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Team 'Aileen and the Kids' also had a compartment to themselves and was now enjoying their private time in a carefree manner.
shin Jonghak was practicing his spear in the huge reception room, while Yi Yongha was simply sleeping on one of the beds.

"I wonder what's going to happen~"

Even the team leader, Aileen, only considered the train as an exciting event, not something that could determine their life or death. As such, the only person thinking about anything remotely serious was Jin Seyeon.
Jin Seyeon carefully studied the pamphlet that came with their A Class ticket.

"According to this pamphlet, the train is going to stop on each floor once. Players won't be able just sit and do nothing in the train, so it says they need to pay an appropriate price…."

Tiriring— A sudden ringing sound interrupted Jin Seyeon, who quickly raised her eyebrows. She then saw Aileen holding a plate of chocolate cake in her hands. It seemed she purchased an in-train snack. When Aileen saw Jin Seyeon glaring at her, she let out an awkward dry cough.

"Kuhum, right, right. Oh, also, look at the size of this train. It's huge! But I just got a message that the train is completely full."

"You mean… there are other NPCs riding on the train?"

"Possibly. Also, 403 Players came here, and most of them are Rankers who displayed their abilities in Crevon. Have you heard that some Djinns have teamed up with demons?"

Jin Seyeon quickly understood what Aileen was getting at.

"Something might happen in Crevon while all the Rankers are gone…."

"Yep, exactly~ So the question is, how many Rankers will be disqualified on this train. Oh, you still have the Calamity Core, right?"

"Yes."

Aileen's party had obtained a Calamity Core from killing Minotaur. Jin Seyeon used this core to differentiate Players from doppelgängers. Because the Calamity Core throbbed faster as it neared anything classified as a 'calamity' by the Tower, it had come in quite helpful on the upper floors.

"Then it's fine. We aren't the type of people who would be disqualified so easily or be attached to Crevon so much."

"Hmm…."

Jin Seyeon nodded, then suddenly wondered when she thought about doppelgängers.

"Lady Aileen, how did the fight with your doppelgänger go?"

"…Eh?"

"I'm just wondering."

Aileen fell in thought with a fork hanging out of her mouth.
The fight with the doppelgänger 3 weeks ago….

—This spear of magic power will pierce your body!

Aileen yelled to her doppelgänger. However, the doppelgänger fought back.

—No! That's not going to happen! The opposite will!

And the real Aileen struck back.

—No! It's going to be opposite of what you say is the opposite!

—What does that even mean, you idiot? My physical stats will now receive a 100% buff—

—No, that doesn't make sense. I command it with my Spirit Speech. That cannot happen!

—…You! Eat dirt!

—Yeah, no~ I won't~

"…It was an elegant, proud battle."

Aileen described the fight from that day in a single sentence. In truth, there was a simple reason that Spirit Speech users rarely fought each other.

"Eeh… I don't believe you."

"Why not?"

While they were wasting time together, a frivolous, cheerful voice rang out from the speaker in the ceiling.

—Uwoah! Oh my! We just checked, and there are a total of 403 passengers on board! That's so many! As the captain, I am truly happy, yes I am!


—You have been moved to a random seat!

My body transferred through s.p.a.ce with a strange sensation. Although it was sudden, I didn't worry about it too much, since I was able to see through everyone's identity.

"…Ooh."

From the A Class' special compartment, I was moved to Aisle 8's last compartment. But just because I had gotten further from the special compartment didn't mean that the place was any worse. In fact, it was bigger than all of the other modern special compartments put together.

This compartment was separated in half by a central hallway, with each half having four couches placed inside.
Eight Players were summoned to this place. At first, I couldn't see their faces or even their figures, but they were quickly revealed when I focused a bit more.
With the Gift 'Observation and Reading', given to me as this world's Creator, I alone observed their faces.
In the left half of the compartment were Kim Hakpyo, Jin Seyeon, and a Ranker I didn't know.
In the right half of the compartment were three unknown Rankers and…

"What's going on?"

A girl with a bob-cut, looking around with widened eyes.
Right, it was Chae Nayun.
Her hair was a bit redder than before. It seemed she got it dyed since the last time I saw her.

"This event is supposed to give skill books, right? I wasn't really paying attention."

"We're supposed to kill the doppelgängers… but how the h.e.l.l are we supposed to tell them apart?"

