Ep.184: Duplicated Universes

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“What are you doing here?” Su Jin was in shock. Back when they went through the Fairytales of Horror Challenge, the Mad Hatter had made use of his team. But the Mad Hatter was a deity as powerful as the Demon Lord, so Su Jin had no choice but to suck it up.

The Mad Hatter rolled his eyes and said frostily, “I should be asking you that question. I sensed your presence earlier on.”

“Me? I don’t get a choice, you know?” Su Jin shook his head. The Mad Hatter knew the Handbook’s universe very well, and he was at the same level as the Demon Lord, so there was no need for Su Jin to pretend to be ignorant or to hide anything from him.

The Mad Hatter nodded and sighed. “You’re right. You don’t get a choice. But getting sent to the Train of the Supernatural definitely makes you one of the unluckiest ones.”

If not for the fact that Su Jin knew he couldn’t beat the Mad Hatter in a fight, he would have swung his knife at this irritating fellow. He sighed and said, “Why did you drag me in here?”

“Why? Of course it’s to save you! Otherwise, why would Diablo have appeared when you were fighting that pig-headed fellow? Diablo isn’t a deity who stands up for justice or righteousness, you know,” said the Mad Hatter with a snicker.

Su Jin paused for a moment. Back when he had fought Ennui, it was true that he had lost his cool and had failed to think rationally. When he thought about it now, everything he had done out of anger had not been the best of decisions and he could have died. If Diablo hadn’t appeared and stopped Ennui from moving, he might have won the fight but would have failed to kill Ennui and thereby avenge Chu Yi.

“For that, I… I owe you one,” said Su Jin. Since the Mad Hatter had indeed helped him out, he was willing to acknowledge it.

“Since that’s the case, how about you help me with something?” said the Mad Hatter to Su Jin with a big grin.

Su Jin immediately became wary and took a step back. “You’re trying to trap me again?”

The Mad Hatter looked a little embarrassed and gave Su Jin a gentlemanly smile. “How could you say that? I’m a god, after all. Why would I do something like that?”

“That’s bullshit. Mai’s soul is still very weak! Do you think I would still believe you even though you’re supposed to be a god?” Su Jin snorted. Kano Mai still needed items that could replenish her soul power, and this all started because of what the Mad Hatter had done during that Challenge.

“Believe me. Helping me is the same as helping yourself. Otherwise, you’re never going to make it to the last station alive,” said the Mad Hatter very confidently.

Su Jin frowned. As an owner, he was supposed to keep to the mission given by the Challenge. But now that a deity as unreasonable as a gangster was involved, it seemed like he didn’t have much of a choice.

“It’s not as if I haven’t gone through a Level A Challenge before,” said Su Jin in a grim voice.

The Mad Hatter shrugged and said, “That’s not what I meant. I know that you’re really capable and I admire that in you. When the Demon Lord told me about you, he thought that you were a rare talent who could achieve great things too. So, I’m not surprised that you could survive a Level A Challenge.”

“You know the Demon Lord?” Su Jin’s eyes lit up. If that was the case, then it was actually the Demon Lord’s idea for the Mad Hatter to make use of him.

The Mad Hatter laughed hollowly. “Of course. As fellow deities who have been sealed up, we do know each other.”

“Where is he now and how can I help him to break the seal on him?” asked Su Jin immediately.

The Mad Hatter motioned to Su Jin to calm down. “You seem very concerned about that fellow!”

“I wouldn’t be so concerned if he wasn’t holding onto my heart,” said Su Jin with a scoff. If the Demon Lord hadn’t switched his heart for the Eye of the Demon Lord and held his life hostage, he wouldn’t care about the Demon Lord at all.

The Mad Hatter froze for a moment, stared at Su Jin’s chest, and looked like he understood what was going on now. “I was wondering why he just let you roam around like that. So, he’s actually made ample preparations. He’s the main deity of the evil camp alright.”

Su Jin wasn’t interested in hearing the Mad Hatter compliment the Demon Lord, so he turned around to leave. But the Mad Hatter flicked his fingers and the door that was once there instantly disappeared.

“Young man, you will be punished for being so rude to a god,” said the Mad Hatter with a frown.

“Staying here with you for so long is my punishment already. What do you want from me?” Su Jin was losing his patience. He didn’t like this Mad Hatter at all. If the Mad Hatter weren’t a god, he would have attacked him by now.

The Mad Hatter could sense that Su Jin didn’t like him one bit, so he just sighed and said, “I already told you. If you don’t help me, you won’t get to the final stop.”

“What… what do you mean? You said I won’t reach the final stop if I don’t help you, so… you’re going to sabotage something?” asked Su Jin carefully. He suddenly felt that there was more to the Mad Hatter’s words than he let on.

The Mad Hatter seemed very pleased by Su Jin’s level of intelligence, so he smiled and nodded. “Of course. I’m going to bomb this train.”

