The Hell Express (지옥열차, 地獄列車, jiog-yeolcha), also known as the Hell Train, is a special examination that any D-rank Regulars can take on the 35th Floor, and from any successive Floors that have stations.
A long time ago in the Tower, as Zahard and the 10 Great Warriors were climbing the Tower, the Hell Express and its guardians were all created to help them with their training. Zahard and the 10 Great Warriors did "Revolution" in a part of the Train called 'Rice Pot' which is why the master of the Train called the place Revolution Road.
The Hell Express is an experimental express train that enables passengers to get from the 35th Floor up to the 43rd Floor quickly. Due to its extremely high difficulty, it's nearly impossible to survive until the end. The final destination of the Hell Express is said to be the Tower's "Hidden Floor" (or "Secret Floor").
The Hell Express departs from the 35th Floor at the first station, "Train City", but also stops at every station from the departing station to the last station. Regulars who board the Train can get on and off as they please. The Train arrives at stations located in the Inner Tower and Middle Area, and since the Train is a test area the ones boarding the Train are somewhat excluded from the rules of the Tower. Because of the nature of examination area Koon suggests that even non-Regulars may get on the Train.
However to board the Train freely one must have an Express Ticket which cannot be bought and must instead be stolen from another Regular. So, when Regulars are waiting at the boarding stations, one has to steal the Express Ticket from them whilst defending it from other Regulars. There are always exactly 100 Express Tickets and once a Regular has one they become a target to someone else.
There are many predatory Regulars surrounding the Hell Express, and the highest among them are the top 3 D-rank Regulars:
- Sachi Faker the "Ticket Hunter", a seasoned Ticket Holder as well as a Ticket Hunter whom the Regulars should be the most afraid at the first station where he usually resides.
- Kaiser the "Name Hunter", a veteran warlord who resides at the third station, the "Name Hunt" station, that he has ruled for over a thousand years.
- The twin Princesses of Zahard Lilial and Shilial.
The Hell Express itself is a behemoth locomotive that appears to levitate in the sky using blue fire-like shinsoo. It is likely that it moves using the same mechanism. Regulars who are to board, ascend to the floating train via a set of stairs and, upon reaching the train door, insert their Express Ticket into a slot which causes the door to open, letting the Regular inside the Train.
The Hell Express has a day and night system; during the daytime there are very few enemies and it is relatively peaceful, but during the nighttime there are monstrous enemies everywhere. Regulars are only allowed to stay on the Train if they pass through a certain amount of sections each day and, if they manage to spend ten nights like that, they get to a certain place where they are required to take a test in order to proceed to the next Floor. There is a test area for the next Floor at the end of every path, but there are numerous paths to get there; furthermore the paths completely change at night.
For Regulars to progress on the Train, they must clear three types of tests:
- A stage test on each Floor (as the Train passes Floors on its journey).
- Getting rid of monsters that appear at night.
- Fight train guardians placed in each room to receive various rewards and get to the next stage faster.
When a test can't be completed, due to unavoidable circumstances (such as the death of the Train conductor), the train has Regulars open the transport device and take a substitute test instead.
Inside, at the entrance of the Train, is the road of light named "Revolution Road". However the term "Revolution Road" was actually used by the master of the Train to refer to the 'Rice Pot', which is an area within the train that the master and the "god" of guardians used to train Zahard and the 10 Great Warriors and allow them to do "Revolution".
There are "guardians" (가디언, "gadieon") that protect certain areas of the Train and they are a kind of system that protects the Hell Express and are like "administrators" who prevent Regulars from doing unexpected actions.
- The "god" of guardians is the boss of the other guardians. He and the place known as the 'Rice Pot' both exist to help Irregulars go through "Revolution".
- Bloomer is a guardian that was most recently guarding the door sealing Hoaqin.
- Gray guardian is the guardian that most recently guarded the 38F stage test.
- Mirotic is a guardian that guards the gate that leads to the Hell Express at Train City.
- Yokim is a guardian that most recently guarded one of the stages on the 37th Floor pathway.
The Hidden Floor (숨겨진 층, Sumgyeojin Cheung) is a virtual area, as large as a real Floor, located inside the Hell Express. Only the Regulars who have cleared the entire Hell Express may gain access and they obtain the privilege to record their name along with a "trace" of their current self. This data and their personal details remain in the system on the Train like a kind of artificial intelligence.
Several rules govern this "Floor":
- Revealing details about the Floor causes one to lose both the data they recorded as well as their memories.
- Once a Regular becomes a Ranker, they are no longer able to return to the Hidden Floor; thus, only Regulars can enter. (Even Family Heads are no exception.)
- One cannot update their data or bring obtained items or goods from outside of the Hidden Floor once they have cleared the train.
Using the Master Key to enter the Hidden Floor, via the Room of Time Past (과거를 바라보는 방, Gwageoleul Balaboneun Bang; alternative translation: Room of Retrospection), allows Regulars to ignore the third rule, but prevents them from leaving any record in the system. The Room of Time Past opens at 9pm train-time and can only be accessed during this point. This Room is not a "Regular Area": there, Rankers may attack Regulars.
