Chapter 65: The Return of Uncle Cai
Upon hearing A-Jiao’s question, Jiang Zhengkai hugged her tightly in his embrace. He didn’t know how to respond to her simple question. Yes, of course they would have to enter the alley if they wanted to visit the crime scene, but going to the alley would bring back all sorts of painful memories for her. Jiang Zhengka stroked A-Jiao’s hair and whispered into her ear, “Let’s go eat dinner. After dinner, I’ll drop you off at your house. I’ll come back as soon as I’m done with my work.”
“Ok,” nodded A-Jiao. Jiang Zhengkai couldn’t see A-Jiao’s face, but tears had been welling in her eyes for a while now, and they finally fell. “Ai!” A-Jiao sighed as she lay in Jiang Zhengkai’s embrace for a long time before finally lifting her head and saying, “Honey, let’s go eat now. They’ve turned off the lights in the school.”
“Ok, sounds good!” said Jiang Zhengkai as he put his arms around A-Jiao’s shoulder and walked out of the art studio. The emergency floor lights in the hallways were the only source of illumination in the building. They emanated a dim glow in an otherwise pitch black building. Under the dark night sky, Jiang Zhengkai and A-Jiao’s elongated shadows gradually walked out of the preschool.
“Are we going home, or are we going to Uncle Cai’s?” Jiang Zhengkai asked A-Jiao as they exited the preschool’s front entrance.
“I want to go home…” A-Jiao replied quietly but then immediately shook her head, “No, wait! Let’s go to Uncle Cai’s noodle shop instead! It’s been so long since we’ve gone. I wonder if Uncle Cai has come back yet.”
“Alright, let’s go!” Jiang Zhengkai said enthusiastically as he walked with A-Jiao in the direction of Uncle Cai’s noodle shop. He could see that the woman beside him wasn’t in the mood to talk tonight. Perhaps there was a fierce battle raging inside of her heart right now.
Right before they were to arrive at Uncle Cai’s, A-Jiao suddenly stopped Jiang Zhengkai and asked, “Honey, do you really not care about my past?” She fixed her gaze on Jiang Zhengkai and seriously asked, “Honey, I’m afraid that one day I will lose you because you will eventually not want me because of my past…”
“Nonsense, you silly girl!” Jiang Zhengkai could only helpless chuckle in response to A-Jiao’s concerns. Over-explaining his devotion to her no longer had any meaning as he had already explained himself in a hundred different ways. However, in A-Jiao’s mind, her past was a mental obstacle that she simply could not overcome. Jiang Zhengkai grabbed A-Jiao’s head and pressed it against his chest, “What if I swear on my life that I won’t abandon you?”
“No, don’t! A-Jiao immediately reached out with her hand to cover Jiang Zhengkai’s mouth before he could say anything further, “I don’t want you to do that. I was only feeling a bit insecure.” Afterwards, she bit down tightly on her lip before raising her head to say, “Let’s go, Honey! Let’s go eat dinner. After dinner, I’ll go with you to the alley.”
“Oh! You…” It was now Jiang Zhengkai’s turn to feel conflicted. He wanted A-Jiao’s assistance with the case, but he was also afraid she would be hurt by memories of her past. “I… I’m only going to inspect the crime scene…”
“It’s alright, really!” reassured A-Jiao as she looked at Jiang Zhengkai’s expression, a smile hanging sweetly on her face, “Honey! Don’t you think we human beings shouldn’t always live in the past? That’s why I’ve decided to help you! So what if I was a prostitute? I’m not going to be afraid of that past anymore!”
“Great!” Hearing what A-Jiao had said, Jiang Zhengkai enthusiastically held A-Jiao’s hand and started towards the noodle shop again.
“No! I want you to carry me!” said A-Jiao as she extended her arms just like she had when she was in the hospital, “I want you to carry me to Uncle Cai’s noodle shop!”
“You got it!” obeyed Jiang Zhengkai as he picked her up in his arms, sweet smiles of happiness shining radiantly on both their faces. When Jiang Zhengkai picked up A-Jiao, her mouth was positioned close to his ear, so she whispered softly, “I’m not afraid of anything anymore! But you have to promise not to leave me!”
“Hehe!” chuckled Jiang Zhengkai as he planted a soft kiss on A-Jiao’s forehead. He didn’t make any more promises because he knew A-Jiao didn’t need any of his promises. Often times, a silent promise is much more reassuring than a loud one. His kiss was such that silent promise, and it did everything A-Jiao needed it to.
“Auntie Ma!” called out Jiang Zhengkai as he carried A-Jiao into the noodle shop. Meanwhile, A-Jiao yelled while still being carried, “Two bowls of hand-cut noodles and two servings of khapse, please!”
“Coming!” came the voice of an elderly man from the kitchen, “Hehe, I see the two of you are stuck together like glue once again!” As he spoke, the old man walked out of the kitchen in view of Jiang Zhengkai and A-Jiao.
