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    At that moment, the man’s punches ceased. It was too dark to properly see why he had stopped hitting me. Had his left arm gone limp from beating someone for so long? The smell of blood was palpable. I couldn’t tell whose blood it was. In the darkness, while gasping for breath and holding onto the man’s right arm and hand, I saw a light and turned my head to find Kim Ga-young limping towards us, her pad switched on.

    “It is Arthur Goodman.”

    Only when Kim Ga-young came closer could I see why Arthur’s fists, which had been swinging at me, had stopped. Yoo Geum-yi was pressing down on Arthur’s left arm with all her body weight. To hit me, he would need the strength to lift a weight of about 50 to 60 kg or more with one arm. At the edge of the light, Lee Jihyun was groaning and pushing away an iron chair with her arm.

    “I’m Kim Ga-young, working in the lab next to yours. The Asian bitch you cursed at. I knew you were a racist, but I never thought we’d meet like this in this situation.”

    It was all in Korean. I couldn’t tell if the translator had broken or come off when I fell. All sorts of English curses poured out of Arthur’s mouth. They were all curses about women, the kind that would justifiably get you fired from society if you uttered even a single letter.

    Kim Ga-young approached at a slow pace, and as Arthur was struggling to break free, I pressed down on him with all my might. Lee Jihyun approached Arthur’s right arm, which I was holding onto. Then, using her ten fingers, she pried open one of Arthur’s right pinky fingers holding the gun. With her ten fingers, she began bending that forced-open single finger in the opposite direction of the joint. Aaaaargh! After completely bending the pinky finger backwards, she moved on to the fourth ring finger, repeating the same process.

    Finally, Kim Ga-young, who had approached us to a distance of zero, took out a bottle from the bag she was carrying. It was a bottle of hydrochloric acid. Had she grabbed it during the blackout? Even in the faint light of the pad, Yoo Geum-yi gasped as she recognized what it was. Before I could stop her, Kim Ga-young opened the bottle and poured it straight onto Arthur’s head without hesitation.

    “Aaaaaaaaagh!”

    The smell of burning protein immediately filled the air. Yoo Geum-yi groaned and turned her head, and I squeezed my eyes shut, swallowing a scream. As I pressed down on the struggling body with all my strength, I heard the glug-glug-glug sound of the acid pouring out of the bottle like water. Even with my eyes closed, the smells and sounds reached me directly. The body pinned under me was thrashing and trying to break free with all its strength.

    “You are a certified asshole.”

    Kim Ga-young spoke in a flat tone, unfazed by the screams of her victim.

    “You think you’re the only human. Difficult and trying situations can befall anyone. At times like this, everyone struggles. Everyone wants to survive, everyone wants to be selfish. But even in tough circumstances, you shouldn’t have turned into a monster so easily. Kids twenty years younger than you are out there saving people, and you’re not even ashamed at your age?”

    Soon the screams subsided. Due to the blood flowing down, I couldn’t see well through my right eye, so I slightly opened my left eye and saw that Kim Ga-young was now pouring the acid not on his head, but directly onto his face. Oh my god. I didn’t have the stomach to watch and closed my eyes.

    “OB (Organic Breakdown) wasn’t researched and developed over such a long time to kill people. Because of you. Because of you. So many people died. Because of you, so many good people were hurt.”

    Now, convulsions began to grip the man’s body. When the third finger was twisted, Lee Jihyun finally pried the organic compound gun from Arthur’s hand. She then placed it inside Kim Ga-young’s open bag and zipped it closed.

    “Don’t turn into a monster in crisis situation. No matter how hard it gets.”

    I placed Yoo Geum-yi’s arm over my shoulder and had Kim Ga-young put her arm around my waist. My right cheek was so swollen that I couldn’t see well ahead of me, causing me to step on Lee Jihyun’s heel as she walked in front and nearly making us both fall. We had survived, but everyone’s condition was far from normal. We had to walk slowly, leaning on each other for support.

    There was no need to rush, or more accurately, we had lost the ability to run, so we slowly walked through the barrier. We soon passed the Deep-Sea Life Center and entered the Seabed Pollution Center. After crossing the long corridor of the connecting passageway, we saw the large letters spelling out “Seabed Pollution Center” and a statue of a creature that looked either like a chicken or a crane. Beneath the statue was a simple phrase:

    [Clean and Bountiful Ocean]

    That was it. My vision was half-obscured due to the blood, so I thought that was really it, but even as we passed close to the statue, that was all there was to it. The Seabed Pollution Center wanted something simple yet most difficult.

    Entering the Seabed Pollution Center, which had lights unlike the blacked-out Deep-Sea Life Center, several people emerged from the corners. As they slowly approached us from a distance, Lee Jihyun, who was leading the way, took out a scalpel and pointed it forward. Then she swung it widely. It was a clear message that she would attack anyone who came close.

