After Apollo asked that, Zeus wordlessly stared at his son for a long, long while.
So many thoughts swirled around his head. However, even Apollo, renowned for his extraordinary Insight, couldn’t read what was on Zeus’s mind right now.
Zeus was basically an existence outside of heaven’s purview. Even the gods of Olympus who had inherited the same type of blood as him, Poseidon or Hades, couldn’t match up to their youngest brother, Zeus.
As such, Apollo quietly waited because there was not much he could do unless Zeus chose to speak first.
“Even if I don’t say anything, it seems that I can’t keep it a secret from you any longer,” Zeus finally said something after a long bout of silence. He maintained his posture where his hands were behind his back and began walking around the edges of the Well of God Title. “Apollo,” he called.
“Do you know what the true age of the universe is?” . Now that was an unexpected question.
Apollo didn’t even need to think before answering, “Father, there’s no way of knowing that unless you’re a primordial god.”
“Indeed, you’re right.”
“But father, why are you suddenly asking me that?”
“In that case, have you ever wondered what the lifespan of the universe could be?”
“The lifespan of the universe?” Apollo’s frown deepened as the strange and difficult questions came one after another. This inexplicable foreboding swept across his entire figure next.
“This universe has become diseased, decrepit. The inhabitants of this universe were no longer content with what they have, eventually giving birth to monsters called the Predators. In a way, Shiva making a move is the inevitable result.”
“But father, this isn’t the first time Shiva started something. And we can certainly stop him again this time, too.”
“Yes. This is indeed not the first time. Despite experiencing several near extinction-level events, this universe managed to pull through, and Yggdrasil was maintained.”
“If so, why are you—?”
“Let me ask you something else again,” Zeus cut off Apollo and changed his question, “Tell me, which ‘number’ do you think this universe is?”
Apollo was unable to answer.
It wasn’t simply because he didn’t know which number it was, however—that was merely a secondary issue here.
No one was aware of this tale. No, it would be more accurate to say that not one individual had even entertained such a notion before in their whole lives.
It could only mean that the universe had already been destroyed several times by now.
“It seems that our discussion has been sidetracked, son. You asked me earlier what that man is, didn’t you?”
Apollo had forgotten about his question for a while there, thanks to a completely unrelated tale, which was nonetheless of far graver importance.
That question was the sole reason why Apollo came here to speak to Zeus, after all.
“I’m also curious about it, myself,” said Zeus as he closed his eyes in contemplation. “Really now, which side does he belong to—?”
What he could see with his closed eyes was simply pure darkness.
A second visitor showed up in Olympus, and Su-hyeun was quite familiar with that man’s identity.
“Oh, oooh! It’s been a long while! But what brings you here, fella?”
“Well, that’s something I’d like to ask you too.”
Both of them were taken aback after finding each other here; Su-hyeun was surprised to find Hercules had reached Olympus, while the latter was greatly stunned to see that the former had made his entrance into the land of the gods.
They grabbed each other’s hands and shook enthusiastically. With a good-natured grin on his face, Hercules explained himself, “Father requested my presence here. It’s good timing, too, considering that dungeons have suddenly stopped showing up on my side recently, and I was getting a bit concerned.”
“All dungeons have vanished, you say?”
“Yes. It’s been almost half a year since the Giants stopped showing up, but it seems the matter has ballooned to a concerning level.”
The dungeons that persistently showed up for decades in the mortal realm that Hercules called home had suddenly vanished, meaning practically no Giants invaded there now.
Of course, that wasn’t the end of the story but merely the beginning of something else.
Su-hyeun asked, “I’m guessing you’ve heard it, too?”
“Well, if I haven’t, then I wouldn’t have hurried to this place.”
Hercules had been fighting the Giants for a long time. Sure, the time he spent performing this task was just a blip in the long history of Olympus, but to Hercules, it was long enough to call it his entire lifetime.
And the war against Uranus would be the final battle that could potentially put an end to that long and arduous fight.
