Chapter 260

“It seems they escaped without harm. Congratulations, Tiotudo. Your noble sacrifice didn't go unrewarded.”

Hyunwoo pulled his sword back as he spoke toward the burnt piece of meat in front of him. The body barely held the shape of a human being, and horrible burns were all over the lump of flesh.

“Ooh... Ah!”

“You're still alive? Now, this is a surprise.”

Hyunwoo tapped Tiotudo with his foot, and Tiotudo's charred leg crumpled into ash. Tiotudo’s nerves were burnt to a crisp, so he could no longer feel any pain. Hyunwoo took a knee next to Tiotudo and spoke.

“You used to be my friend, so I'm willing to hear your last words. Do you have anything to say?”

“Huhk! Huhk!”

Tiotudo gasped for breath. His life was slowly fading away, so his breathing was getting weaker. Despite this fact, he managed to open his mouth.

“W… Why...”

“Hmm?”

“Why… Did you attack us?”

The heat had melted one of his eyes shut, and he could barely look toward Hyunwoo with the other. Even that eye had lost most signs of life.

“I was given an order. That was all. You guys made a big fuss about how we could not clear the labyrinths and wouldn't let us take the moonstones back to Earth. The president of our company got angry.”

“Not making… fuss for nothing...”

Tiotudo’s lifeless eyes suddenly shone.

“Wake up the creature…. sealed in the Great Labyrinth...”

“Yes. About that...”

Hyunwoo humored Tiotudo.

“Did you really expect such a large corporation to give up when you present an old and unverifiable story as evidence? Do you realize how much money is exchanged in this market?”

“Money…”

Tiotudo's angry voice sounded like metal grating against each other. 

“Did… this… for mere pieces of paper?”

“This is why you can’t converse with anyone that lives on the Moon. Money is everything. On Earth, money allows you to wield absolute power. You guys live like beasts inside the labyrinth, so you might not know this, but this is a very important business.”

“Y-you killed Jungbum and…. my father for that! Kuh-huhk!”

His significantly-injured vocal cord could barely withstand the vibration caused by his words. Yet, Tiotudo used all his power to speak his next words.

“… It doesn’t matter… If both sides want to live… need to cooperate...”

Even as he was dying, Tiotudo thought only about the future. He remained focused on his mission until the end and even tried to convince Hyunwoo, who had killed his father and Jungbum.

“If he awakens… Earth will be in danger… Please think again...”

“Ah! I’ll stop you there. I called you friend in the past, so it does pain me to see you try in vain.”

Hyunwoo stopped Tiotudo.

“Listen to me, Friend. It doesn’t matter what you say here. You can't convince me.”

A bloody smile appeared on Hyunwoo's lips.

“I’m not on the side of humanity. I’m on the side of the one you fear so much.”

“… Him?”

“Yes. The one you call the creature. I’m talking about ‘Grenoid’.”

“What!”

Tiotudo almost spat out blood.

“That's why you should stop trying in vain. When you spoke about the stories passed down by your forefathers, I was the one who stood by my president saying it was all bullshit. I was the one fanning the flames. Since I went that far, why would I listen to you now?”

“You bast... Koo-huhk!”

Titoudo was filled with anger, and he tried to grab Hyunwoo’s neck. However, since his arms were burnt black, some portion of them crumbled when they twitched.

“Is that your last words? I’ll give you some peace now.”

Hyunwoo reversed the grip on his sword, and the sharp blade revealed its teeth toward Tiotudo. However, Tiotudo didn’t back down at all. He could barely see out of his remaining eye, but he stared at the blade.

“Don’t you feel wronged? Don’t you feel aggrieved toward your friends, who left you behind?”

“Fuck… You….”

Tiotudo pushed through his injuries and pain to make the invidious remark.

When he had to make the decision at the portal, Aruwen hadn’t been in a state where he could stay behind and block the enemy. On the other hand, Plu-El had awakened the Shaman Gem, so she was the major source of her people’s power. She was a talent that was needed by their people.

Tiotudo didn’t regret the fact that he was the one who had to stay behind. His death was right at hand in the form of Hyunwoo, and Tiotudo made his resolve. No. He had already prepared himself for the possibility of death before all of this.

The only regrets he had were his worries for his comrades and his unresolved anger toward Hyunwoo.

‘It’s fine. They’ll do well even without me.’

Aruwen was lost right now, but Tiotudo had faith that Aruwen would regain his senses. As for Plu-El, Tiotudo didn’t need to worry her. He knew it because he was her best friend.

“I see.”

Hyunwoo no longer taunted Tiotudo.

“If there's an afterlife, please give my regards to Jungbum.”

Hyunwoo brought down his sword, and the unpleasant sound of metal slicing through flesh rang out in the labyrinth.

***

After the ambushers retreated, Sungyoon’s party took a little time to recuperate. Emily had immediately healed all the serious injuries during the battle, but the small wounds hadn’t been a priority, and these small wounds had accumulated. 

Still, none of the four had received serious wounds, so it didn’t take them too long.

“Ah! You guys are here.”

Hyunwoo had followed the ambushers and entered the labyrinth a while ago. When Sungyoon’s party went inside, he greeted them. 

The party saw him with a couple of his comrades.

“Thank you for the help.”

Sungyoon was the first one to open his mouth, and the rest followed him.

“Don’t worry about it. We were on patrol, so we were nearby.”

“What happened to the ambushers?”

