Chapter 64: That Insufferable Cui Jing
A-Jiao painted in her art studio the entire afternoon. She didn’t allow herself to relax during her free time. Quite the opposite; she felt even more upset and depressed than before. She didn’t want to remember her past life, but she also knew Jiang Zhengkai wanted to learn more about it, even if he didn’t explicitly say so. For the sake of her lover, should she allow her thoughts to return to the past?
While her mind raced, so did her hands. Her brush fluttered recklessly on the canvas. By following her train of thought, the people on her mind appeared one after the other on the canvas. When she finished, she took down the canvas and placed it by her side before putting another piece of canvas on the easel.
Time passed quickly with her simple but painful memories. A-Jiao didn’t even realize that it had grown dark outside as she concentrated on producing more paintings.
Jiang Zhengkai didn’t follow through on his agreement with A-Jiao to meet in Uncle Cai’s noodle shop. Because he left the alley relatively early, he thought he could catch A-Jiao before she left the preschool.
At the preschool’s front gate, he haphazardly registered in the guest log. The school security guard didn’t give him too much grief, since they were technically under the command of the police bureau. The formal term for the security guards was “auxiliary police,” so they were technically temporary police officers hired by the government to protect the school grounds.
“Alright, Inspector Jiang, you can enter now,” the security guard said politely as he waved Jiang Zhengkai in. The guard remember seeing Jiang Zhengkai arriving with A-Jiao once, so he didn’t bother to call ahead to confirm with her.
“Thank you!” Jiang Zhengkai politely nodded in response, as a sort of thanks to the guard for letting him into the school. According to school policy, outside of drop-off and pick-up times, visitors had to be escorted by a teacher or a security guard when entering the preschool. A society governed by the rule of law was a good thing, but it was only as good as the people implementing said laws.
Jiang Zhengkai didn’t know that A-Jiao had no classes in the afternoon today, but his instinct told him that he would find her in the art studio, so he decided to head in that direction.
Through the glass panel in the classroom’s door, Jiang Zhengkai indeed saw his beloved A-Jiao sitting in front of her easel, furiously painting away. He didn’t knock; instead, he quietly pushed open the slightly ajar door and then crept up behind A-Jiao’s back. With all of her efforts focused on painting, she did not notice at all that another person had suddenly positioned himself behind her.
Jiang Zhengkai stood there and watched for a while. A-Jiao was drawing a portrait of a woman. He didn’t recognize this woman. He saw A-Jiao stopping her brush for a second, closely scrutinizing the portrait before using her brush to make some final changes. He wanted to grab and hug her right away, but he was also afraid that doing so would scare her. He stood there hesitating, but then heard footsteps in the distance. He wasn’t sure if those footsteps were coming towards the art studio, but he was nevertheless nervous that A-Jiao would suddenly turn around or that someone would walk in and scream in surprise, both of which would startle her. He finally settled on the simplest, most reliable method to get her attention without scaring her.
“Ahem! Ahem! Ahem!” Jiang Zhengkai covered his mouth and quietly coughed. He hoped doing so would grab A-Jiao’s attention without scaring her.
“Who is it?” asked A-Jiao, whose concentration was broken by his cough. She stopped painting, but she didn’t turn around as she continued to focus on the painting, “What can I do for you?”
“Miss Ren, it’s time to go home,” said Jiang Zhengkai as he tried hard to hold back laughter.
“Ah!” A-Jiao recognized Jiang Zhengkai’s voice, which caused her to leap up in surprise. She turned around and immediately ran into Jiang Zhengkai’s arms. “Honey! You’re so annoying! How did you get in here?”
“I’m a cop! Is there any place I can’t find my way inside of?” Jiang Zhengkai replied in a carefree manner as he held A-Jiao in his arms. “Did you miss me?”
“Hells no!” exclaimed A-Jiao as she buried her head in Jiang Zhengkai’s chest. She then delicately asked, “So… could you find your way inside the women’s bathroom too?” As soon as she finished asking, she raised her head and looked at Jiang Zhengkai with a mischievous look on her face.
“You still can’t take things seriously!” Jiang Zhengkai responded by grabbing A-Jiao’s nose and giving it a hard squeeze.
“Hello! Ahem… ahem!” Just as the two of them were about to kiss, a young woman came into the art studio. “Hey, you can stop it with the PDA! Why don’t you start by introducing us?”
“Ugh, you’re insufferable!” complained A-Jiao. When she raised her head and saw that it was Cui Jing, her face turned beet red. “This is my… boyfriend!” She glanced at Jiang Zhengkai before pointing her finger at Cui Jing. “This is my co-worker, Cui Jing.” She supposed that would suffice for an introduction.
