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180 Open Relationship

 Whenever Gu Nianzhi recalled her 18th birthday, the one thing that stood out the most was the silver fighter jet roaring through the wind and rain. Although it was regretful that Huo Shaoheng couldn't personally come, Gu Nianzhi had insisted this was "the beauty in imperfection." The most beautiful things, like Venus' missing arm, or the unfinished Dream of the Red Chamber1 were often imperfect. On the other hand, Gu Nianzhi was extremely grateful that He Zhichu had rebuilt his relationship with the US Military and had demanded that a naval warship rescue her, but she had never expected to receive such an extravagant gift from him. Afterwards, she had maintained her distance from him and devoted herself to work and study.

He Zhichu sensed her distance, and although he was saddened by it, he knew he couldn't force her. He gave her time to slowly adapt to the transition and temporarily put things with her on hold. He was busy with traveling between Harvard University and B University in the Imperial capital to teach classes and mentor graduate students.

...

Time flew when life revolved around work. It was nearly December in Washington. One evening, Gu Nianzhi came out of the Capitol Hill wearing a slim light gray cashmere coat with horn buckles to head back to her suite in the hotel. Because her apartment was close to the Capitol Hill, she had been walking for the past two months as exercise. When she arrived to the entrance, a curvy Huaxia woman wearing a long burgundy coat was waiting at the door and speaking to the doorman.

The doorman recognized Gu Nianzhi and waved when he saw her. "Miss Gu! Someone is here for you!"

Gu Nianzhi looked at the woman. She had fair skin, bold and elegant eyebrows, gentle almond eyes, and a tiny nose. Her delicate lips were lightly glossed and rosy. She appeared to be a sophisticated and beautiful woman in her twenties. Gu Nianzhi was certain she didn't know her.

She nodded at the stranger. "Hello...who are you?"

The woman scanned over Gu Nianzhi and her eyes widened with surprise. She strode over and introduced herself. "My name is Jiang Hongcha, I don't know if Mei Xiawen ever mentioned me."

The Weibo, "Red Tea's Sky" flashed through Gu Nianzhi's mind-this woman would have been Mei Xiawen's first girlfriend.

"I don't remember if he mentioned it." Gu Nianzhi smiled; she hadn't been contact with Mei Xiawen much lately. Mei Xiawen felt that he always had to take the initiative to seek her out everytime the past six months, but Gu Nianzhi didn't give any favourable response. He was displeased and had decided to ignore her for a bit in hopes she would come to him when she couldn't stand it anymore--so he could give her some affection and truly conquer the young girl's heart... However Gu Nianzhi knew she was going home at the end of the year and still hadn't decided how she would face Mei Xiawen, so she didn't try to contact him at all.

Seeing Jiang Hongcha now, Gu Nianzhi sighed internally, "Why are you looking for me?"

Jiang Hongcha then felt slightly uneasy seeing Gu Nianzhi like this. She had seen her face and assumed she was just a pretty and smart commoner girl that she could easily manipulate. However the woman in front of her had apparently just had her 18th birthday and already carried a dignified air and elegance that could only be cultivated from being raised in the upper class. Has she transformed from being in the capital region for a mere six months? Jiang Hongcha suppressed the jealousy in her heart and smiled amiably, "There are some things I want to tell you about me and Mei Xiawen, do you want to have a coffee with me?" Seeing Gu Nianzhi's hesitation, she immediately said, "Let's not go anywhere, this is a hotel right? There should be a cafe?"

"Yes, come with me." Gu Nianzhi actually didn't want to deal with Jiang Hongcha, but hearing that it was about her and Mei Xiawen, she didn't want to refuse. The point was that she was feeling hesitant and unsure what to do, so she needed some guidance. Jiang Hongcha was Mei Xiawen's first girlfriend, so she must know what she's saying. The pair sat down in a corner in the Capitol Hill Hotel Cafe. The large potted green plants sequestered a small isolated space for them. Gu Nianzhi ordered a cappuccino and used a spoon to slowly stir it, her other hand supporting her chin. She gazed steadily at Jiang Hongcha across from her.

Jiang Hongcha didn't order coffee and had a warm milk instead, "I can't have coffee right now." She smiled softly at Gu Nianzhi.

Gu Nianzhi detected the smile was full of maternal radiance and looked down to remove the spoon and sip at her cappuccino.

Jiang Hongcha held her warm milk and looked like she didn't know where to begin. After a while, she finally spoke, "Nianzhi, can I call you that?"

"Sure." Gu Nianzhi smiled and looked up at Jiang Hongcha. Her voice was tender but a bit raspy from the afternoon's debate on appropriation of funds.

"My family is friends with the Mei family, we practically grew up together." Jiang Hongcha immersed herself in the beautiful memories, "But we only became a couple in high school."

Gu Nianzhi's eyebrows twitched and felt impatient. She had been so busy with work she didn't have lunch and was rushing home to dinner. How long did Jiang Hongcha plan to take with her long tale from start to finish? She coughed softly and simply stated, "Xiawen mentioned he had a first love who went abroad after high school. They later broke up, that was you?"

Jiang Hongcha didn't expect Gu Nianzhi to summarize her romantic first love with Mei Xiawen in one sentence and felt a little embarrassed. The past was so beautiful, but Gu Nianzhi's words had no emotions to them. It was clear that this woman had no parents and wasn't raised properly, so she rudely interrupted others when she didn't like what she was hearing... When she thought about it this way, Jiang Hongcha's smile grew brighter as she languidly nodded, "You can say that. But when I came back after finishing my undergrad, Xiawen and I... met again."

Gu Nianzhi raised her brows, "Miss Jiang, please be direct if you want to say something. You're mumbling so much that I'm starting to regret having coffee with you."

"...Ok. Miss Gu, allow me to make a long story short." Jiang Hongcha straightened in her seat and leaned closer, "The thing is, I want to ask if you are Mei Xiawen's girlfriend?"

Gu Nianzhi closed her eyes, "...Not yet."

"That's a no then?" Jiang Hongcha chuckled gently, "Then I don't feel so guilty anymore. The thing is, Xiawen and I couldn't forget our first love, but we have hurdles in our heart that prevent us from getting back together. So we made a promise to give each other another chance, but don't want to bind ourselves to each other. Please don't worry, Miss Gi. We're in an open relationship, which means I can date someone else and he can also pursue others, like Miss Gu."

Gu Nianzhi blinked and listened to Jiang Hongcha quietly.

Jiang Hongcha was very sympathetic, "I know Miss Gu also made a promise with Mei Xiawen, that you would make him wait six months and that if he still like you after that, you would agree to be his girlfriend? Ah, young lady, how can you be so naive? How can you let a man loose like that?"

"Miss Jiang, this is between me and Mei Xiawen. I don't think I need to explain anything to you." Gu Nianzhi looked out the window impatiently.

"Don't be angry, I'm just saying it as is." Jiang Hongcha shifted in her seat and cradled her belly.