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    4. Critical Depth (4)

    As soon as Ki-joon’s frosty words fell, someone crawled out from under the desk.

    It was Jun. Yeonsoo bit his lip, his expression troubled. Jun hadn’t managed to escape in time and had been hiding under the desk.

    Ki-joon’s thick eyebrows twitched and drew together. The look he gave Jun was filled with unmistakable contempt.

    Ki-joon despised anything weak and ugly. He became brutally cold towards such things.

    “F*ck. What are you lying there for? Get the hell up.”

    At Ki-joon’s command, Jun, who had been trembling while curled up, staggered to his feet. Yeonsoo watched the situation with a pounding heart. It seemed like Ki-joon was about to do something at any moment. If necessary, he was ready to jump in and stop him, even if it meant using his body. Whether it would work, he didn’t know.

    “Back when I was in Afghanistan…”

    Ki-joon began speaking in an unusually calm voice. Yeonsoo, trying to keep up with his mood, listened intently, more focused than usual.

    Ki-joon had a military background. Before the Great Shift, he was part of a secret anti-terrorism special forces unit under the Russian government. After the Great Shift, his exceptional abilities were recognized, and he was scouted by the Union Republic military. How someone like him ended up as the head of this research institute was a mystery.

    “Back then, we trained dogs to detect bombs. Very large hounds. Sometimes, there would be a dog that couldn’t be trained with normal methods. Do you know how we tamed them?”

    Ki-joon was speaking to Yeonsoo but kept his eyes on Jun. He took a step closer to Jun, whose shoulders flinched. Jun was trembling pitifully.

    “You give them a friend. One they can eat with, play with, and sometimes mate with.”

    Ki-joon turned his head towards Yeonsoo, continuing with a sly smile.

    “Then, you beat that friend to death right in front of them.”


    Ki-joon kicked Jun hard in the stomach. Jun collapsed to the floor. Yeonsoo rushed forward.

    “Are you crazy?! Stop it!”

    He tried to block him, but it was no use. Ki-joon easily shoved him aside.

    Thud, thud, thud.

    Ki-joon’s kicks rained down like bombs on Jun’s small, frail body. Instinctively, Jun curled up, shielding his head with both his arms. The sickening sound of strong boots hitting his bones was clear. Blood quickly pooled on the floor.

    Yeonsoo clung to Ki-joon’s arm, but he was thrown off multiple times. The kicks continued.

    It felt like his mind was going to snap. Terrifying sounds of something exploding and breaking were heard one after another. If this continued, Jun’s breath might really stopped.

    In desperation, Yeonsoo wrapped his arms around Ki-joon’s rock-hard back, trying to stop him.

    Kang Ki-joon stopped.

    “Jun, go! Get out! Now!”

    Yeonsoo shouted, clinging to Ki-joon’s waist with all his strength. Jun struggled to crawl across the floor, finally managing to stand up and turn around. Yeonsoo held on, trembling, until Jun, dragging his legs, opened the office door and disappeared outside. It felt like holding on to a huge tree because of the significant size difference between him and Kang Ki-joon.

    Despite having beaten someone to a pulp, Kang Ki-joon wasn’t even slightly out of breath. Rather, it was Yeonsoo who was panting, exhausted just from holding onto him.

    Yeonsoo shivered and quickly let go of his waist.

    “You b*stard. Hit me. If you’re angry because of me, then hit me! You low-life b*stard!”

    “Doing this is more effective, so why would I?”


    “Dr. Han, I don’t want to ruin that pretty face of yours.”

    “Fucking assh0le.”

    “Watch your language. I’ll only be lenient for so long.”

    Kang Ki-joon grabbed the knot of his tie with his finger, then looked down at Yeonsoo, shaking his head from side to side like someone whose body was not fully relaxed.

    Yeonsoo’s entire body boiled with rage. His chin trembled with anger.

    B*stard. Despicable b*stard.

    The corners of his eyes burned. The uncontrollable rage in his heart finally brought tears to his eyes. He didn’t want to show his tears in such a pathetic manner. He forced himself to look down, trying to suppress his emotions. And then he saw it. The outline of Kang Ki-joon’s inner thighs is clearly visible through the tattered fabric.

    Yeonsoo’s eyes widened in shock.


    Above him, there was a faint sound of a chuckle.

    “Oh, don’t misunderstand. This isn’t because of you, Dr. Han.”


    “I just get a bit excited when I step on people.”

    Yeonsoo looked up. Kang Ki-joon’s long, narrow eyes glistened like those of a black snake. Within them, lingering, intense violence simmered alongside another instinct was clearly evident. It was a vivid and unmistakable lust.

    His damp gaze traced up from Yeonsoo’s nape, lingering on his lips. He stared at Yeonsoo’s lips as if he wanted to devour them.

