Once inside the bathroom, Su Jin sat on the toilet bowl with his Handbook in hand. The entire book was covered in a slight reddish glow.
“Blackie, is that you?” Su Jin asked the book.
“That’s right!” said Blackie.
Su Jin was really surprised and asked puzzledly, “I’m not within my Personal Hell Domain but you can still talk to me?”
“In most cases, I can’t because you haven’t actually unlocked that function yet. But because you understood the secret of parallel universes just now, I’m able to speak to you like this temporarily,” explained Blackie.
“Parallel universes? So, my hypothesis is actually real?” murmured Su Jin as if he were talking to himself. Everything he surmised earlier was terribly frightening to him.
“It’s not entirely accurate, but to a certain extent, the parallel universes do work like the MMORPGs you were thinking about. Every universe is separate, so without the power of Hell’s Handbook, there’s no way the people from these universes would be connected,” said Blackie.
“I want to know everything about these parallel universes,” said Su Jin.
“I’m sorry but you have not reached that level of access yet. I can only explain to you what you are allowed to know at this level.” Even though Su Jin was his master, Blackie refused to answer Su Jin. Su Jin’s level of access still governed Blackie’s decisions.
Su Jin sighed but didn’t intend to argue with Blackie. Blackie was merely an AI that followed the rules of the system, so arguing with a robot was a complete waste of time.
“Alright, just tell me everything you are able to tell me then,” commanded Su Jin.
“Sure!” Blackie slowly started explaining, “Parallel universes refer to smaller universes that originate from a parent universe. The parent universe is the universe that appeared first and is the source of all life. When the parent universe reaches a certain size, its excess capacity can be used as a blueprint for new universes and those new universes based on the parent universe are termed as child universes.”
“So… child universes are just imagined and aren’t real?” asked Su Jin puzzledly.
“They are real. For example, if the parent universe is a tree branch, then child universes are the leaves growing from the branches. Those leaves are real and each one is a little different from the other. Child universes are the same. After being created, each child universe walks down its own path, so besides a few details which have been specially controlled, they work just like the parent universe,” explained Blackie patiently.
“If the parent universe is a tree branch, then what are the tree trunk and the tree roots?” Su Jin suddenly asked.
But Blackie fell silent again. After a moment, he said, “I’m sorry, but your level of access is too low. I cannot answer this question.”
“So, it’s not that you don’t know, but you can’t answer my question. In that case, besides these parallel universes, Hell’s Handbook contains many more other mysteries!” muttered Su Jin to himself. From Blackie’s answers, he could sense that there was more to this than just parallel universes. And if parallel universes were just one part of the full mystery behind Hell’s Handbook, then what else was there? How much crazier must a concept be in order to require a higher level of access than parallel universes? Su Jin simply couldn’t imagine what it could be and the thought of something like that existing alone gave him the creeps.
“In other words, Chu Yi and the others who were with me during the challenge belong to different child universes. Do the other child universes have planet Earth and humans too?” Su Jin couldn’t figure this out. The birth of planet Earth and humans in this vast universe should have been purely by coincidence. If one could go back in time and let matter regroup itself again, humans might not exist, and Earth might not exist either. If that was the case, then it seemed impossible for other child universes to have humans and Earth as well.
“Like I said, there are some details that have been specially dealt with.”
“So… since Earth and humans are unique, that also means the parent universe has Earth and humans too! The Earth and humans in child universes are a copy of what already exists in the parent universe, right?” Su Jin let out a soft whistle. Blackie hadn’t said a lot, but everything he said contained a lot of information which could be discovered once one read between the lines.
“I will not answer your question. The answer to your question is way beyond your level of access.” Instead of just saying that Su Jin’s level of access wasn’t high enough, Blackie said that he wasn’t going to answer at all.
“You’re a really advanced AI system, aren’t you? This is a very human-like change in emotions!” said Su Jin with a grin.
“If necessary, I am capable of functioning just like a highly intelligent organism. But remaining like this is more suitable for work,” replied Blackie in a matter-of-fact tone of voice.
“Hey, is it just me? I feel like you’ve become a lot more serious than when you first talked to me. What’s going on?”
“I thought that you did not like the type of personality I had before, so I have automatically switched to a serious work mode personality instead. Do you want me to switch back?” asked Blackie.
“Nah, it’s not necessary.” Su Jin didn’t want Blackie to switch back to his cheeky personality. Even though that made Blackie seem more human, it was going to be hard to get reliable information from a more sarcastic and playful Blackie. It was easier when Blackie was serious and explained everything as it was.
“So, what is this Mark of a Leader about then?” asked Su Jin.
“Please look at the cover of your Handbook. There is a special drawing on it. That is the Mark of a Leader.”
