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If I Were You

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“Good morning, Professor!”

“Morning, Professor!”

“Professor! I might come a bit late to the Criminal Justice course today, I have counselling before that…”

“See you this afternoon in Criminal Law!”

Zhao Yunlan gives a nod here and a smile there as he makes his way across the campus. It’s a sunny day in early summer, about two weeks after the start of the semester when the students’ motivation is still at its peak. Everyone is determined to be productive and diligent this time around, to do their homework, prepare well for the courses, not fall behind on revisions…yeah, Zhao Yunlan gives them another two weeks until the first ones heed the call of the nice weather that invites a multitude of activities which aren’t studying and reading mandatory texts. Not that Zhao Yunlan is judging them – he was a student once; he knows how it is. And as much as he enjoys torturing his students, he also completely understands that there are other things going on in their young lives that aren’t academic pursuits. Hell, he’s a full-fledged academic himself and he definitely has better things to do than conduct one research project after the next. Maybe things will change once he hits fifty and has nothing else in his life besides the weak sense of accomplishment that comes with publishing an article in a scientific journal, but until he reaches that point, he’d like to live a little.

Maybe that’s a reason why his courses are so popular that even students whose majors have nothing to do with criminology attend them. Not to sing his own praises, but besides conducting his seminars in an entertaining and interactive way, he also has a genuine understanding of the students’ mentality. If they don’t meet a deadline and provide a good reason, he’s more than willing to give them an extension. If they forget to hand in one of the five mandatory assignments because other courses are too demanding, he turns a blind eye to the number. And while others would call that bad teaching, Zhao Yunlan calls that being a decent person. Students have it hard enough as it is, so if one of their professors is a bit lenient, then who’s that going to hurt?

And so, when he enters the lecture theatre for Introduction to Criminology, he finds it packed to the brim with students. Everyone perks up when he strides towards the front and lets his folder fall onto the teacher’s desk with a loud bang.

“Good morning! How nice to see so many of you back here before the inevitable Great Drop of Motivation after the fourth week. Let’s make the most of it, shall we?”

Laughter echoes through the room and Zhao Yunlan directs a smirk at his students. A few girls in the first row start to giggle. Ah yes. The other reason why his courses are so popular. Zhao Yunlan isn’t quite as foolish as to be unaware of his own good looks and how they draw students into his lecture theatre like a thirsty caravan to an oasis. At some point he realised that it was futile to discourage their giggles and glances, and so he embraced his role as the university’s PILF (not his words, but those of some students on the campus forum). It isn’t like any of the students are stupid enough to actually expect something like a relationship from him. At least so far. And since Zhao Yunlan rarely bothers with actual consequences, why bother with hypothetical ones? So here he stands in front of a very attentive class and prepares for 90 minutes of basic criminology.

His mouth and the door to the lecture hall open at the same time. Zhao Yunlan glances over to make a sarcastic remark about being late to court when the words die in his throat. Down the steps of the auditorium strides the most beautiful man that has ever graced Zhao Yunlan’s overworked eyes with his glorious appearance. The dark suit he wears seems to have been moulded onto his body, clinging deliciously to every plane and curve. The stern look in his eyes contrasts wonderfully with his soft lips, and his confident gait speaks of a man who knows his worth. Zhao Yunlan adjusts his glasses, wondering if his eyes are playing a trick on him, but the glorious sight remains even with his glasses pushed further up his nose.

“Excuse me for disturbing this undoubtedly important lecture, but this is an emergency.” The man who somehow escaped from Zhao Yunlan’s nightly fantasies pulls out a police badge and that’s it, Zhao Yunlan is done for. He will go on a date with this man if it’s the last thing he does. A look at his students tells him that they’re also very intrigued by the newcomer and the possible start of the hot professor x hot police officer narrative they’re witnessing. The eyes of said hot police officer scan the room and finally land on Zhao Yunlan himself. Zhao Yunlan sees the man’s steps falter ever so slightly and for a second he thinks he’s going to fall down the stairs. But then the man catches himself, his posture straightens, and he gracefully glides down the rest of the steps.

