Title: It’s easy to get on a criminal’s ship but hard to get off
When Jiang Xiaoning was done with his nightly self-studying session, he went straight to ‘Ge An.’1 His eyes swept across the room, and having seen no one that caught his eyes, he went in front of the bar and ordered a drink.
The bartender for today was Nick2 who looked at him from under his thick eyeliner and greeted him, “How come I haven’t seen you lately?”
“Had a bit of things to do.” Jiang Xiaoning then embarrassingly elaborated on how he had to prepare for his monthly examination.
Nick placed the drink he wanted on the counter, looked left and right and whispered, “Someone came here asking about you two days ago.”
“Han Laoban.”3 Nick wore a strange smile as he slowly said those three words.
Jiang Xiaoning thought that name sounded familiar as if he heard someone mentioning it before. As he looked at the bright light emitting from Nick’s eyes, he suddenly blinked and asked, “Who is Han Laoban?”
Nick pulled back a bit, looked at him in disbelief and accusingly yelled, “Don’t you know Han Laoban? It’s Han Laoban from Jin Ting!”
“You should’ve said Jin Ting earlier.” Jiang Xiaoning muttered, disgruntled.
Occasionally, people in the circle would bring up Jin Ting, saying that it was a legal high-class prostitution place where a large number of well-education and handsome men and women gathered to discuss and handle high-profile business transactions. Also, that so-called Han Laoban was not the ‘Laoban’ of any business, but rather, he was a high-ranking prostitute procurer.
“What is he asking about me for?” Jiang Xiaoning sipped his drunk and asked a bit confused.
“How are you not excited at all?” Nick’s eyes widened, “Him asking about you obviously means that he wants to draw you in to become a member!”
“Become a member? A member of what?”
Nick rolled his eyes, “Of course it’s to let you enter Jin Ting to do that, idiot.” He said enviously, “Little bastard, you’ve really reached heaven in a single bound!4 If you stay here, you can only stay an MB5 but if you’re in Jin Ting, you’re a high-class ‘escort’. Tsk, so annoying.”
“I don’t want to go there.” Jiang Xiaoning laughed mockingly.
He was telling the truth.
Although he had a delicate and pretty baby face, his manner of speech was very scholarly and generous—and when he said that he was a university student, people rarely questioned him. In fact, he was still a second-year high school student who became an MB at this gay bar out of pure accident.
Six months ago, he began to vaguely feel that his own sexuality was different from the masses. After being confused and at a loss for a short period of time, he found Ge An’s address on the internet. The first day he came here, he put on a tough and courageous front and spent the night with someone that was pleasing to his eyes. When he woke up the next day, he didn’t expect that the person was gone and at the side of his pillow was a stack of money. Not only had he experienced and enjoyed the beauty of sex, but he consequently secures a mean of income. Jiang Xiao Ning took that as a game and started his career as an MB.
He was young but saw things clearly. That kind of thing could be played with during leisure time and be considered as saving a bit of money, but to actually take it as a profession, he would have even less of a chance to get home.
He told the truth, but Nick thought that he was being pretentious as he grinned and cast him a glance. “Stop being pretentious. Let me tell you, this is a rare chance. Do you think someone with Han Laoban status would casually come here looking for just anyone to join?” He looked strangely left and right again, “I heard that recently a few of Jin Ting’s high-ranking escorts are taking drugs. Han Laoban must be short of manpower for him to send people out to search if there are any good MB in the city or not. He must have heard that you are good-looking and is a university school, also—”
“Taking drugs?” Jiang Xiaoning interrupted him, “How does drug lead to a shortage of people?”
“Idiot, is Jin Ting the same as everywhere else? That is an establishment where wealthy people squander their money, rich people, tsk…they sure have a lot of problems.” Nick snorted, “They probably take drugs too, but when they’re looking for an escort, they don’t want ones that do that. Who knows, perhaps they’re afraid of contracting AIDS or some other taboos? Jin Ting has never allowed their escorts to take drugs. If they do and infect the others, Han Laoban will have to plan something…”
Jiang Xiaoning was unable to make out the pros and cons and did not seem really interested as he mind his own business and lowered his head to sip his drink.
“…Xiaoning6, since you are good-looking and have good manners, you’ll be well-received in Jin Ting…” Nick was still talking endlessly without getting to the point when his voice suddenly came to a stop and he whispered, “Oh my god, hey, hey, look over there. Han Laoban is here!”
Hearing that, Jiang Xiaoning turned his head toward the door just as three to four people entered. Before he had the time to look for that legendary Han Laoban, Jiang Xiaoning’s eyes were captivated by one of the young men.
The person looked to be in his early twenties – he was tall and thin, dressed in a silver-gray silk shirt, and had an elegant yet handsome appearance. His eyes were distinctively monochrome and held a deep and bitter coldness in them. Although he walked in with a blank expression, there was also a bit of coolness as he looked around. However, Jiang Xiaoning thought that pair of eyes contained countless emotions.
