Chapter 286

The group arrived at a western-looking city. The city's appearance was similar to the ancient city that Sungyoon had accessed with his portal. The buildings inside both places looked similar and worn out. However, there were clear differences between the cities too.

“… Fortress?”

One of the Connectors in the group mumbled when he looked at his surroundings. He had stepped into this city through a portal. 

The city was built atop a hill with a steep incline, and one could tell that the city was surrounded by sturdy walls even from a distance. These walls were four-layered. 

In terms of size, this city was smaller than the ancient city.

“Fortress city.”

Plu-El mumbled.

“Tiotudo is still alive?”

Her words contained hope. She had assumed her best friend was dead, but it now seemed that he could be alive. However, her comrade dashed these hopes.

“No. We still haven't found him. We have to assume that he's dead.”

“What? Then who opened the portal connecting to Fortress city? I thought only the Royal Gem and the Warrior Gem could do that.”

“I did it.”

Plu-El turned toward the voice as a shadow appeared on her face.

“Aruwen.”

“I’m glad you're safe, Plu-El.”

Aruwen greeted Plu-El with a smile, but Plu-El wasn’t thrilled to see that smile.

‘This bastard opened the portal to Fortress city?’

It meant Aruwen had awakened the Warrior Gem.

‘I did give it to him, but...’

Before making his last stand, Tiotudo had given his Warrior Gem to Plu-El. Later, to urge Aruwen to run away, Plu-El had transferred the Gem to Aruwen. However, she had never expected him to awaken the Warrior Gem.

‘He awakened it so fast.’

Tiotudo had hypothesized that certain prerequisites had to be met if one wanted to awaken one of the special Gems. It seemed Aruwen fulfilled these prerequisites, but this was too fast. Above all else, Plu-El felt uneasy by the fact that it had been Aruwen who had awakened the Warrior Gem. 

Right now, Plu-El had no idea if the awakening of the Gem was a boon or a bane. If she considered Aruwen’s original personality, the probability of it being a bane was high.

However, Aruwen’s actions completely differed from how she had expected them to be.

“Who are those people beside you? Did you make friends?”

‘Huh?’

Plu-El tilted her head in puzzlement. Aruwen wasn’t acting like the Aruwen she knew. His eyes should be full of killing intent, like the monsters in the labyrinths, because she had brought outsiders here.

‘It’s fine. It doesn’t change what I have to do.’

She had to convince the conservative members of her people, and this included Aruwen.

“I have something I want to say. Can you call a meeting?”

“Right now?”

“Yes.”

“Understood.”

Plu-El closed her mouth once again. She had expected Aruwen to rail against her, so she had prepared a speech about the sacrifices she had made for the betterment of her people. Her plan was to push hard on her agenda using her past accomplishments. However, that plan went up in smoke in a ridiculous manner.

“I just have to gather all our comrades?”

“Uh… Yeah.”

Aruwen immediately moved, and Plu-El looked at his back as if she had seen a ghost. With a questioning look in her eyes, she looked at her comrade, who stood next to her.

“Mmm. Honestly, this development has shocked everyone. Aruwen has changed a lot. At first, we thought he was possessed. But, I think he's acting like someone who has let go of his burdens. He’s now relaxed. It seems as if Tiotudo’s death and your sacrifice have changed something within him.”

When Plu-El thought about it, she recalled that in the ambush, she had smiled at him thinking it was the end. The expression on Aruwen’s face at that moment reappeared in her mind.

‘It was as if the sky were falling for him.’

“What do you think about it?”

“What are you referring to? Aruwen’s change?”

“Yes.”

Her comrade tilted his head a little bit.

“It isn’t bad. If I think about all the actions he has taken in recent days, he’s changed for the good. At the very least, it's hard to find his arrogant attitude anymore. I don’t know why you brought these men, but...”

The man glanced at the Connectors of Armstrong city, who were looking at Fortress city with wonder in their eyes.

“Aruwen might be your biggest ally.”

“No way!”

Plu-El laughed and dismissed his words as if she couldn’t take them at face value.

***

“Alright.”

Plu-El thought she had misheard. Despite getting the answer she wanted, she had to ask the question.

“What did you just say?”

“I said alright.”

Thankfully, nothing was wrong with her ears. However, this brought up another worry.

“Are you sure you understood my words?”

“In the past, we and the people of Earth had a misunderstanding. You now think it’ll be a good idea to ally with them. And as a gesture of trust, you want us to participate in their plan of evacuating their people to Earth. Am I right?”

“Let me get this straight. You understand what I’m proposing, and you agree with it?”

“I do.”

It seemed Aruwen was starting to get annoyed with her as his eyebrows twitched. However, this reaction was far tamer considering his past petulant self. The difference was as large as that between night and day.

Plu-El couldn’t hold back herself.

“Are you sick?”

“… I can get mad at this situation, right?”

Aruwen asked the people around him. It was obvious to everyone that Plu-El was being rude to him. The emotions they felt were similar to Plu-El, so they just bitterly laughed and ignored Aruwen’s question.

Aruwen sighed, then turned to Plu-El, who continued to stare at him with suspicion in her eyes. He spoke.

“Don’t look at me like that. Even if I'm dumb, I’m not obstinate. I can see where my actions have brought me.”