“Are you the professor for criminology?” he asks, his tone carefully neutral and his eyes locked firmly with Zhao Yunlan’s. Zhao Yunlan stares back, but probably for wholly different reasons. This man is extraordinarily beautiful. His lashes are so long that they cast shadows over his cheeks under the harsh ceiling lights and there is not the slightest imperfection in his smooth skin. Zhao Yunlan could spend the next ten minutes happily admiring this perfect human being, but the moment breaks when the policeman blinks. Several times, in quick succession (Zhao Yunlan swears he can feel a gentle breeze from the fan of his lashes).

“Sir?”

“Oh. Yes. Sorry. Yes. I mean, I am. The professor for criminology,” Zhao Yunlan says with all the smoothness of a jagged stone. “Professor Zhao, Zhao Yunlan, very happy to make your acquaintance.” He holds out his hand in a last attempt to save some face.

“Likewise. I’m Chief Shen, Shen Wei,” the walking artwork replies and takes the offered hand and damn his grip is firm. And warm. And pleasant. Zhao Yunlan gives him one of his best ambiguously flirty grins and shakes his hand up and down a few times. He would have expected Chief Shen to pull back as propriety demands, but strangely enough his hand lingers in Zhao Yunlan’s and his gaze doesn’t move an inch from his face.

“Uhm,” Zhao Yunlan says smartly, very well aware that the lecture theatre has now turned into an actual theatre with him and Chief Shen as the lead actors.

“Oh,” Chief Shen says, the tips of his ears colouring faintly, and pulls back. “May I have a word with you, Professor Zhao? Alone?”

Zhao Yunlan, who is more than ready to let Chief Shen have all his words and then some, nods eagerly. “Sorry, students,” he says, painstakingly averting his eyes from Chief Shen. “Longcheng’s police seems to be in need of my infinite wisdom, so this lecture has to be cut short. But don’t worry – I won’t let you get bored. Until next session, please prepare chapter four of your textbook. And since you’re all still so motivated, how about you write me an essay on what you think is the most important issue the chapter raises?”

The students take in what he says, but as soon as he shuts his mouth they lean to their neighbours and a loud buzz starts to fill the room, like a swarm of angry, rumour-mongering bees.

“Dismissed!” Zhao Yunlan yells and waves his hands. “Go, go, go, the weather is nice enough to serve as a reason to procrastinate!”

Slowly the room starts to empty as students trickle out until only Chief Shen and Zhao Yunlan remain. Oh. And two guys who Zhao Yunlan didn’t notice before, but who were probably Chief Shen’s colleagues. He would have given them more attention if Chief Shen’s beauty didn’t claim it all.

“How can I help you, Chief Shen?” Zhao Yunlan asks and leans back against his desk, making sure to stretch out his legs to display their length, and maybe while he’s at it also angle his hips forward a bit. Chief Shen shifts on his feet and clears his throat, but his eyes betray him and briefly flicker up and down Zhao Yunlan’s body before he’s back to being a stern police chief.

“Professor Zhao, have you heard of the SID?”

Zhao Yunlan arches an eyebrow. Of course he’s heard of it; everyone whose work is somehow concerned with the inner workings of the country’s police system has, but that’s all it is: a rumour. Zhao Yunlan doesn’t actually believe that the SID is anything more than some sub-bureau established to give superstitious people the opportunity to rant about their alleged ghost-sightings.

“I guess you could say so. Why, are they recruiting?”

“Not exactly,” Chief Shen says and clasps his hands behind his back, making his jacket stretch over his chest. Zhao Yunlan crosses his legs, just in case. “But we’re here because an incident has occurred at this university and needs investigating.”

“Ah? A case?” Zhao Yunlan straightens up a little. “Wait, you’re with the SID?”

“I am. And I would request your assistance, if at all possible.”

“What, with catching a ghost?” Zhao Yunlan can’t help but ask and grin at Chief Shen, whose eyes narrow.

