The fifth floor.
At the end of a corridor lined with various classrooms, there was a laboratory. Not one ray of light could escape from the resolutely-shut front door to the lab— only the soft rustling noises managed to intermittently leak out.
A certain teen boy was currently rummaging through the lab's interior. He cleared away the chemistry sets and other glass apparatuses on top of the tables and pulled out all of the books stored on the bookshelves. He was desperately searching for something.
But as time continued to tick by, the signs of anxiety slowly but surely crept into every little action he performed.
Suddenly, there was a noise.
However, the teen boy, Yi Sungjin, couldn't hear it due to the fact that he was turning a table upside down at that very moment. He intensely glared at and looked through all the fallen and shattered laboratory apparatuses. And he moved on, not even slowing down briefly to express his disappointment. He continued to mutter, ‘Coins, I need to find more coins.’
He deliberately didn't switch on the light. He thought that it'd be easier to spot those clear-yellow coins if the surroundings were darker.
Again, there were foreign noises. It was soft and low enough to miss if one didn't pay attention.
Yi Sungjin didn't pay any attention. His mind was full of thoughts of reviving his dead sister, Yi Seol-Ah. The Guide definitely said it— he would be able to bring his sister back to life if he got to amass lots of coins.
The mental shock he received after witnessing the dead Yi Seol-Ah being pulled out was truly enormous. Although everything below her waist remained relatively fine, her upper torso was ripped to shreds and not much of her remained. Just thinking about his undeservedly murdered sister, his body seemingly shook off any hints of growing fatigue and regained its vigor once more.
It was said that the heavens would help those who helped themselves, and he soon discovered an object gleaming softly inside a sink. Yi Sungjin's eyes shot wide open and he reflexively reached out.
Unfortunately…. he was in too much of a hurry.
The coin that he worked so hard to find, slipped out of his grasp and fell to the floor. It rolled and slid under the desk. The boy instantly jumped down and reached out with all his might, finally catching the wayward coin before it disappeared for good. Only then did he catch his breath again.
Outside the lab's windows, the world had become pitch dark. Only the cold, uncaring moonlight seeped through the glass and faintly illuminated the interior.
It was only one coin, but this was clear evidence that his concerted effort was not in vain.
Time was already well past midnight, yet he still had a long road ahead. He didn't have the time to worry about the Hour of Deceased. No, he had to find more coins. Lots more. Yi Sungjin clenched the lone coin in his hand tightly and gritted his teeth.
Yi Sungjin was about to push himself up from the floor but froze up instantly when he heard the noise. The noise seemed to brush by his senses, perhaps tauntingly calling out to him. His arms became tense and taut. His hands pressing down on the floor felt the deathly chill and goosebumps spread all over him.
In an instant, fifty thousand different thoughts raced past his brain. The sixteen-and-a-bit-year-old teen boy very slowly and cautiously raised his head. And when his sights were raised from the ash-colored floor just a tad, he forgot to breathe.
Just below the desk, he could see a pair of small feet, and above them, long, shapely legs. Legs, that trembled and stuttered as if they might falter at any moment.
Yi Sungjin was about to scream, but his eyes opened wider before his mouth could leak out a sound. Although he only saw the lower half, he found it rather familiar somehow. And when he recognized the blue skirt with dried blood on it, the boy's eyes opened even wider.
The stuttering legs stopped. And they slowly spun around as if they were looking for someone.
The voice sounded awful and Yi Sungjin was immediately repulsed by it, but to him, that wasn't important. He stood right up and….
“Noona? Is it you, Noona!? I'm here! N….”
…But he couldn't finish what he wanted to say.
The figure that had its back towards him and was slowly turning around was quite similar to Yi Seol-Ah. It had the same long flowing hair, and, and….
Something was wrong. Very wrong. He couldn't put his finger on it. Yet, this figure resembled his older sister so much….
Yi Sungjin's instincts were overcome with this hard to explain terror.
