Chapter 630 - Time (2)


[This is the 66th floor, gate of the ‘End of the Century City’.]

‘Is this right?’ Yeon-woo raised his collar and protected his mouth from the sudden, desolate wind. ‘This doesn’t look like a good place to meet and plan something.’ Although he had already visited the floor’s stage before, Yeon-woo hadn’t paid too much attention since his main objective had been to quickly clear the stage. Thanks to his younger brother’s diary, Yeon-woo knew the characteristics of each floor, and from what he remembered, the sixty-sixth floor was a stage without any special features.

A city that was at the end of a century—as its name suggested, it was gloomy and apocalyptic. Collapsed skyscrapers covered in vines contributed to the eerie atmosphere. The asphalt road was ruined and vegetation grew among its cracks. Yeon-woo could see vehicles haphazardly strewn all over the area. Deflated rubber tires and rubbish were piled up near a rusted traffic sign. There was a dark, underground passage, most likely once a subway station entrance, and occasionally, a rat or a mole would pop out.

‘Maybe that’s the theme is the remnants of a civilization completely destroyed by nuclear war…?’ The setting was familiar since Yeon-woo often watched apocalyptic movies, such as zombie movies, back on Earth. Actually, Yeon-woo didn’t even have to compare it to the movie. The scene in front of him was similar to the ones he’d seen in the war-torn areas of Africa and the Middle East. However, this place was even worse. It was difficult to find people, and radioactivity and harmful biological gases still lingered in the environment. Of course, these things did little to no damage to Yeon-woo since he had Formless Poison. However, all these features meant that the stage was not a good meeting place. ‘But then, a place that’s unsuitable for life and avoided by most might be the best place to hold a secret meeting and avoid prying eyes…’

Yeon-woo’s eyes narrowed. ‘Jeong-woo and Ananta also said that they were coming here before we lost contact with them.’ After Phante had alerted him about the sixty-sixth floor, Yeon-woo had planned on getting more information from Doyle before coming up with an action plan when they lost contact with Jeong-woo and the others. When he heard that Kahn was headed this way, he also decided to go.

There was something about this stage. Yeon-woo was sure of it. He had disguised himself, and instead of his usual black coat, he wore a fancy, red hooded cloak that protected him from the sandy winds and dyed his hair white. On top of that, he wore a mask of carved wood. He had placed Vigrid in his subspace and had a pair of spears—one long and one short—on his back instead. It would be impossible for anyone to identify him as the Shadow King, and since he was also adept at concealing his aura, only a being who was at the level of the Nine Kings would have the power to see through his disguise.

Yeon-woo headed to the place where Kahn was supposed to have gone. It was a subway station not far away from Yeon-woo’s current location. A nearby signboard with letters that even the Tower’s system could not read hung precariously as if it would fall off at any moment. There wasn’t a single beam of light shining on the stairs that led down to the station, but Yeon-woo stepped forward without any hesitation. He had long ceased any dependence on light, and he followed along the wall down the stairs until he was inside the station. It was so dark and quiet that no one would appear, even by accident. There were players who searched every corner of a stage to find hidden pieces, but even they would just pass this place by.

Yeon-woo continued forward, passing through the ticket gate, and reached the platform without any disturbance. Rusty railroad tracks were visible below. Yeon-woo wondered what would travel on them.

Boom! After waiting for over thirty minutes, Yeon-woo heard the hair-raising screeching of metal as something began to approach the platform.

A train is coming into the station. Please step behind the line.

A public announcement filled with static rang out. The train seemed to be operating without any electricity or magic. Of course, this sort of train could not be normal. Once the train stopped at the platform, Yeon-woo got on. The train’s doors closed behind him, and the train started moving.

‘Is there anyone else aboard?’ Yeon-woo’s eyes narrowed and he quietly walked through the train carriages. The train was a hidden piece that even his younger brother hadn’t discovered, and without any information to guide him, he had to be on high alert.