“There is no ghost, Professor Zhao.” And before Zhao Yunlan can apologise for his immature presumptions, Chief Shen continues with, “I believe if you need me to compare the suspect to an entity popular in modern culture, the term would be ‘mutant’.” Zhao Yunlan stares at him, not because he doesn’t know what to say, but because there are too many things he could say. An array of puns and jokes appears on a screen in his mind and he has a hard time choosing. Chief Shen seems to take his silence as shock.

“Please do not worry, while the suspect is very dangerous, we will do everything in our power to stop them from harming another person.”

Oh damn, Chief Shen is serious. Zhao Yunlan tries his best to be professional instead of asking whether the suspect had torn someone apart with metal blades that grew from his knuckles.

“Chief Shen, I apologise, but during my degree the SID has rarely come up. What exactly is it you’re doing?”

“Hey boss, I thought you said he would know what’s up? How come he looks and is completely clueless?” comes a voice from upstairs and Zhao Yunlan remembers that they’re not alone. He turns and finds that the speaker is a young man in dungarees who eyes him with a critical expression.

“Wha– I’m not clueless, thank you very much,” Zhao Yunlan says indignantly. “It’s not like your little sub-bureau enjoys a great deal of prestige in academic circles.”

“You–“

But Chief Shen silences his subordinate with a sharp gesture. “Professor Zhao, I’m very well aware that all this must come as a surprise, and I apologise for having to lay this out for you without a proper explanation, but we simply do not have the time.”

“Will you have time afterwards to explain it to me?” Zhao Yunlan asks and quickly swallows the Maybe after dinner? before it jumps off his tongue like an invitation for Chief Shen to arrest him for disrespecting the police.

“Yes. As long as you agree to cooperate now.”

“Done!” Zhao Yunlan gives Chief Shen a smirk and resumes slouching against the table. Maybe he should get out a lollipop…

“There has been a murder at the university.”

The sudden statement punches all thoughts of lollipops, date nights, and future marriages out of Zhao Yunlan’s head.

What?

“Last night between 11PM and 1AM, in between the department for social studies and the department for biology, a body was discovered laying on the ground with clear traces of dark energy surrounding it,” Chief Shen says like he’s the one lecturing in this theatre. “Luckily, the SID has managed to secure the crime scene before anyone could happen upon it, but we are quite unfamiliar with the university’s structure. Which is why we are asking you for help.”

Zhao Yunlan stares at him, trying to process the words. Suddenly he remembers painfully vividly how it is to be a student not able to follow what the professor is saying.

“Why me?” he asks, mostly to gain a little more time to digest everything.

 “As you just demonstrated yourself, very few people know of the SID, even less so outside of professions concerned with police work. This is why we would like to ask for your assistance – as our inside man, if you like.”

In all other circumstances, Zhao Yunlan would be more than happy to serve as an inside man (with everything the word entails, hah) for someone as gorgeous as Chief Shen, but right now he’s not so sure. But then again…when would he ever get another opportunity to apply everything he has learned theoretically in practice? Sure, he’s very happy with his job (much happier than he would have been with the job on the force his father had intended for him), but there is a certain thrill about working on a real case. Not that murder is thrilling, of course.

“Well, since Chief Shen so genuinely inquires after my valuable assistance, who am I to say no?”

Dungaree-boy up on the stairs lets out an audible groan, but Chief Shen nods. “Then I thank you in advance. Do you feel stable enough to accompany us to the crime scene?”

Zhao Yunlan swallows. “Sure.”

-

Zhao Yunlan has seen many crime scenes in his life – just not this…real. It certainly looks like what is being taught in the books, if not a lot more gruesome.

“Are those claw marks?” he asks as he stares at the gaping wounds stretching across the victim’s back. Chief Shen gives him a curious look.

“They are indeed.”

Zhao Yunlan is one last sliver of self-control away from making that X-Men reference after all, but it would be a tad inappropriate, wouldn’t it?

“And those are human footprints,” he says instead, pointing to the muddy ground.

“Professor Zhao has a keen eye,” Chief Shen says. “But I brought you here mostly to ask which kind of people might frequent this spot so late at night. Is there a possibility this was a spontaneous crime rather than a planned one?”

