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135 Temperamental

 "This man, He Zhichu, is he really such a hotshot?" Lieutenant Colonel Peter's subordinate had given him a copy of He Zhichu's resume: he was now looking it over, his face twisted into a deep scowl.

"You're the chief, so you should feel free to act in whatever way you see fit, if you don't believe me."

"Well, why didn't you say so?! Give him another call, then-Hey! Where are you going? I told you to call him, didn't you hear me?!"

The subordinate released a sharp sigh, and then glared at the chief. "You call him, Chief. I'm off to hand in my resignation."

...

Over in the emergency room of the Harvard Medical School hospital, several female doctors were moving about Gu Nianzhi. They were preparing her for a medical checkup, as per He Zhichu's urgent request.

These doctors were the best in their department, renown for their skills and years of experience. They carefully examined the swelling on Gu Nianzhi's face, and then checked her body to make sure there were no bruises, bone fractures, or internal injuries.

When they were done examining her, one of the doctors filled out and signed a form for and handed it to He Zhichu. "A blood test?" asked He Zhichu, stunned. His eyes darted towards Gu Nianzhi. "Why do you need a blood test? Is there something wrong?"

"No, it's just standard procedure. Please keep an eye on her for the next 36 hours-if there are no signs of fever or a sudden loss of consciousness, then she's probably fine."

He Zhichu pushed the prescription slip back to her. "In that case, we don't need it. Instead, please give me a signed medical report detailing the full extent of her injuries."

It was a reasonable request, and the doctor saw no reason to refuse. She quickly printed out the medical report for him and signed it.

Gu Nianzhi had kept her eyes closed the entire time, pretending to be asleep, but her fluttering eyelashes gave her away. It had been a hectic few hours; it was already four in the afternoon when He Zhichu finally brought her to his lakeside mansion.

Gu Nianzhi had never seen He Zhichu's house before. She looked about her curiously.

The house was massive, standing proudly on the expansive grounds. Gu Nianzhi saw the distant outline of a mountain in the north; the beautiful beautiful panoramic view was enhanced by the crystal-clear lake shimmering just before her window.

Gu Nianzhi nursed her swollen cheek with an ice pack as she stood before the French windows, admiring the picturesque scenery beyond. She shook her head, and remarked, "Professor He, your house is huge. And the location-this place is amazing!"

He Zhichu put his hands in his pockets and stood beside her. He gazed at the scenery beyond the window; after a minute of silence he said, "I don't actually own the mountain, even though it's on my land. Just half of it."

Gu Nianzhi was one to become deeply annoyed by people who flaunted their wealth in her face.

Show-off! Braggart! Poseur! She flung the insults at him in her head.

"The lake, however, is all mine." He Zhichu glanced sideways at her. "Would you care to go for a swim?"

"Thank you, but I'm injured, so it's not exactly the best time for strenuous activities." Gu Nianzhi placed the ice pack on the table and sighed softly. "Thank you for helping me, Professor He."

"Why shouldn't I help you? You're my student." He Zhichu's gaze fell upon her swollen cheek. His bright almond shaped eyes were full of pity, but beneath his chiseled nose, his lips were compressed into a straight line.

Gu Nianzhi felt there was something odd about the way he was looking at her. She stole a glance at him, before quickly looking away. "I'm sorry for the trouble, Professor He."

He Zhichu reached out and brushed Gu Nianzhi's swollen cheek with his fingers.

His fingers felt cold on the red and warm swelling on Gu Nianzhi's face. Without thinking, she jerked away from his fingers.

He Zhichu's hand stopped, his fingers still outstretched. His eyes hardened and his face lost the faint smile that had been ghosting about on his lips up until that point. He gave a slight cough as he put his hand back into his trouser pocket. He turned his back to her and said, "You should go. Your guardian must be waiting for you at home."

Gu Nianzhi stared at He Zhichu's back. Why was this man so temperamental?

Her mouth trembled and she tried to keep the sudden tears from falling. She hung her head and went to grab her baseball cap off the nighstand.

Just then, a middle-aged woman entered the room, smiling. Her bright American accent seemed to disperse the heavy atmosphere in the room. She said to Gu Nianzhi, "Miss Gu, I am the housekeeper. This way, please. I will see you to the door."

