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949 In the Deep Maze

 "This is..."

The corners of Rhode's mouth lifted as he looked fixedly at the ceiling. Although there were no unique patterns on the gray walls surrounding him, he immediately recognized where he was.

"So the rumored young lady on the 55th floor of the Deepest Labyrinth was you, Alice."

"?"

Alice looked at Rhode curiously, but the latter didn't explain further. The Deepest Labyrinth was the most well-known dungeon among players. As the final maze of the game, it was the best platform for high-level players to display their strengths. As the dangers of each floor far exceeded the average level of players, only the strongest groups of players could overcome them. Everything from the grass and roots of every floor had been rummaged by them and basically nothing was left unturned.

On the raid rankings for this maze, Starlight always held the first position while others chased closely behind. After all, Starlight was the number one guild and apart from focusing only on this dungeon, they were also occupied with other matters. This was the reason why Starlight wasn't the first to clear every single floor. There were also countless players who searched for hidden tasks in the maze and with their incessant efforts, they actually discovered some secrets.

One of the most popular secrets was the 'sleeping young lady on the 55th floor'.

There was also a rumor among players that if one passed through the 55th floor using the right method, one could find a young lady laying in a bed of petals inside a crystal coffin at the exit and... That was all.

That's right. That was all to it.

Players couldn't open the coffin because it was entirely a virtual image that couldn't be touched. Not only that, but there were also no triggered missions and players couldn't engage in further investigation as though she didn't exist at all. Besides, despite using several ways to bring information of the image out of the dungeon, it didn't activate any mission. There was once a period of time when players believed that the young lady was only a BUG in the game. Some players also suggested and complained on the official forum but failed to receive any response from the game masters. This meant that there was indeed a mission tied to the young lady, but players just couldn't accept it no matter what. Over time, players treated the image as something like a post-credit scene and passed it down to the later generations for fun. Of course, some players also came up with fan-fiction stories about that mysterious young lady and narrated the reason for her death.

And now it seemed like the answer was clear. The young lady was in fact Alice. The reason why players couldn't touch her was perhaps due to her having hidden her body in history. But... Since that was the case, why did the game display Alice's image there?

As Rhode advanced in the maze, he quickly realized that it was different from what he remembered from the game. Other than the similar entrance, other areas seemed to be in the middle of construction with many human-shaped shadows swinging tools diligently. Some of the human-shaped shadows were also having conversations as they walked past Rhode. It was like a bustling construction site.

Although Rhode was curious, he knew that he couldn't see these people clearly as he was in history right now. But judging from their heights, most of them should either be dwarves or adult humans-if no child labors were involved.

"---!"

As soon as Rhode turned the corner, he instantly felt a burst of intense palpitation in his chest. The sensation was so powerful as though something disastrous was about to happen. It wasn't a sense of nervousness that one felt when one faced threats. Instead, it was closer to a kind of high that was beyond excitement.

What's going on?!

Rhdoe came to a halt abruptly and knitted his brows, carefully discerning the sensation that stemmed from the bottom of his heart. He clenched his fists and took in a deep breath. Even though he didn't know what had happened ahead of him, it seemed to be related to him in a way where he knew something important was waiting for him. But no matter what, he couldn't turn back now.

Rhode moved forward.

The dark room instantly lit up and turned vibrant. Not only that, but the human-shaped shadows around him also revealed their appearances. Just as Rhode predicted, they were mainly humans, as well as some dwarves and elves. Dwarves were responsible for digging while humans were in charge of construction. On the other hand, elves were there to set up some sort of magic ritual. Not only that, but the fuzzy voices also became clearer, turning from clamors to distinct conversations.

"The construction progress is too slow. We may not be able to finish it on time..."

"We have to speed up. Maybe we can request for undead creatures from the Dark Dragon?"

"Do you want those brainless creatures to make this place collapse? Damn it. If I weren't around to watch them, those fools would keep digging to the core of this world!"

Interesting...

Rhode scanned the maze before him curiously. This was the first time he witnessed the construction process of this dungeon. Judging from the reactions of the people around him, they seemed to be really serious about this project and were working tirelessly on this job.

Then, one particular person caught his eye.

It was a young lady with pitch-black long hair, standing quietly on the empty field and looking up with a calm, sorrowful look. She let out a soft sigh, lowered her head, and looked toward Rhode.

Christie?

No, she isn't.

This young lady was obviously older than Christie, at around 17 years old. Her pupils were golden and not purple like Christie's. Apart from that, she didn't seem any different from Christie or Rhode. It could also be said that if it weren't for the different-colored pupils, he would have believed that this was his other self who had disguised as a woman. But unlike him, the young lady exuded a warm, gentle, and imposing aura. For some unknown reason, he felt that he should have known who this mysterious young lady was.

Could it be...

No, it can't be. This must be a coincidence...

"Your Majesty."

As Rhode pondered with knitted brows, he heard a voice behind him and turned around. It was Alice, hugging a huge, heavy book and slowly approaching the mysterious young lady. The young lady revealed a kind, heartwarming smile.

"Alice... You're here. How's the situation over there?"

"Chaos is gathering. They have discovered the gaps in this world and it is only a matter of time before they pass through the dragon soul protection."

"Is that so..."

The young lady closed her eyes and pondered in silence. Then, she spoke.

"Indeed. Chaos is as powerful as we imagined, but this is all we can do, Alice."

"Yes, Your Majesty."

Alice bowed humbly before lifting her head.

"Your Majesty, I may go overboard for speaking out of turn, but must we resort to this? It is extremely dangerous to go on the path toward the outer world..."

"This is the only solution that we can think of."

The young lady waved her hand and interrupted.

"The future that we predicted is identical to the past that you saw, at least from what we're seeing now. Alice, we have to change before we're dragged into the inevitable destruction of a contradictory spiral. We need to find a way to keep our world alive. No matter how small the possibility is, as long as we keep repeating, we will have the possibility to turn them into identifiable facts. No matter if it requires a hundred, thousand, or tens thousand times, we must continue to find the opportunity that will change this fate... I'm sorry, but this is our willfulness."

"No, Your Majesty."

Alice lowered her head deeply.

"It is our honor. No matter how many times history spirals, we will do our best to fulfill your wishes and let the gear of destiny completely detach from its original trajectory. This is what we should do as your subjects."

"Thank you, Alice. I wholeheartedly wish for all of you to find your true blessings in the future."

The young lady gazed at Alice and for some unknown reasons, Rhode felt like her gaze was as though penetrating through Alice and into him.

"In future, I may not appear before all of you again. But I believe that there will be a person who will guide all of you away from this fate. Until that day comes..."

"...!"

Suddenly, all the clamors around him were muted abruptly. The whole world fell into complete silence and darkness, only for a dazzling crystal coffin to appear in midair. There was a young lady with her eyes closed within as though in deep sleep.

"Now's the chance, Your Majesty. Please remove the seal! Destroy that coffin!"

"This is the critical moment..."

Rhode shook his head and cleared his head. Then, he raised his right arm and a silver holy sword appeared in his hand. He brandished the sword and released a blinding blade ray that divided the dark world into two. In the blink of an eye, the crystal coffin shattered and its fragments erupted into countless magical rays that wound around Alice, slowly shaping into a plain, pitch-black dress. Then, Alice slowly descended from midair and landed into his arms.

At the same time, he heard a voice whisper to his ear.

... I'll leave it to you, Big Brother...