The reinforcement team didn’t immediately return to Armstrong city and tried to locate the survivors, who had scattered into the surroundings, instead.
Thankfully, they did find some. Some Connector parties had been lucky. They had been in their labyrinths when the attack had happened, so they had avoided the calamity. The rescue parties continued looking for more survivors on the surface of the Moon.
After a while, the teams finally returned to Armstrong.
Water fell from the showerhead. Blood mixed in with the water as the day’s exhaustion washed away.
Sungyoon let out a satisfied sigh as he turned off the showerhead. After wiping away the water droplets on his body, he exited the shower room. When he went to the living room, he found Tim and Emily playing chess and Grace drinking black tea.
Sungyoon looked down at the chessboard and saw that the white pieces were crushing the black ones. He could even tell who was winning just by looking at their expressions.
Emily's face held a grin, while Tim's face had agony written all over it.
“Ah! Mr. Sungyoon!”
Tim perked up.
“Since Mr. Sungyoon is here, why don’t we end the game now?”
“Ah. You don’t have to do that. I’m not in a hurry. I plan on having a cup of coffee.”
“You heard what he said.”
Tim despaired at Sungyoon's reply, while Emily had a triumphant expression.
Sungyoon went to make a fragrant cup of coffee for himself, then returned to the living room. Tim and Emily were still focused on the chessboard, so he sat next to Grace.
“Did they make a bet or something?”
“The loser has to do dishes for a month when they head back to Earth.”
“I see. It's an important wager. Still, Mr. Tim is not good at strategic games. I’m surprised he took her up on the offer.”
“Ms. Emily put a handicap on herself by removing a Knight, a Bishop, and a Rook.”
“If he loses, he has no excuse.”
Sungyoon and Grace watched the chess match while drinking their beverages. No dramatic turnaround happened, and after a couple more minutes, Emily won.
With the smile of a victor, Emily put away the chessboard. Tim’s face was pale as if he were burnt out. He looked down at the table with a blank expression.
After rescuing the survivors, the party had returned to Armstrong. Then, they had taken a cozy and comfortable break. However, this period wasn’t just all fun. All four of them had used this opportunity to reflect on their mistakes and think about their future path. It was a time when the party had an open meeting with each other.
“It's unfortunate that even though we entered the middle stages of the Great Labyrinth, we won’t be able to challenge it for a while. We have to help in the defense of Armstrong.”
Tim had recovered from his defeat; no, he was probably trying to avoid reality by talking.
“Armstrong is desperate. In all estimation, Gagarin·Yang city was supposed to be a formidable rival, yet it was destroyed in an instant.”
“Still, they can’t keep Connectors in Armstrong for long. Armstrong is important as a hub for acquiring moonstones, and no country on Earth wants a disruption in its supply of moonstones.”
“Ms. Emily is right. Moonstones are starting to become scarce on Earth. Moreover, many Connectors were killed in the downfall of Gagarin·Yang city. If Armstrong lowers the supply of moonstones any further, Earth will face a massive energy shortage.”
Emily agreed with Grace as she added more texture to her point.
Tim looked at Sungyoon and spoke.
“I saw the news earlier. The public opinion is really against destroying the Golems. The sudden appearance of monsters happened when Gagarin·Yang city indiscriminately destroyed the Golems and the labyrinths. Some in the public even want to stop the excavation of Mana-Knight.”
Sungyoon didn’t hesitate before speaking.
“I’ll stop it.”
“Are you ok with that?”
Sunyoon's words had surprised Tim.
“I have no reason to be stubborn. In the end, my goal is to clear the Great Labyrinth.”
Sungyoon possessed massive wealth. He had everything he needed to live a happy life with Shinhae. So even if Mana-Knight was no longer excavated, he would have no regrets.
However, Grace presented an opposing view.
“You don’t have to shut it down. Earth continues to be attacked by monsters. Also, Mana-Knight has become vital to Armstrong's defense. The shells made of Mana-Knight can damage monsters, and you saw the power of the new weapon for yourself, Mr. Sungyoon.”
