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Hidden In The Lines

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He’s concentrating on tracing the dark energy signature to its source, pausing in the middle of the park, when she walks straight into him.

“Professor Shen!”

Shen Wei startles, blinking his vision back to the human range of visual senses. He glances down and recognizes his erstwhile teaching assistant.

“Li Qian.” Warmth softens his voice, helping him shift back to the harmless Haixingren professor he pretends to be. “How are you?”

Li Qian clutches her bag to her chest, her eyes darting around the park nervously. Shen Wei is saddened to see her still so affected by what happened with the Sundial. She’s always been a shy one, a private person like him, but being hunted by his people, her grandmother dying - Shen Wei worried it killed that spark that brought her to his attention initially.

“I, uh, I was looking for you, actually,” Li Qian stammers, her gaze firming as it lands back on him. Surprised, Shen Wei arches a brow.

“Of course. How can I be of service?”

Li Qian bites her lip, her eyes narrowing. She throws another glance around the empty park, then nods decisively. Opening her handbag, she rummages about inside, before pulling out a thin, black folder with a red stamped top secret at the top.

“I thought you could… you might want to…” She swallows nervously, pushing the folder into his hands. “I- They-” She lets go abruptly, stepping back and bowing. “Please hand these over to your friend, Chief Zhao.”

“Certainly,” Shen Wei agrees, baffled. He takes a peek inside and sucks in a sharp breath.

He recognizes his own research. Dixingren DNA, the genetic anomalies and mutations that allow them to harness dark energy. Formulas of how it breaks down, the physicality of dark energy, how it affects human biology. Except, the papers inside the folder go further: a twisted attempt at harnessing dark energy by inducing the mutation artificially where no such gene exists.

“This is…” Shen Wei glances up to stare at Li Qian in askance. She smiles, a tight, strained little thing.

“I’m fine, Professor. Thank you for asking.” She inclines her head as she pretends the past few minutes of conversation never happened. “A colleague of yours hired me - you remember Professor Ouyang?”

Shen Wei nods, thoughts racing. His grip on the folder tightens.

And despite all the tumult she brings, his heart feels lighter knowing Li Qian hasn’t lost her way in the aftermath of all the changes his presence in her life wrought.