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Father & Son, it is tough

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Zhao Xin Ci received the phone call at 2.47am, Tuesday. Sixteen months after the death of his son.

“Sir, there has been an incident at Number 4,” A pause as if the person on the other end didn't know what to say. “It appears to be your son and the Dixing member known as Shen Wei.”

Zhao Xin Ci dropped the phone.

 

Yun Lan always walked his own path, refusing to keep with society’s norms, setting his own pace through sheer stubbornness and cunning. It used to worry him because Yun Lan was also soft, open, wanting to make everyone he met a friend, and needing to protect everyone he knew. He could see where it was leading - his wife’s death only cemented that fear. He spent sleepless nights wishing Yun Lan was more like him; cold and ruthless.

But despite his worries and all he tried to do in order to change Yun Lan, his son kept on being himself, unflinching and refusing to bow under the burden of all the people he wanted to protect.

Zhao Xin Ci was proud of Yun Lan, he was proud of what he made SID into, he was proud of the makeshift family Yun Lan has built. But he wished Yun Lan had loved less, had cared less, and had been willing to be more selfish.

….

 

He doesn't remember getting dressed or getting in the car, he does remember the update they provided him: a phenomenon that the first contact team think might be a stable wormhole had appeared in the office of Zhao Yun Lan at 12.17am, no one would have known if a member of SID hadn't been still at work trying to tie up a case. The individual had contacted DOS immediately, and a first contact team had arrived within twenty minutes.

The wormhole had stayed stable with no signs of increased activity till 1.11am when the electromagnetic and radiation readings had suddenly spiked. While the team had begun to prepare for evacuation a humanoid form had stumbled through the wormhole dragging a second individual through. As soon as the two had come through the wormhole it had winked out of existence, and all readings had returned to normal.

The first individual had looked around the office and had said, “Get Zhao Xin Ci,” Before collapsing. The person he had dragged through with him was already unconscious.

They all recognised the first individual, it was hard not to when his face has been plastered on newspapers and TV screens for the past year; it was Zhao Yun Lan, savior of their city.

 

They arrived at the east entrance of Dragon hospital, where Guo Ying was already there waiting for him. “Sir, the sixth floor has been sectioned off from the public, security details at all entrances and exits, and we have got most of the staff to sign NDA forms.” Guo Ying talked as they made their way through the relatively silent hallway and into the waiting elevator.

“What do we know?” Asked Zhao Xin Ci, looking over at Guo Ying, the man must have been asleep when the initial call came through, but from his pressed suit to his perfectly coiffed hair it looked like he has been up for hours.

“Initial tests shows that it is Zhao Yun Lan. We never got any actual data on Professor Shen, but we are almost sure it is him.” Guo Ying looked displeased at the lack of information. “The clothing he wore had blood remains and tears that are reminiscent to his last known appearance. However, there are no injuries on him now.”

The elevator door opened, and the two continued down the corridor.

“Zhang Shi?”

“The chief is still in his home. We contacted him. He -” Guo Ying paused, finally some discomfort showing through the mask of professionalism. He is still Zhao Yun Lan.”

So, whatever had crashed into their lives could be an imposter. But why now, and how. They have had no communication with Dixing for over sixteen months now. As far as the public was aware Zhao Yun Lan was alive and well after saving humanity. And Shen Wei was written off as a casualty of the attack from Dixing. There was no reason for imposters to pop out of the woodwork, and to be dragging the Black Cloak Envoy as well.

Zhao Xin Ci gave a quick nod to the guards at the entrance and walked into the room. It seemed that they had taken over what used to be a general patients room that could have had housed four to six patients. Now, almost all furniture has been removed to make space for the two beds located in the centre of the room. The rest of the space being occupied by scientists and doctors who were walking among banks of computers and equipment, reading and noting down data.

Zhao Xin Ci slowly made his way to the beds.

The body lying on the left bed definitely looked like Shen Wei, the Black Cloak Envoy, he looked healthy, the only sign of his known injuries was the fact he was currently unconscious. The body next to him looked like Yun Lan. He couldn't deny his own eyes, but he couldn’t be sure if it was his son inside that body or something else, he needed to find out.

