Sungyoon’s party did not go down any further as they were satisfied with their progress in the labyrinth this run.
They had initially assumed they would be stuck on the 2nd floor for a while. However, the unexpected windfall that Sungyoon's Evolution Gem brought allowed the party to reach the 9th floor in one go. They were done with the initial stage of the Great Labyrinth.
The party returned to Armstrong city in a good mood. As they walked along, familiar sights flashed before their eyes. The streets were filled with numerous people, and the delicious food smelled as good as ever. The bright neon signs shone brighter, and the people wearing skimpy clothes tried to tempt the Connectors.
Beyond the partition, the broken wall was being fixed. Due to the existence of a rival city, Armstrong still wasn't what it had been before the Golems attacked the city, but it came close.
“Since the shop is on the way, let’s go buy some beer.”
As always, Tim wanted to drink after finishing work. The party complied and entered a nearby mart.
The marts here were similar to the large convenience stores on Earth, but with astronomical prices and zero discounts. However, the party didn’t even look at the price tags and grabbed whatever they wanted.
Jimin had proposed paying their daily expenses through the company account, but Sungyoon’s party was way past the point of caring about their expenses. They didn't mind if the money came out of their own accounts.
It was the same for all the Connectors capable of entering the Great Labyrinth. With the amount of money they could make, why would they worry about the prices of goods.
Tim couldn’t wait until he got home, so he immediately opened a can of beer and downed it. Emily wanted to tell him that he had no manners, but she decided to let it go this time.
After instantly emptying the can, Tim picked up another one.
Emily asked when she saw that Tim just held the beer in his hand.
“Nothing. It just seems we’ve come so far. It feels like we were afraid to drink even one can of beer just yesterday.”
“Just yesterday? Maybe it’s because it really wasn’t that long ago.”
It was a testament to how fast they were clearing the labyrinths.
Sungyoon also remembered it. After raiding the Beginner’s Labyrinth, the three of them would go to a store with no servers and drink beer. That store had been the cheapest place to drink beer on the Moon.
‘It hasn’t even been two years.’
It put everything into perspective.
The party continued walking forward. However, their destination wasn't Jungbum's building, but the large mansion Sungyoon had received as a reward.
“This place looks extravagant every time I see it.”
“You keep saying that whenever we come here.”
Although Emily criticized Tim, she was also impressed by the size of the house every time.
The siblings owned a house in Canada that was as luxurious as but bigger than this one. However, this house was located on the Moon, which made it impossible to make a comparison between the two houses.
Sungyoon opened the door, and everyone entered alongside him.
When he had received this house, without any hesitation, he had immediately offered his party members to live here.
The Ross siblings used to live together with Sungyoon in the Jungbum's building, so they decided to reside here. Grace, who resided in a different part of Armstrong, decided to accept the offer too.
After they had placed all the food and beer in the house, Sungyoon said.
“Well, let’s wash up. Then we can meet up in two hours for dinner.”
Emily and Grace took showers that lasted an hour at most, but Sungyoon knew he had to also give them time to get ready. As expected, Emily and Grace looked very satisfied by the timeframe Sungyoon proposed, while Tim had no idea what was going on. It was the stark difference between being a man and a woman.
Sungyoon entered his room. Since he was the owner of this house, he had the biggest one.
It seemed that the previous owner had an expensive taste as the room was decorated in a fancy manner.
Sungyoon took off his clothes and haphazardly tossed them on the bed. His muscular body was on full show.
He took out a new pair of underwear and went toward the shower. However, the communicator caught his sight, and he stopped. Someone had sent him a message.
‘It's from Ms. Chelsea.’
Sungyoon thought about the researcher with strawberry-blonde hair and pressed a button.
[I have something to tell you. Please contact me as soon as you get this message.]
Sungyoon had a lot of time, so he didn't wait, and just picked up the receiver.
Chelsea downed half of the beer before putting down the can. She let out a sound that dissolved her exhaustion and annoyance in one go.
