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Zhao Yunlan & Shen Wei: Untold Stories - Chapter 1 "The Deal"


“I don’t understand. He does not qualify...”

“Half the department should not qualify, but here we are, Dixing, Haixing…Yashou. Mingling in a precariously harmonious tale,” the Director answered.

As long as he could remember, his father had always been a man who behaved within reason. As the head of Xingdu Bureau, the highest level of Dragon City, he rose to his station with hard work and perseverance. The Bureau oversees many other Departments, such as SID for example. Although he was not known to be prejudiced of others’ past, given the many questionable recruits, Shen Wei still couldn’t grasp why this particular man was chosen.

“But why do I have to recruit him myself?” Shen tried to deflect, “There are Chu and Zhu..”

“He’ll be in your department you’re in charge of, who else is worth the task?”

“But Sir…,” Shen Wei tried again.

“May I remind you, for the past year Dragon City has been under siege by an invisible force,” the Director said absently, though his tone underlined his frustration. “To the naked eye, the calm mirror of the pond is only an illusion. What lies beneath, we do not yet know, nor do we have enough manpower or talent to fight the monsters that lurk under the surface. We need this man, the only link to the other side.” Always indifferent, rarely did the Director show his impatience. His gaze narrowed at Shen’s clenched fist. “Son, trust me. He’s what your department needs. Unless you are taking my words in vain?”

“No! I would do as you ask.” Shen Wei lowered his head respectively, yet, a feeling of unease still grows. Dreading what may become of his Department if such a character was to accept the position. “But this man is elusive, it will take me some time to locate and convince him.”

“Seven days, you have seven days to convince him to join SID,” the Director instructed decisively. Shen Wei wanted to argue further, but they had already lost two members from his team so far. As a leader, Shen was unable to protect those under his care. What’s more, he was under restraints of his own, which prevented him from doing more than he could. If only he was not bound by his promise.

Immoral. Depraved. There was nothing the Wolf of Dragon city wouldn’t do, short of murder, but who knows the extent of this man’s malicious past. This criminal mastermind may be what they need to win the war, but at what price? More importantly, how could Professor Shen convince him to join, when the man himself could easily get what he wants.

Still, from his experience, every man has his price. Shen Wei only needs to find out what the Wolf desires and all would fall into place.

**********

12:00 am, Special Investigation Department

Punctually.

Early is on time. On time is late. If one was to be late, then why bother showing up at all? Respecting commitment to others is a virtue. An essential trait of a leader. A foundation that set the standard for others. Ever since Professor Shen acquired his position five years ago, not once did he arrive on time. For that reason, even though SID official hours should begin at 12 a.m., everyone was always early, sometimes even before Shen Wei himself. Without him asking, they knew.

However, this was the first incident of Professor Shen, their leader, arriving exactly at 12 am.

“Professor Shen! Thank goodness you’re finally here,” Guo Chang Cheng abruptly drew opened the front door of SID. Sweating profusely, with an expression of one who has seen the Devil himself, nervousness shook his body.

“What happened?” Shen asked calmly as he stepped into the building, paying no heed to the young intern’s distress.

Little Guo had always been the skittish type. From spilled milk or burnt rice, the poor boy never cease to blame himself for all the less fortunate natural phenomenon. His list of phobias the past few months had probably exponentiated, given all of what he had seen. A personality trait that Old Chu continued to question on a daily basis. Why did the higher-ups deliver such an intern? The boy had a tendency to faint at the mere sight of blood, dead bodies, or even his own reflection. What’s even more astounding to the team, is why this young man hadn’t yet resigned from his post weeks ago.

“Som-Someone broke in,” Guo Chang Cheng stammered, his face turned paler if that was even possible.

“Broke in?” Shen Wei stopped in his tracks as they reached the central office, turning back to the anxious Guo. “How is that possible?” He asked in disbelief. “We have a shield, security measures...”

“I don’t know how he got in...but-but...”

“Where is Old Chu? Lin Jing? Everyone?” Professor Shen questioned, as there were no others present. The usual bustling members who often argued among themselves were a common sight at this time.

“They’re out in the field after we received a report of a murder on campus. Jing and Chu Ge are investigating the crime scene. Sister Hong is visiting her uncle. They told me to wait for you. But as soon as they left...”

“What was stolen?” Professor Shen finally asked.

“Nothing was stolen,” Guo answered, though his anxious tone remained.

Shen’s brows lifted slightly at the answer. “If nothing is stolen, why are you in a panic?”

“Be-Because he’s still he-here,” Guo answered sheepishly with his head lowered. “He’s in your office.”