Gu Nianzhi felt as though she was being swept out of the house, as though her presence was somehow a thing to be disposed of immediately.

She composed herself. Lifting her head proudly, she said, "That won't be necessary. I can show myself out."

She walked out of He Zhichu's room and descended the wide spiral staircase, which brought her to the main hall on the first floor. She crossed the hall-which was large enough to be a ballroom-and made a beeline for the tall cherry wood doors.

The housekeeper did not take offense. She followed behind Gu Nianzhi with a smile on her face; once she had seen Gu Nianzhi out the front door of the He Residence, she made her way upstairs to report to He Zhichu.

"Mr. He?"

"Come in." He Zhichu was behind his desk, his fingers tapping away on the keyboard.

"Miss Gu has left."

He Zhichu put his hand on the mouse and opened the CCTV feed for his house.

Gu Nianzhi appeared on his computer screen. She walked alone down the near dirt path that led her through the garden. Her hair swayed in the wind and obscured her face; try as he might, He Zhichu could not make out her expression. He watched the video feed on his screen for a long time. When Gu Nianzhi finally disappeared through the iron gate in his garden wall, he murmured, "Okay, you can go now."

The housekeeper curtseyed, and backed out of He Zhichu's study. She closed the door behind her as she left.

...

Gu Nianzhi walked along the path, feeling increasingly aggrieved and sorry for herself with every step.

Uncle Huo had found a girlfriend, and could not wait to be rid of her.

Professor He was maddeningly temperamental, and utterly ruthless when he was unhappy. He had thrown her out the door as soon as she had displeased him.

Her parents had apparently made no attempt to look for her in the last six years.

She was destined to be abandoned. No one wanted her.

Gu Nianzhi stopped. She turned to look at He Zhichu's mansion, and stomped her foot petulantly. She wanted so badly to give it the finger, or throw a clod of dirt at it, or even just scream. Anything to express how frustrated and hurt she felt.

But, she controlled herself: she did not want someone-particularly He Zhichu- and ruin whatever was left of her good reputation. She turned and concentrated on walking.

She had never been to He Zhichu's house; though she had prior knowledge of his address from the mail that came in to his office, and therefore a general idea of where he was located, she was still unsure of her bearings. She took out her phone and was reminded of Yin Shixiong and how very absent he was: where was he, anyway?

She unlocked the phone and called him, but the number was busy. She bit her lip, and began walking in large, purposeful strides. Her mind was a cloud of angry thoughts.

She walked along the avenue for close to an hour, all alone. She was exhausted. She did not think she could walk another step. Yet, there was still a long way to go. Maybe, she thought, it would be better if she took a break by the side of the road.

Gu Nianzhi lifted her head and looked about her to find a suitable place to rest her tired feet.

Just then, her phone began to ring.

Brother Xiong? Gu Nianzhi's heart swelled with relief. She hurriedly looked at her phone, and was surprised to see who was calling her-Mei Xiawen!

Gu Nianzhi answered the call. "Hello? Class Rep?"

"Nianzhi? Still calling me Class Rep, I see. Oh well, that makes you easier to find." Mei Xiawen's voice sounded relieved.

Gu Nianzhi was puzzled: why did his voice sound like it was getting closer?

As soon as she looked up, she saw his slender figure walking towards her. He had a phone to his ear, and a smile on his face.

Gu Nianzhi stopped, her mouth agape-it was Mei Xiawen! It was really him Why is he here, in America? Gu Nianzhi thought.

"Nianzhi, what's wrong?" Mei Xiawen was now standing right beside her. "Why is your face swollen?" He reached out and lifted Gu Nianzhi's chin to get a better look.

"Xia... Xiawen, you... why are you here?" Gu Nianzhi's voice trembled.

She could not believe what she was seeing. It was twice, now, that Mei Xiawen had appeared when she was at her most vulnerable and had needed someone beside her.

Was this God's will?

Mei Xiawen gently tucked her bangs behind her ear. "Why am I here? I missed you, so I came to see you, silly. You're so heartless-I bet you forgot all about me as soon as you arrived here in America, didn't you?"

He folded Gu Nianzhi into his arms in a strong embrace.