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    4. Critical Depth (1)

    After finishing the morning work, Yeonsoo went to the control room. He was curious about how Beresht completed the puzzle.

    While reviewing the footage from last night, looking for cameras capturing the entrance, he stumbled upon a surprising scene. Yeonsoo had naturally assumed that Beresht had completed the puzzle by hand outside the water. But that wasn’t the case. Beresht had swept all the puzzle pieces scattered on the floor inside the cage with its tail, gathered them together, and carried them into the water.

    After that, what happened next was unclear. Yeonsoo searched through the footage recorded inside the tank but found nothing. Without specialized equipment for inspection, it was impossible to manually review hours of footage from multiple cameras. Moreover, he couldn’t determine if there were any blind spots inside the tank.

    Anyway, after some time, Beresht brought the completed puzzle out of the water. Not a single puzzle piece was lost in the water, they were all perfectly attached to the board. It was astounding.

    How on earth?

    Without being able to confirm it with his own eyes, he couldn’t come to an immediate conclusion.

    When it came to that creature, he always deferred judgment. He couldn’t hastily label anything. Yeonsoo found himself increasingly curious about Beresht.

    Last night was a turning point for Yeonsoo.

    An oddly and suspiciously assigned project. Apart from his personal fascination with Beresht, he hadn’t been particularly interested in the project itself. He had never really thought about how much the government knew about Beresht or what they intended to do with it.

    However, now everything came differently. The attraction to Beresht was more than just a light curiosity that he had felt toward deep-sea creatures. Yeonsoo wanted to find out more about Beresht and even uncover the true purpose of this project involving it.

    Beresht is a special existence. It was speculated to have intelligence comparable to humans. Furthermore, it is several times stronger than humans and capable of surviving in extreme environments.

    Especially, Subject 10 was even more special. For some reason, all the other organisms with ovaries died after the breeding experiment. Now, the only Beresht left in the center is Subject 10.

    Why did they all die one after another?

    There was one plausible hypothesis. Subject 10 had influenced them in some way.

    What are they trying to achieve by preserving and breeding such a special existence?

    The idea of breeding for survival research seemed plausible, but upon participating in the project, Yeonsoo realized it was just a groundless excuse. In reality, what the researchers did in the lab was nothing more than an active preservation.

    The current government was hiding too much from the researchers participating in the project. Other than the footage Keu had shown him, Yeonsoo couldn’t access any information related to the deaths of researchers, and most of the results of the past experiments were inaccessible due to his status.

    A strange unease permeated throughout the project. The pieces were clearly there, but the pictures were not visible.

    What on earth could it be?

    What was he missing?

    Yeonsoo decided to piece them together one by one.

                                                                          ⊹˚. ♡.𖥔 ݁ ˖ ⊹˚. ♡.𖥔 ݁ ˖

    A man with cold, shining silver glasses sat in front of him. He was a doctor, but at the same time, a judge. Yeonsoo often mistakenly thought that he was wearing a black robe instead of a white gown.

    ‘Yeonsoo. You can be honest with the teacher.’

    He always urged him to be honest. Sometimes in a coaxing manner, sometimes in a cold, merciless tone.

    His sharp eyes, eager to uncover and judge, lashed at Yeonsoo like a whip. Each time, he was torn painfully. He barely swallowed the screams that crawled up his throat. Now he knew. There was no one to hear him cry out even if he did.

    ‘Be honest.’

    His voice was gentle, like a lover’s whisper.

    ‘Did you kill him?’

    ‘Th-that was, self-defense…. If I didn’t kill him, he would have killed me.’

    Yeonsoo squeezed out his answer. His fingertips trembled. His ears felt stuffy. Even his dry pupils didn’t shed a tear.

    ‘Is that really true?’


    ‘Are you sure? That it was really self-defense?’


    ‘No. Yeonsoo. Look at me in the eye and answer properly.’

    Yeonsoo barely managed to lift his trembling chin a little.

    ‘You know too. How much we’ve tried to find what you’ve lost.’


    ‘It wasn’t there.’

    Through the transparent glasses, his long eyelashes gleamed.

    ‘It wasn’t lost. It was never there to begin with.’

    Suddenly, two large hands choked Yeonsoo’s neck. Yeonsoo struggled, flailing his arms.

    ‘You must have used that clever brain of yours, huh? Sitting on top of the adults’ heads and manipulating everyone. How was it? Did you enjoy it?’

    The grip on his neck tightened. He couldn’t breathe. The air gradually disappeared from his lungs, and was instead replaced by a burning sensation.

