Team: HH, thursdays, Yahiko (300(0)/12)
Yeon-woo’s eyes widened in surprise. He expected Persephone to search for him, but he thought that she would just leave a message behind or descend through someone’s body. But she had come herself?
This was also holy territory, like Urd’s on the 16th floor, so Persephone could manifest temporarily too.
Bodi silently nodded.
Yeon-woo followed him. Creutz attempted to follow Yeon-woo, adjusting Zulfikar on his waist, but Bodi stretched out his hand.
“She would only like to meet Mr. Cain. Please wait outside. Also, this is Goddess Persephone’s territory. How about putting that violent weapon down as a sign of respect towards her?”
“Sorry. That didn’t occur to me.”
Creutz apologized and put Zulfikar down on the floor after kissing the stone in the hilt.
Bodi accepted his apology with a short nod and turned back to Yeon-woo.
“Please follow me.”
Yeon-woo followed Bodi into the cottage.
The inside didn’t look too different from the outside. There was a piece of leather being refined on the table, and there were different hunting tools on the walls.
It was hard to think that this was really a temple. The only items that were related to gods were the bronze braziers in one corner and an inscribed badge of Persephone.
『……I miss it.』
Yeon-woo heard Rebecca, who was flying in circles around him, mutter to herself. Was she reminiscing about her life as an apostle and hunter? Longing dripped from her voice.
“It’ll probably be different from most temples you know. Even if it looks simple, please understand. I received the calling of Goddess Persephone not long ago, so I didn’t have the time to tidy up.”
Bodi smiled faintly, watching Yeon-woo glance around. He had a different expression on his face than when he was talking to Creutz.
“I’m just surprised to see game being cleaned inside of a temple.”
“Yes, it’s definitely not commonplace since it’s rare to see killing inside of a temple unless it’s for a sacrifice. However, Goddess Persephone is the daughter of the goddess of earth and harvest, and the wife of the god of death and the Underworld. The seasons of the earth repeatedly see life and death. Even if a kill occurs where she is served, wouldn’t that death give life to those living? Then, the living will give birth to new life, and when enough time passes, they will become part of the dead.”
Bodi said it wasn’t disrespectful because life and death were just common cycles above the ground as he rubbed the leather of the animal.
It was a sudden philosophical message. Yeon-woo thought it might be the main teaching of the religion that served Persephone. It was also the message that Persephone was delivering to Yeon-woo through Bodi before they met.
Life and death were mere cycles. What did this mean to Yeon-woo, who had begun to have the power of death?
Bodi led Yeon-woo through a door that led to the back. There was a building in the middle of a garden of beautiful flowers. It looked like a small shrine.
“Please enter after taking your shoes off and placing your weapons down. I’ll leave you to it then.”
Bodi bowed and disappeared into the cottage. Now alone, Yeon-woo took off his shoes like Bodi said and quietly moved through the garden.
He could feel the soft touch of the dirt. The soft and squishy feeling was nice. His sensitive Demonic Dragon Body allowed him to feel beyond it.
The particles of fine dirt, the damp moisture, the squirming worms and bugs, the seeds about to sprout, the soft grass and flowers, the nice scent of flowers, and the smell of the dirt.
Everything in the garden was being relayed to Yeon-woo. It was the feeling of all the life contained in the garden.
The time he walked through the garden was short, but Yeon-woo was able to realize what Persephone was trying to tell him.
And when he opened the door to the shrine…..
A fresh spring breeze greeted him. The smell of dirt and flowers and even the fresh scent of fruits. It was a breeze that made him feel better just by touching it.
It was another world beyond the shrine.
Large hills stretched out. Flowers and grass softly fluttered in the wind. The sky was high and blue. The air was especially warm and fresh.
It was a space separated from the outside. This was the real holy territory that gods used when they descended to the lower floors.
On one hand, it was hard to imagine that this was the territory of the lady of the Beyond. When most people thought of Hades and Persephone, they would probably think of them sitting loftily above the hellfire in the darkness, looking down and judging people’s sins.
“What are you staring at? Please come inside.”
There was a lady standing in the middle of a hillock, looking up at the sky. She fixed the bonnet on her head and turned to him.
Persephone’s smile was beautiful. It wasn’t a pretty face, like what was said in the legends about Hades falling in love with her at first sight, but the word “beautiful” described it best.
Her easygoing smile comforted him.
Gods exuded an intense, threatening aura for the respect and obedience of mortals, but he couldn’t feel any of that from Persephone. If he didn’t know she was a goddess, he would’ve thought she was just a normal player.
