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144 Finally

 "Colonel Bai has the required security clearance?" Huo Shaoheng opened his computer to check the internal system. There were a total of 18 security clearance levels within the Huaxia Imperial Military, with the highest level further branching into levels A, B and C. Level A was the highest clearance possible.

Bai Yueran held a Level C in the highest clearance. Although it was the lowest level in the highest clearance, she was qualified as one of the people privy to Gu Nianzhi's car accident six years ago.

"Let her join the meeting." Huo Shaoheng dialed Bai Yueran's direct line and she arrived quickly. As soon as the doors shut when she entered the small conference room, anti-interference and anti-surveillance capabilities were initiated to transform the room into a dead zone impenetrable to even the most sophisticated satellites. Zhao Liangze read off his laptop to concisely summarize the event from start to finish. Bai Yueran listened to the briefing carefully and grew stern. She looked at Huo Shaoheng, "Mr. Huo, I already opposed sending Gu Nianzhi abroad from the very start. I believe it's imperative that we retrieve her immediately."

"Retrieve her? How would we do that? She's being sued. It's not like she can abscond from bail?" Chen Lie was the first to object.

"That's the best option." Bai Yueran's gaze was firm as she rapped her slender fingers on the conference table. She had long, black hair with natural curls that made her seem especially charming. However, she clipped it back most the time to look more serious.

Zhao Liangze also objected, "No. If Nianzhi absconds from bail, she will never be able to live freely again. We can't have that." He, Yin Shixiong, Huo Shaoheng and Chen Lie were all the closest people to Gu Nianzhi. Emotionally, he would never be able to stand seeing Gu Nianzhi suffer.

Bai Yueran turned her head to hiim, eyes were full of indifference, "Secretary Zhao, I know that you all were responsible for caring for Gu Nianzhi the past few years. You're only human, so it's natural you care about her. It's understandable that you feel sorry for her, but you also have to remember that you are soldiers and that Gu Nianzhi is a task, not a family member."

Zhao Liangze didn't look at Bai Yueran directly, but he could see her expression from the corner of his eye. He clutched the mouse, lowering his eyes to focus on his laptop monitor and scanning it for a way to help Gu Nianzhi. He was a soldier, but Gu Nianzhi wasn't just a task--he saw her as his own younger sister, so he couldn't agree with Bai Yueran. However he couldn't give a direct rebuttal.

Chen Lie was speechless for some time as well. He snuck a glance at Huo Shaoheng and only saw his impassive expression. It was like Bai Yueran's words had no effect on him. He was truly Mr. Huo. This unwavering disposition is worthy of his title of General and not something ordinary people possessed.

Chen Lie rolled his eyes and intentionally remarked, "Colonel Bai, what do you mean? When did we treat Gu Nianzhi like family? Of course she's a task, otherwise why would Mr. Huo agree to use her as bait and send her to the States to lure out the enemy? --Mr. Huo, isn't that right?"

Huo Shaoheng's face remained stony, but the slight twitch in his eyes didn't escape Chen Lie's keen observations. Chen Lie smiled inwardly and shifted his gaze to Bai Yueran as he spread his palms, "Now there is a problem with the mission, so we must find a solution for it. Colonel Bai, is your solution to admit that our plan to lure out the enemy has failed?"

Bai Yueran's eyes flashed as she looked at Huo Shaoheng, and failed to detect any change on his handsome yet cold face. On the other hand, Chen Lie's round face appeared amiable, but his tongue was scathing.

Bai Yueran's eyes flitted, "...Of course we can't admit failure."

"So I object Colonel Bai 's proposal. --What about everyone else?" Chen Lie scanned everyone in attendance.

Bai Yueran's two subordinates also shook their heads to disagree.

Zhao Liangze spoke plainly, "I agree with Chen Lie. We can't just retrieve Nianzhi back like this. Our mission cannot fail, and Nianzhi is not just a task."

Bai Yueran didn't push her cause when everyone else opposed her proposal. She looked at Huo Shaoheng, "Mr. Huo, what do you think?"

Huo Shaoheng clasped his hands and placed them on the conference table. His expression was so icy it caused palpitations, "We will resolve any problem that arises and respond accordingly." He spoke to Bai Yueran, "Director Bai, this may require the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to step in, you're in charge with contacting them and have them prepare." He paused before continuing, "But the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has to keep this confidential. Before the final hearing concludes in the States, I don't want to hear any word escape. --If there's any leakage, the offenders will be subject to military punishment."

