Chapter 263

“Would you like to drink something? I’m buying.”

Sungyoon pointed to a nearby cafe.

“No. We can’t impose ourselves on you like that. It's too expensive.”

‘It seems she isn’t a high rank Connector.’

When Sungyoon saw Plu-El shake her head from side to side, the thought came to his mind. If she were a high rank Connector, she wouldn’t have refused the drink with such words. In fact, she would have offered to buy the drink instead.

“It's fine. An expense of this magnitude won’t be too burdensome for me.”

When Sungyoon insisted on it, Plu-El smiled after a moment of hesitation.

“Then I will accept your generosity.”

She looked at the menu above the counter, while Sungyoon turned toward Aruwen.

“You should pick a drink too.”

Sungyoon didn’t like the man, but he couldn’t just ignore him.

“No. I—”

“He likes anything sweet.”

Plu-El butted in from the side, and Aruwen glared at her.

“Is that so? Will a caramel macchiato be ok?”

“… Yes, please.”

Aruwen looked away from Plu-El and lowered his head a little toward Sungyoon.

‘Did something happen?’

Sungyoon realized that this man's demeanor was entirely different than that in their first meeting. However, they had encountered each other only once, and that too for a moment. It could be that Sungyoon hadn’t gotten an accurate read on him. Therefore, Sungyoon decided to keep that matter to the side.

With their hats and sunglasses, Plu-El and Aruwen had disguised themselves. It could be seen that they were trying very hard not to be noticed. Sungyoon led Plu-El and Aruwen toward a park to have a quiet conversation.

“What business do you have with me?”

Sungyoon asked as he sat down on a bench.

Plu-El took a moment to gather her thoughts.

‘It’ll be important from now on.’

This was the first and critical step in creating an alliance between the moon people and the earthlings. Moreover, she was facing the person who could use the Royal Gem. If she wanted to convince her people, she needed the outsider who had awakened the Royal Gem. It would give their efforts legitimacy.

‘I can’t believe he came up with this idea.’

She glanced at Aruwen. Tiotudo’s death had brought on a significant change in Aruwen. Of course, Plu-El had no intention of forgiving him yet.

‘I have to acknowledge it. He has started to change.’

Plu-El desperately wished this good change continued.

“Mr. Woo Sungyoon, I’m not sure if you will believe the words that will come out of our mouths from now on, but these words are the absolute truth. I hope you understand that it's very difficult for us to speak about this.”

Sungyoon took the straw out of his lips when the mood turned heavy.

“I’m all ears.”

When Sungyoon gave his full attention, Plu-El opened her mouth. No, she was going to open her mouth.

“In truth, we are—”

“Hey! Look who it is!”

A chill ran up Plu-El's and Aruwen's spines. Without even thinking, they bounced up from their seats and immediately created some distance.

Toohk! Chwahk!

The coffee cups in their hands fell to the floor.

“Jeez! What’s with the overreaction? They wasted the coffee.”

The man wiped the coffee on his shoes as he spoke, while the look in Plu-El's and Aruwen’s eyes turned ugly. Sungyoon was a bit dumbfounded at what had just happened. He turned to look at the newcomer.

“What brings you here, Mr. Hyunwoo?”

Hweek!

Plu-El and Aruwen turned away. Their eyes became round as if they didn’t want to believe what they were seeing.

“I saw you with these guys and became curious, so I followed.”

“Do you know them?”

“I do. Very well.”

Hyunwoo looked at the two of them and continued.

“In some ways, we're very close.”

“Bullshit!”

Aruwen cussed. His body kept twitching as if he wanted to attack Hyunwoo. However, the single thread of rationality inside him allowed him to hold back.

“… Mr. Woo Sungyoon.”

Plu-El's change in tone surprised Sungyoon.

“What’s wrong?”

“Are you close to this human? Are you friends with Sung Hyunwoo?”

“You could say our relationship is like that of a teacher and his student.”

Hyunwoo put on airs as he spoke. It was a bit of an exaggeration, but it was true enough that Sungyoon couldn’t deny it.

“Is that true?”

“It's something like that.”

Plu-El firmly shut her mouth. The words she had been about to say to Sungyoon disappeared down her throat, and she immediately turned around.

“Let’s go.”

Plu-El said as she pulled at Aruwen. Her demeanor was as cold as her eyes, but she didn’t forget to keep her guard up against Hyunwoo. 

However, Hyunwoo didn't show any intentions of chasing them. He just waved them off. Plu-El gritted her teeth at his brazen attitude, but she couldn’t recklessly make a scene here. She was in the enemy’s home ground. If Hyunwoo decided to pursue them, they would have to run away with all their might.

Plu-El clutched at her burning heart as she quickly disappeared into an alleyway with Aruwen.

“Do you know them?”

“I should be asking you that. The fact that you know them is more surprising.”

“When I was on Earth, my daughter hung out with that woman’s daughter.”

“Daughter?”

Hyunwoo’s expression turned odd as if he were desperately trying to hold back a laugh.

