Chapter 1 – Return To The Past
A voice sounded in the darkness.
“The weather is really cold... Huh? There's a little kid over there.”
“Oh, his clothes aren't that bad, so it doesn't look like he's a beggar. Why would he faint over there?”
Touch, touch; pinch, pinch.
“Number Nine, what are you doing? Are you a pedophile?”
“Don’t say that, Number Seven. Look at this child’s bone structure! It’s really not bad! Besides, we have to find someone, and if he died here, it would be such a waste. Let’s bring him back instead.”
There was more touching and pinching.
“He’s still not that developed, but it shouldn’t matter if we bring him back. Besides, he looks like he would starve to death. Let’s pick him up.“
What is this?
What does this mean?
What are they saying…
He suddenly opened his eyes.
Due to the training that had been drilled in him since a long time ago, the first thing he looked at was the butt of the gun on the other man’s waist. When that person leaned over, he suddenly reached out and stole the gun.
At that moment, all three of them came to a standstill as they stared at each other.
The child, who was lying on the ground, held onto the gun tightly as the man backed away from him and raised both hands in surrender. The other black-clothed man wanted to pull out his gun, however he felt a sudden burst of killing intent. At first, the two men thought they were being ambushed, but then they exchanged startled looks and smiled bewilderedly.
The child on the ground was very young and frail-looking; the safety on the gun was not taken off and the child looked like he lacked the strength to even pull the trigger.
“Hey, Number Nine, the first time you lost your gun was to a little kid. Remember to note it down. Haha.”
“Well… he’s got keen senses – like a wild animal. It must be because he doesn’t feel safe. We really found a treasure this time!”
“Hey, child, a gun isn’t held like that…”
Number Seven had not yet finished speaking, when the child’s eyes suddenly focused and his finger disengaged the safety. A gunshot rang out.
Bang—, the bullet pierced Number Nine’s chest, splattering blood everywhere as it exited from his back. The child was knocked back by the gun’s recoil. Number Seven had already pulled out his gun in reflex, but when he aimed at the child, his heart was filled with disbelief.
It is not possible for a child to ambush us, just who is he…
This thought delayed his reaction by a split second and at that precise moment, two gunshots rang out at the same time. Number Seven fell to the ground with a bloody hole in between his eyebrows, while the child’s right shoulder was injured and fresh blood soaked half his body. Trembling, he struggled to stand up from the pool of blood.
It had not been that long since he had been shot in the same area, only this time... Why did it hurt so much…
Regardless, the pain was not the most important issue right now; the most pressing question was where he was and…
“Such small hands…” he muttered to himself while looking at his left hand that was still holding the gun. It was clearly a young child’s hand and somehow his height had become that of a dwarf.
The night wind started blowing and it was especially cold. He looked around and saw that he was on the streets of a small, retro-looking town – it had countless old-fashioned buildings and dim streetlights. He knew this weak and fragile body would gradually lose too much blood; he estimated that he did not have a lot of time left before he would die…
As his thoughts flashed back to the previous scene, he remembered the phoenix’s words, “Then you shall get your chance for freedom.”
A chance for freedom…
Too many things had happened, and it was not the time to sort it out as police sirens could be heard from afar. He habitually wiped his fingerprints off the handgun then placed it back in Number Nine’s hand. He clutched his shoulder and tried to move a few steps, but the sky and the ground started spinning around him.
Everything went dark.
In a haze, he recalled the time when he was young.
Truth be told, he only had memories from after he was ten years old. Generally, Peroka started their assassin training when the children were around ten years old. He had neither impressions or memories about anything before that.
Afterwards, he found out that every child selected by Peroka had their memories wiped. Apparently, the brainwashing technique could have been canceled and he could have recovered some of his memories. However, when he found out, there was already no point as it just strengthened his resolve to defect from the organization.
Since he was ten years old, together with the other children, they were told to watch different types of animals kill each other everyday while being taught the fundamentals of being an assassin. Afterwards, they were given a knife and entered into life and death battles with the animals. After this elimination round, a competition was held between the remaining children. He had never been one of the more outstanding students and the fact that he survived was truly a miracle. Of course, at that time, he was probably already bound to the fate of a defector as his heart had never been at peace.
It had been a long time since he thought back to these memories. Suddenly, a distinct memory floated up – the swollen face of a little girl constantly struggling against someone as she begged pitifully, “I'm begging you, please don't kill me. I'm begging you, please…”
He suddenly opened his eyes.
As he subconsciously reached down to touch his waist, his right arm flared up in pain. He used his left hand instead and took another look.
“I really became a child…”
He had wanted to examine his waist because he had a scar there from being slashed in his previous life. It happened the one time when he had momentarily been soft-hearted – it was the first time he had killed someone and also the first time he had been injured. Now, this scar no longer existed.
He looked around and found that he was in a rather old-fashioned hospital room. It looked like evening was approaching; when he looked out of the window, the light from the setting sun highlighted various outdated buildings. A page-a-day calendar hung nearby on the white-colored wall and showed the current date: November 3rd, 1991.
He only frowned as it was not much of a surprise, but then he started smiling slightly. The smile gradually increased in size and then finally, his whole body shook as he tried to hold back his laughter.
Freedom, a new life…
At that moment, he truly and completely felt that it was real.
Now that he thought about it, the time when his memories started was around November of 1991. It was when he had first started training at Peroka. That night, there were two people called Number Seven and Number Nine and it seemed that it was them that delivered him to the assassins of Peroka. It was only that in his previous life, he did not know anything, while in this life, he woke earlier and happened to change his future.
He felt faint stings of pain from the shoulder that was wrapped in gauze, but it did not affect him much. He tried opening the cupboard that was next to the bed to see if there was something that could confirm his current identity, but there were only two sets of clothing, one insulated lunch box and a few fruits. He briefly considered his next steps, then climbed to the end of the bed and sure enough, there hung an information plate.
It was a good and proper name. The corner of his lips curved again into the beginning of a smile.
No matter what happened, he finally had his own name and faint warmth bubbled up and filled his heart. It was at that moment when he was feeling sentimental, the hospital door opened with a creak and a little girl carrying a school bag came in. She had an adorable oval face and her hair had been tied into two pigtails.
“Ah? Jiaming, you're awake?”
When she saw him, the little girl smiled happily and rushed to the bed, dropping her school bag on the floor. He subconsciously pulled the quilt closer around his naked body. She reached out and gently touched the gauze while asking, “Does it still hurt? Is it ok? Ah, please wait, I'll go get Mrs. Nurse to check.”
She zoomed out of the room as fast as the wind while he looked on indifferently, his focus on her school bag.
Four large words were stitched in red thread on the school bag: Red Star Elementary School.
It was followed by three small words which he assumed were the girl’s name: Ye Lingjing.
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