Sungyoon turned his head to look at Chelsea. At a glance, one could tell his face had hardened, but unlike her worries, he didn’t look shell shocked.
“You heard about it?”
“Yes. I heard about it from the receptionist.”
Sungyoon moved his gaze away from Chelsea, and looked forward once again. However, Chelsea quickly picked up on the fact that his eyes were unfocused.
“It seems I made you worry.”
“It isn’t as if we are complete strangers anymore. Still, you are holding up better than I had expected. That is good.”
“Yes, I’m fine.”
His voice was small, but there was still strength behind it. However, that was it. Sungyoon didn’t say anything else.
Chelsea inwardly let out a sigh. She had observed this man for numerous days, and she knew he wouldn’t speak further on the topic. It was predictable. This man didn’t speak unless she asked him a direct question.
‘Am I supposed to act like his counselor or something?’
She grumbled inside, but it didn’t feel right to leave Sungyoon alone.
“Weren’t you shocked by it?”
For a moment, Sungyoon didn’t speak. He looked like he didn’t want to speak, but at the same time, he seemed to be gathering his thoughts. Chelsea didn’t rush him.
After a while, Sungyoon finally spoke.
“It is true that I was shocked at the beginning.”
When one took Sungyoon’s personality into account, he would probably stay silent after speaking this one sentence. Since Chelsea knew this, she was planning on further asking a question. But surprisingly, Sungyoon kept talking before she could ask anything.
“You probably know this. When one finds a Connector’s corpse within the labyrinth, you aren’t instructed to bring back the corpse. You have to bring the ID to prove the death of the Connector. They also want the precious Device and Gems. That is it. No one asks you to bring back the corpse.”
“No one blames you, Mr. Woo. Your life was already at risk by going into the labyrinth. It would be too much to ask you to transport the corpse out of the labyrinth.”
She cut off Sungyoon from heading down that road. Chelsea was firm. She thought Sungyoon was blaming himself. He was probably harboring guilt for leaving behind the corpse of a brother in arms within the labyrinth.
However, Sungyoon quietly shook his head from side to side.
“It is not what you think, Ms. Strobe.”
There was no way he would blame himself for this.
“The discovery of the corpse was a boon for me. As a gesture of thanks, I was given one of the deceased's Gems. Actually, there is a law that mandates it.”
“I believe there is a law like that.”
Chelsea groped through her memories as she spoke. Sungyoon could have taken all the items for himself. So, of course, they would give him recompense for bringing back the Device and Gems.
Sungyoon rummaged through his pocket, and he took out something. It was a Gem. Its rank was purple. It was shaped like a star.
“I was told to take one of the Purple Gems, so I quickly picked this one. I almost died before this incident, and it allowed me to acquire a Device capable of equipping two star-shaped Purple Gems.”
Chelsea became a bit surprised at this point.
‘He only started exploring the labyrinth two weeks ago, yet he was able to acquire a Device and a Purple Gem?’
Chelsea was several steps removed from the process, but she was able to come across much information in regards to labyrinth exploration. This was why she knew Sungyoon had acquired his new Device and Gem at a much faster rate than the other Connectors. He had acquired a Gem from a corpse, but that fact didn’t matter. In the end, he had been lucky.
Sungyoon continued to speak even as she expressed her surprise.
“It is true that I feel good about acquiring a Gem. However, the reality of being a Connector has really settled in my mind. It felt as if the last piece of the puzzle has been put into place.”
These were the puzzle pieces of being a connector: the battles against monsters, the constant threat against one’s life, the grueling life of living on the bottom, etc. For the most part, he had been able to put together the puzzle, but when he found the corpse, he found the last piece to the puzzle. A complete shape had taken form.
“Do you think the president’s father suffered the same fate?”
Chelsea kept her mouth shut.
He had found a corpse in the Beginner’s Labyrinth. Jimin’s father was one of the Connectors representing South Korea. He was at the forefront of raids into the Great Labyrinth. The comparison wasn’t apt on the surface. However, they both died within the labyrinth, and their corpses would never be delivered to their families. One died in the Beginner’s labyrinth, and the other died in the Great Labyrinth. The only difference was the location.
If one thought of it that way, he understood why Jimin couldn’t get past her father’s death. Her father’s corpse might be waiting to be recovered on the cold floor of the Great Labyrinth. Chelsea remained silent, since she had continued to ask Jimin to give up on her search for her father.
“…I spoke too rashly. Please don’t tell the president about it.”
Chelsea answered immediately. She didn’t plan on telling Jimin what Sungyoon had said right now. It would only hurt Jimin’s heart further.
“In the end, all Connectors are the same. It doesn’t matter how much we make. It doesn’t matter how much we grow in our skills. Danger is always with us. That corpse could easily be my future self. It made me feel some odd emotions.”
He most definitely felt fear. However, he was feeling other emotions too. It was like wanting to cry and laugh at the same time. He was happy, yet he also felt anger. Opposite emotions were clashing within him as the emotions mixed together. They lost shape, and he felt dizzy by it.
“I know all that, and I am ready for what is to come. However, that doesn’t change anything. I’ve only had a general idea of the dangers faced by a Connector. Now I witnessed the danger for myself. That is all.”
“So, are you scared now?”
“Fear is my constant companion.”
Sungyoon immediately answered. As soon as he became a Connector, fear had been with him. He didn’t know if that fear was an angel or a devil, but it always followed him.
“However, you shouldn’t be worried. Even if I saw the reality of what it was to be a Connector, I am thankful for the labyrinths. I’m a loser that has lost everything. I’m in debt, and I was stuck at the bottom. It wasn’t an amount that could be erased by merely giving up my life. However, I was able to gain hope for the future, thanks to the labyrinths.”
