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    I wish I could drink some water. Did they already finish what was in the backpack? I only realized after fumbling behind my back with my hand. Ah. I already sent it up. I licked my dry mouth with my tongue. When Kim Ga-young made her threat, I felt everyone’s eyes on me.

    I didn’t even have the strength to look back at them. In this cramped elevator, whether they fight with fists or words, whatever they use, only the weak will suffer. Now, even if those fools held a fighting tournament, it would at least take place in an arena with equal competitors.

    Logan looked at Kim Ga-young, who was watching people from the ceiling like a ghost, and me, who had plopped down on the floor, and asked,

    “Did you send them up first for this?”

    “For what?”

    “To seize power?”

    I have no idea what nonsense he’s spouting. Perhaps because my expression conveyed that, Logan spoke to me in an irritated tone,

    “Isn’t this a ploy to send up the women close to you first so you can manipulate the survivors here as you please?”

    “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Why would I do that?”

    “What if they gang up and prevent the rest from coming up or run away?”

    It was still a question I couldn’t understand. Prevent us from coming up? That could happen. But wouldn’t it be more constructive to scheme about escaping from here in that time?

    And what’s the harm if they run away first? Wouldn’t it be great if Kim Ga-young, Yoo Geum-yi, Lee Ji-hyun, and Emma, the four of them, escaped from here first? There are 8 men here now. In terms of strength or stamina, we’re not lacking or inferior to those above. It’s not like we can’t climb up. And those people aren’t anyone’s property, so why is it a problem if they flee from here first?

    “Isn’t it good? The people here can also get out using the methods of those who went ahead.”

    Benjamin, whose face was starting to bruise, said to me,

    “Stop pretending to be naive, you bastard. Even at the research center, you kept interfering as if you knew nothing about every little thing.”

    “That’s because you’re a twisted bastard who assigns too many meanings to my actions.”

    Benjamin took a step toward me. Then Kevin, who had been gauging the distance between Sam and Benjamin, now stood between me and Benjamin and said,

    “Stop it and think about climbing up from here. Logan, help me lift this person named Moohyun up.”

    “You’re going to listen to what that woman says? The engineer named Lee Ji-hyun might have intentionally stopped the elevator like this. Don’t you think she’s toying with us?!”

    “Maybe… But it doesn’t matter.”

    Kevin knew that Ji-hyun had tried to leave some people behind on the 4th floor. But he would also know that she had a change of heart and decided to take everyone with her. Kevin, who had shut his mouth, intertwined his shoulders and arms with Logan to create an impromptu chair made of human arms.

    When I placed my legs between their arms, the two counted one, two, three, and stood up from their spots. Perhaps because Logan and Kevin were roughly the same height, my field of vision suddenly became incredibly high when they stood up. I felt James next to me pushing me up.

    Kim Ga-young and Emma were watching us, and they immediately stretched out their arms. Can the two of them pull me up? Emma’s arm strength was much stronger than Ga-young’s. Following the pulling force of their arms, I was sucked up as if ascending to heaven. Ga-young and Emma held me and lay back almost on top of the ceiling. Ga-young panted and said,

    “This is no joke either. I have no strength in my hands.”

    Ga-young spoke while her arms trembled. If they drop someone while lifting those guys, it’ll be an even bigger problem. Looking at their arms, I replied,

    “Let’s take turns.”

    I’m not in a relaxed situation either, but I’m better off than Ga-young, whose arms are shaking. After having Ga-young step back, I took her place and followed Yoo Geum-yi’s gaze outside. On the side opposite the elevator door, which was a front glass window, I saw trees and the island’s interior hill.

    It seemed to be arranged so that when the elevator door opened, the sea and beach would be visible in that direction. On the opposite side of the elevator door was a hill. Following where Yoo Geum-yi was looking, smoke was billowing from the high hill.

    “Where is that?”

    Lee Ji-hyun, who was lying down anywhere, answered in a tired voice,

    “It’s in the direction of the helipad. You would have gone there when you first came here. I think either the helicopter is on fire or the helipad is on fire, one of the two.”

    An anxious voice came from inside the elevator compartment.

    “You’re not going to lift me up?!”

    I quickly lowered my head, and it was after they had decided the order among themselves through rock-paper-scissors. James was trying to come up with the help of Sam, Kevin, and Logan, so Emma and I quickly pulled him up. Damn it. How did Ga-young do this two or three times?

    Supporting a person’s weight with both arms and pulling them up was as ridiculously difficult as lifting them from below. It took everyone except Ji-hyun to get James up.