“I would say no,” Zhao Yunlan replies immediately. “This area does not connect to any of the teacher’s offices, nor does it to the library. These buildings are locked after 9pm, so students would have no reason to be here. Which department does the victim belong to?”

“Biology.”

“Hm. You could ask the head of the department if anyone has been given permission to stay late recently. Sometimes, if a student’s thesis is concerned, special permissions are granted, especially if it involves experiments.”

Chief Shen nods at one of his colleagues – not dungaree-boy, but a fierce-looking woman in a leather jacket who has been eyeing Zhao Yunlan with mild interest. “Zhu Hong, take Guo Changcheng, Ling Jing’s dark energy detector, and –“

“Understood,” she says before he can finish, grabs a tall and lanky boy, and marches off.

“Has anything the likes of this happened before?” Chief Shen asks. He tugs his slacks up a little and crouches down to, for whatever reason, touch the ground next to the victim. Zhao Yunlan is briefly distracted by how the fabric stretches over Chief Shen’s thighs.

“Ah, uh, not that I know of. But I haven’t been here for long. Any questions regarding that you best ask the chancellor.”

Chief Shen nods. “Da Qing.”

“Got it, boss.” Dungaree-boy makes to leave, then stops. “Where is the chancellor’s office?”

Zhao Yunlan snickers and points at the tall clock tower of the administrative building. Da Qing throws him an annoyed look, “Right,” and slinks away like a cat trying to look casual after having embarrassed itself.

Which leaves Zhao Yunlan and Chief Shen alone. On a crime scene, Zhao Yunlan’s rational brain lets his thirst-driven brain know. Chief Shen, still crouched down, gazes up at Zhao Yunlan through his lashes and there is no way he isn’t aware what this looks like.

“Professor Zhao, have you ever noticed something strange on campus? Anything could be a hint.”

Zhao Yunlan thinks long and hard, but other than that one time the quietest student in his class had surprised him with an assignment that was publish-worthy, he came away empty. “Not really. I mean, nothing that comes even close to this.”

Chief Shen nods and stands up, brushing non-existent dirt from his slacks. “I see. Well.” He gives Zhao Yunlan a strangely intense look, as if he was trying to look inside his head.

“Am I a suspect?” Zhao Yunlan asks on instinct, running through his slides on the treatment of suspects in his head.

A small smile appears on Chief Shen’s face at that, so quickly smothered that Zhao Yunlan might as well have imagined it. “Theoretically, everyone on campus is a suspect. But no, Professor Zhao. I do not believe you murdered the victim. You do not seem to possess…the energy to do so.”

Zhao Yunlan lifts an eyebrow, remembering the comment about ‘dark energy’ from before. “What, you have some kind of built-in sensor for that?”

Shen Wei only keeps looking at him. Zhao Yunlan huffs a laugh. “Alright, alright, keep your secrets. Not that the esteemed Chief of the SID needs to tell this meagre professor anything.”

Shen Wei ignores the quip expertly and points in a direction to their right. “What lies there?”

“The department for linguistics and literature, mostly. Why?”

“Something seems…off.”

Ah. Definitely a built-in sensor then. “Could you at least tell me what this dark energy thing is? So that I can maybe keep a look out? Is it some swirly magic stuff, or like…an aura?”

“You will not be able to see it unless the user manifests it, which is why you need to be very careful. If we do not manage to catch the subject today, it might be best to suspend classes until we do.”

Zhao Yunlan already sees the chancellor’s desperate face at so many missed lessons, but Chief Shen’s decision sounds reasonable.

“Then how do we catch them?”

Chief Shen’s eyes widen ever so slightly and he gives Zhao Yunlan a pointed look. “We do not catch anyone, Professor Zhao. This is dangerous and I cannot involve you in anything that concerns the actual search for the suspect. I am grateful for your assistance so far, but I must ask you to not put yourself into harm’s way. After all you cannot, to put it in your words, see the swirly magic stuff.”

“Was that a joke, Chief Shen?” Zhao Yunlan grins.

“I do not joke on crime scenes,” Chief Shen replies sternly and gestures at the body. Then, all of a sudden, his entire body stiffens, and he gazes in the direction of the literature department. “Please return to your office. I will see you there if I have any further questions.”