If he compared the fears from his past, his current fears were nothing compared to them.
“The past two weeks were very rewarding for me. Now I have a better understanding of the labyrinths, and what it means to be a Connector.”
Sungyoon spoke with good grace. However, Chelsea didn’t agree with Sungyoon’s emotional state at all.
“How can you be fine?”
Chelsea looked at Sungyoon as if he was a monster that had never cracked open a book. Sungyoon’s attitude wasn’t something seen in a novice Connector who had just started entering the labyrinth.
Sungyoon shook his head from side to side at Chelsea’s question.
“I’m not fine. You are very mistaken. What I spoke is true, but that doesn’t mean I’m not feeling fear. I’m pretty scared right now.”
“However, you don’t seem afraid at all to me.”
“I am desperately maintaining self-control over myself. Before Ms. Strobe appeared, I was calming my heart by looking at my daughter’s picture.
Sungyoon once again took out Shinhae’s picture, and he showed it to her.
‘Now that I think about it…….’
When she found Sungyoon, he was hunched over the picture, and she remembered he had been muttering something to himself. She had thought he had gone crazy, but it seemed he had been fighting against his fears by looking at the picture of his daughter.
“Moreover, I sometimes visit the Great Labyrinth after I exit the labyrinth. That place is my goal. I try to pull myself together by looking at it.”
Chelsea tilted her head in puzzlement. She had heard of this somewhere before.
“Are you perhaps the man in the rumor going around? You are the guy that stares at the Great Labyrinth as if it had killed your parents? This man supposedly glares at the Great Labyrinth before disappearing?”
“…there is a rumor about me?”
He never expected such a thing to happen, so a small frown appeared on his face.
“It is because you are unique. Most Connectors avoid getting close to the Great Labyrinth, yet you purposefully show up near it. You glared at it as if you wanted to kill it. Of course, a rumor would pop up.”
“I guess you are right.”
Now that he thought about it, it was easy to see why people might find his actions to be strange. However, Sungyoon didn’t plan to stop going there. In some ways, it was a ritual for himself. It was a ritual used to pave his path to the future.
When she realized she had been wrong, Chelsea let out a small sigh of relief. She had thought he was a monster wearing the mask of a human, but she had been mistaken.
“Well, that is good to hear. No. In fact, it is better than good. There are people that are scared, but they stay on the moon for the money. Eventually, the labyrinth becomes a tomb for them. You won’t become like them.”
Chelsea really didn’t want Connectors to become fertilizer for the labyrinths.
“You are talking a lot today. Normally, you are like a robot. You only answer the question I ask.”
Sungyoon let out a bitter laughter. This was the first time she had seen him smile.
“I think I am still in a state of shock. Also, I’m about to head back to earth tomorrow. It seems I’m in my feels.”
“I like this version of you better.”
Chelsea was mostly able to achieve her goal today. She had seen what was hiding beneath his dark and gloomy exterior. He was unexpectedly a man of strong will and principle. If that was his true self, she no longer needed to worry about Jimin.
However, Sungyoon shook his head from side to side.
“Today was a special occasion. I’ll be back to my normal self tomorrow.”
“That’s too bad.”
“It can’t be helped.”
His best friend and his wife had betrayed him. Moreover, everyone in his life had stopped contacting him after he shouldered the massive debt. Before his distrust of beautiful women, he had a mild distrust of humans as a whole. His wife Miyun had triggered his phobia(?) against beautiful women. The fact that he was able to converse with Chelsea was surprising in itself. It was proof that he had been greatly affected by today’s events.
“That’s too bad.”
Chelsea abruptly dropped the subject, so Sungyoo became relieved. It was still bad for his non-beating heart to talk to a beauty of Chelsea’s caliber.
From Chelsea’s perspective, she liked this version of Sungyoon. However, there was nothing to be gained if she pushed further. At the end of the day, she hadn’t known Sungyoon for too long, and she wasn’t friendly enough with Sungyoon to push further. Moreover, Chelsea didn’t plan on building a friendship of that level with Sungyoon.
As always, the two continued their conversation for a little bit before they went their own way.
* * *
Finally, the day Sungyoon would fly back down to earth had arrived. He missed earth.
Since she had become closer to Sungyoon, Chelsea had come out to the airport to see Sungyoon off.
“Congratulations, Mr. Woo Sungyoon. It is only for a short time, but you get to escape this tiresome place.”
As she spoke, she brought up her hand. She wanted a handshake.
Sungyoon didn’t even think about turning her down. He brought up his own hand. However, Chelsea’s expression worsened a little bit. It was subtle.
It was as if everything that happened yesterday was a dream. Sungyoon’s expression and attitude didn't hold a trace of emotion displayed yesterday. He was his usual gloomy and dark self.
“You really returned to your original self.”
Chelsea spoke a bit in a teasing manner. However, Sungyoon didn’t react to it. He just silently nodded his head. Chelsea let out a sound of disgust and let go of his hand as she spoke.
“When you arrive on earth, you should do everything you wanted to do here. You should eat what you want, and you should spend time with your precious daughter. You won’t be able to do those things when you come back to the moon.”
This was advice from someone that had gone through all of this. Sungyoon quietly nodded.
“Have a safe trip, Mr. Woo Sungyoon.”
“Yes. I’ll be back, Ms. Chelsea Strobe.”
After he spoke those words, he turned his back on Chelsea. He headed towards the spaceship, which was waiting for him.
It had been exactly two weeks since he had left earth.Previous Chapter Next Chapter