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Careless Whispers

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Zhao Yunlan was sitting behind a hip-height table with other law enforcement organization’s representatives. This was an annual press conference, and this year, the higher ups had decided that it would be a good idea to have a representative for the Special Investigation Unit, which was a chore. Even more so because he couldn’t answer most of his more pointed questions, since there was a lot of information on the SID that was not available to the public. He had quickly grown bored out of his mind and was currently trying not to fall asleep.

 

It was a pretty big press conference, and the room was full. There would even be a free lunch offered at the end too, which was something Zhao Yunlan greatly looked forward to. However, for now, he could only sit still, brain leaking out of his ears, while he waited for this to end.

 

Damn it, this is torture.

 

He had wanted to send Zhu Hong, since she was the team’s most articulate member, but she was visiting her uncle. That left Da Qing, who looked like a twelve-year old and had no filter, Lin Jing who he would’ve had to pay a humongous bonus, or Chu Shuzhi, which was not even an option. Of course, there was also Guo Changcheng, but the kid could barely string two words together on the best of days, so a press conference would just be asking for trouble. To think, no one on his team had any social skills.

 

This left Zhao Yunlan on a little podium, smiling with all his teeth and repeating “Please excuse me, I am not allowed to answer this question” the few times it took for the reporters to tire of it. Trying to muffle a yawn, he scratched an itch behind his ear, while making sure not to disturb the earpiece nestled in it.

 

Since there were a few foreign reporters at the press conference, every representative had been given an earpiece for a live translator. The period for foreign languages questions would be a bit later to keep everything orderly, and for now the device had been silent. However, the first period was ending. Zhao Yunlan sighed, thinking of this next bunch of repetitive unanswerable queries. He took a drink from the glass of water for lack of lollypop at hand, as a representative announced the start for the questions in foreign languages.

 

He should have just paid Jin Ling. It would have been worth it.

 

 

¤ ¤ ¤

 

 

Shen Wei had had a quiet morning. He’d had a warm cup of tea in the university dorms, with a handmade warm crispy pastry, before walking to his office. He’d done a bit of work grading, organizing, and preparing lectures. Then, he had packed up the folder he’d prepared yesterday for an old university classmate of his.

 

She was working in communications now, and though they had not kept close contact, they were still on polite terms. It had been a pleasant surprise to get a call from her after so long. Apparently one of his previous students had started working in her department and they’d been missing a few university records. Shen Wei had offered to bring the papers to his former classmate’s work directly, and she’d been very grateful. In truth it was for his own benefit, as he wanted to avoid having to touch the blasted faxing machine.

 

Shen Wei had gotten a taxi to drop him off in front of a building. His classmate, Wang Mei, was waiting in the lobby. Her lips pulled into a warm smile when seeing him, and he smiled back a little more reservedly.

 

“Good Morning, Shen Wei. Thank you so much for coming all this way,” she said.

 

“It’s my pleasure, I assure you,” he answered, earnest.

 

“I hope I haven’t disrupted your schedule too much.”

 

“No, not to worry. I have no classes, not until this afternoon.”

 

They made some more small talk, before Shen Wei handed her the folder, which she received with thanks. As they were about to say goodbye, a little black device in Wang Mei’s ear he hadn’t noticed buzzed to life. She smiled in apology, before gesturing towards the earpiece. Shen Wei smiled before nodding goodbye, which Wang Mei returned. Shen Wei turned and started walking away.

 

He was looking forward a calm morning of more grading with a few visits from distressed students. The undergraduates were always more skittish and always came in big groups. But they had a midterm coming up, so he expected a few groups to swing by his office. He crossed the lobby, his eyes crinkling as he thought of the pleasant walk to the university. Just as he was about to step out, he heard Wang Mei’s voice.

 

“Shen Wei, wait!”

 

Turning back towards his old classmate, he saw her hurrying in his direction. She looked frazzled and very stressed all of a sudden.

 

“Shen Wei! You took a few courses on French, back in university, right?” She asked, her voice betraying her nerves.

 

“I did. Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced French,” answered Shen Wei, uncertain

 

He had been so fascinated by the human world, and all of this knowledge at his fingertips, he had selected a variety of courses just to learn more. However, he had not practiced since, and even though he had a very good memory, it was not infallible.

 

“Perfect! Could you please do me a huge favor? There’s a press conference going on right now, and we can’t find our French-Mandarin translator. We can’t get in touch with him either, would you be willing to stand in for a bit, just enough time so that we can find him?” The woman asked, talking fast.

 

“I’m not sure I’m qualified for that...” answered Shen Wei, hesitant.

 

He was far from being on par with a native speaker, and his vocabulary was limited. Besides, the classes had been a few years back.