Professor Shen didn’t need to ask who “he” was.

*****************

Previous Day, Courthouse Jail

“Pray tell, do we have a deal?” Zhao Yunlan breathed with a stroke of wicked touched from his tone. The sordid bargain from Satan himself could not have been more obvious.

Impulsively, the prideful Professor turned his head to decline, but he made the error of looking straight into the Wolf’s eyes. Zhao’s dark pupils grew, as reflective lights hit the irises, their golden lining glowed. Time ceased. Gazes locked. The lenses of the eyes are windows to our souls. The subtle flame behind its depth, flickered like candle light, which could seize rationality if one were to gaze too long.

And he did, at that moment. Gazing into the Wolf’s soul. Entrapped within those mystical lost eyes.

Delirious from those spellbinding lenses, words which could not be his own escaped before Shen realized, “Yes. We have a deal.”

The Wolf’s eyes widened. He immediately pulled him closer, but Shen once again wrestled himself away from the hungry Wolf. Zhao Yunlan snarled, “You just agreed seconds ago!”

With his composure returned, the Professor replied coldly, “I did. And I will uphold my part of the agreement, once you start working for SID. Our deal only starts when you officially join my team. Under my employ, with the proper initiation.”

“Who would have thought Professor Shen is such a tease. And here I thought we could seal the bargain with a kiss,” the taunting man laughed. “If you want to rely on a technicality, then so be it. Fine, we’ll do it your way. So when shall I start?”

“Tomorrow, 1 am at SID’s office. The lawyer outside will make your arrangements,” Shen answered quickly, as he turned to leave.

“You’ll regret making me wait,” Zhao warned from behind him. His steps paused, but only momentarily, because Professor Shen continued without a backward glance at the Wolf in the cell.

With a slight smile pulling at the corner of his cheek, Professor Shen’s voice echoed through the hall, “I doubt it.”

*********

“I’m sorry, Professor Shen! I couldn’t make him leave,” the mousy Guo continued to apologize as they entered his office.

Lo and behold, the smirking Wolf was sitting with his crossed legs on top of the large desk. It was no wondered Guo Chang Cheng was in such a fright. The act was as bright as day. The insult was deliberate, to anger the one who will soon hold his reins. However, this is only a reminder that a stray will need to be disciplined or he will not know his place.

Without taking his eyes off the man across the room, Shen Wei said to Guo, “It’s not your fault. You’re up against the Wolf after all.”

“Wo-Wolf?!” the intern stammered as he took a step back, “He’s….he’s Zhao-Zhao...”

“Leave us,” the Professor ordered before Guo could succumb to another fainting spell.

Regret was never in his vocabulary, although if Shen was punctual, none of this would have happened. The Professor had initially planned to warn the staff before Zhao’s arrival, but the universe was not on his side today. All his subordinates are gone, save Little Guo, who did nothing but give the Wolf an opportunity to mark his territory upon his arrival. But truth be told, a part of Shen had thought Zhao Yunlan would disappear after being released. His actions were as unpredictable as the man himself. When had he become such an enigma? What was more unsettling was not his early arrival, but that Shen Wei was relieved to see him again.

“You’re early,” the Professor said, after the intern left and closed the door. Shen approached the desk.

“Better to start our day early, don’t you think?” Zhao queried with his head tilted slightly to the side, regarding Shen with the narrowed slit of his eyes. “Besides you still owe me my dues.”

“Pardon? I owe you nothing,” the Professor informed. “You have not solved any cases, nor proven your worth.”

“Haven’t I? Your place is easier to break into than my last bank heist. How can SID, the most feared department of Dragon City, be so easily infiltrated?” Zhao disputed with a laugh. Lifting a paper pad in his hand, he threw it on the desk. “While I made myself at home here, I wrote a list of extra measures you should consider to make this place more secure. I suggest you fortify the locks on the roof windows, the basement still has a few....Where are you going?”

Shen Wei was halfway to the door when Zhao blocked his path. As expected, this man doesn’t like to be ignored. A wolf may be a wolf, but he’s still a dog regardless.

“I thought you wanted to prove your skills? We’re heading to the latest crime scene. Guo Chang Cheng, who you have met, our new intern will provide you the information on the latest incident. I heard you were a great private ‘detective’ not too long ago, before you lost your touch. I’m sure you do remember the proper procedure to solve a case.”

“Are you complimenting or insulting me?” Zhao growled under his breath.

“Neither,” Professor Shen shrugged with indifference, “I have no judgment until you show yourself an asset to my team. The Wolf of Dragon City, is he by name only?”