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    4. Critical Depth (6)

    A moment of silence passed.

    He regretted asking as soon as he did. He had asked the same thing to Kang Ki-joon recently and had gotten severely beaten for it. He hadn’t realized it, but perhaps, he was more narcissistic than he thought.

    However, those eyes. It was a penetrating gaze that seemed to dig into his soul. If Yeonsoo had misunderstood, Ryan also had some responsibility for giving him such a gaze.


    Ryan burst into laughter.

    “It’s true that I like Yeonsoo quite a bit, but not in that way. I have a lover.”

    He answered with a smile still lingering on his face. Yeonsoo nodded and agreed. It didn’t hurt; it was just a bit embarrassing. It was better to ask than to hold back his curiosity.

    “I may not like you in that way, but if you ever need any other help, feel free to ask.”

    Ryan said as he put the tablet PC back into his bag. It seemed he was slowly tidying up, getting ready to leave.

    “We’re friends now, right?”

    He asked casually, and Yeonsoo found himself nodding without thinking. His heart fluttered a little.

    When was the last time he had a friend so naturally?

    It was a strange and nostalgic word.

    “Friends should help each other to survive. I’m not just an artist. I’m also a civic activist whose job is to help people.”

    Ryan rummaged through his bag again and pulled out a thin pamphlet, handing it to Yeonsoo. The cover read “Green Citizen Activities.”

    “This is the civic group I’m involved with. It started as an environmental movement to protect marine life, but now we do much more. The world seems so small that it looks like only the government and its opposition are left, but that’s not true. There are citizens. There are civic groups. People who are not swayed by political factions, who seek a better life through solidarity. If you ever need help, my colleagues and I will always be there to help you anytime.”

    Yeonsoo was left a bit stunned.

    An artist who finds flowers in ruins, a gourmet willing to stand in line for a sweet cake. A civic activist who speaks of solidarity rather than division in the midst of chaos. Ryan was a multifaceted person. His identities were fascinatingly detached from this world on the brink of extinction.

    Ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong.

    Suddenly, the rude sound of the doorbell intruded.

    The doorbell rang continuously without stopping.

    However, Yeonsoo just sat there, motionless. Ryan, who had been organizing his bag, looked up at Yeonsoo. His face, already pale, had turned ashen.

    “Is it someone you’d rather not face? Should I go and tell them you’re not here?”

    “No, it’s my mom. I’ll go out and see.”

    Yeonsoo slowly got up and headed to the front door. He clenched his hands tightly. Cold sweat gathered on his back.

    Why now, of all times…?

    Whenever Jung-ae barged in while he was with someone, that relationship always ended terribly.

    He opened the door. Jung-ae barged in with the strong scent of roses.

    “Why did you take so long to open the door? Are you trying to drive me crazy…?”

    Her gaze landed on the unfamiliar shoes in the hallway.

    “Who is here?”

    “…A friend.”

    “A friend?”

    Jung-ae brushed past Yeonsoo and walked into the living room. Just in time, she met Ryan who was standing up. He smiled and greeted her, his eyes curling.


    Jung-ae’s face twisted as if she had seen something she shouldn’t have. She turned towards Yeonsoo, who had followed her in.

    “My son seems to have it easy. He has time to play with friends.”


    “Meanwhile, mom is losing her mind and can’t make a single friend because of you.”

    Yeonsoo lowered his head, biting his lip with his upper teeth. He dug his nails into his fingers. Jung-ae was pathologically opposed to him having friends.

    Every time he barely managed to make a friend, she would verbally abuse him in front of them. It was a terrible experience for both Yeonsoo and his friends. Most of them couldn’t endure such an experience and ended up leaving Yeonsoo.

    “If you have any conscience at all, you should be at least a little unhappy, shouldn’t you?”

    “Stop, please. It’s not just the two of us here.”

    “You don’t know, do you?”

    Jung-ae suddenly turned toward Ryan.

    “You have no idea how dangerous he is. How cruel he is. You’ll never know. How could you possibly know what’s hidden behind that pretty, innocent face? I’m warning you, it’s best if you run away. I’m his mother, and even I’m afraid of him.”

    D*mn it.

    Yeonsoo covered his face with both of his hands. He couldn’t bring himself to check Ryan’s expression. It was a moment he wanted to cut away with scissors. If he couldn’t do that, he wished he could just faint on the spot.


    A deep, muffled voice emerged out of Ryan’s lips, not like his own. Firm footsteps echoed as he walked. Yeonsoo thought he would pass by him like this and open the door and leave.

    However, his expectation was wrong.