"Roger!" The personnel in the small conference room immediately rose from their seats and called out in unison. After the meeting, Huo Shaoheng and Zhao Liangze had a video call with Yin Shixiong.

"Mr. Huo, Little Ze, what is your decision?" Yin Shixiong asked calmly, "What do I have to do?" Zhao Liangze passed the receiver to Huo Shaoheng.

Huo Shaoheng answered in a low voice, "Find He Zhichu first, and tell him what happened. The US Military is backing Xin Xinggao again, go see how he reacts."

He Zhichu had taken the US Military to court for Gu Nianzhi before. Now this lawsuit was another slap to his face, so what would he think of it?

"Roger, I'll call He Zhichu right now." Yin Shixiong paused the video call to dial He Zhichu. On the other end of the line, Zhao Liangze sat before his computer and was researching online as he asked Huo Shaoheng worriedly, "Mr. Huo, are we going to the States?"

Huo Shaoheng's eyed the webcam steadily and responded after a long moment, "You go, and have Big Xiong come back."

"Huh?" Zhao Liangze was instinctively happy at first, then realized that Yin Shixiong was being called back because something had gone wrong on his side. He couldn't bear it and asked, "Big Xiong..."

"It's not Big Xiong's fault, but he's not suitable for caring for Nianzhi in the States." Huo Shaoheng opened his computer to start the satellite tracking program "We need a computer expert over there, so it's better for you to go."

Zhao Liangze understood what he was implying, Huo Shaoheng was shouldering the blame of Gu Nianzhi getting in trouble. As the general, it was his misjudgement for not directing his personnel properly--that way, Yin Shixiong wouldn't get demoted.

Zhao Liangze quickly rose and said with sincerity, "Mr. Huo, don't worry. I'll take good care of Nianzhi in the States and will not allow this kind of thing to happen again."

Huo Shaoheng didn't turn his head and answered dryly, "It's not a big deal if these kinds of things happened. It would've be a waste to send her away if nothing were to happen."

"You still want to lure her family out?" Zhao Liangze was silent for some time, then finally questioned him, "What if, and I'm just saying what if, she has no living relatives? What if she's the last surviving one from her family?"

Huo Shaoheng's hand paused. He had already considered this, but to him, this was just possibility out of a thousand different ones--he wouldn't be too concerned by it. He also never answered hypothetical questions.

Zhao Liangze waited for a long time, but got no response. He smacked his head and chided himself for being stupid again. Mr. Huo never answered hypothetical questions, how could he forget?

...

In an apartment in Boston on the other side of the ocean from the Empire, Yin Shixiong called He Zhichu.

"Professor He, Nianzhi just received a subpoena." Yin Shixiong immediately got to the point.

He Zhichu was admiring flowers in his greenhouse alone and sat besides a small rattan table with a bottle undated white wine and a crystal glass. A ice bucket sat at his feet as he served himself and watched the butterflies dance around. His eyes appeared misty.

He hadn't actually wanted to pick up when Yin Shixiong called, but he was relentless so He Zhichu finally picked up the phone. After listening to Yin Shixiong, He Zhichu rubbed his forehead and slowly rose from the white rattan lounge chair, unable to believe what he was hearing, "Say that again? Who is suing Nianzhi?"

"Xin Xinggao, or in other words, the US government is the prosecutor. Because Xin Xinggao's condition deteriorated, it's now classified as serious injury." Yin Shixiong read the subpoena to He Zhichu, "This was sent an hour ago and Nianzhi personally signed for it."

He Zhichu strode out of the greenhouse and headed to the garage, "Where's Nianzhi? How is she?" He asked with concern.

Yin Shixiong looked at Gu Nianzhi's closed door, "She's alone in her room and hasn't come out for half a day already."

He Zhichu stopped in his tracks and turned around to his mansion as he spoke to Yin Shixiong, "Send an original of the subpoena to me, use my university email."

Yin Shixiong had just scanned it for Huo Shaoheng and quickly did the same for He Zhichu.

He Zhichu received the subpoena and laughed coldly when he read the names of the judge and prosecutor. Lieutenant Colonel Peter just won't give up... It appeared the last $1 million US dollar settlement wasn't enough of a lesson. He Zhichu returned to his study and emailed his subordinates at the law firm to have them prepare for a remote video conference. Lieutenant Colonel Peter, you better be ready to go to jail if you dare sue my student.

...

"Nianzhi, time for dinner." Yin Shixiong prepared a sumptuous dinner with all of Gu Nianzhi's favourites before knocking on the door.

Gu Nianzhi hugged a panda pillow and sat against the door, "I'm not hungry, I don't want dinner."

