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 Great Warriors were climbing the Tower, the Hell Express and its guardians were all created to help them with their training. Zahard and the 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 44th 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 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 special room is not a "Regular Area" and 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.
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. 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.
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.
The last station on the journey of the Hell Express, located on the 44th Floor, that consists entirely of Mega Dome 'City (Sawfish)', a floating station that is ruled by Lee Xiawun and his two adopted children. Like the rest of the Hell Express, Rankers are not allowed into Mega Dome City, but they are allowed to freely enter the reception room of the Mega Dome, which is for outsiders. Regulars have acess to the luxurious suites, which apparently are better than Rankers' houses.
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 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.
- There are currently around 80 tickets unaccounted for.
- The Train is a place designed for the training of Zahard and the Great Warriors. So food, clothing, and quarters are all provided by the train. Although due to progression and time, SIU couldn't show all of it, but all of life essentials can be obtained from the train.