Title: Give yourself some room for whatever you do in case we meet again
Translate: Sae | Proofread: Anasofi
Since Jiang Xiaoning first called Xin Muran “shixiong”1, it was rare to witness the flow of ordinary human emotions from this person; even when he was irate, his face was also that of calmness.
But recently, Jiang Xiaoning had discovered that Xin Muran’s normally calm demeanor had started to fluctuate; he seemed to be more gloomy than usual, and he always appeared flippant and impatient.
Take this instance for example, when he pushed open the door, he saw Xin Muran sitting at a table beside the window and staring blankly at the laptop screen, shrouded with an intense air of despondency. Then Xin Muran looked up at him and the expression in his eyes became much colder.
“Xin Shixiong, you were looking for me?” Jiang Xiaoning was in a good mood and asked with a smile.
Xin Muran did not answer his question and instead asked, “You returned with your injury?”
Jiang Xiaoning’s smile widened.
He really didn’t do it intentionally, but when he thought of the gains from that distant trip, he just could not hold it. He had deliberately exposed his wound, suggested to Han Jia that he was in danger and left in a dejected manner; all those had depleted the colors from Han Jia’s face, rendered his expression to sadness, made his sarcastic comments vanish and sank him into complete silence.
Seeing Han Jia like that, Jiang Xiaoning was conflicted and subtle; on one hand, he felt utterly awful and almost wanted to embrace him and apologize, but on the other hand, he was incomparably elated – feeling the joy and satisfaction that he had never felt in five years.
He knew that it was impossible for Han Jia to remain indifferent, and as long as he started to waver, everything was worth it. Perhaps next time Han Jia would keep him, apologize to him, kiss him and promise to return to his side once more; perhaps, at this moment, Han Jia had already regretted it…
Thinking of that, no, just thinking of Han Jia’s name, Jiang Xiaoning simply could not restrain his own smile at all.
Xin Muran seemed to find his expression quite offensive to his eyes; his brows wrinkled in an imperceptible manner and his tone was soaked with unpleasantness. “It seems you still don’t know what happened.”
Jiang Xiaoning looked at his expression; it appeared that things were not trivial. He quickly asked, “What happened?”
Xin Muran glared at him coldly, “Aside from you, who else would meet with a mishap?”
Jiang Xiaoning was stunned by him and pulled back his smile. “Me?”
Xin Muran appeared to be too lazy to look at him again; his eyes shifted outside the window and his fingers unconsciously tapped the table as pondering on how to break it to him. In the end, he only said: “You did a very bad job regarding that task with Yu Xiujun.”
“Hasn’t that task been reported back as completed?” Jiang Xiaoning was puzzled, “And Yu Xiujun has shut up already.”
Xin Muran’s parlous glare swept over as he spoke leisurely, “Yu Xiujun is like a sticky candy that’s glued to Wu Juzhang2, taking every chance to dig into his personal affairs. She has been inquiring about the investigations in the city and her movements are so drastic that they’re practically alarming the entire province. Wu Juzhang, himself, is annoyed beyond endurance, but it’s not good for him to handle this matter personally and it was given to us. This was originally an extremely simple task…” Xin Muran practically glared at him with disdain and asked, “Jiang Xiaoning, what did I say when I divided the task to you?”
Jiang Xiaoning replied, “You said that she was a reporter seeking a front-page headline and wasn’t completely innocent. We must find something to threaten her with and make her behave.”
Xin Muran’s tone was as if he was interrogating him, “And what did you do?”
Jiang Xiaoning frowned, and his voice was tense, “I got close to her and discovered that she did indeed have flaws. We can exploit the things in her notebook and then—”
“And then you did something completely unnecessary,” Xin Muran interrupted him with a cold tone. “You needed only to find the opportunity to get the files out; you were already close to her, which would have made this task easy. But at that time you, yourself, had already found out some information on Han Jia… instead of saying anything, you immediately went to find him and stubbornly overlapped Yu Xiujun’s matter with Han Jia’s. First, you used Han Jia to arouse her interest and divert her attention and then you used her again to test Han Jia. Jiang Xiaoning, do you only use your brain for such things? You also want to learn how to play with her?” Xin Muran looked at Jiang Xiaoning with narrowed eyes, “Since you involved private matters in the task, were you that confident that you wouldn’t mess up both?”
Jiang Xiaoning retorted: “I asked Wu Juzhang and he did not object!”
Xin Muran went quiet for a few seconds and then said coldly, “You’ve bypassed me and went straight to Wu Juzhang about this matter, I won’t pursue that right now.”
Jiang Xiaoning was unconvinced as his voice sank, “If I didn’t bypass you, would you have allowed me to go and find Han Jia?”
Xin Muran’s complexion changed as he stared at him, “This has nothing to do with you, it’s about work. I will naturally refuse things that are harmful to my work.” Without waiting for Jiang Xiaoning to reply, he returned to the topic, “I don’t know how you asked Wu Juzhang, but if Wu Juzhang had known that you’d mess up, perhaps he would have opposed it from the beginning.”
Jiang Xiaoning showed an impatient expression, “In the end, how did I mess up?”
That question made Xin Muran’s expression appear even more pitiful; he didn’t speak and only pushed the laptop around, letting the screen face Jiang Xiaoning.
Jiang Xiaoning looked at him and walked over full of doubt; just as he approached, his brows tightened: “You invaded my emails?”
Xin Muran crossed his arms in front of his chest and faintly said, “Just in case.”
Jiang Xiaoning glowered at him, “Did you investigate into everyone’s privacy or does this so-called ‘just in case’ only applies to me?”