“What about you, friend? What brings you here?”
“Originally, I had some other unrelated business to attend to, but now,” Su-hyeun groaned deeply, “As you say, the matter has ballooned up.”
He already got his hands on the Hephaestus’s hammer. He fought Ares and won, and with the hammer, he was planning to have several useful items crafted.
But now, a massive crisis had reared its head here, and the 201st floor’s trial was suddenly thrust upon him.
Since it was connected to the Three Destroyers, the difficulty this time should be quite considerable. However, the accompanying reward should equally be considerable as well. More importantly, though, Su-hyeun sensed that he might learn a valuable piece of information or two regarding dungeons through this opportunity.
Shiva, who was also one of the Three Destroyers, was responsible for creating dungeons, after all.
“Are you planning to help Olympus out, friend?”
“Yes, I received the request.”
“Mm. I feel a lot more confident, then.”
“Yes, me too.”
And so, Hercules also joined the party.
Even then, Su-hyeun’s heart still felt heavy. The battles hadn’t started yet, and he found it hard to even picture what kind of battles he would soon be involved in.
Su-hyeun and Hercules spent their downtime chatting about stuff that happened in their lives. The things Hercules talked about usually involved his family, however.
As for where he would stay, that hadn’t been decided yet, but Apollo’s temple featured dozens of unoccupied rooms that could be taken up as a sleeping quarter. Hercules was free to use any room he wanted.
They suddenly heard loud footsteps.
But that wasn’t all; even the sounds of heavy armor resounded as well.
This presence didn’t belong to Apollo. In the middle of a big smile, while talking about his family, Hercules turned his head to look, and Su-hyeun also shifted his gaze.
“You two are both here, I see.”
It was Ares. The one who was supposed to be the busiest with the war preparation had personally come for a visit.
Su-hyeun asked, “Where’s Lord Apollo?”
“He should still be in a meeting with father.”
“It’s taking a while.”
It had already been several hours since Apollo left the temple. Su-hyeun expected him to return fairly quickly, but the Sun God was taking his time. Maybe the discussion had been extended for some reason?
“Well, I guess they have a lot to talk about. That idiot hasn’t come to visit Olympus in a long while, after all.”
“What about you, Lord Ares? Weren’t you busy as well?”
“Yes, I was. From rallying the other gods alongside the 12 gods of Olympus to distributing the equipment and dividing the teams…all these tasks are something this noble God of War must—”
“But hang on, aren’t those Lady Athena’s job?” Hercules suddenly asked while munching on some grapes as he sat next to Su-hyeun.
Su-hyeun ended up chuckling a little at that, while Ares frowned deeply. That was because that question had struck the nail in the head.
“Sure. Such official duties are Athena’s to take care of. As for my role, it’s to step into the frontlines whenever wars break out and just blindly fight, that’s all.”
“I didn’t mean it that way.”
“It’s fine. And since we’re on that subject…You two?” Ares beckoned them to him and then turned around to leave. “It seems that both of you will have to come with me to fight, too.”
A humongous crimson steed was dashing across the sky, and Su-hyeun, Hercules, and Ares were riding on the back of that creature.
Su-hyeun glanced back at Olympus rapidly growing farther away.
The distance between them grew quite quickly; the speed of this crimson steed was so fast that it almost matched Miru’s flight speed.
Su-hyeun asked, “Where are we going right now?”
Ares abruptly took both Su-hyeun and Hercules and then began traveling somewhere. He said he would explain while they traveled, but he had said nothing so far.
“We’re going to Hell.”
“I heard that you’ve already been there? No wait, it was only up to the entrance, wasn’t it?” Ares replied nonchalantly, but the name of their destination was certainly a chill-inducing one nevertheless.
Even Hercules who was quietly listening in made a troubled expression, “I also had to go there once before.”