“Hello, hello,” Nick’s voice entered his ear, causing him to come back to his senses as he heard the bartender continue on to say, “Don’t keep staring at Han Laoban. Hold it and be a bit reserved until he comes and talks to you.”
“What?” Jiang Xiaoning was completely shocked as he glanced at that young man again before turning to stare at Nick. “The person in the gray short is Han Laoban?”
That person’s every movement held a serious ambiance – his temperament can even be said to be elegant and extraordinary with an implication of ‘you can look from afar but don’t even think of being disrespectful or obscene’. It is perhaps even more convincing to say that he was a young official who came to the school for an inspection or a graduate student who studies western philosophy. How…how can he be a pimp?
Nick looked at his shock expression and laughed. “You haven’t heard? Han Laoban was originally an MB. Keep looking at his appearance now, but when he smiles…”
Jiang Xiaoning was still trapped in utter shock and astonishment and was completely unable to pull himself as he turned to look at that Han Laoban again.
That man was stopped midway into the bar by a middle-aged man who – apparently did not know his identity and said some words to him—all the while, looking at him with admiration and expectation.
From the look and gesture that Han Laoban made, he was rejecting that middle-age man with a polite smile that had surfaced on his lips.
Seeing that charming smile, Jiang Xiaoning’s eyes slightly widened.
It was indeed magical—like a breeze blowing over the surface of the water, freshening it up with the colors of spring. It was clear he had all the facial features of any other person, but when his eyebrows slightly rose, and his lips spread out, it made his temperament change dramatically.
Since he was smiling, the corner of his eyes faintly narrowed to conform with his bent lips, and that immediately revealed an enticing expression. Consequently, that look made the man he refused even more infatuated.
“What do you think?” Nick quietly asked, “Quite mesmerizing, right? I heard back then his nickname was ‘The Beauty with a Hundred Transformations’. That was because he had many flirtatious expressions. Also, his name is Han Jia—”
“Han Jia?” Jiang Xiaoning repeated that name. “His name is Han Jia?”
“What a common name. I also know someone name, Han Jia.” Jiang Xiaoning frowned, “I really hate him since my dad always compared me to him.”
“Oh, a rival.” Nick said and paused, “Don’t worry about that Han Jia of yours, this Han Jia is an expert. If you want to mix in well in this line of work, stick with him and learn a trick or two.”
“But I don’t want to mix in with them.” Jiang Xiaoning shook the drink in his hand.
The first time he saw Han Jia, it was truly breathtaking—his heartbeat had instantaneously sped up, but that breathtaking moment disappeared after he saw his smile, he even felt disappointed. It was honestly because that man’s smile was too cheap, revealing his habitual insincerity and a sleazy kind of feeling.
That is the so-called ‘expert’? Jiang Xiaoning thought with a bit of disgust. If he mixed in with them, would he become like that then he might as well get away as soon as possible.
Just as he was deep in thought, Nick’s expression suddenly changed to a dramatic one, then the sound of clothes rustling entered his ear before a silhouette stopped beside him.
“I heard you’re called Xiaoning?” The person asked.
The tone of voice was not as gorgeous or misleading as he had imagined, instead, it was rather ordinary.
Jiang Xiaoning looked up only to be completely shocked.
Han Jia was leaning at the counter and looking at him. His eyes were brimming with warmth and gentleness as he wore a kind smile—the whole expression was amiable and friendly. Being looked at like that, Jiang Xiaoning felt that he himself was a weak and helpless junior who was being wholeheartedly cared for and protected.
“Yes… yes, I am.” He said, stuttering a bit. Thinking that, Jiang Xiaoning was very adorable and interesting, Han Jia’s smile deepened a bit. “I’m inviting you for a drink.”
Nick winked at him from the side, as if saying, ‘didn’t I say you were being pretentious? Let’s see if you have the balls to refuse’.
According to his original intention, Jiang Xiaoning actually wanted to refuse. Since he did not want to go to Jin Ting, there was no need for him to talk with Jin Ting’s procurer, moreover, he hated the name, Han Jia.
Whether it was due to curiosity or obsession, Jiang Xiaoning made a decision that later proved to be very naïve and ignorant.
He looked straight at Han Jia and used a smile that he considered to be the loveliest.
“Okay,” he said.
 Ge An – the name of a club/bar
 Nick – in Chinese it is, Níkè but let’s stick with Nick
 Han Laoban – Lǎobǎn means boss but so ‘boss han’
 Reach heaven in a single bound – [一步登天: yībùdēngtiān]
 MB – Money boy
 Xiao Ning 小宁– Jiang Xiao Ning姜晓宁: in China, depending on your age, xiao (小small) or da (大big) can be used in front of your name. The 小‘xiǎo’ used here is not the same 晓’xiǎo’ in Jiang Xiao Ning’s name, note the character difference even though the tonal part is the same. This tells us that Jiang Xiao Ning is probably younger than Nick in order for him to add the 小‘xiǎo’ in front of his name.