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283 To Kiss or not to Kiss

 She knew Dou Aiyan was sucking up to her, but Wen Shouyi enjoyed the attention regardless. She stood before the window as she gazed into the gloom of the night. "A lawyer's letter isn't the best idea considering the situation your family is in right now. If you send one, it'll backfire on you-they'll say that you're being a bully."

"Really? What should I do, then?" Dou Aiyan sounded like she was about to die of frustration.

"If you're set on helping your mother, well, I have an idea. Your mother will have to suffer a little." Wen Shouyi gave a low laugh. "For example, a failed suicide attempt by your mother would cause the public to pity her..."

Dou Aiyan was speechless. She turned the idea over in her head, and her eyes lit up. "Professor Wen, I get it now!"


Early the next morning, Dou Aiyan went to her parents and told them Wen Shouyi's idea. She did not tell them it was from ​​Wen Shouyi, however.

Prime Minister Dou could not hide his excitement. "What an excellent idea! How did you come up with it, Aiyan?! Bravo! It's leagues better than the garbage my political aides come up with-why am I even paying them?! Good work, Aiyan!"

"You mean it?" Dou Aiyan was very surprised. She had half expected her father to shoot the idea down; he was the Prime Minister and had no lack of political tactics, after all.

"Of course I mean it. I've seen many things. In terms of crisis PR, your idea is up there with the best of them. Clever girl, I shouldn't have underestimated you!" Prime Minister Dou gave her a thumbs-up.

Dou Aiyan smiled. She decided, then and there, that she would never tell them it was Wen Shouyi's idea.

Her brother was her father's favorite child, while her sister was her mother's favorite. Dou Aiyan was forever second place in her parents' hearts.

If she showed that she was smart, she knew her parents would love her best...

The Prime Minister's wife, Yan Qiuying, did not really like the idea, but she did not object. "If that'll keep them off my back, I'll give it a try." She added worriedly: "You have to be prepared, all right? Don't mess up, I don't want to die yet."

"No... no... we won't mess up, don't worry..." Prime Minister Dou and Dou Aiyan comforted her.

The three of them quickly worked out their plan. Dou Aiyan asked her parents not to tell her brother, Dou Haoyan; she knew it would be more realistic that way.

Just as the wrath of the people reached boiling point, and the military was considering opening an investigation into the Prime Minister's wife, she suddenly "decided" that she couldn't "take it anymore." She sent a suicide note proclaiming her innocence to the TV stations, before swallowing an entire bottle of sleeping pills in a suicide attempt.

Fortunately, her daughter Dou Aiyan was also at home, and noticed something was wrong in the nick of time. She called for an ambulance, and Dou Qingyan was sent to the hospital, where the doctors performed an emergency gastric suction on her to remove the sleeping pills from her stomach.

Dou Qingyan's attempted suicide sent her son, Dou Haoyan, into a rage. He went on TV and accused the netizens of being no better than a violent, lawless mob. If anything happened to his mother, he would track down all the rumor-mongers, and drag them to court!

This was enough to kill public interest in the matter. It seemed that Yan Qiuying would not have to appear in court, after all.

All the major TV stations and newspapers were too afraid to continue covering the issue.

Just as Yan Qiuying was about to become yesterday's news, there was a sudden wave of stringent moderation on the internet forums and social media. All posts related to Yan Qiuying and Dou Qingyan were immediately deleted. Anyone who tried to repost them soon received an email stating that their account had been banned.

If anyone brought up the Prime Minister's family in an unrelated topic, a moderator would quickly show up and give everyone in the topic a warning. No one was allowed to talk about the Prime Minister's family, period. It was an order from "above."

It backfired. The internet exploded with renewed interest in the topic.

It was reverse psychology: people were more likely to do something they were not allowed to do. The sudden clampdown on public discourse sparked the imaginations of the people-everyone suddenly had a conspiracy theory of their own.

In order to avoid their comments from being auto-flagged and deleted, the netizens came up with nicknames for the Prime Minister's family: Yan Qiuying was referred to as "Buqun's wife," while the Prime Minister's eldest daughter, Dou Qingyan, was nicknamed "Buqun's daughter." The netizens were comparing the Prime Minister to Yue Buqun, the power-hungry hypocrite from the classic Jin Yong wuxia novel "The Smiling, Proud Wanderer."

Aside from the nicknames, the netizens used numbers and special characters to bypass the censor filters, flooding the forums with posts that looked like they had been written in code. Strangely enough, everyone seemed to know exactly what everyone else was referring to.


Gu Nianzhi was in Huo Shaoheng's study, lounging on the sofa as she browsed the internet forums and social media on her iPad. She read the deluge of angry comments accusing the Prime Minister of abusing his power to arbitrarily restrict the public's freedom of speech, and could not keep from laughing out loud.

