SPACE 4. The Octopuses’ Dream
“It must be near here……”
Ark walked between the complicated connected pipes. One day had passed since he had been appointed as the Cleaning Foreman. He got a pay rise so Ark was even more motivated to clean the pipes. And there was something that offended him. Sometimes there would be an unidentified boom and the pipe would vibrate.
“Ah, you mean that? Don’t pay attention to it. The temperature difference between R-14 and the space outside is intense. Sometimes the temperature will twist a pipe between the inside wall and the barrier, causing those types of noises.”
Cheksun explained after he heard it the first time. So he just ignored it but after a while he realized that not all the noises were the same. Sometimes he heard iron twisting and other times it sounded like someone was hitting away at the pipes.
‘It doesn’t sound like the pipe twisting.’
He tried to ignore it but the sound got on his nerves. In the end, Ark couldn’t resist his curiosity and started to search for the truth. Figuring out the direction the pipe was coming from wasn’t an easy task. Furthermore, the pipes were entwined in complicated ways like blood vessels so he would sometimes go in the wrong direction. It was like trying to find something in Seoul by listening to a voice.
‘It seemed to be coming from someplace close so I thought it would just take a short time……’
He already came this far so he couldn’t give up. It certainly wasn’t an easy task but Ark had already been here for more than a week. He listening to the sound while cleaning the pipes and felt like he was gradually approaching it. The sound that seemed to come from a distance became much louder.
‘I’m almost there. It is clearly close to here!’
Ark looked around doubtfully after crawling through the pipe. The lanterns illuminated something wriggling near the pipe.
Only Ark’s head had emerged from the pipe but he could recognize the identity of the object. It was the familiar form of the Charenjok.
“Hey! You over there!”
The octopus flinched as Ark yelled. It craned its neck and stared at Ark with consternation.
-Hik! H-h-how is Foreman-nim here?
“Why are you so startled? Are you just playing around in a place like this?”
-Ah, no! Playing around? I…..
“Well it doesn’t matter. Did you hear the sound just then?”
-S-sound? No, I haven’t heard anything?
“You didn’t hear anything?”
Maybe it couldn’t be heard if the octopus was working far away. Ark often didn’t hear it while concentrating on cleaning. But he followed the sound to this location. He had heard the sound a short time ago although he didn’t hear it anymore. It was impossible for the octopus not to hear it. The octopus talking to Ark wasn’t deaf.
‘Come to think of it…..’
It had been very upset the first time it saw Ark. The octopuses’ skin changed colour depending on their emotions! Ark looked at the colour of the octopus suspiciously and asked.
“What are you hiding?”
The octopus’ skin became mottled and it shouted wildly. Its insistence just made Ark more doubtful. Ark slightly pitied it. However, Ark couldn’t withdraw from this situation.
“Really? Then get out of the way.”
“I’m trying to find what is causing the ringing of the pipes. I clearly heard it in this area a short time ago. So I’m going to search around this area.”
-I said there wasn’t any sound!
“I heard it.”
Ark pushed aside the restless octopus. No, he tried to when his hands slipped and he slid down. The area behind the octopus inclined like a slide. Ark hurriedly stretched out his hand but his body had already slipped down. And…..cheolpeok!
“W-what is this? Mud? Why is it in a place like this…..?”
Ark lifted his head from where it was stuck in the mud. A landscape he couldn’t imagine was lit up by the lanterns.
“W-what’s all this?”
The scale of the place was so large that Ark couldn’t even measure it. It was amazing that such a place could be found in the R-14 space station but the more amazing thing was the amount of space bugs filling the area. Thick mud filled the place and a countless number of space bugs swarmed. And octopuses were gathered around and looking busy.
The octopuses flinched at his voice.
–Eek? F-Foreman? Why is Foreman-nim here……?
–This is serious! We were found! We were found!
-Ack! We’re screwed!
The octopuses started freaking out. Ark was about to open his mouth when he heard.
–Everyone calm down!