    Yeonsoo couldn’t understand.

    He wondered if it was necessary to torment him this much. It wasn’t enough to come after him personally, he even dragged others into it. Kang Ki-joon knew that Yeonsoo wasn’t someone who could be easily controlled. Yet he kept using excuses like surveillance and reports to harass him.

    Reflecting on Ki-joon’s crazy actions and behaviors, a sudden thought came to Yeonsoo’s mind, and he asked impulsively.

    “Do you like me or something?”


    “I’m asking if you like me.”


    Ki-joon let out a sneer. Yeonsoo looked at him without wavering. In Yeonsoo’s mind, Ki-joon’s actions could only stem from either intense hatred or twisted affection. Since he hadn’t done anything to personally earn Ki-joon’s hatred, it seemed more likely to be the latter.

    He had considered it to be a mere curiosity-driven interest, but now he wondered if Ki-joon’s attention was heavier than that.

    Ki-joon stared at Yeonsoo for a moment before laughing again, as if he found the whole situation amusing. He closed the distance with a swift step, leaning in close to whisper in Yeonsoo’s ear.

    “Dr. Han, do you want to play house with me?”

    His whisper was lazy and drawn out.

    “Want me to whisper sweet nothings? Or suck your d1ck?”

    The moment Yeonsoo frowned and tried to pull his shoulder back, a rough hand grabbed his hair. The fierce grip felt like it would tear his scalp off. He bit his lip to suppress the scream that threatened to escape.


    A large hand struck his cheek. His mind went blank. Even though it was a slap, it hurt as if he’d been punched.

    “Don’t mess around.”


    His head snapped to the side again. He tasted a metallic tang of blood as his lip burst.


    The third slap made Yeonsoo stagger. It was hard to believe someone could be this strong. If his hair hadn’t been held, he would have collapsed on the floor.

    Yeonsoo had never imagined that Ki-joon would lay hands on him like this. Even when he had cursed at him, glared at him with fierce eyes, and openly ignored him, Ki-joon had always let it slide. Why a trivial question about whether he liked him had provoked him to such an extent was beyond Yeonsoo’s understanding.

    Yeonsoo looked up at him with a dazed expression. The blood that had been stuck on his burst lip dripped down. When he instinctively licked the blood away with his tongue, the black pupils staring at him gleamed strangely.

    A shiver ran down his spine.

    Crazy. Kang Ki-joon was truly crazy.

    Suddenly, a large hand gripped Yeonsoo’s chin as if to crush it. A slick tongue, like the head of a snake, forced its way between his lips.

    The thick tongue penetrated to the root, licking the roof of his mouth and thrusting aggressively into his throat. Tears welled up from the physiological pain. He gagged as mixed saliva slid down his throat.

    Yeonsoo struggled, pounding his fists against his solid chest, but it was useless. It felt like being trapped inside a giant cage.

    A thick leg wedged between his thighs. As he felt the bulging hardness of Ki-joon’s erection, hard and swollen like a forearm, Yeonsoo tightly shut his eyes and bit down hard on the flesh invading his mouth.

    His teeth pierced the soft flesh. Blood gushed into his mouth. Ki-joon showed no sign of wavering. Instead, he seemed pleased, sucking on the blood-soaked tongue.

    Yeonsoo slowly opened his eyes, hearing the squelching sound of his tongue being sucked. The hands that had been pushing with all his strength against Ki-joon’s chest hung suspended in the air for a moment, then slowly fell to his sides.

    In the next moment, Yeonsoo went limp like seaweed pulled out from the water. While his entire body sagged completely, his light brown pupils rapidly contracted and dilated. His thin, dense eyelashes trembled violently.

    The taste was intensely sweet. The blood from Ki-joon’s mouth flooded Yeonsoo’s senses with a familiar sweetness. It was a sweetness he had experienced before, one that was irresistible once encountered. A faint rational thought questioned how Ki-joon’s blood could have the same sweetness as Beresht’s, but even that thought soon faded.

    Yeonsoo began to move his stiffened tongue. He raised the tip and licked the blood from every corner of his mouth.

    Haah. Ahh.

    A moan slipped out. An electrifying excitement surged through him. Yeonsoo wrapped his arms around Ki-joon’s neck, rubbing his legs against Ki-joon’s thigh.

    The hand gripping his chin loosened. Ki-joon stopped moving.

    Yeonsoo lifted his heels, clinging to Ki-joon’s neck. It was tantalizing. It wasn’t enough. He wanted Ki-joon to move again, to suck his pen1s as vigorously as he had sucked his tongue.

    A large, broad hand abruptly pushed Yeonsoo’s upper body away in an instant.

    “Dr. Han, what do you think you’re doing?”

    The deep voice resonated above his head. Ki-joon, with a furrowed brow, looked down at Yeonsoo. Yeonsoo met his gaze with a dazed eyes.

