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169 I Really Want To

 "You're here, sitting beside me now. Why should I be jealous? That girlfriend of yours should be the one getting jealous." Jiang Hongcha casually opened the lunch box and placed a pair of chopsticks next to it. "Eat up. I just bought this from a restaurant."

Mei Xiawen saw Jiang Hongcha's nonchalant, couldn't-care-less attitude, and felt a thrill of desire.

Somehow, she always knew exactly how to push his buttons...

Mei Xiawen hurriedly wolfed down his lunch, and soon had Jiang Hongcha join him in an "afternoon nap."


"Sir, here are the photos from the past few weeks." Fan Jian, Huo Shaoheng's orderly, placed a stack of photos on Huo Shaoheng's desk-shots of Mei Xiawen and Jiang Hongcha being "intimate." "What are you going to do? Will you be sending these to Nianzhi?"

Huo Shaoheng had a cigarette in his hand. He sifted through the photos with his free hand as he said impassively, "Why would I do that? She's underage. She's not old enough to see these things."

As long as Mei Xiawen did not go to America, Huo Shaoheng did not see the need to intervene.

Besides, Gu Nianzhi had chosen Mei Xiawen herself. It did not matter if he was the scum of the earth-she would have to discover the fact for herself.

Some lessons had to be learnt the hard way.

Gu Nianzhi would have to learn how to navigate the uncharted territory of love on her own.

Huo Shaoheng could not help her with that.

He tossed the photos into a special drawer, locked it, and waved Fan Jian out of his study.

September was drawing to a close. C City was currently in the middle of an Indian Summer; it had gotten increasingly warm over the last several days.

Huo Shaoheng sat quietly.

His tall, sturdy figure filled his high-back office chair. The hard, unyielding expression on his achingly beautiful face seemed to drift in and out of the lingering cigarette smoke.

The last rays of the setting sun filtered into the room through the gaps in the blinds; they painted a series of lines upon the floor, an intangible ladder that no one would ever be able to climb.

"Sir?" Yin Shixiong knocked on the door of the study.

Huo Shaoheng stubbed his cigarette out in the ashtray. "Come in."

"Oh geez-how many cigarettes are you smoking a day now?" Yin Shixiong's nose wrinkled at the overpowering smell of tobacco in the room. He tried to wave the lingering smoke away as he asked anxiously, "Is something bothering you?"

"I'm fine." Huo Shaoheng pointed to the chair before him. "Sit. Did you have something to report?"

"Really? Nothing's bothering you? Okay then." Yin Shixiong sat down. A wide grin spread across his face. "I just bumped into Fan Jian. I heard that he took some... um... very interesting photos, so I came over to... broaden my horizons. You know, to help with my anti-seduction training."

Huo Shaoheng opened the drawer and tossed the photos of Mei Xiawen and Jiang Hongcha to him. "Knock yourself out. He looks like a scraggly, plucked chicken. I don't think the photos will do anything for your anti-seduction training, but maybe they'll help increase your immunity to nausea."

Yin Shixiong eagerly slid the photos over. He kept up a running commentary as he looked them over, one by one: "Well, he is kind of pale, and not exactly rippling with muscles, so you're right, he looks like a naked chicken. The woman, on the other hand, is smokin' hot. And boy can she pull off some really difficult positions-she must be what they call an 'old driver'."

Huo Shaoheng: "...You're very knowledgeable."

"I learned it from Nianzhi. You know how it is, I have to be up-to-date with all the latest internet slang if I want to bridge the generation gap," Yin Shixiong replied readily, his eyes glued to the photos. When he was done going through the stack of photos, he clucked his tongue appreciatively. "Were all these taken by Fan Jian? His eye for dramatic angles and lighting is improving by the day. Some of these photos can even pass for art."

"Art?" Huo Shaoheng's brow furrowed slightly. "Don't they make you feel sick?"