“Ah, that’s right. You’ve been there, too. Weren’t you the very first human in history to subdue Cerberus? But now, you…” Ares glanced at Hercules and then continued the rest of his sentence, “Seemed to have become a full-fledged god now.”
Hercules’s transformation, while Su-hyeun wasn’t around, couldn’t be called minor at all. Not just his physical abilities but even his mindset had also fully reached the realm of the gods by now.
Excluding Ares, it would be difficult to find another god possessing a better combat ability than Hercules in Olympus right now.
“Why are we heading to Hell, though?”
“It seems that a problem has occurred there.”
“What kind of problem is it?”
“Well, we’ll find out when we get there. Honored Uncle Hades has already departed for Hell yesterday. I mean, that place is like his home, after all.”
Hell was indeed Hades’s residence.
And the Giants including Uranus should be aware of that fact. Even if Hades could exhibit his full strength in Hell, the story would still be a grim one if Uranus decided to personally get involved here.
For instance, even Poseidon, the God of the Oceans, died within his beloved water.
“Let’s hurry up, then.”
The crimson steed neighed loudly and increased its speed.
The passing scenery changed in an instant, but that was because the creature wasn’t simply “running” right now.
From Olympus to the mortal realm and then to Hell that existed in a realm even below the latter, the creature hopped past the “wall” between them.
It didn’t even take half an hour to reach their destination.
The scenery finally stopped rapidly changing.
The new scenery was utterly dominated by pitch-black darkness. Not just the skies above but even the land below was dyed in this black hue.
The flowing river was as black as ink, but it did occasionally reveal crimson light glowing from beneath the surface. Its high temperature could be sensed even from far away.
“So, this is Hell?” Su-hyeun thought.
From what he heard, several different types of Hell existed out there.
This particular Hell, as lorded over by Hades, was the world where humans living in the realms under the purview of Olympus were sent to receive their punishment. Their souls would receive punishment based on the law of cause and effect, and then, after serving their sentence, they would be reincarnated.
So, normally, this would be where you would find countless souls to intense torment.
“There doesn’t seem to be anyone here,” said Su-hyeun as he scanned their surroundings using his Insight.
Even though he searched through the far-off distance where normal eyesight would never be able to reach, he couldn’t spot a single soul, never mind anyone’s presence.
It was like staring at a destroyed world. Rather obviously, Hell’s scenery wouldn’t be what you would call nice to look at, but even then, Su-hyeun didn’t expect it to be this empty, either.
“I knew it. Something did happen here.”
All the souls that should be found in Hell had vanished completely.
This couldn’t have been an ordinary problem; to those souls subjected to intense torment in this place, this might be a type of blessing, but the truth was, dying inside Hell was equal to a complete and total erasure from existence.
If Hades saw this, he would’ve been greatly incensed.
“Did Uranus personally get involved here?” Su-hyeun asked.
“If that’s the case, then we would have seen that bastard by now. His size is absolutely ginormous, after all.”
This spooky silence came across as far too unnatural.
More importantly, though, they couldn’t see Hades anywhere, even though he was supposed to have departed for Hell ahead of them. Along with this foreboding, this instinctive warning bell was going off in their minds.
And right at that moment…
“It seems that,” Su-hyeun was the first one to look up and say something, “We’ve been had.”
“Had? Had what?”
Ares didn’t seem to be up to speed with certain slangs modern humans used.
Su-hyeun groaned deeply and corrected himself, “It means, they have managed to deceive us.”
He pointed up, indicating that the others should look up, too. Only then did Hercules and Ares realize what was going on.
What they discovered up in the sky was tens of thousands of Giants, and more of them were still appearing even now; in a matter of seconds, the skies became dyed in a purplish hue, signaling that a dungeon had opened up.
This was a trap.
Su-hyeun unsheathed his sword at their sudden appearance. “For now…”
At the same time, Hercules pulled out his club, while Ares extracted his spear and shield.
“Thinking” could wait. They had only one thing to do right now.
“Let’s break through first.”
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