Suddenly, her neck skin wobbled and stretched like an empty sack. Only then did the boy understand the reason for the sense of disharmony— the ratio of her body parts didn't quite match up.
He wanted to ask. He desperately wanted to ask why her body looked like that. He desperately wanted to ask if she was really his sister. However, his voice refused to come out.
As if this thing wanted to tell him something, the abrasive and dirty voice continued to leak out. ‘She’ had completely turned around now and was facing him, and when Yi Sungjin saw the empty eye sockets, his deeply-held breaths exploded out from his lungs.
Would stitching together several worn-out mops resemble that thing? Within the many holes found on its skin, dried-up clumps of blood and rotting meat scraps were seemingly shoved in together.
The meshed and torn flesh seemed to have hardened after the bits were forced together to their supposedly correct destinations, while the ripped skin seemed like it was sewn back together and was draped over whatever was underneath. It was truly a hellish, nightmarish appearance.
Piecing together the torn-away bits of limbs and flesh one by one would probably net a better looking, more palatable result than this.
Yi Sungjin unconsciously stumbled back, until his heels got entangled and he fell down on his butt. His legs madly kicked the air as he tried to widen the gap between himself and that thing.
It was then that the comparatively-normal looking legs stopped approaching him. ‘Her’ misaligned jaw that looked like it might fall off at any given moment began trembling up and down.
“L, llliiisssttteeennn… Hhhuuurrryyy….”
Yi Sungjin's mind fell further into disarray. He thought that he'd be dead meat by now, yet why did this creature stop advancing? And, what was it trying to say to him?
It was here that a crazy thought popped up in his mind. He summoned what little courage he could.
“…Is, is it you, Noona?”
“Noona? Really? It is you, Noona!?”
While keeping his gaze firmly fixed on the creature, Yi Sungjin slowly got back up.
“Gggooo…. ooouuutttsssiiideee…. Fffiiinnnddd….”
“Go outside? Find? You mean coins? Are you talking about coins? Don't worry. I, I haven't given up, and I'm still looking for them! I'll definitely bring you back….”
The thing shook its head with some difficulty. It was as if it was saying that's not it.
“Iiittt…. cccooommmiiinnnggg…. Sssooooonnn…”
It weakly raised an arm somehow and pointed at the door.
“Cccooommmiiinnnggg…. ttthhheeeyyy aaarrreee…..”
Although it was hard to understand what it was saying, the boy still got to realize something. ‘She’ was saying he needed to get out before something else showed up.
“Noona!! It is you, right!?”
“I'll definitely bring you back to life!! That is why….”
Yi Sungjin's tearful voice seemingly caused the thing's shoulders to tremble as well. From its empty eye sockets, blood-colored liquid slowly oozed out.
It was then.
An ear-shattering scream coming from somewhere outside the lab shook the corridor hard.
Shin Sang-Ah jumped up in fright. Seol and Hyun Sangmin too wordlessly stared at each other.
“….Hey man, did you hear that?”
Seol nodded his head.
“Goddamn it! Why the hell can't they just come back after finding enough for themselves!?”
“Where did that come from?”
“Dunno. Could be from the fifth floor….”
Hyun Sangmin took off his cap and scratched his head.
Seol carefully slid open the door. The darkened corridor seemed rather ominous and eerie.
Although he had exited from the classroom, Seol had no idea what he should do now, since things were happening seemingly out of the blue. In the end, he chose to rely on his Nine Eyes once more.
The entire fourth-floor corridor was bathed in a green hue. Seeing this, Seol's gut feeling told him that the scream came from the fifth floor.
The three of them quickly climbed up the stairs. But soon after arriving on the fifth floor, they nearly collided into a teen boy running through the corridor. It was Yi Sungjin, and when he saw it was Seol, the boy's eyes opened wide.
“Mister Yi Sungjin? What's going on?”
Yi Sungjin suddenly grabbed Seol tightly.
“I, I saw her!! I saw Noona just now!!”
