Title: Everything in the world is as changeable as chess (is).
Translate: Sae | Proofread: Anasofia
“Han Jia, if my dad and I fell into the water at the same time and you could only save one of us, who would you save?”
What was Han Jia doing at that time? Enjoying the view in front of the window, sorting out the things in the cupboard, or clumsily cooking?
In short, he had his back to him and didn’t turn his head around when he commented syllable by syllable: “Bo—ring.”
He refused to give up and pounced over to hold Han Jia’s waist, lightly nibbling on his shoulder through the clothing as he vaguely said: “Tell me, who will you save?”
“I will save Jiang Laoshi,” Han Jia answered very directly this time.
“I’ll die then.” He blew into Han Jia’s ear and used a very grief-stricken voice, “What are you going to do if I die?”
“Me? I’ll miss you.” Han Jia seemed to smile, “Don’t worry. When I’m with someone else later on, I’ll miss you from time to time.”
“Hey! What did you say?” He became angry. Even if he knew that Han Jia was joking, he was still very angry.
Han Jia really laughed. He turned his hand over and placed it on his shoulder, then turned around, kissed him on the top of his head, and said warmly: “Then, don’t die.”
He was still angry, so he snorted and refused to answer.
Han Jia sighed, he seemed to be laughing when he sighed. Han Jia then stretched his arms around him, lowered his head slightly, and kissed him.
He was always eager and impulsive, and Han Jia was patient and submissive, but whether it was a kiss or a more emotionally exciting thing, it seemed that Han Jia always took the lead.
But he didn’t know how to cherish it then and was actually angry. His movements were rough, and he could not remember whether or not he had tasted a hint of blood.
He only remembered that when the kiss was over, Han Jia’s eyes were bright as he looked at him with a smile and kept lowering his head to kiss him:
“Can this temper of yours get any worse? Okay, okay, if you die, I’ll be sad and go crazy. Let me think… in short, I wouldn’t be able to go on living. I’ll die together with you in the name of love.” The light that flickered in Han Jia’s eyes might have seemed like a joke, but his tone of voice was filled with seriousness. “So you have to live well and don’t do anything dangerous anymore…”
How did he answer him at that time? Was he still angry? Or did he pretend to be angry to hear more sweet words?
Did he answer Han Jia?
Beep, beep, beep.
In the silence of the darkness, the faintest electronic sound went off, and in this confined space it was extremely clear.
Jiang Xiaoning opened his eyes in response; his expression alert and calm, containing a fierce fighting spirit.
He glanced at the luminous watch, with the hour hand pointing at eleven o’clock.
In the dark, he accurately located the position of the lock, turned his wrist, and an extremely delicate micro-tool appeared in his hand. He flicked the tip of the micro-tool a few times, and with a click, the lock was opened from the inside, and Jiang Xiaoning quietly moved out in a flash.
There was no light in the room even though the blinds were open, allowing the dim moonlight to spill in through the window. Jiang Xiaoning walked into the darkness where the moonlight could not reach and stretched his stiff limbs that had not moved in a long while.
He had studied the schedule, copied the keys, and hidden inside——that only took him twenty minutes, but he spent four hours waiting.
He came to the door, listened for a moment, and then opened the window above the door. Holding the micro-tool in his mouth, he stepped on the door handle and went through the window.
There was a camera in the corner of the hallway ceiling, but he had cleverly moved it during the day, so now he was convinced that he was not in the camera range.
Near the window was a vent on the ceiling; Jiang Xiaoning removed the panel and hung the board on the window frame with the pointed hook of the micro-tool. He reached out and grabbed the edge of the vent then pushed his arms and slid his body into the vent like a strong and flexible cat.
It’s fucking dirty, he thought, resisting a sneeze before he stretched out his arm, retrieved the panel in one hand, and closed the window with the other hand.
It took him two minutes to secure the panel from the inside, and then he crawled along the ventilation duct.
The ventilation ducts in this building were not narrow, but Jiang Xiaoning was tall and still felt constrained as he moved forward. He sighed and couldn’t help but start to curse in silence about such things as leaping onto roofs and vaulting over walls and slipping through gaps that obviously only petite and highly capable individuals could handle. Xin Muran did not utilize the professional Alex and insisted on using him instead, was he not afraid that this mission would fail completely?
Seven minutes later, he patted the dust off his body in the elevator, stretched out his hand, and pressed the luminous watch – a cold light brightened around his wrist.
He glanced up at the dark upper area, sighed, and climbed up the wall.
After another seven minutes, he appeared on the rooftop of the building and semi-squatted in a hidden corner, then he adjusted the elevation gauge on the meter dial of the watch face.