One octopus shouted. It was a familiar octopus. The octopus was the one who always checked on Ark.
It would take out a cigarette butt and start complaining. He had encountered the octopus many times so Ark could recognize it at a glance. Its name was Burum. Ark couldn’t understand what was going on and just looked around blankly. Burum sighted and faced Ark before muttering.
–Ark, I’m sorry.
–But this is your fault. If only you hadn’t interfered…..
Burum turned a complex colour and shouted towards the octopuses in the room.
-Completely surround the human!
Dozens of octopuses flocked at Burum’s behest. Ark asked with a bewildered look as he was surrounded.
“What are you doing?”
-It can’t be helped. This is our only remaining hope. We can’t let you escape now that you’ve seen this. I’m sorry but you’re going to have to die.
Ark’s face distorted at Burum’s words. It must be a huge secret to kill him in order to keep it. If he was jumped by these number of octopuses then Ark without a dagger could only die. However, he never thought that he was in a crisis. The reason why……
“You would kill to keep the secret?”
Ark declared sharply, causing Burum to wince and withdrew a little bit. But Burum nodded with determination.
“Is your head just a decoration?”
–D-decoration? What do you mean?
“I’ll explain it simply. R-14 has the fairy revival system.”
Burum burst out with astonishment. This was why he called the octopuses stupid. Just like Ark said, R-14 had the Fairy revival system. If Ark was killed then he would just be resurrected through Fairy. It was impossible to keep their secret by killing him.
Burum finally realized the situation and flopped down on the ground.
–We’re finished! Our last hope is gone!
Burum fell into a state of panic and rocked back and forth.
–Foreman-nim, it is a request! Please pretend you didn’t see this! If the crew of R-14 is informed of this then we’re screwed. For the future of the Charenjok, can you pretend not to have seen this?
“I don’t even understand what is going on. But one thing is clear. You just tried to kill me. And now you want my help?”
“Right now I want to find out all your secrets. I believe that you had no other way. Thanks to our previous relationship, I’ve decided to given the Charenjok a chance. Explain to me the space bugs and what you are so desperate to hide that you tried to kill me. I’ll listen and then decide.”
Burum hesitated before sighing and confessing. The octopuses received even lower wages than Ark from cleaning the pipes and their allowance from the galactic federation was barely enough to live off Space Food. Unless the policies suddenly changed, the octopuses circumstances wouldn’t change even if decades passed. The octopuses were seriously worried about their future. After a lot of thinking, they finally figured out a way.
–We changed all the land we bought.
“Land you bought?”
–Yes, right now the federation is increasing the frontiers. Therefore there is a lot of land they deserted. In some cases, the land would be available for a cheap price. So we tried to buy it. But no matter how cheap it is, it is still real estate
The octopuses only received a low wage from cleaning the pipes! Thus the octopuses’ balance was in the negatives.
Therefore Burum risked the fate of the octopuses on a gamble. When there was a small gap, Burum sneaked into R-14’s laboratory and stole the egg of a space bug.
–The space bugs are used as cattle. The meat is used as an ingredient for Space Food and the leather used as materials for the space suits.
Ark was wearing clothes and eating food made from a space bug. They were incredibly cheap.
-The space bugs modified by the laboratory grow many times faster than normal space bugs. If we raise the space bugs in the area between the interior wall and R-14’s barrier and sell the leather and meat then we can prepare more funds. But…..
The octopuses had forgotten an important fact. The space bugs were originally monsters. They were raised as livestock so they weren’t aggressive but the space bugs attacked once someone tried to peel the leather and meat from them. It was hard enough for a user to fight by themselves. Meanwhile, the octopuses had almost no weapons or combat ability. Dozens of them were required to catch just one space bug. Thus the space bugs steadily multiplied and eventually filled this huge space.
‘All my questions are answered.’
The sound Ark heard resounding through the pipes was the octopuses fighting the space bugs. The octopuses had been motivated. They raised the space bugs with the expectation of huge profit but it was impossible to feel motivated once the situation turned out like this.
