The stream of water struck Sungyoon's skin. Before he had awakened as a Connector, he had been a middle-aged man with rough skin. Now his skin was as smooth as a baby's.
Sungyoon lifted his shoulder. A thin sword had pierced through it, yet there was no wound on the shoulder, and neither were there any scars. Sungyoon brushed his hand over his smooth skin, but his fingertips only sensed undamaged flesh. Healing magic was indeed amazing.
After wiping away the water, Sungyoon put on his clothes and walked toward the living room. The others were already waiting for him. Tim was lazing around on the sofa, while Emily was nudging him with her elbow to gain more space.
“You came out right on time.”
Grace exited the kitchen with simple side dishes in her hands. The table in front of the sofa was full of all kinds of beverages and foods as the four of them wanted to relieve some of their stress.
Sungyoon glanced at the food.
‘I’m eating the food made by a princess.’
It was nothing new to him since he had eaten so much food made by her. He just knew that he was living the good life and that Grace’s food was tasty.
‘I’ve never seen her make British food.’
It could be so because English food had a bad reputation, but Sungyoon never pointed this out. He wouldn’t dare impune the honor of her country.
As always, the party sat down for drinks after they finished their work. Tim was always the first one to speak, and it was no different this time around.
“What do those bastards have against us? Do they have a vendetta against us?”
Tim angrily brought the alcohol bottle to his lips. This wasn’t a bottle of beer, but a strong bottle of whiskey. Tim hadn't diluted it with ice, yet he had no problem chugging it down.
“We are taking losses left and right no matter what we do.”
To protect Earth and Armstrong city, the party had to set aside two-thirds of their year, so they suffered massive losses. Thankfully, they had received real estate in Armstrong, and it provided them a passive income. However, it wasn’t as lucrative as gathering moonstones within the Great Labyrinth.
‘I still can’t believe the luxuries that we can afford now. It brings home the fact that Connectors who enter the Great Labyrinth make an absurd amount of money.’
The price of the food on the table before them could easily reach six digits, yet the party never worried about that. They always ate this spread when they returned from their missions.
Sungyoon shook his head. The conventional wisdom of finance no longer applied to him.
The four of them continued to talk. Everyone spoke out against the ambushers without holding back, everyone but Sungyoon. Sungyoon rarely joined in on the conversations, and he seemed to be pondering.
‘Should I tell them what Mr. Hyunwoo did?’
He was sure that Sung Hyunwoo was hiding something.
Sungyoon considered the traces left behind in the labyrinth and the short period that Hyunwoo had spent within the labyrinth. Then he thought about the statements Hyunwoo made, which were inconsistent with the evidence in front of his eyes. With how fast Hyunwoo had entered the labyrinth, he should have witnessed the portal at the very least.
‘He might be hiding the existence of the portal for the same reason as us.’
Sungyoon didn’t want to do it, but he was also deceiving Hyunwoo right now, and Hyunwoo might be operating for the same reason: consideration of the implications the revelation of the portal would have.
‘Still, I can’t help but feel leery. Something is off.’
Sungyoon had been stabbed in the back by his former best friend and his ex-wife, and that had a big influence on his thought process. Even though Sungyoon knew he was letting his own experience color his judgment of the situation, he felt his trust toward Hyunwoo crumble.
‘Let’s keep it to myself for now.’
This was how Sungyoon became suspicious of Hyunwoo for the first time.
‘Anyway, should I take it as a sign that the Gem is about to awaken?’
Sungyoon thought about the Red Gold Gem.
The Gem hadn’t responded to him even during a desperate battle, but he had been able to see the trace left behind by the portal.
‘I don’t know if it will be a boon or a misfortune for me.’
Sungyoon leaned back in his chair as he thought about the Gem that refused to show itself.
Everything returned to normal for Sungyoon's party. They were given a break to rest in Armstrong city, but the duration was only a few days. Then, they had to go back to patrolling. Armstrong's higher-ups prioritized safety, so they couldn’t let Sungyoon's party stay idle.
Fortunately, the party suffered no more ambushes. This allowed Sungyoon a chance to practice activating the Gold Red Gem, and he tried it during any idle time he got on his patrols.
His efforts didn't go unrewarded. After a month—
“Wow! Wow! Wooooooooooooooooooow!”
Chelsea jumped around a blue ball of light floating in the air. The Director looked deeply moved as he gazed at the portal.
“This! This! Can I stick my hand in there?”
“Sure, why not?”
“Wait a moment! Stop! Wait, Strobe! I should be the first one to—”
“You snooze, you lose!”
As the Director rushed to the portal, Chelsea ignored him and stuck her hand through it. Her hand disappeared from view. Chelsea once again let out a high pitched scream as she waved her hand around. The Director reached the portal and stuck his hand inside it too.
Unlike the two excited researchers, the Mayor kept his cool.
“So, this is a portal.”
The Mayor was cold and surgical in assessing the portal, but he couldn’t completely hide his excitement either. His eyes reflected his emotions.
