Chapter 43

Unlike his normal self, his voice was filled with a lot of empathy this time. He was sympathetic to her plight. Moreover, his words weren’t empty platitudes. It was a heartfelt remark that arose from his own experience.

“Thank you. Hearing those words makes me feel a bit better.”

Even if one tried to understand the other’s pain, it was almost impossible to understand it unless one had gone through the same experience. It was ridiculous, but Sungyoon’s sympathy gave her strength more so than any words that could be said by others. Maybe it was because Sungyoon had gone through something similar to her.

However, she couldn’t continue to hold up work for this.

“Let’s stop dwelling on my misfortunes. Let us go back to our main order of business.”

“Will you be ok?”

“I’m fine. All she can do is come here and squawk with her annoying voice. I just have to reapply for the restraining order. Although, I don’t think a restraining order will make that woman back off.”

Ahjung had broken the restraining order several times when Jimin was young. She had dogged determination when it came to money.

“That’ll be annoying.”

“Still, it isn’t as if I can kill her.”

Her mother being trash was a problem from before.

“Let’s drop this subject. Let’s talk about work.”

Until now, a bit of emotion had been infused into her face. But it was as if it had all been a dream and Jimin's face once again turned to ice. Sungyoon’s face also returned to its emotionless state. If a third party had witnessed this scene, they would have found it really odd.

“I want to give this to you before we do anything.”

Jimin took out a white envelope from her desk drawer. The envelope looked fat. Sungyoon assumed it was a document, so he immediately opened the envelope. Then his eyes widened.

“This is….”

Sungyoon put his hand into the envelope and grabbed something. He didn’t hesitate as he took out the content.

It was money.

He fanned the crisp fifty dollar bills.

“I thought it would be best if you can physically touch and see your first income.”

Sungyoon extended a finger and riffled through the money. The sight of money always mesmerized him. 

“There are four hundred bills.”

‘It is a lot.’

He had only worked for two weeks. Moreover, he had been very slow in his work as he wanted to get his bearing within the labyrinth as a beginner. He couldn’t believe it had resulted in him making a big pile of money. It was impossible to make this type of money doing manual labor. It was impossible without knowing some type of specialized skill.

However, Jimin’s perspective differed from his.

“The amount is a bit small, but it can’t be helped. You are still a beginner, and the time you were given to collect the moonstones was short.”

“Isn’t this a lot?”

“It's beyond small. It's almost meager. Of course, I’m comparing it to the revenue brought in by established Connectors.”

Sungyoon shut his mouth. He had no words. He knew Connectors made a lot of money, but when he held a large sum of money himself, that point was driven home.

“You should buy something delicious for Shinhae. You should also use it occasionally during your stay on the Moon.”

When he heard Jimin’s words, he started thinking about where he would use this money. He thought about what type of delicious food he would buy for Shinhae. He also thought about where he could take Shinhae, so she could have some fun. All his thoughts were related to Shinhae.

However, it didn’t take him too long to remember his debt. It influenced his thoughts.

“I’ll put half of my income toward my debt.”

Sungyoon started to count out half the money. However, Jimin was firm as she shook her head from side to side.

“Didn’t I tell you this before? Your main goal is the Great Labyrinth. You have to find traces left behind by my father. As for the debt, you don’t have to repay your debt right now. Use this to live a bit more comfortably on the Moon. It’ll increase your effectiveness within the labyrinth.”

Sungyoon was conflicted. He wanted to put every cent toward his debt, as he was sick of it. He wanted to shed these damned shackles. But in the end, he stopped counting the money and put it back into the envelope. He decided to follow the advice of his benefactor. Moreover, Jimin had a point.

“I’ll start paying my debt at a later date.”

“Yes. Please do that.”

Sungyoon carefully put away the envelope into his pocket. His heart lifted at the thought of buying Shinhae a nice dinner.

“Yes, let’s move on to the next topic. You’ve acquired an additional Device and Gem.”

“Yes, I did.”

“That's very good.”

She never expected him to acquire a Device and Gem in just two weeks.

“Do you mind if I ask how you came by them?”

“I acquired the Device when I killed a monster. The Gem belonged to a dead man. I brought his possessions back, and I was given the Gem as a reward.”

“…”

For a moment, Jimin silently stared at Sungyoon.

“Did you see the corpse?”

“Yes.”

Sungyoon gave a short one-word answer. What kind of emotion was infused within that word? Sungyoon’s expression was too calm to guess it.

“Are you ok?”

“I’m fine.”

Jimin didn’t ask any more questions regarding that topic. He said he was fine, so what was the point of asking further? After all, she was driving Sungyoon toward death for her own desires.

“… I see. Did you check its ability?”

“Yes.”

“What is it?”

“It is a Gem that amplifies my strength by two-fold.”

“It's a simple ability, but sometimes that's preferable. It isn’t a bad Gem.”

Physical ability could be called the foundation that allowed a Connector to fight monsters with their life on the line. A Gem that could enhance one’s foundation was a good Gem.

“Did you try activating it with your other Gems?”

“Yes, I was able to activate all of them at once.”

This was another good news. This proved that Sungyoon could activate four Gems at the same time. If activating three Purple Gems was the limit of his magical energy, it would have been a tragedy. He had dodged the worst possibility. 

