The Influence of Mountains

The SID introduce Dixing to the police as ordinary citizens. The Supervisory Bureau may be having heart attacks in the background. Drama, Humor, Romance, Fluff, I-4

Pairing(s): Sha Ya/Lin Jing

Yunlan was always careful, when he visited now-Minister Guo, to measure his smile for now-secretary Gao. Not too casual, not too bright; civil without being ingratiating; not showing his discomfort when the man fumbled between treating Yunlan like an unofficial nephew and like a division Chief. It was delicate and rather uncomfortable, and he could never help relaxing a little when the door shut behind Gao Jingfeng.

The fact that Minister Guo was the beneficiary of his relief wasn’t lost on Yunlan, but for now at least, that was probably a good thing.

“Good afternoon, Minister.” Yunlan nodded his thanks as Guo Ying gestured him to the seating arrangement and clasped his hands loosely between his knees, leaning forward, attentive. Just because he had a small personal allergy to looking respectfully attentive didn’t mean he didn’t know the body language. “What was it you wished to see me about?”

The Minister leaned back in his own chair and ran a hand over his hair. Unnerved, if Yunlan was any judge. “Well. We’ve received a petition from… well, from the Black-cloaked Envoy himself.” Ah, that explained it. “He asks that the treaty stipulations be loosened to allow for controlled visitation from Dixing, and eventually naturalization for those willing to live under human law.”

Yunlan nodded soberly. “I wondered if that might be coming, given what Professor Shen theorized about the change in the polarity of Dixing’s energy,” he said, just as if he hadn’t kibitzed over xiao-Wei’s shoulder as he’d been writing the letter. “Do you want the SID to handle the requests, or…?”

The Minister seemed to settle at this evidence that someone already had some plans in place to deal with the issue. “I want the SID to review the applications before sending them to my office for confirmation.” Yes, that was definitely relief. “I’d also like your people to keep an eye on visitors, but you mentioned having a limited group of field-ready agents?”

“I wouldn’t want most of the past year’s new staff in charge of what might be a delicate situation, no.” The Minister smiled his wry smile at that, which Yunlan took for a good sign of understanding what he wasn’t saying out loud. “I wonder, though, if this might be a good opportunity to extend what the Yashou patrol partners are already doing?”

The Minister sat back, eyeing him thoughtfully. “Partner your people with regular police to oversee visitors, and introduce the regulars to the idea of Dixingren that way?”

Yunlan grinned openly and hooked an arm over the back of the formal little couch. It seemed safe enough, now, and he did appreciate an intelligent boss. “Seems to be working so far, for the Yashou.”

“True enough.” The Minister looked down at his tented fingers for a long moment and finally nodded. “All right, we’ll try it.” When he looked back up, though, the gaze that fixed Yunlan was dark and serious. “I expect you to keep me informed of how it’s going, Chief Zhao.”

In other words, Yunlan thought rather darkly himself, make sure the Minister heard more than what Zhao Xinci’s continuing influence among the police might filter for his ears. He made his voice firm and certain. “I will, Minister.”

His father might be far better at playing ministry politics than Yunlan, but Yunlan had always been better at playing for winning outcomes.

One Month

The first official visitor from Dixing had flown straight past “visitation” to a trial of citizenship, and Zhu Hong personally thought it had been planned to stress-test Minister Guo’s nerves. It would have done hers, too, if she hadn’t already known the whole thing was a put-up. As it was, she stood straight and serious beside the middle-aged police lieutenant who’d been assigned as her oversight partner, and carefully bit back her smirk when the gateway between realms misted into visibility and the man startled back.

“Is that it?” Tan Xiao asked eagerly, from behind them.

“Be patient, Mr. Tan,” she admonished. “She’ll be here in a moment.”

A moment later, sure enough, translucent air parted around the tiny form of Zheng Yi, and the considerably more intimidating sweep of hooded black robes beside her.

“Who—?” Lieutenant Deng started to snap, hand falling to his sidearm. The Chief had warned her to be alert for that kind of reaction, though, and Zhu Hong stepped forward smartly and bowed.