And with that, Chief Shen strides off with all the air of a man ready to wage war. Zhao Yunlan stares after him. What was that? For all of his chiefy-ness, Chief Shen couldn’t honestly be considering going after a subject with claws for hands all on his own? Was there no backup? Was the SID critically understaffed? Maybe Zhao Yunlan should go and look for Dungaree-Boy and Leather-Girl. Or he could follow Chief Shen and call the actual police if it were needed. Who knows, maybe Chief Shen’s dark energy sensor is broken. Having made this very smart decision, Zhao Yunlan follows the chief in the direction of the literature department. He passes by a few students who try to find their way around the huge, restricted area around the body, looking curiously at the officer who guards it.

“Is that Professor Zhao?” he hears some whisper. “What’s he doing on a crime scene?”

Great. More rumours. Zhao Yunlan is very much looking forward to hearing how the professor for criminology got himself involved in an actual crime. He gives the students a grin which he hopes conveys “I work with the police, not against them”, and hurries his steps to hopefully catch up to Chief Shen. The bell had announced the end of the lectures mere minutes ago, so a lot of students were coming his way, laughing and chatting and apparently unaware that there was danger afoot.

The faculty of linguistics and literature had one of the larger buildings on campus, its flat roof towering high above the others.

“Have you seen a man pass by?” Zhao Yunlan asks one of the students that exit the building. “Tall, dressed in a dark suit–“

“– really good looking?” the student supplies and grins. “Yeah, I saw him go upstairs? He looked a bit distracted, not sure what – hey!”

Zhao Yunlan leaves the student without another word and makes for the stairs. Is this normal for chiefs of the police force, to simply go on their own? Are all the action movies actually right? When Zhao Yunlan reaches the first flight of stairs, he hears a commotion coming from his right.

“What was that?”

“Was that a person?”

“Oh my god, I didn’t see a face!”

Zhao Yunlan sways to the side so abruptly that he almost stumbles very unprofessorially over his own feet.

“What’s the matter?” he asks one of the chatting students.

“Professor! There was a – a – I don’t know! He – she – it ran past us and knocked Xiao Lan to the ground!”

“Do you think it was a criminal or something?”

“Professor, is there a criminal in our building?”

Zhao Yunlan is already halfway through the corridor and calls over his shoulder “I may teach criminology, but that doesn’t mean I can sense criminals.” Not like Chief Shen can sense swirly magic stuff. Thinking of which, if the potential suspect is up ahead, then surely Chief Shen wasn’t far behind? The students, startled by the sudden commotion, file away from the potential danger while Zhao Yunlan, like the responsible and reasonable adult he is, runs towards it (he has never been one to run from danger, much to the chagrin of anyone who knows him). When he turns the corner, he sees a flash of black at the end of the corridor, vanishing into a room to the side, but before Zhao Yunlan can decide whether it would be a good idea to follow, he sees a crumpled shape on the ground in front of it. He gasps and jumps forward, kneeling down next to the still body laying there.

“Hey,” he whispers, regretting that he didn’t go for that medical elective in his third semester, and shakes the person’s shoulder. He breathes a sigh of relief when the student gives a little groan and lifts her head.

“Wha-“

Zhao Yunlan quickly gestures for her to be quiet. “What happened?” he whispers and glances towards the door behind which the potentially swirly magic using mutant is now hiding.

“I- I don’t know,” the student whispers back and holds her head. “There was a shadow, and then…I don’t know.”

“It’s okay. We should get out of he-“

He knows that it’s too late when the girl’s eyes widen, and she scrambles back against the wall. Zhao Yunlan whirls around and instinctively throws his arms out to protect the girl. Damn, is Chief Shen’s energy detector broken after all? Because there in front of Zhao Yunlan stands a…thing entirely made of shadows. Black smoke pools from the human-shaped body and dissipates in the air, a swirling and coiling mass of darkness.

“Great! Fantastic! I suppose it’s too late for the calming-down strategy?”