    “Han Yeonsoo, you…”

    Ha. Ki-joon, having quickly grasped the situation, let out a low sigh, his voice rumbling.

    “…D*mn it. Not fully out of it yet, huh?”

    He lightly pressed Yeonsoo’s forehead with his palm to stop him from leaning in for another kiss, and with the other hand, he rubbed his own brow, as if dealing with a headache.

    Ki-joon lifted his palm and stroked the nape of Yeonsoo’s neck. At the soft caress, Yeonsoo’s body trembled, and he rubbed his cheek against Ki-joon’s chest. Ki-joon briefly savored the sensation of Yeonsoo’s moist breath dampening his shirt, then, without hesitation, he struck the back of Yeonsoo’s neck with the edge of his hand.

    Yeonsoo immediately lost consciousness. The blow wasn’t hard, but it accurately targeted the spot to knock him out. Ki-joon easily lifted Yeonsoo’s limp body and carried him out of the office.

    ⊹˚. ♡.𖥔 ݁ ˖ ⊹˚. ♡.𖥔 ݁ ˖

    When Yeonsoo woke up, he found himself in the center’s infirmary. He recognized the place by the neatly hung white curtains and the white cabinet filled with various medicines.

    As he tried to sit up, he grimaced at the musty smell lingering. Turning his head, he saw an ashtray full of cigarette butts on the side table. There were not just one or two but several, with short stubs scattered around, indicating someone had spent considerable time there.

    Yeonsoo didn’t need to see to know who that “someone” was. There was only one person in the center who could enjoy such luxuries.

    Yeonsoo recalled a very old memory.

    It was the day of a major external conference on marine life. Ki-joon, quite out of place, had gone up to the podium to give a congratulatory speech. Then, a bomb exploded beneath the podium. The event hall turned into chaos. People scrambled and pushed toward the exits.

    Yeonsoo, who had been sitting in the front row, had fainted momentarily. When he came to open his eyes, the hall was empty except for Ki-joon beside him. He had been the closest to the explosion, bleeding from his head and collapsed. However, what caught Yeonsoo’s eye first wasn’t his injury.

    Ki-joon’s leg, was half-blown off by the bomb’s shrapnel. It was a prosthetic. A shiny silver prosthetic leg with the characteristic metallic sheen. Mesmerized, Yeonsoo stared at the unfamiliar object until he turned his head in a shiver of unease.

    Ki-joon was looking at him with fierce eyes full of murderous intent. It was the first time Yeonsoo had seen the true face hidden beneath his leisurely and shameless demeanor.

    Yeonsoo stayed with Ki-joon until the anti-terrorism unit and medical team arrived. He had impulsively taken off his cardigan and covered Ki-joon’s leg. It was a meaningless, spur-of-the-moment action. That was it. It really ended there, and he never spoke to anyone about the prosthetic leg. Yet, from that day on, Ki-joon’s pathological bullying began.

    Ki-joon was a massive stone thrown into the calm life Yeonsoo had been living in the Deep Sea Biology Department, unnoticed by anyone.

    Yeonsoo believed that Ki-joon’s hatred for the weak and unattractive stemmed from self-hatred. Everyone has weak and unattractive parts. No one is without such aspects. Those very weaknesses are what make humans truly human, and paradoxically, beautiful. Sometimes, Yeonsoo was sickened by Ki-joon’s ignorance of this simple fact and other times, he felt pity for him.

    Yeonsoo shook his head, trying to clear away the stray thoughts that were spreading on his mind.

    He ran his fingers over his chapped, scabbed lips. His swollen cheek throbbed with pain at the touch. He had been beaten severely. But the mental shock was far more intense than the physical pain.

    When Yeonsoo bit into Ki-joon’s tongue and tasted his blood, he had momentarily lost his mind. He had clung to Ki-joon’s neck, rubbing his legs and moaning. A wave of belated self-loathing crashed over him. Covering his face with his hands, Yeonsoo agonized for a long while before finally getting up.

    He forced himself to bury the painful memory. His shame was not what mattered.

    What mattered was the scent of Beresht’s blood in Ki-joon’s blood.

    If Ki-joon wasn’t a merman who acquired human legs, there was only one reason why his blood would smell like Beresht’s.

    Ki-joon must have consumed Beresht’s blood.

    It would have gradually left his body over time, but some of its components must have remained in his bloodstream and been passed to him.

    This was an unexpected and coincidental discovery. Ki-joon was a key figure in the military. The fact that Beresht’s blood flowed through his body was significant. His sharp instincts, another form of acute intuition, detected some rotten smell.

    Yeonsoo slipped his hand into the inner pocket of his white coat. After confirming the presence of the glass case nestled inside, he clenched it tightly in his hand and left the infirmary.

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