Chapter 61: Living for the Sake of Love
Accompanied by A-Meng, A-Tao returned to his internet cafe. With a gloomy face, he walked back into his office. No one dared ask him what happened tonight. Of course, asking A-Meng for information might be a safer course of action, but everyone in the internet cafe knew that if A-Tao didn’t want something known, A-Meng would be just as tight-lipped.
“Take care of Brother Tao!” Seeing that A-Tao had walked into his room, A-Meng came downstairs and told A-Long, who was manning the the front counter, “I’m going now. If Brother Tao wants me, call my cell.” Afterwards, he left the internet cafe without a second thought.
A-Long and a couple other brothers stayed behind the front counter. Although they were nominally the internet cafe’s cashiers and web administrators, they were in fact all members of A-Tao’s gang. A-Tao had inherited what had remained of Xue Wanchuan’s crime family. They continued to traffick drugs and smuggle weapons, but because of A-Jiao, they didn’t deal in prostitution. Mondays were the only days he only allowed his subordinate brothers to frequent the alley where A-Jiao worked. A-Jiao was very lazy, so she had a habit of not working on Mondays. As for the reason, well, laziness was all there was to it.
A-Tao lay on his bed with his feet casually propped up against the footboard, in a rotten mood. He was about to lose his beloved baby sister. This was an emotional loss, not a physical loss. Even though A-Tao loved A-Jiao, the type of love he had for her was not one between a man and a woman, but rather a purely platonic love between a brother and a sister. He had never interfered in A-Jiao’s life. From the day he’d met her, he knew she was a prostitute. However, he never once asked A-Jiao to give up that unseemly profession of hers. He believed as long as A-Jiao was happy, then it was enough. He was a man who could be arrested, tried, and executed at any moment. The threat of death pervaded every moment of his life, so he didn’t believe he could give A-Jiao any sort of promise. He could only make as much money as possible and then quietly stash away the portion that belonged to him. He hoped that when he finally met his end, he could leave something for A-Jiao. Only by doing that could he possibly hope to repay the life debt he owed A-Jiao. But now, A-Jiao was about to leave him behind so she could live happily ever after with a cop.
“Ai!” A-Tao sighed. He got up and looked out the window. The night view outside appeared very serene, but who knew what was really happening in the midst of the dark night? Did he not want A-Jiao to be happy? Was his life more important than A-Jiao’s happiness? At this point in this thoughts, A-Tao let out a sad chuckle. In his heart, A-Jiao would always be his number one priority, even though she was of no blood relation to him whatsoever. All of his blood relatives had died long before he’d enlisted in the army. He was more or less an orphan. His father had died in a car accident when he was very young, and his mother had died of depression shortly thereafter. He’d spent his youth wandering around in his village, scraping by with just enough to stay alive. When he came of age, his fellow villagers thought of him as a burden, so they sent him away to the army. While in the military, he would meet the man who would have the most impact on his life: Xue Wanchuan. A-Tao’s hometown wasn’t poor or backward; in fact, it was one of the first villages to liberalize after China adopted market reforms. Therefore, he only had hatred, not love, for his hometown and its residents. In the past, he’d only loved Xue Wanchuan; now, he only loved A-Jiao, his darling baby sister.
“Fine then! Who am I to complain, as long as A-Jiao’s happy?” A-Tao whispered to himself as he stood next to the window. His mood had improved somewhat. If it weren’t for A-Jiao, he would’ve died at the hands of the police on that winter day more than two years ago. If fate should chose to have him die right now, then he’d accept his fate without hesitation. Of course, the prerequisite was that A-Jiao could live a happy life.
No one could’ve imagined that the cold-blooded killer known as “The Bald Wolf” had such a soft side. Even the person whom he valued the most, A-Jiao, could not have believed that he had such deep feelings for her, deep enough that he would be able to give up his life for her.
A-Tao came out of his room and walked downstairs, looking much calmer than before. He glanced at the front counter, but didn’t see A-Meng. “Where’s A-Meng?”
“Brother Tao! A-Meng went out,” A-Long respectfully replied when he looked up and saw A-Tao’s countenance had much improved from before. “Before he left, A-Meng said you should call him on his cell if you needed anything from him.”
“Okay, got it,” said A-Tao as he rubbed his bald head with his hand. He was more or less certain that A-Meng had gone to stand watch outside A-Jiao’s house. He placed great trust in A-Meng, because A-Meng was not an impulsive person, nor would he ever do anything to harm A-Jiao. He’d personally ordered A-Meng to protect A-Jiao, because he was worried she might get hurt. However, it had become increasingly apparent that his worries had been misplaced.