“Wow. You really made it, Mr. Sungyoon. You have a house of this caliber on the Moon. It makes my head spin to see it for myself.”
Emily reacted before Sungyoon could say anything and puffed up her chest as if it was her business. Tim looked baffled as he gazed at his sister.
However, Emily was reacting in such a way because someone she liked had been complimented. It was a cute and harmless behavior, so no one called her out on it.
“If you want, you can live here too. As you can see, this place is huge.”
A twinkle appeared in Chelsea's eyes, but a conflicted expression appeared on her face.
“Mmm. I’m tempted. But if I stay here, I can’t sleep, wake up, and go to the lab… However, I don’t want to give up such a nice place...”
“You can use this place as a spare room.”
The mansion had so many rooms that if Sungyoon tried to clean the whole mansion, his muscles would probably scream in protest.
Sungyoon was indebted to Chelsea in many ways, so he didn’t mind giving her a room.
“Ah. I’ll take you up on that offer.”
“Still, I won’t be using it much because of the research I'm working on. I have to sleep in the research facility if we have to speed up our research project.”
‘It feels like we are a married couple.’
Many researchers lived outside of the research facility, but none of them could afford to rent a house on the Moon with their salary. So most of these researchers were married to Connectors.
For some reason, Chelsea's mind had compared her situation with Sungyoon to a marital relationship. She was embarrassed by her thoughts, so when Sungyoon said her name, she was at a loss for words.
Chelsea's face had turned red, but Sungyoon was indifferent as he asked.
“You had something to tell me?”
“Ah! That’s right! I do! I do have something to tell you!”
Chelsea took a deep breath, then spoke.
“I heard Mr. Sungyoon received rights to the ores we found in the Beginner’s Labyrinth. Is that correct?”
“May I ask what the terms of the contract are?”
“It isn’t anything extraordinary. First, I received ownership of the Beginner’s Labyrinth under the condition that I maintain the current system of letting beginner Connectors enter it. I’m the only one who has the excavation rights, and half the ores I excavate have to be given to Armstrong city. Of course, I will bear the entire cost of the excavation.”
“… That's beyond extraordinary. What are you talking about?”
The terms were much better than what she had expected.
‘It seems the Mayor thought the real estate was worth more than the ores, and he considered that the possibility of turning a profit on the ores was low.’
Most people with knowledge of the city knew that the Mayor was conservative with his business. And now, because of this very conservative nature, the Mayor was probably kicking himself.
“Why did you ask about that?”
Sungyoon and his party members drank their beers as they paid attention to Chelsea’s next words.
“Didn’t you see the TV recently?”
“We wanted to clear the initial stages of the Great Labyrinth, so we’ve been in the Great Labyrinth for a couple of months. And after we arrived here, we went straight to doing other things.”
“Our research facility found a way to excavate the ores from the Beginner’s Labyrinth.”
Chelsea told them the breakthrough her facility has achieved.
“Really? I thought the ores were too hard.”
Sungyoon was quite surprised. He had been involved in both missions where they had eliminated the Golems, so he knew how sturdy the labyrinth walls and the ores were.
“Yes. We devised a new method.”
Sungyoon must have imagined it, but it looked as if Chelsea puffed up a bit in pride.
“As we had surmised, the ore was similar to the metal that made up the Jewel rank weapons. The Golems are made up of a similar metal. However, the metal making up the Super Golem was clearly higher in rank higher than the one we found.”
It explained why the Super Golems were so sturdy.
“We tried to create several types of excavators using the ore and the substance making up the Super Golem’s body. Finally, we created one that pulverized the sample ore. We just have to test it further inside the labyrinth, and when we asked the higher-ups of Armstrong, they said we need permission from Mr. Sungyoon to proceed.”
The Beginner’s Labyrinth was free of Golems now, and samples of the ores could be taken by the Connectors who were tasked with cleaning the Beginner’s Labyrinth. However, to move to the next stages of the experiment, the researchers needed to go further than small samples, and for that, they needed Sungyoon's permission.
