I saw the Mage collapsing to the floor as she coughed out blood. My mind felt numb.
Again? Why is she like that all of the sudden?
I pondered about it for a moment and disengaged the soul steal.
I paused for a second, before using soul steal again.
I could hear the screams from both the head of the doppelganger in my hand and the Mage who was convulsing on the ground. That complicated the situation even more..
Before this, I had thought about the possibility of there being more than one doppelganger.
After defeating a doppelganger, we would waste time relaxing and waiting for the rescue party to arrive. After the rescue party arrives, I would fail to clear the stage because of the hidden doppelganger.
However, the fact that I was the doppelganger was a pretty mind-boggling trick in the stage already. Also, to think that there was yet another twist with there being more than one doppelganger…
As I thought, this is the Hell difficulty.
It seemed the architect was going to have a problem somewhere if the stage was easy. There was always trouble to the very end.
There was not just one doppelganger in the dungeon room. There were two.
One of them was the bastard that was hiding inside my body. The other one was the bastard that was twitching on the floor over there under the guise of the Mage’s appearance.
“Why is the Mage acting like this?”
After the battle, the Holy Knight and the Knight were resting, but they came to me and asked.
I explained to them that I used the soul steal to weaken the doppelganger and the Mage started to experience pain because of it.
“Um… As I thought, the Mage was also a doppelganger? Mr. Apostle, I’m sorry, but could you disengage that spell for a moment and use it again later?”
As the Knight asked, I disengaged the soul steal for a moment and started it back up again.
When the soul steal was canceled, the Mage gasped for air and breathed desperately for air. When I started the soul steal again, she was screaming in pain.
“… Oh no…”
It seemed the Holy Knight was very disappointed. He faltered and covered his face with his hands.
Was it that shocking?
“Well, I am not all that surprised that the Mage turned out to be a doppelganger. I thought the Mage was a doppelganger from the start.”
The Mercenary was here too before I realized and added a knowing statement.
As the Mercenary said, the Mage had done many things that made her a suspect for a doppleganger.
In multiple instances, she tried to use magic that was going to harm other people.
Moreover, she was seriously affected by the soul steal and had lost consciousness for three days.
When I was unaware of how much effect the soul steal had on the doppelganger, I simply thought it was because her mana ran out of control.
Now that I think about it, she was unconscious despite the Holy Knight’s healing. I wonder if the Holy Knight’s healing negatively impacted the doppelganger because of his holy power.
Lastly, she used a very powerful Blitz spell that was enough to make me faint.
Back then, I wondered if she made a mistake. However, now that I see her shuddering around on the floor, I am certain that she did it to kill me.
The doppelganger that was hiding inside my body also yelled and said, ‘Are you intending to die too.’
Looks like I could have died.
I was too complacent.
Other than the Holy Knight, everyone stared at the Mage as if they were suspicious of her the entire time.
I was the same.
Watching the Mage in pain, instead of feeling pity, I just thought,
‘As I thought, she was the doppelganger.’
Honestly, that Blitz magic earlier was obviously too powerful.
Anyway, this was like a cow walking back and accidently killing a rat.
I didn’t know that doppelgangers could be identified with this method.
Soul steal only affected the ‘enemies’ around me.
Because of this, when I used the soul steal on the first day, the doppelganger inside me was completely unharmed by the spell.
I was not even aware of the doppelganger inside me, so…
The doppelganger inside me probably view me as an enemy.
It probably saw me as just a host.
That means the doppelganger over there which assumed the form of the Mage was regarding me as an enemy all this time.
Well, I guess that is obvious?
In the beginning, I told everyone that I was going to find the doppelganger and kill it alone even if it meant killing everyone else in the process. That doppelganger probably thought it had to kill me somehow if it wants to leave the dungeon alive.
“Do you think the two doppelgangers knew about each other? I wonder if they could communicate with each other. I don’t think this is the case, considering that the doppelganger who assumed the form of the Mage had constantly tried to attack you. Maybe they formed an agreement that just one of them leaving the dungeon alive was good enough. Hut! Mr. Apostle, looks like that doppelganger won’t be able to stand this any longer. I think it will reveal its true form soon. Do you still have strength left for another battle?”
The Knight had been observing the Mage’s condition. The Knight asked me.
Do I have strength left?
The Mage’s scream turned menacing. Her arms and legs were cracking and creaking. It was about to reveal its true form.
The Holy Knight on the side started to recite a spell. I urged him to stop. I told him there was no need for him to overexert himself when he didn’t even recover his mana yet.
In most situations, giving the time for the monster to transform was not a good idea.
However, in this situation, I was confident that I could beat the doppelganger even if I fought it ten times consecutively.
Since that was the case, it was better for me to let it finish the transformation so I could get more experience points.
I changed the Transmutable Thousand Arms’ dagger form into the long sword form again and concentrated.
There was no way I was going to taste defeat when victory was already guaranteed.
