Sweet like nectar, abrasive like salt. Gentle...Brutal…their lips melded. Unlike kisses from a shy maiden, this man’s urgency couldn’t be denied. If only circumstances had gone his way, Shen wouldn’t have been taken by surprise. Seconds, minutes...But there was no time for such pleasure.
Once the ringing tone struck, their senses awaken. Alert. Aware...But the Wolf refused to relent. To entrap him further, Zhao pushed forward until the chair met the wall. With the hunger of a starving beast, the Wolf continued to claim his prize, absorbing every gasped breath and juice that managed to escape. Zhao, still engrossed, placed his knee on the seat between Shen’s thighs, unaware that it was the leverage Shen needed to counterbalance him.
Professor Shen grabbed the surprised him by the front collar, pulling Zhao in for a deeper kiss. A calculative distraction, within seconds, his fist struck directly under Zhao’s ribs. A painful gasp followed, but not without the hint of warm nectar against his lips. Zhao broke the kiss. He’d barely taken a breath when Shen side-kicked his ankle. The Wolf immediately dropped to the floor like a sack of rice.
Shen stood up with relaxed composure. His thumb wiped the saliva from the corner of his lip. The man doesn’t taste half bad, he mused.
Stepping over the injured dog, Shen grabbed the still ringing phone on the desk. “Hello, this is Professor Shen,” he answered with a more than controlled tone. Attentively listening to the recipient on the other line, Shen Wei ignored the grunt of the furious Wolf who stood up from behind him. “Yes, I will have them ready for you by tomorrow,” the Professor quickly replied. He reached for his suitcase, but a hand slammed over the leather case.
“Where are you going?” the recovered Zhao demanded to know.
The Professor turned his head slightly, only enough to meet the other man’s eyes. “I have a morning lecture at Dragon University today,” Shen informed him as he yanked the suitcase from Zhao’s hand and continued on his way.
“That kiss doesn’t count!” the Wolf growled.
Professor Shen stopped short before he reached the door. Turning halfway, he argued. “I beg to differ. The transaction was completed, was it not?”
“We were interrupted, and you attacked me!” Zhao snapped in an offended tone, their distant shortened.
“You chose the place and time without regard for my consent. Whether or not we were interrupted, the daily tally was fulfilled,” Shen replied logically, leaving no room for argument. “Please excuse me, you can see to your way out.”
With his opponent speechless, the Professor thought he could smoothly exit the room, but once again, Zhao blocked his path. His back pressed against the door, there was no way out.
This particular beast, though reckless and wild, was still astute enough to reign in his temper. His eyes no longer ablaze from moments before, as he pushed himself away from the door. Determine and collected, his clever words quickly come into play, “Not until I laid my own rules. You got yours, and I got mine.”
His father had often said, an angry Wolf is a prideful Wolf. An equal opponent in this day and age was a rare find. The game had just started -- both have relished each move like swordplay.
Shen touched his glasses with a slight adjustment, a habitual reminder of who he was. A Professor, through and through. Without even blinking, he asked, “What are your terms?”
Street of Dragon City
As a youngster, Chu Shu Zhi grew up with barely enough to eat. Scraps and leftovers were the norms. Always worried about when the next meal would come because even the Universe ignored the cries of Dixing. Although that was far behind him, the trauma remained, leading to an unusual compulsion.
Old Chu found himself watching over the malnourished mouse, who obviously has low blood pressure from the lack of nutrients. Too skinny to his liking. The boy didn’t even look like he was fed enough at home. How many times had he fainted now? More than his hands could count? Hence, why Chu kept reminding Xiao Guo to eat whenever he could. Going as far as bringing snacks, which are kept under his thick coat for extra measures.
Fainting is disruptive during work, he rationalized. Chu couldn't afford to be distracted by the intern especially while they were staking out their target. Their Boss laid out clear instructions to keep an eye on the witness in the coming days — a routine protocol for any murder case.
But that begs another question, why did he drag this useless Haixing along? Chu Shu Zhi had to wonder. Was it because this mouse walks about with a “bully me” sign on his back? Chu had never met someone who was so vulnerable to the core like this small rodent. Old Chu could’ve handled the field work on his own, but he couldn’t leave this timid defenseless mouse alone who knew what the new recruit would do to him if he weren’t around. Zhao Yunlan has many reputations, none are good. Especially when it comes to his debauched history.
With those thoughts in mind, who could blame him when his noble intention was called out in the most insulting manner.
“Chu Ge, are you afraid of Zhao Yunlan?” the timorous young man asked in such a small voice, Old Chu could barely hear him. However, silk only required a tiny cut to rip. Even the softest words could bring out fury, snapping one’s patience. His wrath. Fear? Him?