"Don't they just want us to just fight to our deaths?"

Each Player voiced their opinion. After they each took a turn, Jin Seyeon, who was sitting quietly, stepped up proudly.

"…Um, h.e.l.lo, everyone. Why don't we introduce ourselves?"

I immediately shot up. Everyone's eyes fell on me as I grabbed the doork.n.o.b that led outside.
Clunk, clunk.
But to no surprise, the door didn't open.

—All eight people must come to an agreement before the door can be opened.

Staying here didn't seem like a good option, so I wanted to go looking for other Chameleon Troupe members… but it seemed that was impossible.
Or no, could I use the Mystic Key to force the door open?
…That was dangerous. Even if it did work, the other Players were sure to come chasing after me. With my physical stats, I wouldn't be able to lose Jin Seyeon and Chae Nayun.

'Since they can't recognize me, let's just sit still until the matter is resolved,' I came to a decision and went back to my seat.

"You in a hurry? Hehe."

Kim Hakpyo snickered, while Chae Nayun stared at me piercingly. She shouldn't know who I was, but her stare put pressure on me nonetheless.

"Now, now~ Don't go anywhere, and let's talk."

Jin Seyeon took control of the conversation and grabbed my wrist. I put on an act.

"Are you a man?"

"…What answer are you looking for?"

I didn't answer that question. Jin Seyeon smiled in satisfaction, let go of my wrist, then got up.

"Everyone, no matter what your name is or where you are from, what we should focus on now is finding out which among us are doppelgängers. So please, let's sit together and talk."

"What's sitting together gonna accomplish?"

Kim Hakpyo complained. He crossed his arms arrogantly; so much so that I wished the Veil of Anonymity worked on me so I didn't have to see his smug face.

"I know an easy way to distinguish doppelgängers from Players." Jin Seyeon said confidently.

No matter what idea she had, fighting her here would only draw suspicion. Even doppelgängers would have to go along with it and figure out what her plan was before doing anything.
As such, the eight people in the compartment sat down in a circle. Chae Nayun was coincidentally next to me, but I didn't mind it too much. I was as calm as ever.

Chae Nayun asked, "So what's this easy way?"

"It's simple." Jin Seyeon's voice was full of confidence.

Wiing—
She fiddled with something and pulled out a table that was hidden in the ground. Then, she took out eight scrolls and placed them on it.

"What's this?"

"…Scrolls?"

"Exactly." Jin Seyeon smiled.

I quickly checked the scrolls' information with my smart.w.a.tch and realized what Jin Seyeon's plan was.

"But to doppelgängers, they're not just scrolls."

"Mm."

Kim Hakpyo, who also found out about her plan, nodded. The five remaining people who didn't have a clue waited for Jin Seyeon to continue her explanation.

"These scrolls can only be used by Players."

"Ah~!"

With just a single sentence, everyone understood the plan. Scrolls that could only be used by Players. In other words, doppelgängers couldn't use them. Her plan was rational and well thought out.

"As the person who came up with this plan, I'll take off my veil to gain your trust."

Jin Seyeon boldly took off the Veil of Anonymity. Her silky, long hair fluttered, and her dazzling beauty revealed itself. She looked at me and smiled.

"Whoa, it's Senior Jin Seyeon…."

The surprised exclamation came from Chae Nayun.

"Now, pick up a scroll, everyone, and check its description. You'll see that it clearly states that only 'Players' can use them."

When Players were wearing the Veil of Anonymity, even the items they took out would be masked from others. But because Jin Seyeon revealed herself openly, everyone was now capable of reading the scrolls' item description.

"She's right. That's exactly what the scroll says."

"Then do you agree?"

"What is there to argue? Anyone who says no is clearly a doppelgänger."

As expected of an executive of Evil Society, Kim Hakpyo boldly tore his scroll in half.

"Listen well. You aren't forcing me to do this, I'm doing it out of my own volition."

He tore the scroll in half without even checking the item description himself. I had to admit, he was pretty cool.
Plop—!
That is, until his body changed into a frog's.

—Ribbit. W-What? Ribbit. The f.u.c.k is this?

Transformed into a cute, green frog, Kim Hakpyo stuck out his tongue in anger.

—Ribbit. Y-You… Ribbit. Say something if one of the scrolls had an effect like this! Ribbit.

