Shen Wei strolled into the SID's headquarters, having received a request an hour previously from Zhao Yunlan to drop by when he was done with classes. He expected to find everyone bickering around the table or in Lin Jing's lab, but instead everyone in the room was yelling at each other at a volume he hadn't previously heard.
Even Guo was yelling and that was unexpected. Raising a polite eyebrow, Shen Wei tapped Chu on the shoulder. "Pardon me," he said, keeping his eyes politely down so as not to challenge the man.
Whirling, his cloak billowing, Chu stared at him, suddenly speechless. "Professor!" he finally managed.
"Indeed." Shen Wei gave him a tiny smile. "I thought I was expected. Where is your chief?"
As each person noticed him, they stopped yelling; within moments, everyone in the room was silent. Looking around, Shen Wei absently pushed his glasses up his nose. "Is there something on my face, perhaps? Chief Zhao asked me to come by and here I am."
"Chief Zhao…" Chu began. Then he stopped.
Zhu Hong made a strangled hissing sound and turned away.
Shen Wei carefully looked at each of them. "Where," he began with the utmost politeness, "is Chief Zhao?"
Da Qing swallowed and then spit out his words. "Chief Zhao is dead. They killed him."
Everything went dark as the energy Shen Wei so carefully husbanded under normal circumstances swooped in, freezing everyone around him in place. Shen Wei pulled the mask and cloak of the black-robed ambassador around himself with an absent thought. "Who?" was all he asked.
"You're…" Guo stuttered out.
"He's…" Lin Jing began.
Shen Wei turned to Chu, whose eyes were wide. "Tell me now," Shen Wei said, knowing that his voice promised death and destruction and his secret was irrevocably broken. And he did not care.
"My lord." Chu dropped to his knee. "It was a new Dixingian. We are not clear on his powers. He ambushed the chief in a nearby alley. When we arrived, he was already dead. I apologize for—"
Shen Wei ignored him, closing his eyes and letting his powers sweep the area. With a thought, he was in Lin Jing's lab, looking at Zhao Yunlan, silent and still as he never had been in life, not even in sleep.
He remembered watching his love sleep, restless, tossing and turning, muttering, and finally waking with surprise to find Shen Wei still there. He remembered his love's smirk and grin and laughter.
And Shen Wei, the black-robed ambassador, feared both above and below, bent his head and screamed. As if in slow-motion, the windows nearest him shattered, with the shock wave moving from that center point outward at the speed of sound.
Although the area around Yunlan's body remained pristine, surrounding buildings began to shake as the rest of the SID team stumbled into the room, holding their heads in pain.
"My lord," Zhu Hong and Chu called.
"Ambassador!" Da Qing managed a few steps closer, his face showing his pain.
It was Guo who staggered the closest, throwing himself between Shen Wei and Zhao Yunlan. Arms spread wide, tears running down his face, Guo cried out, "Please stop. He wouldn't want this."
Shen Wei paused, looking at Guo. Part of his mind screamed to keep going, to destroy everything, kill everyone who had failed to protect his beloved Yunlan. But something in the vision of that innocent, harmless young man, face red and blotchy, made Shen Wei pause.
Guo shivered as Shen Wei glared at him from under the mask, but he stood his ground. In a shaky voice, he went on. "The chief would want you to show mercy. You know he would."
Closing his eyes, Shen Wei tried to breathe. He clenched his fists, holding in the dark energy that wanted to lash out.
When he managed to open his eyes again, they all stood in front of him, blocking his view of the body. Chu had stepped in front of Guo, as if his body could protect him from the ambassador's rage. Lin Jing was shaking almost as hard as Guo, but he met Shen Wei's gaze as it passed over him. Zhu Hong and Da Qing stood with heads held high, waiting for his judgement. Even the two ghosts had joined their teammates, hands clasped.
Gradually, Shen Wei forced his body to relax, keeping his mind blank. Breathing in and out, he forced his cloak and mask to vanish, leaving just the professor to stare at them. He blinked several times and then discovered his knees giving out on him, dropping him to the ground.
The others swarmed around him, touching and patting in a way they'd never done before. Shen Wei knelt where he was, feeling empty. He heard snippets of conversation, asking each other what to do with him, what they were going to do now, but couldn't find the energy to reply. At some point he was going to have to gather them to take action, but…
It was all very surreal, which was why it took Shen Wei so long to register the gasping sounds from the SID crew.
"Um…" a familiar voice said from behind him. "Not to sound judgey, but there was just an enormous and clearly unnatural earthquake, so what are you all doing in here rather than out there investigating?"
Slowly, with Chu's assistance, Shen Wei stood and turned. Zhao Yunlan tilted his head quizzically. "What's wrong? Were you hurt in the quake?" He took a step forward, stopping when Shen Wei lifted a hand. "Ooookay, what's going on?"
With a gesture from Shen Wei, everyone stepped to the side, leaving an unobstructed view of what lay on Lin Jing's examination table. Zhao's jaw dropped and then he glared at all of them. "If this is a joke, not only is nobody getting a bonus this year, but you're all giving me back your full salaries."
Shen Wei took a breath in and slowly let it out, before raising his hand filled with dark energy. "Whoa!" Zhao said, hands waving furiously. Shen Wei ignored him as he released the energy, which spread into a sheet and wrapped around Zhao for an instant before disappearing.
Chu caught Shen Wei as he staggered again but nobody dared to speak. "It's him," Shen Wei said hoarsely, his throat feeling like it had been scoured raw. "He's alive."
With an inhuman sound torn from everyone's throat, they swarmed Zhao. Chu alone stayed by Shen Wei's side, although even his eyes could barely keep off the sight of their chief alive and well.
"My lord," Chu said after a long moment.
"We'll speak later." Shen Wei pulled away and stood straight, absently touching his glasses. "The simulacrum fooled me. You are not at fault."
"Yes, my lord." Chu bowed his head.
Shen Wei watched as Zhao Yunlan hugged and poked and teased his team, reassuring them that he was alive. It was enough. Turning, he glared at the simulacrum. With a wave, he removed it from the premises and to his home to study at his leisure. He would find its maker and…well, mercy would very likely not be on the table.
Focusing on his plans, Shen Wei startled when arms reached around him from behind and a chin landed on his shoulder.
"They're gone," his beloved said. "Although considering you apparently just revealed your secret identity to them without a second thought, I don't know that it matters."
"I…" Shen Wei didn't know what he wanted to say. Hand shaking, he slowly lifted it to hold onto the other man's hand.
Zhao Yunlan laughed softly. "Yeah, me too."