There were times in his life when fear was part of his everyday life, but no more. Chu Shu Zhi would not survive this long if he still allowed such emotions to surface. A weakness he abhorred.
His expression must have said it all because the frightened mouse immediately scurried behind the lamp post. As if the ridiculous barrier would keep him safe from the Master Puppeteer. “What did you say? Repeat it,” Chu snarled, ready to strangle his little neck.
“I-I...I’m sorry!” the rodent squeaked. Guo circled around the post avoiding the beast he had provoked. “Forget what I said!”
“What makes you think I fear that rabid dog!” Chu growled, snatching Guo’s collar without much effort. The boy was light as a feather.
“Bu-But...you always avoid him… And you have that look on your face,” Guo shakily explained. “Li-Like you’re afraid something bad would happen.” Squirming like a fish out of water, Chu had to shake the little man before the intern succumbed to another fainting spell. Which only made Guo think the worst of him again, by excessively apologizing, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Please don’t be mad…I’m sorry...”
“How stupid are you?” Chu asked angrily, “I don’t fear Zhao Yunlan. I fear for---” he stopped short from the impossible words that had almost escaped. No..It can’t be...
“Fear for?” Guo repeated. His fearful eyes grew from curiosity. The sparks for knowledge, which always made Chu pause. The light this boy held, at times, was too bright to behold. “For who?” the pure voice asked.
“Fo-For...,” Chu stammered for the first time in his mortal life. The growing blushed quickly turned to anger, enough for him to regain his sanity. Releasing the mouse so abruptly, he fell to the ground. Still, anger reigned, as Chu gave his orders, “I’m telling you one more time. Don’t get too close to Zhao Yunlan. If I’m not around, avoid him at all cost.”
“But Chu Ge…,” Little Guo clumsily scrambled to his feet.
“But what?” Chu asked in frustration, “Are you listening to me?”
“I don’t care if he acts nice!” Chu barked, “There’s a reason why he’s called a Wolf. He’ll eat rodents like you for breakfast!”
“No, I mean he’s here!” squealed the little mouse. Guo’s head lowered. One hand raised to point directly at him as he whimpered, “Chu Ge, Zhao Ge is behind you.”
Stunned, flabbergasted Old Chu turned to face the Wolf in the dead of night. Zhao Yunlan, who never fails to stir people’s patience, now has a spreading smirk on his face. At 2 a.m., Dragon City streets were empty, saves a few drunken late-night partiers scrambling to find their way home. The Wolf, the former Predator of this street, was every bit comfortable in his turf.
Chu Shi Zhi cursed under his breath. Eyes narrowed with his usual threatening aura. Old Chu asked, “What are you doing here?”
“Doing your job, can’t you tell?” Zhao asserted smartly as he glanced up the apartment above them. “If you two want to continue to flirt, there’s an empty alley around the corner at this late hour of the night. I won’t peek, I promise,” the Wolf added with a suggestive wink.
“Zhao Yunlan,” Chu growled under his breath, wanting nothing more than to pound this Haixing into the ground. He would have done that if not for the small hands that grasped his arm.
“Chu Ge, please don’t fight,” Little Guo begged. Scared as he was, his bravery always showed at the most unexpected times. Bringing no relief to the man he angered.
“Just for the record, I don’t eat small rodents,” Zhao Yunlan clarified with a chirp to his tone, obviously enjoying the display before him. “Not enough meat for my liking,” he explained with an overly expressive disapproving face, until his eyes glanced back at Chu, “If you want to know, I prefer the kind with more muscles.”
“Leave...now!” the infuriated Chu snapped, unsure why his blood boils even more with those statements. Guo’s hands still held onto him. Weak as they were, but for unknown reasons, Chu couldn’t shake them off.
The warning was clear, but the fearless Wolf remained, as though he had no care for his well being. He strolled towards them with casual ease. “Have no fear, I won’t touch you nor your pet,” Zhao assured with a bright smile, but his suggestive remarks continued, “Especially, when his owner is fattening him up for himself.”
Zhao stopped short, just beside the hardened Chu who had to steel himself from attacking. Shoulder to shoulder, the Wolf laid his final blow, but with his voice so low, only Chu could hear. “Who would have guessed, it only takes a mouse to penetrate the stronghold of the most powerful Shield Master of the Dixing World. Still, the boy is not so bright. Without direct actions, he’ll never understand your heart.”
Muted by the man, Chu could only watch as the Wolf entered the building. He could neither refute nor accept his words. They said this man was dangerous, but just now did Chu finally register why. With only a few words, he had rendered him powerless.
Chu may be a puppeteer, but this man….Zhao Yunlan, manipulates the living.