A sharp sense of danger flooded his whole body when he sensed something amiss while he was in the middle of removing a wire climbing rope from his waist. Jiang Xiaoning quickly withdrew the dagger hidden in his boots, intending to thrust it backward.
But, it was already too late.
Something cold and hard was pressed against his temple – clearly, it was a gun barrel.
He didn’t hear anything at all, nor could he tell how someone came up behind him. Jiang Xiaoning broke out in cold sweat, and his heart seemed to have stopped beating.
After a few seconds of silence, the hand of the person holding the barrel of the gun steadily moved away.
Jiang Xiaoning frowned slightly, and when he turned to look back, he couldn’t help but be stunned.
“Shijie,1” he whispered then put the dagger back in place.
Zhang Juanjuan2 looked down at him expressionlessly and spoke in a low tone with an indistinguishable mood: “You came alone?”
Zhang Juanjuan looked at him critically for a while, as if analyzing whether he was telling the truth.
“He let you come to such a place without backup, what the hell is Xin Muran playing at? Pushing someone to do something that is way beyond their ability?” She finally put away the gun, “Aren’t you specialized in information decoding?”
Jiang Xiaoning stood up and smiled: “Shijie, aren’t you also here alone in this place?”
Zhang Juanjuan gave him a glance: “Don’t avoid my words, I’m just asking.”
Jiang Xiaoning asked: “Shijie, are you here as a bodyguard?”
Zhang Juanjuan raised her wrist for a look at her watch, “Not in ten minutes.”
“Changing shift?” Jiang Xiaoning’s eyes lit up. “The next bodyguard is—”
“Stop dreaming,” Zhang Juanjuan interrupted him pitilessly, “It’s ‘Lao Tao’.” * Old Glutton *
There were only a few powerful figures in the circle that could be counted with one hand, and “Lao Tao” was definitely one among these five fingers.
Jiang Xiaoning frowned.
Zhang Juanjuan glanced at him and said lightly: “I’ll see you downstairs in ten minutes.” She turned and walked away but then as if she had eyes behind her back, she raised her hand and made a stop gesture when Jiang Xiaoning tried to follow behind. “Do you want to see ‘Lao Tao’ and I switch shifts?”
Jiang Xiaoning stood a little frustrated, looked at her back then looked at the entrance to the elevator shaft, and sighed.
He tried his hardest and managed to get out of the building in fifteen minutes, before finally opening the door to Zhang Juanjuan’s car with a body covered in dust.
“Thanks, Shijie… cough, cough…” the rising dust made it so that he could not help but cough. Zhang Juanjuan, however, remained unmoved and kept a calm expression for a moment. “Being able to get out in fifteen minutes, you’ve really grown compared to before. Unfortunately, it’s only enough to get the goods but far from being a killer.”
Jiang Xiaoning couldn’t help but be stunned for a moment, and then quickly reacted to having been tricked and screamed inwardly to himself ‘shit, no good’. He wanted to pretend but it was too late, Zhang Juanjuan simply looked at him, seemingly smiling: “Did Xin Muran actually let you come to kill someone?”
Jiang Xiaoning could only shift his gaze, which was considered to be a tacit approval.
Zhang Juanjuan also remained silent for a while then said: “Where’s your car?”
“Two kilometers away,” Jiang Xiaoning replied.
Zhang Juanjuan nodded and was about to start the car.
“Shijie.” Jiang Xiaoning stopped her, “I really appreciate that you’re letting me go, but…”
Zhang Juanjuan’s brows tightened, “You still want to kill him?”
Jiang Xiaoning didn’t speak.
This time, Zhang Juanjuan turned her face, carefully measured him and slowly said: “I’ve heard that you had never taken the job of killing before.”
“There is always a first time,” Jiang Xiaoning whispered.
Zhang Juanjuan raised a brow and watched him without speaking.
Jiang Xiaoning also smiled, and Zhang Juanjuan called out to him as he held his hand on the door handle.
Jiang Xiaoning did not turn back, but he stopped in place. Zhang Juanjuan said: “Words around town is that ‘Lao Tao’ has protected more than 20 people and has never once failed. Not many people believe this,” she paused, “But that is the truth.”
Jiang Xiaoning nodded, pushed open the door and got out. He stood in the shadow and watched the car disappear into the dust.
A minute later, he found his backpack around the corner.
He was not a full-time killer, thus, there were too many careless omissions in his actions – it was inevitable that the bodyguard would discover it.
Jiang Xiaoning exhaled, looked up at the gloomy building and removed the wire climbing cable from his waist. He placed it in the backpack and took out a pair of stronger wall grips.
