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541 Guiren 3

 The world just worked that way, even if you were taking the backdoor. If you required someone's help, they wouldn't agree just because you needed their help. It wouldn't be so easy. You'd have to give something in return. This would be known as a "benefit exchange."

General Ji held onto the phone. He was speechless for a long time. Finally, he coughed and said, "Let me discuss it with them again." Then, he hung up and turned to his secretary. "I need to go out and settle some things. You give them a call to see if they're home." He handed his secretary a list. "Call everyone on the list except for Huo Guanchen."

The secretary took a look and saw that the list contained names from the Army Supreme Committee. Therefore, he did not think too much about it and began calling them. There were a total of 15 people on the committee, including General Ji and Huo Guanchen. There was no need to call Huo Guanchen, so he just had to make 13 phone calls in total.

Very soon, the calls had been made. Seven of them were home and could see General Ji. The other six were tied up with work, so they arranged to see General Ji the next day. General Ji was busy discussing Huo Shaoheng's issue for two whole days with the committee before he managed to come to a satisfactory agreement with them.

Being able to come to a common consensus with such a complicated problem in just two days had its reasons. The main one was that they wanted to keep Gu Xiangwen in their country. That was why they wanted Gu Nianzhi to marry Huo Shaoheng. Gu Xiangwen wasn't a citizen of the Hua Xia Empire. Even though he was already registered as a Permanent Resident, no one could guarantee that he would want to keep the status once he woke up. The only thing that could increase the chances of him staying would be to keep one of his flesh and blood here.

Previously, they had been delaying processing Huo Shaoheng's marriage request. It wasn't that they disagreed, but they had to show some respect to Huo Guanchen. Moreover, Gu Nianzhi was still young. She had just reached the legal age of marriage in the Empire. Even if she agreed, and the background check passed, they wouldn't get married immediately. Therefore, the committee felt that it was okay to delay the entire decision.

That was the reason why everyone wasn't rushing the decision. On one hand, they wouldn't offend Huo Guanchen; on the other hand, they wouldn't be deemed as not respecting Huo Shaoheng, either. However, now that General Ji had come to relay Huo Shaoheng's terms for him to attend to the case personally, these people finally understood that Huo Shaoheng was already angry and felt his treatment had been unjust.

They needed Huo Shaoheng to help them with many more things in the future, and the Tan's kidnapping incident was one of them. Their journey would be more smooth sailing only after they settled this. Since everyone had stated their terms and conditions, it was really much easier to come to a consensus.

During the committee's meeting, Huo Shaoheng's marriage request had been approved with 14 positive votes and one negative vote. Looking at the outcome, Huo Guanchen's face turned pale. He could not think of anything to say. He would really be stupid if he still wanted to object to the marriage. However, with such a drastic change in these 14 people over just a couple of days, Huo Guanchen knew that Huo Shaoheng must have done something to convince them. When he thought about this, he couldn't help but feel proud of his son and angry at him at the same time. However, there was nothing he could do.

The moment a decision was made in the organization, there was no room for changes. Or to put it in another way, it would be too tough to change even if all 15 of them were to work together.

...

It was another three days with no news, calls, texts, nor meetups. However, this time around, Gu Nianzhi did not feel frustrated or insecure, like she hadn't seen him in years. That was because she hadn't gotten over the shock that Huo Shaoheng had given her that day. How was it that she was going to be married all of a sudden?

Gu Nianzhi was working on her essay on the computer but had zoned out again. She looked at the gorgeous summer sun outside the window, and her eyes narrowed to avoid the glare of the sun's rays. Looking back at her computer's screen, she realized that her essay made no sense at all.

So distracted...

Gu Nianzhi gave up and stopped writing altogether. Turning her computer off, she walked to the refrigerator and took out some dragon fruit. Then, she drizzled some manuka honey on it and put it into a white, round porcelain bowl. She brought the fruit to Ma Qiqi's room and knocked on her door.

"Qiqi, do you want some dragon fruit?"

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Ma Qiqi opened the door. A sleepy face greeted Gu Nianzhi. "Nianzhi, it's Saturday! Why are you awake so early?" Looking at her watch, it wasn't even eight in the morning. If they did not go home over the weekend, they'd usually sleep in until about nine or ten.

Gu Nianzhi smiled sheepishly and showed Ma Qiqi the white porcelain bowl. "Look! Superbly juicy dragon fruit. Fragrant, soft, and melt-in-your-mouth. I topped it with raw manuka honey as well! Do you want some?"

"Yes." Ma Qiqi was suddenly awake and nodded vigorously. "Let me wash up."

Gu Nianzhi went to the dining table and placed two forks in the bowl, one for Ma Qiqi and one for herself. Ma Qiqi came out after a short while and sat down at the dining table with her. Picking up a fork each, they began eating.

"Ooh, this dragon fruit is indeed yummy. It's so juicy and soft! It's the softest I've ever eaten." Ma Qiqi almost wanted to cheer for having such amazing dragon fruit. Gu Nianzhi was glad that Ma Qiqi was enjoying the fruit so much. She stopped eating after a couple of mouthfuls and watched Ma Qiqi eat. After having a few pieces of dragon fruit, Ma Qiqi asked, "Nianzhi, why did you not go back this weekend? Didn't your boyfriend come to pick you up?"