"You should've checked the scroll's description first."

—Ribbit. Are you f.u.c.king with me… Ribbit.

I went up next. To prevent an unfortunate accident from happening, I picked out an ordinary scroll.

"I'll go next."

Rip— I tore it in half and sat back down.

"I'm next."

Chae Nayun stood up next and easily finished the task.

…Another Ranker I didn't know went next, totaling five people who had undergone the checkup. However, there were three who refused to stand up no matter what.

—Ribbit. Looks like we have our answer. Ribbit.

Even a frog could understand who they were. I didn't know any of the three Rankers. Since a unanimous agreement was needed to open the compartment door, the doppelgängers were really only left with one choice.
Their magic power began to surge.

"Dammit—!"

They charged toward us at the same time. Although they were 'Rankers', not all Rankers were at the same level. Chae Nayun and Jin Seyeon were in the Top 30 rankings, and Kim Hakpyo, who had polymorphed to a frog, was also equally strong.

"…What?"

But for some reason, these three guys all charged at me, who was standing far behind everyone else.
Whish—.
One of them swung his fist. Then suddenly, other fists jumped out of the surrounding air. I didn't have time to admire this strange skill as the magic power infused in the fist was nothing to scoff at.

"Why me!?"

I blocked the fist with Aether's help, then readied myself for close-combat. I let Aether take control of my body. My arms stretched out, my body turned, and my waist bent like a machine. With the advantage in both number and power, it didn't take long for us to take care of the doppelgängers.

"Kuuk!"

Jin Seyeon finished the job with her arrow.

"Are you okay?"

"Yes."

I wasn't hurt and didn't have any complaints either. But because Chae Nayun was staring at me strangely, I shot back curtly.

"Can't you see that I'm not hurt? You stole my kill!"

Jin Seyeon's cheeks puffed up slightly.

"What."

"…No, nothing. My apologies."

Eventually, Jin Seyeon bowed, and I let out an awkward cough, "Kuhum."

"By the way, how did Hero Jin Seyeon know? That doppelgängers couldn't use scrolls." Chae Nayun asked.

Jin Seyeon smiled and shook her head.

"I didn't know. I've never tested it, but I wouldn't be surprised if they could."

"Eh? Then…."

"You can call it a 'bluff', huhu. If the doppelgängers were smarter and bolder, I'm not sure it would have worked."

Hearing this, my admiration for Jin Seyeon grew. Even as the original author, I didn't know if doppelgängers could use scrolls. The situation had never come up in the original novel, and I never bothered to write more than what was necessary.
Of course, I did know a clear-cut way to tell doppelgängers apart, and it was simple. Doppelgänger couldn't 'return to Earth'.

"Then can we open the door now?" Kim Hakpyo asked. He had turned back into a human before I noticed.

"Sure, but let's stick together since we don't know what happened in the other compartments. There might still be a doppelgänger among us, though the probability is low. I've been watching everyone's expressions, and no one had even a shred of hesitation while tearing their scroll in half—"

"I get it, so open the door."

Kim Hakpyo walked up to the tightly shut door. Jin Seyeon nodded.

"Does everyone agree?"

"""Yes."""

Having come to an agreement, the door opened, and we came out of our compartment.

[Aisle 8]

The pathway connecting compartments of trains were often very narrow. However, that wasn't the case for this train. This pathway was a lush forest far bigger than the compartment. The floor was made of dirt, almost as though we were in another world, and we could even hear the sound of water running down a stream.

"Where should we go next, Jin Seyeon-nim?"

"I'm not sure. We should figure out how to open the door to the pathway…."

"Hmm. Oh, oops, there's a rock here."

At that moment, Kim Hakpyo kicked a rock under his foot.
Whoosh… The tiny rock carrying his magic power drew an arc as it entered Aisle 8's ventilation window. Immediately afterwards, Kim Hakpyo switched places with the rock.

—Hahaha! So long, r.e.t.a.r.ds!

His voice rang out from the ceiling. The four of us were left dumbstruck, especially me. Kim Hakpyo was supposed to be a charismatic villain who shined in the latter half of the novel, so why the h.e.l.l was he like that?

"…What skill is that?"

"If my memory serves right, it's called 'Phase shift'… I think I know who he is. Anyways, since we don't have that skill, let's just do things our way."

