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293 The Central Office

 "Are you headed downstairs, Professor He? Why don't we go together?" Dou Aiyan stepped forward, squeezing Gu Nianzhi to the side.

Gu Nianzhi was thankful for that. She shrunk to one corner of the elevator, making sure to keep her distance from He Zhichu.

He Zhichu saw Gu Nianzhi was afraid of him, and responded to this by allowing Dou Aiyan to stick to him and separate him from Gu Nianzhi in the elevator.

Dou Aiyan's two friends saw what had happened, and were happy for Dou Aiyan.

They entered the elevator and immediately sandwiched Gu Nianzhi between them, flanking her. It was obvious that they were keeping her from scooting over to He Zhichu and ruining Dou Aiyan's plans...

Gu Nianzhi knew what they were thinking, and found the entire situation ironic. If only they knew how happy and thankful she was to have Dou Aiyan there...

She kept her eyes on the tips of her shoes and was silent the entire way down. She did not look up, not even once.

A short moment later, she heard a ding from the elevator. They had arrived at the lobby.

He Zhichu and Dou Aiyan stepped out of the elevator. They were quickly followed by Dou Aiyan's friends, who squeezed ahead of Gu Nianzhi to prevent her from getting close to He Zhichu.

Gu Nianzhi could not have asked for anything more. She was the last to leave the elevator, and as soon as she was out she immediately called her chauffeur to tell him to pick her up at the south gate.

She walked out of the lobby. Upon reaching the square in front of the building, Gu Nianzhi bowed to He Zhichu, who had stopped and turned around to watch her. "Thank you for your help today, Professor He."

"Call me if there are any problems." He Zhichu nodded to her. "Are you taking a taxi, or did you drive here on your own?"

"I came by uber. I already sent a message to my uber driver asking him to pick me up at the south gate."

With that, Gu Nianzhi turned and hurried away, leaving He Zhichu to stare after her swiftly retreating back.

He Zhichu watched her for a brief moment, his expression impassive. He nodded to Dou Aiyan, before returning to the lobby.

Up above them, in the B suite on the 28th floor, Wen Shouyi was in her bedroom, surreptitiously watching Gu Nianzhi and He Zhichu from behind the curtains of the French windows. She noted the way Gu Nianzhi kept her distance from He Zhichu, and how she had practically fled from him at the end. She sighed, shook her head, and returned to her study to write two letters, both addressed to her hometown: one was for He Zhichu's father, while the other was for Aunt Qin.


Gu Nianzhi returned to the military base in her car. She was silent the entire journey.

As soon as she entered Huo Shaoheng's official residence, the young orderly on guard duty at the entrance saw her and turned as red as a tomato. He stammered out: "Miss... Miss Gu, welcome back. Mr. Huo said he wants you to go to his office once you're back."

"Oh, okay, thanks." Gu Nianzhi was exhausted. She did not want to see Huo Shaoheng right away-she was afraid that he would be able to tell something was wrong.

She strode quickly to her room, removed her backpack, and immediately went to the bathroom to look in the mirror.

She wasn't surprised at what she saw: she had been crying, after all. Her eyelids were puffy, her eyes were red, and her face was alarmingly pale. Tufts of hair had escaped from her ponytail.

Gu Nianzhi hastily washed her face. She found the eye drops meant for bloodshot eyes and squeezed a few drops into her eyes. After that, she placed a cold eye mask over her eyelids and lay quietly on the sofa for five minutes.

When she removed the eye mask and took another look in the mirror, her eyes were no longer puffy or bloodshot.

She rubbed pink cream blush onto her cheeks, before putting on a thin layer of lip gloss. Once she was satisfied that the color had returned to her face, she picked up her laptop and made her way to Huo Shaoheng's office building.

Huo Shaoheng's office building was not too far away from his official residence, but Gu Nianzhi deliberately took her time and walked at a leisurely pace. It took her 20 minutes to finally arrive at the building.

From up above, the building was shaped like an oval egg. The building had higher floors on the outside and lower floors towards the middle, which meant that it curved inwards like a satellite dish.

The roof and walls were covered with anti-satellite detection and anti-eavesdropping material.

Gu Nianzhi arrived at the entrance to the office building, and showed the orderly on guard duty her temporary access pass. He scanned her fingerprints and iris, and allowed her inside once he verified that they matched the records in the database.

The security check took longer than Gu Nianzhi expected. 10 minutes later, she finally stepped foot inside the building of the Special Operations Forces headquarters.

As soon as she walked in, she was asked to remove her leather coat due to the security measures in place.

Gu Nianzhi folded her coat over her arm and followed the signs to the central office area in ​​the office building.

Huo Shaoheng's office was right in the middle of the central office area.

When Gu Nianzhi arrived at the entrance, she was subjected to another round of security checks. They not only re-examined her iris pattern, her fingerprints, but also tested her handwriting as well...