But, how could that be? Yi Seol-Ah was already dead. She was the first one to lose her life back in the assembly hall, after all. Seol carefully appraised the kid, but he didn't seem to be suffering from any form of mental duress.
Seeing Seol's expression, Yi Sungjin quickly shook his head.
“No, no! Hang on! It's definitely her! Her hair, her dress, everything….”
Yi Sungjin sounded frantic and confused, but his words did make Seol think for a minute. Then, a thought of ‘could it be?’ brushed past his brain.
“Was it really Yi Seol-Ah?”
“Yes!! Her…. appearance, it was a bit weird, but, but, she told me to quickly get out of there, and….”
‘You son of a….’ Seol somehow managed to swallow down the rising tide of curse words.
'The so-called Deceased are actually the people who died earlier in the day, aren't they?'
If what Yi Sungjin said was correct, then this could be the only explanation.
[The lock of the sixth-floor entrance has been disabled.]
[The gate will be activated in 30 minutes' time.]
[The second-floor metal barriers have been disabled.]
It was then that alarm bells began ringing out loudly from their smartphones.
“W–what the hell?”
Hyun Sangmin cried out in shock after checking out these rather unexpected messages.
“What the fuck!! Which insane motherfucker did this!?”
“What, what happened?”
Shin Sang-Ah asked Seol, but obviously, he too had no idea. Only that, his gut feeling was busy telling him that this wasn't the end, and there was more trouble yet to come.
'No. It'll be fine.'
The situation had suddenly turned a little chaotic, but Seol quietly controlled his emotions to calm them down. Running around like a headless chicken would only intensify the level of confusion. Besides, didn't he already make preparations for events such as this one?
For now, he decided to put aside the unanswered questions as there was something he needed to confirm first. Although he thought that there was a possibility that his suspicions might not be correct.
“Were you the one screaming just now, Yi Sungjin?”
“Eh? N–No. Not me. Right, I also came here after hearing that….”
“I, I thought it was a woman's voice….”
Shin Sang-Ah anxiously spoke up.
“In any case, it's not this kid, so what are we going to do next?”
Hyun Sangmin gritted his teeth.
“If we're going to search, then we should split up. Or, we go back right now.”
Seol had found one of the two people on his mind, so going back now to classroom 3-1, the safe zone, didn't sound like a bad idea.
“How about we split up into two groups of two and three? I mean, things could get dangerous.”
Seol was going to suggest going back, but then, Yi Sungjin took the initiative first and voiced his opinion. Seol looked at the boy with a surprised expression, and Yi Sungjin became somewhat sheepish.
“Ohh, I, uh… I also want to help you.”
“It's past midnight, thus things will definitely get dangerous. Also, the sixth-floor access has been granted as well. Returning to the safe zone might not be such a bad idea.”
“No. It's just that, I think my noona wanted me to find something….”
Although he said that, Yi Sungjin's voice suggested that he wasn't entirely convinced of it himself.
Seol's gaze sharpened. The surroundings became dyed in green. However, the color from one single spot dissipated almost immediately. The spot with no color whatsoever was the girl's toilet.
The light was switched off inside the toilet, but Seol confirmed a spot of blood on the floor right in front of the door. He slowly pushed it open. As if his senses were already familiarised with it, his nose reacted to the faint whiff of blood in the air.
By turning on the light, the group could see the interior of the bathroom quite clearly.
The figure collapsed on the bathroom floor was none other than Yun Seora. Her huddled and crumpled body was shaking and convulsing uncontrollably.
Seol got closer to her and ended up frowning deeply from what he saw. Even Hyun Sangmin issued a stunned gasp.
“What… What happened to her arm…?”
It was just as he said— Yun Seora's right forearm was completely mangled. As if someone had stabbed a knife and then went to town on the limb, the flesh on her arm was utterly torn up and destroyed. The bleeding was quite considerable too, and even her bones were visible to the naked eye.
“Miss Yun Seora? Miss Yun Seora!!”
Seol called out her name, but she didn't respond, simply convulsing over and over again.
