Past midnight, a Mouse felt like he was being suffocated. Not by any common predator, but more precisely, it was a Black Bear that held him in his clutches.
From his recollection, Guo Cheng Chang was sleeping on the floor because there was no couch. The small studio only had one chair, a coffee table, and a twin size bed with a scarcely comfortable fit for Chu Shizhi’s large frame. Despite the fact that he is on the skinny side, the bed was obviously too small for both of them.
There was no escape. Guo Cheng Chang was captured, and not far from being smothered to death. The large bear’s arms were like coiling snakes. The more he struggled, the tighter the arms became. Bracing himself for what he was about to do, because it’s never wise to wake a beast from its slumber. However, given the circumstances, the Mouse would truly be suffocate if it remained silent.
“Chu Ge…Chu-Chu..Chu…,” came the faint whimper, which he doubted the Bear could hear at barely a whisper. A part of him wished he didn’t.
Yet, he did.
“Chu, Chu Chu what?!” the grouchy Bear snapped.
“Could I get up now?” the Mouse gasped in surprise.
“I should go home...It’s getting late. My aunt and uncle are waiting for me,” Xiao Guo explained the lame excuse, which was in fact a lie.
Guo Cheng Chang had already told his guardians he would be gone for the next couple of nights nursing his friend. An additional lie to appease their worries. He couldn’t tell them it was for his colleague because they would ask more questions. It was already difficult keeping them from finding out how dangerous his job had become. An injured colleague on the job would only add to their anxiety.
“I thought you came here to take care of me,” Chu Shizhi growled. “Didn’t you bring your overnight clothes?”
“Y-Yes, I did.” Guo Cheng Chang wanted to smack himself for being a terrible liar. “Bu-But…But I didn’t take into consideration how this would inconvenience you.”
“But-But can you let me go? I need to use the toilet...Chu Ge?”
Silence followed....the timid Mouse waited. And waited…For longer than he should, because the Puppeteer had fallen asleep again!
Still no answer.
“Chu Ge. Chu Ge, are you awake?” Xiao Guo asked louder this time, but the Bear remained fast asleep.
The Mouse started to struggle from the embrace, but it was impossible to break. Flushed from the heat of the large man who held him, but more so from his own body. Squeezing his eyes closed, he realized his heart was beating faster than normal.
Thoughts that shouldn’t arise....rose.
He remembered this distinctive scent of the man who held him not long ago, during the time they had lost track of their witness, Li Qian. Xiao Guo knew he was clumsy and useless. For the greatest part of his life, he hadn’t done much to offer to society, but he had tried his best to learn and adapt. Ever since he had become an official member of SID, he promised himself he would not cause others to fail on his behalf. But for whatever reasons unknown, his efforts were in vain, due to the senior he admired.
So Guo Cheng Chang didn’t fault the man for losing his patience, but was still taken aback from the method of punishment. Or was it bullying? Xiao Guo was used to being picked on. He lost count of the number of times others had humiliated, degraded him. Unkind words of his shortcomings were a common occurrence. Thus, he was immune to most bullying tactics, which were never taken to heart when those incidents occurred. For most kinds of bullying, he could still move on with his day like nothing happened.
This was all new to Guo Cheng Chang. If only he could have someone to tell, but he had no friends. Save his colleagues and his intermediate family. He could not bring himself to tell them, because it would be too embarrassing, too childish the more he thought about it. Guo Cheng Chang thought if he waited long enough, those feelings would be gone. However, Chu Shizhi chose that exact moment to turn and lie down on his back, with Guo Cheng Chang still in his arms.
“Chu Ge! What are you doing! Let me down!” Guo Cheng Chang squealed in panic. He’s now lying on top of the Bear!
“What?” the sleepy man groaned, half awaken from the near shout from the Mouse on top of him.
“You need to sleep comfortably for you to re-recover. The bed is too small for both of us. Let me go... Chu Ge, I can sleep on the floor. That way, I w-won’t accidentally hu-hurt you.”
"I am recovering, but all your squirming would only make it worse. Stay still,” the Bear replied sleepily below his head. His hold was slightly loosened, but the arms remained where they were.
It could be the fact that the Bear was still half asleep, or it was because he decided to shut him up. But most likely, it was both, because Chu Shizhi did something even more shocking than yesterday.
