Annan was feeling quite complicated.
It didn’t matter whether Evelyn gave up the ritual or completed it.
The only difference was whether her physical body left Benjamin or her heart.
In actual history, Benjamin would enter the Swamp’s Black Tower, become an Alteration Wizard, recruit many apprentices, and sell Alteration products. Was it all because he had attributed Evelyn’s death that year as his fault because he didn’t get an ointment for her?
Everything seems to be connected.
According to Salvatore, many Alteration products for civilian usage had only begun to appear in the Noah Kingdom in the last dozen years.
The “Flesh Thread” that could sew together wounds, the “Sorceress Ointment” that could heal burns, and the “Elixir” that relieved any injuries. These ointments had become so much cheaper due to the improvement in the product manufacturing process. There were also spectacles, artificial gemstones, high-quality gauze, and sails made with Alteration arts.
The most famous and iconic product was the “Green Fire” that had now reached thousands of households in the Noah Kingdom, almost replacing the use of candles.
On the other hand, Benjamin’s contribution to improving the synthesization process of the Elixir, the Sorceress Ointment, and the Green Fire granted him the honorary title “Master Benjamin”.
The improvement ideas of these Alteration products were similar.
Rather than amplifying their effects on Transcended, he chose a synthesis method that abstained from using the expensive materials, significantly reducing the price of production. In the end, he improved the Alteration arts catered for civilians that were simple and low cost.
Evelyn is likely Benjamin’s obsession that will always haunt his mind.
The main reason for Evelyn’s death was that she watched the Pale Princess’s dance during the Pale Tide.
As for the reason she was fascinated by the Pale Princess’s dance was because she was obsessed with dancing.
This obsession came from her disfigured face by a fire.
She had a disfigured face because she couldn’t afford the “Sorceress Ointment” to heal her burns.
Evelyn wasn’t born poor.
She wasn’t forced into any labor or farm work. Apparently, she had no calluses on her hands, and she knew Benjamin. So it wasn’t poverty that stopped her from being treated.
It was because of the arrogance of the wizards.
Salvatore told Annan that the wizards monopolized the technology in that era.
Not to mention ordinary people, even other types of Transcended could hardly buy any wizard’s inventions. Money didn’t help in this situation because wizards strictly forbid the sale of Alteration products to anyone outside of the Swamp’s Black Tower.
You could apply the product for them, but you couldn’t sell those products.
Their goal was to prevent the Alteration Wizards of other towers from cracking their Alteration ideas and imitating their arts into crafting better Alteration products.
The situation had changed twenty years later, probably due to Benjamin’s efforts.
He improved many civilian versions of “Alteration products”, used them to dominate the low-end market, and helped Swamp’s Black Tower earn a huge sum of money. At the same time, it also incurred competition from wizards in other countries, forcing them to put down their ego and research “Alteration products for ordinary people”.
It had indirectly pressured wizards worldwide to share their technology with ordinary people.
This was an era that alchemists could never imagine before the wizard’s Unification War.
Benjamin was an Alteration Wizard who wanted to use Alteration products that only Alteration Wizard could make to benefit and help the public.
But who would have known that the change of an era was because of a dancer disfigured by fire?
Annan thought about it silently.
He was a little worried that Benjamin would be reluctant to host the ritual for her.
When Annan and Benjamin came out of the “回-shaped room”, Annan faintly heard something.
The sound was faint and distant…
It seemed like… an ethereal singing voice.
“Did you hear anything?” Annan suddenly had a thought in his heart and asked Benjamin in a low volume.
Benjamin was stunned for a moment. He frowned and listened for quite a while, then slowly shook his head, “No, not at all. Let me listen more carefully—”
“It’s fine… Maybe I misheard it.” Annan comforted tenderly.
But the singing in his ear became clearer and clearer, “Life is bright and beautiful, but it is a prison;
“Love is fiery and brilliant, but it is the fire that confuses the eye;
“The wandering dancer who pursues beauty and freedom—
“The Pale already knows your purpose,
“Dedicate your soul remnant and love to the Pale;
“Dedicate your head and blood to the Pale…”
It was a similar poem Annan had read in the letter he found in the dream world.
That voice is coming from right above me.
The ghosts are in the lobby!
Annan immediately realized that this was the reversed hymn he heard in the “Reflection of the Church in the Lake”!
The moment he heard the hymn, Annan lost consciousness again.
He awoke back at the dungeon cell’s entrance again. The same spot where he traversed between reality and the dream world previously.
“…Eh?” Annan was startled.
Behind him, the cell door was wide open, but no one was inside.
The chain that he had removed was still intact.
He twisted the lock and found out that it was still intact.
