『Where did you find this information, sir? Even our union didn’t have it!』 Atran returned a few hours later with an excited expression.
Yeon-woo asked in a quiet voice. “So, you found something?”
『Of course, I’ve found a lot of information! The most difficult part was compiling it all. However, once I gathered it together, it seemed accurate. We also gained some valuable information from this too. Hehehe!』
It must’ve been priceless information because Atran had a huge smile. Yeon-woo added two more chests on top of the original three he had been planning to give. “I’ll add these two for your discretion.”
『I love you, sir customer!』 Atran bowed. He looked like he would kiss Yeon-woo’s feet if they weren’t talking through a communications device.
Yeon-woo shook his head as he spoke. “The three Cyclops brothers first.”
『You said the three Cyclops brothers moved to Persephone’s temple 200 years ago, right?』
『To be exact, it was 192 years ago. And it wasn’t them, it was their Apostles.』
The three Cyclops brothers weren’t well known, but they were the first gods to be born from Ouranos and Gaia in the legends of Olympus. Although they were born from the sky and the earth, they were cursed with only one eye. However, they could handle iron as well as Hephaestus.
『I managed to confirm that they visited Persephone’s temple from the official visitor records. You’re aware of the hidden stage on the thirtieth floor, right?』
Yeon-woo nodded. There was no way he wouldn’t know.
The trial is finished after one finds the antidote for the poison of souls on the thirtieth floor, but before one ascends to the thirty-first floor, one faces two choices: to move to the next floor through the portal or through the hidden stage.
The hidden stage of the thirtieth floor could be considered an extension of the trial since it also tested you on what you’d learned from the previous floors. There wasn’t any penalty for skipping it; it was more like extra credit. ‘But after the hidden stage, you can earn a lot of karma. You can also do some training since it’s a place that you can actually call the Beyond.’
The stages from the twenty-seventh to the thirtieth floors were based on the path to the Beyond while the hidden stage was the Beyond itself. It was divided into two sections: a court that judged souls and ten different gates that punished players according to the court’s decision.
Each of the gates is so horrifying they could all be considered hell. There are a lot of rankers who like to brag about how far they reached, how long they endured, and what they earned, but these are all perverts like the Sadhu on the twentieth floor.
However, the hidden stage of the thirtieth floor is like paradise for those who want to train further.
If the Five Mountains of Penances helped players sharpen their senses and Consciousness, the thirtieth floor helped them train their minds.
It was easy to enter it.
‘Persephone’s temple is at the very end of the thirtieth stage.’ Persephone’s temple was the entrance and marker of the hidden stage.
『Anyway, the Apostles of the three Cyclops brothers requested to enter the ten gates, and at the sixth, they went off the grid.』
Yeon-woo’s eyes glittered. “Off the grid?”
『Yes. They disappeared. The Bureau must’ve thought that they were just among those who died and nothing suspicious happened, so they just moved on. However…』 Atran’s voice faded away, as if he had found something amusing that he didn’t want to give up easily.
Yeon-woo lifted the Yaltabao Chests and shook them in the air. Atran sulked and resumed in a complaining voice. 『Before the three disappeared, it’s said that they met with someone. When the youngest, Arges, was drunk, he said something interesting.』
“Hades called us.”
Yeon-woo’s eyes widened. ‘Hades called them?’ What kind of bullshit was that?
『I also thought it was strange, so I looked into Hades. However, there has almost been no information about him in the past 100 years. He’s never showed any interest in the lower world, and he hasn’t had any Apostles in the past thousand years, so most players don’t care about him.』 Atran’s eyes glittered. 『You know something, don’t you?』
Yeon-woo couldn’t help grinning. “So, you want to know, huh?”
『It would be a lie if I said I wasn’t curious. The lower world cannot see the actions and business of the gods. It’s always them watching us, not us watching them.』
Yeon-woo tossed the five Yaltabao Chests to the hologram.
[You have given ‘Yaltabao Chests × 5’ to ‘By the Table.’]
“It’s not a good habit to get involved in players’ business.”
『I already know that you have no intentions of telling me.』
“Then you found no information on Hades?”
『He disappeared before the three Apostles of the Cyclops brothers even made it to the hidden stag. This is all I know. There’s nothing else. It looks like he suddenly disappeared. The only information I know is what I’ve just told you. 』
“Hades called us.”
Hades had hidden himself much better than Yeon-woo had thought. ‘When the gods and demons of death were declaring their intentions, Hades remained quiet even when Astrape and Triaina were absorbed into the Cast of the Black King.’ Yeon-woo thought that the disappearance of the three Cyclops brothers 192 years ago through their Apostles and Hades’ silence were related. ‘I need to find the three Cyclops brothers first.’