    The people didn’t approach too closely, but Yoo Geum-yi, who had been walking while leaning on my shoulder, collapsed to the floor as her legs gave out. I tried to put Yoo Geum-yi’s arm, who was nearly crawling on the ground, back over my shoulder and stand up, but I also had no strength at all. One of the men approached Lee Jihyun with both hands raised. He was a tall man who pointed at Yoo Geum-yi and said to Lee Jihyun,

    “I’ll just help support her. I’ll only assist with moving, that’s all.”

    “How can I trust you? I don’t trust anyone!”

    Lee Jihyun was incredibly on edge due to the events that had just occurred. The stress must be immense. I understand. I, too, would be terrified if someone tried to grab us right now. At least we were now under the light, which helped calm us down and prevent us from falling into a panic, but if someone had appeared in the darkness earlier, who knows what would have happened.

    Yoo Geum-yi, who was holding onto my waist, frowned and managed to get on one knee, raising her upper body with great difficulty. The pale-faced Kim Ga-young almost hugged Yoo Geum-yi to help her up from the floor, but they both looked like they were about to collapse.

    The man looked at our state and slowly rolled up his left sleeve, revealing his entire forearm. Lee Jihyun was so startled by his action that she jumped back. There was a long tattoo in English on his dark skin, written in white ink. It was all in English, and with my impaired vision on one side, I couldn’t clearly see what it said. However, Lee Jihyun seemed to be reading it aloud. I was more concerned that while Lee Jihyun was distracted reading it, the man might attack or hit us.

    “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

    What is he saying? Did I hear that correctly? Is my hearing impaired too? My entire right side ached all over. Lee Jihyun’s face gradually froze as she finished reading the tattoo on his forearm. The man, who had been holding up both hands, replied simply,

    “Matthew 22. Hey, sis. I’ll just help, that’s all.”

    An exchange of Bible verses? In this situation? As someone who despises religion, this is utterly incomprehensible to me. How would I know if that dead Arthur Goodman was a Christian? If this unfolds similarly to a dream, perhaps the cult that has taken over this underwater base also originated from a well-known religion. However, after looking at us crawling along and the white tattoos on the man’s forearm, Lee Jihyun hesitated, still holding the scalpel, and said,

    “James. Please help support Yoo Geum-yi. The short one over there.”

    They knew each other? The man named James approached Yoo Geum-yi, knelt down, and turned his back to her. Yoo Geum-yi hesitated, her tired face turning from side to side. Then, realizing that he was offering his back to her, she spoke in a voice that sounded like it would give out,

    “I’m heavy.”

    “I’ll know when I carry you.”

    Yoo Geum-yi looked at Lee Jihyun, Kim Ga-young beside her, and me, then almost collapsed onto his back, lacking any strength. James stood up effortlessly with Yoo Geum-yi on his back. Then he remarked, as if in disbelief,

    “Light as a feather.”

    He then strode over and laid Yoo Geum-yi on the long bench located next to the vending machine. Seeing this, another man approached Lee Jihyun, causing her to growl and point the scalpel at him. The man pointed at James and said to Lee Jihyun,

    “Wow! Calm down! I’m friends with him. Sam Young. Sam! You know? You’ve seen me before. We’ve seen each other’s faces many times.”

    “Help Ga-young. Her hands are injured from the acid. She needs to rinse them with water.”

    As Sam cautiously approached, he saw Kim Ga-young’s hands and exclaimed, “Holy shit! Mother fuck!” He then forcibly carried Kim Ga-young on his back and ran down the corridor. It seemed like he was heading towards the restroom.

    “Jihyun. Go help Ga-young. Make sure you don’t get separated. I’ll stay with Geum-yi.”

    Lee Jihyun looked me over from head to toe and frowned, but ran off in the direction Sam had dashed. I was surrounded by a group of five or six men. Strangely, I wasn’t afraid. Perhaps it was because such terrible and frightening things had already happened, or maybe my brain had determined that I was in too much pain to feel any more. If this were a normal situation, I would have been terrified to be surrounded by several unfamiliar men.

    The men slowly approached, showing their open palms, and touched my shoulders, striking up a conversation. Hey bro. Why are you so badly hurt? Dude. Are you okay? Your forehead is cut and bleeding a lot. Can you press this towel against it? Your cheek is all busted. Who beat you up like this? Did you at least get some hits in?

    “It’s okay. Please lay me down next to Geum-yi too.”

    Someone grabbed my right shoulder, and someone else grabbed my left shoulder. I was nearly dragged over to the beverage vending machine area. With my limited vision, the Seabed Pollution Center seemed to have a similar structure to the Deep-Sea Life Center.

    The problem was that this was the third floor, and the lower part of the building, which looked like an “ㅁ” shape, was completely flooded. It was submerged in water up to the second floor. I seemed to have lost consciousness for about 10 seconds, and when I came to, I was lying on a long bench in the corridor, slightly away from the bench where Yoo Geum-yi was lying. Someone was pressing a towel against my right eye, and mistaking it for them pressing on my nose, I abruptly sat up, but realizing that wasn’t the case, I lay back down limply.

    “You startled me.”

    The man who introduced himself as Kanu chuckled and pressed the towel firmly against the wound.

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