Nangong Jingnu slowly trails a finger across the cheek of her gently sleeping girlfriend. Qi Yan looks so tranquil like this – she’s always a very cool and composed person, but there’s something about the way her eyebrows soften in sleep that does things to Nangong Jingnu’s heart.
It makes her both reluctant and guilty, all at once, for keeping such a significant secret from Qi Yan. Nangong Jingnu knows she’ll have to tell her the truth of her job one day, but every second that passes is another second spent lying and Nangong Jingnu doesn’t quite know how to stop. She thinks – hopes – that Qi Yan would forgive her the lies, but even then, would the truth just unnecessarily worry Qi Yan? Nangong Jingnu is perfectly capable of protecting herself – does this job to protect people like Qi Yan, even, certainly doesn’t need to be fretted over. But she also values the importance of her job too highly to ever consider quitting, even to ease the heart of her ever-caring girlfriend.
That’s not a problem for tonight, though.
After pressing a gentle kiss to Qi Yan’s slightly open mouth, she puts on a jacket and sneaks out of their apartment.
There are stations, all around the city, ranging in size from lockers to fully stocked safe houses, each equipped with at least the very basic supplies a vampire hunter could need. Nangong Jingnu doesn’t dare keep anything in the apartment – Qi Yan is far too observant for that. But she’s staked out a safe house that’s only a ten minute walk from her apartment – technically it’s available for anyone working for her organisation to use, but no one dares to use the Nangong Jingnu’s favoured station, except for the most dire of emergencies. Nangong Jingnu wouldn’t mind if they did, not really, but the personal space is nice, she supposes.
Tonight’s hit is on a vampire who’s been stealing blood from the nearby hospitals. Whoever it is has been clever – no obvious pattern to which hospital it’ll hit next, stealing just little enough each time that it’s not flagged by any algorithm, not a single eyewitness – but Nangong Jingnu is not in charge of a whole vampire hunting guild for nothing. Something felt off, so she dug around a little, and the signs were obvious once she knew what she was looking for. Still, the random location of each theft has made it difficult to pin the vampire down, even when she knows it’s there. It’s exciting, a little – most vampires are violent, aggressive creatures, very rarely is giving chase like this such a challenge. Nangong Jingnu’s current (and frankly boring) strategy has been to pick a hospital to stake out and stick with it, every evening, until her prey appears. It does mean she’s dog-tired every morning, but when she leaves in the morning for her “day job” that she’s told Qi Yan she has, all she does is go to her safe house and pass out for eight hours straight. Qi Yan hasn’t seemed to notice anything out of place, so that strategy evidently works.
Nangong Jingnu loads up on all the supplies she could need for tonight – stakes, holy water, silver jewellery (with chains that snap easily so they can’t be used against her) – and straps what she can to her body, putting the rest in the car that she leaves parked outside this particular safe house. It’s about as plain and boring as cars come, which of course is perfect for its purpose. The hospital she’s staking out tonight isn’t a long drive, but she’ll likely be parked near it the whole night so she shoves snacks and water into the backseat as well.
The thing about stakeouts is that they’re very boring. They require constant attention and very little action, and they’re not much fun on her own. A selfish part of her wishes that she could bring Qi Yan with her to alleviate the mundanity of it, but that’s all it is – a selfish wish. An unrealistic one too, considering even if Qi Yan was told she would have to go through months of training to even be allowed on a mission but – still. She’d appreciate any company really, and there’s no one’s presence she enjoys more than her girlfriend’s. No one whose wit can truly keep up with hers, no one who can truly make Nangong Jingnu laugh like Qi Yan does.
Hospitals are busy places even all through the night, just by nature, but Nangong Jingnu has a well trained eye, and spots the suspicious figure almost as instantly as it appears. There’s an art to being inconspicuous – even being too plain can single you out – and this vampire is obviously practised at it, but it is not the only one good at what they do. Nangong Jingnu double checks she’s got all the gear she needs, and silently slips out of the car, keeping an eye on the figure making its way through the crowd the whole time. Her weapons are hidden, but she makes the effort to be casual so no one looks too closely at her.
The creature makes its way into the main building, so Nangong Jingnu follows. After all, there’s other reasons to look suspicious outside a hospital, and she wants to be sure of her mark before traumatising an innocent passerby. But sure enough, the vampire makes its way confidently to where the blood donations are stored – but Nangong Jingnu already knows it was intelligent enough to prepare in advance to avoid getting caught thus far. She lets it take what it wants, preferring to avoid a fight in the middle of the hospital corridor. It would certainly be convenient were she to be injured, but these things are best kept on the down low.
Nangong Jingnu also can’t get too close, making it hard to get a close look at the vampire’s face. It looks like the lower half of their face is covered with a face mask anyway. It’s a common strategy among vampires – it’s a socially acceptable way to hide their fangs from view and makes it hard to identify them from CCTV footage besides. Smart, she’ll give them that.
The vampire doesn’t waste any time, slipping easily into the storage room, spending only a few minutes in there, and when it exits Nangong Jingnu follows, double checking she has everything on hand. This part is always the most exhilarating – she can’t say she actively enjoys the violence, but she relishes the challenge, and knows firmly that what she’s doing is helping people, protecting people.
