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When Lin Sanjiu heard that they were from the Progressor Alliance, her bony wings made of countless, eerie white bone spurs spread open like a flower. The monstrous momentum brought forth by her bony wings pierced the air and lifted the dust.
At the same time, she recoiled, lowered her body, and prepared to pounce on the group.
The entrance of "Time Travel" was the boundary. Outside of the entrance was a bright sunny afternoon. The sunlight was so lovely and warm that even the dust twinkled and danced around. Meanwhile, inside the entrance, where Lin Sanjiu claimed as her territory, was filled with an impenetrable chilly umbra.
From this dark corner, Lin Sanjiu's amber eyes gleamed.
She noticed that a blonde haired woman who had a striking resemblance to somebody in her memory was among the group of five. Lin Sanjiu searched her memories and found out that she was the Growth type that got caught by Santa Claus from Mokugyo Encyclopedic Forum with her.
It was no surprise to Lin Sanjiu that the man who called himself Aker could recognize her in one glance if that woman was his companion.
"You guys are such slowpokes," Lin Sanjiu sneered. She had gone through a couple of battles, so her face was covered with dirt and blood. When she smiled, her teeth appeared peculiarly white, "I was running out of patience waiting for you all. I bet Puppeteer is the same, am I right?"
Aker was a young man with a lanky build and distinctive cheekbone. His body was shrouded entirely in a long beige cloak so that only the tips of his shoes were exposed. Facing Lin Sanjiu, who appeared ready to devour him, he stepped back and forced a bitter smile on his face. He said softly, "Miss Lin, I think there is some misunderstanding between you and us. We mean no harm to you."
Lin Sanjiu was unfazed. She stared fixedly into his light-colored irises and pointed at the blond haired woman. The corner of her lips curled into a mocking grin, but her voice was calm as usual, "When you guys heard about my location from that woman, you all forfeited your previous routes to come after me. Isn't it obvious enough? If you all mean no harm to me, then enlighten me as to your reasons for coming all the way here to find me."
Stretching his pale hand from the cloak, Aker tidied his curly yet s.h.i.+ny hair. Then, he said slowly, "It is a rather long story."
He exchanged glances with the blonde haired woman before turning to Lin Sanjiu and smiled meekly, "I've heard the story from Miss Livia. I know that you all were forced to enter this pocket dimension because Santa Claus placed you under his control. Then, for some reason, Santa Claus a.s.sumed that we, the Progressor Alliance, colluded with Puppeteer, so as soon as we heard or got your location, we planned to hand you over to Puppeteer. Am I right?"
Lin Sanjiu narrowed her eyes, but she did not say anything.
Aker sighed and retracted his hand into his cloak. As if a fish jumped into a pool of water, his cloak fluttered for a moment before returning to calmness, "We are all in the same boat, Miss Lin. The only thing different is Santa Claus brought you in while most of us are thrown into this pocket dimension by Puppeteer."
"Puppeteer? How can he force so many of you to enter this pocket dimension at the same time?"
Lin Sanjiu's question made Aker's face turn sour. This made him looked like a middle-aged man who was crushed by the burden of life rather than the young man he actually was.
"To be honest, we, the Progressor Alliance, are the weakest in the Twelve Worlds Centrum," he gave her a rueful grin before continuing his story, "Initially, we did not know about this pocket dimension given how small our alliance is. It's Puppeteer. After he learned about the existence of this pocket dimension and that this pocket dimension rewards the winner handsomely, he wanted to come here and have a look... Before I continue, can I a.s.sume that you already know only Growth type Posthumans can thrive in this Starry Carnival Amus.e.m.e.nt Park?"
Lin Sanjiu nodded.
"That's right. It's an original pocket dimension that works specifically for Growth type Posthumans. How can anyone resist the temptation of the reward given out by this kind of pocket dimension? Even though Puppeteer himself is a Growth type, but the Starry Carnival Amus.e.m.e.nt Park is too large for him since he only has himself. Also, not to forget that there are other groups of forces that harbor the same interest as him in this pocket dimension. Given these circ.u.mstances, he knew that it was impossible for him to get ahead of everyone to finish all the attractions in the Starry Carnival Amus.e.m.e.nt and claim the reward. Hence, he targeted us, the Progressor Alliance which is made up of only Growth type Posthumans."
