Chapter 74

“How was it?”

Jimin had been waiting outside of the room with Shinhae. So she asked the question when she spotted Sungyoon, who had exited the room after he had the confirmation. As always, Shinhae ran towards her father. Sungyoon took his daughter into his arms and replied.

“I’ve confirmed it. I was able to activate the Gems.”

“I knew it. How many Gems were you able to activate at once?”

If one had the ability to use a Jewel-rank Gem, one would be able to use Devices and Gems on Earth. However, the Moon was the source of magical energy. If one was far away from the source, the numbers of Gems that one could activate decreased. Also, the effectiveness of the Gems suffered too.

“I couldn’t activate the Gold Gem and the Yellow Gem since I did not have the required Device. However, I was able to activate all the other Gems.”

“I see.”

Jimin nodded.

‘It makes sense. He is someone capable of activating a Gold Gem. Even if his power is weakened on Earth, it should be easy for him to activate a couple of lowly Rainbow-rank Gems.’

“Am I done? Is this all you needed me to do?”

“Yes. At the very least, we’ve done everything we need to do for the immediate future.”

It was enough. He would have to get into the spaceship, which was pointing towards the sky as if it would launch at any moment. It was time for him to leave behind Earth.

“Dad will be back.”

Sungyoon spoke as he hugged Shinhae.

They had already said goodbye twice before, so they were a bit used to this now. Still, Shinhae’s eyes were full of unshed tears as she rubbed her face against his chest. 

“You have to come back quickly.”

“I understand. I’ll come back as soon as I am able to. You have to be a good girl and listen to unni. Ok?”

“Yes.”

While he hugged her, he brushed her head with his hand. He could feel his child’s gentle warmth through their hug.

In the past, it had been excruciatingly painful when he had to separate from Shinhae. However, his heart didn’t hurt as much now. Unlike before, he had hope for their future. He had a clear vision. It saddened him that he had to separate from Shinhae again, but the more he earned, the brighter his daughter's future would become.

Sungyoon patted her back for the last time and then put her down on the floor.

“Please look after Shinhae.”

“Please don’t worry about her.”

Jimin hugged the sniffling Shinhae as if she were the little girl's mother. Shinhae didn’t reject her. However, her teary eyes didn’t waver as they chased after her father.

Sungyoon started walking with the only luggage he had, a couple of small carry-ons. He advanced towards the space ship, which was ready to launch.

“Have a safe trip, dad!”

He could hear Shinhae yell loudly from the back. Sungyoon turned back and let out a bright smile, waving his hand towards his daughter. However, his steps never stopped. He had to head towards the Moon.

He arrived at a bend in the passageway, and he could no longer see Shinhae. He turned his head, looking forward.

Unlike the goofy expression he had put on for his daughter’s benefit, he had now returned to being the cold and expressionless faced man once again.

It was time to hunt once again.

* * *

He had returned after 2 weeks, but everything on the Moon had remained the same. The gray buildings and the stale air remain unchanged. Then there was his damned lodging. It was completely different from Earth, where he had lived in relative luxury. This was an uncomfortable life, where he was unable to eat what he wanted, couldn’t sleep where he wanted. But despite all the negatives, his heart was much more at ease on the Moon as compared to on Earth. It felt like returning to your hometown from your distant memories.

Basically, his body was uncomfortable, but his heart was comfortable.

If he thought about it, on Earth, his body had been comfortable, but his heart felt a bit agitated as if it wanted to go to the Moon. In some ways, it was better to live on the Moon than on Earth. It was said that one’s quality of life went up if one’s heart was content more so than the body. 

Even if his body was uncomfortable, he thought if his heart was at ease, his quality of life would improve. On second thought, it was probably bullshit.

Toohk!

He arrived at the lodging provided by the Support Center, aka the Chicken Coop. He threw the items he had brought from Earth into his room. Of course, weight and volume would cause the carry-on fee to skyrocket, so he hadn't brought much.

Sungyoon pushed his body into the small and smelly space.