“That’s a relief. You’ll have a bit of an easier time exploring the labyrinth.”

Jimin congratulated him. Sungyoon had taken a step forward toward his goal.

“You should go rest. Your next trip up to the Moon will be in about two weeks.”

“Why is it so late? Isn’t it too delayed?”

He had already rested for one week. If he took two more weeks off, he basically had a whole month off.

“It's the Mana Stream season. Even if you go up right now, you won’t be able to enter the labyrinth with your ability.”

“Mana Stream. I guess it can’t be helped.”

Mana Stream. It was a unique phenomenon that only occurred within the labyrinths.

Labyrinths were locations seething with magical energy. This was why normal humans and electronics couldn’t enter them. However, there was also a period where normal humans and low-level Connectors couldn’t enter the labyrinths.

It was the time when the Mana Stream stormed within the labyrinths.

For a fixed period, a storm of magical energy rushed to fill every nook and cranny of the labyrinth. Some scholars theorized that the Mana Stream was the phenomenon that had created the labyrinths. The storm was that strong. Low-ranked Connectors had an automatic shield that formed around their body. But the Mana Stream could pierce through this barrier, and it would shred their bodies. Only monsters and Connectors of a certain caliber could move within the Mana Stream.

“The Mana Stream that sweeps through the Beginner’s Labyrinth lasts around one week.”

The timing and length of the Mana Stream differed for each labyrinth. The Beginner’s Labyrinth experienced a Mana Stream every three months, and it lasted a week. During this time period, the Beginner’s Labyrinth was sealed for all practical purposes as most of the low ranked Connectors couldn’t withstand the Mana Stream.

Some might think the Mana Stream was a useless phenomenon that interfered with the work of the low ranked Connectors. However, the Mana Stream was a very important phenomenon for the Connectors.

Mana Stream basically refilled the labyrinth with Monsters.

It was unclear as to whether the Mana Stream spontaneously generated the monsters or it brought them from a different location. The only certain thing was the fact that it increased the number of monsters within the labyrinth. 

“The Mana Stream will cause the monsters to significantly increase in number, so it’ll take some time to reign it in.”

It was called the Beginner’s Labyrinth, but its existence wasn’t a coincidence. There was no way a labyrinth that could be used to grow beginner Connectors existed in the wild. The Beginner’s Labyrinth was like any other common labyrinth. In terms of labyrinths, it was considered to be a medium to low in difficulty. The Beginner’s Labyrinth was made suitable for the beginner Connectors by others. High ranked Connectors were hired to kill all the monsters, excluding the ones that could be handled by the beginner Connectors.

‘That meant I went in when there was the least amount of monsters.’

After the Mana Stream swept through, there was a high chance that Sungyoon would encounter monsters at a higher rate. More opportunities meant more danger to him.

“The high ranked Connectors kill most of the dangerous monsters for the beginner Connectors. This causes the different monsters to fight for their territory. The weaker monsters get pushed out toward the upper floors, where the magical energy is less dense. The stronger monsters occupy the lower floors. It takes around a week for everything to settle down. However, you aren’t that experienced in fighting the monsters. That's why you should give it an extra week before you enter it again. It's for your safety.”

This was the reason Sungyoon had two weeks on his hand.

“Let’s check your departure date.”

Jimin looked at the large calendar hanging on the wall of the office.

“How about two weeks later on a Monday? Is that fine?”

“Yes, I’m fine with that.”

Sungyoon checked the calendar, and he nodded.

“Good. I’ll meet you on that day.”

Sungyoon stood up from his seat. He gave a short goodbye and walked to the door. However, he suddenly remembered something and turned back to look at Jimin.

“Now that I think about it, Shinhae said she wanted to go to the amusement park. I have time now, so I’m thinking about taking her this week. It seems Shinhae would like to go with you, President. What do you think?”

Jimin had been about to go back to work, but she suddenly came to a stop. Her eyes shifted. It seemed she was very conflicted. In the end, she let out a deep sigh, and she shook her head from side to side.

“No. I’ll have to decline this time. Please apologize to Shinhae for me.”

The work generated from Sungyoon’s return hadn’t been wrapped up yet. It was very unfortunate, but she would have to decline the offer.

“I see. Understood. I’ll deliver the message to Shinhae.”

Sungyoon nodded and turned his gaze away. However, it was Jimin’s turn to keep Sungyoon in place.

“Do you mind if we discuss one more thing, Mr. Sungyoon?”

“Yes. It’s fine.”

Sungyoon didn’t look bothered as he turned back to face her. However, he flinched when he saw Jimin’s expression. Her face was colder than usual. It felt as if cold winds were slicing into his back.

“When I introduced myself to Shinhae, she called me by ajumma.”

When the topic had turned towards Shinhae, she naturally remembered a topic she wanted to discuss. When she spoke, Jimin’s eyes turned a hundred times colder than usual.

“I’ve already instructed Shinhae to do this. I told her to call me by ‘unni’. Will you tell her to call me unni just in case?”

Her voice was gentle, but there was a great force behind it. She spat out her words.

“I’m not an ajumma. I am an ‘unni.”

“… I’ll be sure to tell her.”

Sungyoon felt a bit of fear as he nodded.

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