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Fallen Stars, Fallen Cities

Chapter Text

There’s the sound of the chair wheels scraping against the tiled floors followed by the tumble of footsteps as a male runs off across the room. Ban Shan watches begrudgingly from his seat, chewing on his snack in indignation as he watches Hao Mei leave his workplace for the eighteenth time for the day. He reaches over to his bag of dried squid, plastic rustling as he tussles another piece out before biting it with too much force. A grimace makes its way to his face as he listens to the younger male talk in excitement over nothing at all. It’s all but the usual “what should we eat later?” “I saw a funny meme online,” “I don’t want to work!” Ban Shan is pretty sure that the younger male had said the exact same thing an hour ago—running from his desk to KO’s before idling for a good fifteen minutes.

 

He peers over at the two, watching as KO nods once or twice in between Hao Mei’s chatter. If it had been anyone else, Ban Shan would’ve labelled such actions as perfunctory but it’s only strange that the male clad in black seems so concentrated on Hao Mei even when he’s typing away at his computer—eyes fixated on the lit screen in front of him.  He lets out a sigh, ignoring Yong Hou’s side glances, as he continues to test out the gaming platform. There’s another storm of footsteps and he doesn’t have to look up to know that Hao Mei is back at his own desk, small smile on his face as he continues where he’s left off.

 

He ponders vaguely upon the discrepancy in fates and treatment as he remembers the growing shade of kohl beneath his eyes—a stark contrast to Hao Mei’s complexion. He feels as if he’s giving his own energy to the younger male, cheeks hollowing out after days and days of overtime only to find that it’s found its way to the younger male’s cheeks. Ban Shan lets out a groan, tossing the empty packet of squid to the side as he returns to typing sulkily at his computer. Yong Hou looks to his side at the older male, giving a soft sigh as he envisions the storm clouds above their heads. The world, he plaints, is only so cruel to bachelors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lunch time comes after what seems to be a decade and Ban Shan looks up to see the workers of Zhi Yi storming around the office door like vultures. It’s only a moment after Wei Wei pays the delivery boy before they’re all fighting to attain their meal of the day. There’s a flash of thoughts that run by his mind before Ban Shan thinks he’s going to be the oriole behind the praying mantis[1]. And so he makes his way away from the crowd, waiting until Hao Mei leaves the horde with two lunchboxes in hand. He walks over with a grin, fox-like features accentuating as he rushes over and grabs the lunchbox from Hao Mei.

 

“Hey!” Hao Mei yells in retaliation. “Go get your own!”

 

Ban Shan scoffs, “What’s the point of eating this when you go out to eat good food every day?! Leave this for us poor folks.”

 

“What do you mean? I eat the same thing as you guys every day,” He replies. “I haven’t gone home for the past three days.”

 

“Just because you’re in the company doesn’t mean that you suffer the same treatment as us. How many lunch breaks have you spent with handmade lunchboxes from KO?” Ban Shan pulls the lunchboxes tighter in his hold before continuing,, “Mei Ren, it’s only logical for you to leave this MSG filled lunchbox for me.”

 

“If you wanted, you could just come and eat with us! I’d share!”

 

Ban Shan glances at the male clad in black across the office before throwing Hao Mei a skeeving glance. He squints his eyes at the younger co-worker. “Mei Ren, are you truly oblivious or do you just want me to die?” Ban Shan pans, stating the obvious. The younger male only throws him a grin, before Ban Shan stalks off with his meal in hand. He hands one to Yong Hou before sitting down to eat his own. He glances up midway while chewing on his food to see Hao Mei sitting upon KO’s work desk, newly attained lunch box in hand as he chats away with the older male. Ban Shan gives off a sigh as he witnesses the corners of KO’s lips slightly upturn.

 

Those in love are blind--and those who witness those who are in love, are in turn, blinded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

They’re all playing a game of oblivion. Ban Shan knows, Yong Hou knows, Xiao Nai knows, KO knows--Hao Mei pretends not to know. There’s a silent consensus in the office as they all watch with knowing smiles and unspoken epiphanies. Those who aren’t as acquainted with them in the office smile teasingly whenever Hao Mei brings up KO in conversations. Those well acquainted with the raven haired male only exchange knowing glances. Ban Shan rolls his eyes before looking back at Xiao Nai. “The biggest asset about Hao Mei is that you look at his face and truly believe that he’s as innocent as he looks.” He huffs.

 

Xiao Nai smiles softly before shaking his head, “That’s because you don’t understand the pleasure of ambiguity.”

 

“Lao San, were you and Wei Wei like this? Watching each other through a veil of mist?” He leans over the desk, resting his head on his hands.

 

“They’re watching flowers through the fog,” Xiao Nai cocks his head to the side, ”But it’s so that there’s beauty in its haziness.”

 

Ban Shan scoffs, shaking his head as he leaves Xiao Nai’s office. “You’re all walking around holding the evident and still pretending to be lost. The world is indeed an insidious place.”

 

But then again, when he ponders upon such thoughts later, he figures that what applies to Hao Mei can only apply to KO. Ban Shan isn’t foolish enough to truly believe that all of KO and Hao Mei’s meetings had been due to fate. Nor does he believe that with KO’s skills, he would’ve lost to Xiao Nai. The thought of it bothers him more than he thinks it should--brows furrowing as he wonders how much of their interactions had been calculated. Perhaps it’s the subconscious responsibility of being the oldest of them four, but the weight of it sits heavy on his shoulders. He looks up across the room at Hao Mei and then to KO. Yong Hou peers up at him. “Yu Gong,” he calls. “Let the course take its flow.”

 

“But we just don’t know whether this course is a product of nature or man.” He replies. “The human heart is rarely straightforward.”

 

“Your façade is disappearing,” the short haired male muses. “I haven’t seen you this serious for a while.”

 

“Hmm,” Ban Shan hums perfunctorily.