...

 

As far as he remembered Yun Lan had always sprawled across every available surface, he use to find him sleeping on the floor next to his office door, limbs sprawled out, mouth slightly open. And Zhao Xin Ci would gather him in his arms and promise himself that nothing would ever hurt his son.

 

“What we know is that the man is physically Zhao Yun Lan, with a few irregularities in his brain," said the head researcher of the case.

“What irregularities?” Zhao Xin Ci was not in the mood for wordy explanations.

“There appears to be high brain activity, which we are almost certain is due to an increase of the axons in the cerebral cortex. There also appears to be a secondary, uh, well lump on the exterior of his brain. He might also have a higher glial cell density -”

“What does it all mean?” Interrupts Zhao Xin Ci.

“Well, while the subject is still sleeping we can only speculate -”

“Then speculate.” Zhao Xin Ci was getting impatient, staring at the now obviously flustered man. His colleague on seeing this moved forward, “Sir, we think that the patient’s brain might have adapted itself to knowledge and skills that required it work in specialised ways.”

“Adapted? What is he trying to handle?”

“Look, this isn't my area. But some of the science members on the team are speculating that the increased activity and overall use of his brain could be related to, well, possibly navigating the wormhole.”

 

Yun Lan had always been special. He know that all parents think that way of their children, but even as a child he had known Yun Lan was going to shake the world with his choices. He tried to equip his hurt and angry son, made sure he knew how to identify threats and neutralise them, tried to make sure he utlised everything available to him to capture and kill. He tried so hard to make Yun Lan dangerous that he forgot to teach Yun Lan he needed protection too.

 

He was not surprised when Zhang Shi arrived at his office the following day.

“I want to see him.” Zhang Shi has got high level clearance and the trust of the public. And honestly, Zhao Xin Ci was rather surprised it has taken him this long to get here.

“He is still unconscious,” said Zhao Xin Ci, head leaning backward against his chair, he has had about three hours of sleep and a 50-page report from the team on what they think was happening to his son and the Black Cloak Envoy.

“I don't care.” Zhang Shi moved into the chair opposite him, back straight, calm and steady. He wonders how people can mistake Zhang Shi for Yun Lan, for all that he now resided in his son’s left over body, the way he moved and talked was nothing like Yun Lan.

“What are you thinking?”

“I want see if there is anyone home.”

It was dangerous and stupid, and he was going to allow it.

 

They don't talk again till they reach Yun Lan’s room.

He was too still, but he was breathing and the doctors kept on insisting that brain activity was still happening for both of the unconscious forms. They think whatever happened to them has left them asleep to heal. But they are assuming it was his son that's in there.

Zhang Shi walked to Yun Lan’s bed, looking down at the still form, “I think the only time I have ever seen him this still was when he was sick.”

Some days it was very easy to forget that Zhang Shi had spent almost all of Yun Lan’s life loving him like a son. Times like now Zhao Xin Ci could almost not hate him for showing Yun Lan the truth of the Hallow Lantern.

Zhang Shi gently put his hand on top Yun Lan’s right hand, he took a deep breath and his body went completely still.

About five seconds later Zhang Shi collapsed onto the floor unconscious. Zhao Xin Ci hated being right all the time.

 

“It is him, but there is a vastness to him. I tried to see it, and - Zhao Xin Ci, that is our son,” a thoughtful pause, “I trust him.”

 

Their condition doesn't change, and half way through the week they move them to the DOS lab. Zhao Xin Ci was just glad the media hasn't caught on yet. No Dixing people appear randomly to announce that the lock between the two worlds was suddenly gone, and the world continued ticking along. All things point to situation normal.

 

Yun Lan kept to his own pace, pulling everyone else into his orbit, and forced them into his own world. So, it really shouldn't have surprised Zhao Xin Ci that six weeks after his appearance, when almost everyone was ready to file them under unexplained, Yun Lan wakes up, and somehow breaks several million dollars’ worth of specialised equipment. He also asked to see his father.

….

 

Zhao Xin Ci walked into the room, and his eyes was automatically drawn toward the figure sprawled onto a chair next to the still unconscious Shen Wei. He doesn’t move, just stand there and take in his son, his breathing, alive and awake son.