“Please, move aside!”
Shin Sang-Ah hurriedly knelt down and took off her shirt. She ripped her top up, then proceeded to wrap the fabric around Yun Seora's shoulder and under her arm, and then securely tightened it. Her movements were well-practiced and quick as if she had performed actions like this countless times before. She then pushed open Yun Seora's eyelids and checked her eyes. A deep frown etched on her forehead.
“She's going through a shock. She will die soon if we let her be like this.”
“S–she will die!?”
“Yes! We need to do something! Anything!”
Shin Sang-Ah shouted out while repeatedly opening and closing Yun Seora's hand. However, Hyun Sangmin was comparatively calm as he spoke up.
“Since you’ve been on the treasure hunt for a while, you should know it. There ain't no infirmary on either the fourth or the fifth floor.”
“The item draw.”
Seol spoke up and the attention of the three was rapidly drawn to him. Now that they thought about it, 'medical supplies' was one of the listed items on the draw machine.
“What do we need to draw from there?”
Only after asking this question, Seol realized that it was the wrong one. From the onset, no one knew what would come out of the machine.
“I'll go and bring whatever comes out.”
Seol stood up while slinging his bag over his shoulder.
“What? You going alone?”
“What's the matter?”
“Let's not do it that way. How about this? This kiddo here and Miss will move Yun Seora over to the safe zone. Meanwhile, you spin that damn draw machine, and if we think we got the right crap, I'll take it back to the safe zone. I'll act as the go-between if need be.”
Seol found this suggestion quite logical, so although he knew that time was of the essence, he still nodded his head in appreciation. He was inwardly surprised as well— now that the metal barriers on the second floor were gone, that Gaekgwi monster would definitely show up sooner or later. Even then, Hyun Sangmin was keeping his promise.
“Let's hurry up!”
Hyun Sangmin pushed Seol's back.
Entrusting Yun Seora to the remaining two, Seol and Hyun Sangmin headed straight to the library. Perhaps fortunately, they didn't run into the Deceased or the other people.
Unfortunately though, the medical supplies didn't want to come out. They got to draw plenty of food and daily necessities. They even ended up receiving the 'note from the Guide'. Sometime later, all they had to show for their effort was a couple of rolls of gauze, a bottle of antiseptic, some ointments, and a few other things. They were neither here nor there.
“Let me just take these along for now. What about you?”
“Go on ahead.”
“Okay. Don't strain yourself, though. Ah, right. As soon as I deliver these, I'll come back here right away. If I don't show up within two minutes, then that means something bad has happened to me.”
“Don't worry, I'll rescue you.”
“Hah! Well, thanks for the sentiment, but I'm not playing here. I'm being serious.”
Hyun Sangmin was indeed dead serious, and he left the library like a streak of lightning.
Seol concentrated on drawing from the machine. He was quite confident that he'd be able to kill this Gaekgwi monster if it showed up. Right now, he wanted to procure medical supplies if it meant he could help just a bit more.
If Yun Seora died, then that would be the end of the road there.
He thought like this and continued to move his hands without rest until his movements suddenly came to a halt.
'….Why am I doing this?'
She was a complete stranger to him. So what did it matter if she died or not? Sure, it would be a pity if she did die, but was there a reason for him to go this far? While even wasting his hard-earned coins?
He couldn't understand it. He thought that it'd be nice if he could activate Future Vision right about now. Seol hesitated, yet returned to spinning the draw machine.
And so, he finally got his hands on some rolls of compression bandages, a hemostat, as well as vials of morphine. But then….
Seol realized that something was off. He thought that it was already well past the two-minute mark, yet Hyun Sangmin hadn't returned.
Seol felt a certain sense of anxiety creeping in— after all, he thought that Hyun Sangmin was joking around and thus, didn't pay much attention back then.
Now that he more or less got what he needed, Seol put them all in his bag and left the library.
When he climbed down the staircase and arrived on the fourth floor, he ended up running into quite an unexpected sight.