–If we get caught then the space bugs will be confiscated and we’ll be expelled from R-14. If we’re kicked out into the universe in this state then it won’t be possible for us to live. We had to keep it a secret, even if it meant killing you. Sob sob sob! It couldn’t be helped!
Burum murmured in a regretful voice.
Then he heard a voice from behind him. He looked back and saw a small octopus crawling out of a jar.
–Daddy, why are you crying? Are you hurt somewhere?
–Did another space bug injure you?
–I don’t need to eat a lot of rice. It is hard so you don’t need to catch the bugs.
–Yes, living here is fine. It is hard but we’re learning eagerly.
–Ack! I-It is nothing. I’m fine.
Burum wrapped its legs around its children and looked at Ark.
–Foreman-nim, please! I was blinded by the thought of profit and tried to kill you. I don’t care what will happen to me. But these children……I can’t make these children spend a lifetime cleaning pipes. Can you pretend you didn’t see anything? I’m sorry for trying to kill you. I’ll devote my life to you so please.
It was indeed an emotional scene. If only they weren’t octopuses.
“I understand. I won’t tell the crew of R-14 about this.”
Ark watched Burum and the children for a bit before nodding. Burum’s eyes popped out after hearing Ark’s words.
Of course. This wasn’t a melodrama but he felt sympathy towards the octopuses. No, he was creeped out by the adult octopuses but he felt sorry for the child octopuses. Anyway, money wasn’t involved so there was no reason to pour cold water on the futures of the young octopuses. However, there was a decisive reason. Ark would also benefit from this.
‘There are a lot of space bugs in this farm!’
Ark drooled at the sight of all the bugs. It had been a week since Galaxian opened and since Ark started cleaning the pipes. In the meantime, the number of unemployed users in R-14’s hunting grounds gradually grew. At this rate, this state would be maintained for at least two months. This might just be cleaning the pipes but Ark had found a job to escape the unemployment after his dagger broke.
‘But here my prey is overflowing!’
The octopuses couldn’t control the multiplication of the space bugs. Ark would have no limits if he hunted here. In other words, his was a free hunting ground that only Ark knew about! He could hunt anytime he wanted. There was no reason to tell the crew members.
‘Now I just have to receive permission to hunt here from Burum…..’
Ark was about to speak when he flinched and suddenly closed his mouth. He thought for a moment before sighing and shaking his head.
‘No. That’s not it. Ark, you still have a long way to go!’
Ark was naive after staying in the pipes for a week! His stomach was full so he lost his original intention of gaining even more food. Ark thought that he had regained some of his original mindset. However, Ark soon realized he was mistaken.
It wasn’t like that. The previous Ark wouldn’t have approached this situation like that. If it was the previous Ark…..
“I have a request.”
He would’ve said.
The economic principle was simple. Supply and demand. If he used supply and demand then he could get a profit. Ark’s brain concentrated on that concept.
–Invite in the pioneers?
“Yes. Burum-nim lives here so you won’t know that well but recently a lot of beginner pioneers have entered the universe. So many people flocked to the farm area that it isn’t possible to see the space bugs at all. The users entering this place will pay an admission fee to hunt the space bugs.”
–We get paid for letting them hunt space bus?
Burum scratched his head.
–Why would they pay money to hunt the space bugs here?
It was difficult to understand for an NPC. However, the users waiting at the farms were unemployed. They didn’t accept Bhurad’s <Space Bug Processing> quest because of money. Compensation was compensation but 90% of it was for the experience. This was all in order to reach level 10 and escape from the beginner areas. However, R-14’s only hunting ground was saturated with players! Even if they played Galaxian in their spare time, it wasn’t possible to find a hunting spot. Some people sat and waited but others just quit. A hunting ground full of monsters was the dream for such users!
They would be eager to enter even if they had to pay money. This is the principle of supply and demand!
‘Devising something like this…..’
