Chapter 969 Tell Me What's Going On
In the beginning, Jake could still track the movements of his companions using his mental sense. But before long, they seemed to vanish, as if ripped from his mental grasp. Somewhere along the constricting neck of the funnel was a Faraday cage, aimed not at electric fields but spiritual energy, that scrambled his perceptions, disrupting and dispersing the mental energy he had forcefully engaged.
If he were closer, he could have undoubtedly maintained control of his spiritual energy. Yet, with the interference of the barrier and the introduction of this psychic Faraday cage, it became an intricate jigsaw puzzle. Despite his persistence, he managed to project his mental sense slightly further, but as the difficulty exponentially increased, he had no choice but to abandon the attempt.
"From now on, you're on your own," Jake didn't forget to warn his three companions before his connection with them was completely severed.
In the next instant, they moved beyond the range of his mental radar, and he was officially left stranded on the surface. Annoyed and restless, Jake immediately began pacing along the barrier, his mind wandering. He allowed his fingertips to glide across its length, ready to cross the moment the force field showed signs of weakening.
Alas, even after an extra hour of devoted patience, the barrier showed no intention of letting him through. The Magnetic Field Disruptor did not reactivate, and he received no news from his companions or the other disciples. He tried to contact them through the Chat, but the impenetrable alloy covering the surface of the Magnetic Resonator made long-distance communication impossible.
Bored to the bone, Jake suddenly thought of the Mirror World he had recently unlocked. Focusing his intention, he tried to access it. Surprisingly, his consciousness was easily sucked into the virtual dimension. The Aether network supporting this virtual reality was clearly superior to those of the Oracle System, even able to ignore the interference from the Resonator and the Digestors.
Aware that his physical body was not safe, Jake didn't waste a second. He hadn't logged in out of boredom, but in search of information. As an Oracle Knight and Colonel, he was privileged to access a wealth of information, yet the Oracle System's network had been compromised since demise.
Compared to that, the maintenance costs of this Mirror World remained unchanged, being unrelated to their Oracle. His level of authority here was essentially the same as in the Oracle System, but accessing the Archives from this place wouldn't incur any additional costs.
Another benefit was he wasn't alone here. Beside him stood a stunning brunette, clad in form- fitting black jade armor that traced every curve of her body. Her ageless irises, a fascinating mix of black and red, gazed at him with tender curiosity. He could lose himself in those eyes...
"Xi, find everything you can on Magnetic Resonators and Digestors spawning in their vicinity. I want to know what I'm dealing with."
"Right away." Xi replied, a smile playing on her lips as she gave him an odd look. "But before that..."
Before Jake could react, she gently pecked his lips. As he stood there, dumbfounded, wondering what had just happened, Xi had already drawn back, her eyes closed as she connected to the network.
Jake could have done it himself, but he was accustomed to relying on his AI. In this regard, she was more seasoned and proficient than him, and, more importantly, never complained no matter what he requested...
For instance, in the past year, they had managed to create a body for her, but she had never used it to progress their relationship... The only reason he could think of to explain this change of attitude was Lucia.
Even though Xi shared and knew all his thoughts, she was still a woman and felt threatened.
"So, you're not entirely beyond redemption." Xi murmured with her eyes closed, her lips curling into a disapproving pout as if he had wronged her or owed her money.
Jake grimaced at her reaction. He had always been against any form of infidelity, and right now, he felt as if he was two-timing Lucia, someone he respected and genuinely cared for.
Did the fact that one was an Oracle AI and the other a real person excuse what had just transpired?
"Ouch, that was harsh." Xi openly chastised him after he had dared to compare her to a "real" person.
Even though her eyes remained closed, Jake could've sworn he saw a fleeting sadness so intense that it bordered on despair.
"I'm sorry, Xi. That's not what I meant and you know it." Jake quickly backpedaled, but the damage was done. Instead of dwelling on it, he decided to change the topic. "How's the info coming?"