Hyunwoo shrugged at Sungyoon’s question. 

“Unfortunately, we lost them again. They are really quick.”

“That’s surprising. I can’t believe they are fast enough to evade you, Mr. Hyunwoo.”

Even the great Sung Hyunwoo could do nothing if their foes escaped using a portal.

“That’s what I’m saying. They ran away pretty deep into the labyrinth and disappeared without a trace. Isn't that right?”

When Hyunwoo sought affirmation from his comrades, all of them nodded.

‘Are they from Fabion?’

It was a reasonable guess from Sungyoon since these connectors moved with Hyunwoo without reserve.

“I’m in a bad mood since I lost those rats again. I want to go back and have a drink.”

Hyunwoo dragged his sword behind him as he moved to exit the labyrinth.

“Let’s hurry up and get out of here. You guys should come out too. We chased them off, but it seems like they have a grudge against you. Since you overclocked your Gems, you shouldn’t be able to fight, right? You're probably tired too. Go back to Armstrong city and rest.”

After saying those words, Hyunwoo and his comrades exited the labyrinth.

“Let’s head out too.”

Emily tugged at Sungyoon’s arm. She had fought with courage, but she felt anxious about being repeatedly ambushed. Sungyoon felt the same way, and he turned around.

‘Hmm?’

However, as his feet were about to move, his senses picked up something. He whipped his head around.

“Wh-what’s wrong? Is something there?”

Emily hugged Sungyoon’s arm. Even in her fright, her training made her inject her magical energy into her Gems. But since her Gems had been overclocked, they remained asleep even after she circulated her magical energy.

“… It's nothing. I thought I saw something.”

“Please give me a break, Mr. Sungyoon. My heart almost sank to the floor.”

Tim grumbled.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Tim was a believer in the church of Sungyoon, yet he was complaining. It showed how tense he was. After the small commotion, the party headed outside, but Sungyoon’s eyes kept glancing toward one location.

‘I’m sure of it.’

His eyes were looking at the spot where the ambushers had placed the portal and run away.

‘Mr. Hyunwoo said he chased them deeper.’

Sungyoon’s eyes sank.

‘Why would he lie to us?’

Sungyoon subconsciously glanced toward Hyunwoo, who was waiting for them outside of the labyrinth.

***

The morale of the Moon people was at its worst.

They had tried to reclaim the Royal Gem, but their mission ended in failure. Moreover, they had been chased away by their hated enemy, Sung Hyunwoo. However, the reason for their rock-bottom morale wasn't just that.

A casualty had occurred in their mission, and one of the pillars of their group had died.

“You son of a bitch!”

Plu-El grabbed Aruwen’s collar and dragged him up. She had always openly disliked Aruwen, but had never shown him excessive hate until now. Right now, she was practically choking him as if she were a vengeful spirit.

“Tiotudo died because of you! Do you realize that!”

“Plu-El! Stop it!”

Their comrades separated Plu-El from Aruwen. Plu-El continued to show acrimony as her comrades dragged her away. She threw all sorts of curses at Aruwen. 

“Are you ok, Aruwen?”

One of the Moon people helped Aruwen by holding his arm. 

Aruwen's body was without strength. His face was pale, and his body was frozen as if he were a corpse. The person holding him up didn't know what to do when seeing this.

“Hey.”

Aruwen opened his mouth. His voice was low, rough, and gloomy, and his comrades had never heard such a tone of voice from him.

“Is Tiotudo dead?”

Their faces crumpled. They had separated Plu-El from him, but it seemed they didn’t look at Aruwen’s action in a positive light.

“I have no idea. However, his opponent was Sung Hyunwoo. The chances of him being alive are minuscule.”

“Yes. That means Tiotudo is really dead. Is it my fault? Did I get him killed?”

“… You should take care of your body first. We were too hasty in carrying out this plan, and we lost too much. You and everyone here lost a lot today.”

His comrade didn't speak out to correct him, but he had not denied Aruwen’s assertions. Aruwen could easily read between the lines.

‘Tiotudo.’

A small voice in his heart kept repeating the name of his old friend. They weren’t the closest in recent times, but once, Aruwen had been very close to Tiotudo and Plu-El. Moreover, Tiotudo had been a male around his age, and since they shared a lot of similarities, Aruwen had been closer to him than Plu-El.

In his childhood, Tiotudo would be dragged around by Plu-El. The unruly Plu-El had wrapped him around her little finger. As Tiotudo grew up, he became a warrior that fought monsters for his people.

When Plu-El married an outsider, Hahn Jungbum, Aruwen had shared a drink with Tiotudo, who Plu-El had rejected. Afterward, they had fought together for the future of their people. Their vision of the future differed, but at the end of the day, they were best of friends. 

Such an existence in his life had died. When Plu-El had forced him through the portal, Aruwen had seen Tiotudo for a brief moment. The look in Tiotudo's eyes had become seared into Aruwen’s brain.

At that moment, Tiotudo had been an older brother looking at his immature younger brother. The look in his eyes was that of an older brother who believed his younger brother would someday grow up to be a wonderful person.

Pul-suhk!

Aruwen had been barely holding his body up, but the strength went out of his legs. His knees hit the ground.

“Hey, Aruwen! You shouldn’t just drop down like that!”

Aruwen couldn’t hear his comrade’s chastisement. He finally felt it. It became real to him now. His friend, who always looked out for him as a big brother, had died because of him.

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