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Home > Hello Mr Major General

273 I Care

 "Why do we owe it to Nianzhi to give you a better room? Please give me a reasonable explanation."

Huo Shaoheng sat across from He Zhichu, his posture relaxed and casual. They looked like two men engaged in an innocuous business meeting; the rectangular table between them added to the illusion.

The Special Ops base was equipped with a special interrogation room for criminal suspects, but Huo Shaoheng had decided it wasn't necessary to use it for the current phase of the investigation. None of the guests at the Prime Minister's party were criminal suspects, after all.

The interrogation room the two men were sitting in right now was mainly used to question witnesses who had been asked to assist in an investigation.

He Zhichu crossed his legs and placed his hands on top of his knee. His expression was cool and dignified as he said casually: "I should get a better room because I'm Nianzhi's mentor. I hear that it is part of the Huaxia culture to show the utmost respect to your teachers. If this is the way you 'respect' your teachers, I shudder to think what your 'disrespect' looks like."

"We'll show you our utmost respect, if you truly think of yourself as Nianzhi's mentor." Huo Shaoheng looked towards the camera in the interrogation room and smiled. "The camera in this room is recording your every word, Professor He. I hope you won't ever forget what you said today-you are, first and foremost, Nianzhi's mentor."

"Oh, I won't forget it." He Zhichu leaned forward and placed a hand on the table. He drummed out a tuneless song with his fingers. "But General Huo, I should remind you that the old saying 'a teacher for a day is a father figure for life' no longer applies in this day and age."

His expression remained stony, but a hint of a smile flickered in his bright, almond-shaped eyes.

Gu Nianzhi was watching the two men from the adjacent room. She could hear every word He Zhichu had just said through her earpiece; she sighed as she covered her face with a hand. What was Professor He trying to do here?

Huo Shaoheng cocked his head as he considered He Zhichu from across the table. He knew He Zhichu had seen through the trap Huo Shaoheng had laid for him, and had cunningly pre-empted him before he could spring the trap.

Huo Shaoheng mirrored He Zhichu's posture; he, too, laid a hand on the table and began drumming his fingers on the wooden surface. "Professor He, the saying 'a teacher for a day is a father figure for life' is just as relevant today. Nevertheless, you are free to behave as you see fit. After all, we can't very well arrest you if you wish to engage in immoral acts, so long as it isn't actually a crime. But I have absolute faith in Nianzhi. She's a good girl who knows right from wrong, and I know she despises the morally corrupt. I don't think your bad influence will rub off on her."

He Zhichu's face instantly darkened. He stared daggers at Huo Shaoheng. "Are you suggesting that I am an immoral man?"

"No, of course not. I'm just analyzing what you just said." Huo Shaoheng smiled. His slender fingers curled into a fist, and he withdrew his hand from the table with deliberate slowness. It was a show of dominance.

He Zhichu gave a small nod. "I had no idea General Huo was a man capable of logical analysis. How unexpected."

"Why does it surprise you? Have you been investigating me?" Huo Shaoheng sat up straight. "You must be a very powerful man indeed, Professor He, if you have agents within the Huaxia Empire's military."

"I know you're trying to bait me. Don't bother." He Zhichu shook his head. "Yes, I did some research on you, but only because I wanted to understand Nianzhi better. I wanted to see what kind of environment she was raised in."

"Don't you think your concern for Nianzhi exceeds the boundaries of what a professor should feel for his students?"

"It depends on how you define a professor's concern for his students," He Zhichu said evenly, ignoring the obvious trap. He uncrossed and recrossed his legs in a princely, dignified manner. "A good professor spares no effort to help their students get ahead in life. You may not have met a professor like me before this, General Huo, but that doesn't mean we don't exist."

"Fair enough." Huo Shaoheng nodded. "I can see why you would want to go to great lengths for Nianzhi. Smart, obedient students like her are hard to come by, after all. Still..."

Huo Shaoheng abruptly changed the subject. "...Where did you hear that Nianzhi lived with the Special Ops from the age of 12 to 18?"

Only the Special Ops soldiers were privy to that information.

He Zhichu shot Huo Shaoheng a funny look. His bright, almond-shaped eyes flickered to the one-way mirror disguised as a wall; he stared fixedly at it, as though it were just as transparent to him as it was to the occupants in the room beyond.

"...Where do I hear about it? From you, of course. General Huo, you slipped up and exposed Nianzhi's secrets yourself. So why are you asking me about it?" The smile that had been lurking in the depths of He Zhichu's eyes disappeared. He stared fixedly at Huo Shaoheng, his face stern. The forbidding aura rolling off of him was comparable with Huo Shaoheng's.

