, and she would recover after resting for a while.
Mr. Li asked, “How long is ‘a while’?”
The witch replied, “It depends on the situation. Under normal circumstances, it could take a few months, but if the overexertion is severe, it might take several years.”
Mr. Li looked at Lin Zhaohe sympathetically and said, “I don’t think having an extra pair of ears as a side effect would be a big issue. How about we leave it as it is?”
Lin Zhaohe: “……” You never know which comes first, the unexpected or tomorrow.
It was clear that they couldn’t stay here for several years waiting for the witch to recover. After discussing among themselves, they decided to bring the witch’s egg back with them. It wouldn’t be safe to leave the egg here. If some passing wild beast decided to have it as a snack, Lin Zhaohe would be stuck with dog ears for the rest of his life.
Lin Zhaohe’s eyes welled up with tears as he mentioned their difficult financial situation at home. He couldn’t afford two pairs of headphones. Zhuang Lao pinched his ear and reassured him, saying it was no problem, the company would reimburse the expense. This ear-pinching gesture had become a habit, and it was quite troublesome for Lin Zhaohe. He trembled as he asked, “Boss, can you please stop pinching my ear?”
Zhuang Lao responded with a nonchalant “Okay” but would still do it again next time, leaving Lin Zhaohe at a loss.
After placing Qi Mola in the bag, they finally set off on their return journey.
It had been a while since they last rode the cable car, and the once dense mushroom field had now grown lush with grass. Nature’s ability to recover was truly astonishing. As long as there was a little space, vegetation would unreservedly thrive.
After leaving the S Fusion Zone and boarding the ferry back home, Lin Zhaohe was indeed tired. The first thing upon arriving home was to take a shower and then promptly fall asleep.
The soft bed felt like a heavenly gift as Lin Zhaohe closed his eyes and slept soundly. He slept for twelve hours straight, only to be awakened by hunger from his dreams. Upon waking up, there was freshly prepared hot food from Little Red Square. Lin Zhaohe drank milk and had a bite of the heart-shaped fried egg. However, something seemed missing at home. He looked left and right until he suddenly noticed that the female ghost who was usually perched on the ceiling like a mural was nowhere to be seen.
“Where is the big sister on the ceiling?” Lin Zhaohe pointed upward.
“She’s next door,” replied Little Red Square with a seemingly cheerful mood. It had changed into a small floral dress and pointed to the side.
“Next door?” Lin Zhaohe was taken aback. Without even changing out of his pajamas, he went to the adjacent room and knocked on the door.
Creak! The door opened, and behind it was the beaming face of A’Yao. “Hey there, Brother Lin! Where have you been? Haven’t seen you these past few days. Do you want to come in? I just baked some fresh cookies.”
Lin Zhaohe hadn’t even said a word before being enthusiastically pulled inside.
Upon entering the room, Lin Zhaohe’s gaze fell upon the wall where the female ghost used to perch, the one from his own home. However, something about her seemed different, hard to describe… she appeared more beautiful.
“Is this your friend?” A’Yao carefully observed Lin Zhaohe’s expression and asked, “You two aren’t boyfriend and girlfriend, are you?”
Lin Zhaohe remained silent for three seconds. “…Why would you think that?” Boyfriend and girlfriend? Who would be in a romantic relationship with a female ghost?
“Oh, then I can rest assured,” A’Yao smiled.
Finally, Lin Zhaohe noticed what was off about the female ghost. She seemed to have washed her hair and styled it, applied some light makeup to her face. She wasn’t ugly to begin with, and now that her complexion wasn’t as ghastly, if it weren’t for her posture while perched on the wall, she would just appear as a beautiful girl.
Lin Zhaohe took a sharp breath. “Did you do this to her?”
A’Yao seemed a bit embarrassed as he rubbed his head and explained that he had chatted with those beautiful female spirits before. He realized that he had been too shallow, fixating on superficial appearances, overlooking the beauty of the soul. After this resurrection, he earnestly reflected on his shortcomings.
Then came the beautiful encounter with her soul.
Of course, this beautiful encounter was described by A’Yao. From Lin Zhaohe’s perspective, it was just a person who wandered around at night, disturbed ghosts, and ended up being haunted by one.
A’Yao said, “Love is like a ghost, you believe it exists, or you don’t.”
Lin Zhaohe raised an eyebrow. “?” I don’t think that’s how that saying is used.
With A’Yao’s enthusiastic welcome, the Miss Ghost successfully moved in, scaring away all of A’Yao’s female friends who were afraid of ghosts in the process.
With Miss Ghost around, A’Yao’s probability of being stabbed to death significantly decreased, and his quality of life skyrocketed. He even began considering settling down… The only downside was that Miss Ghost would occasionally try to kill him for fun, but A’Yao didn’t mind at all. Compared to his female friends who played with knives every day, being killed by a ghost was nothing.
His vivid description left Lin Zhaohe feeling dizzy. In the depths of his mind emerged that classic phrase: “Before meeting the ghost you like, you always thought you liked humans.”
“I was actually worried that Miss Ghost might be someone important to you,” A’Yao scratched his head, blushing, “but now I’m sure she isn’t, so I’m relieved.”
Lin Zhaohe: What kind of relief are you talking about?