"Silly child, what are you pouting about? It's not worth hurting your health." Yin Shixiong tried to persuade her, "Don't be worried or afraid. I already contacted Little Ze and called Professor He. They won't stand for this."

"I know. Brother Xiong, I'm really not hungry, I don't want food." Gu Nianzhi stood up, "I'm going to shower." She went to the bathroom and filled the tub before stripping down and laying in the bathtub. Her skin was as fine as a newborn baby's and her body appeared luminous and touchable under the running water. Although Gu Nianzhi's face was sullen and eyes were closed, her mind was imploding. She was prepared to defend herself, but was still afraid in her heart. Her enemy was hiding in the shadows, while she was exposed in the light. She had no idea how many traps they've laid out for her. The more she thought about it, the angrier she became. Lifting her fair and slim legs, she began splattering the bathwater fiercely, soaking the bathroom.

"What the h*ll? What the h*ll? This b*tch sold out national secrets for personal gain and still has the gall to target me?" Gu Nianzhi hated herself for not beating her even harder that day, so she'd actually end up being a fool. If only she had the foresight, then all this mess would've been avoided! She soaked for a full hour before getting up. Wrapping herself in a white towel, she walked barefoot into her bedroom. As soon as she sat at the vanity, a knock sounded on her door again.

"Nianzhi?" It was Yin Shixiong again.

Gu Nianzhi didn't want to deal with him and took out her hairdryer to use. After she was done, she looked at her watched and saw it was already past 11pm. Before she knew it, time had flown. Gu Nianzhi braided her hair behind her head and put on her pajamas to sleep.

...

He Zhichu was in the meeting the entire night and went to Gu Nianzhi's apartment early the next morning to see her. Yin Shixiong opened the door and was very grateful, "Professor He, It's great that you're here. Please help me persuade Nianzhi, she's locked herself in her room and refused to come out since getting the subpoena yesterday." He continued, "She hasn't eaten anything since yesterday."

He Zhichu glanced coldly at He Zhichu, his look carrying an invisible gravity.

Yin Shixiong froze and instinctively wanted to shrink back. He wondered how this Professor He had such an overwhelming aura? His students and clients must be brave enough to have a professor and lawyer like this...

"Nianzhi, come out." He Zhichi went to Gu Nianzhi's door and knocked.

Gu Nianzhi was still asleep and hugged the pillow as she laid there. Her brows were furrowed, breathing erratic and pulse elevated. If Chen Lie was present, he would diagnose Gu Nianzhi was about to have another emotional breakdown. When she had been first rescued by Huo Shaoheng, she was sent to Chen Lie's care. Gu Nianzhi was so hysterical no drugs worked on her and it was only when Huo Shaoheng reappeared that she rushed over and clutched onto his leg for dear life. Huo Shaoheng had no choice but to hold her all night, and her emotions finally stabilized.

"It's too early, maybe she's still sleeping." Yin Shixiong arranged breakfast, "Have you eaten yet, Professor He?"

He Zhichu turned to look at him, "Do you have red wine?"

Drink red wine in the early morning? Yin Shixiong's jaw dropped as he shook his head, "No... But I can go buy some..."

"No need." He Zhichu turned again and sat on the sofa next to Gu Nianzhi's room, "I'll wait here for her." A full afternoon passed, and Gu Nianzhi still refused to open the door. He Zhichu grew more angry. If it wasn't for Yin Shixiong being here, he would've kicked the door down.

Yin Shixiong saw things were not good and returned to his room to quietly call Zhao Liangze, "Nianzhi's locked herself in her room for a day and night, what should I do? She won't come out."

Zhao Liangze was half angry and half amused, "You have **, can't you just open the door?"

"I can't, He Zhichu is here and has been trying to convince Nianzhi the whole day. How can I take out the ** in front of him now..." Yin Shixiong almost whispered.

Zhao Liangze froze, then turned to Huo Shaoheng sitting across from him, "Mr. Huo, He Zhichu has been trying to persuade Nianzhi the whole day but she won't come out. Big Xiong doesn't know what to do."

Huo Shaoheng pursed his lips and crossed his arms before leaving without a word. After returning to his room, he looked at his phone for a while before finally calling Gu Nianzhi. He hadn't dialled this number for a long time.

Gu Nianzhi was hugging her knees as she sat on the sill of the bay window, when she heard her phone ring once again. She didn't want to pick up, but as soon as she heard the ringtone that hadn't sounded for so long, she nearly leapt down from the window will. She stumbled to her bedside and picked up her phone.

It was Uncle Huo! She finally got his call!