Chapter 111

#44. Mirror Wraiths

As usual, Kim Jin-Woo opened the portal and passed through the spatial doorway. But when he stepped forward, he froze on the spot. He was greeted by a bizarre sight that he had never seen before.

“What on earth…?”

“What on earth…!”

“What on earth…?”

“What on earth…!”

In front of him, countless Mirror Wraiths were staring at him as they copied exactly what he said. But the most creepy part of this was that every single one of the Mirror Wraiths wore a face identical to his.

His heart thumped loudly as he felt his skin crawl all over.

***

As Kim Jin-Woo sat on the throne, his face couldn’t be any more pale. A deep sense of exhaustion exuded from his parched lips and droopy eyelids. When he thought about it, it was hard to believe that this change had happened in such a short period of time, especially when he had been full of energy until just a moment ago.

He had experienced all sorts of weird and unexpected things in his time in the Underworld, and yet, this was nothing like any of them. He shuddered as he recalled his brief experience in the Labyrinth of Mirror Wraiths. It was a sight he never wanted to see again.

And yet, even now, as he saw the silhouettes in front of him, goosebumps appeared on his skin and a chill crawled up his spine as he broke out in cold sweat.

“Urgh.” He sat tiredly on his throne for a long time before finally managing to stand up. But the seated wraiths copied this action as well, as they stood up along with him.

“For fuck’s sake…” When he saw the dozens of wraiths that looked just like him staring back with their hazy eyes, he couldn’t help but feel freaked out.

This was too dangerous.

He slowly felt his own identity being threatened and closed his eyes tightly. He feared that should he look at the Mirror Wraiths any longer, he would lose himself and his existence along with it.

There was a madness growing within him that made him want to tear his own limbs off and rip his own face to shreds. Without even getting a chance to use the summoning stones in his possession, he hastily left the Labyrinth of Mirror Wraiths.

“Master?” Dominique was still waiting around in the master room with her allocated share of summoning stones when she noticed Kim Jin-Woo quickly returning with the remainder of the /stones.

Usually, he would fill her in by providing immediate explanations, but he was too shaken to even open his mouth, as he tried to recover his own sense of identity. He fell into a deep dilemma as he wondered if he had created an existence even more frightening than himself.

Ever since then, Kim Jin-Woo refused to visit the Labyrinth of Mirror Wraiths. The very threat to his existence was a kind of stress he had never experienced.

But when the message notified him that the Labyrinth of Mirror Wraiths had upgraded to Level 5, he had no choice but to return once more.

Fortunately, he didn’t see a single Mirror Wraith when he stepped foot again into the labyrinth. Instead, a couple of messages appeared in front of him.

[The labyrinth’s upgrade is complete. The labyrinth has been upgraded from Level 4 to Level 5. Previously locked facilities are now accessible.]

[Espesto, King of Mirror Wraiths, who did not make his appearance previously, has shown himself.

The whitish figure that rose above the altar slowly took shape before showing its final form.

“Ah…”

Kim Jin-Woo was worried that Espesto might copy his appearance just like the rest of the Mirror Wraiths, but sighed with relief when he saw Espesto’s final appearance.

Espesto wore a gray cloak that covered his whole body including his head, with only the black shadows deepening where his face should be.

“Ahhh…”

[Espesto, the All-Seeing Mirror and King of Mirror Wraiths, has awakened.]

[Espesto, King of Mirror Wraiths, pledges his loyalty.]

[The King of Mirror Wraiths is the most horrific mimic and a capable sorcerer of the Underworld. He rules over the formless Wraiths that are similar to the spirits that beings see when on Death’s door.]

[The newly born Mirror Wraith clan was filled with pride when they met the awakened King of their clan.]

[The Mirror Wraiths are terrifying thieves who take everything from others, but they are also fragile beings who are unable to achieve anything on their own. The same goes for their King, Espesto.]

[The newborn Espesto has yet to prove his worth as King. He is no different from any other Mirror Wraiths until he finds another being to fill his empty soul.]

[Espesto’s abilities are revealed.]

Kim Jin-Woo frowned at the messages. He once again confirmed his suspicion that the Mirror Wraiths’ special trait was their ability to mimic others.

And now, the Mirror Wraiths whose original identities could never be known were unable to leave their labyrinth. It was to be expected that only their master could see them. It simply came down to the fact that there was no one else for them to mimic.

Espesto started to take on a form, and it was eerily familiar.

“Stop! Stop!” Kim Jin-Woo couldn’t help but shout out the command in panic, which Espesto thankfully obeyed. But he didn’t revert back to his previous form, and he looked like a heavily disfigured version of Kim Jin-Woo.

Upon seeing the Wraith King’s unsightly appearance, Kim Jin-Woo cautiously warned Espesto, “Nobody is to mimic me.”

