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    4. Critical Depth (5)

    “Kang Ki-joon. You b*stard. Son of a b*tch. Useless piece of sh1t.”

    When Alex saw Yeonsoo with bruises on both cheeks as soon as he arrived at work, she felt terribly guilty. But it wasn’t her fault. Neither she nor Yeonsoo had anticipated things would turn out like this. There was only one person at fault. Kang Ki-joon.

    Alex kept cursing Ki-joon. While standing, while sitting, and even on her way to the bathroom.

    “Someday, I’ll kill him. I swear I’ll cut off his balls with my own hands.”

    It sounded like a song on repeat. Her pronunciation made it even more so. Yeonsoo liked this music that echoed through the office.

    Jun had taken sick leave. Not only had he been cut and bruised, but he also had a fractured pelvis. How could someone cause so much damage in such a short time? Whenever Alex cursed, “That b*stard,” Yeonsoo silently echoed, “Yes, that b*stard.”

    Lunchtime passed without Jun.

    Alex spent the entire morning cursing Ki-joon and then spent the afternoon engrossed in an action game with a grim expression.

    Bang, bang, bang.

    The rough sounds of heads exploding continued as she shot her way through the game.

    Yeonsoo, too, was too unsettled to focus on work. Jun’s absence made him feel depressed, and his mind buzzed with thoughts about Beresht.

    After sitting at his desk with a dejected face for a long time, he finally picked up the book ‘About Mermaids’ that he had placed on his desk.

    There was no time to waste being swept away by emotions. He needed to gather as many hints as possible about the existence of Beresht. Only then could he uncover the full story behind its blood.

    He found the part he had stopped reading last time and started reading again.

    The Book of Prophecy, Chapter 1

    The last chapter, which deals with the divinity of mermaids, introduces the “The Book of Prophecy.”


    It was a word that felt excessively unrealistic.

    When Yeonsoo first read about the divinity of mermaids, he had scoffed. It sounded too unscientific. He had skipped parts of it, and eventually, he stopped reading it altogether.

    However, the situation now was different.

    The turquoise blood of the mermaid and the hallucinations. All the characteristics of that being that seemed surreal. The traces. It was something clearly beyond science.

    Perhaps metaphors and poetry were needed to interpret it, not objective data. Now, he could no longer dismiss the Prophecy section lightly.

    The Prophecy was composed in chapters and verses like the Bible. Yeonsoo focused and began reading from the first verse of the first chapter.

    1. When day and night were divided by the primal substance, the first day of the microcosm was as follows. There was light, as commanded, and the light was there. That light was the division of the substance, the birth of life, a new beginning, and an early spring.

    2. In the divided place, an immeasurable veil is draped. A fig tree branch tears the veil, lying long across the abyss, and at its end, through the unity of wisdom and understanding, I was created. I soaked the fig tree in wine, crafted it with a unicorn horn, named it, consecrated it, and made it into a staff.

    3. I am the one who upholds the shoulders of the sea in obedience. The great sea water and the salt and the essence within it. 1)

    [A/N: 1) The description of the “Tree of Sephirot” in Kabbalah, a mystical sect of Judaism, was referenced and partially modified by the author.]

    Like the Genesis in the Bible, the first chapter of the Prophecy explains the creation of the world with various symbols from a first-person perspective. Yeonsoo guessed that “the one created through the unity of wisdom and understanding” referred to the mermaid. Considering the lines about the origin and the end of the world from the first chapter, the symbols were not difficult to interpret.

    However, as he read further, the symbols became increasingly complex and difficult to understand, making the content itself hard to grasp. Yeonsoo skipped the sections on the creation of the world and the middle parts, moving directly to the last chapter of the Book of Prophecy.

    24. I am the root and descendant of all things, the bright morning star.

    25. He, who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.

    26. He, who eats my flesh and drinks my blood will have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.

    27. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

    The Book of Prophecy ended in chapter 21, verse 27. The content of the last chapter was somewhat familiar. It was very similar to the Book of Revelation in the Bible.

    He, who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. He, who eats my flesh and drinks my blood will have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.

    Yeonsoo reread verses 25 and 26, pondering them deeply. His heart pounded strangely fast. These were the only verses in the entire book that mentioned “blood.”

    At that moment, it occurred to him that this might be a hint about the turquoise blood of the mermaid.

    “Dr. Han.”

    The voice broke his concentration. Yeonsoo looked away from his book and raised his head towards the source of the sound.

    Kei was standing at the doorway. He was holding a box filled with documents in both hands.

    “I had some materials to hand over to Jun today. Could you check Jun’s desk for me? It should be on top of his desk. A black clear file. Find it and place it here.”

    Yeonsoo closed his book and stood up. Time had flown by without him realizing it.

    The sky outside the window was tinted orange. As he glanced around Alex’s desk, he noticed she had already left for the day.

    Stretching, he made his way to Jun’s desk.

    It was neatly organized, however, it was empty. He rummaged through a few files on the shelves and opened the drawers. The first and second ones were empty.

    Yeonsoo, who had opened and closed the third drawer, suddenly froze.

    “Have you not found it yet?”

    “No, I can’t see it.”

    He replied mechanically to the question, opening the third drawer he had just closed.

    “If you can’t find it, don’t worry. I’ll look for it myself when I get back.”

    Kei left the office.

    Yeonsoo sat down and bent his knees as he peered inside the drawer.

    The drawer was filled with various books and miscellaneous items.

