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Better Than Nothing

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Shen Wei sits down on the steps next to the Pillar of Heaven. He's worked out the precise distance he needs to leave between the Pillar and himself before it tries to grab for his powers a long time ago. It's slightly closer than where he is now, but it's more comfortable to sit here. It's close enough for didi anyway, so it makes no practical difference.

For a moment it feels like the air vibrates around him, or more accurately around the Pillar. And then a small white dragon, translucent and glowing with a slightly blue light appears next to Shen Wei. He'd tried to talk didi out of this in the beginning, had tried to tell him to reserve his powers.

"For what?" didi had snapped at him, angry and a bit desperate. In the end Shen Wei hadn't found any words to argue with.

It doesn't really take much from didi to manifest this smallest version of himself, not right outside the Pillar like this. And Shen Wei can easily feed him enough power to offset that small cost.

They both need this. Shen Wei needs to see his didi and didi needs this small illusion of freedom. A moment where he can be outside the Pillar, even if it is only in spirit and the Pillar will still pull him back sooner rather than later.

Didi hovers in front of him for a moment and then settles down in Shen Wei's lap. Just like every time before, Shen Wei wishes that he could actually touch didi, that this was something more than an illusion. And still, after all these years, his fingers twitch towards didi, wanting to pet him, the way he used to.

The small, translucent dragon warbles quietly. The sound cuts into Shen Wei's heart.

"So, did everything go as planned?" didi asks. His voice is harsh with annoyance, probably at his own reaction, just as inevitable as Shen Wei's. If this is hard on Shen Wei, he can only imagine how difficult it is for didi.

Shen Wei swallows and then pushes away his own feelings of distress. This isn't something they can change, not yet. But he will, that's what they're working towards.

"The SID has accepted Chu Shuzhi as an employee," Shen Wei says. He's surprised at how easy it had been, he hadn't even needed to get personally involved. According to Chu Shuzhi's report the letter from Dixing had been enough.

Shen Wei is… grateful. The whole reason for sending Chu Shuzhi to the SID had been so that Shen Wei doesn't need to deal with them himself. It had taken didi some time to convince him that he's allowed to delegate some tasks. And Shen Wei has had enough of the SID to last a lifetime.

However, under the previous two chiefs, Shen Wei is certain that Chu Shuzhi's inclusion would have met with more resistance. Perhaps didi had been right, and the best time to send someone was when the new chief was still getting established.

They needed to send Chu Shuzhi somewhere that wasn't Dixing, purportedly to keep things peaceful in Dixing and not make people doubt the Regent. But Shen Wei thinks that the Regent insisted mostly because he doesn't want everyone to see the proof of his embarrassment at Shen Wei's hand. Shen Wei had had no reason to disagree, it would be better for Chu Shuzhi not to stay in Dixing.

The Regent is not quite so free to judge everything in Dixing according to his own whims anymore, but there are far too many old cases that Shen Wei still hasn't had time to look into. Chu Shuzhi is but one of them.

He shakes himself away from musings about Dixing and concentrates on what's more important right now. "Chu Shuzhi will report to us if the SID encounters any trace of the Hallows," Shen Wei says.

Being unable to locate the Hallows is a bitter failure on Shen Wei's part. Sometimes he almost feels like they might be purposefully hiding from him. But if the Guardian Lantern hadn't vanished, Shen Wei suspects that their influence would never have waned enough for both him and didi to wake up from their long slumber. So perhaps he should be grateful for whatever happened. But Shen Wei still needs the Hallows to free didi, and so far in all the years since they woke up, he's been entirely unable to find even a trace of any of them.

"Good," didi says shortly.

There's really nothing else to say about the issue. Shen Wei sighs quietly.

"Okay, what is it?" didi demands.

Shen Wei sighs again, his fingers twitching against his thigh. He's never wanted to burden didi with any of the things Shen Wei needs to deal with as the Black Cloaked Envoy, but according to didi, it's a distraction from his imprisonment, and he needs something to distract himself with. And also, sometimes, didi is so much better than Shen Wei at seeing through to what's actually happening.

So, in the end, Shen Wei doesn't even hesitate before saying, "The Regent."

"Right, of course," didi answers with a snort. "Alright, tell me all about what he's doing now."

There are times that Shen Wei really wishes the Regent wasn't actually good at his job when he isn't allowed to be entirely self-centred. If he wasn't, perhaps Shen Wei could justify the need to replace him with someone else. But there's no one around who knows as much about… everything as the Regent. And that's mostly the Regent's fault too. Education in Dixing is almost nonexistent after all. Shen Wei is trying to rectify that too, but it's slow going, partly because it's the Regent that has to teach people about the governance of Dixing.

Shen Wei swallows yet another sigh and starts explaining his latest conversation with the Regent. He knows there's something… not right about it, but he can't see what it is. But didi will figure it out.

Most of the time, Shen Wei really wishes he could switch places with didi.