“Aaaahhhh…” Luckily, Espesto seemed to understand what Kim Jin-Woo had said, and didn’t transform any further. He looked at Kim Jin-Woo with his distorted face.

But somehow, Espesto seemed to be staring right into Kim Jin-Woo’s soul, and he gave the Wraith King another reminder. “Do not mimic me.”

Espesto finally averted his gaze from Kim Jin-Woo.

“Argh.” Kim Jin-Woo let out a low growl as he finally sat on the throne and observed the upgrades for the labyrinth’s facilities.

He quickly scanned through the list of facilities, eager to leave the labyrinth even one second earlier.

“Summon Wraiths.”

“Facility upgrade.”

“Labyrinth upgrade.”

He had used a large portion of his pool of down gems to produce his summoning stones, but he still had more than sufficient resources to upgrade the labyrinth from Level 5 to Level 6.

The Labyrinth Core began to glow and resonate, and countless Wraiths emerged from the altar as they rushed around the labyrinth to build and upgrade its facilities.

“Hm?” Kim Jin-Woo was too distracted by the upgrades to notice a strange sensation creeping over him, and he got a shock when he turned and looked around.

Espesto was silently standing and watching over him, but now he had the exact same face as Dominique. Truly, he was the Reflector of Souls, the Usurper, the Impersonator.

Kim Jin-Woo belatedly realized that not only were the Mirror Wraiths stealing appearances, but they were also stealing other beings’ identities as a whole, down to the deepest, most hidden detail.

Dominique’s black hair, purple eyes, delicate features, and graceful curves were all similar, but there was one crucial difference; where the snake’s lower body would be, there was a pair of legs instead.

“Master,” the fake Dominique said. Kim Jin-Woo looked on in half terror, half shock at Espesto’s near-perfect imitation of Dominique. Espesto continued, “Please have mercy on this formless spirit. We can only exist without a form for a limited time, so please have mercy on your poor servant, who will cease to exist without taking on someone else’s form.”

“Ah…” With Espesto’s explanation, Kim Jin-Woo finally understood why the Mirror Wraiths had all mimicked him when he first entered the labyrinth.

The Mirror Wraiths were beings that would eventually cease to exist if they couldn’t find an entity to mimic, and they had simply mimicked him for the sake of survival.

Feeling more clear-headed about the whole situation, he asked a question. “But how is it that you were able to mimic Dominique’s form?”

“I have committed the crime of looking into Master’s consciousness. I must beg for your forgiveness, but please allow me to continue to have the honor of serving Milord.”

It was yet another unpleasant experience. It was already enough that Denarion had looked into Kim Jin-Woo’s consciousness, but now, only a short while later, someone else had done so as well.

But that wasn’t what he wanted to know the most. He asked Espesto again, “So, why Dominique?”

Espesto answered without hesitation, “I sensed that you disliked my existence, and thus, I took on the form of the existence that you trusted the most. If my shallow scheme offended you, please punish this rude servant of yours.”

“But why…” It was an uncomfortable revelation, but not an unexpected one. But Kim Jin-Woo was unable to figure out why Espesto was able to perfectly mimic Dominique’s form, but failed to mimic her legs, or rather, her lack thereof.

“It is because this is the most perfect and ideal form that Master desires.”

***

“Master?” Dominique was blushing as she called out to Kim Jin-Woo.

“Ah, yeah?”

“Is there something you would like to tell me?”

“No. Why?”

“Then why do you keep looking at me…”

Only after Dominique’s shy response did Kim Jin-Woo belatedly realize that he was staring at her.

“Ah, i-it’s nothing.” Even then, he couldn’t help but continue to look at her. His gaze subconsciously fell on her long, graceful tail.

That seemed to have only further embarrassed Dominique, as she twirled her tail and blushed brightly. “Master, if you keep looking at me like that, I can’t do my work…”

Contrary to what she was saying, she seemed to, in fact, be enjoying it. Kim Jin-Woo grew awkward at this development and looked away, saying, “Dominique.”

“Yes, Master.”

“Just out of curiosity…”

Dominique paused from looking at the map in the middle of the master room and turned to face Kim Jin-Woo.

Kim Jin-Woo hesitated for a short while before speaking. “Do there happen to be Nagas with legs?”

Dominique looked puzzled at the random question out of the blue. Kim Jin-Woo belatedly realized how stupid his question was, and quickly changed his tune. “Ah, it’s nothing. I was just curious. You don’t have to answer that.”

What the heck was I expecting? Kim Jin-Woo thought to himself. He began to leave the master room, almost as if he were running away from embarrassment.

Just then, Dominique gave him a reply. “Not all Nagas are like this.” Kim Jin-Woo paused, and she continued, “The noblest of Nagas are given the honor of standing on two legs.”

“Ah, is that so?”

“Yes. But why the sudden question?”

“It’s nothing.” Kim Jin-Woo shook his head as he left the master room with a smile at the corners of his lips.

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