“Your Eminence.” She waited for Shen Wei’s silent gesture to rise and turned to Deng. “Lieutenant, this is the Black-cloaked Envoy, the preeminent ruler of Dixing.” She trusted that her quick glare added an unspoken so mind your manners.

Deng Chao took his hand away from his sidearm, at least.

Shen Wei nodded, graciously ignoring the political gaffe, and then tipped his head at Tan Xiao. “You are Tan Xiao?”

Tan Xiao followed Zhu Hong’s lead and bobbed a bow. “Yes, your Eminence.”

Shen Wei set a hand on Zheng Yi’s shoulder. “This is more irregular than I would prefer, but Zheng Yi has been firm in her wish to return to you. I would not separate her from the family she has known.” He fixed a sharp stare on Tan. “Are you prepared to take responsibility for the care and upbringing of this child of my people?”

Tan Xiao nodded firmly several times. “I am, your Eminence. I swear I’ll raise her as my own little sister.”

Shen Wei nodded back, slow and measured. “And what provisions have you made to help her keep her power under control?”

Zhu Hong noted Deng Chao’s start of surprise and rolled her eyes. Did the Chief’s father really think they’d be caught out that easily, and not take precautions to ensure humans’ safety? Or perhaps, a second thought that sounded very much like Qing-jie added, he had just been working with a blunt instrument, in Deng Chao?

Tan, on the other hand, positively beamed, mostly at Zheng Yi. “I was researching it all this time, hoping.” Which was probably quite true. He pulled out a choker-length necklace with a delicate chain and a large silver oval at the front. “This should modulate the vibration produced by her power.”

He held it out and, after a glance up at Shen Wei for permission, Zheng Yi stepped forward to take it and fasten it around her neck, adjusting the smooth silver oval carefully against her throat. “Like this, Xiao ge-ge?” she asked, and her voice was soft, devoid of the terrifying, vertiginous edge Zhu Hong had heard before. Tan beamed wider.

“Just like that, mei-mei,” he agreed, and looked up hopefully at the Envoy.

“Are you sure this is your will, Zheng Yi?” Shen Wei asked quietly. She clasped her hands and nodded, small face serious, and he seemed to sigh. “Very well. I grant your care to Tan Xiao. These two,” he swept a hand out to take in Zhu Hong and Deng Chao, “will oversee your presence here. You may go to them, as well, if you are ever in trouble or wish to contact Dixing.”

Deng Chao blinked as if that had never occurred to him, and Zhu Hong suddenly saw how this bit of the game had been played. He was old enough to have children himself, or perhaps nieces and nephews. Most of the officers Director Zhao would have the strongest connection and most influence with would be that age, wouldn’t they? The Chief and the Envoy had blocked his very first move just by making the first entry case a child. She had to stifle a sigh of sheer envy, and remind herself to keep observing. Someday she’d learn to play the game like that, too.

She had to admit, though, Deng Chao wasn’t the only one affected by the way Zheng Yi lit up, and turned to hold up her arms, or the way Tan Xiao dropped to his knees to gather her close. “Welcome home, mei-mei,” he whispered against her hair, and Zhu Hong looked away from them, blinking back a little wetness in her eyes. Deng Chao’s gaze crossed hers as he did exactly the same. Yes, that was definitely the last of his resistance done for. He patted his pockets awkwardly until he came up with a scrap of paper and a pen.

“Here, Miss Zheng.” He held the paper out to her. “You can call this number, if you need us, all right?”

Her eyes got big, and she looked up at Tan questioningly. At his encouraging nod, she reached out and took the paper with a tiny, shy smile. “Thank you, Officer Deng.”

Deng Chao positively melted, and Zhu Hong marked off a complete victory on her mental scoreboard.

The SID one, Director Zhao zero. Maybe she’d make an actual scoreboard, back at the office.