“Uncle Cai, you’re back!” When A-Jiao saw Uncle Cai, she immediately leapt out from Jiang Zhengkai’s arms and went up to hug him, “It’s been so long! Let me see if you’ve gotten fat from your time off.”
“Haha, yes, yes, I’ve gotten fatter!” Uncle Cai happily replied, “I see our A-Jiao has gotten even more beautiful.”
“Of course!” said A-Jiao with pouted lips as she grabbed a hold of Uncle Cai’s hand, “If I didn’t get prettier, then that one over there would’ve broken up with me a long time ago.” Afterwards, she shot a glance at Jiang Zhengkai.
“How dare he!” Uncle Cai said in support, “If he is ever mean to you, I will… stop cooking noodles for him! Haha!”
“Did you hear that?” asked A-Jiao as she turned around and naughtily looked at Jiang Zhengkai, “Don’t you steal my paste again!”
“Here, Uncle Cai,” said Jiang Zhengkai as he handed a wad of money to Uncle Cai, “Your son just got married, and you didn’t even tell us! Please, take this as a small token of appreciation from myself and Zi… A-Jiao.”
“No, no, I can’t accept this,” said Uncle Cai as he steadfastly refused the gift.
“Just take it!” A-Jiao grabbed the money from Jiang Zhengkai and forcefully placed it into Uncle Cai’s pocket, “If you don’t take our money, then we will never visit your noodle shop again!” Once she finished, she playfully extended her hand towards Uncle Cai and said, “But I will take some wedding candy though.”
“Umm…” Now it was Uncle Cai’s turn to feel awkward. He didn’t have space to pack any wedding candy for his journey from his distant hometown to this city. Even if he did pack some, how would he know when A-Jiao and Jiang Zhengkai would come to visit him?
“Oh! No candy, I see?” asked A-Jiao as she cleverly batted her eyes at Uncle Cai, “Well then, I’m not paying for the noodles today!”
“Ok! Ok!” Uncle Cai crisply agreed, “The two of you won’t ever have to pay for noodles here ever again!”
“Thank you so much, Uncle Cai!” Afterwards, A-Jiao grabbed Jiang Zhengkai’s hand and led him to sit down at a table as they waited for Uncle Cai’s noodles to come out. When Uncle Cai saw the two young people talking intimately with one another, a gratified smile lit up his face. Even though A-Jiao wasn’t his natural child, he had long ago considered her to be like his daughter.
Soon thereafter, Uncle Cai brought out the noodles. Along with the noodles, he brought out a square box and laid it in front of A-Jiao, “I didn’t bring you any wedding candy, but I did bring you this.”
A-Jiao opened the box. Inside was a small and delicate bottle. She held it in her hand and carefully examined it. There were no markings on the bottle, but the box did give off a strong scent of rose. She raised her head and looked at Uncle Cai with a questioning expression on her face, “Uncle Cai, is this rose oil?”
“Hehe, yes!” laughed Uncle Cai in delight when A-Jiao guessed correctly, “I knew I could count on you, you smart girl!”
“This is a very expensive gift! I can’t accept it!” said A-Jiao as she placed the bottle back in the box and was about to return it to Uncle Cai.
“Ai! This is just a little something we make in my hometown!” Uncle Cai said in a dissatisfied manner, “Take it! I didn’t spend money on it. It was made at my son’s factory. Take it if you think it a worthy gift for you.”
“Thank you, Uncle Cai!” A-Jiao happily accepted the gift after hearing Uncle Cai’s explanation.
“Cai! Come over here and see if I’m doing this right,” another old man beckoned from inside the kitchen.
“I’ll be right there!” replied Uncle Cai before he turned around and said to A-Jiao, “You go on and eat first! I’ve got more work to do. Oh right, that buddy of mine in the kitchen, his last name’s Gao. In the future, if I’m not here, it’ll be him and Auntie Ma looking after the shop.”
“Alright, Uncle Cai, you go and do your thing,” A-Jiao politely nodded at Uncle Cai. She then turned her head around and looked at Jiang Zhengkai, “See! Uncle Cai had a gift for me, but none for you! Are you mad, bro?”
“Hehe!” Jiang Zhengkai pursed his lips in laughter. It didn’t matter how old A-Jiao got, she still acted like a child. He glanced at the box next to A-Jiao’s hand and said, “Uncle Cai said this was a gift for the two of us!”
“Hmph! Why would an old man like you need perfume? It was obviously a gift just for me!” A-Jiao retorted with pouty lips.
“Alright! Alright! My Honey is beautiful, which is why everyone likes her,” Jiang Zhengkai had no choice but to compliment her.
“That’s right! I’m glad you finally saw the light!” Hearing Jiang Zhengkai’s compliment caused A-Jiao to smile from ear to ear. She especially enjoyed being called “Honey” by Jiang Zhengkai. “Hurry and eat before your food gets cold,” said A-Jiao as she shoved a piece of khapse in Jiang Zhengkai’s mouth. She then said affectionately, “We still have to go to the alley later.”