We walked forward with Jin Seyeon in the lead. Unknowingly, I found myself next to Chae Nayun again.
Being so close together, I couldn't help but glance at her from time to time. At one moment, Chae Nayun also looked at me. I quickly dodged her gaze, but Chae Nayun didn't do the same. Her eyes remained on my face for a long time.
…Minutes went by in this uncomfortable silence.

"Oh, look, a flower."

Chae Nayun suddenly squatted down on the ground. I wasn't too surprised by her sudden action. I gave her a glance, then went back to going my way. To be honest, I wanted to run away by myself like Kim Hakpyo.

Tak—
But Chae Nayun suddenly s.n.a.t.c.hed my wrist. In that instant, it felt like time had stopped.

"…What?"

"Ah, um…."

Her lips moved slowly. This short moment felt like a year.

"Do you know what flower this is?"

Thankfully, she was only asking a simple question. I breathed a sigh of relief.

"…Check its item description."

"But I can't see it."

I furrowed my brows and looked at the flower.

[Lv.1 ???]

She was right. Was the Veil of Anonymity blocking out information like this?
I checked my smart.w.a.tch instead. It turned out to be a Forget Me Not. [1]

"It's a Forget Me Not."

"Ah~ So this is a Forget me Not. You're quite knowledgeable…."

"Let me go now."

I tried to run away. Jin Seyeon and the other ranker were already far away, making this the perfect opportunity. With the Mystic Key in my possession, my escape could only be smooth.

"…Let go."

But no matter how much strength I put into my wrist, Chae Nayun refused to let go of it.

"What are you doing?"

I stared at my forcibly held wrist… then slowly looked up.
There, I saw Chae Nayun staring at me fixedly.
My heart immediately trembled. My eyes blurred a bit, as though a camera lens was out of focus.

"…W-What?"

"No… nothing."

Soon, her grip got weaker, and I shook off her hand. At the same time, a quiet voice rang out.

"I just thought you were someone I knew."

The faintly audible voice entered my ears and shook my heart.
I stood still for a moment.
Seeing that I was speechless, Chae Nayun asked.

"Are you?"

"…I don't know what you're talking about, but don't make things up. We can't see our faces or even distinguish our voices with the Veil of Anonymity, so that's a meaningless question."

I cut her question down and turned back.
But before I could even take a few steps… her words froze my feet and body.

"Kim Hajin."

My heart felt numb. The moment I heard my name, my mind blanked. I didn't even suspect whether my veil was taken off or if she obtained some sort of an Authority.

I was simply overcome with a suffocating sensation.
Within the thick silence where only the sound of my heart beating rang out… a whimpering voice clearly burst out.

"Did you think I wouldn't notice?"

I swallowed my saliva. I tried to calm my trembling body.
Then, I turned around, silently.
She was standing in front of me.
She shouldn't be able to see me. Even so, she had recognized me.

Soon, Chae Nayun took off her veil. The presence of a veil didn't matter for me, as I could distinguish Players' faces and voices the same. However, Chae Nayun must have had a powerful determination to do so.

Her eyes were glaring at me, burning coldly with confidence in her suspicion. Her gaze seemed to pierce through me.

"…It is you."

We had both matured since the last time we met, but I had not prepared any words for our eventual reunion. No, perhaps I did. But the words I could use now were just as pitiful as me.

"How did you… recognize me?"

"You think I wouldn't?"

Chae Nayun gave a twisted laugh.

"I spent all these years thinking about you half the time."

Tears began to fill her eyes. But they didn't flow down, as if they were frozen.

"You always look at your watch whenever something happens."

'So that's how she found out.' I dropped my head and smiled bitterly.

"Your strange actions, manner of speech, the tiniest habits and the way you breathe…"

The metallic sound of a sword unsheathing rang out as Chae Nayun took out her sword.

"I remember them all too well."

Chae Nayun's complicated eyes captured my figure. In them, I was completely expressionless, completely black.
I should at least show myself.
I smiled bitterly and put my hand on my face.
I could feel something like a mask.
I grabbed it and strongly pulled it.
The veil covering me shot up into the sky.

"…Hey."

I spoke.

"It's been a while."

In front of me was Chae Nayun.

1.





CHAPTER DISCUSSION