It was something that the previous Ark would’ve come up with. Ark realized it again. He still hadn’t completely regained his hungry spirit. But once he realized this point, his head instantly started moving. Ark began devising a concrete business plan.
“First we must specific the customer base.”
–Customer base? We’re not just bringing anyone?
“Yes, we can’t just bring any pioneer here.”
Ark was thinking that the main customers should be users level 7~8. There were two reasons for this. Once again, R-14 was saturated so it was difficult to find a hunting spot. If users occupied a spot then they could reach level 10 if they stayed up all night. If the users were level 7~8 in that situation then the answer was obvious.
‘They are people who can’t always play the game because of work or other issues.’
Those people would be eager for experience. However, the level 7~8 users were employed less than level 1 users. Their level was high so they would eat more experience in a hunting party. That’s why existing parties only bothered with hiring level 1 users. So 90% of the level 7~8 users were unemployed. Despite the penalty, the workers had no choice but to connect in the evening when there were lots of people playing.
“But there is something more important than that. The users entering R-14 don’t have money. In the meantime, the level 7~8 users have hunted quite a lot. They must’ve completed Bhurad’s mission at least a dozen times.”
That was the second reason. The amount of hunting fee. Ark immediately started doing some market research. He had decided the main customers so he started doing research on how much money they would have.
‘Completing the <Space Bug Processing> quest once gives 10 silver. If they completed it through the leather and meat process then they will receive 20 silver. They should’ve completed the quest at least 10 times to reach level 7~8. Even if they spent some money on food and repairs, they should still have at least 1 gold.’
Thus he decided to charge 50 silver as the fee.
“How is it? Do you like the offer?”
“Huhuhu, I thought so. If you want to hunt then you only have to spend 50 silver.”
“But 50 silver is half of my entire fortune so it is slightly expensive……”
The users complained when first hearing the fee. 50 silver was a huge amount of money in R-14. Then Ark quickly said.
“It isn’t expensive. Don’t you know? 50 silver is only big because this is the beginner area. It isn’t a huge amount of money once you start earnestly hunting on the frontiers. Don’t you know users are already selling 10 gold on the auction site? Isn’t it better to spend 50 silver to hunt properly for a few hours and then earn your money on the frontier? Frankly, I think it is better to hunt here for several hours even if I have to spend 1 gold. But you also need money for food and repairs so the cost is just 50 silver.”
The user nodded.
“Yes, then I’ll hunt here.”
“Thank you. Then I’ll take 1 gold for the moment.”
“Huh? 1 gold? Didn’t you tell me it was 50 silver just now?”
“Yes, the hunting fee is 50 silver. The remaining 50 silver is a deposit. I will return the deposit once you reach level 10 and leave R-14.”
Ark said with a smile. In fact, the problem Ark was most worried about when commercializing the hunting ground was security. The reason the octopuses tried to kill Ark was because this was illegal. If the crew learnt that the octopuses were secretly raising space bugs then everything would be seized. So Ark made sure that the customers received the <Cleaning R-14’s Air Circulation Pipes> from Cheksun. That’s why level 7~8 users were the main customers. Level 7 or higher users could hunt for 5 hours before reaching level 10. There was little danger of the level 10 users informing other users and the crew as they would immediately leave R-14. However, he couldn’t be reassured with just that.
‘In some cases, the users might feel vindictive and file a complaint!’
Ark didn’t believe in users. People were animals who could change their minds at any moment. It was a game so nothing more needed to be said. No user would feel guilty for killing someone. The deposit from users was a safety precaution. Ark would return the 50 silver once the users reached level 10 and were on the verge of leaving R-14.
‘This is to ensure that the hunting ground isn’t discovered but…..’
Thus Ark intentionally took a different complicated path every time he took them to the hunting ground. Even if they knew about the existence of the hunting ground, the users or NPCs wouldn’t be able to find it. Soon the hunting ground would become an urban legend of R-14! He had placed a threefold security device!
‘Yes, this is sufficient.’
