Claang! Clang clang!

 

The steel shovel moved.
Every time it moved, the scorching sun of spring got reflected.

 

I hit the top of the sign, which resulted in a loud and unpleasant iron noise. 

 

Kakaang!

 

At last, the sign got planted deep on the ground.
Only then did Lloyd stop shoveling and wipe the sweat off his forehead.

 

“Phew.”

 

A gentle breeze blew away my beads of sweat.
Basking in the sun’s warm sunlight made me feel good.
And there was this sign that stood right in front of me.

 

A happy smile adorned Lloyd’s face.

 

“Hey, what do you think?” I turned my head and gazed at the silver-haired knight that was standing behind me.

 

Javier, the silver-haired knight who had been questioned by me, repeated my question back along with his indifferent icy gaze.
“What do you mean by what do I think?”

 

“What do I mean? This thing.” Lloyd pointed his hand at the sign.
Javier’s eyes turned towards the sign.
On the sign, there were words written in large letters.

 

 

“You have to put these things in advance.
Otherwise, things could get complicated later.”

 

“How does it get complicated?”

 

“The land is often used to plant chili peppers and cabbages.”

 

There was a bitter smile on Lloyd’s lips.

 

“The grandmothers and ladies of this territory.
If there’s an empty piece of land they like a little, they would thoroughly fill it by planting lettuces, cabbages, and chives.
However, what if we have to start construction on that place?”

 

In fact, such a thing happens a lot in Korea.
Usually, in such cases, the garden is often shoveled and thrown away by an excavator.
In some cases, a financial penalty is imposed on the grandmothers or aunts who were cultivating the field.

 

It was truly a pity.
Of course, Lloyd had no intention of doing that here.

 

“What if I threw away the garden for construction? It will be a perfect reason to accuse me of trampling on a farmer’s precious field.
I can also imagine them calling me a tyrant.
And what about my image, which I’ve been building up recently? It’ll fly away and ascend to the Hellgate first thing in the morning.
Seriously.”

 

 “….
In summary, you meant that you’ll face criticism.”

 

“Yeah.
That’s it.” Lloyd grinned.

 

These days, he has begun to gain the trust of the territory residents.
However, he didn’t want to lose it over a small dispute.

 

“Anyway, we’re going to start the construction soon.
We’ll dig and build a mine here, to dig up the bituminous coal.”

 

“If it’s bituminous coal, do/did you mean black coal?”

 

“Yeah.
You know about it?”

 

“Yes, a little,” Javier nodded.
“I know that it’s a black stone that comes out from the ground.
It’s brittle but it’s a lot better than firewood.”

 

“Yeah.
That’s right.
I’m going to dig it from here.”

 

“Are you saying that there’s bituminous coal buried in there?”

 

“Uh-huh.”

 

Lloyd chuckled.

 

“When I looked up the records, I found that the former lord had attempted to build a mine around here twice but he failed.
The mine collapsed because of the weak bedrock.”

 

That fact was mentioned in the [Iron-Blooded Knight] novel.

 

The contents of the novel suddenly came to mind.

 

Lloyd’s father, Baron Arcos Frontera, eventually committed suicide after suffering from the debt’s pressure.
Just before he hung himself, he let out a groan.

 

If only Matthias Frontera, his predecessor, had succeeded in developing the mine, such a tragedy wouldn’t befall today.
Of course, Lloyd remembered correctly when the novel mentioned it.

 

That was why.
From the beginning when he decided to develop this territory, the development of the mountain’s vein was engraved on the schedule as an essential course.
Needless to say, he didn’t forget to confirm this information.

 

For checking the veins, the survey skill that had risen to intermediate level recently was helpful.
By activating the survey skill, identifying everything inside the underground within the range of 5 m was possible.
Grasping the composition of bedrock, groundwater, or mineral veins was doable.

 

‘It would be nice if I could scan deeper.’

 

First of all, according to my research, this place was the most optimal.
So I built a paved road.
Its purpose was to facilitate the coal’s transportation from the mine so it went smoothly. 

 

“Coal is going to be the breadwinner of our territory for the time being.
Plus, it would probably be the most efficient means of preventing the firewood crisis, which will start this winter.”

 

“What do you mean by firewood crisis?”