As the saying goes, never wake a sleeping Lion. But this is a Wolf. Would the analogy remain the same? Was he more trouble than he’s worth?
Shen continued to ponder as he watched the unruly beast snore softly. With his head resting on his folded arms, Zhao Yunlan lay fast asleep at Professor Shen’s desk. An unusual sight, but Shen didn’t have the heart to wake him up. With heavy bags under his eyes, the man certainly needed his sleep. Unlike their previous encounters, which were dark and unlit, the afternoon lights streamed into the small office. Giving a rare opportunity for the Professor to study him in close proximity without distraction. Silence was rare, especially when it came to this dangerous Wolf. One always had to be on alert, or be devoured.
Strange as it may, this man could fall asleep in such a place. With numerous enemies, even more now that he joined SID, shouldn’t Zhao be more cautious of his whereabouts? Even more astonishing was the fact that he had yet to wake up during the past hours since the Professor had returned from his morning lecture. As the exhausted Wolf remained in his slumber, Shen continued his routine, which was reviewing papers at this hour.
However, he found himself distracted by even the slightest movement. The peaceful nap may look calm, but now and then, his eyelids move rapidly. Indicating the dream must have taken a different turn. The crease between his brows grew, as Zhao’s eyes began to squint, disturbed by what he saw.
Shen’s hand reached out before he could stop himself. Unable….No powerless, because the need to ease the pained expression from this man was helplessly instinctive. Brushing the loose bangs from Zhao’s face, his fingers smoothed through the layers of thick dark hair. Rough and coarse, like the man himself, the Professor couldn’t help but noticed Zhao’s facial hair has grown since the night before. His gentle caresses became repetitive when Shen realized his touch relieved the monsters from Zhao’s dreams. The motion was familiar, yet Shen couldn’t place the last nor even the first time when he had done such an act for another.
Still absorbed by his thoughts, the distracted Professor was caught off guard when a strong hand snatched his wrist. Red handed, it took a moment for the embarrassed Professor to retract, but Zhao held his deadly grip. The Wolf lifted his head ever so slowly, Zhao’s unfocused eyes were pensive at first. A slight tug pulled at the corner of his lips, and a broad smile was revealed. With a spark of a twinkling gaze of mischief, the Wolf licked his lips in anticipation.
Shen didn’t need to guess what was on this perverted dog’s mind.
It was another day, and yet, Zhao Yunlan had not taken his dues. Which was probably the real reason he had sought him out at the University.
The Wolf must have read his thoughts because Zhao's thumb began to massage Shen’s inner wrist. Paying no heed to the Professor’s threatening glare, the man continued to loosen the tension on his tightly held fist. Shen drew a deep breath as his fist unclenched. Betrayed by his own body, thus allowing Zhao’s thumb to rub his inner palm, rendering the Professor helpless, as the searing sensation sizzled through his nerves. Zhao pulled his hand closer, mere inches from the hungry Wolf’s mouth. The blazing eyes lifted, staring directly at his feast.
But their silent standoff remained, until the clock hour broke. With their senses regained, yet, only their eyes spoke.
“You know why. ”
“Guilty,” Zhao admitted in a velvety husk, right before he pressed his lips against the sensitive inner wrist. Wet, hot, and most of all, unexpected. Shen could barely believe his eyes. Frozen, his heart skipped several beats. With every lick and stroke, the Wolf’s tongue and mouth treated his hand like a delicacy. To savor, or was it to devour? Shen could barely comprehend it when Zhao’s mouth swept over the inner palm. With the tip of his tongue, the man swirled and tickled the fragile fiber of nerves between the lines.
Scarlet from the fathomless raw sensation that refuse to subside, Shen’s eyes clenched momentarily. A normal kiss he could break easily, but this…This was too much to bear when the act itself was meant to break his will. Establishing an intimacy through sheer blatant marking. What’s worse, if he breaks free too early, his vulnerability would be revealed. With no recourse, the Professor settled on biting his inner cheeks.
Suddenly, his hand was abruptly released. Returning his gaze, Shen stared back at Zhao with a baffled expression. Why did he set him free? But, he couldn’t utter those words as he watched Zhao stretch his body and rub his sore neck with a satisfying groan. Taking the cue, Shen settled comfortably back in his chair.
To ease the tension from the room, the Professor found himself asking, “Why are you sleeping here?”
“I was up all night,” Zhao answered, as he settled back on the chair with a yawn. “Can’t a man find a nice comfortable spot to pass out?”
“Comfortable? In that position, it’s not good for your spine,” Shen chastised, relieved that his firm voice had returned. “If you need to sleep, go somewhere else.”
“You really know how to drive a dog up the wall.”
“It’s not my problem you are the type who succumbs to basic needs at the drop of a hat,” Shen replied sternly.
