Chapter 40

“Did you dress well?”

Jimin asked the question as she looked all over Shinhae to check her clothes. If she saw a single mote of dust, she picked it off with her hand. If she saw a small crease, she used her hand to press down and eliminate the crease from her clothes. It seemed Shinhae was annoyed by it. She frowned as she tried to move away from Jimin. However, she couldn’t escape Jimin’s grasp. In the end, Shinhae frowned in frustration. She had to remain in place as Jimin worked on her.

“Mmm. I think this is good enough.”

Jimin took a step away from Shinhae. She looked at Shinhae as if she was appraising a high quality art piece. But it seemed that Shinhae was sulking. Her cheeks were puffed, and she refused to look at Jimin. She looked so cute that Jimin kept smiling.

After the night when the thunderstorm had caused a ruckus, Jimin had continued to visit Sungyoon’s house. Shinhae reminded Jimin of herself when she was young. She couldn’t leave someone like that alone. Of course, Shinhae had also welcomed her visits with open arms. Jimin visited Sungyoon’s house every evening, and she watched her fall asleep. Only after that did she sleep in the living room. She woke Shinhae every morning and sent her off to kindergarten. She went to work only after she did all that. Jimin knew that she had completely taken on the role of the child’s mother. However, she didn’t find such a life to be bad.

However, this would be the last day she would be doing this. Shinhae’s real father would be coming home.

“Shall we go see your father?”

“Yes!”

Shinhae, who had been miffed, let out a big laughter. She responded in a loud voice. She had missed her father, and the word ‘father’ had made her respond at an instinctual level. However, she suddenly gasped as she turned her head away. She remembered that was supposed to be miffed at Jimin. She clearly wanted to show that she was in her ‘angry’ state.

“Then let’s go”

Jimin laughed as she extended her hand. Shinhae discreetly glanced at the hand. She wanted to continue to express her anger, so she didn’t look up at Jimin.

Jimin looked at Shinhae with soft eyes as she led the child out the door.

* * *

Dul-kuhng!

The seat, which he was sitting on, shook a little bit, and vibration traveled up his body. Sungyoon looked out the window.

He saw the blue sky. He saw the blue ocean. He saw the thick foliage. When he looked up, down, and sideways in the bleak city of Armstrong, he could only see the artificial gray color of concrete. Earth was completely different.

‘I’m back.’

At that moment, Sungyoon felt a bit emotional. He had left the gray moon to return to the blue cradle of humankind. His emotional state was understandable.

However, Sungyoon remained in his feelings only for a brief moment. Earth was like a blue gem, and the sight of it was enough to lift his spirits. However, what he wanted to see the most right now wasn’t the blue earth. He wanted to see his precious daughter.

He exited the spaceship. Unlike the air on the moon, fresh air washed over him. It was completely different in quality. Sungyoon took a deep breath even though he didn’t need to breathe. It was a case where he wanted to feel the sensation of taking a deep breath. Several other people around Sungyoon did the same thing. It seemed most of them were beginner Connectors like Sungyoon. The ones, who were used to this way of life, silently went on their own way.

Sungyoon followed behind them.

After he went through a simple procedure of checking in, he quickly walked forward with his luggage in tow. His steps were getting faster.

He opened the glass door, and he moved towards the waiting room.

Sungyoon was able to find her there. Other people were hugging and laughing with their friends and family, celebrating the reunion. However, these people meant nothing to Sungyoon. At that moment, his eyes didn’t even pick up their presence. He was looking at only one child. 

“Dad!”

It seemed Shinhae had also caught sight of Sungyoon. Shinhae screamed out loud as she ran towards Sungyoon. Sungyoon threw his luggage to the floor. Every possession he carried up to the moon was in there alongside the moonstones. He had put his life on the line to gather these moonstones, but at that moment, they were worthless to him.

He lowered himself by getting on one knee. He opened both arms, and a bright smile had already appeared on his face.

“Daaaaaaad!”

Shinhae jumped into Sungyoon’s arms. Her cute little hands clung to Sungyoon’s back. It was as if she was determined to never let go. 

“Dad! Dad!”

Shinhae let out a small sob as she called out to him once again. Sungyoon’s eyes had also turned red. He just hugged his child closer to his body.

“Yes, Shinhae. Your dad is here.”

His throat was constricted, so he was barely able to speak. It felt like forever since he had hugged his daughter. At some point, tears started flowing out of his eyes.

“Dad, you stink.”

Shinhae’s face was a mess from her tears. She looked up at him. Of course, he stunk, since he hadn’t been able to wash himself properly for the past two weeks. Still, he had done his best to wear his cleanest clothes. Sungyoon’s expression turned a bit bashful.

“Do you want to let go?”

“No!”

As she gave her answer, Shinhae once again moved deeper into Sungyoon’s arms. She kept saying, ‘You are stinky.’, yet she didn’t move away from him. Sungyoon laughed once more as he hugged her tighter. He could feel the warmth that was unique to a small child. Shinhae wriggled in his arms.

