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    1. The Depths of the Ocean [1]

    Yeonsoo raises a deep-sea fish in his room.

    He prepared a very large tank for the deep-sea fish. A tank that almost fills the room.

    Due to the fish that dislikes light, Yeonsoo’s room is always dark. He lived in the room without turning on the lights at all, and even adjusted the living room’s lighting to be dark so that the light entering when opening and closing the door is minimized. As a result, his house was overall dark and gloomy, and the darkened room felt like the deep sea.

    Yeonsoo fell in love with the deep sea since his university days. He was majoring in marine science in college, and one day he saw a deep sea video in a liberal arts class It was footage taken by an unmanned submersible designed for deep-sea exploration, capable of diving to 5,000 meters below the surface.

    He was captivated the moment he saw it. In that deep and dark universe.

    The deep sea was like the outer space. A world of gloomy abyss without light, sound, or oxygen. A shadow universe. Deep sea creatures that emit light themselves to distinguish each other in the darkness like the stars of the universe.

    Adapted to the cold water temperature, deep-sea creatures with slow metabolism and slow growth rarely meet each other throughout their long lives, living lives akin to eternity. It is not uncommon for them to starve to death due to the difficulty of finding food.

    Loneliness. What is clearly covering the vast universe-like deep sea is like a black curtain of eternal loneliness. A cosmic loneliness that, no matter how much one swims in it, can never be escaped from.

    Yeonsoo gazed at the dense darkness inside the tank. Slowly swimming towards him, his deep-sea fish devoured the darkness bit by bit.

    The fish, the size of a palm, had a bizarre appearance. Bulging eyes that seemed like they might pop out at any moment, a body so transparent that bones and organs were visible, tentacles protruding in all directions. It resembled more of a monstrous being than a fish. Due to this appearance, this deep-sea creature is also known as the ‘sea devil.’ The exact scientific name is long and complex, not something Yeonsoo bothered to memorize.

    Yeonsoo called it “Glow.” The reason was simple. The protruding eyes shimmered and glows. Its white and bluish skin emitted a radiant white light, further justifying the moniker.

    If he were to gaze at the figure floating in the darkened room for a long time, Yeonsoo felt as if he were in space.

    A universe that swallows surrounding energy and expands infinitely. The feeling of being engulfed by its violent melancholy.

    For some reason, he liked that feeling.

    Yeonsoo was lonely all his life. But when he was with Glow, he felt that everything was okay. It may be because this fish is a lonely existence like himself. No, maybe it’s because this fish is the only one who will be with him until the end. They say deep-sea fish live forever, after all.

    However, who will take care of Glow after he is gone? Yeonsoo, who was briefly worried, burst into laughter. Who cares about whom after they die? In a world where everyone wishes to become a fish.

    The world was gradually sinking into the water. Maybe someday soon, when the world is completely submerged in the sea, this fish will be able to return to where they were born. So worrying now is utterly pointless.

    ⊹˚. ♡.𖥔 ݁ ˖ ⊹˚. ♡.𖥔 ݁ ˖


    Yeonsoo swiped his access card on the reader. The green light blinked once, and his photo, department, and name appeared on the screen.


    Han Yeonsoo

    Marine Biology Conservation and Reproduction Department

    National Marine Biology Research Center


    Yeonsoo glanced at the name of the department they were assigned to today with a dry gaze.

    In fact, just yesterday, he was assigned to the “Deep Sea Biology Research Department.” It was a department that studied the survival methods of deep-sea organisms, exploring how this creatures lived in the deep sea without oxygen and light.

    Research on the habitat of deep sea organisms was crucial in today’s world. Perhaps soon, humans on Earth might have to live under the sea.

    However, regardless of the importance of the research topic, most researchers were reluctant to join the Deep Sea Biology Research Department due to its dark and gloomy research atmosphere.

    Yeonsoo was an exception. After volunteering, he had stayed in the department without any transfers for several years. But yesterday afternoon, he suddenly received a notice of a change in his department.

    He was both taken aback and angry. Such a one-sided notification. Well, was there anything that wasn’t one-sided in this place?

    Other departments were equally displeasing, but the Conservation and Reproduction Department was particularly disliked. They couldn’t understand why such a department existed. Why would humans interfere in the reproduction of different species? Such arrogance brought today’s tragedy, yet foolish humanity continues to repeat the same mistakes.

    Yeonsoo paused in front of the director’s office to catch his breath.

    The director was not someone who would listen to Yeonsoo’s request to cancel the department transfer. Was there any need to confront him?

    Director Ki-joon was always a daunting figure. With a ruthless temperament and an extraordinary desire for power, he was known as the dictator of the center. He constantly verbally abused and ridiculed the researchers, and even physically assaulted the contract workers who handled the center’s administrative tasks.

    But as everyone cursed him, no one resisted him. He had great connections in the military, which is how he became the center director. That was the world they lived in.

    A massive empire of corruption where justice is nonexistent. Most of the inland was submerged in water, and only the strong survived to establish the newly formed country, the ‘Union Republic’.

    Should he just give up and leave? However, he hated the idea of being transferred in the Conservation and Reproduction Department. He had to grasp at least a straw.

    After a moment of internal conflict, he knocked and slowly opened the door to the director’s office.

    “Hello, Director.”

    Kang Ki-joon stood with his back turned towards the large window made of transparent glass.

