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    It took about 2 seconds to check each room. I scanned each room diagonally with my eyes, confirmed no one was there, and splashed my way to the next room.

    Except for the obviously empty rooms, not many people kept their rooms clean. Why on earth do they eat things like potato chips spilling them all over the bed? The state of each room was a mess with leftover food, drinks, and alcohol tipped over.

    Especially in the room with an enormous collection of French wines, the improperly secured wine rack had fallen over, soaking the blanket and bed.

    For a moment, I mistook the color for blood and was startled, but upon seeing the broken bottles and smelling the scent, I realized it wasn’t and closed the door with relief. Even though water was up to my ankles, the doors could still close.

    Glass would sink in the water, but if I was unlucky, I might end up drinking water mixed with fine powder or alcohol. After that, there was a succession of rooms full of clothes and trash, with neither people nor animals.

    In room 28, I found sterilized chocolate milk, sterilized strawberry milk, sterilized soy milk cartons, all kinds of snacks, calorie bars, cup rice, and cup noodles written in Korean stacked so densely that the walls weren’t visible up to the ceiling.

    It was a room with nothing but food, and when I pulled back the blanket that was shaped like a person, there was nothing. Despite the undersea base shaking so violently from the torpedo impact that someone sleeping in bed would have fallen to the floor, none of the food stacked to the ceiling had collapsed. As I looked at that scene, I thought it looked more like a survival bunker than a supermarket, and headed to the next room.

    It seemed like that room and the ones after belonged to the Engineer Ga Team. Unlike the room packed with food, the room right next to it was a mess with piles of unfolded clothes, half-finished drinks and snacks gathered on the desk. Gaming and programming magazines that seemed to have been placed on the floor were all soaked, and game consoles of various types were on the bed. All sorts of trash was floating in the water. Wow. It’s a complete pigsty.

    After scanning for 2 seconds and moving on, there was a completely clean room in contrast to the previous one. The blanket was neatly folded with sharp edges, and on the desk, there was nothing but a men’s skin lotion and a tumbler. Clean rooms were easy to pass by. There was less visual information to process.

    The room right next, number 25, had a cross and several watercolor paintings on the wall, and next to a Bible, there were a few “Easy Learning Farsi” books and several sketchbooks on the desk. The watercolors on the wall seemed to have been painted by the room’s owner. Next to an empty easel, there was a messy apron, dried-up paints, a palette, several brushes, and what looked like dirty water containers scattered around. An empty wine bottle was floating in the water on the floor.

    Now wading through water up to my calves, I looked into room 24, Kang Soojung’s room. I took in the sight of various types of dumbbells and comic books in different languages scattered around, then immediately headed to the next room.

    Room 23, next to Kang Soojung’s, was overflowing with belongings. Posters were plastered densely on the walls and ceiling. Nirvana, Queen, Oasis, Muse, Radiohead…… What era of music are they listening to?

    The bookshelf was so full of books that they couldn’t all fit, so books were stacked horizontally on the desk, creating pillars of books. A small metal vanity that seemed to have been purchased and installed separately was overflowing with cosmetics, and the wardrobe was wide open, also overflowing with clothes.

    On top of the vanity was a box presumed to be an accessory storage, with fierce warning messages written in English, Chinese, and Japanese. [Touch and lose a wrist] Reading that message, I chuckled and moved to the next room.

    The next room was number 22, and this room was also extremely clean. A few bags of nuts for snacks and men’s skin lotion were placed on the desk along with a pad. There was a half-knitted sock and a ball of yarn, suggesting someone might be knitting.

    A pink flower pot that had been on the floor was now floating in the water, dying as it absorbed seawater. I waded in and grabbed the pad on the desk, immediately putting it in my backpack. Then I headed to the next room. Room 21 next door was empty.

    Room 20 was overflowing with green. Shelves were densely installed throughout the room, growing plants. At first, I thought the room’s owner might have a hobby of growing plants underwater and was about to pass by in 2-3 seconds like the other rooms, but overcome by a strange sensation, I looked into the room again.

    Several plants were growing intensively under artificial sunlight, but especially the plant I was about to pass by thinking it was a flower bud gave me an enormous sense of discomfort. There are no flower buds that look like that. ……Could this be an opium poppy pod? I couldn’t be sure because I had never seen an opium poppy pod in my life.

    Moreover, on the desk were simple instruments that might be used for refining, several scales and spoons, a sticky and dirty pocket knife, and dozens of square-cut recycled papers. Plus, there was an extremely heavy-looking metal safe under the desk. No way. It can’t be, right?

    The room had removed the bed entirely and placed large drawers in its place, so I tried opening three drawers as a test. One opened and two didn’t. The one that opened contained individually packaged pills that I had never seen before.

