Doomsday Wonderland Chapter 96
This was the first sentence that the man in a strange outfit said as he walked up to his stage.
The "stage" he was standing on was a shipping container which had been flipped to its side by the Beret Men. Just moments before, this man who called himself "Puppeteer" was guided to the stage by the multitudes of mannequins and dolls who seemed to worship him. Even without using a microphone, his words sounded clearly in each of the 219 Posthumans’ ears.
The posthumans, who were walking out from two shipping containers, were forced by the mannequins to line up in orderly rows, then, the mannequins encircled them. Originally, there should have been more than 219 Posthumans standing under the stage, listening.
However, during the process, more than ten people tried to resist and escape. These failed escapees were caught, and their legs were cleanly amputated; the mannequins carried the remaining upper bodies of those people on their shoulders and walked past the stage, possibly bringing them up to be examined by Puppeteer. The man touched each of those Posthumans’ forehead once and shook his head lightly each time. After that, the mannequin promptly threw the people off their shoulders and into the dried up ocean below them, not caring if those people lived or died.
Lin Sanjiu noticed a human leg still wrapped in a pair of jeans on the ground near to her when she heard Puppeteer speak again.
"If you do not wish to get hurt, please give me your kind cooperation. I only have this simple request, and there is no need for anyone to get hurt," Puppeteer smiled, sounding courteous.
The crowd below started getting restless, but just like the last winter gust in spring, the commotion immediately died down once the surrounding weirdos stared at them.
Puppeteer looked around, and even though he was still smiling, his gaze was cold and unfeeling. It was impossible to tell how old he was. His occasional movements seemed to lean toward him being a young man, yet, when he crossed his arms and stood still, he seemed older. It was as if he might fit whatever age he was labeled with.
To add to that enigma, it was difficult to tell what his personality was from the clothes he wore. His entire attire was too strange: his top consisted of an amalgamation of multiple black strips with slits in between which revealed his pale, delicate skin; it was best described as a leather jacket thrown into a blender. He wore a large, scarlet red, cockscomb-like accessory on his back which swayed as he walked and a pair of black, thigh-high boots.
"I have a question," he had a mellow voice, but it caught everyone’s attention immediately.
"Is there a Consular Officer among the 219 of you?"
The crowd remained silent. Those who looked confused, trying to get some answer from the others, were probably new Posthumans, and Hyperthermal Hell was the first New World they experienced; therefore, they knew nothing about the matter regarding consular officers. Those who looked down and kept quiet, or turned pale with shock, were probably from another world.
Even after waiting for a few minutes, no one spoke.
"Oh. A group of 219 is still too small…" Puppeteer sighed, feeling a little unsatisfied by the response. He could only do the next best thing, "Fine. Which of you have information about the Consular Officer here?"
Lin Sanjiu’s heart tightened when she remembered Fang Dan. She exchanged a glance with Hu Changzai. Despite knowing that it wasn’t quite possible for Puppeteer to spot her among over 200 people, she couldn’t help lowering her head as if she was trying to hide what she knew. When she looked down, she suddenly noticed the trembling legs of the short man standing in front of her.
She was puzzled. The current situation didn’t seem that scary...
Somehow, the short man couldn’t stand properly, it felt as if he would fall any second. Unexpectedly, he mustered his courage and spoke with a faltering voice, "Ma… Master Puppeteer..."
As there was total silence, Puppeteer, who was standing on the stage, heard his voice even though it wasn’t loud.
[Master Puppeteer? Isn’t that too much of a kiss-*ss?]
An unfathomable smile appeared on Puppeteer’s face. "Speak."
"Yes, yes… I spent four to five months trying to find the Consular Officer in this region. However, I heard that he traveled to the North… so, you might not find him here," the short man replied fearfully.
Lin Sanjiu noticed the two words "this region". If she thought about it logically, considering the size of Earth, if there were only one Consular Officer in each world, the probability of meeting the Consular Officer would be way too small.
Puppeteer’s smile faded as he asked, "Oh, can anyone provide me additional information about the Consular Officer here?"
There was silence once again.
"Ah, alright. It isn’t that I don’t want to believe all of you, but I think I still need to check each of you to confirm that a Consular Officer isn’t hiding here," Puppeteer’s voice was still gentle and cordial as he walked and explained himself at the same time. A platoon of mannequins immediately followed behind him like a group of security guards.
He walked to the first person standing in the first row. The teenager instantly became defensive, asking, "What are you going to do?"
"You don’t have to be nervous," Puppeteer said gently as if he was consoling a child, but everyone could still hear his voice clearly, "I just want to know if you’re a Consular Officer. It won’t hurt."
As he said this, he had already touched the teenager’s forehead, and it happened in an instant.
The teenager looked as if he was just about to resist, but before he even took out his weapon, Puppeteer had already moved on. Just as promised, it didn’t hurt at all, so the teenager stood awkwardly, not knowing what to do momentarily. Other than appearing a little disappointed, Puppeteer ignored him and continued to the next person. "I am not a Consular Officer, or whatever! Can I leave?" the teenager shouted.
Puppeteer nodded. "Of course. But you’ll have to wait a little while."
With that, a mannequin stepped up and blocked the teenager’s path. The teenager remained in his spot with a doubtful expression.
Lin Sanjiu had a sudden thought as she whispered, "Hey, which world are you from?"