He kissed Guo’s forehead. A peck, but no more.
Not too long, nor was it short. But enough to render the Mouse speechless.
"...." His skin burned. The spot where Chu Ge had laid his lips seared.
Bully, bully...Bully! Chu Shizhi is a bully!
Why wouldn't he stop torturing him? What he had done yesterday was direct intimidation, but this...this was worse! Too close, too intimate. The act itself should be reserved only for the future special someone he had yet to meet.
Why was he taking all his firsts?
Sleep was out of the question now. Before, Guo Cheng Chang thought he would probably have a restless night, but now he would probably welcome the dawn.
And that was exactly the case.
Was it fitting that Wang died for the woman she loves? Will her sacrifice atone for the lives she took?
Though brief it was, it was all the time she needed. Fifteen minutes, she had pleaded. They’ve allowed her request, the short-lived moment. But who knew the desperate girl had acted, for her atonement.
“Jie Jie....Jie Jie, don’t cry. Please don’t cry…. I’m sorry...” Wang’s last breath shook as her fluttering eyes took.
Her beam of happiness was clouded by her enviable end.
“I was the cause. She only wanted to save me. Please save her...Please, I beg you...I...” the recovered Professor Ruonan begged in a broken voice, but it was too late. Held in her embrace, the heart which beats for hers had stopped. Shaking her head in denial, Zhang Ruonan broke down. “Yike, Yike...don’t go…st-stay with me...I-I..!”
Only after some time had passed, and Wang Yike’s body was properly secured by SID, did the Professor speak again.
“In order to extend my life, she went after others,” Professor Ruonan explained, tears swelled again but she held them back. “First, it was the men who assaulted me. But it wasn’t enough when her urgency led to this. I couldn’t return to my original state, once she touched me. Her body fed on most of what she stole from others. There was not much left to transfer. After she learned about the artifact, I should’ve known she would trade her life for mine. Silly child...she refuses to give up.”
The youth had returned, but at what price?
Her heart ached for the young woman to which she had given her world. Their love was stained by others. Wang’s attempt to clean it off only caused it to spread. The victims’ blood still smeared her hands.
A life was saved, but was she truly?
The unsettling scene continued to play out in his mind even when dawn broke. By then, Shen Wei had returned to his apartment. The empty hallway was silent, except for the sound of his footsteps upon reaching his residence’s door. Shen Wei fished out his key, but before it reached the lock, his hand stopped.
Someone was here...Shen Wei frowned. Correction, the intruder is still here.
His jawline tightened at the knowledge. A sting to his pride.
Personal domain should never be violated.
For those who knew him, none would dare to break into his home, while most were not even aware of his presence. Due to his abnormal hours, he rarely meets any residents here, but for those he had met, the conversation was brief and courteous.
How and who?
To find out the answer, he had to proceed.
The switch lights did not work, extra measures no doubt from the uninvited guest. But there’s no need for lights when one had grown accustomed to the dark. All shadows unmoving from the dim sunrise passed through the windows.
A gun was pressed against his head. The intruder remained silent for unknown reasons.
Without turning, the faint mixture of familiar scents filled the air. The corner of Shen’s lips pulled slightly, not enough for a full sinister smile since the menace was no threat at all. Although the person came prepared, he chose the wrong method. Close proximity had always been Shen Wei’s advantage, especially since human nature would rarely suspect a prim and proper man like Professor Shen would be an expert in combat.
In a flash, Shen Wei whipped around, grabbing the arm which held the gun, and swung it to the side. The other arm was about to raise for a hit but was blocked by the intruder. Not missing a beat, the man encircled the Professor’s wrist and held it captive by forcing his arm to fold over his shoulder. With their wrists held by the other, they were in a stand-off. The only chance to win was to overpower, an easy enough task. But before he could maneuver, the sound of the dropped gun distracted him for half a second, which gave the other man ample time to swing their bodies around and slam the Professor against the door.
At first, Shen Wei was struggling from the embrace but stopped. Not because he would easily give in, but images...more precisely, flashes of memories never before known appeared before his eyes. His body pressed against the door frame, the full length of another held him immobile. The darkness, this scent, and the strength which held him was all too familiar. But to his recollection, it had never happened before, because no one had ever been able to pull such a move on him until now. Save one, but they had never been in this type of scenario.
Lights rained behind the solid body that blocked its path. The sun had risen, but the Predator’s gaze kept him imprisoned. Hearts stopped. Their eyes locked.
Only their breaths could be heard.
Close, too close. His undoing.
The possessive look behind those smoldering eyes left Shen paralyzed.
Hunger was evident, but the predator’s thirst was more transparent. Realizing what was about to happen, Professor Shen cried, “Don’t---” but his words were muffled by the other man’s lips.
Yet, even more shocking than the glimpse of these so-called deja vu images, was that Shen Wei found himself yielding to the other’s kiss in yearning enthusiasm. Flooded by a desire he could not control, nor comprehend, Shen Wei moaned against the invasion as the other man’s tongue swept in. Teasing...tasting, consuming his every breath like they were his own. His body shivered, tightened all at once.
The feel of the heated body pressed against his own was anything but frustrating. Something in his body clenched, deep inside. The fire grew, a part of himself he would never dare speak of, overwhelmed. Its fire intensified, as rationale slipped. Further, he tripped.
Shen Wei tried to pull him closer, but the tangle of arms and hands were in the way. Groaning in dissatisfaction, it took him a split second to register the reason why. His vest was opened. The rustling clothes scattered at their feet. Fallen for who knows how long.
Eyes widened. Shocked by his own response in the light of the morning dawn, his body froze. But the predator must have registered the prey’s awareness because he knew how to recapture his captive before it could break free.
“Xiao Wei,” the man’s voice rasped against his lips, “Xiao Wei.”
The name repeated, spoken for the first time by this person stopped his heart. But why? He should be fighting, but he did not.
Stronger than a spell, more potent than potions.
His resolve shattered.
While Shen Wei’s mind wavered, his collar was roughly yanked. The buttons ripped from it’s threads, exposing his vulnerable skin. Involuntary shivers traveled down to his toes, from the prickly graze against his throat. His mouth was rough, hot, anxious. Moving further down, those lips Shen Wei knew so well traced along the edges of his collarbone. His head nuzzled against his throat. Slowly, deliberately, his tongue swept over the spot his beard had brushed. Shen Wei’s eyes closed momentarily, holding back his gasp, while his grip grasped.
If it was a second more, he would have been lost. Defeated. Lead astray by heated passion of no return. Until Shen Wei felt a tug. More than a tug, but the other man was pulling on his sleeve garter. Panic set in from the unfamiliar action. With an angry growl, Professor Shen caught the man’s wrist, grabbed the front of his shirt, and swung around until his body was slammed against the door with so much force the back of his head banged loudly against the heavy door frame.
“UUUUGGGHH,” the other man groaned. Red color spread over his features, even his eyes grew moist from the impact.
“You...You...How dare you!” Shen Wei accused, not even sure what exactly he was accusing, when they both knew how he responded. Half afraid of what his captive would say, his grip tightened. Daring him to make a joke out of the matter.
Instead of answering the furious Professor before him, what he got was a man who was as lost as himself. Both paused, puzzled.
Right before he would break their silence, a smile spread from the man. Shen Wei couldn’t react. This man’s smile was not a true smile. This was different somehow, although it was the same. Had Shen Wei seen his smile in such a way, he wondered.
Realizing too late he was caught by more than just his body, Professor Shen released his grip. Stepping back, he stared angrily at his uninvited intruder.
A mistake, because the Wolf drawled, “Welcome home, Darling.”
This had happened before.
Zhao Yunlan was sure of it. However, he could not place these deja vu moments because they had never met until recently. Had he dreamed them? If so, when? How could these emotions be so raw...real.
Why is this happening? He had wondered for a time now. The more he spent time with Professor Shen, the harder it was for him to part. Emotional attachments that were beyond his understanding. Even with partners who he had known for years, never had he felt this kind of possession. Not once had he wanted to keep them by his side.
Each touch and feel awakened a distinctive warmth he had yet discovered. Shen Wei’s lips, those unforgettable lips, moistened whenever the Professor was nervous. They trembled when Zhao got close. The silent call was evident. Untouched by others, they begged for his attention, to be tasted, suckled and devoured.
While those beautiful eyes, with not a single lash out of place, gazed back with the same longing look. They held a hint of sorrow, the hidden depths of which could pierce another’s heart.
Even the name he had yet to utter until today slipped out on its own accord. Somehow, his lips knew, his body recognized. Soft words they were, but his heart ached all the time.
Pity they had to stop early. If only the other had not woken...
Zhao Yunlan watched in amusement as his straight-laced professor straightened his clothes at a rapid speed. On the other hand, Zhao Yunlan didn’t even bother to straighten his clothes, looking more like a ruffian off the street after a brawl. But this brawl was more forgiving, delectable would be a better word to describe what had transpired. Even with a hint of bittersweet towards the end, it was something to explore further when he gets another opening.
Flustered by his earlier responses, Shen Wei’s eyes averted before he spoke, “How did you find me?”
“I got my ways,” Zhao Yunlan shrugged before adding, “You should have expected I’d come calling sooner or later.”
Zhao Yunlan bent down and picked up their coats and handed Shen Wei his.
Snatching his coat back, Shen Wei asked, “Was that necessary?”
“But I miss you,” Zhao Yunlan pouted. “You left before we could talk.”
“I meant breaking into my place. Normal people would wait for ...” Professor Shen scoffed. He picked up his suitcase from the floor and placed it beside his coat on the desk.
“I had some free time when I arrived before you. I thought I'd check your security, but it didn’t seem like you had any. While this district of Dragon City is safe from normal criminal activities, you should change to better locks. I could have easily taken all your valuables today.”
“I have no valuables I do not wish to part with,” came the simple response, chosen out of habit, but certainly held deeper meaning.
“Lack of sentimental attachment even to inanimate objects, what do you fear Professor Shen?” The Wolf asked as he approached this man, who always seemed to want to distance himself from those around him. His instincts told him, if he wasn’t careful, his Professor will forever be out of his reach.
Sensing their shortened distance, Professor Shen turned to face him, but this time, his face was cold, without a hint of passion from moments before. “Have you finished analyzing me?”
“No. Never. Why would I ever stop?” Zhao Yunlan smiles brightly. “The more you’re trying to hide, the more intrigued I am. It comes with the profession,” he clarified. But his statement was not the full truth.
Whether business or personal, Zhao Yunlan never wanted to stop knowing this man. The moment they met, he felt he had known Professor Shen from another lifetime, or was it more than just one? Ever since the day they had met, he had countless vivid dreams that haunt his nights.
At times, these detailed dreams were from a different era and locations, where they were different people, professions. Yet, despite these myriad scenarios, the subject of which they spoke was familiar. Zhao Yunlan was a doctor, detective, soldier, artist, photographer, writer, gamer and even a Demon Hunter, while Professor Shen in his dreams was a gangster, psychiatrist, soldier, swordsman, general, and even a King of a nation.
Each felt real, like they just happened yesterday. While his emotions were all over the map depending on who he was. Was this a work of a Dixing? But why would they create such a complicated trap?
There were times he didn’t want the dream to end. To explore the other life unknown. Whether they were real or not, he had to know. Is there an ending, and if there is, what will the outcome be?
With those thoughts in mind, Zhao Yunlan made his way to the leather couch, and sat himself down with his legs crossed, like it was his home. A roguish smile spread.
“Professor Shen, you still haven’t offered me a drink,” the uninvited guest remarked.
Shen Wei narrowed his eyes irritability. “I don’t drink.”
“Tea? You have those don’t you?” Zhao Yunlan chirped.
Despite his reservations, etiquette required Professor Shen to play the host, which was what the dirty Wolf had counted on. Shen Wei went to prepare the tea. A short while later, he returned with a tray of a small steaming pot and teacups and sat down.
After receiving the hot brew by his host, Zhao Yunlan finally asked the question from day one, “Now tell me, Professor, why do you pretend to be a Haixing?”
Chapter 6 "The Trade"
Author's Note: A hundred apologies for the delayed! I couldn't spare any time to write for Weilan over the summer, too distracted by The Untamed series. Then I started Wangxian fanfic as well because I needed to expand their drama ending. Old habits die hard, but I love all the new materials since I enjoy writing all of them.