Chapter 37

Sungyoon pushed the last piece of potato into his mouth, but it seemed that he still wanted more. He cleaned the crumbs around his lips and licked his fingers. He looked like a starved refugee at the end of the Korean War. He hadn’t been able to properly wash himself, and his clothes were unwashed too. He was filthy, and there was a considerable amount of stench coming off him. It reinforced the image of him looking like a refugee.

It seemed Sungyoon was thirsty. Sungyoon took out a little water bottle hanging at his waist, and he took a sip.

“Thank you for the food.”

“You’re welcome.”

Chelsea was a bit embarrassed. The potato was expensive on the moon. However, she had only brought it, because she was sick of it. But when she saw Sungyoon enjoy it so much, it poked at her conscience.

Sungyoon folded the paper bag, and he tried to put it in his pocket.

“Ah. It’s fine. I’ll throw it away for you.”

Chelsea reached out, and she lightly held Sungyoon’s arm.

“Oohk!”

Sungyoon let out a single cry.

“Ah. I’m sorry!”

Chelsea quickly let go. However, she soon tilted her head in puzzlement.

‘It shouldn’t have hurt.’

She had lightly grabbed Sungyoon’s arm. However, Sungyoon reacted in an exaggerated manner. He acted as if he was injured. A close friend might pull an injury prank like this. However, she didn’t have that kind of relationship with Sungyoon. Moreover, Sungyoon wasn’t someone that would joke around like that. It wasn’t in his personality.

That meant he was really in pain. Sungyoon’s expression indicated that he was in severe pain.

‘Is he injured?’

“Please stay still.”

Chelsea grabbed Sungyoon’s sleeve, and she rolled it up. She caught sight of the poorly wrapped bandage around his elbow and arm. It was the bandage from Sungyoon’s first aid kit, which he had brought from Earth.

“Are you hurt?”

“It’s nothing. The wound is already closing. It’ll probably get better by tomorrow.”

Sungyoon downplayed his injury as he tried to roll down his sleeve. However, he failed, because Chelsea was holding tightly to his sleeve.

“How did you get hurt?”

Chelsea’s eyes busily moved between the bandage and Sungyoon’s face. There was clear worry on her face. She was suspicious of Sungyoon, but it didn’t mean she wouldn’t be affected when seeing someone else in pain. She wasn’t scummy like that.

“I took two needles from a Needle Hedgehog to my arm.”

Sungyoon unexpectedly answered her without much fuss. He gave up the information, since he knew Chelsea would report his injury to Jimin. He was basically making a report to his boss. That was the intention behind answering Chelsea’s question.

“So… Will you be ok?”

Chelsea had lived a good amount of time on the moon, so she had picked up on some knowledge about the monsters. A Needle Hedgehog’s needle wasn’t fatal unless it pierced through a vital point. Since the needle had hit his arm, he would recover in a day.

“Are you hurt anywhere else?”

“No.”

Chelsea looked on with a bit of suspicion in her eyes. Her attitude said that she wouldn’t tolerate any lies. However, Sungyoon didn’t turn away from her gaze. He received her scrutiny with a blank face.

“Well, that’s a relief.”

Chelsea retracted her accusatory eyes. She still sounded a bit skeptical, but no other information would come out of Sungyoon's mouth. At that point, she could do nothing more. She couldn’t strip Sungyoon to check for other wounds.

“Still, you should be careful. Danger comes at the most inopportune times in labyrinth exploration.”

“I understand.”

“If you sustain a critical wound, you shouldn’t hesitate to use the hospital. The hospital fee will be paid by Jimin. This is one of the reasons why Connectors contract themselves to companies. This type of support is included in the contract.”

Sungyoon nodded once again.

When Sungyoon didn’t naysay anything she said, Chelsea looked satisfied.

“Well, I’ll be heading back now.”

Chelsea stood up from the bench. He had no idea when she had taken the paper bag away from him, but it was fluttering in her hand.

“Thank you for the potatoes.”

“It was nothing.”

Chelsea waved her hand as if it was no big deal.

“I’ll see you next time, Mr. Woo Sungyoon.”

