Chapter 154

He gave Sungyoon’s party a friendly greeting, but when confronting the irate man his attitude did a 180. His gaze at the man was piercing.

“Well? If you have any complaints, why don’t you say it to me?”

The man had never expected a big fish like Charlie Russell to come out here and was shocked. For a brief moment, he shut his mouth, and his eyes swam back and forth.

When Russell had intervened in the fight at the entrance of the labyrinth, the man had been unconscious. So he had no idea that Charlie Russell was involved in all of this.

However, Sungyoon didn’t think this man would back off just because Charlie Russell had shown up.

If he were that sensible, he wouldn’t have thrown a tantrum in front of a nation’s embassy.

As expected, the man didn’t disappoint Sungyoon’s expectations.

“What the hell! Are you trying to browbeat me using your power!”

“No, no. I would never do that. Do you really think you are worth my attention? You are nothing.”

Russell looked as if he was really surprised and exaggerated his emotions like an actor. Even Sungyoon thought Russell was being a bit cheeky.

“You should quickly state your business. As you can see, I have guests to entertain.”

Russell gestured toward Sungyoon’s party. It was clear that Russell was mocking the man, so his face turned redder.

“Many people died due to the commission handed by your government! Moreover, that holier than thou Princess Grace ran away! She left other Connectors behind! We haven’t heard a single word of apology! How is this right!”

But when the man spoke those words, Russell let out a big laugh. However, there was no joy in his laughter. His laugh sounded like a lion's roar on the other side of the jungle. 

This was the first time Sungyoon realized laughter could sound so menacing.

“Our government offered our condolences to the other governments involved. We also gave out plenty of compensation as a gesture of gratefulness.”

“I almost died, and you think that puny amount is enough!”

“As expected, you are causing all this ruckus because you want more. Maggots all think alike.”

Russell ran his hand through his hair as he let out a sigh. 

His eyes flashed. He had spent the past few decades killing only monsters, so savageness had become ingrained in his spirit. It was beyond description. His words were enough to shut the mouth of the man, who had been jabbering away.

“Did you say your name is Woo Sungyoon?”

“Yes.”

When Russell suddenly called out to him, Sungyoon immediately answered. Even he was feeling the pressure from Russell’s aura, so he faltered a little bit as he spoke.

“You also signed up to rescue Grace and fell into danger. What is your opinion on all of this?”

Sungyoon took a brief moment to organize his thoughts.

“The possibility of danger is something everyone who goes into the labyrinths are prepared for. Moreover, nobody coerced us to take up this commission. It was voluntary. The British government put up Jewel rank Gems as rewards. There might be people who joined for altruistic reasons, but most had chosen to come there for the reward. They all made their own choices, and I believe in personal responsibility.”

Russell clapped his hands once.

“Koo. What a great line! What a refreshing point of view!”

Russell looked very happy as he pointed his thumb toward Sungyoon. His gaze then once again turned toward the irate man.

“That’s his opinion. What is your opinion?”

“D-Don’t give me that bullshit! Those bastards left us!”

“Yes, yes. I heard about that already. That is why I have some words I have to say to you.”

Russell walked forward to step in front of the man. The man hesitatingly moved backward, but in the end, he gritted his teeth as he stood his ground, glaring at Russell.

“You are the ones that brought the monsters toward Grace. Grace and Sungyoon’s party suggested fighting the monsters together, yet you ran away. You didn’t even believe his words one bit. How are they supposed to save all of you in that situation?”

Russell moved his face closer to the man’s face.

“It is true that our government sent out the commission, but you were the one who accepted the burden of risk in coming to the labyrinth. Did you think you were coming to a picnic? Did you plan on getting the reward and doing nothing? I hope not. No rational and decent human would do that, right? Connectors are always aware of the possibility of death, so I hope you aren’t stupid enough to complain about that. Right?”

The man’s face turned blue with fear.

“Moreover, we compensated everyone that died or was injured. This compensation wasn’t even part of the commission, yet we gave it anyway. We also expressed our thanks and our condolences to everyone that participated. It doesn’t matter how they died. They came there to risk their lives for the Princess, so we did what was right. We didn’t act like some ungrateful dogs like you. Above all else...”