“Wait, what did you just say?” Su Jin’s mouth twitched and wondered if he was hearing things.

“I said, I’m going to bomb this train,” repeated the Mad Hatter.

“What?!” Su Jin really felt like dying now. He had been right – staying here with the Mad Hatter for too long was a real punishment.

“You’re doing this on purpose, aren’t you? You’re just doing this on purpose! Why can’t you just let me off? I’m just an ordinary owner! I’m just a young fellow!” Su Jin felt like even his logic was getting confused.

The Mad Hatter grinned at Su Jin and waited for Su Jin to calm down before continuing, “Relax. Things aren’t as bad as you think.”

“Things are probably way worse than I think! What are you trying to do? Are you a Hell’s Handbook terrorist? You want to bomb the train? Why don’t you just fly straight to heaven?” Su Jin was furious. He was already upset enough to be sent into a Level A Challenge, but now, he had to deal with this crazy fellow on top of that.

“Flying to heaven is a lot easier than bombing the train. But that’s why I need your help,” said the Mad Hatter with a straight face.

Su Jin just wanted to go as far away as possible from this crazy fellow. The Mad Hatter was a literal walking disaster. If he bombed the train, what was going to happen to all the owners in it?

“Don’t worry, I’m no longer constrained by the Handbook, so there are many things I can do, including sending all of you back into your Personal Hell Domains and letting you complete this Challenge.” The Mad Hatter could see what Su Jin was worried about.

“Can I say no? Getting through a Level A Challenge is tough, but helping you to blast this train sounds like a suicide mission to me.” Su Jin didn’t trust the Mad Hatter at all and was more willing to go through the Challenge the normal way instead.

“Don’t you want to know what the Hell’s Handbook is?” asked the Mad Hatter suddenly.

Su Jin froze for a moment and the Mad Hatter gave him a strange smile as he murmured, “Of course, even if I don’t tell you now, you’ll end up finding out as long as you manage to stay alive for long enough. But if you know what it’s all about ahead of time, I believe you’ll mature and develop faster.”

After noticing that Su Jin had remained silent for a while, the Mad Hatter went on, “You’re the leader of a small team, which means you’ve understood the concept of multiple universes, right?”

“That’s right. Besides the owners who have been newly chosen by the Handbook, almost every owner knows about this. It’s not much of a secret,” said Su Jin with a nod. This was a secret only to those who had just entered the Handbook’s universe, but it was public knowledge among all the owners who spent time in Hell’s Bar.

“Then do you know the secret of the multiple universes? Or rather, do you know why there are so many in the first place?” The Mad Hatter seemed more like he was here to ask questions rather than explain things.

Su Jin shook his head. The Mad Hatter explained, “All the universes are very similar to one another. They’re so similar, it seems like they’re all… made from the same mould. Let’s take owners for example. You could be a group of owners from various universes, yet they have almost no difference in terms of language and culture. Do you know why?”

Su Jin blinked and began to think about this. His eyes lit up after a while and he murmured, “Are you saying… these universes have been duplicated?”

“Oh? Tell me more.” The Mad Hatter was surprised that Su Jin had managed to grasp the main point so quickly.

Su Jin sorted his thoughts out, then said, “I did think about this question before. My guess is that there’s one main universe among the multiple universes and the other universes are duplicates of this main universe. They are linked like a big tree. The main universe is the tree trunk, while the other universes are the branches that carry the same genes as the trunk.

“As for how our language and culture, and even the level of technology in each of our universes have been pretty much the same, I think… when the universes were duplicated, certain foundations were laid… in fact, they might not exist for very long. They might only exist for… a few decades!” Su Jin was shocked by his own thoughts and instinctively shook his head. This sounded crazy, but Su Jin subconsciously also believed that his judgment was correct.

This was a hypothesis he had held from a very long time ago, but nobody had confirmed or hinted at it, which was why he had just pushed it aside. Now that he had said it out loud, he couldn’t take this idea back or ignore it anymore.

“My universe… will only last for a few more decades… everything else is but an illusion… then… then… do I really exist? Am I nothing more than a living creature that has been duplicated?” murmured Su Jin.

The Mad Hatter was not surprised by Su Jin’s reaction and said quietly, “Young man, whether you’re real or not isn’t important now. I’m more powerful than you are, but… am I real to you? To an owner like yourself, am I real? To the Handbook, am… I… real?”

The Mad Hatter’s words seemed to thunder in Su Jin’s ears and made him shudder. He was considering what the Mad Hatter was saying. As a Handbook owner, it was true that Su Jin had regarded an existence like the Mad Hatter as unreal. Even though the Mad Hatter was more powerful and even magical, he had never thought that these beings were real. He just treated them like NPCs in games.

The Mad Hatter grabbed hold of Su Jin’s shoulders and whispered into his ear, “Of course, of course I’m real!”

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