The stations for the Hell Train act somewhat as safehouses for Regulars trying to board the Train. Due to an implicit rule that Rankers are not allowed to interfere with matters related to the Train, in most cases stations are made as cities that are independent, preventing interference from Rankers and other people.
Residing on the 35th Floor, Train City is the first area that Regulars who wish to take the Hell Express arrive at; this is also the first station that the Hell Express departs from. In its most recent incarnation, Regulars that arrive at Train City encounter an elevator that leads to six different floors; this elevator operates one by one. The six floors are:
- 1F Entrance: This floor is protected by a semi-illusory guardian named "Mirotic" who prevents people from entering through a door before the chosen time. Beyond the door lies the first gate to 'Helix Stairs' which ultimately leads to 'Platform Skyscraper' and the Train.
- 2F Residence: This floor has many rooms (there are assumed to be 100 rooms), each with a number that corresponds to the number of an Express Ticket; entrance into a room is possible only if the Express Ticket number matches the room number. As such many Regulars wait for Ticket Holders to either leave or enter a room so that they can steal their Express Ticket. Any number of non Ticket Holders are allowed to enter a room along with a Ticket Holder once the room door has been opened. The game "The Last Seven" was held here.
- 3F Restaurant: On this floor there is a restaurant section where Regulars can dine in comfort. There is a secret path from the Restaurant that leads to the real Control Centre.
- 4F Stadium: An area holding stadiums for which battles can take place. In the recent events, the tournament (created by Rachel's group) was held here.
- 5F Control Centre: A control centre where events taking place around Train City can be managed. It can be left to operate automatically using a computer program. It's later revealed that this Control Centre, that can be reached using the elevator from the platform, is in fact fake.
- 6F Skyscraper: Like the 5F Control Centre, this Skyscraper, that can be reached using the elevator from the platform, is in fact fake.
There is a second elevator, which can be found in the real Control Centre, which travels to the real Skyscraper. However, ordinary Regulars cannot use this elevator unless they are 'approved'.
Residing in the Middle Area of the 37th Floor, Wooden Horse is the second station Regulars can board the Hell Train. Ticket Holders stay in waiting rooms at the top of the station and use stairs to get to the plaza at the bottom of the station.
When the train arrives at the station it stops at the plaza, known as "Altar", but it only stays for one hour; the first 30 minutes is for passengers of the train to get off and the second 30 minutes is for Regulars trying to board the train.
The Name Hunt station is a place that was created to commemorate the bet between the 10 Family Heads and the Tower natives, in which they put their names on the line. This station resides on the 39th Floor and features floating stone blocks that Regulars must move across to get to the actual station itself; the station floats in the sky using large blue suspendium monoliths. The train stops at this station for two days before departing again. According to Evan Edrok, a powerful person resides there who acts like some kind of "leader"; this person is in fact Kaiser the "Name Hunter", a veteran warlord who has ruled over the station for over 1000 years and is notorious for stealing the names of new arrivals at the station.
At this station, whoever wins in a battle can steal the name of the loser and whoever loses their name cannot use it for the rest of their life; the winning person can steal everything the loser owns, as well as their name. Those that lose their name cannot use it until they reclaim it; those that lose their name become the "unnamed" and have to stay on the station forever. These are special rules that only apply at the station and nowhere else; even those from the 10 Great Families are no exception to the rule. Only the Zahard name is exempt from the name stealing rule.
There is a specific manner for Regulars to steal another's name: after subduing your opponent, you place your hand(s) on their back (causing a message to appear saying that "Name Stealing" is beginning) and maintain contact for ten seconds, which allows you to steal their name; an opponent's name is stolen by default if they are destroyed. Once a name has been stolen, a scroll with the stolen name written on it will be automatically generated. This scroll contains all the names that you have stolen, as well as a list of your 'servants'. Servants refer to those who are ruled by the 'named'. The 'named' may bestow a name that they have stolen to an 'unnamed' Regular and, in return for being bestowed a name, the 'unnamed' must serve the one who gave them a name as their master. Those who have become servants cannot refuse an order from their master, but they are able to create their own servants. This system of subordination is valid in any region outside of the station too.The 'unnamed' reside in a small building near the entrance of the station, the 'named' reside in a larger set of buildings behind where the 'unnamed' reside and behind that is Kaiser's chamber, also known as the "festival field". Regulars must use a "floating island" to traverse to different areas of the station, but since only 'named' Light Bearers can operate them, the 'unnamed' can't move between the various areas. In the 'unnamed' residence, six 'unnamed' Regulars share each room with their food and lodging provided by the building; fighting is forbidden in the building, although the Ten Bosses could do what they want because they could open the door as they pleased. Due to their unnamed status, 'unnamed' Regulars cannot leave this place until they reclaim their own name or steal someone else's; in addition, under absolutely no conditions are Regulars allowed to use the name that was stolen from them within the Tower. The 'named' on the station enjoy power much like that of Rankers which is why they never want to leave.
