THE FLESH OF A SWAN

Chapter 6

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Teng Rui froze.

He was a dolt who couldn't keep anything hidden. When he detected that subtle change in Shen Wenjun's pheromones, he instantly whipped his head up and looked at Shen Wenjun, staring at that cool, beautiful face of his and trying to see if anything was visibly different.

Naturally, there was no way Shen Wenjun could miss the fact that Teng Rui was blatantly gawking at him. He felt greatly discomfited and gazed back at Teng Rui with displeasure written all over his face. The sweetness that had tinged his pheromones a moment earlier was suddenly replaced by a sharp, acerbic note.

Xie Han was completely unable to detect pheromones, but he was still a man who made his living as a police officer. He knew how to read people, and he could tell right away that there was something going on in the look these two exchanged. Shen Wenjun looked immeasurably displeased with this aggressively persistent alpha. It was much the same as how he'd looked at Teng Rui in the past, and yet somehow different as well.

Shen Wenjun seemed… overly concerned with Teng Rui?

Was it because this was his fated alpha?

…or perhaps Xie Han's perception was simply being influenced by the knowledge that Teng Rui was Shen Wenjun's fated alpha.

Shen Wenjun only shot Teng Rui a cursory glare before he continued to talk to Xie Han about work.

There was nothing particularly notable about their conversation. On the surface, it was all business. But there was something fluid about the way they conversed; they practically finished each other's sentences. They were like a perfect pair, or like an old couple. Teng Rui stood aside, completely incapable of getting a word in edgewise.

Also, Xie Han was clearly a police officer. Why did he have more clauses of the law memorized than a law student like Teng Rui?

Teng Rui suddenly felt an indescribable weight bearing down on him.

Xie Han, of course, wasn't completely unaware of Teng Rui.

And Shen Wenjun was deliberately ignoring him. He was also deliberately making it impossible for Teng Rui to interject in their conversation at all. It was very easy for these two grown men to bully a little half-grown brat who was still wet behind the ears.

After a while, Shen Wenjun furrowed his brow and looked over at Teng Rui, who was standing there like a stupefied block of wood. "You aren't needed here," Shen Wenjun stated. "Don't you know you have files to organize?"

Teng Rui numbly uttered an 'oh', then slunk off in low spirits.

The two men finished talking about work.

Xie Han smiled faintly. In a casual, saccharine tone of voice, he asked, "That kid seems to have been scared stiff by you… I know you're a little opposed to him because his pheromones are very compatible with yours, but he's just a kid after all. Shouldn't you be a bit gentler with him?"

Words like that would only pour oil on the fire. Xie Han knew Shen Wenjun far too well.

As expected, Shen Wenjun instantly seethed, "Why should I? Garbage people deserve to be scolded like garbage. Judging by his grades, he shouldn't even have qualified to be an intern here.

"I've asked about it, and the boss said the brat's uncle is an old friend. That snot-nosed infant used his connections and took the back door in. He's a law student, but he came here solely because of his pheromones. Solely to pursue me.

"He allows himself to be led around by his emotions. He's too childish, too impetuous. I don't think he's well-suited for this line of work at all. It would be better for him to change tracks sooner rather than later."

Xie Han glanced past Shen Wenjun and spotted a small, poorly hidden silhouette outside the door. That shadow shrank down the hall, until it disappeared out of sight.

To be perfectly honest, Xie Han was silently pleased.

"Alright, alright, no need to get so worked up," Xie Han said. "It's not a big deal."

 

Over the past few days, before Xie Han's appearance at the office, Teng Rui had already taken many fierce scoldings from Shen Wenjun. That day, he returned to his dorm room with a crestfallen look.

He felt even lonelier and more helpless when he saw all those stupidly carefree roommates of his. None of them could understand the torment, the grievances, and the suffering that roiled in his heart.

Meeting one's fated omega should have been an extremely romantic thing. Teng Rui didn't even mind that Shen Wenjun was a thirty-year-old man who was over 180 centimeters in height. And yet, Shen Wenjun disliked him.

