Chapter 22

<Welcome to Armstrong City>

He read the large neon sign with the name of the city on it. Sungyoon felt like he was standing in front of a cabaret club as he blankly stared at the neon sign.

Tap! Tap!

Someone tapped at his shoulder. He looked around to see Jimin giving him a strange look.

“Is something wrong?”

“No. It’s nothing.”

Sungyoon pulled his eyes away from the neon sign and quickly rejoined the group.

They were in the tunnel between the docking station and the outer wall of Armstrong city. When they exited the tunnel, it didn’t take them long to arrive at a location filled with buildings and people.

In an instant, he felt his weight increase. It was as if unseen hands were pulling him towards the ground. The Moon had 1/6th the gravity of Earth, and now he had escaped the gravity of the Moon. He felt like he was back on Earth.

“This city has similar gravity to Earth. They placed a state of the art Device and a massive moonstone underneath the city to achieve this.”

At Sungyoon’s puzzled look, Jimin gave an explanation.

“It seems the moonstones can do everything.”

Sungyoon stamped on the floor a couple of times.

“That is why all countries are dying to have them.”

Jimin replied.

When his body got used to the gravity, he looked up at the ceiling.

<Aldrin Spaceport>

He saw the large letters near the ceiling. It was probably the name of this spaceport.

“…Aldrin Spaceport.”

Sungyoon spoke in a hushed voice.

“Buzz Aldrin. His full name is Edwin Eugene Aldrin Jr. He was the second human to step on to the Moon after Neil Armstrong. This space station is named after him. In some ways, he is an unlucky figure. He was on the same mission as Neil Armstrong. However, because he got off second, most of the masses don't remember him.”

Jimin gave an explanation. Sungyoon had heard Neil Armstrong’s name until his ears fell off. However, this was his first time hearing Buzz Aldrin’s name.

“He was one of the first two humans to land on the Moon, and he has a space station named after him. I guess they gave him his due in the end.”

Jimin continued to walk as she talked. Sungyoon looked at his surroundings as he slowly followed Jimin.

The Aldrin spaceport looked as good as any other airport. One might assume that since it was a facility on the Moon, the spaceport might be small. However, it was as big as any airport on Earth. It also possessed facilities that could be found at a regular airport. Still, this spaceport blew Sungyoon’s mind. It ruthlessly blew apart any preconceived notion he had.

The ceiling rose up high, and light came down from the ceiling. The floor was so smooth that one could see one’s face reflected if one looked down. A crowd of people could be seen lining up at a counter. They had to go through the entry and departure procedures.

The best part about the spaceport was the walls that were made out of glass. It allowed one to see the space and the countless stars. The gray surface of the Moon could also be seen. As a bonus, one could also see spacecrafts continuously landing or departing from the spaceport.

Sungyoon let out a laugh inside when he saw a little cleaning robot move past him. This was an airport in space, yet it was well furnished like an airport on Earth. 

Jimin, who had been walking in front of him, started going through the entry procedure at the counter.

“Please pay attention. You’ll be doing this by yourself next time.”

Sungyoon looked over her shoulder to see what she was doing. He made careful observations.

However, it looked like the usual procedure one went through when going through customs. In fact, it was simpler.

“It isn’t difficult. The act of going to the Moon is like going to a foreign country. Moreover, all countries send people who had their identities verified. That is why the entry process isn’t complex and meticulous.”

Jimin pulled out her ID, which had been issued on Earth. She gave it to the receptionist manning the counter.

“You just have to give them your Connector registration card.”

Sungyoon took out his wallet from his pocket. He took out the registration card, which had been issued from the Office of Business and Administration for the Moon’s Labyrinth. The receptionist compared the picture with Sungyoon. It was as Jimin had said. They weren’t too meticulous in checking his identity. It seemed they weren’t going to go all out in stopping all illegal entries.

The receptionist returned the documents and IDs.

“There is another reason why it is difficult to enter Armstrong city.”

Jimin neatly put away her documents, and then she took out an envelope. She gave it to the receptionist, and the receptionist started to take out and count its content. It was money.

“What is that for?”

Did they need a bribe in order to enter the city? Maybe, they were acting corruptly since they were far away from Earth. However, he was mistaken. The money was for something unexpected.

“It is a visiting fee.”

“Visiting fee?”

“Yes. It is exactly as it sounds. It is the price of staying in the city. Since I’m staying here for two days, I need to pay $2,000 in total.”

For a moment, Sungyoon thought he had misheard.

“…did you say $2,000 for two days?”

Sungyoon looked at the money in the receptionist’s hands. He saw hundred dollar bills.

“Don’t worry about it. Only non-Connectors must pay the visiting fee. You don’t have to pay for it.”

“Still, it costs a thousand dollars a day to stay here. Isn’t that excessive?”

If he assumed that one dollar equaled a thousand won, they were talking about a million won. A million won covered the visiting fee for only one day.

“Does this include lodging and food expenses?”

If those were included, the price made sense. However, Sungyoon’s naivete was broken in an instant.

“This isn’t some vacation package. We must pay separately for lodging and food. This is merely the price of staying in this city.

Sungyoon’s mouth fell open a little bit.

“It takes an astronomical amount of money to repair and maintain this city. Even the air has to be produced in an artificial manner. That is why there are fees involved in using the city’s resources. I don’t know what kind of preconceived notion you have about this city, but it’ll be quite different from what you expected.”

Sungyoon thought about the day when Insoo had spoken about this city. This city was an unbelievably pricey city.

“This city puts taxes on the air you breathe.”

It seemed the Lunar city Armstrong wasn’t a city full of hopes and dreams.

