She kept her feelings suppressed as she continued to speak.
“Alright. I don’t know which labyrinth you’ll be assigned, but I do know that it won’t be close to Armstrong. You’ll probably have to travel a couple of days in this vehicle.”
The surface area of the Moon was less than the surface area of the continent of Asia, but it was larger than Africa. It was why a vehicle was essential.
“You don’t need some new license to have the permission to drive this vehicle. You just need your driver’s license from your country of origin. It is a vehicle running on a simple motor, so you don’t have to step on the clutch to engage the gear. There are no traffic lights, nor will there be other vehicles driving alongside you. You will be driving across the large and desolate surface of the Moon, so you don’t need good driving skills. Also, unlike normal people, Connectors possess superior physical ability, so they quickly get used to driving these vehicles. So, they really don’t need to administer a driver’s test.”
Jimin had compared it to children driving small toy cars across a large playground. This vehicle was too large to be compared to a toy car, but she was also comparing the playground to the lunar surface. Somehow, the analogy worked.
“Still, roads also exist. To be precise, there are paths that are easier to drive across. You shouldn’t take a straight line to your destination just because it is the shortest route. You might unwittingly fall into a valley and might lose your life.”
The Moon had plains, mountains, and valleys. Above all else, there were a lot of craters on the Moon, the biggest obstacles that got in the way of driving a Moon Surface Vehicle. This was why many Connectors had to take circuitous routes to get to their labyrinths, but due to it, they lost time and money.
“Hence, you should use the navigation system inside the vehicle. It’ll guide you towards the safest paths.”
There were several satellites circling the Moon. They calculated the position of the vehicle and recommended the suitable paths one should take to reach one’s destination. The Moon didn’t have any roads or signs. In many ways, the Satellite Navigation System was the only lifeline available to Connectors traveling across the Moon.
At that moment, Chelsea exited the vehicle. It seemed that she had to get down and dirty when she was inspecting the vehicle. Her already dirty lab coat now had new black spots. She frowned as she rubbed her dirty hands against the lab coat.
“How was it?”
“It’s fine. Although it is an old model, the vehicle is serviceable. You aren’t going to use it for an extended amount of time, right?”
“Of course. When Mr. Sungyoon reaches a certain milestone in clearing his Personal Labyrinth, I’ll buy him a new one.”
“I think it’ll be fine in that context. If you planned on using it indefinitely into the future, I would have stopped you. If you are using it for the short term, it’s fine. What’s the price?”
Even if it was a serviceable vehicle, there was absolutely no reason to buy it if the price was marked up too high.
Jimin told her the price. Chelsea let out a sigh. She wasn’t sighing because the price was unnecessarily high. In fact, it was a very fair price. She just felt her heart lurch when she, once again, had to come to grips that a fair price was still a massive amount of money.
“It isn’t too bad at that price.”
“Really? Thank you.”
When Jimin heard her friend give the affirmative, a satisfied expression appeared on her face. She called for the dealer. The dealer’s fat body shook and jiggled as he approached Jimin, who only spoke one sentence to him.
“I’ll pay the balance.”
A broad smile appeared on the dealer’s lips.
* * *
Sungyoon sat in the driver’s seat. He liked the cushion on it. He adjusted his body a couple of times to check the state of his seat. Afterward, he turned on the engine, but he couldn't hear the distinct sound of an internal combustion engine firing up. The vehicle was so silent that it made one wonder if it was turned on or not. However, the light from the dashboard illuminated him, and the navigation let out a generic notification sound. It notified him that the vehicle’s heart had started up.
As a precaution, Sungyoon rode the vehicle by himself.
He grabbed the steering wheel and slowly pressed down on the gas pedal.
The twelve heavy tires started to spin. These tires were made to run across the surface of the Moon, which was covered in dust. The tires slowly pushed off the surface as the large vehicle started to move.
Sungyoon turned the steering wheel sharply to exit from between the other vehicles, and he increased the speed.
The used car dealership was placed next to the outer wall of the Armstrong city. There was a gate that allowed two to three vehicles to exit outside.