 

“We’re going to run out of firewood because of the ondol room I’ve been building these days.
This is not a prophecy, but an inevitability and a necessity.”

 

Lloyd shrugged his shoulders and continued, “That’s the way old heating technology is supposed to be.
It’s hot, but it consumes a lot of firewood.
You don’t just heat up a kitchen with a fireplace, but the whole floor of the house.
Because of this, our forest resources are going to be used up.
To put it simply, in a few years’ time, this mountain will be stripped bare.”

 

“Because they’re going to cut down too many trees for firewood?”

 

“Uh-huh.”

 

“Then…”

 

“Did I predict the harmful consequences? Of course I did.”

 

Lloyd’s smile became slightly wicked.

 

“Who am I? I’m the one who designed the ondol heating system.
Naturally, I expected this much.
Everyone will start feeling it after half of this winter has passed.
The fact that we’re running out of firewood we’ve been preparing since fall.”

 

“So you deceived everyone?”

 

“Did I?”

 

“Yes, you did.” Javier’s voice grew cold.
“They believed in Lloyd, so they demolished the fireplace inside their house and installed ondol.
But, if we run out of firewood, we’ll spend the rest of the winter shivering in the cold.”

 

“Uh-huh.
That’s right.”

 

“So you are scamming them.”

 

“Hm, that’s not true.”

 

“If you do that.…”

 

“I’m going to sell coal.”

 

“To the fief residents?”

 

“Uh-huh.
Coal is the best fuel for fire if we could dig it out.
You can’t live without buying it.”

 

That was Lloyd’s plan.
Spread ondol heating system in the territory.
The higher the demand for ondol, the less the supply for firewood.

 

Ondol’s inherent disadvantage, which is the extreme consumption of firewood, will be highlighted.  At that time, the coal he stored will be sold to the fief residents.
The first round of profit was made from ondol construction.
The second round of profit will come from the coal sale. 

 

“What if ondol construction spread to neighboring territory? We can just export coal to them.”

 

Ondol and coal.
These two go hand-in-hand in bringing profits that will be a great help to resolve the territory’s debt.
This thought made Lloyd’s smile villainous.
Javier’s expression, on the other hand, hardened.

 

 

“Did Lloyd-nim plan all of this in advance?”

 

“Uh-huh.”

 

“Since when?”

 

“From the very beginning, when I visited, apologized, and signed the first ondol contract with the bar owner together with you.”

 

“….”

 

“If you want to say something, say it.
Don’t curse me with your eyes.”

 

“May I do it?”

 

“Uh-huh.” Lloyd nodded.

 

As if he was waiting for this moment, Javier said, “You are a manipulative human being.”

 

“Better than being naive.”

 

“This is why I hate it.”

 

“You mean me?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“But what to do?”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“That human being you hate is the one who always gives you a good night’s sleep every night.”

 

“….”

 

“So you don’t like the lullaby service too?”

 

“…..”

 

“Punk, what are you thinking hard about? Look at you rolling your eyes.”

 

“….”

 

“Ahjussi, it’s so obvious that you fixed your gaze after listening to me.”

 

“….”

 

“Open your eyes, dude.
I won’t tease you.”

 

“…..”

 

“Don’t worry.
So cute.”

 

“I….”

 

“Nevermind.
I’m not going to cut off the lullaby service so don’t whine like a puppy who needs to poo.”

 

….
I’m not a puppy! Javier almost cried out unconsciously.
However, Lloyd’s remark which came out first interrupted his cry.

 

“Well, I understand roughly why you’re taking sides now.
You think I’m cleverly deceiving and exploiting everyone.
That kind of attitude feels villainous to you, I guess.
I know it all and won’t deny it.
But what can I do? For now, let’s save our territory first.”

 

Lloyd’s evil smile became a little bitter.

 

“You know what? To be honest, when I was a child, I thought money wasn’t everything in this world.
But as I got older, it seems like I was mistaken.
Nothing is more important than money.
Money is much better than what I had thought in my childhood days.”

 

“But, Lloyd-nim….”

 

“That’s right.
Money can’t buy happiness, no matter what.
But if you have money, you’ll be happier.
So, first of all, let’s make some money even if my way is cheap and mean.
Let’s settle some of our territory’s accumulated debts, shall we?”