It takes a winding route through the hospital – not urgent enough to make Nangong Jingnu think that it’s caught onto her, just enough that it’s being cautious. It doesn’t take too long before it leaves the building through a fire exit, and she swiftly follows. The vampire turns towards a set of narrow stairs leading to an alleyway lined with dumpsters – not a glamorous place for a fight, but it’s empty and free of bystanders, so Nangong Jingnu takes her chance, darting around the corner and vaulting over the railing by the stairs, kicking directly into the vampire’s chest and knocking them both to the ground. Quickly, Nangong Jingnu picks herself up and tackles the vampire before it can stand up and get an advantage over her. It knees her firmly in the gut and she grunts in pain, releasing her grip slightly and the vampire struggles free. Nangong Jingnu manages to kick its legs out from beneath it before it can stand fully, and grabs onto the fabric of its shirt so it can’t get away. It shoves down on her arm in response, simultaneously trying to jerk the cloth out of her hand, but Nangong Jingnu pulls herself bodily up, using her momentum to slam her shoulder into the other’s torso. She pulls back to give herself room to land a fast punch at the vampire’s throat and it stumbles back, hesitating, wide eyed, for just a second before clearly deciding to focus its efforts on retreating instead of fighting back. Not a decision often made - most vampires, Nangong Jingnu has found, realise after being caught once that it’s very likely they’ll be caught again, and the only thing that will buy them enough time to get away is killing the person that found them in the first place. Still, some of them are self-aware enough to know they don’t stand a chance of winning a fight, and try to escape straight away. Those ones are usually the easier fight, but Nangong Jingnu isn’t completely sure – this vampire was evidently intelligent, and the escape attempt may be pragmatism over incompetence.
Nangong Jingnu has no intention of letting it go though, stepping forward and moving her foot so that when she uses her body weight to push the vampire the momentum brings them both back down to the floor before the vampire can right its stance. She straddles the creature, body weight holding it firmly down as she moves her boot to pin one of its arms to the floor and grabs her stake in the same motion. While doing so, she takes a swift, cursory look at the vampire’s face and –
She knows those eyes.
She saw that piercing amber gaze not a few hours earlier, on the face of her girlfriend.
“Qi Yan?” Nangong Jingnu whispers in dawning horror. The vampire – Qi Yan – stares back at her, eyes wide open and vulnerable. “You… you…”
“Jingnu,” Is all Qi Yan replies, voice helpless.
“Why… why didn’t you tell me?” Nangong Jingnu asks, tone veering very near to hysteria.
Qi Yan lets out a disbelieving huff of laughter. “And what? You were completely honest with me?”
“That’s not the same, I was trying to keep you safe –“ Except Qi Yan hardly needs that, does she? All this time she had kept her girlfriend in the dark to protect her from the horrors in the night, only to find out that she is the horror in the night.
“And I wasn’t?” Qi Yan interrupts. “I’ve done so much to survive, and yet I can’t help but want to protect you, even when it defies all logic.” She jerks her arm out from under Nangong Jingnu’s foot, who numbly lets it happen. “Your fucking vampire hunting empire has killed so many of my friends… my parents, and yet I lie and lie to everyone around me, to myself, just to keep you safe. I can’t…” She trails off, voice breaking. Then, Nangong Jingnu has a realisation.
“Xiao-Die, is she also…” She can’t bring herself to say it, to admit out loud that Qi Yan is - isn’t human, but if she isn’t human, then surely her sister isn’t either.
“Jingnu, please, if you have any fondness left in your heart for me, please don’t hurt her.” Qi Yan suddenly begs, panic clear in her voice. “Just- just leave her alone long enough for her to move once I’m gone, to get somewhere safe, please.” Nangong Jingnu almost wants to laugh. Qi Yan thinks that Nangong Jingnu is going to kill her? She’s not even going to fight back? Nangong Jingnu knows perfectly well how fiercely protective Qi Yan is of her sister, knows now just why that’s the case, and yet she’s just going to roll over and die because Nangong Jingnu managed to pin her to the floor? That has to be a joke.
“You really think, after all these years, that I’m capable of killing you? After all the times we spent together, after how long I’ve spent loving you, you think I can kill you?!” She finally drops the stake to the side and falls slowly forward, leaning her head into Qi Yan’s shoulder. “You’ve carved yourself into my heart, Qi Yan.” Nangong Jingnu says, voice wet, and far thicker with tears than she’d like.
“I can’t – I can’t, either.” Qi Yan confesses in a whisper. “You’re so dangerous, and all I want to do is keep you near.” Nangong Jingnu sucks in a shaky breath and holds it, and after she huffs out a steadier exhale, she gets off Qi Yan. Qi Yan just stares at her, confused.
“Go.” Nangong Jingnu says. “Go!” She repeats when Qi Yan doesn’t move. Qi Yan can’t stay here, not now her organisation knows about this vampire’s existence. It’s not safe. But oh, does Nangong Jingnu want her to. “Take Xiao-Die with you, I’ll cover for you.” Qi Yan cautiously pushes herself up from the ground. When Nangong Jingnu makes no move to stop her, she tentatively stands, but still she hesitates, and Nangong Jingnu’s resolve is thinning by the second.
“I love you.” Qi Yan whispers. It sounds so final Nangong Jingnu just can’t bear it.
“I’ll find you, again. So you’d better wait for me.” She replies. She’s crying now, of course she’s crying, but her voice somehow still comes out even.
“Of course.” Qi Yan answers after only a moment. “I’ll wait for as long as it takes, for you.”
“Qi Yan,” Nangong Jingnu says helplessly, and surges to her feet. She needs this, one last kiss, whether she never sees Qi Yan again or whether she just has to wait a long time, she needs to kiss her. It’s messy and desperate and Qi Yan responds with just as much intensity as her, just as much longing. She never wants to pull away. She does though, she has to, and it’s the most painful thing she has ever done.
“I’ll see you again.” She tells Qi Yan, she tells herself, and she believes it too, doesn’t have choice not to.
“We’ll meet again.” Is what Qi Yan replies, and she makes it sound like a beautiful promise.