"...I think the photos are pretty good. The subjects are a lot more attractive than the average joe you see on the streets." Yin Shixiong chuckled, and wriggled his eyebrows at Huo Shaoheng suggestively. "...Are you beginning to lose 'it'? That would be terrible. You have to stay healthy-and we all know being able to get it up is a sign of health for us men."

Huo Shaoheng responded by throwing the ashtray at Yin Shixiong's face.

Yin Shixiong ducked the incoming projectile with a well-timed turn of his head. He laughed. "I'm just kidding. But seriously-aren't you going to get married? You're already 28."

Yin Shixiong was Huo Shaoheng's personal secretary; he was well-acquainted with his lifestyle.

Huo Shaoheng had spent practically every day of the past six years working. He had not had any time to call his own; neither of his personal secretaries had ever seen Huo Shaoheng interact with a woman-any woman-in private, much less get into a romantic relationship with one.

"None of your business." Huo Shaoheng did not look at him. He turned on his computer and began working. "Check my itinerary. Make sure to keep my schedule open on the dates before and after Nianzhi's birthday."

"Wait, you mean you're going to America to celebrate Nianzhi's birthday?! Can I go with you?! It's Nianzhi's 18th birthday! A huge milestone!" Yin Shixiong's eyes lit up. He looked at Huo Shaoheng eagerly.

"Of course you'll be going." Huo Shaoheng nodded. "You watched her grow up."

The chubby little 12-year-old girl who had suffered from crippling anxiety back then had grown into a lovely, confident young woman.

Her 18th birthday was a huge occasion for both Gu Nianzhi and the men who had practically raised her.

Huo Shaoheng would have to travel under an assumed identity to attend Gu Nianzhi's 18th birthday party in the United States.

This was easy enough for the Special Operations Forces to pull off, however.

Yin Shixiong was an old hand at camouflage and deception.


Two weeks later, He Zhichu finally returned to Washington.

He disembarked from the plane, looking a little worse for wear after the long flight. But he did not stop to rest; instead, he immediately paid a visit to the Capitol Building to see what Gu Nianzhi was up to.

Gu Nianzhi was not in the office for the Committee of Appropriations.

"Mary, where's my student?" He Zhichu smiled as he placed a small souvenir on Mary's desk.

Mary gestured exaggeratedly as she said, "You mean Gu? She's gone to some other department to chat. She hasn't had any work to do in the past few days, so she's been visiting the other offices. Everyone here recognizes her now-she's such an adorable, cheerful little rose."

He Zhichu was still smiling, but the blue veins on his temples had surfaced.

That little brat-she was supposed to be working, not going around chatting up people. She had to be taught a lesson.

He Zhichu turned and stalked out of the office.


He stood with his hands in his pockets in the doorway to the office for the Commission for Unrestricted Ocean Travel, and watched a pretty girl mingle with the congressmen and staff around her. The pink Chanel dress she was wearing stood out like a shining beacon among the black and white suits.

The girl was Gu Nianzhi. She sat next to John, the chairman of the Commission for Unrestricted Ocean Travel, as she cheerfully chatted with him.

In the past two weeks, Gu Nianzhi had been virtually barred from doing any kind of work at the Committee of Appropriations. It had begun with certain restrictions on her account, and eventually escalated into a complete lock-out.

She was extremely reluctant to approach Wen Shouyi for help while He Zhichu was away, so she simply did the next best thing-nothing. She flitted cheerfully from one committee to another every day like a true social butterfly. She had picked up her people skills from Brother Huang, and was soon even better at making friends than he was.

The congressmen and other Capitol Building employees were happy to have a pretty little Asian girl to chat with during their downtime.

"Mr. John, are you sure that the United States will be withdrawing from the International Maritime Convention? Didn't the US help draft it in the first place?" Gu Nianzhi fluttered her lashes as she put on her best impression of a silly, ignorant girl who was clearly one sandwich shy of a picnic.