The train stopped and opened its doors whenever a station appeared. After a few seconds, the doors would close, and the train would leave the station. Each time, no one boarded the train. If there had been another passenger, Yeon-woo would have overwhelmed them and gotten information out of them. Unfortunately, nobody boarded the train, and Yeon-woo could only cluck his tongue in regret.

He got off twenty stations after he boarded. The train platform and station were unlike any other he had ever seen. It didn’t look anything like the theme of the end of the century, and instead, there were various neon signs illuminating the platform brightly. There was an arrow-shaped neon sign that pointed the way.

“Name.” A player covered in a hooded cloak approached Yeon-woo. It was difficult for Yeon-woo to tell whether the approaching figure was a man or a woman because of the station’s darkness. However, Yeon-woo could tell that this player was a ranker who had been tasked to get rid of unwanted visitors.

“Abel.”

“I’ve never heard such a name.”

“You sure sound like an idiot.” Yeon-woo lightly snorted and rolled up his left sleeve. In an instant, the light from the ceiling illuminated his left forearm, which started to glow brightly. A bizarre-looking, glowing tattoo appeared.

It was the mark that the Sea of Time used to identify members.

“Are there any members who reveal their real names? If there are idiots like that here, I’m going to leave right now and cut my losses.”

Before leaving for the sixty-sixth floor, Yeon-woo had interrogated a spy from the Sea of Time that Doyle had identified. The spy’s convictions couldn’t withstand the torture of the Purgatory Furnace, and thanks to his information, Yeon-woo carved the mark on his left forearm.

The Time mark varied according to the individual who bore it, however, they all shared distinctive features that made it easy to recognize fellow members. The mark alone made it easy to pass as a member, but…

“What about the end times?”

‘Shit. There's some secret passphrase?’ Yeon-woo hadn’t heard of anything like this when he interrogated the spy.

Bam! In an instant, the gatekeeper began to lash out with a whip that was wrapped around his wrist like a bracelet. However, before the gatekeeper could attack, Yeon-woo’s shadow rose up and engulfed the gatekeeper completely.

[Yin Spirit Arts - Spirituality]

After creating his yin spirit, Yeon-woo could now dominate all things that possessed the yin property, such as the shadow. Yeon-woo could not only control his own shadow better but also the shadows of others. Of course, this power was limited to beings that were weaker than him. Still, it meant that he could control the body connected to the shadow to some extent. Yeon-woo faced little difficulty when it came to mortals’ shadows. Once he took over the shadow and cleansed them…

The gatekeeper’s eyes under his hood turned hazy. Yeon-woo injected a large amount of Spirit Poison into the gatekeeper’s body, and the gatekeeper’s spirit became dormant. He was no more than a puppet now.

‘So annoying. Should I have just done this from the start?’ Yeon-woo wanted the gatekeeper to stay where he was, but he didn’t want anyone to notice that something was strange about him. 

Yeon-woo decided that implementing a light suggestion into the gatekeeper’s mind would be enough. Yeon-woo flicked his fingers and the gatekeeper’s eyes focused once more and he took a step back.

“Brother, welcome. I apologize for my doubts.” The gatekeeper now believed that Yeon-woo not only produced the secret password but also possessed a high status, thanks to the thoughts that Yeon-woo had planted in his mind.

Yeon-woo rolled down his sleeve and shook his head. “No worries. Since the world is so chaotic these days, I understand many heretics are trying to disturb his word. In times like these, even among brethren and family, it is natural to pay attention to details.”

“Thank you for your understanding.”

“Have many already gone upstairs?”

“It seems that more members than we initially expected have answered the call.”

“It must be because we haven’t had a gathering in a long time. Where should I go?”

“Use the stairs and use the number-six exit.”

“Exit six on the sixty-sixth floor. That seems appropriate. Keep up the good work.” After some pleasant banter, Yeon-woo headed towards the direction the gatekeeper had pointed to. The gatekeeper looked at Yeon-woo’s back, wondering why he was having such a sudden onset headache. However, he pushed his concerns aside once the announcement that the next train was arriving and returned to his original position.