“Basic needs? Is that how you see everyone?” Zhao chuckled, with a touch of bitterness under his tone, the Dark Wolf surfaced, “It’s no wonder they still call you, Professor Shen.”
“What do you mean?” Shen asked with a puzzled expression.
“You retained your title, despite being their boss. Let’s see. You took the position five years ago. Never once have you taken leave nor had a sick day. You still give lectures at Dragon University, while you keep your nighttime activities hidden. Do you even sleep? You have no close friends, only colleagues. In fact, you don’t even have a relationship with anyone, man or woman,” Zhao paused, his gaze heated unexpectedly. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d suspect Professor Shen is a rare kind of asexual. But we both know that’s not true.”
“You investigated me?” Shen accused darkly.
“Your staff saved me the time, especially when they’re chattering more than they should. How SID remained hidden for so long with this gossipy crew is a miracle. Though loyal, they still have no idea where you live or what you do in your private time. You are a man many admire, but fear,” Zhao finished with a short laughed. His eyes narrowed, as a thought seem to perk behind those dark eyes. With his hands folded in front of him, a questionable arched brow followed, he asked, “Which makes me wonder, Professor Shen, what are you hiding?”
“Says the man who has no background to speak of?” Shen countered, and quickly he proceeds with his cards. “Zhao Yunlan’s existence was only recorded the past ten years. The theory goes you are raised by Dixing people, due to your close connections to the underworld. No one has definitive proof, but the rumors remained. With your powers of deduction, it was no surprise you are an excellent Detective. However, from your clients to your targets, they all seem to respect but fear you. Which made me wonder, how much unsavory secrets do you have on them?”
“Oh, are you by chance curious about me?” Zhao smiled, though the joy didn’t reach his eyes. They were dark, deep...even cold. His deflection was apparent, but it only means Shen was close.
“I am always interested in my staff,” Shen shrugged with a chilled smile of his own, “Especially one who can pose harm to the rest.”
“Now I know you’re flattering me,” Zhao smirked brightly this time.
Ignoring his bait, the Professor returned to the papers in front of him, “Chu told me you followed the witness. What did you find out?”
“Li Qian? An excellent student, only until recently,” Zhao answered, as he grabbed the brush on the desk. Spinning the brush pen between his fingers, a habit he often does to keep his mental focus, Zhao continued, “Her grades have fallen the past few months. Not surprising, since the girl’s grandmother recently passed away. She now lives alone. Her parents travel for work and rarely return. Besides the fact she was the first witness, several individuals are staking out her place for the past two days.”
“Are they Dixingians?” the Professor asked absently.
“Probably, but they’re not working together, from what I can tell. One hooded man and a dark-haired girl in a bright red sweater with leather gloves.”
“You don’t mean...?” Shen raised his head to meet Zhao’s gaze.
“The one who was here not too long ago when I arrived She came to collect the books you borrowed? Who is she?” Zhao asked.
“The books were from Professor Zhang Ruonan. Wang Yike, is her favorite student, even though she doesn’t have classes with her. They’re very close. More like sisters than mentor and student.”
“Lovers perhaps?” Zhao took a guess, but the Professor refuses to play his game. One should never probe on their colleague’s business. As Shen remained silent on that subject, the Wolf finally asked, “Where is Professor Zhang Ruonan now?”
“She’s been on leave for a month now, due to family reasons, as I recall,” Shen answered carefully, but Zhao caught on the hesitation.
“You don’t believe her?”
“I know it was her when she was on the phone yesterday, but she didn’t sound like herself. She sounded sick, unhealthy,” Shen admitted, “I tried to contact her again, but only Wang Yike answered.”
“Since you seem to worry about her, why don’t we pay a visit to colleague of yours?” Zhao suggested tactically.
Professor Shen began to understand why this Wolf was well sought for his skills. With his ability to read people, Zhao Yunlan knows precisely what to say to get the results he wanted. Shen Wei had held himself back due to lack of evidence, but more so because of his moral standards. But today, it was Zhao who had provided the excuse they needed to expand their search, a necessary means to shine more lights in this case.
So many unsolved murders, could this man have the powers to solve them? Or does he have other motives?
Only time would tell.
Chapter 1 "The Deal"
Chapter 2.5 "The Swordsman"
Author's Note: RL has taken up all my writing time this holiday. Hence, this chapter took longer to publish. For those who visit my blog, you would have noticed I am also behind on my episode recaps for Guardian drama as well. Hopefully, I can pick up my usual speed once I settled conventional work hours in the near future. Before that could happen, my speed will be slower than before.
Thank everyone for your patience and support. I wish everyone a wonderful holiday and may the stars grant you wishes.