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    Sorry for the lack of updates everyone!

     

    By now, Seo Jihyuk seemed to have shifted his interest from the two women ascending the stairs ahead with their fairy lights source, to the sweaty men distributing their weight across their arms and shoulders. The problem was, the only people he could converse with were these two men. Of the silent Shin Haeryang and myself, it seemed I was more comfortable to talk to since I at least responded properly. There’s no such thing like a subordinate being comfortable with their boss, after all. Seo Jihyuk asked me.

    “Do you have a younger brother?”

    I was startled to know where this information came from, but I had nothing to hide so I responded, “Yes, he’s a college student right now.”

    “I have a younger sister and a brother. One is a college student and the other is a high school student, but neither of them listen to me.”

    “Well, that’s siblings for you. How about you, Shin Haeryang-ssi?”

    “······I have one older sibling.”

    “An elder brother?”

    “An elder sister.”

    As I tried to imagine the beautiful lady that must have come from the same family as the handsome Shin Haeryang, I couldn’t resist my curiosity and asked him straightforwardly.

    “Is your sister married?”

    I could hear Seo Jihyuk laughing beside me. Ha ha ha ha! They’re all the same.

    “I once asked our team leader the same question.”

    Shin Haeryang did not react like, “Why are you asking about my sister’s marital status?” He just responded as if he was sick and tired of being asked that question.

    “She’s already married and has two children.”

    “Oh, I see. Please brag about how cute they are with their pictures when we get out of here.”

    “Do you have pictures of your nieces and nephews, team leader?”

    “I don’t know.”

    For a few seconds, only the sound of our footsteps ascending the stairs in the dark could be heard. Then Seo Jihyuk broke the silence.

    “Well… earlier, that guy spouted off about our three personal histories. He said you and Team Leader Shin aren’t candidates for conversion. We were disqualified, or something.”

    “I see.”

    “Do you have any thoughts on religion?”

    The Infinity Church, with the immortal shark. Nothing came to mind. I don’t even eat shark meat.

    “······In our house, we’re free to believe in any religion. My mother is a Buddhist, but she only goes to temples once a year on Buddha’s birthday. I don’t have a religion. Same goes for my younger brother.”

    Seo Jihyuk kept repeating, “I see,” and then he asked, “Do you remember the skull in front of the dental clinic?”

    “The shark’s skull?”

    “I’m suddenly wondering if that’s a Greenland shark skull.”

    As soon as I heard that, I exclaimed, “Ah!” in admiration. I had completely forgotten about it.

    “The description said it was a white shark skull, but that might be possible. It’s not like I have the ability to recognize it.”

    “······What’s great white shark skull?”

    Shin Haeryang hadn’t visited the dental clinic yet. Seo Jihyuk and I began to explain. In front of Deep Blue Dental Clinic, there is a large shark skull labeled as a white shark. But given the cult activities going on, it might actually be a Greenland shark.

    “Who can tell which shark it is just by looking at the skull?”

    Seo Jihyuk vigorously nodded at my question.

    “The researchers here are freaks who study things like which leg deep-sea jellyfish use more, what they eat, when they poop, etc. But wouldn’t there be someone who could differentiate by looking at the shape of a shark skull, Geum-yi-ssi?!

    Seo Jihyuk shouted the name of the (sea creature) hardcore fan into the darkness, and the darkness yelped back.

    “You scared me!”

    “Sorry. Let me ask you something… Can we mistake a Greenland shark skull for a white shark skull? When sober marine biologists pass by the dental clinic, do they wonder, ‘This is a Greenland shark, why is it labeled as a white shark?'”

    “Of course, if they’re interested in sharks, they would know. They look different! Like horses and cows!”

    That would only look different in the eyes of marine biologists. Even if you give me a horse and cow’s bones and ask me to distinguish them, I’m not sure I could do it right away. I’m not an osteologist. Heck, if you gave me a cat skull and a dog skull, I probably wouldn’t be able to tell them apart.

    “So what’s that shark skull in front of the dental clinic where I work? It was labeled as a white shark.”

    An answer came from the darkness.

    “Of course, it’s a white shark. Didn’t you see its wide open mouth? If it were a Greenland shark, the mouth would be narrower.”

    Oh! I let out a sigh of relief.

    “That’s a relief. I took down the pictures of sharks with parasites in their eyes that were hanging on the wall because they made me uncomfortable. At least hearing that reassures me.”

    “Heh… That’s a relief.”

    Relieved that the dental clinic wasn’t touched by the claws of the cult, Seo Jihyuk patted my shoulder. We heard footsteps coming from afar, it was Yoo Geum-yi descending the stairs. Noticing her, Baek Ae-young shone the flashlight around Yoo Geum-yi’s feet, worried she might trip.

    “There were parasites?”

    Yoo Geum-yi asked, sweeping her sweat-soaked hair behind her forehead. Bathed in the flashlight’s beam cast by Baek Ae-young from far above us, Yoo Geum-yi appeared to be donning a halo reminiscent of Jesus Christ or Gautama Buddha.

    “Yes. …Why do you ask?”