When Aker reached this point, aside from Livia, the other three people who also came from the Progressor Alliance, had a forlorn expression on their face.
"Our branch at Red Nautilus had only a few members to begin with. When Puppeteer began to make a ruckus at the Progressor Alliance by throwing our people into this pocket dimension, many of our members escaped the Twelve Worlds Centrum. Combining those that unwittingly came to Red Nautilus and the rest of us, the Progressor Alliance now has not more than twenty members."
Lin Sanjiu began to believe in Aker. She straightened her body and slowly resettled her bony wings, "How did he force you all to enter here?"
Upon hearing Lin Sanjiu's question, Aker flashed her another bitter smile. Then, he nodded to his companion, and a black bob-haired young lady stepped forward. She undid a few b.u.t.tons on the bottom half of her s.h.i.+rt, lifted it, and revealed a patch of what should be human skin, but the patch that covered her lower abdomen was not something people called skin. It was instead a piece of cold, harsh, inanimate plastic-like material. This kind of material reminded Lin Sanjiu of the mannequin she b.u.mped into during her time at Hyperthermal h.e.l.l.
"As you can see," the bob-haired girl looked at her abdomen and made a self-deprecating comment, "Puppeteer can not only turn a doll into a human, but he can do it the other way round as well."
Perhaps she felt awkward being stared by somebody not acquainted with her, so the girl quickly put down her s.h.i.+rt. She shook her head and the self-mocking expression left her face, reverting her face to her usual deadpan expression.
"This is only the beginning," Aker said, and all at once he sounded bitter, "If we do not make it quick work and get the final reward for him, this plastic will slowly spread from the infected area to the rest of our bodies. It won't stop until we eventually become lifeless dolls."
"How is that possible?" Lin Sanjiu face went pale from the shocking news. She quickly asked, "Where are Rena and Reno? Were they infected?"
"Rena and Reno?" Aker frowned as he searched his memory. Suddenly, he lifted his head and said, "You means Rena and Reno, the twins?"
Lin Sanjiu's heart, at this moment, raced so fast that it almost jumped out from her throat.
However, the next sentence Aker said was not in the smallest degree helpful for her to get the whereabouts of Rena and Reno.
"Before this, I didn't understand why Puppeteer is so obsessed with them. Now, I finally understand. It's probably because of the relations.h.i.+p between you and those two kids. When they returned to our base at Red Nautilus, they kept bugging me that they wanted to go to Seagral Square to welcome a guest. Since it was not a big deal, and I was pretty occupied dealing with the ambush of Puppeteer, I just let them go. I never thought my permission would be the one-way-ticket to send them directly to Puppeteer. From what I heard from my subordinates, Puppeteer personally went to kidnap them."
Lin Sanjiu let out a heavy breath as her expression turned severe.
She had lost the only lead to Rena and Reno. It seemed to her that she had no other choice but to get them back directly from Puppeteer.
She was not afraid of confronting Puppeteer. What made her fear the most was that Rena and Reno had been off the radar for such a long time, what if Puppeteer had lost his patience and turned both of them into dolls?
As Lin Sanjiu was immersed in her thoughts, Aker measured her meticulously.
After a short while, he cleared his throat. As Lin Sanjiu lifted her head, he quickly flashed her a smile, "Miss Lin, I think you should s.h.i.+ft some of your attention away from those two kids to yourself. The kids pose no threat to Puppeteer, and I'm sure they are still safe for the time being. While for you, your case is kind of complicated."
"Oh?" Lin Sanjiu raised her brows, "What makes you say so?"
"Because tomorrow is the 26th," Aker spoke as soft as he could, "Miss Livia has told me everything about Santa Claus… Have you forgotten?"
Lin Sanjiu was stunned. She had forgotten the thing Santa Claus had said!
Before entering the amus.e.m.e.nt park, Santa Claus told them to return to him on the 26th to receive their present, which was their own life. After she met Hei Zeji, she had placed all her mind and heart into honing her combat skill. She did not realize that the date had almost arrived.
"Thanks for reminding me, I—"
Before Lin Sanjiu could finish her words, Aker, with downcast eyes and shaking head, chipped in, "Please calm down, Miss Lin. I brought it up because I want to tell you something."