Gu Nianzhi was in a daze and did not hear what Ma Qiqi had said. Ma Qiqi tapped on the table. " Nianzhi, is something bothering you?"

"Huh? Oh..." Gu Nianzhi snapped back to reality. She wanted to cover things up initially, but she also really wanted to rant. She had grown up with Huo Shaoheng and the guys, and used to tell all her inner secrets to Yin Shixiong, Zhao Liangze, or Huo Shaoheng. However, she had grown up and couldn't bring herself to discuss her girl's worries with the guys.

When she was an undergraduate, she still had Little Temptress, Lady Cao, and Green Tea Fang to help her think of solutions. However, at that time she did not have that many things bothering her that she needed to confide in someone. After a while, Gu Nianzhi finally asked, "Qiqi, what do you think is a good age to get married?"

"Married?!" Ma Qiqi was stunned. Even though she was older than Gu Nianzhi, she was only 23 years old. She had just ended a relationship and did not have any intention of starting a new one. Marriage felt like a long way away for her. She smiled slyly at Gu Nianzhi. "Nianzhi, you've just turned 18 and haven't even had your 19th birthday celebration, right? What is it about getting married?! You have a long way ahead of you, but you're thinking of being a naggy housewife already?!"

Gu Nianzhi laughed along with her. Even though, according to the law in Hua Xia Empire, one could get married once they turned 18, Ma Qiqi thought exactly like she did! They were all young ladies who were just about to entire society. Their lives had just begun, in their opinion.

They were still looking at guys based on their looks, still had romantic, unrealistic expectations for relationships, and wanted their imaginary handsome guys to fit into their imaginary perfect relationships. If the guys could not be on par with their imagination, they'd have endless complaints. Being hopelessly in love was what they were looking for in a relationship at their age.

"You're so good with words, Qiqi." Gu Nianzhi decided to change the topic after giving it some thought. She was worried that Ma Qiqi would continue asking her questions. "Oh yeah, how have you been recently? Did you get into a new relationship? I saw you standing at the tree downstairs, talking to someone tall when I was on my way back from the library. Your smile was extremely gentle."

"What?! You saw?!" Ma Qiqi wailed and covered her face in embarrassment. "No, no. He isn't my new boyfriend. Definitely not."

Putting down her hands, she looked at Gu Nianzhi shyly, moved close to her, and whispered, "But it seems like he's interested in me..."

"Do you like him?" Gu Nianzhi asked, curious. "He's the one who's courting you?"

Gu Nianzhi hadn't had the experience of being courted. She was the one taking the initiative between Huo Shaoheng and herself, so she didn't know how it felt to be courted. Sometimes, she even doubted herself, questioning whether Huo Shaoheng truly loved her, or if she was just a routine for him. He might be used to taking care of her, letting her bug him and accepting that she was his responsibility and obligation...

Ma Qiqi closed her eyes. "I don't know... He's rather nice. I still have to wait and see..."

"Then what else do you want?" Gu Nianzhi was extremely curious now. "Isn't it enough that he's nice to you? Is he not good enough to you?"

"Of course it isn't." Ma Qiqi continued sternly, "I have to have feelings for him, too, you know? If I agree to be together with him purely because he is nice to me, it'd be gratitude, not love. It'd also be a form of disrespect towards him if I were to agree to be his girlfriend like that."

"It would?" Gu Nianzhi began to get lost in her train of thought again. "How do you know if he loves you?"

"It's really simple!" Ma Qiqi's eyes lit up, just like they had chandeliers in them. Using her hands to support her face, she said romantically, "Well, they think of you non-stop, and find means and ways and opportunities just to see you. If you weren't together, then morning and goodnight calls would be compulsory. As for you, you feel like you can't breathe whenever you see him. Just imagine, the things you've practiced in your mind to look good around him are all forgotten because you have fallen head over heels over him and can't control your movements and moods."

Gu Nianzhi was speechless. Listening to her description, Gu Nianzhi felt that Ma Qiqi was describing an idiot. However, she frowned and realized regretfully that she seemed to be the idiot in this relationship, identical to Ma Qiqi's description when she was with Huo Shaoheng. Did Huo Shaoheng have a hard time bearing with her? But it did seem like she really loved Huo Shaoheng. However, she couldn't tell if Huo Shaoheng loved her as much.

She used to think that she could make Huo Shaoheng fall for her as much as she loved him, but after the incident at the Blue Hole, she felt that it was highly impossible. Comrades and missions were way more important to him than she was. That day, when she was hurting so badly on the ship and couldn't move, she saw Huo Shaoheng leave her for his comrades. She couldn't deny that it was a huge blow to her, and she was still recovering from the hurt.

Her insecurities increased. Was Huo Shaoheng using marriage to coax her because she was throwing a tantrum? But he didn't know that that wasn't the type of security she needed. She wanted his true feelings towards her. Would there, perhaps, be any chance that Huo Shaoheng might fall for another person, someone who was more mature, graceful, good-tempered, and gorgeous? If there was someone like that, what would she do? Must she give Huo Shaoheng up just like that?

Gu Nianzhi thought about it for a long time and concluded with two words, "No way!"