Until now, his face had a little hardness to it, but his expression remained relatively calm. However, as he spoke these words, his expression crumpled, and he looked like an evil spirit. 

“You dare call Grace a bitch? I heard you said ‘Fuck you’ to her too. You dare speak such vulgar words to her? I’ll keep you alive while I rip off your four limbs. I’ll then throw your limbs into the waters of the Thames!”

Russell was cracking his knuckles as if he were ready to do it right now.

“It is forbidden for Connectors to fight within Armstrong...”

“That’s only true for fights using Devices and Gems. When it comes to fistfights, they are more lenient. If we are talking about hand to hand combat, you won’t be at a disadvantage. Right?”

“…”

The man couldn’t say anything. He kept opening and shutting his mouth like a goldfish. He was completely intimidated by Russell’s fighting spirit, and he wanted to sink into the floor.

“Get out of here. If you have a problem, you can sue us through Armstrong. Do as you like.”

Russell turned his back on the man, and he walked toward Sungyoon’s party.

For a brief moment, the irate man looked at Russell with fear and resentment in his eyes. But then, he ran into the streets.

“Jeez! I showed you something unsightly.”

Russell approached them with a cheeky expression on his face. However, they remembered his scary expression when he had browbeaten that man. Emily, who was already hiding behind Sungyoon, withdrew further. Tim’s face stiffened.

“It seems I scared you too much. I’m really not a scary person.”

Russell raised his hands as if he were trying to pacify a child. He then laughed in an easygoing manner.

“Are there a lot of people like him?”

Sungyoon said as he stared at the location where the man had run away.

“No. Thankfully, most of the injured parties were understanding of the situation, and they were satisfied with the compensation. Only a few childish Connectors like him made a fuss.”

It wasn’t a particularly good topic to talk about, so Russell spoke a bit in an exaggerated tone as he changed the topic.

“Well, let’s head in. We have to give you guys your rewards, and I want to have a conversation with you guys. Grace is already waiting inside.”

Russell took the lead, and the front gate, which was firmly shut, opened.

Sungyoon’s party followed Russell into the embassy.

They entered the building and walked down a corridor before stopping at a certain room.

It looked to be a sitting room with a red carpet. A table and sofas were present inside, and a familiar blonde woman was sitting there.

“Ah. You are here.”

Grace stood up when she saw them and greeted them.

“It seems you are feeling better now.”

“Yes. I’m.”

Grace let out a small smile at Sungyoon’s words. 

Her body and mind had gone through great hardship. However, her tough attitude had stopped her from folding under adversity.

She had lamented for her loss. She had shaken from fear. She had shed her tears. Although she hadn’t completely returned to her old self, she was as close as she was going to get.

After she greeted the Ross siblings, she gestured the party to sit on the sofa.

Sungyoon and the Ross siblings sat on the same sofa. Grace and Russell sat together on the sofa beside theirs.

An employee brought them black tea, and Grace was the first to speak.

“First, I would like to say this once again. Thank you very much for saving me.”

“I also want to say thank you again. Thank you for saving Grace.”

The princess beloved by the people of England, and the strongest Connector of England, both bowed their heads toward Sungyoon’s party. There was incredible weight behind their gesture.

“It is fine. We did it expecting a reward.”

Sungyoon humbly spoke as the representative of their party.

“In my case, I was just paying back an old debt.”

“Hmm? Debt?”

Sungyoon told Russell about his previous encounter with Grace.

“I see. So that happened.”

Russell patted Grace on the back.

“You did something good. Do good for others and it comes back to you.

"No doubt about it.”

He laughed in a magnanimous manner. In terms of his gestures and the tone of voice, he sounded like a grandpa complimenting his granddaughter. But they looked similar in age, so the scene looked off.

Sungyoon, Tim, and Emily looked on with odd expressions on their faces. Even Tim and Emily, who had grown up in a Connector family, had found this to be odd.

“Still, we have to thank you. I was so surprised when I heard she was missing.”

Russell’s eyes turned soft as he looked at Grace. One could tell that they had a very close relationship.

“Well, let’s talk about the rewards.”

