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    Standing in front of the exhibition, Shin Haeryang looked at the modest signboard that read “Modern Jewelry Exhibition” with a puzzled expression and asked, “You’re interested in a jewelry exhibition?”

    “Team Leader. I have a keen eye for detail,” someone replied.

    Silence ensued.

    Shin Haeryang just glared silently. Merely looking at someone’s face quietly, Seo Jihyuk spilled the truth after three seconds.

    “I went there because they said there weren’t many lights, and ended up helping with the setup while smoking. Who would lock up such things in this vast ocean? If you look inside, you’ll find nothing but stones and nonsensical items on display.”

    Is this some kind of interrogation technique? It seemed like Shin Haeryang was shooting lasers with his eyes, but such skills were unnecessary for me. Patients at the dental clinic know exactly why they are visiting. What’s important is whether the dentist can understand exactly where it hurts and find that spot perfectly.

    However, to Yoo Geum-yi, this seemed quite fascinating. She flicked her finger lightly at Shin Haeryang, making eye contact with him. Shin Haeryang’s face showed surprise, but they just looked at each other for a few seconds. There was no effect on Yoo Geum-yi. After Yoo Geum-yi’s smile and mine, we decided the order to cross, along with Baek Ae-young’s giggling.

    First was Baek Ae-young, then Seo Jihyuk and Shin Haeryang, third was Yoo Geum-yi, and fourth was me. If Baek Ae-young failed, none of us could go to the exhibition. If Seo Jihyuk and Shin Haeryang failed, we’d just split between the exhibition hall and the deep-sea aquarium. What if Yoo Geum-yi or I failed? I wasn’t sure.

    Baek Ae-young adjusted her bag on her back and asked for the bag with the cat. She strapped it to her front, peeked outside, and then smoothly moved 5 meters to slip into the exhibition hall, as silently and gracefully as an eagle descending. The door opened slightly within 20 seconds. Baek Ae-young’s hand signal seemed to suggest it was safe to enter.

    I peeked through the windows of the deep-sea aquarium at the people roaming around the central plaza. They were all armed with guns. In the center, people lay face down on the ground, some with bloodstains and large pools of blood around them, and others lying motionless like corpses. The area around the central elevator was covered in blood. A group was talking near the elevator, with armed people moving around.

    Looking at the blood-soaked ground made my head feel numb, my heart pounding in my ears. I took time to calm myself, suppressing the feeling of wanting to vomit and the inexplicable urge to cry. I waited for the right moment when people weren’t looking towards the deep-sea aquarium and signaled Shin Haeryang to run.

    Shin Haeryang almost carried Seo Jihyuk, and despite the weight, he almost flew to the exhibition hall in about 3 seconds. Baek Ae-young caught them just in time, and the door naturally swallowed them up. After several seconds, Baek Ae-young didn’t come out, so Yoo Geum-yi and I waited.

    Baek Ae-young slightly opened the door again, looking at us. Yoo Geum-yi, after adjusting her sneakers several times, held her shoes in her hand and prepared to run in her socks.

    “My heart feels like it’s going to burst,” she said.

    Yoo Geum-yi’s voice came from beside me. I felt the same. If it were possible for my heart to leap out of my mouth from shock, it would have escaped my body back at the Fourth Undersea Base. As two armed men turned their heads this way, I quickly withdrew my head back inside the door of the aquarium. The gap in the door of the exhibition hall that Baek Ae-young was holding had narrowed to less than half a palm’s width.

    “I feel the same, Geum-yi-ssi.”

    “I want to go home.”

    “Same here.”

    “Why is it so hard to make a living as a marine biologist?”

    “I never knew being a dentist could be this tough either.”

    Yoo Geum-yi let out a deflated laugh, then wiped her nose with the back of her hand and sighed deeply. Her eyes behind her glasses shined. Her left hand, tightly holding the shoelaces, was trembling, but her sock-covered feet rubbed against the floor several times. I tried to peek outside again but stopped when I heard a noise. Footsteps were approaching. Yoo Geum-yi covered her mouth with her right hand. I also waited quietly. Please, don’t come here. Don’t come here.

    As the footsteps grew closer, our tension mounted. The deep-sea aquarium was laid out in a straight line, so to hide, we had to walk back more than 20 meters to hide behind the tanks. If we ran back now, wouldn’t our footsteps be heard? Or should we run away right now?

