After leaving home early to stroll to the shopping mall, Jiang Lan was surprised to find Ying Qiao, already waiting for him at the entrance. Tall, slim and handsome, he would definitely stand out in any crowd. In the few moments it took Jiang Lan to approach Ying Qiao, a few passing girls had thrown longing glances at him.
Judging by Ying Qiao’s aloof pose, Jiang Lan almost thought he just met a CEO instead of an office slave, which Ying Qiao claimed to be.
Took a few quick steps to stand before Ying Qiao, Jiang Lan said apologetically. “Sorry for keeping you waiting.”
Jiang Lan’s appearance eased his impatience, caused by the curious crowd who kept staring at him. Pointing at his watch, he said. ”No, I came earlier. Where are we supposed to go?”
Today, they met to discuss how to go about faking a couple.
But Jiang Lan obviously didn’t plan to go straight to the point. He smiled. ”Have you eaten yet?”
After a pause, Ying Qiao shook his head. ”No.”
“How about we find a place to have a few bites while talking? A hotpotTL note: Chinese cooking method. It consisted of a simmering pot of soup with raw materials cut into thin slices for quick cooking, maybe? Are you on a diet?”
Hotpot! Picturing a few pairs of chopsticks in one pot, Ying Qiao furrowed his eyebrows. Considering that he had lied about being an office slave, coupled with Jiang Lan’s eager looks, he had no choice but to conceal his disgust and nodded. ”Whatever.”
After all, he could choose not to eat anything.
Jiang Lan was pleased. ”I know an excellent hotpot restaurant. Can you wait a moment? I will go get a few roasted pig feet first.”
Then, he watched Jiang Lan ran merrily towards the food vendors in front of the shopping mall. All these vendors were housed inside temporary canvas tents with all kinds of people passing by. The food they were serving must be filthy and unhealthy! Ying Qiao’s eyebrows were almost tied to a knot at the three plates of roasted pig feet Jiang Lan brought back.
But Jiang Lan looked very happy. He offered Ying Qiao one paper plate. “Food is on me today.”
With great reluctance, Ying Qiao took the plate. Without a clue about his reluctance, Jiang Lan led the way while munching on the roasted feet. ”I was right. That vendor sells the best roasted pig feet!”
After noticing Ying Qiao didn’t pounce on the food like him, he urged Ying Qiao to taste it.
Being a well-bred and picky dragon, Ying Qiao had never tasted the street food, not to mention eating while walking on the street. Taking a deep breath, he faked a smile. ”I will wait.”
Jiang Lan was soon distracted.
Suan Ni caught the smell and demanded a bite while making a lot of movements inside the bag.
“I saved one plate just for you. Wait until there is no one around.”
Jiang Lan tried to reassure his little brother until he quieted down again.
The hotpot restaurant was at the end of an alley located on the right side of the shopping mall. When they were halfway to the restaurant, Jiang Lan heard a loud voice calling for help on the roadside. This alley was almost empty except for a few people gathering around the source of the voice.
Jiang Lan saw a young girl was being dragged towards a car by a middle-aged man in a grey suit. The girl struggled with all her strength while crying at the top of her voice.” I don’t know you, let me go!”
A middle-aged woman followed them close at hand while pleading.” Qian Qian, please don’t make a scene. After you had run away from home, your dad and I could barely sleep and looked everywhere for you. Have a pity on us and come home with us.”
The middle-aged man shouted angrily. ”What’s the use of pleading? If she behaved herself, how could she run away with the money stolen from us? This time, I will send her to a boarding school. It’s your fault for turning her into a spoiled child.”
This couple put on a compelling show, which made the people around them hesitate to intervene.
An old granny tried to reason with them. ”She is just a child; your parents should try to talk sense into her, don’t drag her like that.”
Another person even reprimanded the young girl. ”It’s wrong of you to steal money.”
With tears running down her cheek, the young girl pleaded again to the crowd. ”I really don’t know them. They are human traffickers. Please call the Police.”
On hearing this, the middle-aged man slapped her heavily on her back and began to drag her more forcibly. He said with an angry look. ”How many times did you threaten to call the Police? The Police have already warned you they will detain and fine you the next time you bother them with this nonsense.”
The well-dressed middle-aged couple maintained a confident posture throughout this scene, which made the crowd reluctant again, even though they began to feel suspicious. In a few moments of hesitation, the girl had been dragged to the car. She clung to the door with all her remaining strength, refusing to enter while crying in despair.
In the instant when the girl was about to be shoved into the car, Jiang Lan threw the backpack and roasted pig feet to Ying Qiao, ran towards the car and dragged the girl out.
The startled middle-aged man didn’t anticipate this and tried to reclaim the girl. ”This is my family affair. Stay out of it, young man!”
Scared witless by the middle-aged man’s extending arms, the girl screamed and hid behind Jiang Lan. ”I don’t know them!”
While grabbing the arm of the middle-aged man, Jiang Lan used his free hand to pull out his phone and dialled 110TL note : Police Hotline in China. ”The Police will know if this is a family affair or not.”
Unable to get out of Jiang Lan’s grasp, the middle-aged man was intimidated by his strength. ”Young man, please let go of me. This is a misunderstanding, let me explain.”