Two Months

Guo Changcheng was excited by his latest assignment. He liked his regular job, of course, but there was no denying that Special Investigations only got called in when something had already gone wrong. A chance to introduce Dixingren who weren’t criminals to his city was a very nice change indeed.

His assigned police partner didn’t seem to agree, but Chief Zhao had told Changcheng that it might take a little while for the other divisions of the Inspectorate to get comfortable with the idea. To start seeing Dixingren as regular people, instead of scary stories or case reports of broken laws. So Changcheng smiled as warmly as he could at Officer Zhu Gang, even if the other young man just looked back at him with steely eyes, more suited to a member of the Armed Police than an urban sub-bureau.

Right on time, the smoky white circle of the gateway whispered into existence. Officer Zhu braced as if he expected something to charge through it, but before Changcheng could say more than a word or two to reassure him, the Envoy stepped through.

Changcheng had to admit, Professor Shen wasn’t very reassuring when he looked like this.

After a long moment of staring silently at Officer Zhu, though, and a brief nod at Changcheng, the Professor, or rather the Envoy Changcheng corrected himself conscientiously, stepped aside and two other figures emerged through the gateway. The visitors were a couple just this side of elderly, who promptly stopped and stared around with wide eyes.

“Oh my goodness, Tao-ge!” the woman said, clasping her hands together. “Just look at the trees! Oh, oh, and look, it’s a bird!” She sounded as excited as a child seeing pandas at the zoo for the first time, and her husband beamed and patted her arm before turning to bow deeply to Professor Shen.

“My Lord, thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for supporting our application.”

“Of course,” Professor Shen murmured, and spread a hand toward Changcheng and Officer Zhu.

The man looked around and beamed some more. “Of course, of course! Good afternoon, young men; is there paperwork to be done? We made sure to bring all of our copies of our application materials.” He pulled a substantial wad of papers out of his jacket and offered them.

Officer Zhu looked like he wasn’t quite sure what to do with all that fatherly goodwill and cooperation, so Changcheng patted his shoulder with a reassuring smile and stepped forward to shake Mr. Tao’s hand and glance through the papers just to be polite.

“That all looks in order, sir. Welcome to Dragon City!” He fished out one of the cards Hong-jie had told everyone to carry after she got back from her first assignment receiving visitors, and offered it. “I’m Guo Changcheng, and this is Officer Zhu; we’ll be your police contacts and oversight while you’re here. Please contact us at once if you run into any trouble.”

“Oh, how kind of you,” the woman exclaimed, and then lowered her voice and leaned closer. “The Lord Envoy did say some of your laws might be quite different from ours. I don’t suppose there’s an office we could consult about that, to make sure we understand what’s allowed?”

Changcheng traded a glance with Officer Zhu, who looked just as much at a loss as he was. “International Cooperation, maybe?” he suggested.

“Or maybe the Entry and Exit Administration.” Officer Zhu looked completely puzzled by two people volunteering to be taken down to the Inspectorate offices, which just went to show that Chief Zhao had been right. Clearly, a lot of the police only knew of Dixingren from the case files.

“We’ll figure it out,” Changcheng told the couple cheerfully.

Perhaps they should all carry a pamphlet on local regulations, along with the cards?

Three Months

Chu Shuzhi stood impassively by the gateway and waited, not bothering to glance at his police ‘partner’. One glance was all he’d needed to tell that someone in the Supervisory Bureau had gotten into the SID’s records on today’s incoming visitor. They’d sent the most senior officer yet, and the man had the no-nonsense look of someone with a warrant already in his pocket.

It was a good thing they’d gone light on the romantic details of that case. Shuzhi held back a smirk as the gate activated and Yuan Yi straightened up a little further. As the young woman they were waiting for emerged, he stepped briskly forward.

“Li Juan?”

Her eyes flickered back and forth between them. “Yes?”

“Dixing’s Envoy,” the lack of any respect in his language made Shuzhi’s fingers itch for his strings, “pushed hard for you to be allowed a visit. But in light of your criminal record, we want to keep this brief. You mentioned in your application wanting to see a…” he paused and leafed through the folder in his hand, mostly for effect Shuzhi felt, “a Ji Xiaobai, yes?”