“Hello, Miss Cui,” Jiang Zhengkai politely greeted Cui Jing.
“Hi.” Cui Jing also greeted Jiang Zhengkai, but then she immediately started checking him out. She felt like Jiang Zhengkai was quite a bit older than A-Jiao. She couldn’t fathom why a beautiful young woman like A-Jiao would fall in love with such a mature old man. However, she never gave up an opportunity to make life difficult for A-Jiao. “Hey, wait a second, you introduced me by name, but you didn’t do the same courtesy for your boyfriend? What, are you afraid I’m going to steal him?”
“Nope!” A-Jiao replied while waving her fist in Cui Jing’s face. “I won’t tell you!”
“Won’t tell me, huh? Well then!” said Cui Jing as she turned around. “The principal, Old Lady Li, knows that Mademoiselle Ren has a date tonight, so she told me to tell you that you can cancel your classes tonight.”
“What the… Principal Li, did she see us?” A-Jiao felt supremely shocked at what she’d just heard. By now, the blush on her face had reached up to her ears.
“Curious?” asked Cui Jing as she walked to the door before turning around to glance at A-Jiao. “But I won’t tell you!” She then left the art studio.
“Ah…” exclaimed A-Jiao as she nervously tapped her foot. Women always had their foolish moments. She wasn’t a teenager, but she was behaving like one right now. “Honey! What should I do? The principal knows we’re having a date in the art studio.” As she spoke, A-Jiao placed her head back onto Jiang Zhengkai’s chest. Perhaps these nervous expressions and actions of hers were all to solicit sympathy from Jiang Zhengkai? Actually, A-Jiao wasn’t that nervous at all.
“Well… what do you think we should do?” Jiang Zhengkai woodenly asked her as he held her.
“Ahem! Please separate yourselves!” Before A-Jiao could respond, Cui Jing’s head popped back into the art studio. “I haven’t even left yet, and the two of you are hugging and kissing again! Looks like I really do have to report you to the principal!”
“You… you are truly insufferable! I’m going to keep hugging and kissing. What are you going to do about it?” A-Jiao angrily asked Cui Jing as she raised her head. “I dare you to tattletale on me! Find someone else to take your classes the next time you don’t feel like coming to work!”
“Aiya! Are you threatening me?” After Cui Jing heard what A-Jiao said, she turned around and make it look like she was about to leave again. “Have you thought about the consequences of your actions? Having a date in the art studio during working hours… that’s a serious violation of the school’s policies!”
“Wait! Please don’t, Miss Cui! My name’s Jiang, Jiang Zhengkai,” said Jiang Zhengkai. He quickly reached his arm out, as if it were long enough to keep Cui Jing from leaving.
“See! Mr. Handsome here has a lot better manners than you.” Once Cui Jing had discovered Jiang Zhengkai’s full name, she turned back around. “So tell me! What tricks did you use to get our lovely Ziyuan to fall for you?”
“She… I…” Jiang Zhengkai looked at A-Jiao standing beside him and let out an awkward smile. He really wasn’t good at handling these types of questions.
“What are you talking about?” Hearing what Cui Jing said, A-Jiao intentionally leaned even further into Jiang Zhengkai’s body. She said to Cui Jing. “I was the one who chased after him, okay?”
“Really? I didn’t figure you as someone who had thicker skin than me,” Cui Jing retorted. She straightened her neck and looked at A-Jiao and Jiang Zhengkai, but they could tell from her facial expression that she was trying very hard not to laugh.
“What? What?” asked A-Jiao as she maintained the expression of a combative mother hen. “My boyfriend is the best!” She placed her head on Jiang Zhengkai’s chest in an intentional display of affection.
“Fine fine fine!” exclaimed Cui Jing, as she couldn’t put up with A-Jiao any longer. “You two keep PDA-ing here then! The principal wanted me to inform you that the utilities provider is conducting maintenance on the power lines connecting the school to the electrical grid, so all classes have been canceled. Go and have fun with your Mr. Handsome tonight!” With that, Cui Jing left the art studio with a major frown on her face.
“In that case, Honey, are you busy tonight? I want you to spend the night with me!” A-Jiao turned around and tightly pressed her body to Jiang Zhengkai’s, while she looked at him with a scondrelish expression.
“I…” Jiang Zhengkai originally wanted to say that he couldn’t, that he had to return to work. However, he reconsidered and wondered if it wouldn’t be better if A-Jiao came with him, especially since she was the key to cracking the case. “I have to go back to the crime scene tonight. You can come with me if you’d like.”
“Oh…” Hearing those words from Jiang Zhengkai’s mouth, A-Jiao suddenly fell silent. After a long pause, she finally mumbled, “Are we going to the alley?”