Persephone didn’t feel unfamiliar for some reason. He even felt glad to meet her, like she was an old friend he hadn’t seen in a while. Was it because the powers of the Black King dealt with death?
“Nice to meet you.”
Yeon-woo entered the shrine and bowed. He had an indifferent but polite attitude.
Persephone widened her eyes like it was unexpected and smiled brightly again.
“Yes. Nice to meet you. You’re exactly the same as I heard from Athena and Hermes. Actually, I wanted to meet you too. Although I didn’t know we would see each other like this.”
Although Persephone wasn’t a part of the twelve Olympians who ruled over Olympus, as Demeter’s daughter and Hades’s wife, she was one of the higher beings. She frequently associated Athena and Hermes, who were part of the same generation as her.
“Would you like to come sit here?”
Persephone waved her hand lightly in the air. Then, in the middle of the hillock, a small table, two chairs, and a tea set were provided. It was like they were having a picnic.
When Yeon-woo approached the table, the chair moved out automatically. He hesitated, unable to sit down immediately.
This situation was awkward to Yeon-woo. It was so different from when he had met other gods. Urd and Poseidon couldn’t even compare to what was happening now, and Hermes and Athena always showed him goodwill, but they neer lowered themselves to his level. They tried to put distance between him as a supernatural and a mortal.
However, he didn’t feel any of that from Persephone, and it was actually stranger that she acted as if they were there to talk about the weather.
Persephone laughed delicately as if she read what he was thinking. It was a charming smile that definitely made one’s heart beat faster. Then she placed a teacup in front of Yeon-woo.
“You don’t have to feel awkward. Even if we’re all gods, each of our actions and personalities is different. This is just mine. Immortals, mortals. Gods, humans. We’re all beings with the same souls. The only difference is whether one vanishes earlier or not….. and in truth, it’s not as if gods don’t die either.”
It was definitely a strange message. Gods and humans were the same. They were equal beings. If the gods and demons who deemed themselves superior heard this, how would they react?
‘She’s different from other gods.’
Yeon-woo began to look at Persephone in a positive light. He didn’t think she was faking it. There was no reason for her to.
No, gods and demons couldn’t lie about their actions. They always had to be true to themselves to protect the mindset and domain they ruled over.
After coming to understand her a bit, he understood her actions too. Her formal and polite way of speaking meant that she respected him as another being.
Yeon-woo wordlessly sat across Persephone. They sat eye to eye.
Persephone beamed and poured black tea into Yeon-woo’s cup. Then, she pushed a few plates of cookies in front of him.
“These are flower cookies made from the flowers here. They’ll go well with the black tea. Please try some.”
Yeon-woo took off his mask and took a bite of the flower cookies like she said to. His eyes widened.
It was sweet. At the same time, it was fresh. It felt like his mouth became refreshed and his head became clear. The gentle taste danced on the tip of his tongue.
He took a sip of the black tea as well. The sweetness in his mouth settled down and freshness was brought in its place. Energy spread throughout his body.
His soul felt like it had begun to float. The Philosopher’s Stone cried out happily.
Yeon-woo realized what the black tea and flower cookies were made of.
The drink the gods of Olympus enjoyed. It was the elixir that gave one strength. Of course, what Yeon-woo drank was a diluted version of real Nectar, but Yeon-woo was grateful for it. The Divine Blessings were already reacting to it, and more holy power grew within him.
“Can I take some of these flower cookies?”
“Is it because of the Dragon Human named Ananta?”
Persephone seemed to have read some of his thoughts since they were in her territory.
Yeon-woo didn’t plan on hiding the truth, so he nodded. He thought that the elixir the gods of Olympus drank would be helpful to Ananta.
“If that’s the case, take as much as you want. I’ll tell Bodi to wrap some for you.”
Persephone waved her hand as if it was nothing and spoke directly.
“I heard you were searching for the three Cyclops brothers.”
Persephone filled up his cup again. Yeon-woo nodded silently.
“Yes, that is correct.”
“May I ask why? I’ve watched Player ### from here through the system, but I wanted to hear your thoughts directly from you.”
“To be exact, I’m searching for Kynee.”
“Kynee….. are you talking about my husband’s helm?”
Kynee. The helm that Hades used to trick Kronos in the Titanomachy. It was known for hiding the presence and boosting the morale of its user.
“Do you have it?”
Persephone shook her head. Her bright smile turned bitter. The breeze turned cold, influenced by the changes in her emotions.
“He loves me, and I love him. But we still have secrets about our private lives. He hates his items being touched more than anything in the world. And with him gone, it’s even harder to find where it is.”