She started forward a step, hands coming up to clasp tight against her chest. “Yes! Is he well?”

Yuan Yi gave her a very dubious look and said, quellingly, “I sent an agent for him; he should be here,” a call from down the road made him look around with a satisfied smile, “any moment. Let’s get this over with.”

Shuzhi was starting to have a hard time not smirking openly.

A much younger officer pelted up with Ji Xiaobai in his wake. “Here he is, sir!”

Ji Xiaobai didn’t say anything for a long moment, just staring at Li Juan who stared back, both of them wide-eyed as stunned deer. Yuan Yi was just opening his mouth when Ji Xiaobai stumbled forward another step and whispered, “Weiwei? Is it really you?”

A smile slowly took over Li Juan’s entire face. “Xiaobai.”

Visible relief swept through him, shoulders falling, hands opening. “Weiwei.” And then he cleared his throat and added, ducking his head shyly. “That’s… that’s not your name, though is it?” Ji Xiaobai smiled at her. “What’s your own name?”

Li Juan had her hands pressed to her mouth, now, tears starting to run down her cheeks. “Li Juan. I’m Li Juan.”

“Li Juan,” he repeated, so soft and caressing that Shuzhi was tempted to tell them to save that for in private. Yuan Yi was looking increasingly red in the face, though, and his eyes actually bugged out when Ji Xiaobai held out his arms and Li Juan flung herself into them and buried her tears against his shoulder. “Juan,” Ji Xiaobai repeated against her hair, and looked up at Yuan Yi with a brilliant, if rather damp, smile of his own. “Thank you, sir. Thank you so much!”

Yuan Yi had to make two tries before he managed to answer. “That… well…” He took another look at the couple clinging together, both of them laughing and crying at the same time, and sighed. “You’re welcome.”

“Here,” Shuzhi prodded Li Juan’s shoulder and handed over the pieces of the SID’s developing visitor’s kit. “He and I are your contacts and oversight; call this number if you get in any trouble. Review this pamphlet for local laws and regulations. And,” he finally let the smirk escape, “if you choose to apply for citizenship, follow the procedure on this form. Do that before the wedding, this time.”

Li Juan blushed red and looked up at Ji Xiaobai under her lashes. “I hadn’t thought… I mean…”

If Ji Xiaobai smiled any brighter, everyone watching was going to need sunglasses. “I waited. If you want, if you’re sure…” The details of her answer got lost in another flurry of hugging, but it certainly looked positive.

Shuzhi figured this would be another mark for the “total victory” column on the score board Zhu Hong had started keeping.

Four Months

Da Qing lounged in a corner of the municipal police offices and tried not to cackle out loud as a harried young officer tried to deal with Ye Huo and his backup band of followers.

“Look, the fact remains that all of you were breaking the law by taking part in an underground fighting ring…”

He was immediately drowned out (again) under the protests of Ye Huo’s followers.

“…only trying to help…”

“…saved us all!”

“…can’t just wave it off when…”

Ye Huo himself shrugged helplessly at the officer’s aggravated look, and turned (again) to try to calm them down. When the protests had died down to muttering, he said, “I’m perfectly prepared to pay the fine, of course. We all are; that’s why,” he gave the crowd a fairly stern look, “I let everyone come along.” He turned back to the officer with a calm and deliberate smile. “Perhaps you can help us with that now?”

The officer very obviously weighed the little details of procedure against the chances of another outburst, and quickly slapped a receipt book down on the counter. “All right, let’s get this done then.”

Da Qing snickered as Ye Huo shepherded his men up, one at a time, to pay their fines, and scolded the one who started to discard his receipt, and generally acted more like a mother hen than the champion of an underground arena. Once Ye Huo had paid his own fine, he offered a completed request for citizenship with a hopeful look. The officer eyed the lot of them darkly, but finally sighed and took it.

“I can’t guarantee this will be accepted, you know.”

