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149 Naive

 The judge for the Boston Federal District Court was entirely bald; he was pushing 60, after all.

Under the court lights, his bald head shimmered with sweat and oil.

He glared at He Zhichu resentfully as his hands fumbled for the gavel. He struck the table with the gavel and announced loudly: "Silence! The defendant is underage. The court has no jurisdiction over minors-this case is dismissed. The defendant is not guilty. That is all."

The judge hurried away.

He had messed up, big time, and knew He Zhichu would not let him off the hook so easily. He would have to go to the military bigwigs and ask for their help.

He would be retiring soon. The last thing he wanted was to lose his pension over this.

Lieutenant Colonel Peter had not expected the battle to be over before it had even begun. He spat out the gum he had been chewing, and stuck it on the wall.

He got up to leave. When he reached the door, he turned to look at the nurse in charge of Xin Xinggao.

The nurse understood. She put her hands on the handles of Xin Xinggao's wheelchair and pushed her out of the courtroom.

The spectators in the courtroom moved aside, and watched them leave.

He Zhichu watched their retreating backs, his expression cold. When Lieutenant Colonel Peter looked over, He Zhichu smiled at him, his hands in his pockets. His posture exuded defiance.

Lieutenant Colonel Peter grinned at him, before turning to leave.

He Zhichu understood what he meant: the matter was far from over.

Sure enough, another summons arrived at Gu Nianzhi's apartment two days later. This time, it was addressed to her guardian because she was still a minor.

Her case was taken over by the Boston Federal District Juvenile Court, which specialized in violent criminal cases involving minors below the age of 18. As a general rule, the trials in the juvenile court were held behind closed doors, presided over by a single judge instead of a jury. The judge had to have conclusive and irrefutable evidence to convict the defendant.

These juvenile cases were usually a lot trickier to judge than similar cases involving adults.

He Zhichu had prepared his arguments for the juvenile court. He was curious to see how far the US military was willing to go for Xin Xinggao.

Gu Nianzhi also prepared for her day in court.

The juvenile court proceedings would be kept strictly confidential. She did not have to worry about her identity being exposed, or attracting unwelcome attention.

...

"Nianzhi, go to bed early. I'll wake you tomorrow morning," said Zhao Liangze as he knocked on her door.

Two weeks had passed; Gu Nianzhi was now under the care of Zhao Liangze.

Yin Shixiong had been transferred back to the Huaxia Empire a week ago, and Zhao Liangze had come over to replace him.

Gu Nianzhi reluctantly closed the tab on the internet forum she had been browsing. She shut down her laptop, rubbed her eyes, and laughed. "...That Xin Xinggao is really something. She's supposed to be mentally impaired, but she's still going about the forums posting lies and slander about me..."

Zhao Liangze was a true IT genius; he had attained the position of top dog at the international Hacker's Alliance before the age of 18. He had only joined the military and become Huo Shaoheng's assistant after he had been scouted by Huo Shaoheng.

The first thing he did after arriving in the States was to spy on Xin Xinggao's computer and mobile phone.

Unlike Yin Shixiong, Zhao Liangze took to living in America like a fish to water.

Everything could be done online, which made it easy to monitor Xin Xinggao's activities.

Zhao Liangze said, smiling, "Don't let it bother you. The more she does, the easier it'll be to expose her. I've taken screenshots of everything she's done, don't worry. As soon as the trial begins tomorrow, we'll ask the court to confiscate and search Xin Xinggao's computer and phone."

"She's supposed to be mentally impaired, so she can easily wriggle out of that by claiming someone else took advantage of her limited mental capacity and hacked her computer, or at least used her computer without her knowledge," said Gu Nianzhi as she shut the lid of her laptop, "but we have to warn her anyway, so she knows we're watching her every move. Hopefully she'll get the message and stop shooting herself in the foot. Otherwise, when we finally expose her, she'll have to change her name and get plastic surgery just to be able to stay in academia."

"You're right. I'll pass all the evidence to He Zhichu tomorrow, see what he wants to do with it." Zhao Liangze turned off the lights and shut the door behind him.

...

It was the day of her trial.

Gu Nianzhi put on a white round-neck silk blouse with butterfly sleeves, a navy blue knee-length A-line skirt, a pair of white sneakers, and a backpack. Her hair hung loose over her back, with only a hair band over her head to keep her hair in place. With her fair, delicate face and large, doe-like eyes, she looked the very picture of an angelic, well-behaved child.

If there had been a jury, her appearance would have won them over as soon as she appeared in court.

Unfortunately, there was no jury this time; the court proceedings would be presided over by Judge Judy, a 40-year-old virgin who absolutely abhorred pure, delicate girls like Gu Nianzhi.

When she learned that she would be facing Judge Judy, Gu Nianzhi prepared herself.

If Judge Judy was bent on making things difficult for her, then Gu Nianzhi would just have to provoke her.

It was easy to slip up when you were angry.

"Let's go." Zhao Liangze came out from his room. He looked at Gu Nianzhi, and handed his phone to her. "It's Mr. Huo."

"Really?!" Gu Nianzhi's eyes lit up, as merry and bright as Christmas lights.

The smile on her face was so dazzling Zhao Liangze had to look away. He opened the door and walked out.

Gu Nianzhi followed him, the phone plastered against her ear. "Uncle Huo!"

"It's the big day today. Are you ready?" Huo Shaoheng's voice was calm and relaxed; it was the voice of a man who knew he had everything within his control.

Gu Nianzhi nodded vigorously as she strode to the elevator. "I'm ready. Wait for my good news, Uncle Huo!"

Huo Shaoheng smiled. "Remember to thank Professor He. When the trial's over ask him about his fees, I won't have him work for us for free."

Gu Nianzhi was momentarily stunned; she had automatically assumed He Zhichu was representing her pro bono.

As soon as Huo Shaoheng mentioned the attorney's fee, she realized how naive she had been.

He Zhichu was nice to her, but business was business-he would still be collecting his attorney's fee.

He had not said a single word of it to her yet; Gu Nianzhi guessed it was probably his assistant's job to tell her after the lawsuit had been dealt with.

Gu Nianzhi thought of He Zhichu's assistant, Wen Shouyi, and her lips curled in distaste. She wished she could grab a stack of bills right this instant and throw it in Wen Shouyi's round, treacherous face.

He Zhichu was a top lawyer, and was representing her himself. His fees were most likely astronomical...

Where was she going to get all that money?

Gu Nianzhi's heart sank. She bit her lip and murmured, "...I wonder if Professor He will let me pay in installments?"

Huo Shaoheng realized that Gu Nianzhi was worried about not being able to pay He Zhichu, and could not help laughing. "Don't worry about it. Just promise me you'll behave."

Gu Nianzhi knew that Huo Shaoheng meant to pay the attorney's fee for her, but the thought made her even more depressed and uncomfortable.

Uncle Huo was wealthy, but it did not feel right to have him spend so much money on her.

Uncle Huo's girlfriend would definitely resent her if she found out about it.

As Gu Nianzhi stepped into the elevator, she suddenly remembered that Huo Shaoheng had given her the apartment in Fengya Precinct...

She would have enough to pay He Zhichu if she sold the apartment.

Her face instantly brightened. She said to Huo Shaoheng, "I'll behave, I won't cause any more trouble, I promise. I'll discuss the fees with Professor He. You don't have to worry, Uncle Huo."

"You can do it after you win the case. Let's not break his stride right now," said Huo Shaoheng as he casually tapped the ash from his cigarette.

"Yes, you're right." Gu Nianzhi ended the call, a sweet, serene smile on her face.