What was real and what was unreal was a question that had been considered for centuries by humans. Countless philosophers had been unable to distinguish real from unreal with absolute confidence.
But now, the Mad Hatter seemed to be trying to tell Su Jin that even these ancient humans and philosophers were actually not real. They never existed, at least not in his universe.
“What you consider reality is only real in your world. And now, I can tell you that your world and my world are not very different. We’re nothing more than branches and vines that have been duplicated. How do you feel about that?” asked the Mad Hatter with a maniacal grin on his face. He seemed very amused by Su Jin’s utterly shocked expression.
It was difficult for Su Jin to accept this as fact, but after thinking about what the Mad Hatter said, everything made perfect sense.
Based on how the owners shared the same culture, language, traditions and more despite being from different universes, it made sense that there was a main control somewhere. It would be crazier to say that these universes were the same purely by coincidence.
Su Jin thought about the conversations he had had with Chu Yi and others from a different universe from himself. They had talked about a lot of things, including historical poems and songs. Everyone knew what each other was referring to and there was no difference in their knowledge of ancient history.
He suddenly realized how dumb he had been. He should have realized this a long time ago.
“You don’t have to kick yourself for being stupid or anything like that. If nobody enlightened you in this aspect, most humans would have trouble reaching such a conclusion. It’s just like the story of the frog in a well. If a bird hadn’t told the frog about a world outside the well, the frog wouldn’t have learned about the sky,” said the Mad Hatter with a smile.
Su Jin laughed sadly and said, “That doesn’t sound comforting at all. It sounds like you ARE laughing at me for being stupid.”
The Mad Hatter didn’t respond to that, so Su Jin went on to ask seriously, “Why are you telling me all this? I’m sure you’re not just trying to enlighten a frog in the well.”
The Mad Hatter burst out laughing and a strange glint in his eye. Su Jin recognized this glint. It was the glint of anger. The Mad Hatter was very angry right now.
“Let me guess… multiple universes, the World of Fairytales… Are you saying that the destruction of the World of Fairytales has something to do with the concept of multiple universes?” Su Jin’s face lit up. He felt like he had understood something.
The Mad Hatter nodded and said in a grim voice, “Like I told you before, helping me is helping yourself.”
Su Jin stared at the Mad Hatter and considered his words for a moment before shuddering violently. He said in a horrified voice, “Are you saying… one day, my world will be destroyed like the World of Fairytales was?”
“That is correct. That is something unavoidable. It might be my world today and it could be your world tomorrow,” said the Mad Hatter as he pointed to Su Jin.
Su Jin’s expression went through several changes. What the Mad Hatter just said held a lot of implications, and he had pretty much already stated the truth behind Hell’s Handbook.
“Put all the dots together already? But there’s no need to tell me. It’s enough for you to know.” The Mad Hatter knew that Su Jin had pieced together the reason for the Handbook’s existence based on his changing facial expressions.
The two of them didn’t speak for a long time. The Mad Hatter broke the silence first, “How about it? Are you willing to help me now?”
Su Jin frowned and kept tapping his nose with his finger. The Mad Hatter’s words had contained a lot of shocking information, and he had gone from being ignorant to seeing his position in this world very clearly. But that didn’t mean he had to help the Mad Hatter. It was very risky to do so, after all.
“I can help you, but I have a few conditions. You must agree to them first,” said Su Jin.
The Mad Hatter wasn’t surprised that Su Jin wanted him to agree to certain conditions. Su Jin wasn’t stupid after all. If Su Jin were stupid, he wouldn’t ask Su Jin to help him.
“Tell me what they are. If they’re reasonable, I can consider them.” At the same time, the Mad Hatter understood that it would be easier to get Su Jin to work with him if he fulfilled these requests, so he nodded.
Su Jin took a short while to think, then said, “Three conditions. Firstly, because of the Fairytales of Horror, my teammate, Kano Mai, is still lacking in soul power. I hope you can help her to return her soul power to normal.”
The Mad Hatter nodded slightly. “There is a deity who controls souls in the train. This isn’t a problem. I can make arrangements for that.”
Su Jin immediately lit up. Kano Mai’s failing soul had been his worry all this time. Being able to resolve it once and for all made him let out a big sigh of relief.
“Secondly, I’ve lost my teammate Chu Yi in this Challenge. I hope you can revive him,” said Su Jin.
This time, the Mad Hatter frowned and shook his head. “If I were the one who killed him, I could make him come back to life. But I wasn’t the one who killed him, so… I’m sorry, but I can’t fulfil this request.”
Su Jin blinked in surprise. Chu Yi was his greatest loss in the Challenge so far, and he thought that the Mad Hatter would be powerful enough to revive Chu Yi.
The Mad Hatter said, “I can’t revive him, but I could give you a few things that would help. You’d need a couple more items to revive him, but it’s better than nothing.”
“Are they items for the Gods’ Ceremony?” Su Jin’s eyes lit up again.
