Chapter 26

After ordering the food, the three of them carried on a conversation until the food came out. No, it was wrong to say that the three of them spoke. To be precise, Chelsea spoke continuously with Jimin, and Jimin would occasionally answer her.

In many ways, Sungyoon had turned into a third wheel, but he preferred this. Also, Chelsea was quite entertaining. She spoke about her research on the Moon, mostly spoke about the inconveniences of living on the Moon. It was useful information for him since he was going to be living on the Moon and would be raiding the labyrinth. 

Still, it wasn’t as if Sungyoon was completely shut out from the conversation. Jimin and Chelsea occasionally asked him a question.

He could feel everyone staring at them. He was sitting with two beauties, both on a different level. Everyone kept stealing glances towards them, yet the two women remained cool under their gazes. Jimin and Chelsea were used to it.

People looked at Sungyoon too. However, it wasn’t the amorous glances sent towards Jimin and Chelsea. Most of them were glaring at him with jealousy in their eyes. Unlike what those men thought, Sungyoon wasn't feeling welcome being in this situation.

After a certain amount of time had passed, their food started to come out. A good looking waiter and waitress started to bring out their food.

“Wow. It smells so good.”

Chelsea sounded as if she was in ecstasy as she looked at the steak in front of her. She lowered her nose towards the steak and inhaled. She looked like she was about to drool from her open mouth.

“Please mind your manners.”

“Ahahaha! Manners? If I was going to mind my manners, I wouldn’t have come here wearing this.”

Chelsea was undaunted by Jimin’s criticism. She shook her dirty lab coat as she let out a hearty laughter. Then, taking up her fork and knife, she started to dissect the steak.

Sungyoon also cut up his steak and placed a piece in his mouth.

‘Wow!’

The juice from the meat flooded his mouth. Was the price of the steak influencing how it tasted? It would be unfortunate if the food in the range of 10 million won wasn’t delicious. The reason didn’t matter. In the end, it was delicious.

“Kooo! As expected of this restaurant, they have the best chefs in Armstrong!”

Chelsea pounded the table with her fork. Jimin once again told her to quiet down. However, the smile never left Chelsea’s face.

‘A top-notch chef made this.’

Fortunately, his brain hadn’t tricked his taste buds. He once again put more food in his mouth. Even during his more successful days, it was extremely rare for him to eat food this good.

“How’s the food? Is it good?”

“Yes, it is delicious.”

As he answered Jimin’s question, he once again used his fork and knife on the meat.

“I never expected us to eat such a gourmet meal on the Moon. I wouldn’t have minded if we went to a cheaper restaurant.”

A single piece of steak was like shoving a couple of hundred dollars into his stomach. The thought made him flinch inside.

“There are no cheap restaurants here. Most of the stores in Armstrong are at this level.”

Something unbelievable was said by Chelsea.

“…they are all on this level?”

“Yes. The eye-popping price comes from the cost of transporting the ingredients, and the cost of the chef living on the Moon. The original cost of the ingredients is a very small percentage of the sales margin and the operating expense. Of course, it is a lot of money, but the cost of living and transportation is too high here. That is why the profit margin doesn’t change much, even if they use high-quality ingredients and the best chefs. Would it matter if it was 1,001 million, 1,050 million or 1,100 million won? The difference is small in the grand scheme of things. What would happen if such foods were tasteless?”

Chelsea waved her fork as she gave an explanation. Jimin was glaring at her once again, so she discreetly put down her fork.

“…I see. Everything is expensive, so great service is required.”

“That’s right.”

“In addition, each country chose the people that get to come up here. It means only those with proven skills get to come up here.”

Jimin gave an additional explanation.

“Well, politics also plays a big part too.”

“Politics?”

Chelsea had put a piece of steak in her mouth. She chewed as she spoke. Sungyoon responded to her statement. 

“Yes. Politics. You do know that it isn’t good for an economy if money is gathered in one place? In the case of Connectors, they make a massive amount of money. This is especially true for the high ranked Connectors. A massive amount of money is tied up in their bank accounts. The amount of income brought in by the 1st Gen Connectors… Whew. It is ridiculous.”

She fluttered her hand.

“Every government would want to extract that money in any way possible. The governments could tax them, but there is a limit. They can’t be unreasonable by taxing them 70-80% of their income. There would be an incredible amount of backlash. That is why the governments try to make the Connectors spend their money. Places of entertainment are set up anywhere the Connectors reside for an extended amount of time. The Connectors put their lives on the line to raid the labyrinths. This is why most of them are compulsive spenders. They don’t know when they will die, so many of them are loose with their money. Of course, the entertainment industry is a booming success here. Moreover, they price the services high, so the stores are able to have high-profit margins. It would be called rip-off on Earth, but no one would complain here. This is THE place to make a profit.”

Sungyoon looked down at his place. He could still see steam rising up from his half-eaten steak. In his eyes, the steam looked like money evaporating into the air.

It seemed he would have to change his mindset if he wanted to live in the Lunar city of Armstrong. He made a resolve to do so.

* * *

“Ah! The food was great!”

When Chelsea exited the restaurant, she stretched her two arms as she let out a shout.

“I had given up on eating good food until the next time I would've gone back to Earth. This is why it is good to have a well-off friend!”

Chelsea hugged Jimin. Chelsea was much taller, so Jimin was engulfed in her hug. Jimin said she couldn’t breathe, so she tried to push Chelsea away. But Chelsea was like a tick. She wouldn’t let go of Jimin.

Sungyoon let the two friends have their moment of skinship. He looked up at the dome’s ceiling.