In the rescue mission of Gagarin·Yang city, the party had witnessed Mana-Knight artillery bombardment. The artillery used special shells that could be easily shot in space, and these shells had ripped through the monsters.
“The test subjects of the experiment were weak monsters, but these weapons can be used by normal people. People will have a hard time letting go of it.”
“You do have a point.”
Tim agreed with her. However, their conversation was interrupted by a ringing. Everyone turned to look at the source of the sound, and Sungyoon stood up and picked up the phone.
- I’m glad you answered, Mr. Sungyoon.
“President? Is something wrong?”
- I need you for a task on Earth. Can you come down?
“Armstrong is in a state of emergency, so I don’t think I’ll be able to.”
- I heard about what happened. I’ll have to discuss this with the mayor of Armstrong.
- It's related to the shortage of moonstones. Our country is gathering our moonstone collecting companies and moonstone processing companies for a meeting. They want to come up with a way of solving the current shortage. I thought we would need the opinion of someone that acquires the moonstone, so I would like to go to the meeting with you, Mr. Sungyoon.
“Understood. If Armstrong allows it, I’ll be there.”
- I’ll talk to them. Ah, Mr. Sungyoon. Also...
Jimin took a pause before continuing.
- Lee Jaeho might attend this meeting.
Sungyoon’s face crumpled.
The meeting room was full of people clad in business suits. They were the representatives gathered to discuss the shortage of moonstones. Most of them were advanced in years, and they laughed while exchanging pleasantries. However, their eyes remained sharp as they tried to discern the intentions of their rivals. These were men and women who had given their lives to their business, and they were old hands that knew all the ins and outs of the industry.
The door of the meeting room opened, and naturally, everyone turned to look who it was. Their eyes shone as two newcomers stepped inside. Sungyoon and Jimin became the focus of everyone's attention.
Sungyoon was the most famous Connector on Earth, and Jimin was the president of the company he was contracted to. All the Connector companies and the moonstone processing companies only saw the benefits of getting close to the two of them.
Numerous people greeted the two. Jimin looked used to this, and she greeted everyone normally. Sungyoon had become a little stiff, but he didn’t forget his manners.
Another person approached the two of them and spoke.
“I don’t believe we’ve met.”
His silver head had been dyed black, but unlike his age, he still had a fierce look in his eyes.
“My name is Lee Hooyoung. I’ve heard a lot about you, Jungbum’s President Hahn Jimin.”
The man smiled so warmly that it appeared as though he were looking at his granddaughter. But Jimin inwardly snorted at the man.
‘This old man has no shame. He wants to see us fail so badly.’
This man was Jaeho’s father and the current chairman of the Daesung group.
Sungyoon stood behind Jimin, and his eyes went past Hooyoung to catch sight of a man with a sour expression on his face.
In the past, Sungyoon had considered Lee Jaeho his best friend. However, Jaeho had shoved Sungyoon into a pit of despair and revealed his true nature. He was trash. No, Sungyoon felt sorry for 'trash' for being compared to this man.
Sungyoon had only wanted to live a happy life with Shinhae, so he had tried to leave behind his past bad memories. But Lee Jaeho had then gone out of his way to recruit Miyun to threaten Shinhae.
Just the sight of him made Sungyoon feel extreme displeasure. However, Sungyoon had no reason to get heated here, and he looked at Jaeho with indifference in his eyes. Jaeho felt as if Sungyoon was looking down at him, and anger surged within his heart.
Most of the people here knew the history between the two men, and they looked on with fascination in their eyes.
After finishing his pretentious greeting with Jimin, Hooyoung was about to turn his attention to Sungyoon, but he got cut off.
“You're here, Jimin.”
Jimin looked delighted when Dongin came up next to her.
“Oh my! Were you exchanging greetings with the chairman of the Daesung group? I’m really sorry for the interruption. I can be a bit clueless at times.”
“No. We've already greeted each other. You seem close to the president of Jungbum.”
Dongin placed a hand on Jimin’s shoulder.
“Ha ha! She's like a daughter to me!”
The two chairmen conversed with each other. Just like how their peers behaved, the two of them smiled and assessed each other.