* * *

Sungyoon and Jimin exited the airport. Jimin looked a bit more comfortable now as she fixed her collar. It seemed the spacesuit had been quite uncomfortable.

At first sight, the Lunar city looked like any other city. The road looked well kept, and the buildings looked sturdy. There were even cars on the road.

As soon as Jimin exited the airport, she took a right turn. Sungyoon wordlessly followed her. They walked for 20 minutes when she opened her mouth.

“This place is Armstrong’s District 1. This place holds the spaceports, the consulates of the various countries, and the research facilities. It is also where the Beginner’s Labyrinth is located at. Basically, it is the most important location in Armstrong.”

Jimin stopped in front of a building. It was one of the larger buildings. It was three stories high and was surrounded by a low brick wall with a heavy iron gate. Sungyoon saw the Korean flag planted in front of the building.

“This place is the Korean consulate. If something happens, you should come here to ask for help.”

She ended her explanation about the building and then walked past it. Sungyoon didn’t know anything about this city, so he looked like a little duckling following his mother. He had no choice but to follow after Jimin.

It happened when the two of them walked for 10 more minutes.

Sungyoon’s face hardened with tension. His gaze remained fixed in one location. 

There was a large hole on the outer wall of the city. It looked like the maw of an ancient beast trying to eat its prey. The fear brought up a primitive response.

When Jimin noticed that Sungyoon had become tense, she walked up next to him.

“You can probably guess this, but that’s the Beginner’s Labyrinth.”

He saw people entering and exiting the entrance to the labyrinth. However, their number was quite low.

“There’s not many people there. I guess it is to be expected. Most of the Connectors are probably already in the labyrinth at this time.”

Sungyoon took a glance at her.

“What do you think? Do you want to go in right now?”

Sungyoon glared at the entrance to the labyrinth as if it had killed his parents.

“It is best to rip off the Band-Aid. I want to go in.”

He pressed down on his nervousness as he walked towards the labyrinth.

* * *

Jimin handed something to Sungyoon before he entered the labyrinth.

“This is….”

“It is Mr. Sungyoon’s weapon.”

Sungyoon looked at what she had given him.

He held a bracelet in his left hand. It didn’t have any ornaments. It was a smooth bracelet with four fingernail-sized slots. The grooves were wedge-shaped, cross-shaped, x-shaped, hexagonal-shaped. In her right hand, she held fingernail-sized Gems. Their shapes were an exact match to the slots.

“Devices and Gems. Do you know about them?”

Sungyoon nodded.

“I’m sorry. I’ve already spent a lot of my money, so I can only provide you with this level of equipment.”

Jimin lowered her head as if this was inexcusable. However, Sungyoon was unperturbed. 

“It’s ok.”

She had opened the future for him and his daughter. There was no way he would be disappointed in her for this.

‘So, this is a Device.’

He stroked the smooth surface of the bracelet with his thumb as he had that thought.

The Gems had to be slotted into the Device, and it brought out the power of the Gems. Even if one possessed a good Gem, it would be useless without a Device. It would merely be pretty stones.

He took a closer look at the slots on the Device. The Device’s surface was a dull silver color, but there was a purple light being shone in the slots.

“All four slots are purple rank. Amongst the rainbow rank of Gems, you can only equip the lowest-ranked purple Gems.”

As he heard Jimin’s words, he brought the wedge-shaped Gem up to his eyes. The Gem was also purple.

“As you know, you can only equip equal or lower rank Gems into a Device’s slot. Purple rank is the lowest rank, so you can only use purple Gems.”

Sungyoon placed the wedge-shaped Gem into the slot.

“Did you learn how to activate a Gem?”

“Yes.”

He learned it in basic training not too long ago.

‘I wanted to experience activating a Gem before this moment.’

However, it wasn’t possible. The amount of energy being generated by his heart was weak on Earth. In order to activate a Gem, he had to be on the Moon, or he needed another source that would provide enough energy.

Sungyoon put an image in his mind. He visualized his magical energy activating the Gem.

“When activating a Gem for the first time, it takes a while. You don’t have to rush this. You should take your time.”

He took Jimin’s advice. He concentrated after closing his eyes.

It took around 20 seconds.

Ssssk!

There was a slight flash in his hand, and in an instant, he was holding a long spear.

His eyes shone. He heard about this, but this was the first time experiencing this phenomenon. It was amazing.

Tuhk!

He grabbed the spear with both hands. It was made from an unknown wood, but the shaft was long and slim. It also felt good in his hand.

He took a light swing.

Hoohng!

The sharp spear blade at the end of the spear came down. It was heavy at the end, and it allowed him to rotate his spear. 

Sungyoon wanted to get used to the weapon, so he swung the spear a couple more times.

“…what’s wrong?”

Sungyoon looked at Jimin, while he placed the spear on his shoulder. She was looking at him with surprise in her eyes.

“It is nothing. This time, don’t imagine yourself feeding your magical energy into the weapon. You should think about the weapon itself. The image of the magical energy flowing into the Gem is only used when activating the Gem for the first time. If you think about the ability of the Gem itself, you can activate it much faster.”

Sungyoon did as he was instructed. He dismissed the spear then he visualized the spear in his mind.

Ssssk!

The spear appeared almost at the same time as he visualized the image.

“…is something wrong?”

She once again looked surprised as she looked at him. He queried Jimin.

“No. Nothing is wrong. I was just thinking that you activated the Gem quickly. It even takes an experienced Connector a long time to activate a Gem.”

‘I think I heard about that before.’

He was sure he had been instructed on that fact.

‘Whatever.’

This was a good thing for him, so he didn’t think too deeply about it.

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