Yeon-woo checked his body. The change was almost complete, and the Divine Factors were in place. His abilities were urging him to grow faster after absorbing the Summer Queen’s soul. “I have one last question.”
『What is it?』
“Hades’ holy artifact, Kynee. Do you know where it is?”
Atran shook his head. 『Since he didn’t have any Apostles, it’s unlikely his artifact will be on the lower floors.』
Yeon-woo nodded in understanding and quietly put away Freesia’s Jade Mirror. Once more, he had a lot of things to do.
* * *
Yeon-woo finished getting everything together and left the cave. Shanon and Hanryeong returned to the shadow, exhausted from keeping watch, and Nike flew out to replace them.
『The air here is so damp!』 Nike looked upset at the air of the thirtieth floor. He didn’t seem to like the world of the souls since he symbolized life. Yeon-woo stroked Nike’s head and headed north. He felt the shadows suddenly becoming heavier, and when he looked up, he saw a large wyvern blotting out the sun.
They turned in that direction. A large wyvern covered the sky. Soon after, Creutz lightly stepped down from the wyvern. “Cain!” Even though he fell from such a height with his heavy armor, Creutz seemed fine. “How are you? Are you OK? Are you hurt anywhere?” Creutz spun Yeon-woo around, checking to see if Yeon-woo was injured anywhere.
After the battle, Creutz had looked in every nook and cranny of the thirtieth floor to find Yeon-woo. He was the precious friend of the Regiment Leader, and Creutz was worried that he might be injured. Yeon-woo brushed Creutz’s annoying hand aside. “Stop, It’s all right, so stop.”
“It’s a relief that you’re all right. Still, you might be hurt somewhere that you can’t see, so why don’t you stay still and let me call over a priest or a doctor?”
Yeon-woo didn’t say anything further because it was annoying. He used Blink again, spreading his Fire Wings open. Creutz looked stunned and quickly got onto the Flying Dragon to chase after Yeon-woo.
‘Who is this Regiment Leader that Creutz would be so faithful?’ Yeon-woo wondered when he saw the shadow of the wyvern following him. What kind of person could command such loyalty?
* * *
Yeon-woo headed south using the map he received from Atran. After staying awake for four days and nights, he reached the end of the stage.
The southern area was extremely hot. The sun was burning over the dense forests and swamps that made the journey difficult.
“The temple of Persephone? Are you headed towards the hidden stage?” Creutz looked dismayed. He already knew about the hidden stage on the thirtieth floor because he was a ranker. The ten gates were so difficult that even he couldn’t guarantee that he would get through them all. It was a place full of trouble, and it would be difficult for Yeon-woo since it was his first attempt.
Creutz had observed Yeon-woo and knew that he would never leave the thirtieth floor until he cleared all the gates. Since he wanted to take Yeon-woo to their Regiment Leader as quickly as possible, he felt frustrated. It wasn’t like he could knock Yeon-woo out and spirit him away. He had to persuade him somehow, except Yeon-woo ignored him whenever he tried.
Yeon-woo slowly stepped through the swamp and made his way to Persephone’s temple. Creutz sighed. It seemed like he would have to follow Yeon-woo into the hidden stage.
He looked at Yeon-woo in amazement. Yeon-woo was throwing himself into another trial even though it hadn’t been that long since he’d fought Benteke. ‘Is this why he’s called the greatest of the Six New Stars?’ There were only five stars left now that Benteke was dead, but it was truly amazing. His resolve to rescue Yeon-woo if he met danger again grew firm. Urrrng! His holy sword, Zulfikar, shook as it read his thoughts.
Yeon-woo found at a cottage at the end of the swamp despite having an annoying acquaintance in tow. It was a tiny house that looked like a resting spot for a hunter. There were long vines on the walls with beautiful, fragrant flowers. There was a magical feeling around the cottage; it was Persephone’s temple. It was the holy land of the goddess who ruled over the Beyond with Hades.
Just then, the door to the cottage burst open, and a priest wearing a leaf-green robe quietly walked out. His emerald hair was quite striking. “You’ve come. I’ve been waiting.”
Creutz’s eyes widened as he recognized the priest: Bodi of Green Shade. It was Persephone’s Apostle.
Most people were led into the hidden stage by Persephone’s priests or students, but it was extremely rare for her Apostle to come himself. Also, Bodi said that he had been waiting for them. However, Yeon-woo only nodded as though it were completely normal.
He had already clashed with Poseidon. All the gods of Olympus would know by now that he was looking for Hades. He had expected Persephone would react to this, too.
“Please come this way. The great Persephone is waiting inside to greet you.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter