“Now tell me, Professor, why do you pretend to be a Haixing?”
The tea paused before the Professor took his sip. His jaw twitched just a little, but not too much. With an air befitting an aristocratic, Professor Shen placed the teacup down. A slight smile curved, and he replied, “When have I said I was a Haixing?”
Zhao Yunlan consciously bit his lower lip, unable to refute the statement.
Good, the man was not all-knowing, as he sold himself to be.
Professor Shen further clarified, with an added tone of boredom and a slight touch of arrogance. “Assumptions are not fact, but in this case, it was presumption. Who would have thought the Wolf only judges what he sees?”
“Professor, you got me there,” Zhao Yunlan admitted with some embarrassment, a hint of color to his features. “You’re right, I should’ve asked. Only half of your staff are Haixing, while the other half have their uses with their Dixing bloodline,” he added offhandedly. “I get why they have their uses to you.”
Professor Shen lifted his brow at the statement. Give it to Zhao Yunlan to offer both compliment and insult at the same time.
“That begs the question,” the reproachful curious man quipped. Leaning closer, paying no heed to personal space as he always had, the Wolf’s eyes scrutinized. “What are they?”
Shen Wei smiled, his charming lips spread. Not knowing the effect he had on this wayward Wolf, he shrugged. “Everyone has their own purpose.”
Although truth be told, Professor Shen still didn’t know what the man in front of him wanted, besides the obvious.
The Wolf’s eyes lifted. “And yours?”
“Others do as well,” Professor Shen evaded.
“They do, but I don’t care about others.” Zhao waved his hand dismissively, the predator’s eyes locked. “Just you.”
“Charming words,” Professor Shen smiled despite the obvious lure, “but we both know it’s not just me you’re here for today.”
“Can’t it be both?” Zhao Yunlan couldn’t help but return the smile. “After all, I am a greedy man.”
“Greed leads to the downfall of men.”
“Depends, as not all men would fall. Only the chosen ones rise.” More to the point, than a declaration, Zhao Yunlan rose and headed towards Professor Shen’s desk.
Shen Wei stood as well. His suspicion was correct. “You can’t have it.”
“To which are you referring?” Zhao Yunlan dismissed.
Shen Wei rushed to block his path, ready for another battle if he must.
Zhao Yunlan chuckled at the deliberate stance, but still took a step back for his next attack, verbal. “You didn’t keep it at SID, under lock and key. A better choice if you ask me? Which means you have other purposes for this ancient artifact you didn’t wish others to know. Professor Shen, would you care to enlighten me?”
“It seems you have forgotten I am your boss, not the other way around. You answer to me, as I recall of our arrangement,” Shen Wei reminded.
“Pardoned, I was a private detective,” Zhao Yunlan reminded his opponent from day one. “My clients are expected to tell me everything so our arrangement will go smoothly.”
“I doubt your clients disclosed all their secrets,” Shen Wen countered.
The Wolf deliberately took a step forward, close enough for them to come in contact if Shen Wei were to move. “Secrets, are like honey to bees. The more delectable the nectar, the more I crave,” his tone deep, deliberate, with a hint of sorrow, or was it loss? “However, you are different. Ever since we met, I wanted to know everything about you. Not those skeletons you may hide, or even the strange department you run. What I want to know Professor Shen, could you guess?”
Stunned, Professor Shen felt he was slightly moved, but the next words from the Devil in no disguise shattered those wavering feelings.
“I want to know the soap you use to bathe, the clothes you wear to bed or lack there off, and even your favorite breakfast after an exhaustingly long night of physical exertion. May I see them? Will you show me...personally?“
Although Zhao Yunlan’s shameless tactic was at play, Professor Shen was no fair maiden to be easily swept away by this untrained Wolf, and swiftly caught the hand that was about to wrap around his waist. “Zhao Yunlan,” he warned, the grip on Zhao’s hand tightening to make his point.
Zhao Yunlan winced at the pain at first, but soon his lips puckered into a pout. “Why Professor? When you called my name, it sounded more like a threat. It wounds me so.”
This ruffian actually pouted! Shen Wei wanted to smack him, and he almost could, if Zhao Yunlan didn’t withdraw in a flash.
“I guess it’s my time to take my leave.” The Wolf raised his hand in defeat as he walked back towards the door. Turning the knob, Zhao Yunlan stopped to take another gamble, “A kiss goodbye?”
Professor Shen was at his last thread of patience from the undisciplined Wolf who deserved to be hanged for his continued transgression, but before he could act, the Professor’s dark features must be apparent, because Zhao Yunlan quickly made his escape. The door slammed before the Professor could reach it, yet he didn’t give chase. Only after the sounds of footsteps were finally gone, could he take an easy breath.
However, something felt off. This Wolf normally doesn’t back down so soon. His eyes widened in realization. Professor Shen stormed back to his desk and opened his briefcase, but it wasn’t there.
When did it…That sneaky Wolf!
He should’ve given chase after all!
Professor Shen hurried down to the streets, but there was no sight of the damn thief, except for the disappearing sound of a motorcycle roar from afar...
Hiding for days at his private hideout, residence or whatever others might call it, the Wolf of the Den played with the Sundial Artifact in his hands. Interestingly, this magical item hadn’t given any signs of its power. Zhao even wondered if it could be a fake. Impossible, this artifact was definitely real. He doesn’t know why he knows, but he does. It was as though this item had always belonged to him. The intricate markings, even the distinctive ones worn through time were familiar.
Had he used this before? Or...had another used this on him? If so, the real question was when and why?
When he broke into the Professor’s place, it was not his intention to steal, but the artifact had called out to him from day one. Beckoning him every step of the way, like a beacon for home. It had only taken him less than a second to swipe it from the briefcase while Professor Shen prepared tea.
For some unknown reason, he didn’t want the Professor to be in possession of such a dangerous weapon. Instinct told him so...but why? He wanted the man for himself, but it had grown beyond physical needs.
It’s probably those relentless dreams that won’t stop plaguing him. Those dreams were from another world but had been with him since childhood. Zhao Yunlan knew who he was in all those different worlds, as the role he played from those time and places never changed. Unlike now, he'd had a handful of other honorable professions, but he was no angel compared to those principled personas. Through the years, Zhao Yunlan had accepted this as part of his existence. In fact, all those characters had helped him become a better Detective, until recently.
He had been distracted from his main objective.
If he was only dreaming of his normal day to day environment in other dream realms, then it wouldn’t be a concern. But since the day Professor Shen showed up in his life, his dreams had changed. Another person was present, the lover who had never been seen before had finally shown. He had met this person before...many many times, endless nights in those realms. But once awakened, he could never remember his lover’s face.
Gradually, the blurry image becomes clearer and clearer, but while the heart knew, the mind still resisted…
“Lan Lan…,” a girl’s voice purred, her arms wrapped around his neck affectionately from behind the velvet couch.
Already caught on to her little manipulative ploy, Zhao Yunlan sighed, “What is it darling?”
“I want a pet,” his kitten purred.
The reluctant owner put away the Sundial before he replied, “No.”
“Why?” she removed her once affectionate embrace as quickly as it was given.
“Because, Daji, you’re already a pet,” Zhao Yunlan answered matter-of-factly. He turned to face the child he had raised. “Have you heard of a pet having its own pet? You can’t even take care of yourself. You're probably going to kill it within days, and then we have to go through a pet funeral for your sake.”
“Lan Lan, stop calling me a pet! And I have never had a pet before, how do you know I’ll kill it?”
“I’ve been raising you for, how long now? Not once did you pay for your expensive lifestyle. Your mood changes like the weather. Not to mention your shapeshifting abilities. If you’re not a pet, then what are you?”
“Lan Lan is a meanie, you’re a devil! Why are you being mean to Daji? You don’t love me anymore. Wang Zheng Jie Jie! Lan Lan is picking on me!” Daji cried at the top of her lungs. So loud, it would raise the dead, and it did. Wang Zheng, their spirit residence appeared with open arms, as Daji rushed into her embrace.
“I should’ve gotten a different cat. A real cat that doesn’t run off every few days and burn through my credit cards, isn’t that right Wang Zheng?” Zhao Yunlan asked his housekeeper. Beautiful, elegant, if only she was not a Spirit, she would have many men falling at her feet. As of now, she kept his place spotless, but more importantly, intruder free.
“Chief, you know Daji isn’t going to stop crying until you agree,” the soft spoken girl answered as she continued to comfort the weeping kitten in her arms. Since Zhao Yunlan didn’t like being called Master by others, he had chosen Chief, in Wang Zheng’s language.
“Okay okay, fine...stop crying,” the known heartless man gave in due to women’s tears. If others knew of this weakness, he would have to forgo his reputation overnight. “Whatever you want, I’ll get it for you.”
The girl’s face lit up, her diamond eyes sparkled, “Really?”
“Yes, but only after you prove you can take care of one,” Zhao Yunlan bargained, lying his body down on the couch.
“Of course!" Daji cheerfully agreed, no trace of tears in her eyes. "In that area, I don’t even need Wang Zheng’s help. I am already an expert!”
“Expert? You’re only an expert in shopping if I recall,” Zhao Yulan had to rub his eyes. “Daddy is poor because of you!”
“Chief...” Wang Zheng intervened, her maternal features always reminded him to hold back his words. Daji’s feline eyes began to tear up again. They’re fake of course, but when had he ever won against women?
“So, what pet do you want?” Zhao Yunlan bit those reluctant words. With his luck, she would probably lose her pet within a week. Or worse, lose interest altogether, and leave the animal for them to care for. If that is the case, then Wang Zheng can be responsible.
“A cat,” the young girl smiled.
Dumbfounded, Zhao Yunlan asked, “Are you not a cat yourself?”
“But I am a white cat.”
“Is there a difference?”
“I want a black cat.”
“Black cat, black cat…fine…,” he found himself agreeing, then a sudden lightbulb lit, but not for long because it quickly exploded, shattering the glass from his thoughts. “Wait...Which black cat?”
“Don’t you have one at your work?”
“Yes, I do....” Zhao Yunlan carefully acknowledged. “But why do you want that specific Black Cat?”
The Feline, with no regard to the veins that were about to pop from her owner’s forehead, cheerfully answered, “I want him to be my mate.”
Wang Zheng couldn’t blush, but gasped as she covered her mouth, quickly averting her gaze. But the Wolf, the father who adopted this kitten-despite her difference in age, Daji was still his child--rose from his seat. He headed to the front door, but not without grabbing the sharp hunting knife on his table.
His mind, repeatedly, with only one thought.
I am going to skin that fat cat!
Chapter 7.5 "The Scholar"