Book 10 Chapter 238 – The Death Alchemist (3)

“This is…”

It was pitch dark inside the labyrinth.

Helena stood alone.

“… Why did it become like this?!”

If they had to solve the game individually, shouldn’t they have been told this before beginning?

She cursed Woohyuk for having had no manners.

As she was complaining…

“Helena, can you hear me?”

Woohyuk’s voice came from the other side of the stone wall.

Helena ran toward the wall and put her ear up against it.

“Yes, I can hear you. I was swearing at you just now. Did you hear me?” she asked.

“Thanks to this opportunity, I finally understand what you really think of me,” he replied.

“… What do we do now anyway? Should I keep following the path?”

“Basically, yes. But there are some things to watch out for.”

Demonic Spirits, worthy of their name, often used hallucination spells on their victims.

Until they reached the next stage, all the beings they would meet would be virtual images.

If they kept that in mind, they’d face no particular problems at this stage.

“It’s not as bad as I thought. Is this really Hell Mode?”

“This is just the starting point. The full-scale stage is past this point.”

From the Demonic Spirits’ point of view, it was more fun to play around and torment those who entered this space.

Helena nodded her head and then asked,

“Then, can I meet you at the next stage? Oh, how are you going to relay this explanation to our other colleagues?”

“Seeing that you’re next to me, we’ll probably be able to join them at the next stage. We’ll just have to hope that Arhen and the two Homunculus get through in one piece.”

According to Woohyuk’s words, in the Hell Mode he experienced in the past, not everyone had been scattered like this from the beginning.

That’s why he didn’t talk about this in advance.

Thus, this awkward situation couldn’t fully be attributed to Woohyuk.

After Helena nodded her head, she said her goodbyes,

“I see. Then see you at the next stage.”

“Good luck.”

She could hear the sounds of Woohyuk’s receding steps over the stone wall.

‘It’s become a headache,’ Helena thought.

However, worrying about her colleague wouldn’t change anything.

As Helena moved along the labyrinth’s passage, a bluish spirit suddenly jumped out of a crack in the stone wall.

“Ku-Ru…”

“Yikes!”

Helena, whose complexion had turned blue, jumped back in surprise.

She put her hand on her chest and stared at the place where the spirit disappeared.

‘He said it’s just an illusion.’

It was all fake.

Everything that appeared from now on was all fake.

Helena reminded herself of his words and strode forward.

Step. Step.

After walking roughly a hundred steps forward…

A crossroads appeared. She stopped with a dumbfounded expression.

‘Wait, he didn’t mention anything like this?!’

Was this instance different from the old Hell Mode?

If so, she’d have to make her own choices.

‘Since demons would like the left path, I should go to the right.’

The probability was half-half anyway.

She was purely relying on her luck, but Helena listened to her gut and believed her choice was right.

As she was about to take a step forward…

Step. Step.

Roan suddenly popped out from the right pathway.

“… What the… why are you here, stubborn Saintess?”

After confirming that Helena was alone, Roan started making fun of her. It was as if he had been waiting to unload on her for a while.

After a deluge of criticism and mockery, Helena shouted out with a grim face,

“Don’t make fun of me, you fake kid!”

“Who said I’m fake? You’re the fake one!”

“This is great. I always wanted to give you a piece of my mind!” Helena shouted as she grasped Roan’s ear.

Since she thought he was an illusion, she felt that she could act as she pleased.

However, Roan wasn’t the type to let things go, especially since Woohyuk wasn’t around.

“Aya! Let go, otherwise, I’ll hit back!”

“How the hell are you going to hit back? You’re an illusion created by a spirit. You have no substance!”

Even if she were to feel pain from his attack, Helena was sure that the Roan in front of her was an illusion.

When Helena didn’t let his ears go, Roan grabbed her head with an angry expression,

“Ouch!”

“I’m not fake! Now it’s your turn to receive your own medicine!”

Their childish fight lasted for several minutes.

Helena felt that something was off after a few minutes. Why was he not disappearing?

‘Is he really a fake?’

She recalled Woohyuk saying that all the beings in this labyrinth were illusions.

She pondered for a moment, then she asked herself,

‘What if Woohyuk at that time was an illusion?’

This was possible, given that the Phantom’s Temple of Hell was designed from the outset to have each of the invaders fight amongst each other.

By convincing each other that they were fake, one can create this kind of division.

When her thoughts reached this conclusion, Helena let go of Roan’s ear and said,

“Roan, listen! This is the Phantom’s trick!”

“What?”

“Did Woohyuk speak to you about this labyrinth beyond a stone wall?”

“Huh, how did you know?!”

Her conjecture seemed correct.

When Helena explained what was going on, Roan stopped pulling Helena’s hair.

“We have to find our other party members. They might be fighting amongst each other like us.”

In particular, if Woohyuk thought that the other person was fake, he would emotionlessly kill without a second thought.

After hearing Helena’s words, Roan was at a loss,

“Shit, I don’t want to be attacked by my Master!”

“Stay by my side. Everything in this labyrinth smells fishy.”

The bluish spirit that she saw at the beginning was probably used as a device to give one discomfort.

The Phantom was probably watching the situation unfold right now, so she had to remain vigilant, even if she figured out its trick.

The environment inside the labyrinth could change at any time.

Helena took Roan and moved along the left fork path.

Step. Step.

