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Walk a Bit Further

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To everyone's complete surprise it's Guo Changcheng who finds the Merit Brush. It's been right there next to them all this time, and somehow Guo Changcheng is the one who pays enough attention to notice.

Instead of lamenting the fact that they could have found the Merit Brush so much earlier, Zhao Yunlan claps Guo Changcheng on the shoulder and tells him he did a good job. The kid smiles shakily and looks a bit like he wants to hide.

And then Zhao Yunlan doesn't touch the Merit Brush and calls Shen Wei. Well, actually, he summons the Black Cloaked Envoy, because Shen Wei still doesn't have a mobile phone and while Zhao Yunlan could wait for Shen Wei to get out of class (or have someone deliver a message while he's teaching or even go to the university himself) summoning seems like the fastest way and he's pretty sure Shen Wei wants to know immediately.

The Black Cloaked Envoy arrives without much fanfare, just a slight chill in the air and a slight crackle from the opening portal. Shen Wei's eyes find Zhao Yunlan first, the frantic worry in them clear to Zhao Yunlan now that he knows who he's looking at. Zhao Yunlan wouldn't summon him without good reason when he knows Shen Wei is teaching.

Before anyone has the time to say anything, Zhao Yunlan gestures at the Merit Brush lying on the table. Shen Wei's eyes widen and he strides forward hand reaching out towards the Brush before he stops himself.

He looks at Zhao Yunlan. "Where… How did you find it?" Shen Wei asks, like he actually cares about any of that right now. Zhao Yunlan can see how much he just wants to pick that thing up.

"You have Xiao Guo to thank for that," Zhao Yunlan answers with a shrug. Somewhere in the background Guo Changcheng squeaks, like he's terrified at the mere mention of his own name in the Black Cloaked Envoy's presence.

One of these days he'll find out that he's actually been petting the Black Cloaked Envoy and he'll… well, actually, he'll probably faint. Guo Changcheng has been getting a lot better with... well, everything, but that might just be too much for him.

"Is it the right one?" Zhao Yunlan asks quietly. He's not sure how Shen Wei might know. Maybe he needs to take the Brush and go wave it at the pillar and see what happens. But he's pretty sure Shen Wei hadn't done that to the other two Hallows, because as far as Zhao Yunlan knows they haven't left the SID building since they were found.

Or maybe Lin Jing's security isn't quite as good as he thinks. It's probably not enough to stop Shen Wei if Shen Wei was determined. But why would he sneak around when he could just ask to borrow the Hallows, it's not like anyone would have said no.

"I… Maybe," Shen Wei says and even though he tries to keep up the Black Cloaked Envoy's solemn tone Zhao Yunlan can hear the desperate hope behind it.

And then they proceed to have a whole argument about whether or not Zhao Yunlan should go with him while he goes to find out if the Merit Brush will manage to free his brother or not. Well, more like Shen Wei just flat out tells him to stay behind and Zhao Yunlan tries to convince him he definitely shouldn't, while the rest of the SID look supremely uncomfortable.

You're not supposed to argue with the Black Cloaked Envoy, but really, they should know Zhao Yunlan better than that.

"There's nothing you can do to help, Zhao Yunlan. If I need to worry about your safety…" Shen Wei says in the end, leaving the last words unsaid.

Zhao Yunlan clenches his jaw. Being told you'll only get in the way never feels good, exactly. But then he nods anyway. He can hear a few sighs of relief. Do they honestly think Shen Wei would do something bad if he got angry enough? Or is it just the general embarrassment of their boss arguing with the Black Cloaked Envoy?

"I'll wait," Zhao Yunlan agrees reluctantly. "Don't take too long."

Shen Wei's eyes soften and for the first time, Zhao Yunlan curses their audience. He wants to touch Shen Wei. He wants to say things he really can't in front of others, not when they're still keeping secrets.

"I'll be back as soon as I can, Zhao Yunlan," Shen Wei says. And then both he and the Merit Brush are gone.

Zhao Yunlan waits. He's not very good at it. There are questions of course, like what the hell is going on and where did the Black Cloaked Envoy take the Merit Brush and why does Zhao Yunlan need to be so embarrassing?

He answers none of them and then marches off to his office, basically leaving Da Qing to fend off all the questions. He'll thank Da Qing later. Maybe he'll buy him snacks and a new scratching post or something.

It takes far too long for Shen Wei to return. When he does, he portals straight into Zhao Yunlan's office. He looks tired, Zhao Yunlan thinks but doesn't even have time to say anything before Shen Wei is shifting. He sees the Merit Brush clattering to the floor, but he hardly pays it attention as there are suddenly two small dragons in front of him. In the next second both of them are falling towards the floor in a more or less controlled way as the tiny black dragon wraps himself tightly around the white one.

There's no way Zhao Yunlan can move fast enough to catch them, he's only halfway there as they settle against the floor with a small thump. And then he's on his knees next to them.

"Xiao Wei?" Zhao Yunlan asks frantically, worry twisting his insides into knots. He reaches out and then hesitates to actually touch.

Shen Wei lifts his head slightly to look at Zhao Yunlan, he makes a small chirp, and his head sways a bit.

"I'm fine. It's just… Didi is sleeping," Shen Wei says, sounding dazed. Zhao Yunlan doesn't know if it's just the shock of everything making Shen Wei sound like that, or if there's something actually wrong.

He stops hesitating and carefully scoops the tangle of dragons up into his hands. He can't help jostling them a bit as he tries to fit both of them into his hands and for a moment he worries about waking the tiny white dragon, but there's no movement from him at all.

"Are you sure you're both okay?" Zhao Yunlan demands, his voice coming out sharp.

Shen Wei warbles at him and then drags out actual words to say, "I need rest. Didi… Didi needs more rest."

"Alright," Zhao Yunlan says, bringing both of them protectively to his chest. "I'll take you home. You just sleep, Xiao Wei."

He walks out of his office holding both of the dragons close.

"The Merit Brush is in my office," he tells the first person he sees, which happens to be Chu Shuzhi.

Chu Shuzhi grunts and then glances at the tiny dragons and says nothing. Zhao Yunlan keeps walking.

"Are you coming, damn cat?" Zhao Yunlan asks as he passes Da Qing. He ignores everyone else.

"Lao Zhao," Da Qing yelps, and then hurries after him. "Where are the keys? I'll drive," Da Qing announces.

"In my pocket," Zhao Yunlan says and stops, nodding in the general direction of the pocket he thinks he put the car keys in. "Thanks," he says as Da Qing reaches in to dig for the keys.

Zhao Yunlan keeps holding the sleeping dragons close.