Shen Wenjun and his detective friend seemed to be more than ordinary friends, but if there really was any ambiguity to their relationship, Professor Shen probably would have openly admitted it right away. Although they hadn't known each other long, Teng Rui was sure Shen Wenjun was that sort of person.

Teng Rui looked at his messy, unmade bed. Then he thought about his messy, floundering grades. An unprecedented sense of doom rose in his heart.

He had been born too late. He wasn't good enough to be the partner of someone like Shen Wenjun. Highly compatible pheromones alone weren't enough to impress Shen Wenjun.

Teng Rui rolled up his sleeves and started to diligently clean up his room.

One of his roommates looked over at him. "What the hell are you doing? Is the sun rising in the west?"

Teng Rui focused all his attention on tidying up. Then he sat down at his desk, stuffed a pair of noise-cancelling earplugs into his ears, and started to read.

He couldn't keep going on like this. If… if he could hear Shen Wenjun say he'd improved just a little the next time they met, that would be pretty good too.

Teng Rui became determined.

Then, upon returning to the prosecutor's office for his internship three days later, Teng Rui was scolded by Shen Wenjun once more.

As expected, last-minute prayers to Buddha weren't going to do him any good.

Teng Rui's luck was just too bad. Everything he'd worked hard to memorize over the past few days was completely inapplicable to the cases they worked on that day, and Teng Rui couldn't answer any of the questions Shen Wenjue asked.

…it was too late to memorize more materials now. RIP.

A long time ago, a professor had thumped a textbook and told Teng Rui, "The main points? There are no main points! Everything in this book is a main point!"

That professor had told no lies.

After work that day, Xie Han came to find Shen Wenjun again. The two of them got in a car and left together.

Why were they always leaving together? Even if they were friends, this was happening far too frequently. It wasn't like they were high school students who had to go home with the same friends after school every day.

Teng Rui silently muttered all these grievances in his heart.

That Detective Xie looked gentle and warm, like a spring breeze. But Teng Rui couldn't help but think that there was something off about him.

Teng Rui hopped on an electric moped and started following their car, deciding to see for himself if those two had a 'special' relationship after all.

Xie Han glanced at the rearview mirror and noticed right away that they were being followed by an electric moped.

Just as he considered telling Shen Wenjun, the phone in his pocket started to ring.

At an intersection.

Cars stopped in densely congested traffic. The red light wouldn't change for a while.

Xie Han took the call. "Hello? …mm, got it. I'm on my way now."

After hanging up, he loaded up the navigation app on his car's built-in tablet and changed their destination.

"New case?" Shen Wenjun asked.

"Yes," Xie Han answered. "Come take a look with me? Or would you rather go home first?"

Shen Wenjun considered it for a moment and guessed that this was most likely Xie Han's first case at his new precinct. "I'll go with you."

Good friends were meant to help each other, after all.

 

Teng Rui continued to follow their car. His electric moped was nearly out of battery. Just as he started to get anxious, he finally saw Xie Han and Shen Wenjun park their car.

They'd stopped at the curb in a dilapidated old neighborhood. Teng Rui looked left and right, realizing this didn't look at all like a place where Shen Wenjun would live. Nor did it look like a romantic date spot.

When he saw a police car, he suddenly understood.

These people were really just working together?!

Shen Wenjun climbed out of the car and finally noticed Teng Rui following them. He stood in place and glared coldly as he called out, "Come here."

He didn't raise his voice.

But Teng Rui still heard him. Like a puppy being pulled along on a tight leash, he slunk over with his head bowed and his figurative tail between his legs. He was clearly ready for another scolding.

"Do you know which laws are violated by stalking?" Shen Wenjun asked.

Teng Rui floundered for a moment, then answered, "Y… yes."

Shen Wenjun scoffed. "Knowingly breaking the law, then."

Xie Han had taken a black box out of the trunk of the car. He put on a pair of white disposable gloves and said, "Wenjun, let's go."