“Of course not. Thank you for your assistance in letting us settle our debts, though. I appreciate it.” At Ye Huo’s meaningful look, the rest of them chipped in with muttered thanks also, and Ye Huo finally herded them out the door. The officer sat back with a faint groan.

“I did say you could let me handle it,” Da Qing mentioned, just to twist the knife, and got a scorching glare in return.

“Shut up and make sure they all get a copy of that law pamphlet your Division does up. Seems like he’s just about the only one who doesn’t need the reminder.”

Da Qing grinned. He thought he should get a total victory plus one on their score board, for that.

Five Months

Lin Jing felt that they were making progress on the whole “Dixingren are good” indoctrination process. He definitely expected today to move things along a little further. But he couldn’t say he was surprised that Yu Jun was looking a bit suspiciously at he and Xu Jian.

“Why are there two of you, today?”

Lin Jing gave the good Officer his best “I am a harmless geek” smile. “Because there are two visitors?”

Xu Jian rolled his eyes mightily. “Ignore him,” he directed. “He’s just a tagalong on this one. After all,” he slanted a sidelong look at Lin Jing, “we want to avoid personal bias.”

“Filtering initial approaches based on experience is not bias,” Lin Jing insisted for the nth time. “Recapitulation is all well and good for biology, but it just wastes lab time for us.”

Xu Jian’s eyes narrowed into a glare. “It is not recapitulation to give proper consideration to all avenues of research. One of these days you’re going to miss something obvious. And this time, it won’t be on purpose.”

Lin Jing winced. He’d known, when the Boss decided to keep Xu Jian, that eventually he’d get the whole story of Lin Jing’s part in the mess a year and a half ago. He’d also known Xu Jian didn’t believe in pulling his punches when science was on the line. He respected that; he honestly wished he’d had just a little more of that conviction himself, at the time. It still stung.

“Can we save the science argument for later?” Yu Jun asked, a bit dryly. “The gate’s open.”

Lin Jing whipped around to face it, argument forgotten, and held his breath as a figure darkened the white mist. No, two figures. They stepped through together, hands clasped, and Lin Jing couldn’t help the smile that took over his face, no matter how silly Xu Jian’s snort suggested it made him look. “Sha Ya,” he said, softly.

She looked good. Of course she did, she always looked good, but she looked healthy and happy, and even after Professor Shen had said she and a few others hadn’t been fully ‘digested’ and had mostly recovered, he hadn’t completely believed it until now. And she also looked maybe a little nervous, which was exactly how he felt too, and she was looking at him with wide eyes.

“Lin Jing.”

For a breathless moment they just stared at each other, and then Sha Ya took a deep breath, stalked forward, and punched him in the shoulder. Hard.

“You jerk!” she snapped, over his yelp and Hua Yuzhu’s sudden laughter. “That was the most embarrassing password ever!”

“Sorry?” he offered weakly. He maybe should have considered this possibility sooner, but at the time he hadn’t thought he’d ever see her again!

Sha Ya crossed her arms, glowering. “Also, the power ran out way too fast.”

That made him straighten up, startled. “It did? But I calculated that battery should last for…” He trailed off as her eyes slid to the side, and then really couldn’t help a completely soppy smile. “Oh. I can, um. Replace it. If you want.”

“You’d better.” She still wasn’t quite looking at him and just possibly had a hint of pink on her cheeks. Just a hint. “And show me more of those skies, too.”

He dared to step closer, reaching out a hand. “I will. Promise.”

She glanced at him and huffed a little. “All right, then.” She finally unfolded her arms and, after a long moment, reached out to rest her fingers in his hand.

Lin Jing folded both his hands around hers, so happy he could barely breathe.

“You know,” Officer Yu said, watching Lin Jing and Sha Ya holds hands and smile at each other some more, “some of the others told me that volunteering for visitor oversight was just asking to drown in syrup, and I didn’t believe them.”

