When Rose arrived within the white room, there was no barrier. In front of her, merely a few paces away, was another her, staring curiously back in return. She didn't dare to believe that the dungeon had somehow recreated her.
'It's most probably something akin to virtual reality,' She thought immediately, 'My real self likely doesn't exist in this space. And what's currently in front of me is merely digitized.'
Testing that theory, she tried feeling for her core, yet it was right there, within her dead heart. Unlike in the virtual space of the assessment test where she could still tell that her core existed in reality, this was different. She couldn't be certain this space was virtual.
"You're not real," The replica said, eyes scanning Rose. "This dungeon must have fashioned a virtual space for this trial. . .though I can't be certain of that."
"I see," She replied in return, "So the dungeon is looking at my thoughts and having you copy me?"
Her replica tilted her head.
"Don't tell me you believe you're the real me?"
Rose raised a brow. "And you think I'm the fake?"
"You can look into my thoughts, can't you?" The replica replied with narrowed eyes. "You were created in a lab. Fashioned out of a corpse into the replication of a human. You know this. And you're telling me that you can't even think of the possibility that you might be a fake as you stand before me?"
With those words, flames sparked into its hands and a sword was summoned and gripped.
"Do you see this?" It said, "This is a gear. A weapon that's birthed from the soul. If you truly think you're real, then summon one."
Though momentarily surprised, Rose smiled at those words, and summoned <Igris>.
The replica remained silent for a moment, looking at the sword in her hand and then the one held by Rose.
"How. . ." It muttered.
Rose recognized why it was stumped, and she too was puzzled as well as she stared at the weapon in each of their hands. She could feel both of them. Her connection with <Igris> was telling her that both swords were real, and that both swords belonged to her. She imagined that the replica was observing the same phenomenon directed at her.
"Let's think logically here," Rose said as she sat down. "If both weapons are real, then that means only one thing: they were divided into two. If that's the case, then wouldn't it be simple to say that we, Rose, were also divided into two?"
The replica sat down as well, nodding. "You read my mind. If you're speaking of our soul being divided into two, then I wouldn't be able to agree nor disagree. But if it's merely our consciousness, then that sounds likely."
Rose smiled. Now they were on the same page.
"Though, what does the dungeon want to test on this floor?" It asked her.
Rose shrugged, "I don't know."
"That's rather lax," It said, its frown deepening, "It'd be better if you start thinking. I'd like to leave this floor the sooner, the better."
Rose raised a brow. That was the first time they had deviated in thoughts and behavior. Though she agreed with its sentiment, she couldn't understand it.
"Why?" She asked.
It narrowed her eyes at her.
"Why? That's a silly question. Why wouldn't I? The faster I can climb this dungeon, the faster I can find the answer's about myself while in turn obtaining enough funds to enter Alos's Mage Academy," It replied, "Don't tell me you don't realize that simple fact? Are you fake, after all?"
Rose found herself chuckling.
"I see it now, you're the me that hungers for answers and solutions," She muttered, "The one that wants to move forward at the fastest speed possible."
"And which me are you?" It asked, brows furrowed incredulously.
Rose couldn't answer that. She didn't know.
"Which part do you think I am?" She instead asked.
It looked her over, focusing on her face.
"I think you're the part I shed. The fool who takes things as they come in leisure stride."
"Then I suppose that's what the current me is." She simply nodded in the end, accepting the thought of the other her. "After all, what is the point of living if it isn't enjoyed?"
As she smiled, thoughts upon Elsa and Lilias, the replica merely stared at her.
"Aren't you wasting time?" It asked.
Rose shook her head. "Even I need to rest soemtimes, you know? You can't always run forward. Whether homunculi or not, you'll burn out at some point."
It scoffed, then opened its lips as if a curious question had struck it.
"If the Hunbrey family stood before you, right now, especially that brother," It asked, "Would you kill them?"
Rose pondered upon her question. Revenge? Naturally, she had thought about that possibility before. But it also seemed a silly thing to chase. To be tethered to as if you weren't free to do anything else. As if you were still at the mercy of their oppression.
"Unless they chose to harm me again, or stood against my path in this world," She said, "I would not go out of my way to hurt them."
The other her smiled as if she found her words amusing.
"I would," It said. "They deserve it."
Rose didn't doubt that fact. In fact, she found herself smiling in return.
"Yet, they were also one of the reasons I exist in the first place," She replied.
"It's a comical thing, I'm aware." It nodded.
There was a brief silence as they stared at their identical faces, taking each other in once more.
"We need one another," The other her said.
"That we do."
Though both of them were logical beings, they each had differences in the way they saw the world. Yet, they each also recognized that there was more nuance in the world, a time for everything. You couldn't truly be free if you only chased for answers and revenge, and you couldn't enjoy your freedom fully if it could be taken away at a moment's notice.
Their weapons disappeared as they stood and walked closer together.
Then they held their hands out to one another.
"Alright," The other her said, speaking assured, "You're real."
"And so are you, Rose Ausra."
They shook their hands.
In the end, only a single one remained in that white room as a door of golden light spawned, standing, smiling. Then there was a burst of laughter. Rose couldn't help but laugh as she found herself whole again.
"Now that was interesting." She smiled and entered the doorway.
It was as if she had tangled and wrestled with her own consciousness until she came out with a single conclusion. Neither of her had been wrong, and neither had been fully correct either. Neither had been fake, and neither had been fully real. In the end, both had been her.
When she met Elsa and Lilias, the three of them unanimously agreed that they were done for the day. Amongst them, Rose noticed that Elsa seemed the most contemplative. Even more so than herself.
'Odd,' Rose curiously thought, 'Why does she keep staring at my face? Do I have something on it?'
At her cluelessness, Lilias merely chuckled ambiguously.