    What kind of medicine is this? I was puzzled that the pills didn’t have English names engraved on them, so I flipped them over, but there was nothing written. Why is there no English name? ……Holy shit. Curses rose to my throat involuntarily. I panicked as if I might catch poison ivy and ran out of the room, locking it with my fingerprint. I’d rather have a dirty room! Is the room owner crazy?!

    Feeling utterly creeped out, I moved towards the lower-numbered rooms. Room 19 was empty. Occasionally, I shouted towards rooms I hadn’t checked.

    “Is anyone still asleep?! Anyone who needs help or couldn’t escape?!”

    It was when I reached room 15. I heard a sound from very far away. Coming out of room 14, someone was calling me. Yoo Geum-yi was waving both arms far down the corridor.

    “The cat! It’s not here!”

    “What did you say?!”

    “The cat isn’t here! In room 64! The cat! It’s not there! Is it in a different room?!”

    Yoo Geum-yi shouted from afar. No. There was a cat in that room! It’s the right room! I mixed up the room number for the snake when I first rescued it because I was in a hurry, but the cat is definitely in that room!

    I was about to run towards Yoo Geum-yi but stopped in my tracks. Can a cat disappear like smoke or hide in a studio apartment? I recalled a friend’s story about taking two days to find a hamster that had escaped its cage in a room. Can cats do that too? I’ve never raised one. ……What should I do? After hesitating for a moment, I waved one arm and shouted.

    “Yoo Geum-yi! Escape! Escape first!”

    Given Yoo Geum-yi’s personality, she wouldn’t say such a thing without thoroughly searching for the cat. Why isn’t it there? ……Where on earth did it go! Swallowing the rising fear and anxiety, I gritted my teeth and moved forward.

    It had been several decades since laws were enacted regarding the evacuation and transportation of pets, as incidents of people refusing to evacuate dangerous situations due to not wanting to abandon their pets became frequent. Although animal rescue in disaster situations has become commonplace, the story changes when it’s impossible to secure one’s own safety. This is because in situations like earthquakes or landslides, time is wasted searching for animals that have hidden in fear, resulting in both the animal and the rescuer dying.

    I couldn’t ask Yoo Geum-yi to risk her life for a cat that wasn’t her responsibility. When I looked at room 12, the water had already risen past my knees to my thighs. Could I still go from here to room 64 now? People staying in the lower-numbered rooms might have escaped on their own. They could be empty rooms, right? After biting my lip and pondering for a moment, I shook my head. I can’t go back.

    As the water rose past my thighs, it became difficult to walk, so I started walking while leaning against the wall. The residents of the lower-numbered rooms seemed to have quickly left the dormitory using the stairs next to room 1 when my broadcast came out, or they were already out on vacation.

    I was shouting as loudly as the emergency alarm while moving forward, when I faintly heard music in front of room 11. An old famous pop song was playing energetically, and I, surprised, scanned room 10 with my eyes and immediately checked room 9.

    [I’m living in a world where there are no innocent people!]

    As I moved forward, the music got louder, and it was only when I reached room 8 that I realized someone was there.

    A woman wearing headphones was lying on a second-floor bunk bed, singing. She was singing loudly as if holding her own concert, twirling her hair with her fingers, unaware that all the objects on the first floor were floating in the water.

    [At least I’m alive!]

    Encountering a bunk bed for the first time in this 4th Undersea Base, I was dumbfounded. I spoke to the person who wasn’t wet at all thanks to the bed installed near the ceiling.

    “Hey! We need to get out of here!”

    She couldn’t hear me shouting from outside the door, so I approached the second-floor bunk bed and removed the headphones she was wearing. The woman looked down at me from her lying position, then startled, sat up in bed, resulting in her hitting her head on the ceiling. There was a thud. There was no time to stop her.

    “Aaah! My head!”

    Hearing her dying groan, I quickly said.

    “Water is leaking! If you don’t want to die, get out quickly!”

    By the time I checked room 4, the water had already risen from waist to chest level. The woman from room 8 put on some clothes and said with the headphones around her neck.

    “The people in the front rooms are on vacation. They’re probably not here.”

    “I didn’t even know you were here until I came this far.”

    Far away at the end of the corridor, I could barely see two people moving. It looked like Nikita and Vladimir. They seemed to have just arrived at the central stairs located at room 40. Vladimir, in particular, appeared to be carrying something on his back, but it was too far to see clearly.

    Vladimir just pointed at me with his index finger, then made a gesture of drawing a long line from left to right across his throat with his thumb.

    I’m not sure what that gesture means, but it either means he’s going to slit my throat or he’s going to brush his teeth from left to right. I hope it’s the latter. After confirming that no one was in the rooms up to room 1, I went up the stairs located next to room 1.

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