Was I spawned at an earlier timeline? Annan walked forward while being occupied with his thoughts.
But this time, Annan didn’t see the candlelight.
He walked to the middle of the corridor, only to see that the table blocked the path leading to the “guillotine room”.
Annan struck the match and lit the candle, but the candlelight was too dim.
The light was not enough to illuminate the entire corridor. The faint light hardly reached the middle of the passage.
I need to move this table out of the way.
“Hmm, I should slow down a little bit.” Annan muttered, “Let’s see if the letter is different this time…”
After speaking his mind out loud, Annan skillfully opened the letter.
Then, he was stupefied on the spot.
The paper strip was much longer than what he first saw!
“To the person who are loved by the Pale:
“The pursuit of a tragic love,
“Imprisonment in the shell of life,
“The wandering dancer who pursues beauty and freedom—
“The Pale already knows your purpose,
“Through this door,
“Dedicate your soul remnant to the Pale,
“Send your lover to freedom,
“Offer your head to the earth,
“You shall receive a condensed soul, a pure spirit;
“Or to leave here,
“Follow the mortal rules and send the soul remnant back to the earth—
“You will be remembered dearly.
“The choice is yours,
“—but I already know your answer.”
It was a narrow strip of paper, about four fingers wide.
After reading the note, Annan understood something.
He had made some incorrect assumptions.
When “Citalopram” created a character, she was only at Level 5… So Annan thought that the profession of Half-dead Enchantress should start at Level 5.
But it could be because the profession offered to the player was a more simplified version – or Evelyn really had an extremely pure heart.
If she was willing to become a Half-dead Enchantress, she could even start at the Silver Rank directly!
The upper limit of the priesthood was at Silver Rank!
With that said, Evelyn even had the talent to become a pope.
In this case, it was beyond doubt that Evelyn, the future Half-dead Enchantress was the owner of the nightmare!
Since Evelyn had completed the ritual and became a half-human and half-undead… why did she die?
If she really died, shouldn’t she become a wandering spirit following the Pale Princess?
Could it be that turning into a wandering spirit can also cause nightmares?
Another doubt floated in Annan’s mind.
Benjamin had a desire to advance into Gold Rank.
He had been stagnant in Silver Rank for more than 20 years. Was it really because he couldn’t find a way to advance into Gold Rank?
Or was it that his original goal was to become the pope for “the Man in the Mirror”?
Annan suddenly remembered something.
In the “White Tower”, he told Benjamin that he and Salvatore joined forces to kill Gerald.
At that time, Benjamin probably didn’t know that Gerald would survive in the end and compete with him for Michelangelo’s resurrection.
But then Benjamin muttered, “Just as I expected.”
This showed that Benjamin knew from the very beginning that his future self would have murderous intentions towards Gerald sooner or later.
If that is the case, the answer was clear.
Benjamin and Michelangelo had known each other for a long time.
For the “matching” during that event, Benjamin didn’t partner up with Gerald and Michelangelo didn’t team up with Melvin. Michelangelo had misled Annan!
Michelangelo’s duo wasn’t Benjamin but Melvin!
The Melvin he killed was Gerald’s partner!
Benjamin, who had witnessed everything from the beginning, was too lazy to care. Benjamin didn’t interfere with Michelangelo’s ritual because he had to preside over Michelangelo’s resurrection ritual in the future and help Michelangelo achieve divinity!
As for his reasons…
“…Oh, yes.” Annan muttered.
He folded the upper and lower ends of the note in his hand and then slowly tore it open. That was to prevent misleading the past self… and thus achieve the perfect loop.
Benjamin likely entered this nightmare at some point and learned of Evelyn’s actual whereabouts.
Evelyn hadn’t become a Half-dead Enchantress, so she hadn’t forgotten about Benjamin.
However, she didn’t die because the one who killed her was her future self!
The real Half-dead Enchantress was forever trapped in the cracks of time, where no one could love her.
She gained the Half-dead Enchantress’s Transcended power but managed to escape the fate of forgetting the one she loved, at the cost of being caught in a loop of “the past”.
From then, Benjamin’s goal had never changed.
He wanted to become the Man in the Mirror’s pope and acquire the elements of mirror and time.
That way, he could plunge his consciousness into this infinite loop and rescue Evelyn from the fate of dedicating her soul to the Pale Princess!
In front of Annan, the actual main mission slowly emerged.
[Main mission: Create a loop.]
Below this main mission, three side missions slowly appeared.
[Witness the completion of the sacrificial ritual.]
[Light the candles as a Half-dead Enchantress.]
[Return to the beginning.]
Credits to MindMatrix for editing this chapter and improving the readability.
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