Did they hate each other because they were cut from the same cloth? Whatever the reason was, Dongin and Hooyoung didn’t seem too happy. Unlike their amicable conversation, the atmosphere around them was hostile.
Sungyoon saw that Hyunwoo stood behind Dongin. But, Hyunwoo seemed a little off.
“It has been a while, Mr. Hyunwoo.”
“Yes. It has been indeed. It seems you're still doing well. I’m glad.”
“Is something bothering you?”
Sungyoon asked. However, Hyunwoo didn’t say anything as he looked at Sungyoon with a searching gaze.
He spoke right about the time Sungyoon was starting to get flustered.
“No. It's nothing. I just have a lot on my plate these days.”
Everything was changing so fast, and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the world had gone crazy. Even the great Sung Hyunwoo would be stressed at such times.
Sungyoon and Hyunwoo conversed with each other for a short time until the minister entered the room. It was time to start the meeting.
Everyone here was a prominent figure in the industry, and a company of Jungbum’s size was out of place in this meeting. However, the reason for her attendance was Sungyoon's affiliation with her company. Moreover, she possessed a team capable of raiding the Great Labyrinth.
“Is it impossible to increase the supplies of moonstones?”
The Minister asked as he wiped the sweat on his forehead. He was in a tough spot, but nothing would be solved if he threw a tantrum.
“All kinds of changes are occurring within the labyrinths and on Earth. That's why many Connectors are looking out for their own well-being. They are limiting their trips to the Moon by living off their savings.”
The president of one of the Connector companies spoke up.
“Is there any way we can fix that problem?”
“Our Connectors are doing the minimum amount of work needed according to their contract. We cannot force them to enter the labyrinths. Even if the Connectors are signed under our companies, it's merely a business contract. This is especially problematic when it comes to high rank Connectors. They can switch to a different company at will if they are asked to do something they don’t like.”
“We are in a tough spot too. The price of moonstones has skyrocketed. Even if we pay more, it doesn’t change that there is a shortage.”
One of the presidents of the moonstone processing companies spoke up. He had aimed his words toward the Connector companies, but in reality, his words were meant for the Minister. Nobody liked the government meddling in their business, but the moonstone processing companies wanted the government to intervene on their behalf.
As expected, the Minister frowned. However, he didn’t immediately join in.
“We are also in a tough spot. The supply of moonstones to our country has been disrupted, but you have to take into account that China, Russia, and their allied countries are having shortages too. They had put in massive resources to create a new Lunar city, yet it was destroyed alongside many of their Connectors. Korea is still in a much better situation than them.
"If we sell the moonstones to them, we can get a much better price; several times higher than now. The only reason we aren’t doing so is the existence of domestic laws that restrict the export of moonstones. We are already making a great sacrifice by following this law.”
In a roundabout way, the president of the company was asking the Minister to lift the restrictions.
Even after a fierce debate, the members inside the meeting room couldn’t come up with a clear solution. It didn’t matter what they discussed as the situation surrounding the labyrinths would remain the same for the near future.
They just had to be satisfied with the fact that their opinions were being heard by the Minister.
“I would like to say something.”
Hooyoung raised his hand, and everyone turned to look at him.
When the Minister gave permission, Hooyoung opened his mouth.
“Everyone has fallen on hard times. In such a situation, we have to come together. We have to be fair to each other, yet there is someone here that lets her personal feelings influence her dealings. I don’t think that should be tolerated.”
His eyes headed toward Jimin, and his intentions were obvious. Hooyoung wanted Jimin to take his company off her blacklist. Everyone else silently monitored the situation.
“What do you think, Minister? I think it is highly unfair.”
Hooyoung was trying to put pressure on Jimin by talking to the Minister.
“Stop the idle talk, Mr. Lee Hooyoung.”
Sungyoon spoke up. He had been watching the meeting with his arms crossed, but Hooyoung's words had stirred him into action.
“I don’t care what happens. There is no way we’ll sell anything to your company.”
The faces of Hooyoung and Jaeho crumpled.Previous Chapter Next Chapter