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Blood Earns My Keep

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The staircase spiralled down beneath him, the gaps between the balustrades gave him the perfect vantage on his targets and the conditions were just right to get a direct hit. His hands flexed around the weapon, his finger rested beside the trigger as he lifted the gun to his right eye and centred in on the security of the man below. He took one shot, the dulled whistle coming from the bullet as it left his silencer was all that could be heard in the still night. It struck one man directly through the throat, leaving him to cup at his neck as he wondered what had happened. He tilted the muzzle of his semi-automatic rifle to the next man and managed to get a hit to the back of the head he could see.

Yixing picked off the men one by one, all falling to the ground thirty seconds after the bullets had left his barrel. He knew through basic physics that the force of the shots themselves were not enough to knock the men off their feet but the wilting of blood loss could.

In reality, he hated using guns, he was a blade expert at heart. He loved being able to feel the result of the hit he made in his hands and watch as life faded away from those he was listed to kill. Knives were his second love in life, they gave him thrill and power. Guns gave him long distance precision and fast deaths when he became impatient.

Yixing left his hiding spot, cleared up all traces of himself and made sure that his shell casings were in his pocket and he cleaned the gunpowder off his hands and clothing as best he could. He took gentle steps down the stairs while remaining hidden in the shadows, his generic and unscuffed shoes left barely any print on the ground as he left the building and confidently strode his way into the building he had been shooting into. He took the stairs, his shoulders hunched and kept his head away from the security cameras that dotted the walls.

It took him under three minutes to reach the floor he needed and he was still completely soundless while he manoeuvred through the hallways ahead of him, not even the rifle on his bag made any noise, not even a clink on the utility belt he had on. He counted the doors he passed, his hand closed around the hilt of the blade at his hip and he drew it out before he rounded the next corner. There were two men ahead of him, neither were looking in his direction and he threw the knife in his hand without even looking at his target and within the blink of an eye, he had his other knife in his hand and was advancing on the man who had turned to look at him after his colleague had fallen down to the floor.

Yixing didn’t even think twice about lunging first, his knife settled right into the neck of the shocked man and he dragged the handle across to sever his esophagus completely. The assassin bent at the knees to lift up a keycard the man had and used it to unlock the door, there was a muted beep before the lock turned and Yixing could push the door open. He left the two bodies in the deserted corridor to wilt down to the floor and stepped past them into the room. It was dark, no light seemed to filter in from anywhere but before his eyes could adjust to the lack of light, a hand covered his mouth and dragged him further into the darkness.

Panic wasn’t in his repertoire of emotions so he allowed himself to be taken through the long hallway and it wasn’t long until he he came into contact with something metal. It appeared to be a door, given how the person holding him slid their arm around his body to pull at something and the darkness gave way to light.

It was a room, almost exactly like the one he had shot into barely fifteen minutes before although it had no windows. No way for people like Yixing to fire into them. The killer was pushed forward and there was only one other person in the room as he was released by the person behind him, who left swiftly after with a buzzing lock to the door. The assassin was shocked that his weapons hadn’t been taken from him, the handgun on his thigh, the rifle on his back and the knives at his waist were all weighing heavily on him still.

“Yixing,” the man, who was facing away from him greeted, while he remained looking towards where there was a prohibition era style bar, mixing himself a drink. “You were slow.”

The assassin gaped, looking down at his watch and the timer blinked at fourteen minutes.

“But it’s my fastest time,” the killer argued, “I got in under fifteen minutes.”

“That’s not good enough,” the other rumbled, his tall figure stood proud amongst the sofas around the room and Yixing watched his back sharply.

“Nobody else is doing these simulations in under fifteen minutes.”

“And those people aren’t passing, are they? If I accepted that time then you’d have gone through months ago.”

“Yifan,” the shorter man fought, his blood boiling in his veins. “I’m the best trainee you have.”

“You’re the best trainee, Yixing, you said it yourself,” Yifan turned to look at him and Yixing could see the way his jaw rippled as it clenched. “All of my men can do what you did in under twelve minutes and I can do it in six. You were too slow. That is the main fact of the point.”

“It’s two minutes out after doing everything perfectly, ge,” Yixing growled, his hand falling to where one of his knives was and his eyes darkened as he scowled at the other. “One hundred and twenty seconds, that’s all.”

“And it takes you fifteen seconds to bleed out from a brachial artery,” the tall man moved towards Yixing.

“Why can’t you just be proud of me? For once, be proud of me,” Yixing yelled, taking one of his knives and throwing it above the elder’s head.

“As your boss, I am proud that you’re the top of your class but,” Yifan stopped in front of the younger man, he lifted his free hand to Yixing’s cheek and held it there lightly, “as your fiancé, two minutes extra is too long for you be out of my safety.”

“I can look after myself,” the smaller’s defiance always hindered Yifan’s comments from infiltrating his heart when he was mad or high off the adrenaline of his task.

“I know you can but you’re still training and you don’t know everything yet. Just because we’re together doesn’t mean you get preferential treatment, you still failed.”

“But it’s my fourth try,” Yixing scowled and Yifan’s hand left his cheek.

Five strikes and you’re out. Dead.

That was the rule.

The tall man left the other to pull the knife Yixing had thrown out of the reinforced wall and held it in his hand by the blade. Yixing watched as his boss held it, a small trickle of blood coming out from his fist and his knuckles were the palest he’d ever seen them. Yifan was furious, or maybe shaken, by the idea of Yixing striking out.

Yifan looked him straight in the eye, not even flinching or blinking as he said his next words, “Then you have to be faster next time, not just to pass but for me.”