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under the cover of darkness

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Something moves in the corner of Qiyan Agula’s peripheral vision. To the untrained eye, it appears a shadowy blur; for Agula, a seasoned assassin, it is crystal clear.

She sidesteps easily, and a stocky figure hurtles past, falling into empty air.

Agula moves away from the unmoving lump at her feet — someone she had disposed of in a matter of seconds. A single glance at the new target tells Agula that this one would be no different.

Before the other is able to properly regain their bearing, Agula swings her leg out in a precise arc, forcing their knees to crumple. A mere breath later, the assassin has pinned the black-clad figure to the ground, and it takes just one calculated slice of a blade before their breath chokes off. Blood gushes from the open wound, but the heart now pumps without destination.

It is then that Agula slides off. Tranquil amber eyes survey the morbid scene — five bodies, cooling against gray concrete, staining the nameless street with rust. Each corpse has one thing in common: somewhere on their body, whether it is upon a wrist or a collarbone, there sits a coiled dragon, etched in rich ink, its serpentine form glistening with scales as crimson as blood. The symbol of the Wei.

Agula flicks her gaze away. She snorts, once, a cold sound echoing in a steel heart.

“Who says you can’t bring a knife to a gunfight?”


Agula steps into her apartment, sighing as she peels off bloodied gloves. She needs to visit the laundromat soon.

In the darkness, something circles her waist.

“Agula,” a gentle voice lilts into the quiet space, tinged with a sprinkle of pretend vexation. “You missed dinner. And you smell like death.”

Cold amber melts into warm pools of gold.

Agula turns in the embrace, and presses an indulgent kiss to the forehead.

“Sorry, your Highness. I’ll go take a shower.”

The arms around Agula’s waist tighten with a huff. “Don’t call me that!”

“Mm.” Agula’s lips begin to wander. “Okay, Jingnu, my love.”

Jingnu sighs, giving in to the light, butterfly kisses scattered across her brow.

“Five of my father’s men are reported missing,” she says, after a spell.


“I know you have something to do with it.”

“Mm. This one wouldn’t dare.”

Jingnu pinches Agula in the side. The latter curves her lips to reveal a crooked grin.

“Alright, fine. But don’t complain. It’s not my fault that someone left supposedly confidential documents out in the open for anyone to find.”

Jingnu rolls her eyes, then places her head on the other’s chest. Just — resting. Listening to the steady, rhythmic heartbeats.

Thump, thump. Thump, thump.

“It took you long enough.”


“Thank you.”


Somehow, the intertwined figures make their way through the unlit hallways to fall against soft mattresses and silken sheets. In the dark of night, love blossoms, quiet, but sweet nonetheless.