After witnessing the turn of events, the whimpering middle-aged woman suddenly knelt down, pleading in tears to the girl. ”Qian Qian, please stop this nonsense and come back with your mom and dad. You will drive us to a shameful death if you insist on making a scene about it.”
Moved by the middle-aged woman’s seemingly genuine crying, the crow started to lean towards the couple involuntarily.
Someone said. ”This is their family affair; let them be. When the Police arrive, you will only cause embarrassment to yourself.”
“Oh, yes, it’s a misfortune to have a daughter like this….”
Jiang Lan remained unmoved and offered his defense to the crowd. ”Whether I am right or wrong is not the point. If this couple is indeed human traffickers, as you might suspect right now, we will ruin this girl by letting them go. I must involve the Police in such a grave matter.”
His arguments were enough to carry the crowd. They even started to surround the couple and tried to contact the security guards in nearby shopping malls.
In the middle of the confrontation between the couple and the surrounding crowd, someone shouted. ”The Police are here.”
In the split second after the crowd was distracted, the middle-aged couple ran out of the human cordon and jumped into their car. They almost succeeded in escaping when the tires suddenly made a loud bang and flattened.
The crowd was shocked by this dramatic sequence of events while the Police rushed into the car to take the couple away.
The middle-aged couple’s escape confirmed the suspicion that they were human traffickers. Someone even kicked the couple while the Police were not paying attention.
A person marveled in disbelief. ”These human traffickers are really crazy, attempting something like this in broad daylight!”
“We are lucky to have a clever fellow like him to step in timely. Otherwise, it would end up badly for the girl.”
“Oh, yes, those human traffickers are really evil and deserve to suffer a terrible death.”
While the crowd was chattering excitedly, the girl was in tears and collapsed on the ground. Jiang Lan helped her to get up and comforted her. ”It’s all right now, don’t be afraid. The Police is here now.”
The girl looked like a teenager, probably still in school. The Police’s presence calmed her down. She took a phone from her pocket and called her parents.
It’s really outrageous to abduct a girl in broad daylight. The Police soon drove away with the middle-aged couple in custody. The girl’s parents had received the call and would soon meet their daughter in the Police station. As a witness, Jiang Lan would also come to the station to make his witness statement.
The crowd started to disperse. Jiang Lan came to Ying Qiao and said apologetically. ”Thank you for lending a hand! But I am afraid hotpot is out of the question now. I have to go to the police station first.”
If Ying Qiao didn’t happen to be in the path of the human trafficker and reacted quickly to use his power to puncture the tires, the couple probably would have already run away.
Ying Qiao stared at him inquisitively. ”So you like to help people.”
Jiang Lan was puzzled by his question. ”Lending a hand in times of need is the traditional virtue of humans. Of course, I always do what I can to help.”
Ying Qiao didn’t deny it but he thought to himself: It’s human’s traditional virtue. Does it have anything to do with us Monsters?
Jiang Lan was among the few monsters he knew who was fully integrated with human society. He smiled softly. ”You are very like a person I knew.”
“ Your friend?”
“ Sort of, he liked to help humans when he was alive.”
“Sorry, I didn’t ….”
Ying Qiao waved his hand. ”It’s all right. He passed away a long time ago. My grief is long gone .”
Jiang Lan’s action today suddenly reminded Ying Qiao of that person, which made him a little sad.
Jiang Lan wanted to say more, but Ying Qiao pushed the bags and roasted pig feet back to him and pointed to the waiting police car.” Go, they are waiting.”
After they finished the witness statement, it’s already one o’clock in the afternoon.
Looking at his watch, Jiang Lan said.” Sorry for keeping you waiting for so long. Are you free this afternoon?”
Glancing at the unanswered call on his phone, Ying Qiao offered his excuse. ”I am afraid I can’t join you for a hotpot this time. My boss suddenly asked me to work extra time today.”
Jiang Lan gave him a sympathetic look. ”Oh, then you better hurry. Let’s have a hotpot next time.”
While they were waiting for a taxi, Jiang Lan suddenly recalled their unfinished business today. He said. ”Oh, yes, about what Director Hu said….”
He didn’t finish his sentence because Ying Qiao interrupted him. ”The new rule has already been issued. Little monsters like us can’t resist too hard. We don’t have money or power to change anything.”
Ying Qiao put his hand in his pocket and looked at him, appearing to contemplate his words while saying. ”….If you don’t mind, we can pretend to be a couple for a while.”
Perhaps fearing Jiang Lan’s objection, he added. ”We just need to go out to share a meal from time to time to prove we are on a date, enough to satisfy Hu Can. This new rule will run into trouble within half a year.”
Jiang Lan didn’t think that much. He just felt Director Hu was entitled to get back his money’s worth. But he didn’t expect to find Ying Qiao this cooperative and knew precisely what they needed to do. Jiang Lan no longer had use of his prepared talking points. He just nodded. ”Fine.”
He agreed to go along with the plan for the sake of money, not precisely as Ying Qiao imagined when he said they are little monsters who don’t dare to resist. But he and Ying Qiao shared the same goal after all. That’s what counts, right?
Jiang Lan thought to himself with a bit of a sense of guilt.