The business was successful. No, it was a business that had no choice but to succeed when considering R-14’s job shortage. Ark went around for a few hours and gathered 20 users from sectors 1~5. He managed to collect 10 gold at once.
Burum trembled while looking at the 10 gold. The octopuses only received 20 copper when cleaning 200 metres of pipe.
10 gold for them was like cleaning 5,000 kilometres. Burum was giddy after seeing such a large amount of money.
-It is possible to gain money like this. T-then we should attract more pioneers…..
“That would be a problem.”
Ark declared firmly.
“It won’t work. The marketability of this hunting ground is the amount of monsters. The proliferation of the bugs is slower than the users’ hunting rate so 20 users is just right. If more users gather then the merit would fall. In addition, security will suffer if the number of users increases.”
If they ate to much then an accident was likely to occur. Although greed was necessary for business, sometimes patience was required.
“This is a long-term business. If we continue to bring 20 users then the earnings will steadily increase. If you want to increase revenue then the only way is to increase the users’ hunting speed.”
–Increase the users’ hunting speed? What do you mean?
“Helping them level up faster.”
Ark pointed towards the hunting grounds.
“Pant pant, I don’t have much health left. I’ll take it easy for a while.”
The users had hunted like crazy for a while so they started gasping and panting. The level 7 users had teamed up in groups of 5 and fought a few space bugs at once. It was different from sectors 1~5 as the users could rest if they lost a lot of health. Ark didn’t like that. They needed to quickly get to level 10 so he could attract other customers. Ark quickly approached the resting users.
“You paid a high fee to enter so shouldn’t you increase your level a little faster?”
“But I don’t have much health left.”
“Then I’ll give you the recovery service.’
Ark winked and the octopuses suddenly swarmed. A few of them attached to 1 person and their health was quickly restored.
“Eh? Health recovery!”
“Huhuhu, this is a service for people using the paid hunting ground.”
Of course, this also wasn’t free. He got one space bug leather and meat every time they used the service! Some users rejected it but they saw other users quickly raising their level and eventually gave in to the service system. Even if they collected 20 japtem and reported the quest, they could only receive 20 silver. It was better to give up some silver to raise their experience.
“Hunt quickly. You paid 50 silver for this hunting ground. Isn’t it better to quickly reached level 10 so you can gather expensive loot on the frontier?”
Ark eagerly supported the users. If users were replaced quickly then it would further enrich Ark’s wallet. The problem was the distributing of income between Ark and the octopuses. However, Ark had clearly clarified this issue before starting the business.
“I didn’t tell the crew and I only thought of the business plan so I want all of the income.”
The octopuses’ eyes popped out at Ark’s words.
–Isn’t that just like having the space bugs confiscated?
–What about us? What about our future?
“It is only until I leave R-14.”
Ark soothed the octopuses with those words.
“I will also leave this place once I gain sufficient experience. Of course I will teach you everything you need to know to operate the hunting ground. The Charenjok can get a steady income for a few months.”
Even if Ark was earning income, he couldn’t stay in R-14 forever. Once he left for the frontiers then he couldn’t return.
Therefore he had to be satisfied with monopolizing the income while he was at R-14. The octopuses obediently accepted Ark’s proposal. No, they lifted their 8 tentacles and made him welcome. Ark had caught their weak point so they had no choice but to accept. He made it clear he would only obtain the income until he left R-14. So he earned 10 gold in one day.
‘Now I can buy a few Modified Alloy Daggers…..’
Ark shook his head and pushed down his impatience.
‘I didn’t clean the pipes simply to make money. It is a process to recover my original mindset. I can’t give that up just because I earned some money. There is the paid hunting ground so I can level up any time I want. At first I just cleaned the pipes to earn money to buy a dagger. I saved 283 mileage points after switching to that method. I only need to complete it 100 more times to earn the dagger so that is 2 days remaining!’
Tighten and oil….scrub….tighten and oil……
Despite Ark’s purse becoming thick, Ark didn’t stop cleaning. Ark couldn’t imagine stopping his pride training.