The Mad Hatter nodded. “That’s right. Since you know what that is, I don’t have to explain this whole thing to you.” He proceeded to take three items out from his top hat.
Su Jin was a little disappointed, because he was still missing one item. But that was still a good sign, since that would save him the trouble of having to collect these three things.
“My third condition. Since you’re going to stop this Challenge by force, then… find a way to send the people from the other teams back first,” said Su Jin.
The Mad Hatter’s expression fell and he seemed rather displeased as he said in a stern voice, “You seem to have misunderstood something here. I’m helping you because you’re worth it. What are those other people worth? Or rather, did you think you still had the time and energy to worry about the lives of others?”
Su Jin had a sad smile on his face. He knew he didn’t have the right to negotiate with the Mad Hatter at all. In fact, the Mad Hatter could have held his entire team hostage and forced him to do what he said.
Now, the Mad Hatter was willing to fulfil these requests only because the Mad Hatter was afraid that he would not do the work wholeheartedly or sabotage the work in order to rebel. But that didn’t mean that he had real room to negotiate with the Mad Hatter.
As if to console Su Jin, the Mad Hatter went on, “Besides, if I send others out of this place, I will have to leave with them. Once I leave this place, it will be very hard for me to come back here.”
Su Jin nodded. The Mad Hatter was right. He was in no position to worry about others and try to keep them alive.
“Of course, you don’t have to be too worried. Once something goes wrong in a Challenge, the Handbook would usually choose to ensure the safety of the owners first. So, instead of spending the time worrying about others, you should be worrying about yourself first,” said the Mad Hatter.
“Worry about myself? So… I can refuse to help you?” asked Su Jin with a hopeful look on his face.
“Young people these days are really… of course you can’t refuse. If you refuse, I’ll slaughter you right now,” said the Mad Hatter with a chuckle.
Su Jin’s expression became glum again. He asked, “Then can you tell me why you want to bomb the train?”
“I’m doing it to look for my companions and set them free,” said the Mad Hatter very solemnly. He explained, “Let’s put it this way. The Handbook Challenges have their own logic. Each time a Challenge is started, the correct characters will be placed inside in order to fulfil the premise of the Challenge, then owners will appear in the Challenge to resolve it.
“Once the Challenge is resolved and the surviving owners are sent away, the Handbook will take back all the characters it placed inside. However, these main characters are generally powerful beings. In order to keep everything safely under control, the Handbook would erase the memories of these people.
“But some of them are particularly powerful, so not even the Handbook is able to erase their memories. In order to make sure that the memories of these powerful ones are erased completely, the Handbook created two special Challenges, one of which is the Train of the Supernatural.
“The Train of the Supernatural is in charge of sending these powerful deities to another Challenge and that Challenge will be used to completely erase their memories. Given how the Handbook’s general principle is to play safe and make sure that everyone’s memories are erased even after an attempt had already been made, there would be some who still have their memories and others who don’t have them anymore. My aim is to find those who still have their memories.”
Su Jin’s head began to spin after listening to the Mad Hatter. It was obvious that the Mad Hatter was planning to go against the Handbook. But as a mere owner, he really had no idea what exactly would happen.
“Young man, you don’t have a choice. Do what I tell you properly and I’ll ensure your safety since you did such a good job the last time,” said the Mad Hatter with a big smile.
“Last thing. I need to find the Demon Lord and undo his seal. Also… aren’t you and the Demon Lord part of the Handbook Challenges? Why are both of you…” Su Jin tried to squeeze as much information out of the Mad Hatter as possible, since that could help to make up for any potential risk he was about to face.
The Mad Hatter replied without hesitation, “That’s because we’re even more powerful. Those at our level can guarantee that we will not be consumed, but at the same time, we cannot escape its constraints. As for undoing the seal on the Demon Lord… I’ll talk to you about that after this Challenge is over.”
Bam! Bam! Bam! Immediately after the Mad Hatter said those words, someone started banging on the door loudly.
“What the hell is going on? Did you fall into the toilet bowl and get flushed away or what? Who’s the inconsiderate fellow inside! I’m about to shit myself!” bellowed the voice outside the bathroom.
The Mad Hatter frowned and opened the door, only to see a huge piece of flesh that resembled a butt bouncing up and down outside.
“What the heck is this thing?” Su Jin’s eyes widened. It looked like someone’s butt had come to the bathroom without the rest of the human it belonged to.
The giant butt squeezed its way in and when it noticed Su Jin staring at it, the anus of the butt started saying in an annoyed voice, “What are you staring at? You have a problem with me? I’m the great God of Excretion, you know?”
“N-no, I don’t have any problem!” Su Jin hurriedly shook his head. This was definitely this god’s territory, so he wasn’t going to anger this god now.
“Enough of this nonsense. We don’t have the time for this. Let’s return to your train carriage to settle our matter first.” The Mad Hatter grabbed Su Jin by the collar and dragged him out.
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