    This is…

    At the very top, a familiar image caught his eye. It was the same cover as the book Yeonsoo had been reading just now. The strange tree wrapped around the mermaid’s tail was so unique and eye-catching that it was impossible to remember it wrongly. It was definitely ‘About Mermaids’.

    He picked up the book and flipped through the pages. The cover was the same, so he thought it was the same book, however, it wasn’t. While Yeonsoo’s book was written in English, this one was written in Latin. The structure and content were also somewhat different.

    As he flipped through the pages, Yeonsoo’s face grew with astonishment.

    There were an enormous number of sticky notes attached. The notes were written in Jun’s native language, Japanese. Although Yeonsoo knew Latin, he couldn’t understand Japanese, so he couldn’t make out what Jun had written.

    He closed the book and rummaged through the drawer. It was filled with old books about mermaids. These were rare editions that even the center’s library didn’t have. Not only that, but there were also old drawings that couldn’t be determined when they were drawn. Naturally, all of them depicted mermaids. The same handwriting on the sticky notes was found on the drawings and other books as well.

    Jun was this interested in Beresht?

    He had no idea.

    Not Kei, who was always with Jun, nor Alex, who always hung around him, had noticed either.

    Yeonsoo quietly closed the drawer.

    He felt uneasy as if he had seen something he shouldn’t have.

    ⊹˚. ♡.𖥔 ݁ ˖ ⊹˚. ♡.𖥔 ݁ ˖

    “It’s been a long time since I’ve had such a delicious cake.”

    Yeonsoo said, chewing on the piece of cake in his mouth.

    Ryan, who was sitting across from him, gave a faint smile. His white cheeks were flushed, and dimples formed. His shimmering chestnut, blond hair seemed to have light scattered around him.

    “I waited in line to buy it. You know it was 54 degrees yesterday, right? I almost fainted.”

    While chewing the cake, Yeonsoo observed the handsome man with his eyes. This artist, who lived two doors down, did not charge him for the bumper he had blown off but instead came with a delicious cake that required standing in line to buy.

    In today’s world, such kindness without a reason was quite surprising, thus, Yeonsoo was rather wary of him at first. However, the moment the cake, delicious enough to bring tears to his eyes, melted in his mouth, even his guardedness melted away with it.

    A man who brought such delicious cake couldn’t possibly be a bad person.

    Yeonsoo thought his logic was very valid. Nowadays, there are few people who seek out food these days. Due to the extremely hot or cold climate, people neither travel nor look for good restaurants.

    People who have lost even their present due to an uncertain future.

    How could someone who finds pure joy through food be a bad person?

    “Were you surprised by my sudden visit?”

    “…A little.”

    “I wanted to get to know you better. After seeing the business card Yeonsoo gave me.”

    Yeonsoo’s eyes widened.

    At that moment, Ryan tapped beside his lips with his finger. Yeonsoo, with a somewhat dazed expression, wiped his mouth. White whipped cream smudged on the back of his hand. Ryan handed him a handkerchief, who had taken it out at some point. Yeonsoo smiled awkwardly and wiped the whipped cream off his mouth with the handkerchief he received.

    “My business card? Why my business card?”

    “I’m curious at your work in the Marine Biology Center. I really love marine life.”

    Ryan pulled something out of the bag he had placed beside him and brought it to the table. It was a tablet PC. He turned it on and swiped the screen a few times with his fingers.

    “I’m a bit embarrassed to show you this, but these are my drawings.”


    Yeonsoo was speechless as he looked at the screen Ryan had held out.

    The darkness that seemed to be alive and breathing.

    If darkness had breathing holes, it would feel like this. It was clearly a pitch-black darkness, yet it seemed to ripple like waves. It looked like it was crouching, but also like it was spreading its arms, ready to engulf him. Countless specks of light floated above the vivid darkness.

    “It’s the sea.”

    “How did you know?”

    “Hmm. I just knew. Isn’t it the sea? The very deep sea.”

    “That’s right. But usually, people who see it for the first time just call it ‘darkness’ or ‘night.'”

    Ryan’s neat fingers swiped the screen once more. Another drawing with the same background appeared.

    It was a deep-sea fish. Like Glow, an anglerfish with a transparent body floated, illuminating itself. It was drawn so precisely that you could see the paint strokes capturing the light pooling intricately. If he hadn’t been told it was a drawing, he would have mistaken it for a photograph.

    “I draw creatures that live in the sea.”

    The screen changed. This time, it was a ghost shark, a cartilaginous fish. This primitive fish, retaining its Devonian appearance, had a pale blue body, lifeless eyes like a corpse, and a head that looked stitched together. Its eerie appearance resembled the creature from the novel <Frankenstein>.

    It was clearly the shape of a monster lurking in the abyss, but Yeonsoo somehow thought that it looked exactly like a figure of humanity struggling to survive in loneliness.

    “It’s mysterious and beautiful.”

    As he said this, unable to take his eyes off the ghost shark, a light laugh was heard.

    “As expected, Yeonsoo’s eyes are quite peculiar. This is the first time someone has called it beautiful after seeing this.”

    Yeonsoo tilted his head in confusion.

    Just because something was frightening didn’t mean it wasn’t beautiful.

    How could a creature so transparent, sparkling, and pure not be beautiful?

     If people couldn’t see the sense of beauty in a ghost shark, then those people were the ones that are peculiar.

    “Is there a reason you draw fish?”

    “Simply because I like them.”

    A pure question received a pure answer.

    Yeonsoo raised his head. With one hand supporting his chin, Ryan was staring at him intently. His dark blue eyes reminded him of the ashen sea.

    “By any chance, do you like me?”

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