***

‘They have tight security.’ Yeon-woo’s eyes narrowed as he clucked his tongue.

Before exiting the station, Yeon-woo was getting annoyed by the numerous gatekeepers who appeared at regular intervals within the station. Furthermore, there were people hiding in the shadows and corners of the station nearby each gatekeeper. The farther up Yeon-woo went, the more difficult it was to overwhelm the gatekeepers’ shadows without attracting attention.

‘There are quite a lot of people.’ There were 200 people in the plaza at the top of the station. Since this was the sixty-sixth floor, a place only rankers could enter, it was an outrageous number.

‘The Sea of Time has this many members?’ Yeon-woo wasn’t sure if everyone gathered was a member or had been roped into the group through some other means. However, it was clear that the Sea of Time was a much more powerful organization than they appeared. ‘Moreover, this gathering is most likely for just one of its sub-organizations.’

Yeon-woo had planned to attack the people gathered at the meeting hall as soon as he arrived, put all their souls into the Soul Collection, and torture them to find the whereabouts of Brahm and the others. ‘Hmm, shall I watch a little longer?’

Yeon-woo thought that he ought to observe for a little longer. The high-level members hadn’t made their entrances yet, and there was a possibility that he would gain useful information once the meeting started.

The attendees were very solemn, and everyone wore a mask. They avoided talking to each other as much as possible and only milled about, waiting for the organizers to appear. Yeon-woo thought he could identify Kahn. Even though he was wearing a mask and cloak, Kahn could not completely change his unique temperament and aura. He was quietly discussing something with a few attendees. Perhaps they were the ones who had convinced him to attend.

Yeon-woo also recalled that Kahn had to jump through a lot of hoops just to create a relationship with the Sea of Time. Feeling a gaze upon him, Kahn turned his head and met Yeon-woo’s eyes. Just as Yeon-woo recognized Khan at once, Khan seemed to immediately recognize Yeon-woo as well.

Look ahead.

However, after receiving Yeon-woo’s message, Khan quickly turned his gaze to another place and acted as if nothing had happened. The person next to Kahn cocked his head. “Hmm? Is there someone here you recognize?”

“Hahaha. No way. Wouldn’t it be bad if I did? I was only thinking about what to have for dinner with everyone.”

“Hahaha. It’s so interesting to see this side of you, Kahn.”

Yeon-woo smiled lightly as he watched Kahn smooth out the situation with banter. As Yeon-woo gazed at the other participants, he began to wonder what the best time to attack them was.

Yeon-woo’s shadow had already flowed through the meeting area and been in contact with the others’ shadows for a long time. As soon as he gave the signal, these shadows would instantly consume their own masters like hungry beasts.

***

‘I’m going to take them over now.’ Yeon-woo made a decision as he looked at the crowd that had gathered. The high-level officials had appeared and were talking nonsense behind a podium. Yeon-woo had been expecting some valuable information since there had to be a good reason for everyone to risk this meeting, especially since they valued secrecy so much. However, the speaker only talked loudly and pompously as if his words were important, but they were nothing but bullshit—something about the end of days, what happened at the beginning of time, how the Sea of Time would lead the future and all sorts of other nonsense. He didn’t talk about any plans or next steps. It was almost like the gathering of a cult.

Yeon-woo tried to listen to the end since their last contact with Brahm was when he reached this place. However, Yeon-woo soon concluded that it would be more efficient to just capture everyone and force them to speak. Besides, it seemed that no one else was coming.

Yeon-woo mobilized the souls he had placed in each person’s shadow.

[Wall of the Dead]

As soon as the shadows below each attendee’s feet swayed like haze…

Bam! Suddenly, from behind, a hand landed on Yeon-woo’s shoulder. Yeon-woo turned around to see who it was.

Wait quietly! An urgent message rang in Yeon-woo’s ear, one that Yeon-woo never thought he would hear in a place like this.

It was Leonhardt’s voice.

 


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