The gate slowly started to open, and a large space could be seen beyond the thick iron gate. But there still stood one final iron gate barring one’s exit. It was the final partition that separated the inner Armstrong city from the outside.
Sungyoon carefully put his vehicle into the empty space. The rear gates slowly started to close. In the next moment, Sungyoon was completely sealed in this space, where the only illumination was the cold, white light from above.
He heard the sound of another gate opening. The final partition was raised, and he could slowly see outside, where one couldn’t see a single sign of life.
The air inside the space was sucked out. As soon as the partition completely opened, Sungyoon once again pressed down on the gas pedal. He frequently went outside of Armstrong, but this was the first time he had traveled using something other than his legs.
The desolate land outside the partition showed signs of frequent traffic. Countless tracks from other vehicles had been left behind, and it looked like a complicated web of tracks. He tried to see where all the tracks went, but he soon realized it was spreading in all directions. Sungyoon drove his vehicle and created fresh tracks over the mess of old tire tracks.
The space looked like black velvet with jewels embedded in it. Sungyoon moved the vehicle this way and that under the stars. It was completely different from driving in Seoul, where the traffic was terrible. He could see the horizon, and it felt as if he could continue to drive into the emptiness until he fell into nothingness. It was a unique experience to drive on the Moon.
* * *
After he drove the vehicle around for a set amount of time, he parked the vehicle in a parking lot outside of Armstrong. He entered Armstrong city on foot. It was called a parking lot, but it was just a large space designated for parking next to Armstrong City. It wasn’t like the parking lot on Earth, where there were white lines. The cars weren’t packed like sardines. In some ways, it looked like a parking lot from a post-apocalypse movie where the cars were strewn all over the place. He saw the scene from the movie overlap with the sight in front of him. Sungyoon took advantage of this large parking lot. He put a lot of space between other vehicles as he parked.
“How was it?”
As soon as he returned to Armstrong, Jimin asked for his impression.
“It wasn't too bad. No, it was great. It was a totally new experience. It was something I could never experience on Earth.”
It was like the scene that showed up frequently in American movies. An old and narrow road, cut across the barren wilderness, and the main character relying on his trusty car to drive towards the setting sun. It gave him a similar feeling. In terms of setting, the moon’s environment was more mysterious, so it felt very thrilling to drive across the Moon.
“I want to ride it too.”
Shinhae spoke with a sulky voice. Sungyoon picked up her once again.
“Is it possible for a child of her size to be able to travel outside?”
“Of course. There are spacesuits for children.”
Jimin had already planned on showing the view of space and Earth to Shinhae. Sungyoon tapped his daughter's pouting lips as he spoke.
“Would you like to go outside tomorrow? Do you want to ride the vehicle with dad?”
“Hmm? I can go?”
“Then, I want to go!”
It looked as if she had never been sulking. The little girl bounced in her father's arms. Her smiling face was so lovable that Sungyoon rubbed his cheek against Shinhae’s cheek.
It was the kind of skinship that was commonly seen between father and daughter. Jimin had a faint smile on her lips as she watched them.
However, there was one person who had never seen this. Round-eyed, she looked at the father and daughter. If one didn’t know her, one might think she looked a little bit spooked.
* * *
It was the promised time for dinner with Tim and Emily. Jimin caught sight of the two siblings, who had come early. Jimin introduced Chelsea to both of them, and she asked if they minded her friend joining the dinner party. She asked for their permission. The siblings readily agreed to it. When another beauty made an appearance, Tim looked at Sungyoon with envy in his eyes, and Emily, she had to put up her guard once again.
Jimin took everyone to the restaurant where she had taken Sungyoon and Chelsea last time. The brother and sister were taken aback by the high-class atmosphere of the restaurant, and they tried to decline going in. But Jimin half dragged the two of them into the restaurant.
When everyone was seated, they ordered their dishes. Tim and Emily were once again taken aback by the price. However, Jimin was gentle in her insistence, and they couldn’t win against her. But they ordered the cheapest dish on the menu.
However, their shock at the price ended right at that moment. They had seen something so shocking that they couldn’t pay attention to the outrageous price of the restaurant anymore.
