Blue jewel of the universe, Cradle of mankind, The earth had many nicknames. It was the paradise of life quietly floating within the ocean of darkness. Sungyoon had seen a lot of pictures, and technology had advanced to a point where one could see live video of earth from the International Space Station.
However, he was now standing on the moon. It was a totally different experience looking up at earth from the moon. It left a deep impression within him.
‘Shinhae is over there….’
His most precious treasure was over there. This fact alone made earth the most beautiful planet in the universe.
He lost track of time as he stared up at earth. If Jimin hadn’t tapped his shoulder from the back, he might have stood there all day.
“It is quite the experience, right?”
It was the same question she asked when he returned from the labyrinth. It seemed this was a fantastic experience for her too as her cheeks were flushed. She normally spoke with a cold and calm voice. However, there was clear excitement in her voice.
“Yes, it is.”
Sungyoon looked a bit dazed as he spoke. If he closed his eyes, it felt as if he could see a blue dot above the shroud of darkness.
“Whenever I visit the moon, I never leave without looking up at the earth like this. It is worth the trouble to come out here.”
She let out a sigh as she lowered her gaze.
“I wish the visor of the space suit wasn’t there. I want to watch earth with nothing in the way, but that is impossible.”
She couldn’t do as she liked, because they were in vacuum. If she didn’t have the protection of the space suit, she wouldn’t be able to avoid death. The things she wanted to do could only be done by Connectors.
“Are you jealous?”
She pouted. It hadn’t been long since they’ve become acquainted, but he had a general grasp of her personality. She wasn’t the type of person to express her feelings like this. But at this moment, she was like any young vibrant woman, and she was acting her own age. It was as if earth’s mysterious magic had casted a spell on her. He had that thought.
‘Ms. Strobe would have loved it if she saw this.’
He thought about the blonde beauty he met today. He remembered her personality. If she saw Jimin right now, she would have rushed Jimin, calling her cute.
However, the spell lasted only for a moment. It didn’t take long for her to return to her usual self. It seemed she was self-conscious and had realized that she was becoming overly excited. Her ears had turned slightly red, and it seemed she was embarrassed.
Sungyoon didn't say anything. He acted as if he hadn’t seen anything. In the first place, he rarely initiated a conversation with her. She would calm down if he did nothing.
“Let’s start heading back to our lodging.”
She coughed as she tried to speak in a nonchalant manner. However, her acting skill was a bit clumsy and awkward. Her voice sounded a little bit higher in pitch.
“Let’s do that.”
Sungyoon forced himself not to tease her. He followed behind her without saying anything.
The two of them walked without speaking once again.
Sungyoon kept up with Jimin, who kept walking at a brisk pace. After coming to the moon, he had experienced many things that transcended common sense. He was worried he would experience something unexpected at his lodging. He tried to calm his heart by sticking close to this woman even if she was much younger than him.
In an instant, Sungyoon came to a halt. His face turned white as it stiffened.
“Can you feel that?”
Jimin turned around. However, Sungyoon wasn’t able to answer Jimin’s question. He kept opening and closing his mouth, while he made no sound.
“In truth, I wondered if I should bring you here, Mr. Sungyoon. However, since you are aiming for this place, so I thought it would be best if you experienced this now.”
Jimin raised her arm. Her finger was pointing towards a location.
“This is one of the two things I wanted to show you last, Mr. Sungyoon. You saw the first one already. It was a beautiful and fantastic view of earth. The other thing I wanted to show you is that.”
Sungyoon followed Jimin’s finger as he slowly turned his head.
He saw the entrance to a cave. It looked like a gigantic maw. At a glance, it looked like the entrance to the Beginner's labyrinth, which he had entered earlier.
However, it wasn’t the entrance to the Beginner’s labyrinth.
That labyrinth had high traffic. This labyrinth barely had anyone entering it. Moreover, the people entering this labyrinth looked different from the Connectors entering the Beginner's labyrinth. They carried themselves differently, and the equipment around their bodies were better by leaps and bounds. It couldn’t be compared.
Above all else, he had a feeling. His skin felt electric, and his non-beating heart felt like it was about to cry out. He wanted to retreat, but his feet wouldn’t move. It felt as if fear had seeped into his soul.
“That is the Great Labyrinth.”
Her voice sounded distant in his ears. All the positive feelings he had gained from watching earth was wiped away in one go.
“I heard Connectors feel fear when they see the Great Labyrinth for the first time.”
“…it truly is scary.”
He had to forcibly move his tongue. As time passed, he slowly started gaining more control over his body. His body felt as if it was shocked, but he was able to move his body once again.
“…is that all you have to say?”
“Should I have said something else?”
The sensation he felt was truly frightening. If he let his head guide his actions, he would have turned his head away. However, there was no way he would turn his gaze away. He stared straight at the Great Labyrinth. This place was his goal. He deepened his resolve.
“You are very brave. Most Connectors fall to their knees when they feel the pressure coming from the Great Labyrinth. They can’t look straight at it.”
It didn’t matter what Gen Connector one was. This place affected them the same way. There were even some 3rd Gen Connectors, who hesitated to come to this place.
“Then why did you bring me here? What would have happened if you had broken my spirit?”
“Then it can’t be helped. I’ll just have to conclude that Mr. Sungyoon isn’t capable of raiding the Great Labyrinth.”
It didn’t matter if a Connector was low in power. If the Connector had their resolve broken from just seeing the Great Labyrinth, the prospect of that person raiding the Great Labyrinth in the future was nonexistent.
In truth, Jimin had been very nervous. Sungyoon was her last hope. There had been a good chance that her last hope would have been destroyed at the starting point. Fortunately, he didn’t show any signs of succumbing to the fear he felt.
‘At the very least, he won’t quit right now.’