    He flailed his arms in desperation. He pushed against the man with all his strength.

    As soon as he escaped from his grasp, he turned away and ran. His breath was heavy. His chest heaved. His vision blurred. But he kept running. It was clear that the demon in the black robe was still chasing after him.

    His strength slowly drained from his body. The speed of his legs moving significantly slowed down. If he stopped, he felt like he would be caught, but he couldn’t hold on any longer.

    In that moment, he saw a faint light in the distance. A bright blue light that pierced through the darkness. A lighthouse-like light that welcomed a ship returning through a storm.

    Yeonsoo continued running, relying on that light.

    If he could just reach there, just a little further, perhaps this nightmare would end.

    And suddenly, his vision cleared.

    A smooth sensation enveloped him. His consciousness, which had been locked away, slowly rose to the surface. He lifted his eyelids with difficulty.

    The boundary between reality and dream blurred. The light seeping into his eyelids confused him, whether it was the lighthouse light he had been chasing in his dream or the reality’s illumination waking him up.


    “Sorry. Did I wake you up? The lab was a bit cold.”

    A gentle smile appeared before his eyes. Yeonsoo realized that he had finally awakened from the nightmare.

    A fluffy blanket covered his body. Alex had been pulling the edge of the blanket up to his chin.

    “You seemed to be having a nightmare. You were tossing and turning around so much. I wondered whether I should wake you up.”

    Yeonsoo brushed off his messy hair with his hand and sat up.

    He seemed to have fallen asleep again after spending some time in front of the tank.

    “Has everyone left work?”

    “Yes. It’s been a while since we left work.”

    “Why hasn’t Alex left yet?”

    “I came here to check because Dr. Han didn’t come up. I won’t stop you from working overtime if you volunteer, but don’t overdo it. Don’t fall asleep with the air conditioning on too high. You won’t catch a cold in this scorching heat, will you?”

    “…Thank you.”

    “Don’t mention it.”

    Alex replied briskly and rose to her feet.

    “It’s Beresht.”

    She took a step back and tilted her head, looking up. Yeonsoo naturally followed her gaze. What had seeped into their eyes wasn’t from the brightness that they thought was from the lights, it was something else. A huge deep-sea species was floating right above their head, emitting light.

    “It was watching Dr. Han while sleeping. It was sparkling, and it looked just like a dream catcher hanging in a bedroom. You know, those amulets that Indians use to catch nightmares.”

    With her arms crossed, Alex pondered, lost in thought.

    She must have already finished preparing to leave work because she had her bag slung over one shoulder. The thin coat casually draped over her transparent silk shirt looked stylish. The black rose embroidered on the coat suited her well. Her vividly disheveled auburn hair at her neck was as flashy and carefree as her personality.

    Yeonsoo often thought of Durga, the goddess of war, whenever he saw Alex. Durga, who had eight arms and rode a tiger, was brave and fearless, but deep in her heart, she had the compassion of a lotus flower. Such diversity and the duality of a goddess suited her perfectly.

    “Do you believe in God?”

    Suddenly, Alex asked, catching Yeonsoo off guard. It felt strange to bring up the topic he was thinking of too. After much contemplation, Yeonsoo answered.

    “Hmm, I do rationalize. I believe there might be a God.”

    “Rational reasoning? For example?”

    “All concepts that humans conceive actually exist. Even mythical creatures like dragons are just combinations of actual animals with features such as horns or wings. If there is a tangible entity corresponding to every concept, then there must also be a tangible entity for the ‘infinity’ that finite beings like humans contemplate. Therefore, there must exist a being that embodies infinity itself, possessing omnipotence and omniscience….)”

    [A/N: The following two books were consulted: René Descartes, “Discourse on the Method and Meditations on First Philosophy,” translated by Lee Hyun-bok, Moonji Publishing, 2001. René Descartes, “Meditations, Truth Seeking by the Light of Nature, with Annotations on the Program,” translated by Lee Hyun-bok, Moonji Publishing, 1997.]

    “Wow. Is Dr. Han solving an exam question right now? Why are you proving the existence of God here?”

    Cutting off his words, Alex chuckled incredulously as if dumbfounded. She causally adjusted the loose bag strap on her shoulder and took a few steps closer. She met Yeonsoo’s eyes, stooping slightly.

    “God is not something you understand with your head. You believe in it here.”

    Her neatly manicured fingertips lightly tapped on Yeonsoo’s chest.

    Yeonsoo looked up at her with a slightly surprised expression. He never expected to hear such words from her, of all people. At least from her appearance alone, she seemed far from leading a religious life.

