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192 The First Meeting

 Huo Shaoheng watched Gu Nianzhi without blinking for a while; the room was eerily silent. When she finally couldn't stand his stare anymore, she shifted her gaze to the full-length curtains on the south wall, and muttered,"You also have French windows here? I'm scared of being watched."

Huo Shaoheng turned to look at it then adjusted her blankets. "The window is bulletproof, so don't worry."

She closed her eyes in defeat and was quiet. One hand snuck out from under the blankets to grab the corner of Huo Shaoheng's pajama shirt.

Huo Shaoheng looked down at the delicate and pale hand. He held it briefly and then tucked it back inside the blanket."I won't leave, ok? I'm sleeping on the couch."

Huo Shaoheng's main bedroom was much larger than Gu Nianzhi's bedroom in her suite. There was not only a tall armoire, but a wide couch and a long table sitting situated across the room.

Gu Nianzhi sighed in relief and peeked through the blankets to see Huo Shaoheng carrying bedding and pillows from the spare bedroom; he arranged them on the couch and repositioned it so he could see her better from where he would sleep. He then shut off the lights and lay down to sleep. With Huo Shaoheng accompanying her, Gu Nianzhi's fear quickly dissipated. Sleep hit her in a flash and she immediately passed out.

Huo Shaoheng looked at Gu Nianzhi's direction, before he finally drifted off to sleep.


The next morning, Huo Shaoheng woke up at seven in the morning. He was accustomed to waking up at six, but he'd had a late night and slept an extra hour. He took a shower and came out to see Gu Nianzhi still sleeping, peacefully nestled in her blankets, yet her tiny face was unnaturally flushed. His heart dropped as he reached out to touch her forehead and realized that she had a fever. Recalling the unlocked French windows in her room last night, Huo Shaoheng surmised that she had probably caught a chill then. Her body had been unable to handle the cold and severe shock, and so it had broken into a fever. Gu Nianzhi rarely got sick and on the rare occasions that she did, they were usually minor incidents. Huo Shaoheng wasn't normally the one to give her medication in such times. He gave Gu Nianzhi another worried glance before he gave Chen Lie a call.

Chen Lie was shocked that Gu Nianzhi had fallen sick as soon just after a night in the Huo household. He rapper his pen on the desk and said, "Other people would have to be hospitalized at 39 degrees, but Nianzhi is ok so long as she doesn't hit 40 degrees."

"Nonsense," Huo Shaoheng retorted. "Even a healthy person's brain would be fried at 40 degrees. You're a sham doctor who needs to go back to school."

Chen Lie hated it whenever Huo Shaoheng questioned his qualifications as a doctor when it came to Gu Nianzhi. He laughed incredulously. "Is that so, Huo Shaoheng? And who was it that-" but before he could get another word out, Huo Shaoheng had hung up. He then looked around and found a thermometer with which to measure Gu Nianzhi's temperature and saw that it was under 39 degrees. Setting it down, he decided to let her rest and go outside for breakfast.

"Elder Cousin, you're awake! But, where's Miss Gu?" Huo Jialan had been in the middle of instructing the maids on how to prepare breakfast when Huo Shaoheng walked in. "I wasn't sure what Miss Gu preferred, so I had Mrs. Chen make a C City style breakfast; would you like to take it to her and see if she likes it?"

Huo Shaoheng observed the C City breakfast platter that had been prettily arranged. " I'll take it to her in a bit. Thank you for making all of this."

There was a clatter from behind as Zhang Wenjie stumbled into the dining area, still half asleep. He quickly straightened up when he saw Huo Shaoheng standing at the table. Although he was dressed comfortably in a T-shirt and loose lounge pants, Zhang Wenjie saw that it didn't do anything to hide his well-toned body; the lazy air about him enhanced his rugged morning appeal as his tall frame moved gracefully about the room, helping Huo Jialan set the table. Zhang Wenjie felt slightly embarrassed all of a sudden: although he was not much shorter than his cousin, the differences in appearance and manner were considerable; he felt like a scrawny teenager compared to Huo Shaoheng. Huo Shaoheng himself, noticed Zhang Wenjie standing in the entrance and gave him a rare nod. "Good morning," he called, with a friendly face. Huo Shaoheng took a seat and looked at the table laden with steamed pork buns, sticky rice balls, rice congee, fried donuts, plates of marinated vegetables, pitchers of milk. He then leaned forward to Huo Jialan, and said, "Thank you for this wonderful spread as well." He turned to Zhang Wenjie and asked "Do you want some breakfast?"

