Chapter 97

“Thank you for everything.”

Soobin said goodbye before he left the room. In truth, he didn’t want to offer his thanks. He just wanted to cuss the man out, but he had held himself back. It was useless to speak such words. Nothing would change. He dejectedly walked down the corridor.

He went over the conversation he just had. 

‘I’m sorry to say this, but….’

The man was careful when he had begun to speak. He had made it look like the words he was about to utter were very difficult for him to say. However, Soobin didn’t fail to see the feeling of annoyance and dismissal flash in the man’s eyes.

‘It seems our company will no longer continue our relationship with Mr. Soobin. It’ll be difficult for us to extend your contract.’

Although he had expected this, when he heard the actual words, all thoughts left his mind. 

It had taken him a very long time to clear the Beginner’s Labyrinth, but he had done it. He thought they would give him more opportunities to prove himself. No, he hoped they would give him more opportunities.

However, such opportunities weren’t granted to him. Maybe, all this had been decided earlier. After he had cleared the Beginner’s Labyrinth, the company hadn’t talked to him about the Personal Labyrinth at all.

He walked towards the break room. He wanted to calm himself by drinking some bitter coffee.

“I heard he’s going to be fired.”

He had been about to open the door when his hand froze. He heard voices from the break room.

“Who?”

“Kim Soobin.”

They were talking about him. By the sound of their voices, they were fellow Connectors.

“Ah! Finally?”

“Yes. I overheard the company employees talking about it yesterday.”

“It can’t be helped. His skills are a bit subpar. Of course, they wouldn’t want to extend his contract.”

He let go of the doorknob he had been holding. The conversation continued.

“In the first place, he’s only a 1st Gen Connector. The fact that he is affiliated with our company is laughable.”

“His growth rate was amazing in the beginning. It was why our company had given him a contract. It was a gamble. Also, there are many cases where children of the Connectors enter into the company their parents were affiliated with. Our company was probably thinking more about his children. However, he met his limit so early. They can’t even expect much from his future children either. They are washing their hands of him.”

Soobin was clenching his fists so hard that his fingernails started digging into his flesh. It was a wonder that he wasn’t bleeding.

As soon as he became able to activate a Green Gem, he had signed a contract with this company. He had been confident. He believed the road to his future would be smooth and easy. However, he had been wrong. Although his Gem rank had risen quickly making a large company interested in him, he had already reached his limit at that point.

“He rose to Green rank quickly, but that was his limit. Also, the quantity of magical energy possessed by him is low. If he uses the Green rank Gem, he can’t simultaneously use a large number of other Gems. He’s just a prototypical 1st Gen Connector who happened to grow a little bit faster. Of course, it is unreasonable to expect the company to extend his contract.”

He could hear them laugh. It was clearly a laugh filled with derision.

He thought about the party of his ex-president that he had met not too long ago. There was a large distance between the two tables, so the two parties hadn’t talked to each other. However, Soobin had the excellent hearing of a Connector. He was able to listen in on their conversation.

They had been laughing at him too.

“Didn’t they say another person like Kim Soobin has appeared?”

“Ah! I heard about him. Our company is showing interest in him. I think he is with a company called ‘Jungbum’?”

Jungbum! He knew that company. No, it was more than that. He had once been affiliated with that company. Soobin’s eyes twitched.

“They want to sign another 1st Gen Connector? Are they trying to repeat their mistake?”

“He isn’t the same. This person is much better than Kim Soobin. He cleared the Beginner’s Labyrinth in less than a year.”

He thought about his ex-president’s party. He remembered seeing an Asian man amongst them. He must be the main character of this rumor.

He felt jealous. He felt a sense of inferiority. He wanted to erase that man’s existence from this world.

However, he couldn’t do anything. He couldn’t even enter the break room. Soobin walked away.

* * *

Jimin woke up from her sleep. There was a glazed look in her eyes, and they couldn’t focus. So she blinked. In the end, her vision cleared up. She still should've been feeling the after-effects of sleep, yet that wasn’t the case. She was lively for a person that had just woken up. She felt as if she could do anything right now.

She felt that good.

She picked up the handphone on her desk. Hesitating for a moment, she launched the SNS app.

『I turned down the scout.』

A short text appeared on the screen. The text was lacking any thoughtfulness. The unremarkable text had simply been sent to deliver information. However, it was like a love letter that was whispering sweet nothing to her. She smiled as she read it. 

He had been her biggest source of worry. She no longer had to worry about Sungyoon being scouted away from her company. He would continue to be contracted under Jimin’s company, and he would continue working towards entering the Great Labyrinth. When she came to this realization, she couldn’t remain in her room. She once again started to move in a lively manner.

She left her handphone as she exited her room. Chelsea had come back late, so she was still asleep. She got ready and went to her company. She didn’t have much work to do, but this fact didn’t stop her from coming to work early. She wanted to do everything in her power to help Sungyoon right now.

After she arrived at her office, it didn’t take her too long to finish all her work. Since there was no work to do, she started making preparations for the future. A fire had been lit within her.

A call arrived. Jimin looked at the display of her handphone. It was an unknown number.

“Yes. I am Hahn Jimin from Jungbum.”

She picked up the call. However, no one spoke on the other side of the phone.

“Hello?”

Was it a prank call? She spoke one more time. Finally, she heard the caller speak.

[… president. It’s me.]