* * *
“Hey, Mr. Apostle… It’s time for you to get up… Huh? Were you already awake?”
It seemed that it was my turn to keep watch. I was lying down with my eyes shut but the Mercenary interrupted me.
“I just got up. I thought it was my turn to keep watch, so…”
“Haaaaaaaam… I’ll go to sleep now. You have done a lot today during the battles, yet you ended up with the watch duty at the most inconvenient time, so it must be tiring for you. Keep up the good work.”
It seemed the Mercenary was very tired. He mumbled and stopped talking as he reached his spot and laid down.
As for me, regardless of exhaustion, I always had a hard time falling asleep.
When I was in the middle of a stage, I usually stayed up for days. I took naps at the Kiri Kiri’s field after clearing a stage or at the waiting room.
Standing watch was not all that tiring, considering that I’ve been doing this for fifteen floors now.
I was not intending to sleep anyway.
On the contrary, I was actually anxiously waiting for my turn.
During today evening, I wrapped my sword with the Holy Knight’s holy spell and defeated a doppelganger.
Of the doppelganger that assumed the form of the Mage and the doppelganger that was in my body, the doppelganger that was in my body was dead.
I wanted to ask all sorts of things to that doppelganger under the pretext of wanting to know about my past. However, it was not able to answer anything.
It was not that it refused to answer. It was not able to answer.
The reaction was similar to when I asked Idy things related to the Tutorial, so I am certain of this.
The doppelganger was not able to tell me anything about the past of the character that I was currently playing as in the 16th Floor’s stage.
I could understand why it couldn’t answer since this was related to the Tutorial.
However, the doppelganger couldn’t give me any information about the demons or hell either.
I think I should check out this problem later.
We didn’t kill the other doppelganger that was pretending to the Mage.
The Holy Knight had been suffering from dehydration since the evening due to excessive use of mana, so we decided to postpone using another holy spell.
I could destroy the doppelganger by continuing to use soul steal, but there was no reason to do that.
So, we left just the doppelganger’s head and trapped it inside the mana-restraining box that the Adventurer had. Since then, we had been taking turns to keep watch on it.
Now, it was early morning. Everyone was asleep, and it was finally my turn to keep watch.
In other words, only the doppelganger and I were awake.
I walked around and confirmed that everyone really was asleep before heading to a corner of the dungeon room.
I quietly opened the mana restraint box.
Although it was still alive, only its head remained.
“Quiet. Now, listen very carefully to what I’m about to say. Depending on how well you do, I’ll decide how painfully you should die or if I should give you a chance to escape this place alive.”
The doppelganger moved the skin on its face to acknowledge my threat without making any noise.
“Tell me about hell and the demons.”
Of course, it was not able to explain them.
“Strike one. You lost one chance. If you disappoint me two more times, you will die right now. I won’t wait until the morning.”
[Ah… That wasn’t on purpose…]
“Just shut up. Don’t make loud noises.”
Actually, it didn’t matter if you made noises or not.
If the Holy Knight woke up because of loud noise, then he will complain that I’m listening to stories from a demon, but that was it.
Also, they had an intense battle against a doppelganger today, so they would be in deep sleep.
The doppelganger was not able to give me information about hell or the demons.
I couldn’t ask it about the human world outside the dungeon either.
What would be the point of asking it something it didn’t know?
I only had one thing left to ask.
The Mage’s memories and knowledge.
It even taught me magic under the guise of the Mage, so it should not have any problem teaching me magic.
Actually, the situation now is better than before.
The doppelganger wouldn’t be acting like a mute and write everything to communicate anymore. It is also not bound by the restrictions of the Magic Tower either.
Ugh, I’m getting infuriated all of the sudden.
[Kek… Why… Why? Stop…]
“You little bastard. You are just a doppelganger, yet you tried to hide information about the Magic Tower or whatnot as the excuse? You brainless runt. What do you have to do with the Magic Tower? Also, why can’t you talk? … Now that I think about it, you are so infuriating. I cannot stand it.”
I was well aware that doppelganger wouldn’t sustain much pain from a physical strike, but just to quench my anger, I pressed my knuckle onto its forehead.
I did it with middle finger up and my hand wrapped in mana. My knuckle had a substantial amount of force behind it.
The doppelganger was already exposed to the soul steal. It seemed that getting hit by an attack that was wrapped in mana was quite painful. It started to make cracking noise.
[Please… Uk! Uk… I’ll tell you want you want. I will tell you… So stop…]
The doppelganger pleaded, so I canceled the soul steal and said,
“That was strike two. You only have one chance left. If you disappoint me one more time, you will die right here.”
[I feel so wronged… No. I was wrong. I’ll tell you anything you want…]
“I don’t need you to speak anymore. Can you write with this?”
I brought out a pencil from the inventory and asked.
[W… Write? You want me to write?]
“Huh? You can’t? If you cannot write, then tell me. It’s all right.”