Zhang Wenna had just entered the dining room at that moment and her eyes widened at the quaint scene she was witnessing. Her Elder Cousin was truly a completely different person than he had been six years before. In the past, he hadn't even spared them a glance, let alone a greeting, yet now he was so polite to Wenjie and Huo Jialan! Of course, Zhang Wenna thought, it could be because he learned to better conceal his emotions and use etiquette to hide all his true feelings and distaste, now that his rank was higher; Zhang Wenna could understand the need to do so. She was conflicted about what to believe and how to feel about this change in her cousin, but she walked over and nodded at Huo Shaoheng. "Good morning, Elder Cousin."

Huo Shaoheng turned to look at her. "Morning."

Zhang Wenna sat beside Zhang Wenjie and gave him a glance. Zhang Wenjie shrugged, expressing his own confusion, then looked to Huo Shaoheng. "Elder Brother, where's Miss Gu? Why isn't she here for breakfast?"

Huo Jialan had also been wondering the same thing. "The steamed buns won't taste as good once they cool down," she said fretfully.

The orderlies brought Huo Shaoheng's special breakfast over before he could respond to their inquiries. His food was entirely prepared by the military orderlies; even the kitchen used to make the meals were located in a separate area apart from the main kitchen. Looking at the giant medium-rare steak, the cheese pancakes, and the large plate of beef buns, Huo Jialan's mouth twitched with distaste.

"Elder Cousin, it's not good to eat these things early in the morning." The food were all high calorie, high fat, and high protein items. However, she didn't realize that Huo Shaoheng had to consume such foods in order to ensure that the level of nutrition he need to intake with his degree of activity in the military.

Huo Shaoheng didn't bother to explain and said, "I've only eaten this since joining the ranks."

Zhang Wenjie was envious as he eyed Huo Shaoheng's warm slices of bread and the thick strips of bacon-he wished that he could have a portion of the steak or even one of the beef buns.

Huo Shaoheng noticed his longing gaze and passed the plate of pan-fried buns to him. "Wenjie, eat this."

Zhang Wenjie was flattered. "Is this really for me? It's not for Miss Gu?!"

"She's sick, so she can't eat these." Huo Shaoheng picked up his cutlery to and told his orderly, "Have a medical officer come see Nianzhi. She'll be eating with me from now on, so be sure to remember to prepare her meals too."

The orderly confirmed the request and asked, "What does Miss Gu prefer?"

"Something fresh; she's sick now so you can add a bit more seasoning," Huo Shaoheng ordered casually as he polished off the steak and moved on to the beef buns.

Huo Jianlan rubbed her hands anxiously. "Elder Cousin, is Miss Gu ill? What kind of illness is it?"

"A fever. She caught a chill last night." Huo Shaoheng finished his breakfast and drank a large cup of coffee. He rose up from the chair. "Enjoy your meal."

The Zhang siblings' father, Zhang Baochen, and mother, Qian Shihui, entered the dining room as Huo Shaoheng walked out.

"Uncle Zhang, Aunt Zhang." Huo Shaoheng bowed slightly in greeting as he carried a plate of breakfast out.


Huo Shaoheng returned to his suite and had been working on his computer for some time when he heard the doorbell ring. He was informed over the intercom that the medical officer had arrived. Huo Shaoheng got up to open the door and greeted a female medical officer.

"Zitan?" Huo Shaoheng was a little surprised. "You're the one they sent here?"

"Nianzhi is studying in the Imperial capital, so Chen Lie posted me here a long time ago," Ye Zitan said with a smile. "Even so, we didn't think she would get sick as soon as she got here."

Huo Shaoheng realized that it must've been Chen Lie who had contacted e Zitan. Gu Nianzhi had always been seen by Chen Lie, with Ye Zitan occasionally helping him out. Ye Zitan entered the room and took out a thermometer and stethoscope out from her medical kit. She examined her for a few minutes before and finally said, "She should be fine; she's at 38.5 degrees now."

Huo Shaoheng nodded. "She was just under 39 degrees earlier, so it looks like the fever is going down."

Ye Zitan agreed, "Yes, it is. It's best if the fever breaks itself, but if it doesn't she can take medicine. I'll leave some here just in case."

Reassured that Gu Nianzhi would be alright, Huo Shaoheng returned to his study to get to work. However, Huo Jialan was soon at the intercom just after he had gone inside. Huo Shaoheng opened the door to let her in and they made their way to the small living room. "Elder Brother, Nianzhi stayed with you last night?" Huo Jialan peered inside Huo Shaoheng's bedroom.

"Yes, and she'll be staying here from now one," Huo Shaoheng said succinctly. "It's just for over a week."

"This isn't a good idea though," Huo Jianlan objected. "Elder Cousin is Miss Gu's guardian, but Miss Gu is already 18. She's an adult, and yet she's still living with you...and now is even staying with you in the same room."

"What's wrong with that?" Huo Shaoheng remained indifferent. "Her situation is unique; we need to ensure she's not easily frightened or traumatized. This was medically proven."

