Chapter 49: Ziyuan’s Date
At lunchtime, Cui Jing and A-Jiao walked past one another in the preschool’s hallway. A-Jiao could tell from Cui Jing’s expression that she was quite upset. However, she did not know that the reason for Cui Jing’s unhappiness was A-Jiao herself, the root cause of Li Hongbin’s savage beating. Based on what A-Jiao knew about playboys like Li Hongbin, he definitely wouldn’t have told Cui Jing the truth. However, she couldn’t really ask Cui Jing directly what was going on with her boyfriend, so the only thing she could do was play dumb in front of Cui Jing.
“A-Jiao, someone beat up my boyfriend!” Cui Jing proactively sought A-Jiao out after she saw A-Jiao in the hallway. At the preschool, A-Jiao was known for a kind demeanor, so many of the preschool’s young teachers like to confide in her. Women all craved communication. Unlike men, women were practically unable to keep their secrets bottled up inside. For that reason, spy movies almost always depicted a woman as the person carelessly giving up top secret intelligence.
“Really? Is he hurt bad?” A-Jiao asked with feigned concern.
“Uh-huh,” Cui Jing replied, “He has several broken ribs!”
“No way, really?” A-Jiao asked in surprise after taking a bite of her food. Her mind quickly recounted what happened that night, but she didn’t seem to remember A-Meng kicking Li Hongbin in the ribs.
“Yes, really! Li Hongbin said he saw someone being mugged two nights ago, and so he…” Cui Jing then told A-Jiao the long story that Li Hongbin himself had invented about his “heroic deeds” that night.
“Wow, your boyfriend is a real badass!” A-Jiao commented on Cui Jing’s story while she ate. She had no inclination of bursting Cui Jing’s bubble. As long as that playboy stayed the hell away from her, A-Jiao could care less how many girls he tried to seduce. Some girls like to be tricked, but hey, that’s on them. That was A-Jiao’s logic anyway. While it seemed quite fair in her mind, it was actually the polar opposite of what most women thought of such a man. Perhaps her views were influenced by her own personal experiences. To put it bluntly, she didn’t feel any sympathy towards Cui Jing because Cui Jing reminded A-Jiao a great deal of herself when she was younger. In essence, you could describe the A-Jiao of the past and the Cui Jing of today with just one word, and that word was “stupid!”
“But he’s seriously injured! What are we going to do?” Cui Jing said worriedly as she looked desolately at A-Jiao.
“Well, I guess he should seek medical attention right away,” A-Jiao smiled at Cui Jing and said, “Don’t worry! How about this: I’ll take your afternoon classes so you can go and take care of him!” Even though A-Jiao found Li Hongbin to be entirely disgusting, she nevertheless felt guilty for being the reason why he was in the hospital right now. Therefore, helping Cui Jing was one thing she could do to allay her guilt.
“But I feel bad,” Cui Jing bashfully replied, “I’m always creating more work for you!”
“Don’t worry about me! Just go!” A-Jiao happily told Cui Jing, “But you need to keep an eye on him just in case he decides to play a good samaritan again.” What she really wanted to say was, yeah, keep an eye on him because he’s a real playboy! But then she looked at Cui Jing and realized the girl could only play the role of a doormat when it came to relationships.
After lunch, A-Jiao called Jiang Zhengkai’s phone, “Brother Jiang, are you free tonight?”
“I should be. Why, what’s up?” Jiang Zhengkai replied.
“Excellent!” exclaimed A-Jiao. After hearing Jiang Zhengkai was free, she suddenly felt her face becoming inexplicably red, “Then you should come pick me up and take me somewhere fun!”
“Hehe, alrighty!” Jiang Zhengkai quickly accepted A-Jiao’s invitation to a date. Right now, Jiang Zhengkai was all too eager to go out on a date with A-Jiao. Only by spending more time with her could he find the evidence needed to prove that Ren Ziyuan was the same person as A-Jiao. In fact, Jiang Zhengkai had already requested his colleagues in the Household Registration Department to do a background check on Ren Ziyuan.
Right before it was time to clock out, Lu Xiaoqiang returned to the sub-bureau. He went directly to Jiang Zhengkai’s office and said, “Inspector Jiang, I’ve already looked into my sister’s account. One of the wires was initiated in Shigatse, Tibet. The rest were from this city.”
“Shigatse?” Jiang Zhengkai frowned in response. He knew A-Jiao had gone to Tibet a while back, but how did he not pick up on the fact that Ren Ziyuan liked to eat khapse? It was A-Jiao who brought the recipe back from Tibet and then had Uncle Cai start making them at his restaurant, but somehow Ren Ziyuan liked eating khapse as well? That was far too convenient to be a coincidence, no?
“Affirmative! I believe the wires weren’t sent by my sister! My sister never left this city after arriving here. There’s no way she would be all the way out in Tibet!” Lu Xiaoqiang confidently said.