"That pretty little head of yours will never be able to understand." John shook his head, chuckling. He turned on his computer and opened a file. "Do you know what this is?"

Gu Nianzhi frowned as she leaned over to look at the computer screen: it was a scanned image of an old document.

The document was entirely yellow with age. It was ancient.

She looked at the signatures on the document, and her pouty cherry lips parted in surprise. "What? This document is from the last century?!"

"Yes. You know about the League of Nations? The United States came up with the idea for it, but Congress was opposed to it, so we never actually joined the League." John laughed heartily. "Isn't that interesting? That's just the way international politics work-there are no rules, no laws, no concept of fair play. If you have the power and the means, you can get away with anything. Everything is done for the sake of national interest; the convention was beneficial to us, at one point, so we joined it. But now the convention is holding us back, so why would we stay in it and let the other countries get ahead of us?"

"...Isn't it kind of embarrassing for a country to go back on its word?" Gu Nianzhi glanced at John. "The US is supposed to be a global leader."

John rolled his eyes haughtily. "Like I even care what the other countries think. If they don't like it, they can go to hell."

Gu Nianzhi gave him a thumbs-up. "Such confidence! Just like the Overlord of Western Chu!"

"The Overlord of Western Chu? Who's that?" John asked curiously.

Gu Nianzhi was caught off-guard by his question. She was trying to come up with a roundabout way to say that the Overlord of Western Chu had eventually killed himself, when she heard someone cough from the doorway, loud and clear. She knew that voice.

Gu Nianzhi turned around in surprise.

He Zhichu cut a handsome figure standing in the doorway, but the look on his face was as cold as Arctic snow. His frigid eyes were fixed upon Gu Nianzhi-he looked as though he meant to freeze her in place.

But Gu Nianzhi was not bothered by his frosty expression; she was not afraid of him, at all. She smiled cheerfully as she jumped to her feet and hurried over to him to gush, "Professor He, you're finally back! I missed you so much!"

The anger welling within He Zhichu immediately deflated upon Gu Nianzhi's enthusiastic greeting.

He grabbed hold of her arm, nodded to everyone else in the room, and led her out of the office.

Brother Huang heard from his colleagues that He Zhichu had come to the office. He quickly ran after them, but the corridor was already empty.

He Zhichu had already left with Gu Nianzhi.

"Professor He, I'm so glad you're back. The last two weeks without you have been complete torture for me." Gu Nianzhi turned on the charm as she shamelessly played up to He Zhichu.

The corners of He Zhichu's mouth curved upwards. The frosty expression on his face had melted away.

They went to Gu Nianzhi's office to get her backpack. After that, he led her to his Rolls-Royce and told the chauffeur: "We're going back to the estate."

Gu Nianzhi was suddenly uneasy. "...Did you come here from the airport, Professor He?"

He Zhichu nodded. "I just got off the plane." He turned his head and scrutinized her pretty, youthful face. "You're doing well, I see. You've put on weight."

"Oh no!" Gu Nianzhi covered her face with her hands in flustered embarrassment. "I'll have to go on a diet again. No dinner for me tonight."

He Zhichu rolled his eyes at her. "A diet? You're just a kid. You won't grow any taller if you start skimping on your food-don't say I didn't warn you."

"I don't have to grow any taller. I'm tall enough already," Gu Nianzhi replied stubbornly. "I'll end up growing horizontally, and I don't want that."

He Zhichu's eyes flickered to her high heels. "Oh? When did you start wearing heels?"

Gu Nianzhi shuffled her feet away, somewhat embarrassed. "I'm just wearing these to go with my dress..."

He Zhichu could not resist reaching out and tousling her hair. "Did you really miss me?"

"Of course I missed you." Gu Nianzhi nodded vigorously. "Miss Wen was so unbearably bossy when you weren't around. Who died and made her king?"

With that, she launched into a long spiel detailing all her grievances with Wen Shouyi.