    “I don’t understand what you’re saying, and I won’t in the future either.”

    A warm hand grasped Yeonsoo’s wrist. It gently pulled his hands away from his face with firm strength.

    “But there’s one thing I do know.”

    His bright blue eyes crashed against him like waves.

    “As you said, Ma’am, Yeonsoo’s face is indeed very pretty.”

    Yeonsoo, like someone who had lost his voice, could only blink as he stared into those blue eyes in front of him.

    ⊹˚. ♡.𖥔 ݁ ˖ ⊹˚. ♡.𖥔 ݁ ˖

    It was a dawn without light.

    Yeonsoo headed to the laboratory.

    His chest felt like it was about to burst with suffocation. His steps naturally led him to the lab. He wanted to see Beresht. When he looked at those emerald eyes that asked him nothing, everything seemed more bearable than it was now.

    Han Jung-ae was a writer and an explorer. She traveled all over the world, writing essays about her journeys, and was loved by many. When she had Yeonsoo due to an unwanted pregnancy, she gave up her career. Instead of adventure, childbirth, and parenting filled her entire life. It was then that she realized, through hardship, that one choice can sometimes crush countless other choices.

    When it was revealed that her child was a genius, she envied the being she had given birth to. As time passed and her own life stagnated and shrank, her child blossomed brilliantly into a person that everyone paid attention to. She envied the fact that her son was exceptional, that he had so many choices, and most of all, he did not have a burden unlike her, and he had the freedom to live.

    She tried to appease her jealousy by molding her child into her desired image, however, Yeonsoo failed to become the perfect son she had envisioned. Thus, Yeonsoo became the source of her inner turmoil. She oppressed her son and sometimes ignored him, momentarily intoxicated by her power. Despite that, she still constantly suffered from a sense of defeat.

    Yeonsoo’s childhood was filled with noise.

    ‘Is this all you can do? Mom has bet everything on you. If you keep this up, I won’t see you anymore.’

    Her sharp voice climbed onto Yeonsoo’s small, delicate body, grabbed him by the hair, and dragged him around all day.

    The strongest emotion he felt during his childhood was desperation. Desperation to survive. Desperation to escape from his creator who kept pushing him to the end of the world.

    The young Yeonsoo suffered from a severe neurological disorder. At some point, his memories started to disappear intermittently, and he could no longer do everything perfectly as he once could. He would often have a vacant expression, and suddenly cover his ears and have seizures.

    When Yeonsoo began to break down, Jung-ae found an alternative. It was the façade of a perfect, or at least a seemingly perfect family on the outside, that everyone would envy.

    She had been unmarried when she gave birth to Yeonsoo, but then she suddenly married a young, wealthy man.

    For a while, Yeonsoo was happy. The man who became his father was kind and warm to him.


    The elevator doors opened. His train of thought was interrupted. He stepped into the darkness of the sea.

    The darkness was silent.

    Being locked in here like this alone made her feel like the world had stopped.

    For Yeonsoo, who had been tormented by noise all his life, the silence was peaceful.

    The silence was kindness.

    The blue stranger who had lost his voice was tranquility itself.


    He greeted Beresht, who had approached him silently.

    It was strange. That expressionless face never seemed consistent. Sometimes it looked pure, other times decadent. Sometimes it seemed like a solemn judge in a blue robe, other times like a seductive courtesan standing naked under the blue moonlight, tempting him.

    It was the greatest contradiction in the world. It was undefined and had no identity, existing only as a symbol. Growing endlessly deeper like the deep sea.

    “When I was young, I played music. I played the piano, violin, and cello. I learned instruments much faster than kids my age.”

    Yeonsoo stepped closer to the glass wall. The shadow of the deep-sea fish wavered, covering him.

    “I quite enjoyed playing instruments, but I instinctively knew I had no musical talent. I wasn’t the artist type. I had no inspiration at all. I just calculated the notes. I created mathematically perfect melodies, but while they could be the most flawless performances, they could never be the most beautiful music.”

    The harmony of notes is based on the proportion of numbers. Yeonsoo, with a superior sense of proportion and numbers, played delicately and precisely. However, as time passed, he fell behind the children who displayed inspiration.

    Even if their performances were a bit shaky and unstable, those children had a liveliness and desperation that captivated people, something Yeonsoo lacked.

    Yeonsoo was saddened. Music was his only joy, and he lamented the fact that he wasn’t good at what he liked.

    However, the reason he didn’t quit playing sooner was…

    Because there was one person who would shed tears at his performances.