The entity (Zhao Yunlan refuses to call it mutant – he’s not going to have X-Men ruined for him by some ghostly shadow) answers by swiping at him with a claw-adorned hand and, of course, those claws are not shadows at all. Nope, they’re sharp and jagged, as Zhao Yunlan painfully learns when they scrape across his upper arm. He curses and drags the student to her feet.

“Run!” he yells and sprints down the hallway, dragging the girl with him. But she’s still weak and her legs give out after just a few steps. Great, thinks Zhao Yunlan, great! Here I am, dying even though I never even joined the actual police. Can’t wait for dad to give me the Told you so in the afterlife. He throws himself protectively in front of the student and squeezes his eyes shut.

“Zhao Yunlan!”

Something flies past Zhao Yunlan – he feels a brush of ice-cold air against his cheek – and there is the sound of a heavy impact. Zhao Yunlan pries his eyes open slowly and turns to find Chief Shen standing at the other end of the corridor. His hand is extended towards Zhao Yunlan and there is a storm in his eyes.

“Come!” he calls, and Zhao Yunlan doesn’t need to be asked twice. If facing the choice between a weird shadow creature and the most beautiful man in the universe, then is it even still a choice? He pushes himself back up to his feet, pulls the student’s arm over his shoulder, and rushes towards Chief Shen. As soon as he’s in grabbing range, Chief Shen’s fingers close around his arm and he pulls Zhao Yunlan behind him.

“Go downstairs! I will take care of this.”

“But–“

Go!”

Zhao Yunlan glares at Chief Shen’s back but does as he’s told, mostly because he thinks the girl has fainted and needs to get somewhere safe. He half-carries, half-drags her (maybe he should have taken that physical training elective after all) through the hallways. There is a dull ache in his arm and he feels blood soak through his sleeve, but the rush of adrenaline that is still coursing through it keeps the pain at bay.

“Hey! You there!” he yells at a student who comes out of the toilets, clearly having missed the whole commotion. “Take her to the infirmary!”

“Ah? I – what? Is – is that blood?” the student stammers and stares from Zhao Yunlan to the unconscious girl.

“Are you deaf? You might not be in my department, but I can and will make sure your studies turn into a living hell if you don’t do as you’re told!”

The student’s face goes from bright red to deadly pale in a heartbeat and he stumbles forward to take the weight off Zhao Yunlan’s back.

“Infirmary!” Zhao Yunlan calls over his shoulder, already running back towards where Chief Shen is battling alone with some shadow monster.

He skids around the corner and only just manages to brace himself against the opposite wall before it ruins his nose. Chief Shen stands slightly hunched over and is that a glaive in his hand?? Zhao Yunlan is this close to shouting that blades are prohibited on campus, but he manages to stop himself before he distracts Chief Shen from the shadow monster’s incoming attack. Not that Chief Shen is in need of Zhao Yunlan’s consideration. With almost inhuman speed he dodges to the side and swipes his glaive across the shadow being’s chest. The shadows part around the blade and reform, seemingly unharmed. Chief Shen extends his hand towards the being and it almost looks as if there is some sort of…swirly magic happening in his palm. His opponent doesn’t wait for whatever it is the Chief is doing and rushes forwards, past him and towards where Zhao Yunlan is standing. He yelps and ducks underneath the sharp claws, feeling the displaced air millimetres over his scalp.

“Zhao Yunlan!” Chief Shen calls out (they really need to have a talk about propriety, Professor Zhao thinks). Something slams against the shadow creature and pushes it against the wall, and then Chief Shen’s fingers close around Zhao Yunlan’s and he drags him behind.

“Why did you come back? Reckless!”

Zhao Yunlan can’t do much else than stumble behind the Chief, whose iron grip around his hand doesn’t slip even as they run up the stairs and Zhao Yunlan almost trips. He would have fallen, had Chief Shen not single-handedly kept him standing, and he wonders absentmindedly what kind of muscles are hiding underneath that snug suit.

"I couldn’t leave you alone with that monster, could I?” Zhao Yunlan manages between heavy breaths, slightly indignant that Chief Shen isn’t valuing his attempt at a heroic rescue, useless as it might have been.