From the way Aker talked, he seemed to be a heavyweight in the Progressor Alliance. When he talked, aside from Livia, the other three Growth type Posthumans just remained silent beside him, "This is the first time you and Miss Livia have been to the Twelve World Centrum, so you two might be clueless of the things that happen here. Even though Santa Claus has gone off the radar for quite a long time, I've heard about his ability. Anyway, no matter what happens, I suggest you don't go to see him tomorrow.
"The order that you all must return to him by the 26th to claim your lives is all a ruse, a smokescreen to cover up the Achilles heel of his ability. From what I know, his ability, [Make a Wish] can only last for a few days. I guess that on the 26th, his ability will lose its effect. He has to recast his ability on you all; so he told you all to return to him on the 26th to claim your prize so that he could reapply his ability. Hence, Miss Lin, if you don't go meet him tomorrow, and you'll be free from his control."
Aker had pale skin, but his lips were bright red. After he finished talking in one go, a few freckles on his cheekbones became slightly red.
Every evolved ability had flaws in a way. Even a powerful ent.i.ty like Santa Claus could not escape getting restricted by this commandment. There was indeed some truthness in Aker's words, but...
After a long while, Lin Sanjiu's voice that was bereft of any temperature reverberated in the group's ears, "Are you asking me to risk my life for somebody that I first time meet?"
"Yes, I understand it is hard for you to trust me…" The long-faced young man that clad in long cloak sighed, "It's fine if you don't believe me. The worst case is that Santa Claus casts his ability on you again, and you only have to endure it for a few more days. However, please bear in your mind that everytime Santa Claus casts his ability, he can request you to do one thing for him. Hence, if you get controlled by him again, I'm not sure what he will ask you to do this time. This is why I said your case is complicated."
Lin Sanjiu bit her lower lip because she lost her direction. She had no idea who she should believe: Aker of the Progressor Alliance who looked quite dependable or that weird-acting Santa Claus who was the very epitome of fear. Suddenly, a question came out from her mind.
She took a deep breath, chased away all the problems in her mind and stared at Aker, "Tell me your intent. What do you want from me?"
She wasn't dumb.
If what Aker said was true, he could have ignored Lin Sanjiu when he got her coordinates because Puppeteer only wanted them to clear the Starry Carnival Amus.e.m.e.nt Park as fast as they could and get the reward for him. Besides, Puppeteer did not know she was in this pocket dimension as well, so what Aker was doing now was pointless. Since he came all the way for her and gave her such valuable intel, Lin Sanjiu knew very well that he had his own motive.
Aker was unsurprised. He seemed to foresee Lin Sanjiu would throw at him this question.
"It's not that I want something from you… Actually, I have a plan that could kill two birds with one stone. Both of us would benefit if we succeed; however, I need your cooperation, Miss Lin."
"From what I heard from Santa Claus, he is trying to cause some trouble for Puppeteer, so why don't we go with the flow and offer him an opportunity to meet Puppeteer?" Aker had done his homework well before he came to Lin Sanjiu. Lin Sanjiu was amazed by how well he understood the whole story, "If Santa Claus does not see you all tomorrow, he will become very edgy. This is because, after the 26th, he won't be able to control you all anymore. Miss Lin, may I ask if Santa Claus has given you a small item?"
Lin Sanjiu took out the green Santa hat magnet in her pocket and nodded hesitantly.
" Seems like that woman trusted Progressor Alliance a lot. She told them everything that happened outside… "
Aker took the green Santa hat magnet and examined it meticulously.
"Although I don't know what this magnet does, I presume that this is a kind of tracking device that can bring Santa Claus to you as long as you carry this item everywhere you go," Aker then returned the magnet to Lin Sanjiu and slowly told Lin Sanjiu his plan, "With this, he can enter this park whenever he wants, so what we have to do now is find a location and hide the magnet there. Then, we will lure Puppeteer to that location by giving him some false news… When Santa Claus comes for you, then they will b.u.mp into each other."
Offering Lin Sanjiu a confident smile, Aker extended his hand under his cloak and made a gesture to her, "No matter who wins the fight, we will be the ones there to pick up the pieces. What is your opinion of this plan, Miss Lin?"