 

“….” Javier shut his mouth.
As soon as he realized Lloyd’s intention, the disgust that had gathered subsided.

 

Lloyd Frontera smiled at himself after confidently saying all that.
The look in his eyes seemed to say, ‘I’ll take on the curses.
Blames? Pointed hands? I’ll take those too.’

 

So, just close your eyes and follow me.
That’s what he seemed to say.

 

“…..”

 

This person in front of me.
I thought he was a worthless ruffian.
He often was an embarrassing person some time ago.
He still is.
But now, I don’t hate him at all.

 

‘Although your way of doing things is mean and rough.’

 

After all, what he did was often right.
He helped me on completing the Asrahan Core Technique.
He revealed Sir Neumann’s betrayal.

 

So, what about now? Maybe he was laying the groundwork for the territory to leap forth.

 

“I understand.” Javier involuntarily smiled and spoke frankly to Lloyd, “I’ll agree.”

 

Lloyd, the one I escort.
I looked at him with sincere eyes.
Lloyd looked straight at me too.
He then tilted his head.

 

“You’ll agree? To my plan?”

 

“Yes, of course.”

 

“Youu, what are you thinking about just now?”

 

“Pardon?”

 

“I never asked for your approval nor permission.”

 

“…..”

 

“That’s right.
I’m the territory lord’s son.
Why would I need your approval to dig a mine? Me?”

 

“….”

 

“So put aside your delusions.
Will you get out of my way? Let’s do some survey.”

 

Javier’s graceful face crumpled up.
Lloyd said that while laughing mischievously.

 

As expected, Javier is a fun guy to tease.

 

 

 

Starting from that day, Lloyd spent the whole day sticking around the mine site.
Surveying the surroundings and analyzing the site. 

 

Two attempts to construct a mine in the past.
Two consecutive failures. 

 

He drew a construction plan in accordance with the case.

 

‘The answer is not in the conventional rock drilling methods.
It takes a long time, and above all, too dangerous.’

 

There were records of the past construction failures inside the mansion’s library.
As I looked at them, it was recorded that they used traditional rock drilling methods both times.

 

‘They proceeded by scorching the rock with fire and cooling it down so the rock split.’

 

That was the conventional method of breaking rocks. 

 

What if a big rock comes out while digging? The workers set the rock on fire until it gets very hot.
In that state, they then pour cold water on it.
Sudden temperature change gets applied to the heated rock.
Along the grain, the rock will split.
It also will become easy to break.

 

‘That was how they progressed at first.
But they couldn’t advance more than 30 m.
The mine collapsed.
Twice.’

 

It went without saying that the unlucky workers got buried there.
Therefore, Lloyd’s grandfather, Baron Matthias Frontera, gave up on the mine construction.

 

‘The reason is simple.
Because the bedrock is weak.’

 

If the nature of the vulnerable bedrock is not properly understood, accidents are bound to occur. 

 

The bedrock of this mountain—within his understanding—is a kind of soft ground that is made of a mixture of some rocks and loose soil.
Thus, mobilizing a customized method for the environment was essential.

 

“So, I’m going to use the shield tunneling method.”

 

“Shield tunneling method?”

 

They were in the middle of dinner.
Lloyd then gave the baron who sat across the table a piece of paper. 

 

“I’ve been thinking about it.
Here’s the conceptual diagram of the shield tunneling method.”

 

“A conceptual diagram.” The baron’s eyes turned to the conceptual diagram. 

 

Lloyd continued his explanation, “To put it simply, the cylindrical frame made of steel is called the shield.
Workers enter the shield to dig up dirt and rocks.
In the meantime, the shield will withstand the mine’s pressure and prevent it from collapsing.”

 

“Hmm, is it a support that’s sort of a shield?”

 

“That’s correct.
Have you heard of shipworms?”

 

 “Ship… worm?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Elaborate.”

 

“Roughly, it is an animal that is the distant relative of squid or snail.
It’s a terrible fellow who gnaws the bottom of the boat and makes holes on it.”

 

“But, what does such an animal have to do with this construction right now?”

 

“It’s the inspiration of the shield tunneling method,” said Lloyd with a smile.