That was enough for her. If he didn’t give up, she would continue to hope. Even if her hope was hanging by a thread.
Like Jimin, Sungyoon was feeling many emotions at that moment.
He hadn’t completely overcome his fear. In truth, he wanted to walk away. He wanted to be as far away from this place. However, he was stubborn, and he kept his eyes on the Great Labyrinth. He would never be able to step into the Great Labyrinth if he ran away. He couldn't run away just because he felt fear.
He won’t be able to fulfil his contract.
This thought kept his gaze and feet in place. It kept him from leaving the Great Labyrinth behind.
* * *
After his field trip to the Great Labyrinth, Sungyoon and Jimin went to their lodging. It seemed Sungyoon was still in shock from seeing the Great Labyrinth. His mind was elsewhere as the two of them arrived at their lodging. They didn’t say much as they went to their respective rooms to sleep.
Then he welcomed his first morning on the moon.
“Did you sleep well?”
Jimin spread jam on her toast as she asked the question. He sat across from her. He was chewing on his toast, and his eyes looked a bit bloodshot.
“No. I had a bit of a nightmare.”
It seemed the fear evoked by the Great Labyrinth still had influence over him.
Sungyoon used the butter knife to spread butter on his toast. He tried hard not to think about the price of butter in his hand.
“The facility wasn’t too bad. The bed was comfortable.”
It wasn’t as good as a 5-star hotel, but it was better than a business hotel. Sungyoon was starting to get a deeper understanding of the city of Armstrong. He guessed that the price of this lodging was astronomically high.
When he thought about everything in terms of money, the simple task of eating bread was done in a reverential manner.
“I’ll be heading back today. Even if I have a large inheritance, I’ll go broke if I continue to spend money like this. I’ve told you the basics. Please work hard.”
She looked straight at Sungyoon.
“Please work hard for our goals. Yours and mine.”
It was his and her goal. There was weight to these words. Sungyoon was solemn as he nodded his head.
“Do you want me to see you off?”
“It’s fine. Your time is literally gold in this place. Chelsea said she’ll see me off. I would like you to spend your time clearing the labyrinth.”
“I’ll do so.”
“It is normal for Connectors to spend several months on the moon, while they clear the labyrinth. However, this is your first time here. That is why I want you to come back down to earth after two weeks. You don’t have to overdo it on your first visit.”
She elegantly drank her coffee.
“You also have to take care of the moonstones. There is a different procedure you have to go through to sell it, but we don’t have to sell it right now. You should store it, and you should bring them when you come back to earth. The number of moonstones that could be gathered in the Beginner’s labyrinth in two weeks isn’t that high. You’ll be able to carry it in your carry-on luggage. You’ll just have to pay the luggage fee.”
Sungyoon fingered the moonstones in his pouch.
The moonstones were put on the backburner since Sungyoon and Jimin were interested in the Great Labyrinth. However, the goal of clearing a labyrinth was to acquire moonstones.
“We’ll be able to get the proper price when we put them up for auction. It’ll be the day when you acquire your first earnings.”
Afterwards, he’ll be able to slowly whittle away at his debt.
Finally, it felt as if he had taken his first step to clearing his debt. His debt was like a dog collar around his neck. He almost felt cathartic at the thought of his debt slowly easing away.
“So, I should start collecting the moonstones?”
“You can do that for now. However, I already know what kind of moonstones you’ll find there. It might be enough to cover the travel cost for the round trip between the moon and the earth.”
The travel cost probably meant the cost incurred in using the spaceship.
‘Of course, the price isn't on the same level as riding a plane or a Korean Train Express.’
Items were priced very high on the moon. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say the vast majority of high price was rooted in the shipping charges. There was no way the cost of using the spaceship would be low.
“You should try to acquire a Private labyrinth as soon as possible. That should be your priority. You’ll be able to increase your income from gathering more moonstones. Moreover, you’ll be able to acquire Devices and Gems.”
Sungyoon searched through his memories.
“There are Devices that can fit more than seven Gems, right? Amongst the Gems, one has to be a blue Gem and two has to be indigo.”
Sungyoon looked down at his arm. Four glittering Gems were embedded into his bracelet. The light from one Gem overwhelmed the rest. It was the gold Gem. The rest were purple Gems. Basically, it was the lowest ranked Gems.
He had to find a Device capable of equipping 7 or more Gems. If he included the gold Gem, he needed to find three more Gems. However, he decided not to include the gold Gem in his figure, because he couldn’t use it yet..
“You said the Devices and Gems drop from monsters?”
“Yes. They appear occasionally alongside the moonstones. The probability of the Devices and Gems dropping increases as you go deeper into the labyrinth.”
“Then it is something I’ll have to do.”
Sungyoon picked up the rest of his remaining toast.
“I have to kill the monsters.”
He popped the piece of bread in his mouth as he spoke.
* * *
“I look forward to working with you.”
After saying those words, Jimin left for the space port.
She disappeared from his sight, and he was finally alone. He would have to live in this foreign and rugged city of Armstrong. He put away the money into his wallet. Jimin had given him money to be used in emergencies. Then he got back to work and headed towards the Beginner’s labyrinth. He was here on the moon to work as a Connector.
He would no longer eat delicious meals. There would be no comfortable sleeping places. He’ll either starve, or he’ll supplement his diet with cheap vitamins. He’ll sleep in a lodging place that resembled a chicken coup. It was where the poor Connectors slept. He wouldn’t even dream about wasting the resources given to him by Jimin.
After he walked for a while, he arrived at his ‘workplace’. He found the Beginner’s labyrinth once again crowded. He deepened his resolve and then, summoned his weapons.
He gripped his spear and shield, and he entered the labyrinth for the second time.Previous Chapter Next Chapter