    “You didn’t know. I’m a very devout Christian.”


    If she believed in something, she seemed like someone would believe in a freer atmosphere like the Hinduism religion. Christianity was very unexpected.

    “I never expected it at all. We used to play anagrams together and you mock the church quite harshly, and also…”

    Yeonsoo stopped talking as if hesitating to continue his words, and Alex chuckled.

    “Yeah, you can just say it. Do you think I look like a hypocrite?”


    “Don’t doubt my faith just based on appearances alone, okay? I really do believe in God. I doubt Him every moment, and sometimes I curse at Him because he’s really f*cked up, but I believe in him anyway.”

    She had a determined look in her eyes. Yeonsoo felt sorry for hastily judging her and awkwardly smiled. Just as he was about to say something in apology, Alex turned away and distanced herself.

    Her warm brown eyes, filled with light, once again followed the light in the tank.

    “Do you believe in the soul? Do you really think that soul exists?”

    Another question was thrown again.

    I believe it exists.

    But I couldn’t prove it.

    Proving the existence of souls was a much more difficult problem than proving the existence of God.

    Even great philosophers like Descartes couldn’t prove the existence of the soul. They could only speculate that it might reside somewhere in the brain. Advanced neuroscience claims that many psychological actions we believe to be attributed to the soul are simply chemical reactions in the brain. Thus, humans are increasingly doubting the existence of the soul.

    He raised his gaze. He saw Beresht floating in the dark water. Since it couldn’t be proven, the soul was truly in the realm of belief. His faint belief in the soul was solidified by that blue creature.

    That presence clearly touched somewhere deep inside him. If that being were not an entity worthy of being called a soul, then what else could it be?

    “I believe in the soul. So, I believe that even that beautiful fish has a soul.”

    Alex spoke, never taking her eyes off the glowing blue presence.

    Yeonsoo, who had been silently observing, nodded and replied.

    “Me too.”

    There was a moment of silence. Alex waved her hand and left first.

    The luminous entity approached Yeonsoo, who was left alone.

    He stared into the other’s blue eyes filled with light for a long time.

    Yeonsoo had chased after this light in his nightmares. If it weren’t for it, the nightmares would have been much, much longer.

    ⊹˚. ♡.𖥔 ݁ ˖ ⊹˚. ♡.𖥔 ݁ ˖

    Yeonsoo’s time spent searching through various records and documents increased. And whenever he had a chance, he visited the laboratory. Aside from the time spent on research, he spent most of his time in the lab. Sometimes, he would sit quietly next to the tank and spend time with Beresht, and other times, he would put game tools or picture books through the iron bars for entertainment.

    The time Alex and Jun spent in the laboratory naturally increased as well. They didn’t give up the time they spent playing games with Yeonsoo. This strange change left Kei dumbfounded. Now, the playground that Kei had always disliked was now happening not in the office, but rather, in the laboratory.

    “Aren’t you all worried? How can you all be so indifferent? Aren’t you worried that Dr. Han might end up like Dr. Jeremy?”

    Kei finally said something as he watched the three of them sitting in a circle in front of the tank, engrossed in their game. They had been playing various brain games, but now they were playing a casual game of hali-gali.

    Ding, ding, ding.

    Every time the noisy bell rang incessantly, Kei felt like a wrinkle was forming on his face.

    “Kei, you worry too much. Yeonsoo is different from Jeremy. Can’t you tell just by looking?”

    Alex spoke, not taking her eyes off the fruit cards that were flipping rapidly.

    “What’s the difference?”

    “Hmm. If I had to put it into words… Jeremy had an unrequited love meanwhile Yeonsoo had it reciprocated?”


    “Have you seen the way Beresht looks at our Dr. Han? That way he looks, it’s just… ah…”

    “Cut the bullsh*t. Those eyes are just the usual, creepy eyes that make you feel weird whenever you look into them.”

    “I’m telling you. Whenever I approach, it doesn’t even glance at me. It only looks at Dr. Han as if it’s going to devour him. You may not understand being a muggle, but as a fish enthusiast like me, I can feel their mood just by looking at their eyes. Our Dr. Han is definitely treated specially. Even if he jumps into the tank, he will survive, right? Because Beresht will hold him and cuddle him.”

    “Ugh, stop talking….”

    Kei’s face twisted miserably. Amidst all this, the bell kept ringing. He thought about throwing the chart he was holding at the d*mn bell, but what’s the use?

    He sighed a few more times and eventually stormed out of the lab.

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