In the beginning, Jimin couldn't recall who the caller was. He hadn’t revealed his name, just said, ‘It’s me’. It seemed that he was someone she knew well, but the voice didn’t ring any bell. However, Jimin deduced the identity of the caller. She had a good idea who it was. Her emotion was a clue. There was only one person that made her feel creeped out when he called her president.

She wanted to hang up immediately, but Jimin did her best not to follow through with that desire.

“… why are you calling me?”

Jimin pushed down on the urge to cuss him out. She spat out his name.

“Mr. Kim Soobin.”

He had received all the support she could offer, yet he had thrown her away like some old pair of shoes. He was the trash that had moved to a different company. At the time, Jimin had called him to make him reconsider. He had sounded annoyed as he proceeded to block her number. That man was calling her right now.

[How have you been?]

“I’m doing very good. However, I feel like I’m in the dumps because I heard your voice.”

She didn’t cuss him out, but she didn’t plan on hiding the negative emotions she was feeling either. Jimin did her best to make digs at him.

Soobin didn’t speak for a brief moment. Either he was taken aback by her digs at him, or he was trying to control his anger. She didn’t know which was true, but it didn’t matter. She didn’t want to know.

[I really wronged you before.]

He apologized in a barely audible voice.

“Is that so? Truthfully, I don't want your apology. If you have no other business with me, I’m going to hang up.”

[W... wait a moment!]

She had been about to end the call, but Soobin desperately yelled out.

“What is it? Just talking to you is getting on my nerves. Hurry up and tell me your business with me.”

[I…]

Jimin’s eyebrows started to rise as Soobin continued to hesitate. Her patience was running out, so she was about to press the disconnect button.

[… could you contract me once again?]

She heard something unbelievable. She suddenly felt drained. Her brain was reacting slowly. It couldn’t tell if the ridiculous words she just heard right now were real or not.

[I’m prepared to attempt the Great Labyrinth. I know you really wanted that. I heard the Connector affiliated with the president's company is doing quite well. If I work with him, wouldn’t your goal be achieved more easily? Even if that fellow gets scouted, you’ll still have me.]

She neither felt the desire to scream or cuss him out. An extremely cold expression appeared on her face.

“I don’t need you.”

She spoke a single sentence. It was enough. She no longer needed to speak to him any further. She didn’t want to cuss him out. She didn’t want to talk to him. Soobin was about to say something, but she ignored him. She hung up on him.

‘I wondered why he would call me!’

Did he think she was such a pushover? She almost felt insulted.

Her handphone rang once again. It was that damned bastard. Jimin didn’t even hesitate as she ended the call, and then, she blocked Soobin’s handphone number.

She didn’t care where things stood with him. She didn’t want to know what made him change his mind. She didn’t want to know. She had been on cloud nine when Sungyoon had turned down the scout. Now she felt her mood sour.

The desire to work was gone now. Jimin once again picked up her handphone and launched the SNS app. She read the message sent by Sungyoon. The darkness, which was suffocating her heart, fell away. Her anger fell away, and warmth returned to her cold expression.

She kept looking at the message until she felt the desire to work rise again.

* * *

Sungyoon was hugging Shinhae at the Naro Space Center. He was about to head back to the moon, and this was basically a ritual that must be kept. If he didn’t keep this ritual, he wondered if his luck would be cut in half. This was how much he really believed in this ritual.

“Take care and be well. Alright?”

“Yes.”

Shinhae nodded, and Sungyoon hugged her once again. Then, he raised his head and looked at the people who had come to see him off. As always, Jimin came here with Shinhae. Then there was Chelsea. She hadn’t returned to the United States yet.

“Please take care of her.”

“Please don’t worry about her.”

“I’ll take care of her, too, while I’m still in Korea.”

Jimin and Chelsea spoke. After he finished hugging her, he sent his daughter to the two women.

Shinhae approached Jimin, and she pulled on Jimin’s clothes. It seemed it was some kind of a signal, and Jimin brought something out from her handbag. It was a small rectangular item wrapped in a pretty wrapping paper.

The little girl took the item from Jimin and went toward Sungyoon.

“Dad! Here!”

Shinhae’s small hands presented the item to him.

“Huh? What is this?”

Since his daughter was giving it to him, he took it.

“Present.”

“Present?”

“Yes!”

Shinhae laughed as she spoke. She looked proud of herself.

“I am so thankful to you, dad. I bought it using my New Year’s money. Jimin unni helped me.”

Sungyoon froze. His eyes were fixed on the little square-shaped present in his hands. He choked up. It didn’t matter what it was. Any father would become moved when receiving a present from his daughter. This was doubly so for Sungyoon, who was an absolute idiot for Shinhae.

Hug!

When he came to his senses, he was already hugging Shinhae.

“Thank you very much.”

He was barely able to squeeze out those words with his trembling voice. Even if the present was leftover chicken bones, Sungyoon would consider it more precious than any high-priced items.

“I want to thank you too, Ms. Jimin.”

Jimin just let out a light laugh when Sungyoon offered his thanks.

If it were up to him, he wanted to feel Shinhae’s warmth in his arms forever. However, that wasn’t possible. Sungyoon let go of his hug.

“Dad will open this later, and I’ll be sure to tell you my thoughts on it.”

Sungyoon put the present deep into the bag he carried.

“Go to the unnis now.”

Shinhae listened to her father. She once again moved to the side of Jimin and Chelsea. Sungyoon waved towards them.

“Come back quickly, dad!”

As he waved his hand, Sungyoon’s smile was brighter than ever before.

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