“Yes. I’ll see you next time, Ms. Strobe.”

The two went their own way after shaking hands.

Chelsea walked slowly towards the research facility. The streets were still busy. She had her arms crossed, and she kept tilting her head in puzzlement. It was as if she was trying to solve a puzzle.

‘Mmm. It feels like I forgot to do something.’

The answer was on the tip of her tongue. It was an unpleasant feeling. It felt as if she had prevented a sneeze from coming out. She adeptly dodged the crowd as she moved forward. Suddenly, her body became rigid.

‘Ah. I was supposed to check up on his character as a person!’

She finally remembered the real reason why she had left her lab.

‘I totally forgot to check him out!’

She had been so surprised by Sungyoon's injury that the thought of assessing Sungyoon’s temperament completely slipped her mind.

“Ah! Shit!”

She spat out a curse, and her body slumped. Even if she had brought food that she was sick of eating, the potatoes were precious. She had gone out of her way to come out here, and she had been hit on by an annoying Connector. After everything she had gone through, she had gained nothing.

However, she once again put strength into her body.

‘Hmmph. As if I’ll give up!’

One couldn’t become a researcher without patience. A scientist didn’t know if one’s research would give any meaningful data, yet one silently carried out the experiments. This was what a researcher did for a living.

‘I planned on coming here more than once in the first place!’

How could one discern a person’s nature through one meeting? One had to meet, converse, and hang out with the person to get an accurate gauge of the person’s nature. Of course, if someone was actively hiding one’s nature, it would get several dozen times harder to get an accurate gauge of their disposition. She caught sight of what was beneath Sungyoon’s mask from time to time. She had to find out if an angel or a devil was hiding beneath that mask. If Sungyoon really had plans to cause harm to Jimin, he was hiding his true nature. Chelsea knew there was a high probability that she wouldn’t be able to discern his true nature. She would be doing this with that in mind.

It didn’t phase Chelsea. Her ill-temper was reflected in her steps. She thought about Sungyoon’s face.

‘From what I experienced today, he didn’t seem like a bad person.’

She met him only once. It was too short a time to discern the depths of a person.

‘I’ll have to drop by periodically..’

She would be doing this for her best friend. Chelsea made a firm resolve.

* * *

Fortunately, Sungyoon’s wounds had mostly closed after a day passed. Scabs formed around his wounds, but it didn’t cause him any inconvenience. Sungyoon once again realized the greatness of being a Connector. 

No major crisis arose afterwards. It was a boon for Sungyoon. Sungyoon would wake up and go to the labyrinth. When he came out of the labyrinth, he came back to sleep. He repeated this daily schedule. Chelsea would visit from time to time, and he would give her an update. This went on for the whole duration of his stay on the moon.

He lived his life like a robot. In no time, it became two weeks since he came to the moon. It was the date chosen by Jimin. He would be returning to Earth.

‘Today is the last day.’

He’ll be riding the spaceship back to Earth tomorrow. Chelsea, who had visited him a couple of days ago, had looked jealous. Her expression had been memorable.

‘I’ll finally be able to see Shinhae.’

It was unbecoming of him, but his heart was fluttering. Maybe, it was the long distance between Earth and the moon. It also might be his incredibly arduous experiences in the past two weeks. It felt like forever since he had met Shinhae. However, that would end tomorrow.

His body was full of energy. He thought of each moonstone becoming blood and flesh for Shinhae. This was why he hunted much harder than usual. He swung his spear, yet it wasn’t tiring. His mood and condition were in tip-top shape since coming to the moon.

However, that feeling didn’t last too long.

“…….”

Sungyoon was within the labyrinth, and he was wordlessly looking down at one spot. He had just killed a Mad Dog, and its corpse lay at his feet. However, it wasn’t the only corpse there.

It was a corpse, but it wasn’t the corpse of a monster, which he had seen plenty. It was the corpse of a human being. 

It was a gruesome sight. He saw several wounds created by claws and teeth. There were several needles from the Needle Hedgehog lodged in the corpse. It seemed the death blow had been from the Mad Dog that Sungyoon had killed right now. A big chunk of the dead Connector’s neck had been ripped out by the Mad Dog’s teeth.