    Although my mind was racing with these thoughts, my body didn’t move. We were just crouching under the large doors of the deep-sea aquarium, shivering. Yoo Geum-yi was almost covering her entire face with one hand and holding the two sneakers tied together with laces in the other, trembling. I must have looked similar to her. I was too frightened to even swallow the saliva in my mouth.

    Suddenly, Yoo Geum-yi opened one of the slightly ajar doors of the deep-sea aquarium and crawled behind me, who was against the other door. I asked with my eyes what she was doing, but she just shook her head. Two armed men were walking between the exit of the deep-sea aquarium and the entrance of the first exhibition hall. My breath was short. Gasping. What should I do!

    The men reached right in front of the entrance to the deep-sea aquarium. Because Yoo Geum-yi had opened one door, we were leaning against the other, making it visible to the armed men inside the aquarium. If they looked at the right angle, they could even see Yoo Geum-yi hiding behind me. I held my breath. My heart was pounding, and my vision blurred. Footsteps were right next to the door where I was hiding.

    The two were talking, mostly cursing someone named Tyler. They were wondering why he wasn’t coming out of a restroom. One man near the door kicked the closed door of the deep-sea aquarium. Bang! I was jolted awake. The shock came next. It felt like my side had been kicked.

    Despite the crazy kick, the door we were hiding behind didn’t move. I was leaning all my weight on the right side of the door, and Yoo Geum-yi was leaning against me. Our combined weight kept the door from moving when the man kicked it. I heard the man curse as he shook his foot, followed by the other man’s snickering laughter.

    Their voices grew distant. The other man mocked the one who kicked the door, asking if his leg was alright. Their footsteps faded away. Yoo Geum-yi reached out and touched my back, startling me. But she was just stroking my tense back. I then slowly exhaled. Only now did the pain from hitting my head, waist, and arms against the door hit me.

    “How. Why. The door. Why. Only one. How.”

    “Calm down, Moohyun-ssi. I just thought… if I leave the door open, they won’t open it.”

    “What if they had looked inside?”

    “Then there’s nothing we could do.”

    I couldn’t help but laugh at Yoo Geum-yi’s simple response. My tension, previously on the verge of bursting, was now easing. Once the footsteps had sufficiently distanced themselves, Yoo Geum-yi peeked out, confirming that no one was looking our way.

    Yoo Geum-yi and I rested there for about two minutes, too tense to move our legs without a break. Keeping one of the aquarium doors open, we continued to watch the exhibition hall, when slowly, the gap in the exhibition hall’s door widened, revealing Baek Ae-young’s eyes. Both Baek Ae-young and we looked towards the central plaza.

    “Geum-yi-ssi, go first. I’ll go last.”

    After watching for a moment, I signaled Yoo Geum-yi to run. She dashed out like a squirrel and slipped into the exhibition hall through the door Baek Ae-young had opened. I quickly looked towards the plaza to see if anyone had noticed, but no one was watching our way.

    Damn. Now it’s my turn. I was freaking out. First, I checked my shoes, tying the laces tightly and tucking the ends into the crossed laces to ensure they wouldn’t come loose. Was I ever good at running? Not really. Come to think of it, I wasn’t particularly talented in sports. What skills do I even have? None. Damn it. I peeked outside, looking for the right timing to make my run.

    In the plaza, many people were lying face down, hands tied behind their backs. A woman with disheveled blond hair was writhing and caught my eye as I peered out from the exit of the deep-sea aquarium. Despite seeing me clearly, she quickly turned away.

    It was Jennifer Smith, the team leader of the engineering team. I wouldn’t have recognized her if not for her long blond hair. Shocked, I stood frozen for a few seconds, but Jennifer didn’t alert the armed men to my presence. Pretending not to see me, she continued to wriggle forward like a worm, then suddenly bit the ankle of a man tied up in front of her.

    “Ow!”

    As the man screamed, all the armed men’s attention turned to him. Seizing the moment, I dashed out and ran towards the exhibition hall. It felt like running 20 meters, though it was only 5 or 6 meters. I couldn’t even feel my legs moving.

    Right in front of the exhibition hall, Baek Ae-young pulled me in and quietly closed the door. I fell forward, gasping for breath.

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