“Understood. I’ll give you permission. What else do you need from me?”
“Can you sign this?”
Chelsea rustled the paper as she brought it out. It was a written permission form.
Sungyoon put down his beer and carefully read it. He had previously been burned due to carelessness when reading a contract, so he had developed the habit of reading every single word on the paper.
The contract looked okay, so Sungyoon signed it.
“Is the ore useful for anything?”
Grace, who had been quietly drinking her beer all this while, became curious.
“The magical energy it contains is more than that in most of the moonstones found in the Great Labyrinth.”
Chelsea put away the written permission in her bag and replied.
“Really? Doesn’t that mean it's something amazing?”
“It really is. At the very least, it's on par with the moonstones as a source of energy and might even exceed them. With the right tools, even regular humans can excavate these ores. You're probably unaware of this too, but when this information got out, the stocks of the moonstone refining companies tanked.”
Everyone in his party turned to stare at Sungyoon. In the near future, he would be the only one that could excavate this amazing ore.
“Of course, we don't know how to refine and actually extract energy from it yet. We can just excavate it. Because of that, the stocks of the refinery companies rebounded pretty quickly. However, if we do find a way to commercialize this ore, the value of moonstones will decrease. Of course, the decrease would be small, and the moonstones will still be expensive.”
Chelsea laughed as she looked at Sungyoon.
“Congratulations, Mr. Sungyoon. You won another lottery ticket.”
“If that's true, why hasn’t Armstrong city contacted me?”
“They're busy investigating all the labyrinths near Armstrong city right now. The rights to the Beginner’s Labyrinth lies with you, so they thought it would be more profitable if they found other labyrinths with ores.”
In other words, Armstrong wouldn’t help Sungyoon excavate the ores.
‘What should I do?’
Sungyoon's head hurt a bit as he thought about how to excavate the ores.
In the past, he would have been motivated by greed to expand his company. However, he had completely settled in his life as a Connector and felt no desire to lead a company again.
‘I’ll have to discuss this with the President.’
Letting Jimin deal with it was the easiest way out.
“Are you planning on heading down to Earth?”
“Yes. It's a bit early, but I was thinking about going on a vacation with everyone.”
“I haven’t made a decision yet. Maybe a visit to the ocean with everyone including the President.”
The images of the blue ocean and the white waves of the warm beaches in Southeast Asia ran through Chelsea’s mind.
Every day, she had to wake up and see a gray city in space. It was depressing. So she was really jealous of the four Connectors in front of her.
“Would you like to come with us?”
“What? I can?”
Chelsea perked up at Emily’s suggestion.
Seeing that Grace and Tim nodded, Chelsea looked toward Sungyoon. It appeared as if she were a puppy begging for a treat.
“… If you have time, you can accompany us, Ms. Chelsea.”
“Thank you! I had received some vacation time due to the progress I made in my research, and I was wondering how to spend it!”
Chelsea didn't wonder anymore.
The blue ocean and the skyline stretched into the distance. The sight looked beautiful.
When the sun sunk into the horizon, the beautiful surroundings turned dark. However, the countless stars and the Moon floating in the clear sky shone their light on the surface of the water and created a beautiful image. Next to this fantastic view of the ocean, an awe-inspiring mountain stood tall. The bugs on the mountain cried out in an amazing symphony.
However, the cries suddenly came to a stop.
Something fell from the sky, and the peaceful atmosphere turned tense.
The being that had fallen slowly got up.
Its batlike wings were covered in membranes, and black spikes protruded from its body. The most striking part of its appearance was its horns.
In the heart of the Great Labyrinth, this monster was called Kevil.
Its terrifying eyes looked at its surrounding. It smiled when it sensed the fragrant and familiar energy that wasn’t polluted.
[I found it.]
Its red eyes flashed.