Sungyoon had almost suffered the same fate not too long ago. In the labyrinth, one could lose one’s life at any moment. This was the worst end that could be suffered by a Connector.

Death.

The corpse of the Mad Dog was surrounded by light, and it illuminated the human corpse. However, it didn’t illuminate the entire body. It only illuminated the side of the body, which was closest to the Mad Dog. It cast a deep shadow over the human corpse. It was as if the light was making fun of the tragic death of the Connector.

Sungyoon’s gaze left the corpse as his gaze went deeper into the labyrinth. The dead Connector had run away towards this direction, and there was a trail of blood leading deeper into the labyrinth. It seemed he had been injured, and it had been a struggle to run away. However, he had been unlucky as he encountered a Mad Dog on his way out. He had met his end.

Sungyoon went down on one knee to check the corpse. When the man died, all his Gems were deactivated. This was why he was only wearing a regular tracksuit. Sungyoon saw a Device sparkle on the corpse’s right wrist. It was a bracelet type Device like his own, but it was higher in rank than his Device. It had a total of 6 slots, and each slot was occupied by Gems. Most of the Gems were Purple Gems. However, two Gems were blue in color. Basically, these Gems were one rank above the Purple Gems. They were Indigo Gems.

There was a deep wound near the heart. It was said that the monsters considered a Connector’s heart to be a delicacy. The heart emitted magical energy, and it whetted the appetite of the monsters. He was told that there had been a research proving this theory. Now that he thought about it, the Mad Dog had been chewing through the chest of the Connector when he pierced it with his spear. The muscles and bones inside the corpse’s chest were revealed. Sungyoon turned his gaze towards the face.

The corpse’s eyes were open. The eyes were glaring up at the ceiling of the labyrinth in resentment. He probably cussed out the labyrinth as he died. However, that was all in the past. This person would have no thoughts. He would never get angry, and he wouldn’t be able to do anything in the future. Sungyoon silently closed the eyes of the corpse. Unlike his resentful eyes, his eyelids closed too easily.

Sungyoon observed the corpse for a moment.

He wasn’t feeling sympathy. Of course, the death of a human weighed heavy on his heart. It was a shock to his heart, and the horrible state of the corpse had played a big part in eliciting this emotion. However, he no longer cared about what happened to others except Shinhae. There was no reason for him to mourn this person’s death.

This didn’t mean Sungyoon felt nothing. According to the Device and the Gems worn by this person, he was a much higher ranked Connector compared to Sungyoon. A person capable of equipping a Blue Gem was powerful enough to be assigned a Personal Labyrinth. This person might have lacked skill, or maybe, he had been careless. However, the only certain thing right now was the fact that his life had ended in this dark and dreary place.

This might be Sungyoon’s future.

He thought he had already hardened his heart. However, death had shown up in front of his eyes, and it disquieted his mind.

‘Let’s head back for now.’

He couldn’t take back the corpse. If he tried to haul back the corpse, he might be ambushed by monsters with his defense down. He couldn’t let that happen. Sungyoon searched the corpse.

‘Here it is.’

He found a small card within the corpse’s pocket. It was the Connector Registration ID. Sungyoon took the card alongside the Device and Gems.

‘They said this is all I have to take back.’

It was like taking the dog tags off dead soldiers on the battlefield. It was difficult to take the corpse back out of the labyrinth, so one only needed the dead person's ID to prove his death. Also, the Support center wanted the precious Device and Gems too.

As he put away the Device and Gems, Sungyoon felt a bit conflicted inside. If he secretly took these items for himself, his abilities would become much stronger. Sungyoon felt his greed rise, but he firmly pressed it down. He put the Device and Gems away with the corpse’s ID.

‘I’ll be like that bastard if I steal from other people.’

Sungyoon muttered to himself as he thought about the traitorous face of Jaeho. 

He unbent his knee as he stood up. He looked down at the corpse for the last time before he left.

‘Today, I’ll……’

He had a thought as he glared down at the corpse.

‘I’ll have to visit the Great Labyrinth.’

He would have to remind himself of his goal. He needed to go there to whip his fearful heart back into shape.

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