“Now… Wait, Mr. Apostle! You are wrong! That’s not it!”
I raised my hammer again. The Knight stepped back and shouted,
“I’m not the one! Really!”
“I am the one who said first that there is a doppelganger here, but that’s just because I saw it first. Why are you raising the hammer?”
Ah, so you did see the doppelganger? I lowered my hand that held the Transmutable Thousand Arms and asked him to explain.
“All right. Explain in detail.”
Instead of asking a bunch of questions, it is probably going to be easier understand if I just let the Knight talk freely.
“We all entered this dungeon room at almost the same time. I found the doppelganger that was sleeping in the center. When the doppelganger was approaching us, the trap was activated and trapped us here.”
“You said someone was attacked in the darkness and the doppelganger took on the skin of that person. In that case, it does not make sense to claim that I must have been in this place in hiding all along, don’t you think? You said you saw what the doppelganger looks like, didn’t you?”
“Yes, I did. We thought one of us attacked by the doppelganger in the darkness. However, we thought of a new possibility earlier.”
A new possibility…
What is this theory accusing me of being the doppelganger?
“The doppelganger must have changed its form in the darkness. Instead of attacking the new people who just entered and assuming one of the people’s form, it changed to a form that it had from the past.”
Um… I think that is plausible.
The message didn’t say anything about anyone being attacked by the doppelganger.
It just says that the doppelganger hid in chaos.
There were so many pathways. When many people entered the dungeon room at the same time, the place fell to darkness.
In that brief moment of darkness, instead of taking on the risk of attacking someone, the doppelganger just assumed an old form that it already knew.
That makes a complete picture.
“Is that possible? When I asked you about the doppelganger earlier, you didn’t say anything about such an ability.”
“It is very rare, but there are records of doppelgangers doing such a thing. The records are not very credible, but… Actually there are so few records about doppelgangers, so…”
This is also a plausible theory.
It’s not a perfect proof that I am the doppelganger, but I cannot think of any loopholes for me to point out.
“All right. Well then, what were you guys going to do if I am the doppelganger? If you really thought I was the doppelganger, then you should have ambushed me instead of just slowly walking up to me together.”
“About that… We thought you must be not a doppelganger.”
Now what is this all about?
“My head is starting to hurt. Hurry up and explain. Make it brief.”
“Actually, you were suspicious from the start. So, we attacked you without hesitation on the first day. However, the end result was our defeat. Also, instead of killing us and torturing information out of us, you kept us alive and wanted to hear our stories instead. On top of this, you didn’t even ask about information that were important or must be kept from the doppelganger. Also, for the past few days, your behaviors and decisions were far from a demon, so…”
“Make it brief.”
“… A long time ago, the doppelganger attacked you and hid itself in you. However, it failed in taking over your consciousness completely. That is our theory.”
Yet another unexpected idea popped out.
The doppelganger stole my body, but failed at taking over my consciousness.
I thought about the meaning of this.
“Explain in detail from there.”
“Yes. So, we thought the doppelganger snuck in this dungeon and was slowly eliminating your consciousness. Unless that was the case, there is no way that a doppelganger would be sleeping in a corner of this dungeon where the greatest treasure of the millennium is supposedly hidden. Also, this dungeon is not even related to demons. The doppelganger must have brought up your appearance in the moment of danger. Because the doppelganger had not completely took over your consciousness, your consciousness that was chained by the doppelganger until now surfaced. That’s our conjecture.”
So in other words, both my own consciousness and the doppelganger’s consciousness are within me.
“Actually, when we asked about your past, you didn’t answer and just went over it with gave us a nonchalant response. You didn’t tell us anything about recent history or the distant past.”
I get why you find it suspicious, although that’s because I am not related to this world at all.
“So, we came up with yet another theory. You must have lost your memory! The doppelganger had been erasing your memories gradually to completely remove your consciousness. If that is the case, that would explain why you don’t know anything about the outside world. You are not completely ignorant of all common knowledge. You only know some things as if you have holes in your knowledge. The theory explains these as well. You won’t know very well about how you got here, where this place is or what the outside world is. What do you think of our theory!”
Like an anime character, the Knight raised his index finger to the heavens and shouted in energetic roar.
After that, it seemed he felt a pain in his side. He held his waist and winced.