In the beginning, it felt uncomfortable, but Sungyoon’s body quickly acclimated itself to his new surroundings. In the past half-year, he had lived more the life of a pauper on the Moon. He had lived a comfortable life for the past two weeks on Earth, but it was easy for him to get back in the groove of living a hard life.

Of course, it wasn’t something worth celebrating.

However, this crappy place reminded him of his reality. He might have lost his edge in the past two weeks, but this place reminded him of his resolve. On Earth, he was able to laugh with his daughter. But that time had come to an end. He would once again move head-first into danger, and he prepared to fight for his life every day.

‘… shall I go there?’

Sungyoon exited the Chicken Coop and left the Support Center. He started trudging forward. Armstrong was still the same. Death was rampant like a pestilence in this place, but it was also a vortex of money and greed. One couldn’t see the vibrant energy of life here. The city was inorganic, and a very dark atmosphere surrounded it.

However, Sungyoon still liked this place.

Tap!

He stopped walking. As always, there weren’t many people here. Even if he came across other people, they avoided him like spooked animals avoiding fire. They didn’t even turn their head as they went on their way.

Sungyoon planted his feet as if he were showing defiance. He raised his head and looked forward with defiance in his eyes. 

In front of him, there was a very ominous maw of darkness. It looked as if it would swallow Armstrong city whole. Low-rank Connectors would become swept up in fear from standing in its presence. The Great Labyrinth’s presence was in full display.

However, the Great Labyrinth failed to strike as much fear into Sungyoon’s heart as it used to do before.

‘Is it because I’ve leveled up?’

He was still at the bottom, yet he had gained the experience of using a Jewel-rank Gold Gem. It was proof that the quality of magical energy provided by his unbeating heart had significantly increased.

In the past, his goal had felt like a mirage in the distance. But at this moment, he felt his goal solidify.

His promise to Jimin was the thing most important to him after Shinhae. Sungyoon looked towards his goal until the image would become engraved in his eyes.

* * *

It had been a while since the Beginner's Labyrinth was this busy. It had been sealed for a long time thanks to the Mana Stream. The beginner Connectors were getting ready to charge into the labyrinth once again. They were doing this for their life and future.

Moreover, Sungyoon and the Ross siblings were part of the crowd.

“It has been a while! How have you been?”

When Tim discovered Sungyoon, he let out a spirited laugh and extended his hand towards Sungyoon. He had a sturdy body, and a merry laugh escaped his lips. In the labyrinth, Tim had blocked all attacks from the frontline. He hadn’t changed at all.

Sungyoon saw Emily follow behind her brother. She was tall for a woman, but she stood next to Tim, who was well over 190 cm. It couldn’t be helped that she looked short in comparison. Her small voice greeted Sungyoon.

Sungyoon gave a simple reply.

“I’ve been doing well. How have the two of you been?”

“Thankfully, nothing eventful happened.”

They greeted each other and asked how each other was doing. The conversation was kept short. They promised each other that they would catch up later in the night over beers. The three of them entered the labyrinth.

“You have new armor.”

Tim’s eyes shone as he looked at Sungyoon’s scale armor. The sturdy metallic scales clinked when they ground against each other. His previous leather armor couldn’t be compared to it. This armor looked very hard and sturdy, and at a glance, one could tell that he was wearing a high-rank armor.

“I acquired it after both of you returned to Earth.”

“That’s awesome. We can go a bit lower in the labyrinth now.”

Tim rejoiced. Their party had enough firepower, but they had been worried about Sungyoon’s weak defensive gear. This was why they had decided to not go very deep into the labyrinth. But with Sungyoon's new armor, their party would be able to aim for the lower floors without overextending themselves.

Sungyoon didn’t quibble about Tim’s point.

“Yes. I still have some shortcomings, but I’ve acquired a couple of Gems that outstrip the Beginner’s Labyrinth. If luck is with us, we’ll be able to clear the Beginner’s Labyrinth before the next Mana Stream starts.”

“Oh! That sounds awesome!”

Tim made a fist.