It was easy to get in but hard to get out of here, otherwise he wouldn’t have to hide in that narrow cabinet for four hours – the height of the building was needless to say and the irregular shape also increased the difficulty of climbing; with just a bit of carelessness, the wall grips would loosen up.
When Jiang Xiaoning was preoccupied and worried about climbing to the roof, he found that what he had just experienced was not shocking.
The most frightening thing was that when he finally clung to the edge of the top floor to climb up, he found that there was a man sitting there waiting for him.
Jiang Xiaoning froze in place.
The man had a thin face, and his skin appeared pale in the moonlight; he wore a poise expression as if waiting for Jiang Xiaoning to appear.
“Killers nowadays are getting worse and worse,” he teased Jiang Xiaoning and smiled. “Stupid and boring.”
“‘Lao Tao’?” Jiang Xiaoning subconsciously wanted to retreat, and moved a little, but thinking that there was nothing behind him, he stopped his movements.
This reaction pleased the man, and he laughed with disdain: “Boy, now you know to be afraid? Why didn’t you leave when Ms. Zhang advised you? Do you really want to end my record of never failing as a bodyguard?”
“How did you know?” Jiang Xiaoning asked in a bit of panic, “Shijie told you…”
“What, I saw myself. It’s not that hard to guess.” ‘Lao Tao’ laughed, cool and collected, “Seeing that Ms. Zhang knows you, I’ll take it as I never saw you if you return the way you came right now, otherwise, I’ll take you to my employer. I’m afraid you’ll pay dearly for your actions then.”
Jiang Xiaoning stood in a state of great frustration. After a while, he looked back hesitantly while huffing and puffing and said: “Do I have to go back the way I came?” He paused and he said, “Climbing the wall is possible but going down…”
‘Lao Tao’ laughed out loud though the laughter was extremely contemptuous: “Boy, go back the same way or I’ll take you to see my employer, you can only choose one.”
Jiang Xiaoning became angry and helpless amid his laughter. He looked down at the ground far below then at the wall grips on his wrist only to immediately understand that ‘Lao Tao’ had simply pointed to two dead ends. He sighed and acknowledged his fate before he slowly crouched down, placed the wall grip on his left wrist to the edge of the roof and stuck out his leg a bit at a time.
‘Lao Tao’ had a contemptuous smile as he watched him nudging down. In his eyes, the clumsy young killer looked pale, relying only on the wall grip on his left hand to hold his body weight. His eyes widened while he looked down anxiously, seeking the next place to position the wall grip.
As the time passed, the young man’s face became increasingly ugly. He looked at ‘Lao Tao’ with a mixture of pity and anger in his eyes, but noticing no reaction from him, he became even more flustered. Finally, he simply closed his eyes and leaned his body out, leaving only the wall grip in his sight.
The next second, ‘Lao Tao’ heard a depressingly wretched cry. It seemed as if the wall grips could not bear the weight of the fall as an ear-piercing scratch sounded simultaneously before it quickly disappeared from his sight, almost creating sparks from being ground against granite.
‘Lao Tao’ jumped up suddenly and rushed to the side of the building.
He did not intend to save the young man. He came to give him a “helping” hand.
But he immediately froze.
What appeared before him was the young killer’s unclear smile.
The wall grip on Jiang Xiaoning’s right wrist had unexpectedly been placed securely on a certain spot already. The second ‘Lao Tao’ arrived at the side of the building, he exerted much force like a flying fish breaking through the waves and slid up on the roof at a sharp angle. With the dagger grasped tightly in his left hand out of nowhere, he thrust deep into Lao Tao’s belly.
‘Lao Tao’ was struck hard by his impulsive force, tumbled backward, and fell heavily on the ground. He wanted to speak but blood had already spilled out of his mouth.
“You…” he tried to struggle, but Jiang Xiaoning’s elbow hit the injured place, and blood spewed out more frantically.
He gasped for breath and watched Jiang Xiaoning, and although he was still spitting blood, he continued to laugh intermittently: “So, you’re actually not that stupid…”
Jiang Xiaoning snorted, stood up, and looked down at him with an unpredictable look. “You’re wrong. I’m very stupid. I miscalculated the time, otherwise, I wouldn’t have encountered Shijie at all, but rather directly encountered you after the shift change.”
‘Lao Tao’ lay on the ground with twisted brows. “What do you mean?”
“It means that your record of never failing as a bodyguard will not be ended by me,” Jiang Xiaoning said smoothly. “Because my mission was not to kill your employer, but to kill you.”
1 Shījiě (师姐) – senior female fellow student or apprentice / daughter (older than oneself) of one’s teacher – you know what Wei Wuxian called his elder sister – Shijie ^_^
2 Zhang Juanjuan – she’s from Lawless 🙂