“If we use this, we can go to the ancient city that Mr. Woo found?”
The two researchers had been competing with each other to examine the portal, but they whipped their heads around when they heard the conversation between the Mayor and Sungyoon.
“Let’s go right now!”
Chelsea and McGregor became ready to go pack right now, but the Mayor stopped them.
“Please wait for a moment. We have to make preparations. Moreover, both of you are here as geologists studying the Moon, and not experts on ancient cities. We have to call the researchers from a related field of study.”
The two wanted to deny his assertion, but the Mayor was right. They were both scientists with a rational mind, so they pressed down on their objections. However, they couldn’t help but hold a grudge against the Mayor, and looked at him with a reproachful gaze.
The Mayor ignored the two of them. If he couldn’t shrug off their glares, he wouldn’t have lasted this long as the mayor of Armstrong city.
“I would like to ask you a couple of questions, Mr. Sungyoon.”
“Please ask away.”
“Is it possible to open the portal to different locations?”
Sungyoon shook his head from side to side.
“I still can't fully use this Gem's abilities. Or maybe, this Gem can only open a portal to one location. I don't know. For now, I can only open a portal to the ancient city.”
“How long can you maintain it?”
“Indefinitely. However, it closes by itself after five minutes if I don’t pay it any attention. Also, I have to stay near it to keep it open.”
The Mayor stroked his chin. The possibility of Sungyoon awakening more of the Gem's abilities indeed existed, but as it was now, the Red Gold Gem fell short of what the Mayor had worried about. It wouldn’t have a devastating effect on the balance of power.
‘It's a good thing, but at the same time, I do feel a bit disappointed.’
Another possibility was that the Red Gold Gem had yet to mature.
“Let’s form a research team for now.”
After thinking it through, the Mayor spoke.
“I would like to join it.”
“Me too! I want to join that research team!”
The Director and Chelsea approached the Mayor as if they were beasts chasing after a tasty morsel. The two of them threw away any semblance of being researchers, and the Mayor looked fed-up by them.
‘No. This is why they are researchers. I can’t fault them.’
These researchers had left behind their comfortable lives on Earth to come research on the Moon. It showed their passion for their work. Considering that, the Mayor knew that such a reaction was only normal.
“Alright. I’ll let the two of you participate in it.”
The two researchers let out a bright laugh as they high fived each other. And thus, the plan to explore the ancient city started.
The Mayor had no intention of announcing the existence of portals to the world, so he didn’t choose his people based on ability. He chose those who could keep a secret.
Initially, high rank Connectors, including Sungyoon’s party, were dispatched to the ancient city as scouts, and they didn’t find any strong monsters. This result let the Mayor sigh in relief since he wouldn’t have to hire high ranking Connectors to protect the researchers.
Armstrong was shorthanded on high ranking Connectors capable of entering the Great Labyrinth, but they had a plentiful supply of middle rank and low rank Connectors.
Finished with the preparations, the Mayor dispatched a fifty-member strong research team. They were experts from various fields. Since it was an ancient city that was to be explored, most of these researchers were archaeologists. They would determine if the ancient city had any connection to the civilization on Earth.
Of course, all of the researchers became wild with joy when they saw the city. They turned into hyenas running toward their prey. As they ran around the city, the researchers even forgot to eat most of the time.
The Connectors looked at them with weary eyes. Fortunately, the city was only home to Skeletons, so the Connectors had it easy.
While the researchers focused on the city, Sungyoon remained in a particular room and coldly looked at a piece of equipment. He had assumed it was the device that controlled the portal, and like before, it projected holograms in the air.
‘This is probably the key to operating the portals.’
This equipment had captured all of Sungyoon's attention. The researchers had already swept through this room once, but they had no idea how this machine functioned. Therefore, they left the device to Sungyoon, who had managed to activate it before, and left to research other parts of the city.
Before leaving, all the researchers had looked at Sungyoon with anticipation in their eyes. They expected some kind of result from him. It was way too much pressure, and Sungyoon did his best to brush aside those memories.
Sungyoon stepped closer to the device. He glared at the hologram screens as if he were trying to read what was on there. The hologram still showed a cross-sectional diagram of the building. It was mostly red, but the three spires were colored in blue.
‘Now that I think about it, I never went to the other two spires.’
Last time, the Red Gold Gem had directed Sungyoon to a particular spire; the place where he had to refill the moonstones. In his rush, he hadn't thought of checking out the other two spires.
‘I should have a look, just in case.’
He had gained nothing by glaring at the holograms, so he started to move toward the spires. The building was large, but he could explore it within a day.
Soon, Sungyoon was done with his observation of the two spires. He hadn't found anything out of the ordinary. Each of the spires had a room at the top, and that was it.
‘If this were a simple problem, the researchers would've already found clues about it.’
Sungyoon grumbled. He did not return to the room with the equipment, and instead, went to the first spire, where he had loaded in the moonstones to activate the devices.Previous Chapter Next Chapter