“You should have.” Xu Jian might still be new to the SID, but he’d read the old reports and they were as thick with star-crossed lovers as they were with dangerous attackers. He doubted the Chief and the Professor would run out any time soon.

“Obviously.” Yu Jun sighed and turned to Hua Yuzhu, holding out a folder of papers. “Make sure she gets her half when she comes back down from the clouds, will you? Here’s our contact information, this is a brief overview of local laws, and,” he sighed again, casting a slightly aggrieved look over his shoulder at the previously dangerous criminal who was now handing a ring back to Lin Jing and blushing, “here are the directions to apply for citizenship.”

Hua Yuzhu dimpled at him as she took the folder. “Thank you, Officer. I understand there will also be check-ins because of Sha Ya’s record?”

“The schedule is in there, too. Not,” Yu Jun added dryly, “that I think we’re going to lose track of her at this rate.”

Hua Yuzhu glanced over at the couple and giggled. “Not likely. I’ll make sure she sees it, though.”

Xu Jian noted the casual wave of acknowledgement Yu Jun gave that, and smiled, satisfied. He would definitely be able to report this one for the ‘total victory’ column.

Six Months

Yunlan draped himself backwards over a chair and contemplated at the SID’s running scoreboard cheerfully. “So, what percentages do we estimate, based on this?” he asked Xu Jian.

“Calculating in the frequency with which our oversight partners mention another member of the Ministry voicing favorable views, I think we have between sixty and seventy percent penetration, by now.” Xu Jian tapped the end of his pen against his notebook. “I imagine it actually helps that so many of rank and file in the other divisions are only just learning that Dixing is real.”

Zhu Hong tipped her head, frowning. “Does that mean we have lower penetration at the upper levels?”

“Exactly,” xiao-Wei agreed. “We seem to be doing reasonably well with senior officers who stayed in the sub-bureaus, but the upper levels of administration are where the Supervisory Bureau’s attitude has had the greatest influence.”

Zhu Hong nibbled on her lip and slowly ventured, “Can we work through the Minister, maybe, for those?” She ducked her head at xiao-Wei’s approving nod, and Yunlan leaned over against his shoulder, laughing.

“You just can’t resist teaching, can you?” Kind of the way Yunlan couldn’t resist teasing him about it, and watching his ears turn red. The fact that teaching was, in some way, xiao-Wei’s guilty pleasure was absolutely adorable. “The Minister’s policy will be our strongest lever, but we’ll have to be careful, too. If he thinks we’re using him, this all blows up.”

“We’re not, though, are we?” xiao-Guo asked, and fidgeted when the rest of the team turned to look at him. “I mean, we’re doing everything we can to make his policy a success, because it’s the right thing. Aren’t we?”

There was one of those pauses that happened whenever xiao-Guo knocked an entire conversation sideways by unthinkingly voicing the moral consideration underneath all the details. “Absolutely true,” Yunlan agreed, once he’d caught his mental balance again, and xiao-Guo beamed. Lao-Chu settled a hand on the back of his partner’s neck, looking satisfied.

When the staff meeting broke up, though, xiao-Wei caught his arm and said quietly, “The Minister will notice how much we didn’t tell him, if and when my identity needs to come out.”

“You’re a head of state,” Yunlan pointed out, because it was something that had entertained him ever since he first thought it out. “You outrank him.” At xiao-Wei’s exasperated look, though, he gave in. “I know trust is going to be an issue. But I think he’s sensible enough to understand why we didn’t just drop the whole package on his head at once.” Especially if they’d just dropped all the really heavy bits on his head at once.

Xiao-Wei smiled like he was trying not to, clearly following the thought and probably not wanting to encourage Yunlan. Yunlan smirked and leaned into his shoulder.

It wasn’t exactly that he was looking forward to what would probably be a fairly fraught conversation. It was just that he did look forward to xiao-Wei being able to be openly himself. From the way the thought resonated all the way down inside him, he thought that had probably been one of his goals for quite a long time. Xiao-Wei was an amazing man.

Yunlan was willing to reach for a fairly big hammer to make the rest of the world realize it.