제 1 장: Skirmish on the Seabed

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Just south of the Korean peninsula lies an island once called Tamna

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Just south of the Korean peninsula lies an island once called Tamna. Nowadays, visitors flock to the island to tour the beautiful landscape, but during the Joseon Dynasty, the place was considered useful only for horse-breeding and as a convenient location to exile political prisoners.

Yoon Jin, however, was one such Tamna native who had never owned horses, and she was far too immersed in her work than to have much time for court politics. This particular day was no different, and as cold raindrops began splattering the face of the ocean above, she held her breath and sank deeper into the dark water around her.

A moment later, Jin's feet touched down on the slightly-rocky surface of the seabed, sending up slow-moving puffs of sand at the disturbance of her arrival. In the quiet beneath the waves, it would have been easy to forget the approaching storm if it weren't for the ever-darkening waters.

Jin squinted, trying to make out the blurry shapes before her. She would have to be quick. The familiar ocean flora was usually a rainbow of sun-colored sea fans, flowery pink coral, and glossy kelp in shades of yellow-green. Now, however, the colors had dimmed, and everything was starting to just look very dark and very blue. Before long, she wouldn't be able to tell the difference between an abalone and a volcanic lump of rock.

A large, dark shape moved to her right, and Jin turned to watch one of the other haenyeo divers swim past. It was Cha Eunbi, already with a handful of sargassum stashed in the small net she carried. Not to be outdone, Jin pushed off towards the kelp forest.

Careful of getting tangled, Jin wove through the blades of kelp and kept her eye out for any easy-to-spot purples or reds. She belatedly noticed the spikes of the first sea urchin, and reached down with her hooked metal golgakji to snag the creature and drop it in her net. Just beneath a kelp blade farther away, there was another red one, and she quickly added it to her collection.

By now, the pressure of the water was ringing in her ears, and her lungs ached for a fresh breath of air. She was out of time. Turning towards the surface, Jin gave a strong kick and sped upwards, bubbles trailing behind her.

"Jin's here!" was the first thing she heard when she broke through the waves and sucked in a deep whistling breath. Eunbi had already surfaced, and the middle-aged woman was calling out names as the haenyeos returned from their dives. It had gotten stormier in the time that Jin had been submerged, and Eunbi's voice was hard to hear over the howling wind and sloshing water.

Another cloth-wrapped head popped up, gasping for breath.

"Solhee's back too!" Eunbi announced. "That's everyone! Let's get back to the rocks!"

"Just once more!" someone protested, and seven bobbing heads turned in the direction of the voice. It was Kang Mari, who at the age of fifteen had just completed her eight-year diving training, and had recently started working in the deeper water with the older haenyeos.

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