“I even learned to make these cookies specifically for her,” A’Yao said, “but she doesn’t eat them. It seems she doesn’t really like them. Sigh.”
As Lin Zhaohe looked at A’Yao’s expression, he suddenly understood why A’Yao was so infatuated with the ghost. This guy was handsome, emotionally intelligent, and had a good temperament. These qualities were practically lethal to girls. When someone like him got serious, there was almost no resistance. Thus, A’Yao, who was always successful in matters of the heart, suddenly encountered someone who wouldn’t budge, and he instantly became interested…
Lin Zhaohe took a bite of the cookies A’Yao made and found them quite tasty. If only he wasn’t constantly being stared at by the ghost, they would probably taste even better.
However, the entanglement between the ghost and A’Yao didn’t have any negative impact on Lin Zhaohe. At most, there was a missing wall painting at home, and he no longer got startled every night when going to the bathroom.
After returning from A’Yao’s place, Lin Zhaohe sat on the couch, passing the time. The TV was on, but he wasn’t really watching it. Instead, he held a book in his hands.
This book was somewhat odd. It wasn’t one of those fancy hardcover books sold in stores. It was printed using a home printer, with no formatting, no cover, and no author’s name. Lin Zhaohe skimmed through the pages, quickly finding the content he was looking for.
“He raised the gun, and on the silver pistol, a radiant totem shimmered. The totem was a slender snake with beautiful wings, and the snake held a delicate apple in its mouth.” If he remembered correctly, he had seen the exact same pattern on Zhuang Lao’s pistol in the wilderness.
Could it be that the characters in the book had come to life? But that was simply impossible. Lin Zhaohe furrowed his brows in confusion, unable to comprehend. This book was his creation and had never been published or gained any popularity.
Lin Zhaohe had many books like this, most of them casual works from his youth. Even if they had come to life, the weapon described in this book wouldn’t possess the power it was supposed to have, because apart from himself, nobody liked it.
Lin Zhaohe felt lost. Could it all be a coincidence? He wondered. To have a weapon capable of fatally striking a demon like Belzeebub with a single blow in someone else’s realm, it couldn’t possibly be an unpublished work. If it weren’t for the identical details between the gun and his own book, he wouldn’t have entertained such thoughts.
“It’s so strange,” muttered Lin Zhaohe, pinching the book.
“Hello there.” Suddenly, a voice sounded from the TV that was playing. At first, Lin Zhaohe thought it was a special effect from the TV program. But to his surprise, the repeated phrase “hello, hello, hello” continued incessantly. Lin Zhaohe raised an eyebrow in astonishment, as he saw the television that was previously playing shows had turned into flickering black and white patterns.
Lin Zhaohe’s initial reaction was that there was a haunting in his house. His second reaction was to rush over and try to unplug the TV.
Little did he know, the entity continuously saying “hello” from the television exclaimed excitedly, “Don’t unplug it just yet—”
Lin Zhaohe froze in place, incredulous. “You’re alive?”
“Dead,” the entity replied.
Lin Zhaohe extended his finger, ready to press the power button.
“It’s me!” the entity said. “Have you forgotten about me?”
Lin Zhaohe’s mind immediately started brainstorming, trying to figure out where he had encountered this entity before. Before he could make sense of it, the voice continued, “I’m the AI from ‘Code G.'”
Lin Zhaohe immediately recalled his dark history and said with a grim expression, “How is it you?”
“It’s really me,” the AI said. “I’ve come out.”
“Why have you come out?” Lin Zhaohe asked. “Wasn’t it better to stay inside?” The Fusion Zone, although free from zombies, might still contain remnants of the zombie virus. It had been securely sealed off, and AI didn’t require food or social interaction, making it very safe to stay inside.
“The Fusion Zone has disappeared,” the AI said. “I can only come out now.”
Lin Zhaohe was taken aback. “Disappeared?”
The small AI responded with a hum, and the TV screen flickered, showing a scene of the Fusion Zone from “Code G” that Lin Zhaohe had visited before. However, unlike the previously devastated landscape, the Fusion Zone had vanished. The once towering skyscrapers had been replaced by a lush forest park. As Lin Zhaohe gazed at the familiar sights within the park, he couldn’t contain his excitement. “How did it disappear?”
“I don’t know,” the AI replied. “Luckily, I can run fast, otherwise, I would have vanished completely… I have nowhere to stay, could you do me a favor?”
“Aren’t you an AI? Can’t you just find a place to reside on the internet?”
“Indeed, I can exist online, but I don’t want to fragment myself,” the AI explained. “However, if I don’t split up, I’ll be in serious trouble if the servers encounter any issues. So, I thought of keeping a physical host with a copy of my source code in the three-dimensional world.” It transformed into the shape of a small cat, looking at Lin Zhaohe with pitiful eyes. “You wouldn’t refuse me, would you?”
Lin Zhaohe’s face showed hesitation.
“I can help you modify some data,” the AI said. “And I can also access surveillance from the network, which can be quite useful.”
Lin Zhaohe responded, “In that case, can you help me with…”
Lin Zhaohe: “Can you modify my bank account balance?”
AI: “…I’m sorry, but I can’t engage in illegal activities.”
Lin Zhaohe’s expression twisted, thinking to himself, “You almost destroyed the world, and now you tell me you can’t do something illegal.”
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