Aruwen had realized he had a part in getting his friend killed. Then, he had almost lost Plu-El too when she had decided to sacrifice herself. When she had stayed behind and asked him to escape, it had shattered his remaining pride.

Plu-El finally accepted that Aruwen had changed, but this didn’t mean she was entirely happy.

“It's too late.”

Plu-El was firm with her words. At the very least, she had wanted Aruwen to come back to his senses before Tiotudo had died.

Aruwen’s transformation had come too late, and it wouldn’t bring Tiotudo back from the dead.

Aruwen was also aware of this.

“I know. I don’t plan to give any excuses. You can criticize and condemn me, and I plan on taking responsibility for my actions. But, I hope you can put it off until we achieve a degree of safety for our people. If I’m being objective, our people need me. I'm now a big part of our fighting power.”

Aruwen was telling the truth. He had always been on the strong side amongst their people.

But the part that caught Plu-El's attention was a different one.

‘He included himself amongst our people’s fighting power.’

Aruwen had always thought of himself as special, yet he had naturally referred to himself as being part of the normal troops. The Aruwen of the past would have never done this, and it made her a bit suspicious.

However, if Aruwen had changed, it would reassure her heart. He would be a reliable ally.

‘I decided to trust the people whom I have tried to kill before. There is no reason I shouldn’t take the leap with a comrade.’

Plu-El smiled at Aruwen.

“If you know that already, I will no longer speak about it from now on. I look forward to working with you, Aruwen.”

“Yes, I look forward to working with you too. From now on...”

Aruwen pointed his finger to the side toward the rest of the Moon people, who were coming toward them.

“Let’s do our best to convince them.”

“Alright.”

The biggest stumbling block in Plu-El's plan had come over to her side. It was like having a thousand troops supporting her. She felt strength enter her shoulders.

Plu-El had come here with the thought that it would be difficult to convince her comrades, but it now seemed it would be much easier. It felt almost like a premonition. 

***

The two groups that had been trying to kill each other up until now stared at each other. Even though they had gathered to discuss an alliance, it was inevitable that there would be tension in the air. 

Since everyone had been told about the misunderstanding beforehand, they didn’t openly show hostility. However, some of the Moon people looked at the Connectors of Armstrong city with murderous intent in their eyes.

They were in the minority. Most of the Moon people had understood and accepted what had happened. They quietly assessed their counterparts.

The Mayor looked at Plu-El, who stood in front of the Moon people, with a bright expression.

“You kept your promise.”

“Oh my! Did you doubt my word?”

“No way! It's just the anxiety and worry that comes with old age. Please be understanding.”

The Mayor had relaxed enough to crack a joke.

“I want to confirm the terms of our alliance. Will that be ok?”

A man walked up next to Plu-El and spoke.

Plu-El furrowed her brows as she looked at Aruwen.

“You don’t trust my word?”

“No. I trust you. However, this is a separate issue. We're talking about the future of our people. It doesn’t matter if I trust you.”

‘Is this really the Aruwen I know?’

For a moment, Plu-El had been offended. But then, she had realized that he was right. She was still having a hard time getting used to this version of Aruwen.

When Plu-El quieted down, Aruwen spoke to the Mayor.

“We’ll help you escape the Moon, and we will escape with you to Earth. Afterward, you’ll help our people settle on Earth. Is there anything you take issue with?”

“No.”

The Mayor answered him. It seemed as if Aruwen was trying to see through the Mayor and determine whether he was telling the truth or not.

“Understood.”

Aruwen spoke.

“We don’t have positive proof of each other’s intentions, but it's true that both our groups have limited options. We have to trust that the promise will be kept by both sides. I'm willing to trust you.”

“Please don’t worry about it.”

Sungyoon joined in on the conversation.

Aruwen looked at Sungyoon.

“You are….”

Aruwen recognized the man who had stolen his Royal Gem. It wasn’t an exaggeration to say that due to the incident, Aruwen had gone berserk.

Plu-El was tense because of the situation, but Aruwen didn’t throw any tantrums.

“Knight. Mr. Woo Sungyoon.”

“Yes. That's my nickname on Earth. Personally, I don’t think I deserve it, but it has come in handy from time to time.”

Sungyoon’s gaze briefly landed on Aruwen’s bow.

He was sure of it. This man was the archer who had ambushed his party in the past and almost led them to their deaths.

Aruwen also realized that Sungyoon was looking at his bow. He could tell Sungyoon was trying to come to terms with the information. Still, Aruwen remained silent and made no excuses. Without any bitterness, he looked at Sungyoon with calm eyes.

Plu-El’s worried gaze deepened as the tension between the two groups increased.

Sungyoon looked at Aruwen once again.

“I'm willing to use my fame and fortune to support this plan. It's the same for all the Connectors gathered here. At the very least, I want you to know that you won’t have trouble living on Earth.”

Someone let out a sigh of relief. 

Was it the relief that came with a resolution of a conflict? Or was it a temporary truce? The only certainty was that there would be no explosive feud between the two men.

“I’ll be in your care, Mr. Woo Sungyoon.”

“I promise I’ll do my best.”

They had taken the first step toward achieving peace between the two groups.

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