Sungyoon had sat next to his daughter. Unfortunately, the restaurant didn’t have a high chair for children. It was to be expected as children rarely came to this restaurant. She was sitting in a chair meant for an adult, so only the upper portion of her head was peeking above the table. It was an inconvenient situation for the little girl, yet she continued to smile. She was busy looking at her surroundings with curiosity in her eyes. She looked like a small fairy that had fallen into a world of giants.
Everyone sitting around the table had conversed with Sungyoon from time to time. They had also seen him carry around the picture of his daughter as if it was his treasure. They had many reasons to believe that Sungyoon was someone that really treasured his daughter.
However, the sight unfolding in front of their eyes…
It was something beyond their imagination.
Shinhae yelled out loud when she saw the scrumptious meat placed in front of her.
“Dad! Dad! It’s a steak!”
“Yes, it’s a steak. Do you like it?”
After Shinhae answered in a loud voice, she once again stared at the steak. Then she turned to look at Sungyoon.
Shinhae raised both hands into the air. It was a very child-like and very cute gesture. But the very next scene had the destructive capability of destroying all thoughts from within the minds of Tim, Emily, and Chelsea.
Sungyoon followed Shinhae. He raised both arms into the air. He made a sound of amazement in a cutesy voice.
Sungyoon was always emotionless, gloomy, and cold. Such a person was copying his daughter, who was gyrating and waving her arms as she let out an innocent laugh.
Tim, who had been drinking water, almost spit onto the table. He was barely able to put strength into his lips. He had avoided the worst-case scenario. However, he couldn’t stop the water from going down the wrong pipe.
“Cough! Cough! Cough!”
Tim was coughing so hard that one had to wonder if he was about to throw up.
Normally, Emily would have ruthlessly berated her big brother for his actions, yet, she remained frozen this time. She had become round-eyed from what she had just seen.
However, the one to be surprised the most was Chelsea. Unlike Tim and Emily, she understood Korean to a certain degree.
For a moment, Chelsea wondered if she had heard wrong. Since she was friends with Jimin, she was quite good at understanding Korean. Hence, she was able to catch the nuance of how the father and daughter were saying their words.
Chelsea pulled at her friend's collar. Then she whispered into her ear.
“Who is he?”
Jimin followed where Chelsea’s finger was pointing. She looked baffled as she glanced at Chelsea once again.
“Who do you think he is? It is Mr. Sungyoon.”
“No. I know that.”
How should she say this? Chelsea was having a hard time expressing herself. At the very least, it seemed that Jimin didn’t think Sungyoon’s behavior wasn’t out of the ordinary.
“The unnis and ahjussi are using weird words. What is it?”
Shinhae had been busy chewing a piece of steak when she became curious. She asked the question.
“It is called English. Does Shinhae know English?”
“Ah! I know English.”
Shinhae’s small mouth moved busily as she spoke all the English words she knew.
“I’m good at English. Thank you! Hi! Goodbye!”
Chelsea felt like she was drowning from the shock she felt, but she couldn’t help it. A small laugh escaped her lips. Shinhae was too cute. However, her smile once again disappeared as if it was a mirage. She felt a new wave of shock hitting her.
“Aigo! My daughter is really good at speaking English.”
Sungyoon spoke to Jimin.
“Isn’t my daughter a genius? I’m thinking about putting her into the school for the gifted when I go back to Earth. What do you think?”
She almost rudely shouted out. The image of Sungyoon within Chelsea's mind was being completely shattered right now.
‘Who the hell are you!’
Is that what they called a doppelganger? Chelsea looked towards Jimin. The man was an absolute fool for his daughter. When it came to the little girl, his views were divorced from reality. Chelsea expected Jimin to give a sharp rebuke at the idea.
However, her last hope was shattered at that moment.
“Mmm! You are right. It really is very hard to know so many English words at her age. Should we look into the kindergartens in Gangnam? No, aren’t there English kindergartens?”
Did Julius Caesar feel this way right after Brutus stabbed him? She felt an extreme sense of betrayal. Emotions were boiling up inside Chelsea’s heart, and there was only one sentence that was floating around inside her.
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