“You’re a civilian,” Chief Shen retorts, his voice perfectly even as if they weren’t running up the 4th flight of stairs now. “You’re not trained in this.”

Obviously not, Zhao Yunlan thinks because his lungs need all the air they can get and refuse to spare any for words. Chief Shen kicks the door to the rooftop open like a true action hero and Zhao Yunlan voluntarily adopts the role of the swooning love-interest. At least until he realises that they’re now basically trapped with no way to escape from the shadow monster that is still hot on their heels.

Chief Shen lets go of Zhao Yunlan and positions himself protectively in front of him in a fighting stance, the glaive back in hand (wait, it was gone when they ran up the stairs, wasn’t it?? Zhao Yunlan is sure he would have remembered a giant bladed stick scraping along the ceiling). A mere heartbeat later, the creature bursts through the door.

“Is there a reason you brought us up to the roof where we can’t even call for help?” Zhao Yunlan asks as their enemy slowly stalks forward like a predator that knows its prey can’t escape anymore.

“Yes,” Chief Shen says and glances over his shoulder. “Because it allows me to do this.”

Suddenly a harsh wind picks up, making the robes billow around Chief Shen’s form and – wait, robes? Zhao Yunlan’s mouth hangs open when where Chief Shen was before now stands a man clad in flowing black robes, his face obscured behind a mask that doesn’t hide those plush lips Zhao Yunlan has been ogling all morning.

“You have broken the treaty and will be taken back to Dixing for punishment,” the…black-robed…avenger (?) says with a booming voice and slams his glaive against the ground. A thin trail of ice creeps forward from its tip, racing towards the creature that is too slow to evade.

Ice spreads across its form, solidifying the shadow and entrapping it. Chief Shen (because it still is him, right?) turns around and the mask dematerialises from his face. He looks ridiculously attractive in the attire, having gone from hot police chief to hot xianxia hero in the span of a second, effectively covering two of Zhao Yunlan’s kinks. Add that to Chief Shen’s very obvious strength and power, and you have the exact person Zhao Yunlan fantasised about four nights ago.

“Well,” says Zhao Yunlan because what else is there to say? “Well.”

“Professor Zhao,” (oh, now he’s a professor again, huh?) “I think it goes without saying that you mustn’t tell anyone about what you saw today.”

“But of course, Chief Shen, Shen Wei. But you must understand that I just witnessed a highly disturbing scene. You didn’t even warn me that there would be some otherworldly entity! Don’t you think I deserve some compensation?”

A hint of worry enters Shen Wei’s face and it makes Zhao Yunlan very pleased after all he’s been through. “And what would you like as compensation?” Shen Wei asks.

“Two things,” Zhao Yunlan says and raises the same number of fingers. “One. I want you to invite me to dinner.” (Shame? Zhao Yunlan doesn’t even know what that is) “Two. There doesn’t happen to be a position as a free consultant at the SID? Because I’ve been trying to branch out recently, and your little division seems like the perfect opportunity to gain some real experience.”

With a swoosh, the robes around Shen Wei dematerialise, leaving him (unfortunately not naked, but) in the form-fitted suit. He brushes back a stray stand of hair and gives Zhao Yunlan a very complex look. There is hesitation in one eye and desire in another, while the tight line of his mouth speaks of exasperation. Then his gaze slides from Zhao Yunlan’s face to his bleeding arm.

“Zhao Yunlan! You’re hurt!” he says as if Zhao Yunlan deliberately asked the shadow-thing to make him a cool scar (which, thinking about it now, isn’t all that unreasonable). Shen Wei steps closer and lays his hand on Zhao Yunlan’s arm. The sharp pain Zhao Yunlan expects doesn’t come and instead a pleasant warmth spreads through his body that seems to push the pain away.

“Shen Wei. Tell me the truth now. Are you a mutant as well? An alien? Is my new boss a Ghost King?”

Shen Wei swallows hard. “Maybe we can discuss the potential employment over the dinner you mentioned?” he finally says after several long moments of silence.

“Perfect!” Zhao Yunlan beams and throws his now-healed arm around the all-powerful creature that is Shen Wei. “I can already tell that we’re going to get along so well!”