"She's not allowed to get sacred?" Huo Jialan froze. "Could it be-"

"No." Huo Shaoheng didn't hesitate to interrupt her, his eyes growing dark. "She's just a girl who has trouble with anxiety, and is easily frightened. Don't overthink it."

Huo Jianlan was rendered speechless by his rebuttal and stood up quickly, her hands tightly clasped. "I'm sorry to bother you then, Elder Cousin. Please understand that I'm just looking out for you. You're a Major General and cannot afford to make any mistakes. There are so many people watching you."

"I know." Huo Shaoheng replied. "You don't have to worry over my business and cause yourself stress. Go now. We're fine."

Huo Jialan tried to persuade him further, but Huo Shaoheng had already returned to his study. She was left alone in the living room. After standing around for awhile, she finally left in a sullen mood.


Gu Nianzhi slept until the sun set, After sweating profusely, her fever had completely gone down, but now she was uncomfortably sticky. Mind still hazy from the fever, she sat up and stretched lazily before taking off her sweat drenched nightgown.

Huo Shaoheng had heard her get up and rushed to check on her, but came to an abrupt stop at the doorway. Her full and delicate breasts swelled and pressed together as she pulled her clothes off over her head. He immediately turned around and closed the bedroom door. Gu Nianzhi heard the sound and suddenly realized she wasn't in her own room, but Huo Shaoheng's. She hastily put on a robe that was laid out on the chair beside her and opened the door. "Uncle Huo, what is it?"

Huo Shaoheng's stood with his back to her. "It's already evening. Hurry up and change for dinner." He finished speaking and immediately went to his study and slammed the door shut behind him.

Gu Nianzhi was surprised "It's already evening? Did I really sleep all day?" Looking at the closed study door, Gu Nianzhi decided not bother Huo Shaoheng and whatever mood he was in at the moment. She went to her suitcase and took out some underwear and a change of clean clothes. After her warm shower, she saw that Huo Shaoheng's study door was ajar but he wasn't inside. He's probably gone ahead to dinner, Gu Nianzhi thought. She put on her own slippers and left the suite to join the rest of the family for dinner.

Guided by her memory, she made her way to the living room. If she remembered correctly, the dining room was on the other side of the living room. Walking down a long hallway, she was just about to turn right when she glanced down a narrow corridor on the left. A woman wearing a detailed pink sweater and a pink wool dress stood at the other end. She walked up a few steps, then seemed to suddenly remember something and quickly turned around.

Who...? Gu Nianzhi couldn't quite put her finger on it, but the woman looked familiar. Suddenly she realized how she knew her: it was woman who had in her room last night! Gu Nianzhi blinked a few times and saw that the woman still stood in front of the window at the end of the hall, smiling at her.

"Who are you?" Gu Nianzhi called out, walking over to them. "Are you someone of the Huo family?" Upon closer inspection, Gu Nianzhi realized that the woman was a little bit older, but certainly no more than 30 years old. Her fair skin, delicate features, and a certain air of naivety and shyness gave one the impression that she closer to 18 or 19 years old. If it hadn't been for the faint lines at the corners of her eyes, Gu Nianzhi would've mistaken her for the same age as herself. The woman watched Gu Nianzhi approaching her and whispered, "Your dress is pretty."

Gu Nianzhi had changed into a lavender Chanel silk dress that twirled about her knees. Gu Nianzhi saw her admiration and smiled back. "You're so pretty, I've never seen someone so beautiful. Are you part of the Huo family?"

The woman blinked. "Huo family?" A faint blush tinged her cheeks and her voice grew quieter. "I want to become part of the Huo family... but Guanchen says that I can't marry yet at 18. I have to wait until I'm 22."

Gu Nianzhi froze. Guanchen? Wasn't that Huo Shaoheng's father's name? But, this woman certainly looked older than 18! "You're saying that you're only 18? So you can't get married?" Gu Nianzhi asked curiously. "What's your name? Were you the one who came into my room last night?"

The woman tilted her head in thought. "What's my name? I'm... Song Jinning! Yes, that's it." She bobbed her head excitedly and then asked, "I went to your room? No, that's my own room."

Gu Nianzhi was incredibly confused, but thought that since she was about to have dinner, this woman couldn't be left alone. "Miss Song, was it? Did you eat dinner yet? Come, have dinner with me." She reached out her hand.

Song Jinning hesitated, but slowly extended her own hand to take Gu Nianzhi's. Her hands were like ice, Gu Nianzhi realized with a start. Nianzhi led her to the dining room. The pair walked into the dining room hand in hand, and those gathered inside stood up in shock.

Huo Jialan ran over and pulled Song Jinning's hand from Gu Nianzhi's. "Aunt, why are you down here?" She chastised the servants. "How are you doing your jobs? You couldn't even look after one patient?"