Jimin slowly approached the father and daughter. However, she didn’t immediately make herself known. She stood a distance away as she watched the reunion between the father and daughter. Her eyes were far away.

‘I was like that.’

On the days when her father would return to earth, her young heart would be nervous as she waited for him in this exact place. During those times, she didn’t want tasty foods or pretty clothes. She paced back and forth, while she waited for her father. Her father would come through the waiting room door just like Sungyoon. She would loudly call out after her father like Shinhae. She would run into his arms, and her father’s large body would catch her.

That day would never come again. Those days were like dreams to her now.

“President.”

Jimin came to her senses. It seemed the touching reunion between the father and daughter had ended. Sungyoon held Shinhae’s hand tightly as he looked at her. It seemed she had been lost in her own thoughts for a while.

“Unni, are you sick?”

Until a moment ago, Shinhae had been sulking in front of Jimin. She had acted coy and a bit combative. However, she was looking at Jimin with worry on her face now. Jimin let out a bright smile.

“No. I’m fine.”

Then she turned her gaze towards Sungyoon, and her face instantly turned back to her cold expression. Sungyoon’s smiling face, which he had shown towards Shinhae, was also nowhere to be seen. He looked at her with a blank face.

“Welcome back.”

“I'm back.”

In some ways, it looked insincere as the two of them gave a simple greeting.

“How was it? How was the labyrinth?”

“It was hard.”

He gave a single sentence answer. However, this single sentence held the whirlwind of emotions that he had felt on the moon.

“It is to be expected. Still, you did a good job. Please go home and rest. I’ll hear the specifics at a later time.”

“Understood.”

Sungyoon pushed a large bag towards Jimin.

“This is the harvest.”

The bag contained all the moonstones he had acquired.

“Please hand it over to me a little later.”

“Understood.”

Sungyoon took back the luggage.

“Shall we start moving?”

After she spoke those words, Jimin took the lead. Sungyoon still held Shinhae’s hand tightly, and they followed after Jimin. It had been awhile since Shinhae had met her father, so she walked next to him with excitement in each step. She maintained a tight grip as she tried to swing his arm. Then she tried to grab his large and powerful hand with both hands. Unlike his normal self, he laughed as he accepted Shinhae’s playfulness.

“Let’s store your Device and Gems.

When they arrived at a specific counter, Jimin spoke.

Due to government policy, Connectors weren’t allowed to carry their Devices and Gems on earth. Sungyoon did as he was asked. He turned in his Devices and Gems.

“…you have more than before.”

Jimin looked a bit surprised as she spoke. Sungyoon had turned in more Devices and Gems compared to what she had given him.

“You were able to acquire more in just 2 weeks?”

“That’s a long story.”

“Alright. I’ll hear the story from you next time.”

The fact that he was able to increase the number of Devices and Gems wasn't a bad thing. Jimin moved on without making a fuss. She once again started to move.

The three of them arrived at the parking lot.

This time Jimin had brought an ordinary car. Her favorite car was an imported red sports car that seated only two people, and the three of them wouldn’t be able to ride it. Sungyoon placed his luggage in the trunk, and the trio got into the car.

Jimin drove the car. Sungyoon felt uncomfortable letting the president drive the car, but Jimin didn't mind. For the past two weeks, he had placed his life on the line to explore the labyrinth. He had gone through much hardship. She couldn’t let someone who had arrived from space to drive. Above all else, Sungyoon didn’t have any car insurance.

Jimin’s car started smoothly. Sungyoon and Shinhae got in the back.

“Ooh! mmm-.”

Shinhae was glued to Sungyoon, and her eyes were starting to close. It was to be expected. They had to leave the house early, because the spaceport was located in Jeolla-nam-do Province. Shinhae was determined to see her father, so she hadn’t complained at all. Shinhae had gotten up as soon as Jimin woke her up, but she had already reached her limit.

Tap!

Shinhae’s head fell onto Sungyoon’s arm. Shinhae breathed softly as she fell asleep. However, Shinhae’s cute little hands were holding tightly onto Sungyoon’s sleeve.

Sungyoon carefully stroked Shinhae’s hair. 

Shinhae turned in her sleep a little bit, but it seemed she liked the gesture. A small smile appeared on her face

“Thank you for bringing Shinhae here.”

In truth, he had been surprised when he saw Shinhae at the spaceport. He never expected Shinhae to travel so far from her home.

“It’s fine. I’ve become really close to Shinhae while Mr. Sungyoon was gone.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes.”

Silence descended once again. Sungyoon and Jimin didn’t feel the need to talk about each other’s affairs. However, Jimin broke the silence soon.

“Why don’t you sleep too? You should be really tired.”

“I’m not that tired.”

After awakening as a Connector, he rarely felt tired. This was true even when he was killing monsters in the labyrinth. It was true that he became mentally fatigued, but his body was never tired.

“I see.”

That was it. Jimin didn’t speak any more on the subject. Silence returned to the car once again. The silence wasn’t broken until they arrived at Sungyoon’s house.

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