“By the way, can something like that happen? A doppelganger taking its time to possess someone’s body because it is not able to eradicate the original’s consciousness, the original person’s consciousness surfacing when the doppelganger uses the form while being in that state, and, the original person not even recognizing the doppelganger’s consciousness in the body.”
“… Possible… It is possible.”
The Holy Knight who was quivering in the corner answered for me.
“I have not heard of such a case, but the Holy Knight said it was possible. You are no ordinary person. You are being called by a God. You are very powerful as well, so I think it would be possible for you to not lose your mind completely and hold on. The doppelganger can also hide inside an unaware host. It already succeeded in attacking, and it took the body as a host. As for the host’s consciousness, it is losing memories, so if it is unaware of it, then it is possible for the doppelganger to stay hidden in the body. After all, a doppelganger is a high demon. I am not sure about these, but…”
“So… Kuluk… Couldn’t you go easy on us? My lung is not working well. I think my spine is broken somewhere as well. So… We assumed that the theory is correct and tried to force the demon out of your body. Even if our theory was wrong, we figured it won’t lead to serious problems. Also, if we were right, then we would have been able to save you as well. Of course, it would be hard to recover your lost memories… Anyway, we thought it was the most plausible idea. Also, nobody had to die in this scenario, so it was the most ideal theory.”
It was the most ridiculous idea.
The problem was that this dumbfounding theory might actually be correct.
So far, whenever I entered a stage, there were bits of information about my role in each message that described the clearing goal.
The ‘myself’ in these stages had unique roles that fit the themes of each stage. It was like a videogame character.
After that, the challenger continued to clear of the stage, assuming that role of a main character in a videogame.
It had always been like that.
At the Sixth Floor, I was a brave warrior. At the Seventh Floor, I was a guardian. At the 11th Floor, I was a tracker. At the 12th and 13th Floor, I was a challenger.
In that case, what is my role at the 16th Floor?
The message didn’t define my character in this stage.
The message only told me about the people who arrived at the dungeon room and the doppelganger.
There was nothing about me in the description.
The theory is plausible if I also think about the difficult of the stage.
Let’s think about the difficulty of the 16th Floor.
If I am the doppelganger, I’ll end up killing all of the people here in my search for the doppelganger by the seventh day before the rescue party arrives.
However, the doppelganger will not reveal itself.
I’ll fail the stage if the rescue party arrives then.
If I realize that I am the doppelganger at the very last moment, but do not know how to draw it out, then I’ll fail to clear the stage.
Let’s assume I somehow managed to draw out the doppelganger.
Then I will have to defeat the doppelganger.
All by myself.
I am certain the doppelganger will be a tough opponent for an ordinary challenger to face alone.
The challenger must get help from the group to make challenging it easier. However, the group will still be wary of the challenger, who they suspect of being the doppelganger. They won’t theorize about the possibility of extracting the doppelganger hidden inside.
Considering the floor level, it is a fitting difficulty.
“So, I’ll ask. Do you really not remember your past? If you do remember your past, then our theory is wrong. Please answer honestly.”
“… Wait. Let me think a little harder.”
First, I brought out potions and told them to treat the others who were still on the ground.
I think my brain will start to cramp soon.
As I thought, this is not my kind of work.
Instead of agonizing over this complicated issue, I opened the message window instead.
[Lee Ho-jae, 16th Floor: Can you get some information for me right away?]
[Kim Min-hyuk, 30th Floor: I can get you one before today’s evening and another one tomorrow or the day after that. What is it?]
[Lee Ho-jae, 16th Floor: Gather information about a demon named Doppelganger. In particular, how it attacks people and how it takes over the victim’s mind; how to identify the doppelganger and its combat abilities; and if it is possible to identify the doppelganger if the doppelganger had not completely taken over the body and the host’s consciousness had surfaced at the moment. If there is enough information allowance left after all those, send me other frivolous information like its tendencies.]
[Kim Min-hyuk, 30th Floor: I got it. Now that I think about it, I think this is the first time for you to ask us to gather information directly like this.]
I’m going to use a cheat key.
The Order of Vigilance had been providing information for the few rankers at higher floors to help them with their stage clears.
To be exact, the information came from the managers of the Tutorials, and the Order broadcasted the information.
The easy difficulty challengers at lower floors gather information by asking the requested questions to the managers when they clear floors.
They didn’t really need much information to clear the lower floors in the easy difficulty. Even if they needed information, they could get them for free from the Order, so this arrangement worked out fairly well. Also, they were given small rewards after each round.
