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264 The Price of Being With Him

 "That's because when she goes before the secret military court, her real crimes should be the illegal acquiring of classified military intelligence, the illegal importation of classified military intelligence abroad, and the large scale leakage of this private information, which can negatively impact our soldiers at anytime. It also condemns her for putting the Huaxia Empire at risk as well." Huo Shaoheng sighed, "Nianzhi, I also made a mistake with this incident."

"What?" Although Gu Nianzhi was very intelligent, she didn't know much about Huo Shaoheng's work and couldn't figure it out. "How can you have made a mistake?! That's impossible!"

His lips curved into a wry smile. "I'm human too. Of course I can make mistakes." He took Gu Nianzhi's face in his hands, "I shouldn't have told you that these were prop photos for a military mission. My revealing that can also be considered a leak to a certain extent."

"But, I won't tell anyone!" Gu Nianzhi was agitated."I swear! I-"

Huo Shaoheng covered her mouth with his hand and said gently, "Don't swear, I believe you."

The tears Gu Nianzhi had been holding back suddenly flowed as she fell into Huo Shaoheng's embrace, her arms clinging onto his neck like she had done when she was a child. She was sobbing so hard that she couldn't speak coherently, her tears falling in a torrent that quickly soaked the front of his shirt. Huo Shaoheng patted her back helplessly, and said, "Don't cry. I already said I believed you."

"But, you asked me to mentally prepare myself, I'm scared!" Gu Nianzhi gasped out finally as she burrowed into his chest.

Huo Shaoheng got some tissues from the nightstand for Gu Nianzhi to wipe her tears and blow her nose with. "Ok, just pretend that you don't know anything about the photos. Just stay by my side for this little while and it'll blow over. Now, I'm going to tell you how we typically handle this sort of thing."

Gu Nianzhi agreed and obediently allowed Huo Shaoheng to wipe her face. Her teary and dark eyes looked at him with complete trust.

"Nianzhi, these photos were never supposed to have been published, but if it did happen, just like what's going on right now, according to our nation's conventional way of dealing with this type of matter, I can't even deny that I had a romantic relationship with her," Huo Shaoheng said slowly, his eyes locked on Gu Nianzhi in order to not miss a single expression on her face.

So, he means to say that he must admit to the romantic relationship in the photos? Gu Nianzhi couldn't stand the thought and her previously blanched face now flushed with anger as she quickly asked, "Why can't you deny it?! What if it's not true! Why do you have to admit it? Are you really going to let them threaten you in such an underhanded way?"

"If I deny my relationship with her, there's no question that people will start to think of another, perhaps more incriminating, possibility." Huo Shaoheng stroked her long hair and said, "Think about it: even you were able to see the clues in the photos, so how can the foreign intelligence agencies not? These are all experts. The American CIA, the British MI5, these are all huge organizations especially dedicated to act against our nation."

"When that time comes, if people catch wind that I "wasn't" in a relationship with her like in the photos, what do think they will assume?"

Gu Nianzhi's heart wrenched, "A-assume...?" She found herself speechless.

Huo Shaoheng sighed quietly and answered for her. "They will immediately assume that this wasn't a personal act, but one of business. Then, the attention will be drawn on our mission from those years ago, tracing back to the source and putting our soldiers in danger." Huo Shaoheng was much more patient to Gu Nianzhi than other people. He never explained his behaviour and intentions to others, but this time he explained in complete and thorough detail.

Gu Nianzhi was smart to begin with, and coupled with Huo Shaoheng's clear explanation of the whole situation, she was able to quickly understand. The light in her eyes dimmed. She was unable to veil her fear and anxiety. "So, the conventional solution is that you still refrain from disclosing the truth about the photos, even if you can arrest and convict Dou Qingyan? You can only admit that you had a romantic relationship with her, is that right?" She looked down, unable to meet Huo Shaoheng's eyes. "So, it's better to have everyone think that you broke her heart, rather than reveal the truth?"

Gu Nianzhi hit three birds with one stone and had already come to the conclusion. Huo Shaoheng glanced at her before gently pulling her away and getting up, walking out onto the terrace in Gu Nianzhi's room. He took out a pack of cigarettes and lit one to smoke as he watched the night sky in a daze. He was also repenting. His first reaction upon seeing the photos wasn't concern about a possible leak, but concern about Gu Nianzhi getting upset. At that moment, he hadn't hesitated to tell her the truth and so had already violated Huaxia's Special Ops' secrecy laws. He realized that her influence on him and her position in his heart was far more important than he'd initially understood. Hanging his head, Huo Shaoheng held a cigarette with his arms crossed on the rail. The cigarette was nearly burnt out, but he didn't smoke from it again. He stayed still for a long time.

Draped in a down coat, Gu Nianzhi also followed him outside and said softly to Huo Shaoheng, "Huo Shao, you said you believed that I'd never tell anyone. Don't worry." No matter how sad she was or how Dou Qingyan would gloat in front her, Gu Nianzhi would not say a word.

Huo Shaoheng sensed that Gu Nianzhi still didn't understand the severity of the situation, so he threw the cigarette butt into the trash and put his arm around her to walk them back inside the bedroom. The French windows were closed, but Huo Shaoheng didn't let go, his hands still on Gu Nianzhi's shoulder. He hesitated for a long moment before deciding to say, "Nianzhi, have you thought about it? If you want to be with me, this kind of thing may happen in the future too. It can make you feel even more embarrassed or even pained than you are now, and even if you knew the truth, you can't explain or argue. You can't even show it in your eyes. Can you accept this?"

These misunderstandings, dilemmas and embarrassments, and not to forget, the danger that followed a man of Huo Shaoheng's reputation and status, were the price of being with someone like him. Huo Shaoheng appeared extremely restrained as he quietly looked at her, his dark eyes solemn as he awaited her response.

Gu Nianzhi merely nodded and said softly, "I see." Her reaction was too quick, her attitude too nonchalant, that Huo Shaoheng had no idea whether or not she understood how serious this was. He gave it some more thought, and then continued. "Actually, this kind of thing is nothing for people in our line of work. Our predecessors in the Special Ops have suffered worse false accusations. Do you know many of our comrades have disappeared without a trace in foreign prisons? Even their deaths are not recognized by the nation. That's because this is the way we do things in our industry." They were accustomed to it-this was the true dedication of the body and mind, and not only their lives but also their reputation.

Gu Nianzhi was really shocked now. She froze before disagreeing strongly, crying, "No! No! No! How can it be this way?! Your selfless sacrifices allow people to enjoy such peaceful and happy lives, so they should know about your contributions! The names of those predecessors shouldn't only be left in the classified files of the Special Ops! I hope that one day, the names of every single member of the Special Ops who made a contribution to the nation can appear in a public memorial! They shouldn't be forgotten or have suffer slander or criminalization!"

Huo Shaoheng was suddenly very moved. Leaning forward to hug her, he had no idea what to say anymore. All the years of training had taught him not to defend himself or reveal a single secret no matter what adversity he faced.

Gu Nianzhi leaned her back against him and said softly with a smile, "Fine, Huo Shao. I'll admit that I'm not such a great person. I say this only because of you." She turned to look at him, enunciating each word carefully. "If you encounter this situation one day, I will not rest nor agree to this conventional solution. I won't allow anyone the opportunity to tarnish your reputation. I swear on my life that if you're gone, I'll use the rest of my life to defend your name and protect all that you protected."

Huo Shaoheng's heart skipped a beat. Never had he thought that Gu Nianzhi understood him so deeply. He had also never realized that it would be this kind of confession that would be able to strike the deepest recesses of heart, leaving him to choice but to surrender himself.