The lights weren’t dim, but he liked to keep them so that they were just a shine away from darkness, partially blinding when the eyes took to reading and perfect for escaping with a ridiculous expression. With both men hunched over their respective laptops, it almost appeared as though they were paying attention to their work. Effort was a far from the touch of their fingertips for one was scrolling pictures on pinterest off his phone screen hidden in the pages of a file while the other was watching a stream of his favorite show on a small square he had on the right of his desktop screen. It was when one let out a snort that the small room divided their attention equally and fell on the two of them, the head of the team, just short of being the chief.
Xue Yang quickly dropped his phone onto his lap, obscuring it, while his partner, Wei Ying, tapped on the open file to the left of his stream, bringing his show into the background. They made eye contact but not for long; the two knew the drill well, and easily played off any doubts of their profession. Besides, they approached everything with just a bit of humor, more so now that it involved the dead. The dead could be so serious. Someone had to lighten up the dark corners of a corpse and bring a smile onto someone else’s face, even if that crudely meant their own. The two men were orphans from the beginning, and didn’t know how to much approach matters without taking their coping mechanisms with them. Opposites did not attract one another in such a setting, for the two shared many qualities to the point of annoyance. To others. They were very engrossed by each others’ company, leaning in for conversation whenever an interlude played out simply to share minute details that no one else would busy themselves with. Wei Ying was five years his senior at twenty eight, while Xue Yang tapped away on his keys with his measly grip on adulthood. The two appeared in like manner, only their attire in clothing would differ. They both donned a ponytail, Wei Ying’s longer than Xue Yang’s.
Today, Xue Yang wasn’t feeling like a ponytail, rather, he appropriated himself with a man bun resting messily on top of his head. They hadn’t received any new work for at least three weeks, and he had grown bored, showing up at work with sweatpants and a pullover hoodie despite being told that it was inappropriate.
“That’s what you said about Dude Wei’s hair, but you never asked him to cut it.”
In which they responded, “I did.”
“Detective, please,” his superior chief said, rubbing his temple. It was barely eight in the morning, and Xue Yang was on his second cup of coffee, disgusting coffee from their N’espresso machine that was most likely stale from overuse. Xue Yang wasn’t really drinking a French vanilla latte for the caffeine, instead, he fueled himself with the sugar while Wei Ying dabbled with cream cups in his drip coffee. The man wasn’t much for sugar, but he sure did add a lot of cream. Xue Yang didn’t complain. He himself drank those breve cups from time to time to burn seconds while he waited for some message to reach him. He had been having trouble finding slumber, which was never a good sign. Wei Ying didn’t seem to bear any hints of receiving anything either. Perhaps the dead were finally appeased and there would no longer be any chaos.
The phone rang. Of course it rang. It hadn’t rung for three weeks unless it was their superior asking them how business was in which one or the other would respond, “it’s dead,” and then laugh at the joke because it was a terrible one.
“PAP Paranormal Unit, this is Detective Wei speaking,” Wei Ying responded. Xue Yang hated answering phone calls. They gave him a migraine and made it harder for him to communicate with the spirits. The more technology was around him, the more complicated a task it would be for they fed off of that energy and ignored his. As Wei Ying spoke, Xue Yang returned to looking at his phone through his old files, pictures of food because he was hungry. He needed to decide what to have for lunch. The day was starting to weigh on him, and the weight on his tiny stature didn’t do him good. When Wei Ying hung up, the other was ready to grab his bag and head out for a delicate meal.
“Hold your horses,” Wei Ying called out.
“Neigh,” Xue Yang replied. The two of them thought the content to be quite hilarious and found themselves laughing, Wei Ying’s hand on his shoulder while the other buckled over.
“Will you get on with it?” Jiang Cheng barked from his far corner. He never spoke to them really, just taking to his work as though he had something to prove. Maybe he did. He was Wei Ying’s sworn brother, both boys meeting through the Paranormal unit.
“How could you not find that funny? He said ‘nay’, like a horse, get it?” Wei Ying asked, laughing again as he released Xue Yang’s shoulder. Jiang Cheng could’ve sworn he saw the older man wipe a tear from his eye. The whole scene was ridiculous. Jiang Cheng was only younger by a few months, and yet he had lost the second highest position to a little rat. The rat went by the name of Xue Yang, and it had made sense considering Jiang Cheng had no ability to communicate. He was however, very good at sleuthing with the keyboard, the tech analyst, if you will. He did the background work, and the other two would be the intimate forces.
“I got it, and it wasn’t funny,” Jiang Cheng replied, going back to his keyboard as he reread the previous file again. They had been stuck long enough, and if the other two couldn’t do it, Jiang Cheng was almost sure he would be credited if he figured it out without them.
“Alright, alright. Hit you with a favor?” Wei Ying asked. Jiang Cheng responded with an eyebrow raise, but his lips said nothing. His sworn brother was going to ask regardless of whether he agreed to answer to his wishes or ignore it completely.
“Tell me about the CSI Unit.”
“What the fuck for?”
“Language! You know Xue Yang’s still a fetus.”
“Yeah, ‘fuck’ is hard to pronounce,” Xue Yang agreed, already putting on earphones to tune everyone out. He was ready for lunch.
“Looks like we’re skipping lunch. They just found something odd with a body and they called our team in.”
“Name?” Jiang Cheng asked, ready to type away on his keys.
“A Detective Lan and his partner Xiao.”
At this, Jiang Cheng made a face. “I don’t have to look them up. I know who they are.”
“What can you tell me?”
“Why the fuck would they want our help for? It’s Detective Xiao Xingchen and Detective Lan Wangji. Everyone knows them. They’re renowned.”
“Never heard of them.”
“Are we going now? I’m hungry,” Xue Yang said, swallowing the need to whine. He hated when adults bickered back and forth. It made him feel young and emo.
“Not yet, Xue Dude. We gotta’ go meet this renowned unit,” Wei Ying said sarcastically.
“But I’m hungry.”
“Maybe they’ll give you a candy to eat,” Wei Ying joked, but Xue Yang’s eyes narrowed. He hated when his sweet tooth was made fun of. He refused to let the professional unit see him as a child. Squaring his shoulders, he puffed out his chest to feel like a bigger boy but then hurled himself into the ground as a spirit entered his flesh. He lost consciousness in a few flicks, his breath caught in his throat, a convulsing shake embodying his skin, and then.