    The man who became his father would be moved to tears every time Yeonsoo played the cello. He particularly loved Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1. He said Yeonsoo’s cello sounded like a beautiful cry. It was as if someone was sobbing with their whole body.

    Every time that happened, his heart would swell so much with excitement.

    “You know.”

    Yeonsoo turned his body towards the tank.

    “I thought I was sexually abused by my father. But it turns out I was wrong. The police said there was insufficient evidence, and the counselor said I was just overly sensitive. The excessive education I received since I was young had me stressed out, and I project it onto my father in a distorted way.”

    Could that really be true?

    Did I really, just because of that…

    Push my father into the sea?

    “Mom says I lied to ruin her. That I envied her happiness, was jealous of her. That I was obsessed with her. That I loved her too much.”

    He paused, taking a breath before continuing.

    “Then what are those dreams I still have? Dreams where I’m eaten by a monster with my father’s face. Are those just illusions I created?”

    A long time ago, on a cruise, Yeonsoo pushed his father into the sea. No, even that wasn’t certain. His memories from that time were a mess, as if someone had put them through a shredder and ground it all up. However, he faintly remembered the sensation of pushing a heavy body and the smell of the strong sea breeze blowing his hair.

    His father fell from a ship that was over 50 meters high. He died, his entire body torn to pieces by the propeller.

    Since that time, he had never once gone to the sea on his own. Yeonsoo wished to sink forever into the deep sea, but at the same time, he was terrified of its vastness.

    “The sea is just like you. It’s scary yet beautiful.”

    A chilling, scraping sound echoed. It was the sound of Beresht’s transparent claws scratching the glass wall. Yeonsoo’s gaze wavered following the movement of its fingers.

    The straight fingers tapped the glass wall twice.

    Yeonsoo’s previously relaxed eyes suddenly gleamed sharply. This was a gesture that only the two of them used, it meant mirroring. They used it when playing with cubes and puzzles, and whenever he touch its tail.

    Beresht raised his hand to cover his eyes. Yeonsoo naturally followed suit and covered his eyes as well. The light emanating from Beresht’s body dimmed, and its visibility completely disappeared.

    It felt as though time was buried in darkness and silence. Yeonsoo did not move an inch. He held his breath and waited. Not knowing what he was waiting for, however, he waited quietly just like that.

    Slowly, his vision began to brighten.

    A black and barren forest appeared.

    It was a vast rainforest that seemed endless. The trees that made up the rainforest stretched out majestically akin to the World Tree holding the essence of life.

    He was overwhelmed by the vast, primal expanse that took his breath away.

    Even though his vision was clearly obscured, the scenery before him was vivid as if it were alive.

    What is this?

    Startled, he took a step back, however, his feet twisted, and he fell on his butt. The pain jolting through his tailbone was too vivid for it to be just a dream.

    He thought this might be the illusion that Beresht was showing him.

    The vast forest was teeming with intense vitality, yet it was silent. No sound could be heard. Only the golden veil woven with light rippled like a wave.

    A place untouched since the beginning of time, where not even the wind blew. It was filled with sapphire-colored pools of water and dense trees. It was a pure and immaculate place, untainted by the warm breath of any living organism.

    Living peace and complete tranquility unfolded before his eyes.

    It was so beautiful that it made his throat tighten.

    Where is this place?

    Is this where Beresht was born?

    Or perhaps an ancient forest submerged in the deep sea?

    It didn’t matter. He was simply overwhelmed by the vivid encounter with a rainforest that had disappeared due to climate change. Beresht was a being that brought back what humanity had lost. It was a being that gave Yeonsoo the star-studded night sky and the ancient forest.

    He could not blink for fear that the illusion before him would suddenly disappear. He wanted to fly into this magical, ancient forest as if he had wings. If only he could, he wouldn’t mind if his legs melted in the sun, it would be worth it.

    The illusion faded slowly like mist dispersing. A single tear rolled down from Yeonsoo’s stinging eyes.

    He slowly lowered his hands that had been covering his eyes.

    His gaze met Beresht’s. Its eyes shone like glass made of water. In them, Yeonsoo saw the peace, silence, and deep-sea-like comfort he had been searching for all his life.

    He stood up and quickly ran to the entrance. He unlocked the iron bars and tapped the floor with the back of his hand.

    With the sound of water rippling, a blue tail emerged from the surface. Yeonsoo took out a micro camera from inside his coat.

    “I will bring you out of here.”

    Yeonsoo made a vow as he pushed the camera deep between Beresht’s scales.

    He promised himself that he would definitely set this beautiful blue being free.

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