The intensity of the light within the city was getting weaker. It seemed this was how they differentiated day and night. They didn’t completely turn off the light, but if one closed the curtain, it was dark enough to sleep.

The surrounding streets had become busy. It was like any other city. Bars and shops turned their lights on, and they greeted the customers. People were already drunk on the street. Their faces were red as they laughed madly.

“People should be returning from the labyrinths.”

Chelsea let go of Jimin as she spoke. Jimin’s hair was all disheveled, so she rearranged it. Her eyes narrowed as she pinched Chelsea’s arm. Chelsea let out a scream, exaggerating her pain.

“It’s time for me to go. If I stay any longer, I’m afraid I’ll be murdered by my friend.”

She covered the location where she had been pinched. She acted as if she had been knifed or shot by a gun. She staggered on her feet.

“Yes. Leave. I won’t buy you anything next time, you wench.”

“Ooh hue hue. Please show me a good time next time we meet!”

Chelsea once again hugged Jimin. The hug was part of the goodbye, so Jimin didn’t resist this time.

“Let’s do well in our future endeavors, Mr. Sungyoon.”

After she moved away from Jimin, she pushed her hand out toward Sungyoon.

“Please look after me.”

Sungyoon grabbed her hand lightly, and he shook it.

Chelsea let out a bright smile as she looked at Sungyoon. However, Sungyoon had a vague idea that there was a coldness hiding behind her smiling face. Her cold eyes were dissecting him. She hid it behind her bright and energetic personality. However, she was a scientist, and she was dispassionately dissecting and assessing him. He was a stranger. She wasn’t ready to put her guard down in front of him.

‘That’s great.’

It was good news for Sungyoon.

Chelsea waved with both hands as she walked away. Jimin gave a small wave. When Chelsea disappeared from their sight, Jimin put down her hand.

“She’s a whirlwind, right?”

Jimin let out a bitter laughter. She looked like a big sister watching her immature younger sister play at the pool. However, there was true affection within her voice. They were true friends.

“She is a bit of a whirlwind. I can also tell that she really likes you.”

“She is a really affectionate person. I was lucky to have met her. If something happens later, you can consult Chelsea. She is a researcher, so she’s been here for a while. She knows a lot about this city.”

“Understood.”

“Shall we get moving? I want to show you something before we return to our lodging.”

The two of them started walking the streets of the city once again.

The people around them acted the same as the people on Earth. They had safely finished their work today, so they were excited. They wanted to let some steam off, so the people around them wanted to enjoy their night. In fact, the people were more excited here compared to Earth.

He remembered what Chelsea had said earlier. The Connectors risked their lives to raid the labyrinths, and many of them pursued pleasure afterward. Since they didn’t lose their lives today, they were happy and excited. Sungyoon guessed they wanted to celebrate that fact.

It sounded as if there was an argument in the front. Sungyoon could hear shouts and cursing. Sungyoon saw a man with two women in his arms. The women were showing a lot of skin on the side. The man laughed out loud as he walked by Sungyoon. He talked about how much he had gained and lost in the casino.

Basically, this place was a vortex of basic human desires.

However, it became quiet once again after Sungyoon and Jimin left downtown.

“Not all Connectors live their lives like that. The ones that can’t bring in an absurd amount of income live normally. No, I guess it is a bit of a sad life. Most of the normal Connectors have to live in small lodgings. They ate a minimal amount of food by supplementing their diet with vitamin packs. Of course, all the facilities within Armstrong are above average compared to Earth. The normal Connectors may be able to live the high life on Earth, but they have to live like normal people in Armstrong. This city revolves solely around money. This place has the most disparity between the haves and have nots.”

As he heard more about the city, he realized Armstrong was a terrifying city. He shook his head. He wondered if he’ll be fine living here.

* * *

The last place Jimin wanted to visit was the outer wall of the dome. He could see many vehicles and people moving in and out through a massive tunnel that went through the wall. Sungyoon recognized it in a single glance. This was the entrance that connected the city of Armstrong and the outside. If they went through this tunnel, they would be able to walk on the surface of the Moon.

“Are you ready?”

It didn’t take long for Jimin to put on another spacesuit. Sungyoon nodded.

The two of them moved towards the entrance. The large wall started to open, and Sungyoon gulped. As soon as the wall was opened, Sungyoon and Jimin moved with the cars and a crowd of people. When the wall was closed once again, the two of them started climbing the wall from the outside.

Hoo-oong!

Wind started to blow in their surrounding. The wind shrieked as the air exited out into the dark space. Soon, his ears couldn’t pick up any sound. He slowly started seeing the outside as the gap in the wall widened.

The desolate gray field of the Moon was revealed.

The people and the vehicles started to move as one. Sungyoon and Jimin slowly exited towards the outside.

The first thing he noticed was the moon’s gravity. It was one-sixth of the gravity of Earth. It was as if steel weights were lifted from his body and his body felt light. Then he stepped onto the surface of the Moon. The Moon had been bombarded by meteor through the long years, so the ground was covered with dust. Due to the lack of winds, there were deep footprints everywhere.

Sungyoon looked at his surroundings. The vast and desolate field of the Moon stretched out in front of him. At his back, the enormous city of Armstrong obstructed his view. On top of the horizon, he could see the lights of stars. 

Tap! Tap!

Jimin tapped on his shoulder. When he looked at her, he saw her pointing towards the sky.

This was the last thing Jimin wanted to show Sungyoon. He realized what it was.

Earth was floating above them in the sky.

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