The young woman sighed, opened her eyes, and transferred everything she had found with a thought. Jake processed the influx of data calmly, his pupils contracting and dilating rapidly as he absorbed the content into his memory, claiming it entirely.
"Thank you, Xi." Jake breathed out heavily, massaging his forehead as a sign of slight fatigue.
Faced with the lukewarm response of the woman who was now turned away from him, Jake felt as his mind had been plunged into an iceberg. It was nearly so, as Xi's icy and depressive mood literally affected him due to their mental connection.
Realizing the situation was escalating and not wanting to lose her, Jake broke into a sweat and almost tore his hair out in frustration. "Give me time. Put yourself in my shoes, and Lucia's. And please don't tell me I don't put myself in yours. You know that's not true."
Xi spun around suddenly, closing the gap between them in an instant until their faces were mere inches apart, forcing him to meet her gaze willingly or He didn't know how she did it, but he could smell her addictive perfume even in the Mirror World. If his Al had a Charm stat, the succubi like Aisling and her mother had better watch out.
In the end, it was Jake who surrendered first. As if he had just relearned to breathe, he took a deep breath and logged out of the Mirror World, returning to reality. The mental connection with Xi there, but he knew something had been strained between them due to her silence.
It was for the best, because he hadn't yet found an answer that could satisfy everyone involved without hurting anyone. And Xi, who knew him better than he knew himself, was well aware of this... She was just trying to hasten his final decision by backing him into a corner.
Only a few seconds had passed in reality, and Jake became serious again. Xi, too, stopped making him uncomfortable and resumed her unwavering role as an AI. In the end, they made a fine team, and neither could function properly without the other.
No matter what they felt for each other and the complexity of their relationship, one thing would never change. Xi existed for him. His happiness and safety were her highest priority, and these directives were deeply ingrained in her Soul Code.
"There's definitely something wrong." Jake confirmed with a frown after analyzing the data gathered by Xi.
[Digestors shouldn't be able to cross the barrier isolating the Field Disruptor and the Conversion Chamber.] Xi agreed gravely. [There's definitely something abnormal about this situation. I don't think Cekt would allow so many Digestors to pass through just to test you.]
"We're on the same page."
Jake weighed the pros and cons for a split second, then stated decisively, "Let's contact Cekt. Since I've passed the test, this one is irrelevant to me. Whether or not it's part of his plan, he just needs to answer yes or no. My inquiry doesn't require him to reveal anything that would his impartiality."
With his decision made, he felt a sense of relief and immediately tried to contact his master via the Oracle System. He didn't know how many Aether Points it would cost him, but as long as the Wendok wasn't hiding somewhere inside the Magnetic Resonator, he should be reachable.
For what seemed like tens of seconds, the line rang into oblivion, and Jake started to believe the alien would never answer. Just as he was about to give up and try again later, the communication finally stabilized on the other end, and he stated icily,
"Master, I'm done playing games. Either let me cross the barrier or tell me what's going on now."
Holding his breath, only a static that could make teeth grind responded to him, and his heart turned cold. His foreboding was immediately confirmed when his master's distorted and garbled voice attempted to respond,
"J¡¡¡¡¡¡jaaaaaaaaaaakkkkkkke...sshhhrrr... weeeeeeeeeee... shrrrrrrrrh... S-shrrrrrrrrrrr- orrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyyy, Ã¿Ã¿Ã¿Ã¿Ã¿Ã¿Ã¿Ã¿Ã¿iiit'sssss aaaaaaaaa tttttrrrr.... Shrrrrrrrrrrrr-aaap."
The communication link severed as abruptly as it had begun, hurling Jake into a gaping maw of dread. The worst-case scenario, one that he had not even dared to entertain, had just unveiled its ugly face.
Cekt himself was ensnared in a predicament he could not readily disentangle. And that could only mean one thing - their enemy was of an caliber, at the very least.