Huo Shaoheng was taken aback. He quickly collected himself, and shook his head impassively. "Please enlighten me, Professor He."

"Enlighten you? I think it's fairly self-explanatory, isn't it? Nianzhi applied to be my postgrad student, and the CV you faked for her was good enough to pass for the real thing. But the second you showed up and announced that you were her guardian, you basically admitted that her CV was entirely made-up." There was a hint of a sneer on He Zhichu's lips. "Any fool can see that."

Huo Shaoheng considered this for a moment. He raised his hands and applauded He Zhichu. "You live up to your reputation, Professor He. Your observation skills are truly impressive."

"You flatter me."

"I have no regrets, however, because it exposed you, too, Professor He." Huo Shaoheng folded his arms across his chest. He said calmly: "Nianzhi's CV was 'real,' in the sense that we made sure it was possible to corroborate every detail in it with witnesses and evidence. But you've just admitted that you had been able to tell, at a glance, that it was a fake that was 'good enough to pass for the real thing.' That goes well beyond mere observation."

Huo Shaoheng had been well aware of the consequences of revealing his true identity. He knew it would negatively affect Gu Nianzhi.

His announcing himself as Gu Nianzhi's guardian was enough to prove that Gu Nianzhi's CV had been falsified.

It meant that everything listed on Gu Nianzhi's CV from before the age of 12 was most probably fake.

But this was not immediately obvious to everyone. Only those who knew Gu Nianzhi well would have been able to deduce this. In fact, it would not be too much of a stretch to say that only someone who knew Gu Nianzhi's real past, someone who had known her before the age of 12, would have been able to pick up on this.

Was He Zhichu someone from Gu Nianzhi's past?

Huo Shaoheng watched He Zhichu's face intently, making sure not to miss the slightest change in the lawyer's expression.

But He Zhichu's face betrayed nothing.

He said frostily: "A good lawyer needs to be able to doubt everything. I think you underestimate my skills as a lawyer."

"I didn't mean to offend." Huo Shaoheng bowed his head slightly. "I admit that I know very little of your professional skills, but I can tell you must be an exceptional lawyer, going by your achievements so far."

He Zhichu nodded as he nonchalantly accepted Huo Shaoheng's compliments at face value. "I take both my career as a lawyer and my students seriously-and that is why I go to great lengths to show my students I care about them."

Huo Shaoheng did not believe it was as simple as that, but he knew it was impossible for him to get He Zhichu to spill all his secrets in one go. If he pushed too hard, it could potentially backfire on him, so he decided to let it go for now; he would patiently wait for the right moment.

Huo Shaoheng shifted the focus of the conversation back to Dou Qingyan. "You're right, Professor He. I was too narrow-minded. Your concern for Nianzhi is entirely normal, especially when compared to the concern you show for your assistant, Wen Shouyi. I shouldn't have been so paranoid."

"...What do you mean?" He Zhichu immediately knew Huo Shaoheng was up to something. "What's this about the concern I show for my assistant?"

Huo Shaoheng was as calm as a placid lake now. He folded his arms and asked casually: "Are you a close friend of Dou Qingyan?"

"I told you, I barely know her." He Zhichu frowned. "You haven't answered my question. What do you mean, my concern for my assistant outweighs my concern for my students? Why did you change the subject to Dou Qingyan?"

"Because the two are related." Huo Shaoheng picked out two chocolates from the crystal sugar cup on the table. He placed one in front of him, and pushed the other towards He Zhichu. "Your concern for your assistant, Wen Shouyi, must go beyond that of a colleague if you are willing to extend your generosity to her clients. You said that you don't know Dou Qingyan, that you've had nothing to do with her, but you were willing to fly her back to her country in your luxurious private jet-one of only five in the world-as a personal favor to Wen Shouyi. Miss Wen must be aware of your deep feelings for her; it would explain why she cares about you so much."

Huo Shaoheng's words were like a sword against He Zhichu's throat: he was forcing the lawyer to admit that he had feelings for Wen Shouyi that went far beyond that of a colleague. Why else would He Zhichu willingly lend his private jet-a large, state-of-the-art aircraft capable of long-distance flight-to Wen Shouyi's client, Dou Qingyan? Especially since the lawyer claimed not to have crossed paths with Dou Qingyan before that?

It was either that, or He Zhichu would have to admit that he had been lying. He would have to admit that he was actually a close friend of Dou Qingyan, which meant they would have to investigate him as a possible accomplice.