 

“Please, Shen Wei. I have no one else.”

 

“Alright, I’ll do my best. Please forgive my poor skills,” relented Shen Wei.

 

Wang Mei looked like she had just been revived. She gave him a bright smile, before walking quickly towards the elevators.

 

“Thank you! Don’t worry, we’ll probably find the translator before you’ll need to step in,” she said, already pushing the elevator’s up button.

 

Then her earpiece buzzed again, and she muffled a curse under her breath. Giving a stressed look to the elevators’ closed doors, she walked to another door, that was identified as the staircase.

 

“The foreign language questions are going to start soon, there’s no time. We’ll take the stairs,” she told Shen Wei.

 

Nodding, Shen Wei picked up the pace, Wang Mei falling behind a bit. There were eight levels to go up, and as they started on the second, the earpiece made some more noise and Wang Mei muttered a quiet “shit”

 

“Shen Wei you go first, it’s the eighth floor, someone will guide you to the room. Please hurry,” Wang Mei said, out of breath

 

Shen Wei let out hummed in answer. As soon as he was out of sight, he let himself go faster than he would in presence of Haixingren. He had given his word after all. This was why he arrived at the eighth floor’s door truly winded.

 

He was then directed, still running, towards a monitoring room, where the person in charge pointed him to a desk. No sooner had he sat down, and received an earpiece, that the speakers in the room transmitted the presenter on stage introducing the French-speaking reporter and directed the question towards the head of SID, Chief Zhao Yunlan. The coordinator of the stations approached Shen Wei’s desk and pointed to the red button and indicated to hold it down and speak into the microphone. Shen Wei nodded feeling nervous which he hadn’t felt in a long time. Then the francophone reporter started speaking and Shen Wei pushed everything that wasn’t the words coming out of his mouth, away before starting to slowly, hesitantly, translate.

 

 

¤ ¤ ¤

 

 

Zhao Yunlan braced himself for this question, as the French reporter started “Bon après midi, chef Zhao…” He’d just swallowed another mouthful of water when, from his earpiece, came the translation.

 

“Good Evening Chief Zhao…” said the most sensual voice he had ever heard.

 

Zhao Yunlan froze.

 

The voice had a breathless quality to it, which was combined with a velvety timbre, and a slight drag on the words being spoken. It sounded like the man had just indulged in some rather fantastic sex. Dear God, the way the speaker’s voice had curled around his name was devastatingly ruinous.

 

“...I hope you are well,” continued the sinful voice, smooth and rich as the most expensive dark chocolate. “I was wondering if...”

 

There was another brief silence, during which Zhao Yunlan swallowed heavily. Was it normal to get turned on by a voice? Because it was definitely doing something.

 

“...If you could tell us what benefits does your, ah...”

 

 “Ah” indeed. Poets would have written sonnets about the little puff of air. Psalms dedicated to the way it brushed against Zhao Yunlan ear, and left a delicious trail of goosebumps. It was as if the speaker had just breathed a centimeter away from his ear.

 

“...your department brings to the table, and...”

 

 The way the speaker’s tone had broken in pitch on the word “department” as if his breath had run out, it made all kinds of thoughts bloom inside Zhao Yunlan mind. Such as how he would love to hear his name said as deliciously. While on a bed. But really, anywhere would do with a voice like that.

 

As the voice started up again, Zhao Yunlan stopped breathing, anxious not to miss a word.

 

“...what do you think should be done about the, the budgeting of your team?”

 

Zhao Yunlan had to blink a few times before it registered that the voice had stopped. That last bit sounded like it had been whispered in his ear, questioning, like a tease. And then he realized he now had to answer. Shaking himself out of a stupor, he let out a little laugh. Then with a big smile, he leaned into the microphone.

 

“That’s a very sensual voice you’ve got here.” Zhao Yunlan gestured to his earpiece and there were a few laughs in the room.

 

“Congratulations.” He smiled teasingly, hoping he didn’t look as turned on as he was. He really should have stopped, but he couldn’t help himself from adding one last comment.

 

“Again, please.” The laughs were a bit more numerous this time, but Zhao Yunlan barely noticed, mouthing a silent ‘wow’ to himself.

 

When the sound died down, he shifted, and gathered his thoughts as best he could.

 

“Now, the Special Investigation Unit is actually an independent division and as such...”

 

 

¤ ¤ ¤

 

 

Shen Wei was speechless; he felt his cheeks heating up fiercely. He hadn’t- He was just translating! Looking around, he noticed a few people around him seemed to be trying to avoid eye contact, their own face a bit red. Just as he was about to open his mouth, to defend himself, or explain, or something, Wang Mei burst into the room with an older man in tow.

