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    If I looked at it coldly, to Shin Haeryang, both I and Yoo Geum-yi were nothing but acquaintances he had only recently met. It was as if I could hear Carlos’s voice in my ear, ‘He’s going to look out for his own family first.’

    …After saving Kim Ga-young, I thought we became one team. Those who couldn’t get on the escape craft from the Fourth Underwater Base, The West District, saved people without expecting anything in return, carried sleeping children, hid others from a barrage of bullets, shared their food, helped the injured without asking why, and supported each other to escape. We made an impromptu team, but everyone tried a little bit not to lose their humanity. Was I the only one who thought this way?

    I remembered what Baek Ae-young said at the cafe, “I don’t want to worry Team Leader Shin. He’s a tender person.” Whether Shin Haeryang is tender-hearted or not, I still cannot tell at this point. But certainly, both Yoo Geum-yi and I are tender-hearted. …If Baek Ae-young’s words were true, then Shin Haeryang must be the same. Perhaps Baek Ae-young is too. And so might be Seo Jihyuk.

    I’m not strong-hearted enough to avoid being shocked by seeing someone I lived with resort to violence against another. Maybe it’s because I’ve never actually seen someone live through violence. I’m not accustomed to violence.

    I don’t want to see someone who I thought was a good person exerting violence on someone else. Not Baek Ae-young, not Shin Haeryang, nor Seo Jihyuk. Similarly, I don’t want to see them being subjected to violence by someone else. Have I become so attached in just a few hours? Even in action movies, I skim through the barehanded fights and close my eyes to the bloody scenes.

    I felt resentment towards Tyler as well. Why on earth would you provoke Baek Ae-young when she’s armed? She’s the one who could throw a man over 180cm to the ground barehanded. As if it wasn’t enough that she’s already distraught over her friend being murdered. Why would you even join a cult and take up arms to kill people, you fool?

    “Baek Ae-young-ssi. Stop hitting. Let’s speak in our language.”

    As I spoke, I sniveled. This is crazy. Really. As I wiped my nose with the back of my hand, my voice lacked any shred of charisma. It came out so weakly, all cracked, but Baek Ae-young seemed to have heard me; she immediately stopped hitting the man with her gun, forearm, and knee. Then, still sniffling, she stepped aside.

    I handed the gun to Yoo Geum-yi. My hand was shaking so much. Then, using a men’s restroom towel I had around my neck, I wiped Tyler’s face, which was swollen and he was already unconscious. Blood was oozing from several places and I was unsure what to press first to stop the bleeding. It would be easy if it were just the inside of the mouth. But what about now? Should I press on the nose first? The cheek? His forehead is also torn.

    I could hear Baek Ae-young washing her hands at the sink. As I pressed the towel to the face, Shin Haeryang cut a bit of the parachute cord he had been wrapping around his entire left forearm. He then reached out to me. I know this gesture now. It’s not a handshake. I handed over the towel I was holding with a feeling of reluctance. He tore the blood-soaked towel in two with both hands (I had no idea a towel could tear so easily), handed half back to me, and rolled the other half and put it in Tyler’s mouth, then pulled the parachute cord tightly around the mouth area and tied it tautly at the back of the neck. Watching Shin Haeryang checking the knot, I thought… So, it’s a gag.

    “Can he breathe like that?”

    “He can breathe through his nose.”

    Shin Haeryang’s tone was as if not breathing wouldn’t bother him. I was pressing a towel against the deepest-looking indentation on Tyler’s cheek to stop the bleeding. Shin Haeryang tied the wrist bindings to the seam of the bathroom door. Watching him do that, I asked,

    “Weren’t you going to take him with us?”

    “It’s tough enough moving around just us. Since he seems to like the women’s bathroom, we’ll leave him here.”

    Ah, so that comment before was just bravado. After all, who would keep a gun trained on Tyler and watch him continuously? If Shin Haeryang and I were to support Seo Jihyuk, only Baek Ae-young and Yoo Geum-yi would have both hands free, and they were both armed. It was impossible to entrust Tyler to Yoo Geum-yi, who had never held a gun before, so it had to be Baek Ae-young. But it was too risky to assign the role of hostage-watching to Baek Ae-young, who, like a cat, had scouted silently and served as a guide without being noticed by anyone until now.

    Baek Ae-young was now washing her forearms and knees. Seeing the blood wash away, my head ached and I closed my eyes tightly. I was not used to seeing so much blood.

    While I was struggling with Tyler’s face, Seo Jihyuk was briefly teaching Yoo Geum-yi how to shoot a gun, and Baek Ae-young and Shin Haeryang were looking at a map. Even a layman like me could immediately understand the problem when staring blankly at the map displayed in 3D.

    First, the Infinity Church followers were stationed around three elevators, including the central elevator, and near the escape pods and diving submarine. The scale of the second underwater base was large, but the problem was that it was designed so that one must pass through the central plaza in the middle of the base, and the opponents seemed to know this, placing quite a number of groups in the central plaza. There was no avoiding a fight with people wherever we went. The place that seemed to have the fewest people was where the diving submarine was, but even there, we had to pass through the central plaza.