A-Meng sat motionless on a rooftop across from A-Jiao’s old house. He was dutifully fulfilling his orders. A-Tao’s word was tantamount to the word of God himself. However, A-Meng’s calm exterior belied a soul in turmoil. If A-Tao gave him the order to kill A-Jiao or Jiang Zhengkai, what should he do?
He didn’t believe A-Tao would kill A-Jiao. He understood A-Tao, and he knew A-Tao valued A-Jiao more than his own life. As for Jiang Zhengkai, however, A-Meng wasn’t so sure that A-Tao would be so magnanimous. After all, the two of them were mortal enemies, so a pre-emptive strike by A-Tao wasn’t out of the question. But if Jiang Zhengkai were to die, then what would happen to A-Jiao? Would she quickly forget that cop? Or would she follow him into the afterlife? Or would she kill A-Tao to avenge the death of her lover?
In A-Meng’s mind, he believed the last choice was the most likely answer: kill A-Tao to avenge Jiang Zhengkai. From what he knew about A-Jiao’s temper, she was capable of just about anything. She had her delicate side, but she also had an unusually tough side. She was a woman who had experienced too much pain in her life. She should have the chance to live a more carefree life. But would A-Tao give her the opportunity to do so?
In the midst of thinking about all this, A-Meng threw a twig he had folded in his hands down the side of the building. There were entire piles of these twigs on this rooftop. Perhaps the residents of this building had prepared them to use as firewood in the winter. Without giving the twigs any more thought, A-Meng stood up and stretched out his legs. He saw the light in A-Jiao’s room had been extinguished. He knew the person he was sent to protect had gone to sleep, so he could finally find a suitable place to rest as well.
The next day’s sunrise dispersed the past night’s darkness. The city’s residents went about their business just like they had always done. Little did they know that they were this close to experiencing another bloody murder, which was only avoided at the last minute because of love.
Jiang Zhengkai accompanied A-Jiao to her preschool, and they then found a secluded place where they kissed each other goodbye. “Don’t forget to pick me up after work!” reminded A-Jiao as she left his embrace with a bright smile on her face. “My hubby is so handsome!” she remarked as she contentedly patted him on the shoulder, before turning around and running inside the preschool.
Jiang Zhengkai continued to stand in that secluded area as he gazed at A-Jiao’s receding figure until she had completely left his line of sight. Only then did he turn around and walk away from the preschool. Across from the preschool in a rented apartment, A-Meng was lying lazily on his bed. He had recently rented this room specifically for the purpose of spying on A-Jiao. From the unit’s window, his remote cameras had a 360-degree view of the entire preschool. Often times, spying was a form of protection. Moreover, being a celebrity meant you didn’t have any privacy, and A-Jiao was certainly a celebrity in A-Meng’s eyes.
Jiang Zhengkai walked by himself on the side of the road in the direction of the police sub-bureau. As soon as A-Jiao disappeared from his sight, his brain immediately shifted to his work. He had to consider how the new murder case was connected to the previous six cases, and then use the commonalities between them to find out the truth behind these murders.
He thought and walked at the same time. Suddenly, an awkward smile flashed across his face. He thought about everything and decided that he still had to ask A-Jiao. However, every time he saw her, his brain would be filled with sweet-nothings or thoughts of doing things that a man and a woman would do.
“I really am becoming quite the sex fiend!” Jiang Zhengkai muttered to himself. Thankfully, the road was noisy, and the sound of passing vehicles masked his quiet utterance. Had he said that in the office, it definitely would’ve attracted undue attention from his colleagues. Police officers could gossip with the best of them!
As he lost himself in his fancies, Jiang Zhengkai unconsciously walked into the sub-bureau. Lu Xiaoqiang saw Jiang Zhengkai’s silhouette, glanced at his office, and then came rushing forward. “Inspector Jiang, Commissioner Yao is waiting in your office!” he quietly whispered to Jiang Zhengkai.
“Oh?” asked Jiang Zhengkai as he shot a surprised side-glance at Lu Xiaoqiang. “What’s going on?” Lu Xiaoqiang could only vigorously shake his head to show that he did not know.
The wheels inside Jiang Zhengkai’s brain were spinning furiously. He didn’t know why exactly Yao Tianyu had come to his office so early in the morning, but he did know that it must be related to something extremely important. He collected his thoughts and then rapidly walked towards his office.