Chapter 11

Dr. Kim Leemin worked at a large hospital in Seoul. He was looking at an x-ray image of a chest.

It was as if a white fog had been placed within the chest. It wasn’t a chest x-ray of a normal person. It wasn’t a sickness, and it wasn’t something that could be identified through medical tests, either. The only time one would see such an occurrence was in a drama or a movie. It was that rare of a phenomenon. Only those working in this field would know about this. This image would evoke many different emotions in normal people. Some might look at it with disgust, while others might look at it with curiosity.

However, Leemin was different. Not only he was a doctor, but he was also a professor at a medical school. He had seen several hundred x-rays. He usually didn’t show any emotion whether it be disgust or curiosity. An x-ray was merely a tool that he used to treat his patients. 

However, when he saw the x-ray in front of him, a clear interest appeared in his eyes.

Knock! Knock!

It was as if he was looking at a masterpiece painted by a famous artist. Leemin was staring at the x-ray image when he heard a knock on the door. He finally broke out of his trance.

‘He’s here.’

“Please come in.”

He picked up his still hot coffee as he stood up.

People entered through the door. Unlike old Leemin, they were fresh-faced young people.

“Hello!”

“Yes. Come in.”

After he received their greeting, Leemin brought the coffee cup up to his mouth.

“Bitter!”

But he quickly put down the coffee and let out an awkward smile towards the people who had entered.

“Why don’t you put some sugar and cream in it?”

One of the young people cautiously spoke up. However, Leemin shook his head from side to side and again brought the coffee back to his lips.

“I won’t look cool if I did that.”

He took another sip. Then he stuck out his tongue to express the bitterness of the coffee.

Leemin looked to be over 50, but his actions were oddly cute.

“I heard you called for us.”

As if he wanted to quickly change the topic, one young man put pressure on Leemin.

“Ah, ah! That’s right. I want to show you guys something.”

He put down his coffee and walked towards the x-ray image he had been staring at. All the others followed him.

“How long have you guys been interns?”

“That is….”

“I guess it doesn’t matter. No, you don’t have to answer that.”

The interns, who had been counting their years, shut their mouths. Kim Leemin was a good person, and he was a good doctor. However, there were times when he abandoned those roles.

“It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve been interns. This is probably the first time you’ve seen this for real.”

The old doctor pointed towards the x-ray, and the interns gazed at it.

The image looked quite plain. They were mere interns, but they were elites in the academia. They had been educated in many subjects and had seen countless x-ray images of the chest. Soon, an intern found an abnormality.

“Isn’t that the heart…”

“Yes. Isn’t it a bit weird?”

When one spoke up, others started to realize the oddity too. They gathered around to get a better look at the image. Leemin backed off so that he wouldn’t bother them. He once again took up his coffee cup.

“It isn’t normal. That’s for sure...”

“What kind of abnormality is it showing?”

This was definitely not a regular heart. A healthy beating heart didn’t look like this. They were sure the heart had some kind of disease, yet they had no answer.

“This doesn't look like a heart. It looks like some kind of an ore?”

It didn’t look like an organ that imbued life. It looked like a cold, hard object.

At that moment, one of the interns tilted his head in puzzlement.

“Ore? Gem?”

He mumbled to himself before he snapped his fingers.

“Connector! It is the heart of a Connector!”

The expression on the faces of the other interns changed at his shout.

“It might be… !”

“I think it is. It looks like the pictures in the textbooks!”

The interns talked among themselves as they reviewed the x-ray image more thoroughly. It was something that could only be seen in textbooks and videos. This was their first time seeing such an image in real life.

Leemin looked pleased as he watched the interns exchange information as they continued to study the x-ray image. He was an educator, and it felt very good to see his students have a strong inquiring mind. The doctor quietly drank his coffee, so they could discuss the case a little bit longer.

‘… bitter!’

Of course, he didn’t forget to shudder every time he took a sip.

Leemin drank his coffee as if he was torturing himself. When he was close to being done with his coffee, the interns had already turned away from the x-ray image.

“Professor! Is this really the heart of a Connector?”

“Yes.”

Leemin answered in the affirmative. He was a bit annoyed as he put down the coffee that he had to force himself to drink.

“It is really bitter! Why do you guys drink this as if it is delicious?!”

‘That is why we told you to put sugar and cream in it.’

The interns looked dumbfounded as they looked at the old doctor. However, they didn’t make the mistake of voicing their feelings out loud.

Leemin pushed past the group of interns and stood next to the x-ray image.

“This is probably your first time seeing an actual x-ray image of a Connector’s heart.”

“Is the Connector hospitalized in this hospital?”

“That is why I have this x-ray image.”

Leemin unfurled his finger and pointed towards the image.

“As you guys already know, the heart of a Connector is special. It doesn’t beat, and it is no longer organic. Normally, Connectors use hospitals specializing in treating Connectors. That is why it is rare to see a real Connector patient.”