At the station, prior to the arrival of Jyu Viole Grace, the Regulars with largest collection of names were called the "Ten Bosses", with the greatest of them being Kaiser, the commander of the station. The Ten Bosses were also Kaiser's loyal subordinates and, if you gathered all their names, you could face off against Kaiser at the 'festival'. Excluding Hesse, all the Ten Bosses had claimed the name of someone from a Great Family.
In order to board the Train at the Name Hunt Station, one had to defeat Kaiser. However, in order to challenge Kaiser at the 2-day Festival that took place when the Hell Express reached the Name Hunt Station, one first had to gather the names of the Ten Bosses. Until the promised time, no-one at the station could attack Kaiser until either they earned the right to participate in the Festival or if Kaiser directly demanded a match with an opponent. Anyone attacking Kaiser without fulfilling either of these conditions was immediately disintegrated by the Floor Guardian.
Note: After the arrival of Jyu Viole Grace and the defeat of Kaiser, all Bosses are either deceased, have lost their name or have been subdued
- Alphine — Kaiser's former right-hand, she was defeated by Baam under the Jyu Viole Grace alias.
- Arie Inieta — recognised as the strongest of the Ten Bosses; he was killed by Koon Ran.
- Hesse — killed by Koon Ran.
- Lulu — defeated by Sachi Faker and allies.
- Marte — killed by Androssi Zahard.
- Variel Vani — subdued by Hwa Ryun and allies.
- Yukan — defeated by Baam under the Jyu Viole Grace alias.
- Three unknown bosses defeated by members of Team Leesoo.
The Festival is actually the true purpose of the Name Hunt Station. Rankers may buy a Regular's name at an auction and thus become their owners. This system allows the 10 Great Families to prevent their names from being stolen and kept outside of the Station by ransoming their own children. The auction takes place inside a floating island specially built by the Workshop; the island remains usually invisible and only reveals itself during the festival. The only way to reach Kaiser's chamber during the festival is to ride the one floating island which is designed to do so.
The fourth station of the Hell Express, located on the 40th Floor. The spores coming from the mushrooms make Regulars cough. A small floating castle is visible from the Station. This is where David Hockney boards the Train and joins Baam's group.
The fifth station of the Hell Express, located on the 42nd Floor. It is located atop a very high mountain, thus many Ticket Holders fail to reach it. However, since taking the Hell Express allows Regulars to reach the 43rd Floor faster than through the usual way, many of them still make the journey to attempt boarding the Train.
The penultimate 'station' that the Hell Express visits. Unlike all the other destinations, there is no real station here and passengers of the train must instead jump out directly into the Floor far below.
Notes and Trivia
- Apparently, the number of D-rank Regulars that hold on to their Express Ticket throughout the entire journey on the Hell Express is less than 5 every year.
- According to Quant, there is a rumour that the Tower's most beautiful woman is sleeping on the Hidden Floor at the end of Hell Express.
- Hachuling has been to the Hidden Floor, although he doesn't reveal what's there.
- Ha Yura told Hong Danhwa that one could go back in time inside the Hidden Floor.
- Po Bidau Gustang explains that the Hidden Floor is a virtual space inside the Hell Express where Regulars who have passed the Hell Train may leave a "copy" of themselves from that current point in time.
- When Quant gave the explanation on the Hell Express, he mentioned that it lets you go up 6 Floors. If you catch the train on the 35th Floor, that means you would end up on the 41st Floor and not the 43rd Floor, as Yihwa later read. SIU mentioned that neither explanation was wrong, with the reason being explained in the future.
- There are lounge areas on the Train where Regulars can rest before proceeding to the next station.
- According to Daniel, "Revolution Road" is known to be the road that the 10 Family Heads walked through and everything changed for them after walking the road; is responsible for the division and unity of the 10 Great Families. It is the road which changed the history of the Tower.
- It is later revealed to be true. "Revolution" is a process for Irregulars to realise their "real fate", where they find their true self that has nothing to do with society, ideologies and others; Irregulars can discover themselves that they weren't able to find whilst being surrounded by false notions and boundaries. Zahard and the 10 Great Warriors all did "Revolution".
- Daniel says that there are an unlimited number of secrets on the Hell Train. For instance, the Rice Pot is located in a hidden room, there is a space which is undetectable from the outside mentioned by Pedro to his master Karaka, while the latter has taken advantage of a hidden car. He then encounters a door he cannot manage to open and wonders whether the true hidden car lies behind.
- The Ten Bosses system at the Name Hunt station has been likened, by characters and fans alike, to be a "fake" version of the 10 Great Families.
- The Name Hunt station is a very famous "Regulars Disposal" facility among the families. "Bring me the Kaiser's name" is like an open passcode among certain families; it is an offer used for when they want to get rid of a Regular they don't like. The Ten Bosses receive huge sums of ransom money from the 10 families when one of their children wander into the station by accident.
- There are currently around 80 tickets unaccounted for.