“That… makes sense,” Jiang Zhengkai nodded his head, but he didn’t really feel like explaining to Lu Xiaoqiang that A-Jiao had visited Tibet. “Do you have any surveillance footage?”
“The bank is going through their surveillance records, but we won’t be able to get anything today,” Lu Xiaoqiang answered.
“Got it!” Jiang Zhengkai thought for a moment and then wrote down an address for Lu Xiaoqiang, “Here, before you come here tomorrow, I want you to go visit the Household Registration Department. Give them this address and have them track down the house’s owner.”
“Understood, Inspector Jiang,” Lu Xiaoqiang happily agreed. He saw Jiang Zhengkai had already gotten up and was preparing to leave, “Are you about to leave work?”
“That’s right! I’ve got to spend the night with my… girlfriend,” Jiang Zhengkai smiled at Lu Xiaoqiang, “You need anything else?”
“Inspector Jiang, I’d like to stand the night watch in the alley,” requested Lu Xiaoqiang, his face becoming beet red as he spoke. Needless to say, he already knew about his sister’s profession, but what of it? What could a barely educated young woman do to support her family other than selling her body? Did she realistically have any other choices?
“Alright, you can go,” Jiang Zhengkai agreed as he slapped Lu Xiaoqiang on the shoulder, “The nights are cold, so wear some extra layers. Stay safe out there, and don’t stay too late!” After he finished his instructions, he left the office without a second thought. Lu Xiaoqiang’s request made him think of the dearly departed Wei Xin. He hoped she liked it up there in Heaven.
At five o’clock, Jiang Zhengkai parked his car in the preschool’s parking lot. He intentionally arrived half an hour earlier than A-Jiao expected. He wanted to observe A-Jiao’s work environment, especially her art studio. Perhaps it was there that he could find some evidence linking A-Jiao to Ren Ziyuan.
“Hello? Ziyuan? I’m here,” Jiang Zhengkai called A-Jiao on his cell phone while standing in front of the preschool’s main entrance.
“This early?” A-Jiao’s cheerful voice came over from the other side, “But I’m not done yet!” She then hesitated for a second before continuing, “It’s alright. I’ll come out to get you. You can come in and take a look at my art studio!”
“Sounds good!” Jiang Zhengkai replied. It seemed like the gods were setting him up for success.
“Wait for me to come out then,” A-Jiao instructed before she hung up.
Within three minutes’ time, A-Jiao darted out of the preschool building. She had already told the security guard about Jiang Zhengkai, so she took him directly to the front desk to sign in. She then held Jiang Zhengkai’s arm and walked towards her art studio. Regardless of whether she was A-Jiao or Ren Ziyuan, this man would eventually become her husband, so there was absolutely no reason why she should be shy around him.
“Ok, here’s my studio!” announced A-Jiao as she brought Jiang Zhengkai to a classroom on the first floor, “This is also where I teach my art classes at night.”
“Oh? It looks very beautiful,” complimented Jiang Zhengkai.
“You think so? Do you like it?” A-Jiao was very pleased by what Jiang Zhengkai had just said. “Why are you so good today, showing up early and all?” questioned A-Jiao as she sat back down in front of the easel, “I’m almost done with this painting. Can you wait there for a few minutes?”
“Sure!” Jiang Zhengkai glanced at the canvas; it was a portrait. He had to admit A-Jiao was quite a talented painter. With each brushstroke, the person on the canvas seemed to come more and more into life. “You like painting portraits? How about you paint one of me one of these days?” joked Jiang Zhengkai.
“Yup! In addition to portraits, I also like painting urban landscapes,” A-Jiao turned around and looked at Jiang Zhengkai with palette in hand, “Paint you? Sure! But you’ll have to marry me first!” She then puckered her lips and turned around to finish her painting.
“Hehe, that’s a bit too hefty of a price for a portrait, don’t you think?” Jiang Zhengkai chuckled as he responded, “What would happen to A-Jiao if I married you?” He purposely said this to her because he noticed something peculiar about this Ren Ziyuan: she wasn’t the slightest bit jealous when he brought up her romantic rival A-Jiao, and that was very abnormal behavior for a woman!
“Forget about her! I’m sure she will find someone better than you,” replied A-Jiao as she painted, “Plus, didn’t she go into hiding? To get away from you?”
“Oh? How do you know she wants to get away from me? Am I really that bad?” asked Jiang Zhengkai as he leaned on the podium while watching A-Jiao paint.
“Because you told me, remember?” A-Jiao replied, “That storage rack over there has my previous works. You can go take a look if you’d like. It’s going to take a while longer for me to finish up here.”
“I’m not in a hurry,” said Jiang Zhengkai as he headed over towards the storage rack. Truth be told, even if she hadn’t told him to take a look at her previous paintings, he still would’ve done so. That was the real reason why he was in here in the first place!