“Why did this patient come to our hospital?”

“He isn’t really our patient. He didn’t come here voluntarily. When the ambulance picked him up, he was thought to be a normal person. But as we gave him a thorough check-up, we found out that he was a Connector. He is a newly-awakened Connector. He is what we call a 1st Gen Connector.”

1st Gen!

The expression on several interns shifted slightly, and they looked a bit disappointed. It was like being told a celebrity was here, but when one went to look at the celebrity without knowing their identity, one found out that it was a D-list celebrity. The interns reacted in a similar way.

Leemin smirked when he picked up on this.

“What? Are you disappointed because he is a 1st Gen?”

“No, it isn’t like that....”

Several interns, who had displayed a subtle shift in their expression, became abashed. They tried to deny it.

“He is a 1st Gen, but he has the right to enter the labyrinths. This single factor means that he’ll make much more money than you guys in the future. He won’t be bringing in mind-blowing amounts of money like those that are called ‘One-man Oilfields’, but he isn’t to be trifled with. Also, let us say if he really was a talented 2nd or 3rd Gen Connector, that information has nothing to do with you. You shouldn’t feel let down.”

The people, who had looked disappointed, lowered their heads when they heard Leemin’s reproachful words. Leemin continued to speak. It seemed he was going to drop the subject in regard to their behavior.

“I don’t know if any of your future work will allow you to work with the Connectors, but this will be a great experience for you guys. You will be able to observe a special case like this man. He has just awakened, so we can see in real-time as to what kind of changes his body will go through. I was lucky. I’m in charge of his case, so I want you guys to follow me and learn.”

[Yes!]

The interns answered with a loud voice.

* * *

Sungyoon opened his eyes. His eyes started to come into focus, and he was able to see the outline of the objects around him.

‘What time is it?’

It was the first thought he had after he cleared the fuzz out of his head. Warm sunlight was coming in through the window, and it made his skin itch. He had been squirming around in bed because it felt snug. However, he got up in surprise.

“Shit. I’m late!”

Didn’t he turn on his phone alarm before he went to bed? There was a significant amount of sunlight coming through the window, which meant he had slept past his morning commute. He was about to get up to go into work late.

“Huh?”

He was halfway up when he froze.

He wasn’t in his cheap room.

He was lying on a bed, and there was a small sofa for guests. A small refrigerator and a tv that one usually saw in a small room could also be seen. There was a door at the corner of the room. At a glance, he guessed it was a door leading into a restroom.

The only thing missing was a kitchen, but this place was much better than the small room he lived in.

Sungyoon was wearing a hospital gown, so it wasn’t hard to guess where he was.

‘Am I at a hospital?’

He finally remembered what happened before he had fainted. The pain had been excruciating. It was as if his heart was being squeezed, and in the end, he must have fallen unconscious.

Sungyoon fell back once again onto his bed.

‘I’m at the hospital.’

At this moment, he was more worried about the hospital fee than the state of his body. They had probably done all kinds of tests to determine what was wrong with him. They would ask for compensation. His head hurt from thinking about the receipts that were going to be headed his way.

‘I hope they only did tests covered by my insurance...’

If they did a test not covered by his insurance, he would have to skip out on paying the hospital fee. He really didn’t want to do that.

Sungyoon once again raised himself and looked at his room. He was surprised by what he saw.

“What the hell? This room is for one patient?”

He was so surprised that he unconsciously spoke out loud.

“Fuck. Why did they put me in here?!”

Of course, a hospital room occupied by one patient was more expensive than the hospital ward with 8 patients. He was in a position where he would pick up ten cents from the ground to pay towards his debts. A single-occupant hospital room was too rich for his blood. 

He recently saw on the news that the hospital ward was getting too crowded, so the hospital might not have had a choice. The surplus patients were put in single-occupant rooms. He wondered if he fell into that category.

‘How long was I out?’

This might be an inpatient room. It meant his fees went up if he stayed the night.

‘Should I run away?’

It was inevitable that he had such thoughts. Sungyoon grabbed his head, and he struggled over this dilemma of whether to run away or to stay? For him, it might be one of the most pathetic and hardest dilemmas he had to struggle over.

‘Shit. Why the hell did I have to get sick?!’

Sungyoon clutched the left side of his chest. If his heart didn’t hurt so much, he wouldn’t have to agonize over this wretched problem.

‘Huh?’

Sungyoon started to grope his chest. He spread his hand and tried to place his hand on various locations on his chest. He even opened his shirt.

He couldn’t hear his normally beating heart.

He quickly felt for his pulse. He placed his fingertips on his wrist, but he couldn’t pick up any pulse. 

It was as if his heart had stopped.

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NaughtyOtter's Thoughts

I hope you guys like the story.  I'll be releasing one chapter a day.