Then he turned to Teng Rui and kindly explained, "This isn't actually your professor's job. He just happened to have some free time, so he came along. What a coincidence that we ran into you. You're studying to be an agent of the law as well, right? Want to come in and have a look?"

Teng Rui couldn't help but feel like this was a trap. A deep pit, just waiting for him to leap in.

And yet, he had no choice but to leap.

He was far too jealous and contemptuous of that aura of superiority which radiated from Xie Han and Shen Wenjun. He was desperate to mature and grow, right away. Plus, Xie Han had explicitly invited him. If Teng Rui refused, wouldn't Shen Wenjun think even worse of him?

Teng Rui instantly accepted the invite.

After seeing the corpse at the crime scene, he held in his reaction for ten whole seconds. Then he bolted back outside to vomit.

Xie Han and Shen Wenjun had both seen dead bodies before.

After the initial survey of the scene and corpse was complete, the body was placed inside a body bag and carried out, to be sent to the forensics department for further examination.

By the time Teng Rui returned, the corpse had already been removed.

He was utterly devastated. He felt he couldn't possibly have come off any worse just now. In Shen Wenjun's heart, he was probably earning negative marks.

Then he saw Xie Han holding something that looked sort of like a gun and sort of like a short baton. Xie Han was in the middle of doing something with it when Teng Rui asked, "What is that?"

Shen Wenjun shushed him.

But Xie Han answered, "New tech, not fully integrated into our usual suite of tools yet. It's a PDD, a pheromone detection device. We can use it to detect residual pheromones at the scene of a crime."

"People with criminal records have a higher probability of committing crimes," Shen Wenjun said, picking up the explanation from there. "You know that alpha and omega pheromones are structurally unique, correct? That's why each person gives off a distinctive scent. By checking the pheromones detected here against a database of pheromones of previous offenders, the investigation time can be shortened by a substantial amount."

In short, it was an additional means of collecting evidence which could potentially provide more leads in a case.

Xie Han added, "But pheromones dissipate in the air after a certain amount of time, so the PDD can only be used within a certain time frame after a crime is committed."

He and Shen Wenjun continued to discuss the case.

By now, it was dark out.

"You head back first," Xie Han said.

"I'll bring that into the lab for you," Shen Wenjun offered.

Teng Rui had no idea what they were talking about. He just dumbly stumbled along at Shen Wenjun's side, accomplishing nothing except getting in their way.

Shen Wenjun picked up the black case containing the PDD.

"Professor, where are you going?" Teng Rui asked. "Can I go with you?"

Xie Han impassively pricked up his ears to listen. He figured Shen Wenjun would refuse, but unexpectedly—

Shen Wenjun actually took Teng Rui along with him.

Xie Han furrowed his brows until one of his colleagues called out, "Old Xie, let's head back. We've got a meeting."

 

Teng Rui wanted to climb into the passenger seat.

Shen Wenjun, thinking back to what he and Xie Han had done in that passenger seat, immediately corrected Teng Rui's course. "Go sit in the back."

Teng Rui obediently slunk into the back seat. It was only after they'd driven for a while that he meekly asked, "Where are we going? This thing is evidence, right?"

"To the Pheromone Management Institute," Shen Wenjun answered. "The PDD is a new device, not yet officially approved for use. In fact, its use isn't universally accepted just yet. Before the data can be treated as valid evidence, it needs to be analyzed by the developer."

Teng Rui nodded.

He held his tongue. He held it and held it, until he finally couldn't hold it in any longer. As though admitting defeat, he blurted out, "Professor, I followed you today because you're always with Xie-xiansheng. I kept thinking… you guys… could you guys be lovers?"

Shen Wenjun instantly denied that scandalous suggestion. "No. We're friends."

Okay, okay.

Good.

That was good.

Teng Rui was just about to start feeling more at ease.

"But we do live together," Shen Wenjun continued. "That's why we go home together."

Teng Rui's eyes flew wide open.

 

Author's Notes:

That pheromone detector or whatever is just something I made up.

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