 

That was the truth.

 

In fact, in the mid-1800s, the construction of the Thames Tunnel—which was drilled beneath the Thames River in London, England—was carried out this way.

 

At that time, an engineer named Marc Brunel—who designed the Thames Tunnel—saw the ecology of shipworms, got an idea, and developed a new method.
Which is the shield tunneling method.

 

“Shipworms drill holes onto the wood at the bottom of a ship with a pair of small shells at its end.
However, wood swells when submerged in water, and the hole—which was dug as far as possible—could become narrow so the shipworm can get caught in the hole and die.
To prevent this, the shipworm simultaneously digs a hole and applies secretion to the inner side of the tunnel.
As the secretion hardens, it prevents the hole from narrowing.
The shield tunneling method works the same.”

 

Lloyd pointed at his conceptual diagram.

 

“The shield acts like the secretion of the shipworm.
Protecting the workers while acting as the vanguard when drilling holes.
Inside the shield, the workers will form groups.
Some are digging the hole while others are installing the equipment to prevent the mine from collapsing in real-time.”

 

“Just like that bug that spreads its secretion inside the hole to prevent the hole from collapsing?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“So you’re going to advance little by little while digging and reinforcing the hole simultaneously.”

 

“That’s a pretty accurate summary.”

 

Lloyd then explained the plan in more detail.
The baron listened attentively to Lloyd.

 

In the meantime, the baron got very interested.
Coal is a wonderful resource to be used as fuel for fire.
If you can dig it up, it’s money.

 

The baron, burdened by an enormous amount of debt, couldn’t help but be tempted.
In addition, the new method Lloyd proposed also seemed plausible.

 

Finally, the baron allowed the construction.

 

“Good.
But there’s one condition.”

 

“What is it?”

 

“During the construction process, I don’t want you to go inside the mine.”

 

“Because it’s dangerous?”

 

“Of course.” The baron’s answer was firm.
“The fact that it’s a new method doesn’t guarantee it’s perfectly safe.”

 

“But that’s not going to work.”

 

“Why is that?”

 

“If I don’t go in, what kind of worker will believe the safety of the new method?”

 

“…..”

 

“Besides, we have to keep an eye on the situation and its changes in the site’s environment.
That way, accidents could be prevented.”

 

“But….”

 

“I promise.
I’ll be safe.”

 

“Sigh.”

 

Since then, they continued to argue back and forth.
But, Lloyd was the side who was more stubborn.
In the face of his stubbornness, the baron eventually raised his hands. 

 

That was how the construction of the mine was decided.

 

However, Lloyd didn’t start the construction immediately.
This was because he had something to prepare before the construction.

 

He waited for the night to come and put Javier to sleep.

 

In the middle of the night, he stepped out to the training ground in the backyard.

 

The system window was loading.
He opened the “Random Summon of Phantom Species” menu. 

 

“I can’t use Ppodong for this project.
He’s too big to dig a tunnel, so it’s rather dangerous.
However, it’s going to take a long time to dig a tunnel with human strength alone.”

 

If the construction period got prolonged, it would cost more money.
The shield tunneling method only makes the construction safer.
Speeding up the construction isn’t possible.
Therefore, in order to reduce the construction period and save construction costs, competent help is needed.

 

‘If possible, it would be better if it had the ability to dig underground.’ Lloyd thought so and ran the ‘Random Summon’ menu.
There was just enough RP after he used it last time.

 

[Random Summon Cost (2nd time) = 70 RP]

[Current RP: 119]

[Do you want to do a random summon?]

[YES/NO]

 

I chose ‘YES’

 

[Summoning a random phantom species]

 

Paaatss….

 

A pale light flooded the space.
The space fluctuated as a complex magic circle was engraved.

 

An unfamiliar silhouette began to be seen in the turbulent space.

 

A new phantom species finally revealed itself.

 

Lloyd’s eyes widened as he looked at it.

 

tl/n: Oh Lloyd, you’re such a brat.
XD

I won’t be surprised if Javier wanted to cut you down.

Btw, thank you for the Ko-fis! I’m sorry I couldn’t give you all a bonus chapter because I’m still in the middle of my final college assignment.

 

I’d greatly appreciate it if you would buy me a coffee!

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