“Mother, you may come to visit me. But don’t worry, I really won’t feel lonely.”
“Alright, Beicheng and I as well as the rest will definitely visit you often. But first things first, I must be there to take care of you when you’re nearing your due date. Parents ought to accompany their daughter when she’s going into labor,” said Mrs. Gu, who still found it unbelievable that An Xiaoning was still alive, as if it were all just a dream.
During bedtime, An Xiaoning said to Mei Yangyang, “Yangyang, I’ll be going back alone tomorrow. I can’t keep wasting your time. Because of me, you’ve been separated from Tianze for a period of time. It can’t keep going on like this. Besides…”
An Xiaoning sighed before continuing, “I’d like to get used to living by myself.”
“Yangyang, I’m really uncomfortable. I’d like to tide through this alone.”
Mei Yangyang held onto her hand and said, “But I’ll be worried about you being alone abroad.”
“I’ll be fine, isn’t there another An Xiaoning to replace me now? I can live alone with the child in peace. Manage the store for now. I plan to sell it when I return from overseas, and we’ll venture in something else after. Since we’re not cash-strapped now, we don’t have to spend too much time operating the store and can look for other things to do instead. For example, the film we invested in has helped us earn a huge sum. I do have plans to continue investing in films in the future.”
“Since you already have plans, I’ll just follow you and do what you do in the future. Sis, you call the shots.”
“Yes. It’s getting late. Let’s go to bed.”
An Xiaoning laid in bed and stared blankly at the ceiling, feeling a sudden sense of emptiness.
Tears began to well up in her eyes. Well, life’s as such.
Before leaving, An Xiaoning made a trip to the police station while wearing her mask.
The police were aware of the mishap she had met with. However, they knew nothing about her death.
She arrived at the entrance of the Special Investigation Unit only to find that there was no one in the office. Thus, she decided to head to the Serious Crimes Investigation Unit. Just as she reached the door, she heard Police Officer Zhang berating Ma Jianguo, “You’ve been working for the Serious Crimes Investigation Unit for years. Yet, why are you still so incompetent? Your team leader has gone missing for days, and you’ve also taken a break for as long as she has been away. It’s been a while since you last worked. Haven’t you rested enough yet?”
“Team Leader, it’s not what you think…”
“What is it then? Ma Jianguo, let me tell you, you and Gong Le have been spoiled rotten by your team leader while you were at the Special Investigation Unit. You are to kick the bad habits you’ve picked up there. Well, she’s still a woman after all. As expected, she didn’t do a good job at leading you guys,” Police Officer Zhang chided sternly.
The pregnant An Xiaoning removed her mask and entered the room.
“Team Leader Zhang, you’re really well-trained in berating my subordinates, aren’t you?” said An Xiaoning.
Police Officer Zhang was startled at her sudden appearance. “It was Jianguo’s fault for being incompetent at his job. I was just telling him off.”
“Oh, are you really just telling him off? You think I didn’t hear what you said about me? It’s true that I’m a woman, but isn’t it a proven fact that I’m far more capable at solving cases than a man like you, Officer Zhang? What’s the matter? I’ve been nursing my pregnancy at home for the past few months and did not report to work here. Yet, the first thing I hear when I come back is you lashing out at my subordinates. Seems like my subordinates have been suffering a lot working under you while I was away.”
“Team Leader An, don’t put it that way. I’ve been treating Jianguo and Gong Le the same as my other subordinates.”
“Enough, you don’t have to explain any further.” An Xiaoning motioned for her teammates and said, “Come with me.”
“Yes, Team Leader!” Ma Jianguo exclaimed delightedly and zoomed towards her, Gong Le following closely behind.
Before they even sat down upon reaching the office, Pan Zhenghui hurriedly entered.
“Goodness gracious, you’re finally back. You were away for so long, yet you didn’t even tell me. How willful of you.”
“Oh, I’ve been spending all my time staying in the hospital. I didn’t mean to be gone without a word. Chief, I have something to discuss with you,” said An Xiaoning, pointing at her belly.
“What is it?”
“I’m going overseas tomorrow to nurse my pregnancy. So, I won’t be able to work on cases until I deliver. But, I’ve been holding up everyone’s time while I was away for so long. Thus, I’m willing to solve cases by communicating with them and giving them instructions via online communication tools. How does that sound?”
“Sounds good. Xiaoning, it’s tough on you to still be concerned about solving cases when you’re already pregnant. I agree to your suggestion.”
“Also, if you guys see me on the streets or anywhere else, don’t initiate a conversation with me unless I greet you or talk to you first,” An Xiaoning instructed.
“Why?” asked a puzzled Pan Zhenghui.
“Um… here’s the thing. I heard that there’s a woman who has an uncanny resemblance to me. So, I just don’t want you to get the wrong person.”
“Alright. Xiaoning, I always get in an exceptionally good mood whenever I see you. You’re a special one,” Pan Zhenghui said smilingly.
“I’m not special or extraordinary. Heaven is just being nice to me and blessing me with a good life,” An Xiaoning mocked herself.
“It’s good that you’re living well. We all heard about the mishap you met with. Because there were no news of you at all for a long while, we all thought you… but it’s all good now.”
An Xiaoning let out a wry smile, keeping her sorrow to herself.
“By the way, since you said you’d like to handle some cases, why don’t you take over a case from the Serious Crimes Investigation Unit about a missing person? After some investigation, we found that the missing victim used to work at your clothing store. Is that true?”
“Used to? Is it Xu Jingwen?” An Xiaoning asked.
“Yes, her. We’ve gotten some clues, but we’ve yet to find any substantial evidence to prove it. So, we’re handing the case over to you guys now,” said Pan Zhenghui.
“I’ll inform the Serious Crimes Investigation Unit to bring the files over. Before I forget, you guys are missing a member since Zu Dong has gone undercover in the drug ring. Do you need me to transfer another officer here from the Serious Crimes Investigation Unit?”
“It’s alright, just transfer another armed police officer. When Zu Dong comes back, I’ll let him join me again.”
“Alright,” Pan Zhenghui agreed smilingly before exiting.
“Team Leader…” Ma Jianguo brushed his hand across his glossy hair and said, “While you were away, we’ve been suffering a lot of scolding every day. Please don’t go missing without notice again. You’re our superior, and we’ll be left on our own when you’re gone. Chief won’t allow us to remain here to crack cases either. He’ll just send us to the Serious Crimes Investigation Unit.”
“Yeah. We all missed you. Thanks to you, we got to enjoy a long break while you were away. But because of that, the Serious Crimes Investigation Unit have been becoming more and more disgruntled,” Gong Le said, chuckling.
“No matter when or where you are, you’ll only get to have a say if you’re truly capable and worth something. We get to enjoy such privileges because we’re efficient at cracking cases. So, from now onwards, I’ll be giving you guys instructions online. It’s going to be hard on you guys. You have to work well and cooperate with the new armed policeman when the Chief transfers him here.”