    Kang Ki-joon always had eyes in the back of his head, so he always had to bow his head and greet him properly, or else he didn’t know what trouble he would get into. He remembered the rumors circulating in the center, but as always, Yeonsoo just nodded his head without any expression.

    Ki-joon turned around.

    “Our Doctor Han. It’s so hard to see your face like this.”

    It was a tone filled with tension. Yeonsoo let out a faint sigh so as not to be heard. Whenever he spoke like that, something bad always happened.

    “So, I have to issue a department transfer order before I can see that pretty face of yours, huh?”

    A strangely intense gaze blatantly swept up and down Yeonsoo’s body.

    Ugh, what a disgusting bastard. Seeing Yeonsoo unable to hide his expression, Kang Ki-joon smiled as if he was amused. Then he moved the cigarette from his lips to between his fingers and flicked it away.

    Since the world had gone to ruin and plants no longer grew anywhere, cigarettes had become a luxury item that cost tens of dollars each. The entire land had become a non-smoking zone a long time ago. The cigarette in his hand was more than just a mere symbol, it was a representation of his power.

    Yeonsoo reluctantly suppressed the urge to turn around and run away. He had already done many things to provoke him, but their relationship couldn’t be strained any further. He held everything that belonged to Yeonsoo. If he was cut off from the center, he would lose everything, truly everything.

    He forced a composed expression, concealing his discomfort, and calmly opened his mouth.

    “Um, Director. Why a department transfer? It’s too sudden. I want to stay in the Deep Sea Biology department. I even wrote my doctoral thesis on deep-sea organisms. Conservation and Reproduction Department of marine organisms is such an unfamiliar field…”

    He couldn’t conclude his words. It was because Ki-joon quickly closed their distance and approached him until he was right in front of his face. He instinctively tried to step back, but he barely held himself back. Even if he took a few steps back from here, the door would be blocked. It would be better to just stay where he was, rather than being trapped in between.

    Ki-joon took a deep drag of his cigarette, causing his cheeks to hollow out, and then slowly exhaled towards his face. The damp smoke clung to his skin.

    Crazy bastard. He clenched his trembling lower lip.

    “Han Yeonsoo, do you think I moved you because I had personal motives?”


    “It’s written all over your pretty and arrogant face. You think I went through all this trouble just to mess with you.”


    “Of course, tormenting you is my greatest pleasure. But do you know how many ways I can mess with you right? Do you know how annoying and frustrating it is for me to order your transfer? You may not know, but the Conservation and Reproduction Department is the core of our center. We carry out secret projects that are directly approved and commanded by the executives of the Assembly. It requires a complex process and verification to transfer a person. I hope you understand that it’s a burden for me to send you there.”

    Han Yeonsoo’s face twitched faintly.

    His expectations were shattered. So, was it really a necessary department transfer for the center? Things took a turn for the worse than expected. If so, whatever was done would be hard to undo.

    Moreover, what is this secret project?

    The executives of the Union directly approve and command it?

    A project for a mere research center?

    Kang Ki-joon looked at the intricate features of Yeon-soo’s face as if admiring a piece of art before speaking.

    “It’s a top-secret, but let me tell you as a celebration of becoming a new member of the Conservation and Reproduction Department. Two researchers lost their lives not long ago.”

    “What do you mean?”

    Unable to believe what he just heard, Han Yeonsoo asked blankly.

    What kind of situation would cause people to die in a place where they sit and conduct research? Moreover, if two people really died in one department, it’s strange that the center is so quiet.

    “It was a personnel transfer that I had no choice but to make due to the shortage of staff. Okay?”

    “I don’t understand what you’re saying. What on earth is this…”

    “Don’t try to go too far all at once. You’ll find out gradually.”

    Ki-joon put a fresh cigarette in his mouth and returned to his desk. He lightly tapped the desk with his finger. More precisely, he tapped the neatly arranged documents on the desk.

    “This is a confidentiality agreement. Sign it. Underneath is a disclaimer stating that even if you die from research, it would be okay.”


    “Go find Kei, he’s your your senior and he will guide you on the project you will be assigned to. That’s all, you may leave.”

    He pushed the documents towards Yeonsu as if throwing them, then turned his gaze up to the computer screen. Yeonsoo stared at his sharp profile. His cheeks seemed slightly thinner than last time.

    Normally, he would have tried to hold himself together due to his impolite and uncomfortable jokes, but today he seemed truly exhausted, with no energy left to do so.

    It seems that this personnel transfer being ‘burdensome even for himself’ was not a lie.

    Sigh. An uncontrollable sigh burst out. Judging by the atmosphere, it seemed difficult to avoid the matter. Not only that, he felt like he’s going to be involved in something very complicated and dangerous.

    His condition, which had been low since morning, finally hit rock bottom. With a completely drained face, he gathered the documents and headed towards the exit.

    Yeonsoo, who was about to grab the doorknob and turn it, stopped.

    “Why me of all people?”

    Unable to hold back the question, he asked.

    The gaze of Kang Ki-joon, which had been glued to the monitor, slowly rose up.

    “To enter that department, two conditions must be met. One is the ability to process information at the speed of listening like a genius, and the other is…”

    A bitter laugh brushed past his face.

    “If the center tells you to die, you must be able to die. So, you must be a person who is firmly committed and willing to risk your life for the center.”


    “Is there someone more suitable than Doctor Yeonsoo?”

    There is a clear mockery at the end of his words.

    “…Damn it.”

    Yeonsoo muttered as if he wants him to hear it, and with a bang, he went out of the door.

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