-Ark, come see me for a bit.
It happened when he competed 300 mileage. He received Cheksun’s call from the Nymphe and went to find him.
“I’m sorry but I have to let you go today.”
“Huh? What do you mean……?”
Ark thought the hunting ground had been discovered and his heart dropped.
“Like I said before, the budget is small thanks to the Charenjok. You’ve saved quite a few mileage so any more would be wasteful expenses for the budget. That’s why I wanted to talk to you…..I have to let you go. I’m sorry.”
‘There is also a limit to repeatable quests.’
He had set his sights on wiping the pipes until he earned enough to buy a dagger. He was reluctant to leave his work one day earlier but it was still valuable. But Ark miscalculated.
“Here it is. You’ve earned 1 gold and 55 silver for you maintenance work.”
“Huh? 1 gold 55 silver?”
“Yes, your contract was 40 copper and you gained 80 silver from the 200 mileage. You also completed it 100 times after becoming Cleaning Foreman so that is 60 silver. The bonus mileage is 15 copper. That is 1 gold and 55 silver.”
‘That’s right! Isn’t this quest made so someone could recover their lost dagger? Then they should earn the value of a dagger by the end. I didn’t calculate the mileage bonus so I added extra time.’
In the end, Ark had achieved his goal. He settled the other problem and he didn’t need to worry about the quest anymore.
“Thank you. But I’ve become familiar with the Charenjok in the meantime. Can I often come here?”
“Of course. You’re always welcome.”
Ark received a definite answer and headed towards the store.
“Wait a moment.”
Cheksun called out to Ark.
“To be honest, this isn’t only due to the instructions from above. You didn’t seem like you were going to quit so I wanted to make you stop.”
“Huh? What does that mean…..?”
“You were in a tough situation after first entering the universe and ended up cleaning the facilities. I was also like that. When I first entered space, I had the thought of engraving my name in history. But the universe was tougher than I thought. Not anyone can succeed as a pioneer. In the end I gave up on my dream but you are still young. Yes, cleaning the pipes isn’t a place for someone like you.”
Cheksun looked at Ark.
“At first I ignored you. But I’ve been watching and you are different from other people. The universe is scary. Endless dangers exist in the universe. Any moment could break the will of a young pioneer. After seeing your hard work, I believe that you can get through any difficulties. I wish for your success so I’ve prepared a small gift.”
Cheksun handed him a toolbox.
Item type: Skill Supplement
The toolbox used by Cheksun, the manager of R-14’s internal facilities maintenance. It is possible to repair simple facilities using this tool. However, the materials to repair the equipment is needed.
<Success rate of Facilities Maintenance increased by 20%>
* Possible to repair general items (Need Resources)
“This is a toolbox that I’ve used. It is old but comfortable to use. And a wrote a letter to some friends on the frontier. My friend Tori operates a company on the frontier so you can receive several favours if you show him my letter.”
Then an information window appeared from the Nymphe.
|-<Sector 7 Manager Cheksun’s Recommendation Letter>
You have worked patiently to clean the pipes at the space station. The sector 7 manager Cheksun appreciated your patient and handed a recommendation letter to his friend called Tori. Cheksun’s old friend Tori was assist you if you show him the recommendation letter. Go see him quickly.
|-You have received the quest item ‘Cheksun’s Letter of Recommendation.’|
Ark wouldn’t refuse it.
Ark’s face became animated. He never imagined this ending to the repeatable quest. But the value of the compensation received from Cheksun wasn’t a problem. He repeated the quest 300 times! He cleaned 30 kilometres of pipes by the time the quest ended. The biggest reward was the increase to his confidence after seeing what he achieved. There was only one thing left to do!
The dagger soared from Ark’s bag. He had completed the quest 300 times and managed to buy the Modified Alloy Dagger! Ark grabbed his dagger and plunged into the paid hunting ground.
“Let’s go! Level up!”
Ark was a free ticket user.