He didn’t have many apostles either, Persephone added on at the end.
Yeon-woo’s eyes flashed.
“You don’t know where your husband is?”
“After he left saying he would be gone for a short while because something happened in Tartarus….. he still hasn’t returned.”
Tartarus was the abyss in the lowest floor of the Beyond that Hades ruled over. No, it was better to describe it as a prison than the Beyond.
It was where the Titan species and Giant species were locked up, and it was a mysterious place that even gods and demons were scared of because once entered, there was no escape.
What had happened there, and why was Hades missing after going there?
‘The three Cyclops brothers disappeared after passing through the gates on Hades’s summons. The bronze door that leads to Tartarus should be behind those ten gates.’
Yeon-woo felt a picture being drawn in his head. Something had happened in Tartarus, Hades had called the three Cyclops brothers to stop it, and they had all disappeared.
In the end, it meant…..
‘I have to go to Tartarus.’
He needed to find Hades somehow because he desperately needed the power of the Black King.
“Olympus has tried everything to find him, but no one has found anything.”
The gods of Olympus probably had limits to what they could do. Tartarus was Hades’ property. No, it was his holy territory. Gods and demons would be restricted from entering each other’s holy territory.
“Since you say your goal is finding Kynee, I’ll put it bluntly. I want your help in searching for him.”
“I’m only a normal human.”
“You’re also an agent of death.”
Yeon-woo’s eyes flashed.
“Do you know about the Black King?”
“Of course. All gods and demons who rule over death know him. All their power is from him. The same goes for me and Hades. We cannot escape from him.”
“Then can you tell me who…..”
Persephone shook her head with a sullen smile.
“I’m sorry. I’m bound by the Styx River, so I am not to say anything related to him. I cannot even speak his name.”
Persephone took a bite of a flower cookie. Her bite mark was left in the cookie.
“However, I can tell you this one thing. My mother’s generation is extremely fearful of “him.” But the next generation, such as Hermes and Athena, want to break away from the pledge of the Styx. The same goes for me. I’ll help you. Even support you, if you wish. In return, please help me find my husband.”
Tears brimmed in her beautiful eyes.
“I….. don’t have the qualifications and cannot cross into Tartarus. However, it’s possible for mortal Player ### to. Your fate is helping you.”
Yeon-woo tightly closed his mouth.
“I want to know if he’s dead or alive at the very least. I just want to see him. So please help me.”
He had been planning on searching for Hades anyway. It wouldn’t make much of a difference to have Persephone’s request added on top of it. The only problem was whether he could cross over into Tartarus, where even the gods of Olympus hesitated to enter.
‘First, the gates.’
It was then.
[The sudden quest (Persephone’s Long-time Wish) has been created.]
[Persephone’s Blessing has given through the quest.]
[Persephone’s Prayer has given through the quest.]
[Persephone’s Grace has given through the quest.]
Yeon-woo slowly stood up as he saw the messages popping up. It seemed like this was why Persephone wanted to meet him.
On one hand, he was able to find something out. While Zeus’s generation didn’t look upon him nicely, Hermes and Athena didn’t care about any of it. And that they were bound by the ‘Pledge of Styx.’
Yeon-woo was about to leave the holy territory after hearing Persephone’s words of thanks. Just then, remembering something, he paused to ask Persephone a question.
“I have a question.”
“Yes. Please speak.”
“Do you know where my brother’s soul is? I heard it’s not tied to the Beyond.”
Persephone had a regretful face.
“I’m sorry. I’m taking care of the list of the dead in my husband’s place, but I don’t know everything. Still, since it’s your request, I’ll try to look into it. Cha Jeong-woo’s soul is also a great topic of interest for us now.”
Yeon-woo finished his goodbyes and left the holy territory.
* * *
Bodi was waiting outside of the shrine.
“Did you greet the goddess well?”
Yeon-woo nodded quietly. A faint smile appeared on Bodi’s face.
“After Hades disappeared, Goddess Persephone became lonelier and lonelier. Recently, she heard that Goddess Demeter isn’t well either. It’s a relief that she seems more at peace now.”
Bodi sighed, and he led Yeon-woo to where Creutz was.
While following him, Yeon-woo’s eyes were somber. When he brought up his brother, Persephone’s eyes had wavered for a moment. Her trembling eyes. They were eyes filled with guilt and sadness.
It was only for a short moment, but he didn’t miss it.
‘She knows something.’
The hands of the pocket watch in his chest began to move rapidly.
He heard a familiar voice coming from somewhere.