“Old man.” Head turned towards him, and one free hand halfheartedly waved at him in greeting. Zhao Xin Ci feels a weight that has been slowly chocking him for the past eighteen months slowly disappear.

“Yun Lan.” He carefully made his way into the room, toward his son.

“Yeah, it's me,” said Yun Lan, a slight shrug, making sure he wasn’t disrupting the occupant in the bed, “Just a newer model.”

“How?”

“I wanted to win the bet.” A pause, “He waited 10,000 years for me, and I thought it was because he thought me as his best friend.” A self-depreciating laugh, “I'm an idiot.”

His right hand reached out towards his son, and after a minute pause finally came to a rest on Yun Lan’s shoulder. He was all skin and bones, something that people forget because Yun Lan dressed to deceive, to make himself look bigger, stronger, his devil may care attitude a shield against the world. But now he seemed hollowed out, pale and tired.

He wait in the silence: Yun Lan asked for him, and he will speak to him at his own pace. Nobody made Zhao Yun Lan do anything he doesn’t want to.

“I used the Lantern. There - there really wasn't anything left to do.” A small shrug, “Yeah, it was as you said it would be, but it is more. It takes everything you have, empties you out, and you exist for a second or eternity.”

He doesn’t say pain, but Zhao Xin Ci could guess at what he was leaving out. Yun Lan slowly brushed his hand against Shen Wei’s hair, moving a few stray stands out of his face, “I think I was ready to just stop. But - I could feel him. And I needed to see him again.” Yun Lan looks up, eyes locked onto his, “So, I did what you taught me. I looked for traces of him, I tracked him. But I needed to be something more,” a sound of frustration. “This – words are so limiting. There is no time in the wormhole, or maybe it is that you have all the time. I had all the time in the universe. And the Lantern is the key to figuring it all out.”

“Xiao Lan.” He wished he could tell him to take his time, but he couldn’t because the world was still out there, and they had a job to do.

A deep breath, “I tracked him down and I took him, and then I had to create a body for myself. I think - no, I know I can deconstruct anything, anybody into neutron and protons.” A hand grabbed onto his, “I can create a wormhole and collapse it around our star. But – dad, I won’t.”

Yun Lan looked down at his own hand, “I made sure I couldn’t. The human brain is not meant of this. If I try to use it at that capacity I would fry my own brain.” He looked at Zhao Xin Ci, willing him to believe, “I just wanted Shen Wei. I would never use it for anything else.”

A shaky breath, and Yun Lan’s hand around his became tighter.

“Dad, I just wanted him back.”

 

Zhao Xin Ci had known for over a decade that his son had chosen to close his heart to the intimacy of a partner, an individual that could share your burden and you theirs. He had known when Yun Lan had looked at his peers getting married, having kids, that he would never be that. He had looked at them fondly but also with distance. It was a pretty picture to be protected but never for himself because Zhao Yun Lan couldn’t priorities one life over the many, and he couldn’t let the world die for one person. Zhao Yun Lan couldn’t let somebody take on the burden of loving him.

Zhao Xin Ci had mourned for his son, to have never had truly shared his life with someone like he had with his wife. He had remained silent at Yun Lan’s dalliances and the lack of partner or grandchildren, he understood his son. And it would have stayed that way until the moment he saw Yun Lan with Shen Wei.

He knew his son, he knew when Yun Lan loved, he knew when he trusted, to find that in the eyes and the movement of his son towards Shen Wei, the Black Cloak Envoy had shaken Zhao Xin Ci. He didn’t get involved, no matter what his passenger wanted, he didn’t intervene, he sat back and observed. Because for the first time since the death of his wife, Zhao Yun Lan had opened himself up completely to one person, and the person had returned every sentiment in his son’s heart with his own.

Zhao Xin Ci trusted his son’s choices, but he still would find a way to feed Shen Wei his own heart if he ever hurts Yun Lan.

 

Shen Wei wakes up on a Tuesday morning, and Zhao Xin Ci was so very glad for his son.

 

-FIN-

[The group "kids" has been created.

"I'm back. Also brought home the wife."]