 

Walking to the desk She Wei was sitting at, she smiled at the professor. Smiling back to his saviour, he got up and after exchanging a nod with the man just behind her, who seemed to be the missing translator. He walked back out with Wang Mei, studiously looking anywhere but at the other people in the room.

 

As they walked back to the lobby, Shen Wei took the time to collect himself and as Wang Mei explained.

 

“That man you saw was the translator, he was stuck in the elevator. Luckily someone heard him banging in the doors, and the maintenance team managed to get him out in time. I must apologize for the way I rushed you up there. I really cannot thank you enough.” Wang Mei said.

 

After putting some space between himself and that room, Shen Wei was much calmer, and he mustered a polite smile with all the countenance he had managed to regain.

 

“No need. It was my pleasure”, he said, though it was pretty far from the truth.

 

Soon, he thought to himself. Soon, he would be in his office, and he could put the whole incident out of his mind.

 

“You’re very kind,” she said and smiled. “but I heard you had a question right as you arrived. Was it alright?”

 

“It was fine,” answered Shen Wei, squirming a bit, still trying not to think of the, hmm, enthusiastic feedback.

 

“That is a relief,” said Wang Mei, and then continued earnestly, “Still, I’ll have to treat you to a meal sometime.”

 

Shen Wei smiled more genuinely at his old classmate’s offer and thanked her. Wang Mei accompanied back to the lobby, where they parted, for good this time. Sighing, he resolved to erase this whole morning from his memory, as well as that Chief’s teasing voice. Feeling his ears heating up again, Shen Wei shook his head. This was the closest to the SID he had ever come, and it was the closest he would ever get. He was going to continue staying far away from them and he would never have to hear the name Zhao Yunlan ever again. Though, he did briefly wonder what sort of face graced such a shameless mouth.

There had only been one screen on the desk after all, and it had only shown the reporter.

 

 

¤ ¤ ¤

 

 

The conference had finally ended, and Zhao Yunlan was now joking around with other officers, sucking up to some big bosses and such. A few people teased him about his French translator, and Zhao Yunlan was happy to play along. That voice had not left his thoughts, and he was quite looking forward to seeing the mysterious speaker face to face. But first, he had to give some lip service and mingle, which was beginning to become a drag. Another high-ranking officer clapped his back heartily in greeting, and Zhao Yunlan had to smother his impatience as he turned around with a fake smile on his face. He talked a bit more, before finally, a chance to excuse himself presented itself, which he took gladly.

 

Walking a bit further away, he saw a group of what seemed to be workers and assistants with earpieces and communication equipment with them. Zhao Yunlan greeted them charmingly, which made a few blush, and seamlessly integrated himself into the conversation. He discreetly oriented the conversation towards translators, and the workers immediately latched on the French translator. A few of them were wired to hear what the translators were saying and as such had heard the Voice which made Zhao Yunlan a bit disgruntled. He would’ve liked to keep him to himself.

 

“Apparently, he’s not really a translator. The real French translator got stuck in an elevator, and they found this guy to fill in.”

 

“Does anyone even know his name?”

 

“No! Apparently, after the first question, the real translator came in, and the guy just left. Nobody knows who he is.”

 

“Lu Chenguang who’s interning with the communication department said he was the most beautiful man she’s ever seen.”

 

“As if! A guy can’t have a voice that sexy and a perfect face as well, that’s way too much.”

 

“That’s what she said! But yeah, I didn’t believe it either.”

 

Privately, Zhao Yunlan found himself agreeing. It was probably the guy’s voice that made him seem 200% hotter. Still, he was curious what he looked like. Zhao Yunlan chatted a bit more with the workers until he was sure he wouldn’t get any more out of them. As he asked a few more groups, he had to resign himself: nobody knew anything about the man. So, after a bit more schmoozing, Zhao Yunlan could only throw in the towel and head back home, defeated.

 

As he drove back to his apartment, he smirked. He was looking forward to recounting the whole evening to Da Qing, with great detail on the translator’s sexy voice. Da Qing could get out of attending, but Zhao Yunlan would be damned if the fat cat could escape him gushing about this new voice-crush. Zhao Yunlan pondered on whether to get a recording of the translator’s voice. For research purpose, obviously. A voice so sexy was clearly unnatural, therefore the guy had to be Dixingran. He might have to work on that if he wanted to use SID resources, though. Maybe he could use that as a pick-up line when he met the man? Hmm, it had potential…

 

 

 

 

(Afterwards, when met with the most beautiful man Zhao Yunlan has ever seen, who then opens his mouth and speaks in the sexiest voice Zhao Yunlan has ever heard, suffice to say, the Chief does not remember the pick-up line.)