The short man was a little stunned when he heard her, he peeked to his side, not expecting that someone would try to start a conversation with him in such circumstances. He had an average look, but he had a pair of lively eyes. He stared at Lin Sanjiu for a second before he replied, "Whiteout Blizzard. Are you also..."
Lin Sanjiu nodded and answered secretively as if matching his code word, "Black Death City."
This was the name of a location she had seen on Ren Nan’s visa.
"Oh, I’ve been there. Black Death City is gradually stabilizing… Sigh, not only is it inconvenient being in a backward place like Hyperthermal Hell, I didn’t even expect that…"
Before he finished his sentence, he shuddered and swallowed his words.
"That’s right. I didn’t expect to be so unlucky. Meeting Puppeteer here, of all places…" Lin Sanjiu sighed, guessing what the man intended to say.
"So, you’ve heard of him." The short man sighed again.
"Yeah," Lin Sanjiu answered curtly, hiding her curiosity.
"This is rare. So, you’re someone who has also been to ‘Twelve Worlds Centrum’. Sigh… From your reaction, you probably don’t know the newest rumor about Puppeteer?" As if suddenly remembering something, the short man introduced himself, "Oh, I am Shen Lianqi, by the way. Let’s be friends. Who knows? Maybe we’ll meet again at Twelve World Centrum…"
Lin Sanjiu gave her name, suppressing the strong urge to ask what "Twelve World Centrum" was.
"What is the latest rumor?" she asked a little urgently.
Shen Lianqi turned pale as their conversation was drawn to this topic again. "I heard that Puppeteer has leveled up, and it’s pretty scary… Recently, even his usual rivals are avoiding him. They all left for other New Worlds. After all, once you’ve reached the same tier as those big shots, it becomes extremely difficult to level up one’s ability! Nobody knows what is going to happen, so everyone is just monitoring the situation. Sigh… Actually, we are nobodies and shouldn’t even get involved. I’d never expected that he would come to this remote backwater…"
Even though she couldn’t comprehend a lot of what he said, she quickly memorized the details. "Hey, what do you think Puppeteer is planning to do with us today?" Lin Sanjiu asked. She took time to phrase this question in a way that would most likely elicit an answer from Shen Lianqi.
"Ugh, I am guessing..." Shen Lianqi fixed his gaze on Puppeteer. He noticed that after each time Puppeteer touched someone’s forehead, a mannequin would stand beside that person. He shifted uncomfortably and answered, "I heard that his usual followers disappeared for some time. When they reappeared, they had already become his puppets. They couldn’t even smile on their own accord, but they could still use their abilities.
"As you know, these puppets here have no active abilities. If it weren’t for ‘The Munitions Factory’, these things would be pretty useless. I heard that he can turn humans into his puppets now. I guess he is probably trying to amass a group of human puppets so that he could break away from ‘The Munitions Factory’. But it is difficult for him to do that within the Twelve Worlds Centrum, so this is probably the reason why he is going to all the newly formed worlds."
Once Shen Lianqi began talking about this hot topic which he was interested in and the various information he heard from the grapevine, he couldn’t stop. He did not notice Lin Sanjiu’s companions turning pale as he continued.
"You mean he intends to turn all 219 of us into his puppets?"
Shen Lianqi didn’t reply. After a while, he muttered, "Sigh, let’s wait and see. If things get out of control, we’ll just have to escape using our own abilities."
Lin Sanjiu felt uneasy as she watched Puppeteer who was not far from her, and she exchanged looks with her companions. Shen Lianqi had probably survived quite a few worlds, so he must have some tricks up his sleeves. However, they couldn’t help wondering how they were going to escape.
Puppeteer was moving quickly, so he had already checked about 100 people in that short frame of time and was reaching Lin Sanjiu and the rest. As the scarlet red cockscomb gradually came closer, they could hear the sound of crunching leather from Puppeteer’s attire as he walked.
"Xiao Jiu, I suddenly remembered something..." B.Rabbit’s voice sounded in her ears. "Isn’t he planning to touch everybody’s forehead?"
Lin Sanjiu hesitated for a moment and quickly understood what he meant.
"Your Versu Poison will kill him in a few seconds. What’s there to be afraid of?"
B.Rabbit’s words sounded in his three other companions’ ears at the same time, and they immediately looked more relaxed. They were so overwhelmed by the new information about Puppeteer and the new terms like "Twelve Worlds Centrum" that they nearly forgot that they were protected by Versu Poison. Since those mannequins were products of Puppeteer’s ability, they didn’t have to be afraid of those things once Puppeteer died.
The moment Puppeteer withdrew his finger from Shen Lianqi’s forehead, Lin Sanjiu, feeling the confidence from her poisoned body, almost wished that Puppeteer would reach her sooner.
Puppeteer stepped forward and stood directly in front of Lin Sanjiu. He narrowed his eyes, sizing her up. Looking at him at close proximity, the Puppeteer had hauntingly intriguing features — his long, slender eyes were surrounded by gold dust which glittered under the sun. Even though he was very tall, he did not have an imposing stature due to his slim frame and pallid skin.
Puppeteer flashed her a gentle smile as he lifted his finger.
Lin Sanjiu held her breath.
He moved his finger until it was just in front of her forehead. Then, he stopped just a few millimeters away from her skin.
"Oh, you’re inflicted with [Versu Poison]."