Without revealing a hint of guilt or discomfort, Xin Muran appeared to think that there was nothing wrong with his behavior. “Only your actions have the possibility of affecting your work, and, it turns out that I am right.” He pointed to the screen with his chin, “It would be better for you to first look at the holes that you created than to argue with me about privacy.”
Jiang Xiaoning stared at him ruthlessly and then leaned over to look at his own emails.
That particular mailbox of his was dedicated to work, containing information that related to his tasks; there were also some message exchanges between him and people that he had met – the most recent email came from Yu Xiujun, and the subject was “Have a look”.
As a convenient means of contact, Jiang Xiaoning had previously given Yu Xiujun this email, and although he had thoroughly laid down his cards not long after he obtained her secret documents, it was not surprising at all to still receive her emails. However, Xin Muran’s attitude cast a shadow on him; he looked at the email – always feeling an ominous premonition.
As a result, he looked up at Xin Muran again, trying to get a hint from his expression, but Xin Muran did not look at him; his gaze had flown outside the window while holding an expression as calm as a pool of water – firmly concealing his emotions.
Jiang Xiaoning hesitated for a moment and then finally opened the email.
Even though he had already an ominous premonition, and even though he had already prepared himself, he was nonetheless shocked.
Yu Xiujun was seemingly quite emotional when she sent the email; the lengthy content was completely unsegmented with countless typos and grammar errors that were inconsistent with her identity.
This was like the draft of a report; a report regarding how a shameless person who had succumbed to temptation escaped the punishment he deserved – a highly sexual-oriented report. The content casually explained the protagonist’s ordinary childhood and accomplished young adult life that distinguished him from the crowd, and then in great details, it described his path of depravity, the sinful transactions, dirty tricks, terrible crimes, and his ingenious escape plan – each and every character vividly displayed through the use of the Song family font. At the end of the report, the protagonist secluded himself in the west, hiding his sinister heart among a group of virtuous teachers and innocent students and then the author subtly suggested how completely unfamiliar are the children in the west to those shameful crimes – how weak their senses of self-preservation are, to the extent of having fallen into the trap of a “hunter” without any precaution at all.
Jiang Xiaoning looked at the screen with his eyes wide open and gritted teeth. Xin Muran turned back at this moment and said monotonously, “There’s also the attachments.”
Attached were two photos; one was of Han Jia from a few years ago in a seemingly well-decorated hotel, leaning across a table toward a man on the opposite side with an enticing posture, wide-open shirt, teasing smile, and eyes burning with desire. The other was of the current Han Jia, surrounded by schoolchildren under the sun as he reached out to fix a boy’s collar – the boy’s suntanned skin contrasted with his utterly white fingers.
“She’s still investigating Han Jia?” Jiang Xiaoning muttered in disbelief, “And sent it to my email…”
“No matter how you say it, with her ability to put Wu Juzhang under pressure, she certainly has a brain. Forget that she was previously captivated by you, because when the whole truth is revealed, do you still think that she wouldn’t know the reason why you lured her to the west?” Xin Muran snorted, “It’s whatever if you had only stolen her secrets but you also went as far as to use her to make your ex-boyfriend jealous. Do you think that a woman like her is the type to just submit to the humiliation? You actually brought such a woman to Han Jia; were you afraid that she couldn’t find a bargaining chip to use against you when she comes to settle business with you?”
Jiang Xiaoning stared at the email with tightened brows, “She’s seeking revenge against me?”
“If it’s revenge, this report would have been published already. This is a threat,” Xin Muran said.
Jiang Xiaoning’s mind churned and countless thoughts flitted by rapidly.
“I still have information to use against her, isn’t she afraid…” he whispered.
“How long are you going to be unable to distinguish between public and private matters?” Xin Muran coldly said, “First, you involved your private matters into work, and now you want to take the documents that Wu Juzhang needs to resolve your own private matters?”
“Tell me, what’s to be done?” Jiang Xiaoning looked at Xin Muran and raised his voice, “Weren’t you looking for me because of this matter?”
“I just wanted to tell you that I have a good way to resolve this situation.” Xin Muran looked at him, his mood had seemingly changed for the better and his voice was much more relaxed.
Jiang Xiaoning looked him up and down for a while and finally said, “What do I need to do?”
An almost impossible to see smile rose at the corner of Xin Muran’s lips as he looked directly at Jiang Xiaoning without hiding it, and slowly said with a pause in between each word: “Beg me.”
Jiang Xiaoning stared at him; his eyes slowly narrowed before he leaned forward and reached out to grab his collar, and with force, he practically lifted him up.
“You sneakily looked at my emails; you must have known this situation would happen?” He said hatefully, directly calling his real name, “Xin Muran, if I find out that you have something to do with this…”
This time, Xin Muran actually laughed out loud, “Jiang Xiaoning, you’ve truly overestimated yourself and also underestimated me.”
Jiang Xiaoning’s eyes brimmed with anger as he looked up and down at Xin Muran for some time; then he loosened his hand and threw him on the chair. “You only want me to beg you? How? Get on my knees?”
“Since you are willing to do anything for Han Jia, naturally, kneeling is nothing.” Xin Muran glanced at him with an unpredictable expression, “Don’t worry, I just need you to do something else.”
“What?” Jiang Xiaoning asked cautiously.
“Something that you haven’t received the answer for in these five years,” Xin Muran said and then pulled open the drawer, took out a bag of documents and threw it on the table.
Jiang Xiaoning stared at that kraft paper bag – for a long time. He closed his eyes and then stepped forward to take it.
1 Shixiong – the senior male fellow student or apprentice/son (older than oneself) of one’s teacher // brother
2 Wu Juzhang (吴 – 局长) – Bureau Chief Wu