Su Jin looked at the book in his hands. There was indeed a new drawing at the bottom right-hand corner of the cover that wasn’t there before. It was a triangle with a flame inside to represent hell, while a few hands were drawn around the fire like they were holding hands.
“What does this do?” Su Jin continued to ask.
“Owners who have the Mark of a Leader will now be able to gather your own team. If you manage to persuade other owners to join your team and they become part of your team, all members of your team can participate in team challenges. As the team leader, you will be able to create a Hell Domain for your team. After your team levels up, you will get access to more team functions.”
Su Jin was stunned for a moment. He soon realized that this new function was actually very valuable. When Blackie mentioned that team members would be able to participate in team challenges, his assumption was that all members of his team would be able to participate in the same challenge at the same time.
During the Fengxi Town challenge, Su Jin had already noticed that all the owners present in the challenge had been randomly chosen. The only condition was probably the ratio of newbies to veterans.
Since the owners in the same challenge as himself would be randomly picked, if he was lucky enough to get a bunch of veterans and newbies who were smart and could fight, then their chances of passing a challenge would increase. But similarly, if he got a bunch of people who weren’t very good at this, then it was possible for the entire group to perish together.
But having his own team would be different. Every person who was allowed to join the team would have been vetted by him and he would make sure that every member was capable. That way, he could ensure that he was going into challenges with capable members, which in turn increased the chances of him getting through the challenge itself.
As for the team getting their own space, this sounded trivial, but it was also quite valuable. Su Jin remembered how he had been badly injured in Fengxi Town and Jiang Li had given him some potion to drink, which made him feel better immediately. In other words, all the items that individuals exchanged their points for in their Personal Hell Domains did not have to be owned and used by themselves alone. They could give it to someone else too.
If he passed a challenge and was presented with new items for exchange that were different from his other members, then there was a possibility that another member would be offered an item that he needed urgently. In other words, a team could use this to their advantage by exchanging their points for all the items that the team needed. That would definitely boost the chances of the team surviving each challenge.
“Since we’ll have a shared space, does that mean that the items offered to us at the end of each challenge will also be the same?” Su Jin decided to confirm this with Blackie.
“No. Every owner’s Handbook will get a random set of new items. Also, since your team has its own space, the team will also get an additional Handbook. There is a higher chance of getting more powerful items with this additional Handbook and only the team leader is allowed to exchange for them. That’s a benefit of being a leader as well,” said Blackie.
Su Jin’s heart instantly leaped for joy. This Mark of a Leader was a great thing to have because it came with many useful and powerful functions. The most important thing to do now was to find suitable and powerful teammates.
“You mentioned something about a team leveling up. What’s that about?” asked Su Jin.
“A newly formed team will be a Level D team, which is the lowest level. After the team completes five challenges, it will level up to become a Level C team. After the team completes ten challenges after leveling up, it will become a Level B team. After the team completes another 15 challenges after leveling up, it will become a Level A team. The challenges start accumulating only after the team has at least three people in it. After leveling up, the team will receive more benefits and access to more functions,” Blackie explained in detail.
Su Jin made a quick calculation. The team would have to get through 30 challenges in total if they wanted to move from Level D to Level A. That was going to be tough, so there was no need for him to think too much about that for the time being.
“That’s all the information I have regarding the Mark of a Leader for the time being. There is more information and other functions available as well, but you will need to uncover them in a challenge,” said Blackie.
Su Jin nodded slightly. He wanted to ask more questions, but the reddish glow around his Handbook slowly faded and Blackie didn’t respond to him anymore.
“That’s it?” Su Jin shook his head disappointedly. But this Mark of a Leader had been a really pleasant surprise. As long as he used it wisely, his chances of surviving a challenge were definitely much higher than before.
When he got back to Ye Yun’s room, he noticed that her window was wide open, and she was looking down from her window while sitting on the ledge. His heart nearly skipped a beat in fright, but he quickly calmed down again. This room was only about ten feet above the ground, and it overlooked a well-tended garden. Even if Ye Yun were to jump down, the worst that could happen would be that she’d probably break a couple of limbs and get disfigured. She wasn’t going to die so easily from jumping down at this height.
“Were you constipated or something? Why were you gone for so long?” Ye Yun didn’t turn back and continued staring down at the garden downstairs.
Su Jin had a sheepish smile on his face. It was true that he had been in the bathroom for a long time. So, he laughed awkwardly and said, “I’ve never seen such a fancy bathroom before, so I took some time just to look around. By the way, is the toilet bowl made from real gold? I would have tried biting into it but I didn’t think it was a good idea to bite a toilet bowl.”
Ye Yun burst out laughing. She turned and said, “Of course it’s not made from real gold! I don’t think anyone would do that, no matter how much they wanted to flaunt their wealth!”
She hopped off the ledge and said to Su Jin, “I feel like going out for a walk. Do you wanna come along?”
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