    Around the central plaza were the deep-sea aquarium we were in, four restaurants, two convenience stores, two exhibitions, four cafes, a jellyfish exhibition hall, an information center, a souvenir shop, and mining facilities that only authorized personnel could enter, along with the escape submarine facility and the central elevator, surrounded by three other elevators. If this place were to be opened to the public next year, it seemed like the path was designed with a plan in mind: visit the deep-sea aquarium, buy something to eat at a restaurant, view the exhibitions, have a coffee at a cafe, see the jellyfish, and buy souvenirs.

    “What’s in the mining facilities?”

    “They used to check the intermediate settlement of natural gas or oil extracted from the seabed, but now everything has been moved to the fourth undersea base. Now, there are external cleaning robots, internal cleaning robots, power generation facilities, life support systems, and… that’s right! Medics! There might be one on the first floor of the hospital if it hasn’t gone for an update! It was decided to keep one at the second undersea base too.”

    “It might have been moved. There should have been one at the third undersea base’s convenience store as it was originally planned.”

    Seo Jihyuk looked troubled at Shin Haeryang’s words. I had almost no memory of the second undersea base. I was overwhelmed just moving around the fourth and third undersea bases. Now pressing a towel against the torn, bleeding forehead of Tyler, I was soaked with blood on my hands. Blood flows quite a bit from the face when injured, after all. Fighting the urge to wipe the sweat dripping down my own forehead, I asked the people,

    “I heard there’s an undersea cable car under construction at the second underwater base. Where does it connect?”

    “The first underwater base!”

    Yoo Geum-yi, who answered while holding the gun barrel downward, asked Shin Haeryang, “I heard that it was being built before, but has it been completed?”

    “… It was supposed to be completed by the end of April, but I’m not sure.”

    Shin Haeryang seemed displeased. His tone revealed a distrust of the construction company and the contractors.

    “It’s rare for places to meet their deadlines exactly.”

    Is that so? Why would that be? If completion is by the end of April, shouldn’t everything be constructed before May begins? Baek Ae-young loosened and then re-tied her long hair, furrowed her brows, and spoke.

    “I heard from someone in the electrical system that they did a trial run.”

    “Do you think they know that they can use the cable car to escape from the second underwater base to the first?”

    The section of the map Tyler had marked didn’t include any details about the cable car. It seems they will mark it on the map only after everything is completed. But if someone who worked at the second underwater base became a member of a cult, they might know they could escape using the cable car, right? Because the cable car only connects to the first underwater base, isn’t it being guarded? Well, it’s almost impossible to think like us, sneaking into the second underwater base using the stairs. Logically, one would use the elevator.

    From this point of view, if the cable car is operational, isn’t it the best way to escape to the first underwater base? Shin Haeryang seemed to be considering various routes to lead the personnel, including the three elevators, the central elevator, the escape boat, and the submarine’s location. From his disheveled expression, it seems like he’s struggling to come up with a good plan.

    Looking down at Tyler, who was lying on the floor, Baek Ae-young said, “If the armed guys now are all amateurs like this Tyler, Team Leader—”

    Before Baek Ae-young could even open her mouth, Shin Haeryang shook his head. What was he going to say? Is it a piece of cake? Can he go out and kill them all?

    Baek Ae-young grimaced before she spoke, “At the end of the deep-sea aquarium, the first exhibition hall appears, and if you go through there, you’ll find the cable car.”

    I then said, “I hope there’s no one in the exhibition hall,” as if I were sighing. My mouth felt dry.

    Following Shin Haeryang’s suggestion to leave, everyone started to exit the restroom. Supporting Seo Jihyuk, who was leaning on the wall with one foot, Shin Haeryang and I were the last to come out. Baek Ae-young hung back, saying she would erase the traces and follow us into the restroom. Now, only I, Seo Jihyuk, Shin Haeryang, and Yoo Geum-yi were left wandering the still unopened deep-sea aquarium.

    I didn’t visit the aquarium very often, but I didn’t want to come like this. Next to me, fish were swimming around in the water-filled tank. There were fish everywhere, to the right and left, making it feel as if I was walking through the center of the sea. However, soon I noticed a few empty tanks.

    Having passed the aquarium for a while, Seo Jihyuk, who had been making remarks like ‘this is for sashimi’ and ‘this would taste good grilled,’ suddenly became much quieter. Pain seemed to be washing over him as he bit his lip. It was only then that I barely understood why Shin Haeryang had let Seo Jihyuk talk about anything. Without him, this hastily formed team had no one else to speak. His condition seemed to be getting worse.

    Shin Haeryang only answered questions briefly, and Yoo Geum-yi had a frown, seemingly deep in thought. I knew nothing about the underwater base and was also a stranger to the sea. A few minutes later, Baek Ae-young returned and took the lead of the group again, but apart from the sound of footsteps, it was quiet.

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