    “Greenland sharks are blind. Their eyes are obscured because parasites consume the tissue of their eyes, rendering them blind. However, the parasites themselves emit light, attracting prey which the Greenland shark then devours. Those are creatures that have chosen to eat in exchange for sacrificing their eyeballs.”

    Even the sharks are insane creatures, aren’t they?

    “…What about the great white sharks? No parasites?”

    “Of course, great white sharks are full of parasites. But given their temperaments, who would endure having their eyes eaten and live?”

    Yoo Geum-yi growled like a great white shark. I then noticed that the sharks in the photos on the wall had mouths not much bigger than the great white shark outside. Shin Haeryang’s voice echoed in the darkness.

    “Has anyone approached you with an unrequited favor or tried to bond with certain individuals during these past five days?”

    As soon as I heard Shin Haeryang’s question, my mind began to tangle like a thread tossed all at once. I’m new here. If someone shows me kindness or hospitality, isn’t it normal to reciprocate in order to be accepted into a new society? That’s how humans live.

    However, I was already listing people’s names in my head. Kang Soojung and Elliot came first. Yoo Geum-yi, the chubby, well-laughing Wang Wei who had watched me unpack, were there others? The barista Emily who welcomed me with a free cup of coffee on my first day? If we’re just talking about drinking coffee, Baek Ae-young as well? Or even the patients I’ve treated?

    As I thought about all sorts of people, I nearly lost my footing on the stairs. I was brought back to reality by my misstep, which nearly tripped both Seo Jihyuk and Shin Haeryang. Here, where I have to climb stairs in almost complete darkness, I have to suspect everyone I met in the light. I barely managed to speak.

    “…I’m not sure.”

    I felt as if I were trapped in a snare that could cut off my ankle. I wanted to vomit out all the candies, chocolate bars, and water I’d consumed. Whether it was because the climb was getting harder or because of the rising wave of discomfort, I couldn’t tell. Gritting my teeth, I recalled the past five days.

    Was there someone among them who is a cult follower and approached me intending to recruit me into their religion? There was one person who seemed to be the most capable of quickly finding and exploiting others’ weaknesses. I marked that person as a primary suspect and put the rest on the list as well.

    In my head, an investigation was underway regarding all the suspicious individuals who had shown me the slightest bit of kindness. Looking at it this way, could I even trust the people here now?

    Seo Jihyuk was the one who strongly insisted we use the elevator guarded by Infinity Church followers. Baek Ae-young was on Shin Haeryang’s side, hiding her opinions and could possibly poise to kill me at the slightest provocation. Yoo Geum-yi was the first to visit the dental office. Shin Haeryang continually avoided using the elevator, directly opposing Jennifer’s and Seo Jihyuk’s opinions to use the central elevator. Wasn’t it because he already knew where the Infinity Church members were?

    Are cult followers waiting for me at the end of these stairs? With each step I climbed, I grew more suspicious. By the second break, I was doubting everyone I had met in the undersea base. It reached a point where the cat floating up the stairs like a feather or the snake in the bag seemed least suspicious.

    I was suspecting everyone from Henry, who was sleeping in my accommodation in the West District, to Kim Gayoung, whom I had gone to rescue with my own hands. Then, with a headache, I lay down on the staircase floor, panting, and spoke to Shin Haeryang.

    “It’s Elliot Brown! Now that I think about it, he’s the most suspicious!”

    I couldn’t mention Kang Soojung in front of Shin Haeryang, Seo Jihyuk, and Baek Aeyoung. She was a character I met for the first time and a team member. The sound of Shin Haeryang drinking water came from the darkness. Seo Jihyuk spoke while lying on the floor.

    “That psychologist? I see him more as a fraud than a member of a cult.”

    “A fraud?”

    “He’s likely unlicensed and all. You know, when I heard about his counseling, it seemed like I had multiple fractures all over my body.”

    At that sound, Baek Aeyoung laughed loudly from afar.

    “Wow… Elliot-ssi. Totally awesome. That’s accurate, right? But he’s not my counselor. My counselor was someone named Lee Bin something-something-ski.”

    “I didn’t have him either. I thought the researchers had their own counselors?”

    “I didn’t either.”

    With that said, I now had a second suspect, Kang Soojung, and began interrogating her inside my head. Why did you carry my luggage? Why did you have coffee with me? Was it because you believe in a cult? Oh, because you have a kind heart? I see. I’m sorry. Please understand. These cult assholes are like that. They’re perfect for getting under people’s skins. They’re like malignant tumors that can’t be maintained unless they extort something from someone. They’re just crazy f*ckers crazy about money. Or labor. “Money!”

    “Hey!”

    When I suddenly yelled in the darkness, Seo Jihyuk, who was closest to me, was startled and half-raised his torso. The same was true for Shin Haeryang, but once he realized I had yelled, he lay back down on the floor.

    I think I might have mistranslated Elliot as a she in earlier chapters. Sorry about that. There wasn’t direct mention of Elliot’s gender at early point of the story. So, I just presumed that Elliot was a ‘she’ instead of ‘he’. But in this chapter, they kept mentioning Elliot as ‘that person’ but there’s a good guess Elliot’s a he for now, since there’s no female-particle when they’re talking about Elliot here. However, this might change in the future, so I’ll let you peeps know when that happens.

     

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