Huo Shaoheng looked up and saw her smile. He casually asked: "Why are you so happy? What are you looking at?"

"Here, see for yourself..." Gu Nianzhi walked over to Huo Shaoheng and showed him her iPad. "Whoever's behind this is really, really smart. They're pretending to shill for the Prime Minister and his family, but they're actually doing them more harm than good. By deleting posts and putting a clampdown on all discussion, they've basically redirected the wrath of the public from the First Lady and her daughter to the Prime Minister himself. The Prime Minister is such an idiot-how can he not see what's really going on here?"

"...The ban could have come from the Prime Minister himself. How do you know it wasn't him?" Huo Shaoheng's lips curved into a smile. "Sometimes, when you reach a certain rank, it becomes easy to forget who you really are. You confuse your position with your actual worth, and start to believe that you are better than everyone else, and that the law doesn't apply to you."

"Prime Minister Dou can't be that stupid." Gu Nianzhi wrinkled her delicate nose. "I mean, it's his second term in office..."

"He isn't suffering from stupidity, but arrogance. He thinks he can abuse his power and get away with it." Huo Shaoheng turned off his computer. He led Gu Nianzhi back to the sofa, where they both sat. "A lot of smart people end up being a little too clever for their own good. That's all there is to it."

"I see." Gu Nianzhi was a little disappointed. She nonchalantly picked out the best angle to lean her head against Huo Shaoheng's shoulder. "Well, you're right, they're not stupid. The First Lady's suicide attempt was a stroke of genius. We definitely shouldn't underestimate Prime Minister Dou, he seems capable of anything."

Huo Shaoheng did not say anything for a few seconds. He plucked the iPad out of Gu Nianzhi's hands and tossed it onto the coffee table before him. "What a load of nonsense, don't waste your time reading them. Are you ready to appear in court as my mother's defense lawyer?"

"You bet I am!" Gu Nianzhi grew excited at the topic. "I've started my own file on the case, and I've been watching recordings of court proceedings to study how lawyers debate in court."

"...So you have a barrister's license now?" Huo Shaoheng leaned forward and pulled out a pack of cigarettes from his trouser pocket. He squeezed it in his hand.

Gu Nianzhi noticed what he was doing. She reached out and plucked the pack of cigarettes out of his hand. "Huh, there's no brand. Are these custom-made cigarettes? One of those government privileges?"

Huo Shaoheng gave a noncommittal grunt, before saying, "Give it back."

"Don't wanna." Gu Nianzhi shook her head. She tapped a cigarette out of the pack, and put it into her mouth. She looked coyly at Huo Shaoheng. "Huo Shao, give me a light!"

Huo Shaoheng looked at her. His gaze was sharp enough to cut. "When did you take up smoking?"

"...I didn't." Gu Nianzhi pouted. She removed the cigarette from her mouth and rolled it between her fingers. "I just wanted to try it because you make smoking look so cool..."

"Good girls don't smoke." Huo Shaoheng took the cigarette from Gu Nianzhi's hand and tossed it into the trash can. He recovered his pack of cigarettes from her.

"Nonsense! There's no relation between being good and smoking. You're just pulling things out of your ass!" Gu Nianzhi indignantly watched Huo Shaoheng stuff the pack of cigarettes back into his trouser pocket.

Huo Shaoheng casually draped an arm over the back of the sofa, right behind where Gu Nianzhi was sitting. He turned partly towards her and said in a low voice: "...I don't kiss girls who smoke."

In the next second, he had already leaned over to Gu Nianzhi. His tongue darted out and lightly traced her lips. Before she realized what was happening, he had pulled away, and was now looking at her nonchalantly. "...Remember that."

His voice was like the melodic notes of a cello in the dark of the night. It was low and seductive.

Gu Nianzhi's whole body had gone numb and tingly. She leaned against the sofa like a boneless rag doll. She did not even have the strength to raise her arms.

Her eyes grew misty, but she said stubbornly. "You're a heavy smoker, Huo Shao, but I never once complained or turned my nose up at you..."

"You can complain, you know." Huo Shaoheng turned to look at her. There was a hint of a smile on his face as he leaned closer to her. "You can swear never to kiss me again."

"No way!" Gu Nianzhi knew Huo Shaoheng was using his good looks to trap her, but she could not resist him. She chided herself inwardly for being obsessed with superficial beauty, and rolled her eyes at Huo Shaoheng for using his seductive good looks to "tempt" her.

Her body was a lot more honest than her brain. Before she knew what she was doing, she had closed the distance and pressed her pouty lips against Huo Shaoheng's mouth.

Gu Nianzhi had always felt that Huo Shaoheng's lips were perfect. They were neither too hard nor too soft; they were just right for kissing.