Gu Nianzhi was speechless. When she finished writing a few lopsided words in her inelegant handwriting she frowned and asked: "...Are you keeping a record of this as well?"

"That is correct, Miss Gu." The female security guard in charge of the security check was very friendly. She personally led Gu Nianzhi to Huo Shaoheng's office and said to the camera at the door: "Lieutenant Colonel Zhao, Miss Gu is here."

Zhao Liangze and Yin Shixiong were Huo Shaoheng's personal secretaries, and had their desks in Huo Shaoheng's office. It was rare for the three men to be in the office due to the nature of their work, however.

Zhao Liangze pressed a button from inside the office. The door opened, and Gu Nianzhi entered with her leather coat draped over one arm and her laptop in her other hand.

"This way please, Miss Gu." One of Zhao Liangze's orderlies stepped forward to receive her.

The security measures so far had left Gu Nianzhi feeling a little rattled. She smoothed her hair and adjusted her turtleneck cashmere sweater, before nervously following the orderly further inside.

Huo Shaoheng's office was, like the other rooms, very spacious and bright. Instead of a concrete ceiling, there was a transparent bulletproof and soundproof glass dome above them.

Sunlight filtered in through the dome, warming the office. It was warm enough not to have to turn on the heater during winter.

The massive office had an open, airy design. There were work areas-consisting of a few sofas flanking work desks-on both the eastern and western sections of the room.

Facing the main entrance was a large display cabinet containing an assortment of assault rifles. Their black muzzles were turned towards the door.

Gu Nianzhi had not been expecting the guns, but she kept her composure. She glanced at them, before quickly looking away.

"...Come with me." Huo Shaoheng emerged from a small meeting room, and relieved Gu Nianzhi of the coat hanging on her arm. He took her hand and led her into the meeting room.

His palms were warm and dry. There was the smell of warm sunshine on his body.

Gu Nianzhi's face instantly turned a bright cherry red. A thousand thoughts and desires flashed through her mind, but before she could act on any of them she found herself already seated at the oval table in the small meeting room.

Huo Shaoheng hung her leather coat on the coat hook behind the door. He asked: "How was your trip to your school? Were there any problems?"

Gu Nianzhi returned to her senses. She smiled over her cup of cappuccino and replied, "It was all smooth sailing. I did get stuck in traffic for a while, however."

Everyone in the room: "..."

Zhao Liangze was the first to break the silence by laughing out loud. "You were stuck in traffic, so how is that smooth sailing?"

"Why wouldn't it be? It's just traffic. It would be nothing short of a miracle to not get stuck in traffic here in the imperial capital." Gu Nianzhi laughed. She raised her coffee mug and took a sip, before asking: "Did I walk in on a meeting?"

Huo Shaoheng walked over to her. He pulled out a chair next to her and sat down. "Yeah. We're discussing Bai Jinyi's case."

Gu Nianzhi quickly sat up. She turned on her laptop, pulled up her notes, and started a new page. "What have you discussed? Do you have a record of it?"

Instead of answering her question, Huo Shaoheng asked her: "You've gotten your special permit to be a defense lawyer?"

"Of course I got it. I have Professor He endorsing me." Gu Nianzhi took out the document He Zhichu signed and showed it to Huo Shaoheng. "The Legal Department already has a copy of this."

Huo Shaoheng glanced at it, before handing it to Zhao Liangze. "Scan this and file it in our archives. Also, check with the Legal Department and make sure everything is in order on their end."

"Yes, sir." Zhao Liangze immediately scanned the document and uploaded it.

Huo Shaoheng began introducing Gu Nianzhi to the other participants of the meeting. "Dr. Zhu here is the best medical examiner in the military general hospital. He's a senior colonel."

Gu Nianzhi smiled radiantly at him. "You must be truly remarkable at your work, Medical Examiner Zhu, to be a senior colonel at such a young age."

Gu Nianzhi assumed that Medical Examiner Zhu was younger than Chen Lie; he looked to be in his early 20's.

She was surprised to hear Medical Examiner Zhu laugh out loud and say, with a shake of his head, "Me? Young? Not at all. I'm about to turn 40. Your General Huo, on the other hand, is already a major general, and he hasn't even turned 30! He's truly one of a kind, I'm sure there isn't anyone else in the entire country who will be able to match his record."

Gu Nianzhi's eyes widened in surprise. "You're kidding me, right? You look like you're 30-at most-but you're actually almost 40?! How do you do it? Mind sharing your skin care routine with me?"

Medical Examiner Zhu was a man and not quite as concerned about appearances as the fairer sex, but nevertheless he was extremely happy and flattered to hear such a sincere compliment from a young beauty like Gu Nianzhi. He waved his hand in a cheerfully dismissive manner as he said, laughing: "Oh no, I don't have a skin care routine. I just make sure to keep a positive mindset at all times, and avoid being unhappy or resentful."

"Oh, you make it sound so easy." Gu Nianzhi laughed as well. "To be cheerful all the time and not get upset? You must be a saint!"