“What a curious coincidence!”

“What's your relationship with the two of them, Mr. Hyunwoo?”

“We're on bad terms now, but we used to be close friends.”

Remembering how they had reacted to Hyunwoo, Sungyoon guessed that the fallout must have been big.

“So what were the two of them saying to you?”

Hyunwoo looked at Sungyoon, and an odd pressure leaked out from him. Sungyoon had already started feeling leery toward Hyunwoo, and because of Hyunwoo’s attitude, another unpleasant feeling welled up inside him.

“You came before they could say anything. Moreover, they are gone now.”

“I hope you aren’t lying to me.”

Sungyoon frowned.

“Why would I lie to you?”

Hyunwoo studied Sungyoon’s face for a brief moment, and in the end, chuckled.

“I'm sorry. As you probably saw, we aren’t on good terms. I was wondering if they were talking behind my back. As I get older, the only thing I hear is flattery or insults. This is why it sucks to get old.”

Hyunwoo tapped Sungyoon’s shoulder.

“I’ll buy you a drink later as an apology.”

“It’s fine.”

“No. It isn’t fine for me. I have to make it up to you.”

When Hyunwoo insisted on it, Sungyoon agreed. Hyunwoo had helped him before, and Sungyoon couldn’t sever their relationship because of one unpleasant moment. 

***

The defense duty of Armstrong assigned to Sungyoon's party had neared the end of its term. However, no one had come up with any solutions to the problem of the ambushers. The party was deep in thought about their next move. If they were to gather moonstones, they could be ambushed once again.

As they contemplated what to do, the Mayor called them.

“How have you been, Mr. Sungyoon?”

“I’ve been well, thanks to you.

Sungyoon shook the Mayor’s hand. He had become used to coming to the city hall now. 

“Did you hear any news about the ambushers?”

Unlike his usual self, Sungyoon took the initiative to ask the Mayor. Since the Mayor had called him in now, Sungyoon wondered if he had found some clues about the ambushers. Unfortunately, his hopes were dashed.

“I’m sorry, but I didn’t ask you to come here for that.”

“I see.”

“We're doing our best to investigate the ambushers, so I believe we’ll find something sooner or later. We do consider them to be one of the more urgent threats to Armstrong city.”

The Mayor consoled the disappointed Sungyoon.

“So, why did you call us here then?”

“Are you close to Fabion?”

The Mayor carefully looked at Sungyoon's face as he waited for a response. Sungyoon was puzzled by the question, but he nodded.

“Yes. My company's president is close to some people working for Fabion, and as you saw last time, I do have a personal connection to Mr. Sung Hyunwoo.”

“Do you know if there's anything special going on within Fabion?”

“No. I may have some personal connections, but I do not correspond with them.”

The Mayor relaxed when he heard Sungyoon’s words.

“I’m guessing you don’t discuss matters about Fabion through these personal connections.”

“… Did something happen to Fabion?”

“I do not know for now.”

The tone of the Mayor’s voice was unsettling, and Sungyoon frowned.

“You're saying that something might be going on with Fabion.”

“I do.”

The mayor’s words sounded heavy.

“Recently, Fabion has been acting a bit strange.”

“For example?”

“Fabion and similarly large companies rotate their Connectors to give them rest. Usually, some of their Connectors gather moonstones in the labyrinths, while the others rest on Earth. The companies do this so that they have a steady stream of profit.”

Sungyoon’s company was small, so they didn’t have enough Connectors to rotate like this.

“So you mean Fabion isn’t doing that.”

“That’s right.”

The mayor tapped his fingers on the table.

“An overwhelming number of Fabion’s fighting force has come up to the moon. Of course, not all their Connectors have come up, but this is highly unusual. I had asked Fabion if something was up, and they kept repeating the same line: nothing is wrong. They said they are doing this because there was a mixup amongst the schedule of their Connectors.”

“That's a likely explanation, right?”

“Yes, it is. So we let them be, but we also monitored them. If there was a mixup, they were supposed to sort it out. Some of the Connectors should've been sent back to Earth, and others should've started to gather moonstones. However, all of Fabion's Connectors in Armstrong remained on standby as if they were waiting for something big to happen. Then yesterday, a large number of them left the city. They left in ones and twos so that no one would find out.”

The situation sounded odd to Sungyoon too. He was already suspicious of Hyunwoo, and now, Hyunwoo's company was also acting strange. Something stank. At the same time, it cast doubt on the mayor.

“You're well-informed.”

“In the current state of affairs, we are tightly monitoring what goes on in the city. I know many won’t approve of such surveillance, but these are extraordinary times and we have to use extraordinary measures.”

In the end, the Mayor had surveilled the Connectors in his city, so his voice became defensive as he made excuses.

Sungyoon frowned, while Grace glared at the Mayor.

“You can chew me out at a later date, and I'm willing to take your criticisms. But right now, I would like you to carry out my request.”

“What's the request?”

“I would like you to find out what Fabion is up to.”

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