After moving for a while, Woohyuk appeared at another crossroad.

“Is this another fake illusion? If you’re real, prove yourself!” Helena warned.

“… First of all, prove yourself, Witch of Annihilation. Show me your self-purifying magic.”

If one used purification magic, one could reveal the true shape of the object distorted by hallucination magic.

Helena first proved her existence with the spell and then found out that Woohyuk and Roan were not fakes either.

“… But why didn’t you tell us about this in advance? Thanks to you, the situation got complicated!”

“I told you. I told you that this ruin makes its intruders fight against each other.”

Since the stages changed every time, it was impossible for Woohyuk to properly inform his party members in advance.

Woohyuk briefly explained the situation and then carefully observed his surroundings.

“What are you looking for?” asked Helena.

“A mark.”

“What type of mark?”

“There are devices installed throughout this labyrinth that conjure illusions.”

One of them was the bluish ghost that Helena saw previously.

Therefore, it was necessary to move forward while removing the marks so as not to get lost.

Otherwise, they’d be traversing the same route repeatedly.

Perhaps because of this, Arhen and Lisa could not be seen.

“Hey, so where is the Death Alchemist? When we came in, no one came out,” continued Helena.

“I don’t know either. I think it’ll probably be in the last stage.”

Perhaps this ruin had something it needed.

Woohyuk suddenly wondered what kind of relationship the Death Alchemist had with the Phantom, the manager of this site.

A system message popped up as he was moving forward and removing the marks on the stone wall,

[You have almost reached the center of the labyrinth.]

[If all five survivors gather, you can move on to the next stage.]

[Number of people currently alive: 5]

Fortunately, all five were still alive. It seemed that no one had died yet.

There was a high probability that the Phantom nor Death Alchemist would appear in this stage.

However, it was dangerous to believe the system message at face value, so Woohyuk cautioned Helena and Roan,

“Don’t forget that the manager of these ruins is Phantom, an illusionist. He can also maliciously give false information to us.”

“Do we really need to clear all the stages? Last time, at the Vampire ruins, Astaroth ignored the system messages and stage restrictions and went back and forth through the stage at will,” Helena remarked.

Obviously, if the system administrator was less experienced or low level, that kind of free passage was possible.

Hearing Helena’s words, Woohyuk nodded and said,

“Well, since it’s a high-ranking demon’s ruin, it shouldn’t be very difficult for any one of the 72 Demon Kings.”

“Then, why don’t we find Arhen and Lisa and have Amon find the Death Alchemist? We can try using the other Demon Kings as well.”

Helena’s words made sense.

Of course, Woohyuk considered this option from the beginning as well, but he wanted to find everyone first.

However, since it was already stated aloud, he decided to do what she said.

Woohyuk summoned Amon and Astaroth and entrusted them with the reconnaissance task.

“Find all the surviving guys in these ruins and bring them to me,” ordered Woohyuk.

No matter if it was the Death Alchemist, it couldn’t beat two Demon Kings.

Sending more Demon Kings out seemed to be unnecessary.

As soon as Amon and Astaroth disappeared, a system message appeared in front of Woohyuk.

[Are you… that famous troublemaker?] 

[Yes/No]

It seemed more like a text message on a mobile phone than a system message.

Woohyuk smirked.

‘He’s a funny guy.’

Since he suddenly pulled out Remegeton and summoned the Demon Kings, Woohyuk felt that the Phantom was getting nervous.

When Woohyuk clicked the [Yes] button, the system message was updated.

[I want to negotiate with you. Will you accept?] 

[Yes / No]

The Phantom was reaching out to Woohyuk first.

Of course, the Phantom’s other hand might be hiding a dagger, but this didn’t bother Woohyuk.

Woohyuk thought about the offer for a brief moment and then pressed the [Yes] button.

‘Even if I have to kill it eventually, it wouldn’t be a loss to listen to its story first.’

Additionally, the Phantom may provide crucial information on the whereabouts of the Death Alchemist.

Eventually, the system messages disappeared, and a dazzling light enveloped their surroundings.

***

They were teleported to a control room with numerous surveillance screens.

Woohyuk and his party members were facing a man wearing a white mask.

“Are you the Phantom?”

“Yes. Pleased to meet you all. I am the Phantom.”

The man offered a sofa for the group.

Currently, all five party members were gathered.

Only Woohyuk rejected his offer while the rest sat on the comfy sofa.

“So, what kind of negotiation do you want to do, Phantom?”

“Recently, I’ve had a headache because of a man. He seems to be the Death Alchemist you’re looking for.”

The Phantom explained in detail what had happened in his ruins.

To summarize, about a month ago, a man with light purple hair came in and disappeared.

After his disappearance, the bodies in the ruins began to disappear like ghosts.

“So, you don’t have any other clues. Why do you think he’s the Death Alchemist?” asked Woohyuk.

“Look at this,” the Phantom replied as he lifted the palm of his hand. A translucent metal lump appeared above it, emitting a blue glow.

“What is that?”

“I don’t know either. Since his appearance, small amounts of this metal have been found often in the corners of the stages. It’s stronger than steel and seems to be more precious than gold.”

Thus, the value of this unknown metal was higher than that of gold.

Emphasizing this point, the Phantom continued,

“He is conducting alchemy on corpses to turn them into this metal. I don’t know why he’s doing this, but by now, there’s probably quite a lot of it laying around in here.

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