It was not able to answer promptly. It momentarily fell silent.
It definitely is not dumb.
If it said it could not write, then that was going to guarantee three strikes.
If it still wanted to cling on to life, then it had to write somehow.
[I can write…]
After the response, the doppelganger’s facial expression twitched. On the side of its face, the flesh expanded a little and it became a wrinkly hand-like form that was the size of a hand of a newborn baby.
As I thought, it could transform.
Before going to sleep, the Holy Knight said the doppelganger probably still have enough strength left to transform its body.
So, he said that we should take turns to watch it even if it is trapped in the box.
So far so good. It’s going just as planned.
“Now, write with that pencil, do you understand? I won’t have to tell you what you need to write about, right? It’s about magic. Write all information you have in your brain about magic. You got it?”
[… Excuse me. In that luggage, there are magic books that the Mage used to carry. Why don’t you take them instead…]
“Shut up. Are you going to talk back to me? Do you want to die or are you going to write as I told you to?”
As the doppelganger said, there were magic books in the Mage’s bag.
However, what use would I have with such books?
I couldn’t even take those books to outside of this stage.
So, I had to copy the content onto papers I prepared before coming into the stage.
However, I don’t even know their written language, so how am I supposed to copy all that word for word?
On top of that, do all that before the 16th Floor stage ends?
It was obvious. There was no way for me to get it done.
So, this was why I was asking the doppelganger to do it.
Kuuuu. It is such a logical and fitting choice.
[Where… Where am I supposed to write them?]
All right. This is very good.
Having heard the doppelganger, I opened the inventory and brought out gigantic notebooks that had been lying in the corner of my inventory.
They were notebooks I was going to send to the Order of Vigilance as supporting items.
Each notebook had over a thousand pages. I had 15 of these thick notebooks.
So, the total number of pages were over fifteen thousand.
Also, the pages were A2 size.
“Now, from now on and before the morning comes, fill these notebooks with information until there is no room to spare. You can do it, right?”
“If you fill them properly, I’ll not kill you. I’ll let you live.”
[Really… Are you really going to let me live?]
“That’s right, so hurry up and start.”
The doppelganger fell silent again. It seemed to have realized that it had no other choice. Soon, it started to move the pencil and write on the notebook.
It was like a computer printer.
The pencil movement was incredibly, even mesmerizingly fast.
It had been a while since I ate a beef jerky. I brought some out from the inventory and chewed on it while watching the doppelganger write.
I watched it so it won’t do anything else or try to trick me. I didn’t forget to say something occasionally at it either.
“Don’t write again what you already wrote.”
“Don’t go gradually increasing the size of the letters over time either.”
“Minimize the spacing.”
“Don’t do double spacing.”
“When it comes to plots or figures, making it readable is enough.”
“I will say this again. If you write something you already had written already, you will die.”
“You will die also if you write it in crappy handwriting. Write it in neat handwriting so it’s comprehensible.”
I was reciting the lines I heard from my main teacher from the middle school days for a surprise homework. I used the lines to whip the doppelganger into shape.
The Adventurer and the Knight were the people who were supposed to be the next watches after me. However, I didn’t wake them, so the doppelganger could write until seven in the morning, which was the time for everyone to wake up.
The doppelganger was only given a few hours, but in that short period of time, it managed to fill 13 notebooks with words with little room to spare.
Its writing speed was ridiculous. However, in the end, it couldn’t fill all 15 notebooks.
“That’s too bad, but you failed your objective.”
[Wait. Wait! This was impossible from the start due to the time constraint…]
“Now, go back to the box.”
I placed the doppelganger’s head inside the mana restraint box, locked it and closed the lid.
It was time for me to wake everyone and eat.
I’ll make it write the rest after the breakfast.
Like that, I faced daybreak in the sixth day of the stage.
* * *
After the breakfast, as usual, it was time for the Knight’s chatterboxing.
The man always talked a lot, but now that the threat of unidentified doppelganger was no more, it felt like the Knight had grown even more talkative.
Others were very relaxed as well.
They had been spending time anxiously all this time. With the problem finally solved, it seemed their hearts were feeling light. They laughed and talked easily.
Now, we just needed to wait patiently until the rescue party arrived, so the group even took off their armors and changed to comfortable clothes.
Instead of being shocked by it or being saddened by it now, they calmly recognized it.
With the Holy Knight leading the ceremony, they held a prayer. We decided to deliver her belongings to the people of the Magic Tower. That was all.
After the meal, I threatened the doppelganger and made it record information into the notebooks again. I was watching it from the distance, but the Holy Knight came next to me.
Through the morning, everyone was taking it easy. However, Holy Knight looked very uncomfortable.
It seemed he was agonizing over something. He kept on sighing through the morning.
He suddenly came next to me, so I wondered what this was about.
The Holy Knight suddenly sat down next to me as if he was plummeting down a trap.
“If you have time, will you please listen to me for a while?”