The Order had been managing the information gathering system by making a list of lower floor challengers’ projected clearing days and information requests.
I should take advantage of their information system.
I have done a lot for the Order all this time.
If I don’t use this now, when am I going to?
I closed my eyes for about 30 minutes and waited for Kim Min-hyuk’s response.
The people at the dungeon were mumbling to each other, wondering if I was meditating and trying to see if the doppelganger was inside me.
Also, they were saying that the situation was unfolding just as they theorized.
They were talking about my self-reevaluation because I heard their theory.
The group, other than the Mage who was still unconscious, were glad for a moment that they got the right answer. They were also relieved. However, they readied themselves for another battle.
It seemed they were preparing themselves because they thought the doppelganger might rush out in middle of my meditation.
I was not actually meditating. However, it was not like I could tell them I was gathering information by contacting someone outside of the stage. I let them have the benefit of the doubt.
When 30 minutes passed, Kim Min-hyuk messaged me.
[Kim Min-hyuk, 30th Floor: Doppelganger is a very rare demon, so the information was very expensive. The informant got the information by focusing only on the important parts and making it as terse as possible. First, I’ll tell you exactly what the manager of the Tutorial said.]
[Lee Ho-jae, 16th Floor: All right.]
[Kim Min-hyuk, 30th Floor: Doppelganger. A demon. Uses claws and tentacles to neutralize the opponent and make the opponent lose consciousness. Connects a tentacle to the brain of the subject and gains information through brainwaves. Afterwards, it destroys the subject’s soul. The manager didn’t explain how the doppelganger destroys the soul. Next is… A doppelganger completely neutralizes the host and becomes a soul to take over the host’s body. Because it is in a soul form directly attached to the host’s body, it is sensitive to the pain experienced by the host. Therefore, to find the doppelganger, the host must be killed or subjected to an almost-fatal level of pain.]
There is one more information left that’s important.
[Lee Ho-jae, 16th Floor: How about when the host who had not been taken over completely reveals himself? What did the manager say?]
[Kim Min-hyuk, 30th Floor: The manager said identifying the doppelganger is still possible in that state.]
After reading his reply, I sat there vacantly for a moment.
This is incredible.
The theories proposed by the group were all correct.
They were theories that would have been difficult to come up with, even in ordinary situations.
If we just tried to find and eradicate the doppelganger amongst the group, could we have come to this conclusion?
I don’t think we could have.
This is the most unusual conclusion that they arrived at. It is like selecting a series of hidden choices correctly despite a selection of more than a dozen decisions that needed to be made consecutively to get to the final destination in a video game.
It had been five days since I entered the 16th Floor stage.
We had been laughing, eating, drinking, learning and teaching.
I don’t know how the group felt about this, but I greatly enjoyed my time here.
Also, they thought I might be a doppelganger although my true consciousness probably isn’t.
After that, they thought of this theory.
I’m a little overwhelmed by their caring thoughts. Despite their suspicious about me being a doppelganger, they came up with an alternative where I was still not the demon.
Am I being too sentimental?
I met people for the first time in a Tutorial stage.
Spending comforting times like this with people goes beyond simple joy and comfort. The time has a special meaning to me.
It’s been over a year since I entered the Tutorial.
Most of the time I spent here are filled with pain and loneliness.
After that, all I had left was obsession and a sense of accomplishment.
Of course, I grew stronger through the hardship. I was able to find myself as I advanced.
Still, the past year had been extremely hard.
That must be why I treasured the time I spent with everyone. It was small and simple, but it was very enjoyable.
Perhaps I’m overreacting.
I slowly opened my eyes.
I saw the Mercenary’s face. His eyes were black and blue.
I thought I gave him a plenty of potion. It seemed that it wasn’t enough.
I feel sorry all of the sudden…
I thought that perhaps the past five days were not as fun for the group as it had been for me.
I swallowed my guilt and organized my thought for the last time.
I was actually still not certain if I was the doppelganger.
Given the situation, many things fit theory. However, they were not definite.
However, I should examine this as the people concluded.
Their theory could really be correct.
According to Kim Min-hyuk’s message, a doppelganger is sensitive to the host’s pain.
The message said that the host needs to be killed or reach a near-fatal state.
In that case, there is only one option left.
“By any chance, is there anyone here who is good at torture?”
This person will have to be really good at it.