It seemed the small talk had lasted too long. Russell finally brought up the topic of the rewards.

“You will receive the predetermined payout for participating in the rescue, and additional money on top of it. However, you are probably more interested in these, right?”

He got up from the sofa and opened a small drawer. When he returned, a small pouch was in hand.

“These are your rewards.”

When he flipped the pouch, small Gems rolled out.

Sungyoon and the Ross siblings focused their gazes. The light falling from above reflected a platinum light. Their eyes widened.

‘Platinum Gems.’

When the rewards were said to be a Jewel rank Gem, they had expected it to be the lowest rank Silver Gems. That was why Sungyoon was very shocked.

“Are you surprised?”

Russell looked like a child who had successfully pulled off a prank. He grinned.

“If I’m being honest, I am. I expected to receive a Silver rank Gem.”

“The government wanted to give you guys Silver rank Gems.”

They had saved the Princess, who was beloved by the citizens of Britain. In some ways, the government might have come across as being a bit cheap. However, Jewel rank Gems were something that couldn’t be bought with money. Silver rank Gems were enough of a compensation in that context. 

Moreover, most of the Connectors went into the rescue mission thinking they would be receiving a Silver rank Gem.

“Sir Russell went the extra mile.”

Grace spoke.

“You rescued our Grace. Of course, we should give this much. Don't feel too overwhelmed by it. It isn't as if I provided the reward out of my pocket. I just raised the ranks of the Gems.”

‘He just raised their ranks...’

This was true of the Rainbow rank Gems, but the difference between each rank became very stark amongst the Jewel rank Gems.

‘Is this what it is to be on the same level as Mr. Hyunwoo?’

Sungyoon thought about Hyunwoo, who had given him a Gold rank Gem as if it were nothing.

“Don’t hold back. Take it.”

Sungyoon’s party was having trouble taking the Gems, but they started picking them up one by one at Russell’s insistence.

“… I’ll take it with thanks.”

The first one to pick up his Gem was Sungyoon. Then, Tim and Emily carefully picked up their Gems too. They were pressing down on it, but it was clear that they were overjoyed by this development.

Sungyoon looked at his Gem. It was shining with a platinum light, and was shaped like an X. It was an armor Gem.

“Here. You should take this too.”

The pouch didn’t contain only Gems. Russell took out a Device.

“There is no point in giving a Gem if you don’t have the Device to support it.”

His eyes crinkled in a playful manner.

Sungyoon grabbed the new Device placed in front of him. It was a thin bracelet.

It had a thin band and the Gems could be slotted in like ornaments. There were a total of four slots.

‘There are two Platinum slots and two Gold slots.’

The Gold slots were for a weapon Gem and a special ability Gem. The two Platinum slots were Omni slots.

‘He purposefully prepared this for me.’

Sungyoon had to borrow a Device to be able to use his Gold Gems, and he had given it back to the British government afterward. But when he saw the entirety of the rewards, he realized that Russell and Grace had personally prepared these gifts for them.

‘This is a bit too much.’

Of course, the Device capable of slotting high rank Gems were expensive. Sungyoon had two Gold Gems, yet he didn’t have the Device to use them. That was why he was very well aware of the value of such a Device.

However, even if he tried to return it, Russell wouldn’t take it back.

“In truth, this is way too much. Even if I try to return it, I know you won’t take it back. Do you perhaps want something from us?”

“Huh? Will you grant my request if I ask?”

‘It seems he does want something from us.’

He looked delighted by Sungyoon’s words. It seemed the gesture wasn’t done completely out of altruism.

However, it seemed Russell’s request wasn’t for himself.

“Sir Russell!”

“Don’t be like that, Grace. I just want to place a small foundation for my precious girl. That is all.”

Russell smirked as he let Grace’s complaints roll off of him. She sulked as she looked at him, but Russell didn’t even blink an eye.

‘It seems the one with the request is Ms. Taylor?’

Sungyoon turned to look at Grace.

Was the request a difficult one? Or was she upset that Russell preemptively made it hard for them to turn down her request? 

Grace hesitated for a moment. She was having a hard time talking.

However, she soon hardened her resolve, and she clearly spoke.

“May I join your party?”

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