He Zhichu's expression darkened as he listened to her. When she was done, he said slowly, "...When you said you missed me, you meant you wanted me to come back as quickly as possible to back you up against Miss Wen. Is that it?"

"Exactly! You're so smart, Professor He!" Gu Nianzhi praised him cheerfully. "I'm so glad you're back-otherwise, I'd be stuck doing nothing for the rest of my internship." She quickly explained the problems she had been facing with her account.

He Zhichu did not say anything. He leaned into his seat, and rubbed his brow in helpless frustration.

He should have known that this little ungrateful brat did not miss him at all. She had only been looking forward to "borrowing" his authority to knock Miss Wen down a peg...

"Professor He? Are you tired?" Gu Nianzhi was feeling restless now. "Why don't you send me back to my apartment? I don't want to intrude, you should rest up for the next two days."

He Zhichu lifted his hand from his brow. His lips were pressed into a straight, humorless line. The warmth in his bright, almond-shaped eyes gradually cooled to match the icy expression on his face.

He looked at her for a moment, before asking, "I was away for two weeks. What have you done in the meantime? Nothing?"

"Well, it's not like I didn't try. I figured out what you meant about the Committee of Appropriations, but I lost my account privileges. It's more or less restricted to Visitor Access now, I can't do anything with it." Gu Nianzhi shrugged. "If you don't believe me, you can check for yourself."

He Zhichu did not reply. He immediately got out his phone and called a few of the employees working in the Capitol Building.

He quickly confirmed what Gu Nianzhi had told him.

The woman who answered the phone at the Capitol Building was very polite to He Zhichu. She smiled as she assured him: "We'll lift the restrictions on your student's account, as soon as you sign a form for her."

"Okay. I'll sign it tomorrow." Now that He Zhichu knew exactly what had happened, he no longer blamed Gu Nianzhi. He glanced sideways at her. "Why didn't you go to Miss Wen? She could have helped you with this."

"...I didn't want to deal with her," Gu Nianzhi said bluntly. "You weren't around. What if she tried to set me up? I could have cried my eyes out over it and no one would have sided with me."

He Zhichu gave a snort of laughter. He tousled her hair again. "Is that why you're crying to me now?"

"I'm not crying about it, I'm lodging a formal complaint." Gu Nianzhi ducked to avoid He Zhichu's hand. "Stop messing with my hair, I'm almost 18."

He Zhichu withdrew his hand. His expression had turned icy. "I know, you don't have to remind me."

Gu Nianzhi was actually about to remind him about something else, but changed her mind when she saw that he was no longer in the mood to talk. She shut her mouth, frustrated, and turned to look at the scenery beyond the car window.

The Rolls-Royce drove them to He Zhichu's mansion near the Potomac River. It was a quiet, comfortable, and uneventful journey.

The massive iron gates swung open to reveal a tarmac road that led towards a white mansion. The road was flanked by lush green lawns and scattered flowerbeds.

Several gardeners, seemingly of Hispanic origin, stood in the flowerbeds, pruning the leaves.

When they saw the Rolls-Royce drive by, everyone stopped what they were doing to wave at the car.

Gu Nianzhi watched all this with wide, curious eyes. She turned to He Zhichu and asked, "Professor He, did you actually get this rich just by being a lawyer?!"

It did not seem possible. Even if it were, He Zhichu would have to be a 70 or 80-year-old geezer with a lifetime of work behind him to be this rich.

She had seen his resume: he was only 28 years old!

No one, not even someone as talented as He Zhichu, could rake in so much money in just three years. It boggled her mind to think about it.

He Zhichu saw the doubtful look on her face, but made no move to offer an explanation.

He got out of the car, his expression still inscrutable and frosty, and held the door open for Gu Nianzhi as she got out.

The chauffeur, the gardeners tending to the flowerbeds, and the housekeeper who had emerged from the house to receive He Zhichu were all flabbergasted by his actions.