“The Beginner's Labyrinth has a total of 10 floors. We usually operate on the 7th floor. We just need to go down three more floors. Then we’ll be assigned Personal Labyrinths, and we can shed the label of being beginners. It seems that day is not too far away.”

Tim and Emily already fulfilled the prerequisites needed to be assigned a Personal Labyrinth. If they wanted to, they could graduate from the Beginner’s Labyrinth right now. They had continued to enter into the Beginner’s Labyrinth only to gain more experience. When they would reach the 10th floor of the Beginner’s Labyrinth, they would have achieved their goal of gaining experience. They could walk the road of a Connector in earnest from that point on.

They would be a step closer to their dream. Tim was swept up in a good mood, and his steps felt light.

It was the same for Emily, but she also felt something crash in her heart.

“… so we’ll no longer party with Mr. Sungyoon?”

“Ah…!”

Tim, who had been in a good mood, froze in place. An awkward expression appeared on his face as he scratched the back of his head.

“That’s probably the likely outcome.”

Sungyoon was unperturbed as he agreed with her. Even if they wanted to party up in the Personal Labyrinth, Tim and Emily’s company would probably move to stop it.

‘Jeez!’

Tim discreetly glanced at his sister. Even if this place was full of danger, she had been spending time with the person she liked here. But that relationship would come to an end when they would reach the last floor.

‘Should we delay our progress a little bit?’

However, they couldn’t openly do such a thing. The siblings had spent time with Sungyoon, so they knew how hard it was to form interpersonal relationships with him. In their first meeting, they had met in a life or death situation. If they hadn't taken responsibility for their actions, they probably wouldn’t have been able to form a party with Sungyoon. They wouldn’t have been able to get close to him. Moreover, Sungyoon wasn’t like other men. He didn’t blink an eye when faced with Emily’s beauty. If Tim did something clumsy like trying to play matchmaker, he knew it would blow up in their faces in a major way. Sungyoon might feel awkward or disgusted, and he might even want to leave the party.

That would be terrible. It might sound heartless, but this had to end with his sister’s heart being broken. She just had to bite the bullet and get over it. Tim didn’t want to intentionally subvert their progress, as it might permanently damage their relationship to Sungyoon. Tim didn’t want that at all.

Moreover, Emily already knew this truth.

However, they heard something unexpected from Sungyoon.

“The prospect of disbanding the party in the Personal Labyrinth is high. However, it’ll be different in the Great Labyrinth. How about we join up once again after we earn the right to challenge the Great Labyrinth?”

Tim and Emily were surprised. They had never expected Sungyoon to say those words. However, they welcomed his suggestion.

“Yes, yes! Of course!”

Emily was the first to answer. She had been dangling off a cliff, and she felt like she had been given a lifeline. Her voice overflowed with hope.

Tim didn’t sound as enthused as her, but he also readily agreed to the offer.

“I never expected you to suggest such a thing. Let’s do that. None of the Connectors in my company wants to attempt the Great Labyrinth. No one will go against us if we want to form a party with you at that time.”

Of course, this was contingent on the fact that all three of them were able to earn the right to enter into the Great Labyrinth. However, Tim and Emily didn’t mind planning that far ahead.

‘We’ve made the promise of forming a party when we are ready to head into the Great Labyrinth. This means we have a reason to meet him occasionally.’

When they weren’t busy, they could use this promise as an excuse to build chemistry for their party. They could meet up in the Beginner’s Labyrinth to work on tactics. Also, they could use the opportunity to get closer to Sungyoon.

On the other hand, this arrangement had a significant upside for Sungyoon too. In fact, that upside was the reason why he had made the suggestion.

His chances of being able to enter into the Great Labyrinth had gone up significantly. This was why Sungyoon had to plan for the future.

If I want to enter the Great Labyrinth, I have to form a party. I’m the only employee in our company. That means I’ll have to team up with people from other companies eventually.’

Of course, there was a high probability that Jimin would find party members for him. However, it was also true that he would have better success working with people he was familiar with. They would have the experience of fighting alongside each other.

At the very least, it was worth it for Sungyoon to exchange verbal promises with the siblings.

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