    After that, Kanu and Logan came up. I took turns with them. The problem was that when Kevin, Sam, Carter, and Benjamin were left below, a commotion arose. Benjamin was fighting, saying he didn’t want to help Sam climb up, and Sam was arguing why he had to help Benjamin.

    Come to think of it, the order of ascending was wrong. We should have sent Sam or Benjamin up separately. Logan, who had already come up, was cheering for them to fight each other when Kevin, who was below, was startled by the ax aimed at him and quickly pulled his upper body back.

    According to the order determined by rock-paper-scissors, Kevin was dead last. When Kevin threatened that if they had no intention of going up in order, he would do as he pleased, both Benjamin and Sam shut their mouths. Sam was next in line, but Benjamin grumbled the entire time he was lifting him.

    “You absolutely must go on a diet when you get out! Before I forcibly cut you up here and there!”

    “The guy who never even bought me a meal is so talkative! Is this all the strength you have in your arms?!”

    “You crazy bastard! Really! When I have time to spare, I’m coming to kill you!”

    It was when Sam was coming up. Lee Ji-hyun was discussing with Yoo Geum-yi and Emma how to open the elevator door. They were talking about whether it would be better to stick Kevin’s ax in the gap of the door and forcefully open it with strength.

    At that moment, I felt someone’s gaze watching us. When I turned my head back, a woman wearing jeans and a leather jacket was crouching by the elevator’s glass window. She was resting her chin and observing what we were doing.

    As Sam got stuck in the ceiling hatch while climbing up, Kanu, Logan, and James were pulling his arms. That person was watching our actions like observing ants moving food, but rather than her unfamiliar face, the gun she was carrying caught my eye more. Including the bright blue gun strap, she had green jewels dangling from the gun as if they were accessories or keychains. It seemed like she had customized the gun to her taste.

    Where have I seen this before? With everyone’s help, Sam, who had been stuck in the elevator ceiling hatch, finally made it to the top of the ceiling, and the woman was laughing in amusement and clapping softly. Clap clap clap clap clap.

    To tease Benjamin, who was next in line, Sam, Logan, and James lowered their heads toward the elevator compartment. Kanu looked at me and discovered that person through my gaze. Kanu closely observed the green jewels the woman had attached to the gun and said to me,

    “It’s Pounamu. A gemstone from New Zealand.”

    Is the gemstone catching your eye more than the fact that she has a gun? As soon as I recalled that, I remembered that Kanu was someone who had donated a huge gemstone to a cult.

    I barely managed to recall that Baek Ae-yeong had held that gun before. My back felt chilly. I felt like my hair was standing on end from the tension.

    After Benjamin, Carter came up to the elevator almost crawling while grumbling. Now people were pondering how to lift Kevin, who was the only one left in the elevator. The plan was for the tall James to stick half his upper body in to grab Kevin and for the others to lift him up to pull Kevin out.

    I called out the names of people like Yoo Geum-yi, Lee Ji-hyun, and Kim Ga-young to make them look at the corner of the front window. People gradually turned their heads and became aware of the woman observing them. At first, they were surprised and happy, but they stiffened their faces upon seeing the gun.

    Finally, when the men safely pulled Kevin out of the elevator compartment, forgetting their previous animosity, they tightly embraced each other and cheered. As they rejoiced with their arms raised to the sky, the woman who had been watching us was also smiling and clapping faster.

    Amidst the noisy cheers, Emma shouted loudly,

    “Look at the front window! You idiots!”

    Then, even those who were celebrating turned their heads, and they noticed the presence of the armed woman leaning against the door, observing them. The woman, who had been clapping and rejoicing, began counting the number of people one by one from the corner.

    One, two, three, four…

    She was counting the number of people in English, pointing at each person with her finger, and that simple action alone made people feel really eerie. Benjamin frowned at her action and tried to hide behind James to avoid her pointing finger, but she continued counting the numbers without minding.

    After counting the number of people from right to left, she showed her teeth and formed the word “twelve” with a big smile.

    The people in the elevator seemed to have felt this strange sensation too. Logan simply expressed what he felt,

    “What is that crazy bitch doing? Why is she counting us?”

    Only when Yoo Geum-yi’s scream rang out did I realize what Kevin had done. Kevin had grabbed Yoo Geum-yi, who was next to him, and pushed her under the elevator ceiling hatch he had just climbed up from.

    Kevin hurriedly grabbed Kim Ga-young next to him and, without any explanation, was pushing her into the ceiling hatch after Yoo Geum-yi. Ga-young, who had been dragged along without knowing what was happening, fell back down after being kicked by Kevin’s foot. What, what? Aaaaaah!

    A huge smile appeared on the face of the woman watching us from the window. And she said something, but the window was too thick for her words to be heard. Then she aimed the rifle at us.

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