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747 You Set the Terms

 Ma Qiqi was sitting beside Yin Shixiong, so she overheard Huo Shaoheng and couldn't help feeling endless emotion. Huo Shao, who had always given commands but never explanations, was making the only exception for Gu Nianzhi. He was actually explaining the complicated interests embedded in bureaucracy. Gu Nianzhi also understood that these people were using the opportunity to trip up the Tans. Tan Dongbang didn't have a long tenure in the Ministry of Justice and had only been the Minister of Justice for less than a term before he announced he would run for Prime Minister. Compared to Bai Jiancheng, who had been Minister of Domestic Affairs in the cabinet for several terms now, Tan Dongbang was extremely lucky. Everyone knew that Tan Dongbang being elected was inextricably linked with his wife, Cai Songyin, who was especially adept at creating hype in the media and on the internet. Today, Cai Songyin had somehow tripped up because of "creating hype" online, so the key to her success could also be considered her undoing. Gu Nianzhi instantly understood what Huo Shaoheng meant in entirety.

However, He Zhichu looked at Huo Shaoheng with annoyance and replied dryly, "Nianzhi doesn't need to get mixed up in your politics. Please be careful with what you say, Mr. Huo." He then said to Gu Nianzhi, "Nianzhi, do you want to be the best lawyer, or a politician?"

Gu Nianzhi was speechless.

"I'll assume you want to be the best lawyer, since you're not saying anything. To be a lawyer, the most important thing is to maintain a righteous heart. Without a just position, it'll be very difficult to make the correct judgement. Without the correct judgement, you'd be unable to go anywhere without winning," He Zhichu lectured passionately and was the portrait of the strict mentor ensuring the success of his pupil.

Gu Nianzhi nodded instinctively. "Of course I'd rather be a lawyer." Especially when it came to battling in court, it didn't matter if the other party was the defendant or plaintiff, the feeling of using her wisdom and logic to crush the opponent was awesome!

He Zhichu's cool expression relaxed somewhat as he put a hand on Gu Nianzhi's shoulder to encourage her. "Then keep working hard and be the very best lawyer."

Huo Shaoheng slowly put his hands in his trouser pockets, his dark eyes flickering under the dim light. "Nianzhi, no matter what you want to be, a lawyer or even a politician, I'll support you as long as it's what you want."

The corners of He Zhichu's lips began to twitch. "Huo Shao, you are hell bent on arguing with me. Is that right?"

"I don't have the spare time for that. Professor He, you're overthinking it. I'm merely stating the facts." Huo Shaoheng bowed slightly.

He Zhichu sneered but didn't speak again. Gu Nianzhi pursed her lips and rubbed between her brows to alleviate her mounting headache. She decided to not get involved. Biting her bottom lip, she gently tapped her phone to send out another text to the official account of Tan Dongbang's Office of the Prime Minister urging them to delete the post.

Ma Qiqi regarded He Zhichu with curiosity then looked at Huo Shaoheng like she was understanding something. Just as she was about to speak, a large hand suddenly came over to muffle her mouth. "Who?!" Ma Qiqi turned around and glared viciously. However, she discovered Yin Shixiong looking at her with a smile. Of course, he was still muffling her mouth. Ma Qiqi's anger quickly dissolved into nothing, like ice and snow under the sun. With a red flush on her cheeks, she looked at Yin Shixiong and gestured for him to move his hand away. Yin Shixiong chuckled before letting go. Suddenly, a phone rang inside the game room.

"Qiqi, it's time for dinner." It was Ma Qiqi's mom calling her.

Ma Qiqi seemed to come to her senses and jumped up to grab Gu Nianzhi. "Great! We can finally eat now. Nianzhi come here. You're the birthday girl today, and everything was prepared especially for you. We're just your escorts!"

Yin Shixiong folded his hands behind his back and couldn't help thinking about the sensation of Ma Qiqi's lips against his palm. This girl appeared loud and chatty, yet had a very soft pair of lips... Yin Shixiong suddenly felt his thoughts straying a bit.

...

Ma Qiqi took the guests from the game room downstairs to the dining room on the main floor. A large round table was in the dining room. It had a large Lazy Susan in the middle, much like the ones in restaurants. The table was already laden with delicacies made by Ma Qiqi's parents. In the middle was an ancient style clay pot holding lotus root braised with spareribs, which had been cooking the entire afternoon. This was the dish Gu Nianzhi always ordered in Hubei restaurants. Near the clay pot was a plate of shredded pork fried with peppers. Bright green pepper strips, coriander, and dried red chilies were fried together, and the pork was coated so that it was still tender and soft once removed from the pan. It simply melted in the mouth.

In the clockwise direction of the Lazy Susan, the table also laden with a plate of glutinous rice balls, fish smelling leaf with head cheese cold salad, a bowl of dark red sugar glazed braised pork, as well as pale garlic and vermicelli stuffed oysters, salt and pepper shrimp, and a bowl of mapo tofu that made one want to sneeze at the first smell. They must have used authentic green pepper. There was also spinach with minced garlic, vegetables in oyster sauce, braised meatballs, almond and abalone mushroom seared in a dry pot, fried calamari with shallots, crisp green pickled vegetables and fish, and bright red spicy beef. Everything was in large soup bowls the size of small pots, and they completely filled the table. Gu Nianzhi glanced and discovered it was all home-style dishes, and most of them were her favorites as well. A warm feeling suddenly filled her heart.

Ma Qiqi's mother came out in a change of clothes and grabbed Gu Nianzhi's hand. "Nianzhi, come sit down. Today is your birthday, and after we eat all this, there are still steamed crabs. Qiqi also prepared a birthday cake for you."

"Thank you, auntie." Gu Nianzhi nodded gratefully. Ma Qiqi's mother had Gu Nianzhi sit beside her, and next to her was Ma Qiqi and then her father. Huo Shaoheng sat next to Ma Qiqi's mom and was only one seat away from Gu Nianzhi. He Zhichu didn't want to sit too close to Huo Shaoheng, but if he didn't sit by Huo Shaoheng, he would be even farther away from Gu Nianzhi. As he was hesitating, Huo Shaoheng had already dragged Yin Shixiong to the seat next to his. He Zhichu could only sit between Yin Shixiong and Ma Qiqi's dad. This spot just so happened to be right across from Gu Nianzhi, so He Zhichu smiled instead and nodded to Gu Nianzhi before sitting down.

...

"Here, you eat some more. Why are you so skinny? You must not eat enough everyday. Are you a picky eater?" Ma Qiqi's mom spoke quietly to Gu Nianzhi as she served her food. "You can't just have meat. Eat some vegetables, too." She was a very gentle middle-aged woman, and Ma Qiqi's personality was completely different from hers, so she must've gotten it from her dad.

Gu Nianzhi had never been cared for by an older woman like that, so it felt like someone plucking at her heartstrings. Every time Ma Qiqi's mom spoke gently to Gu Nianzhi, her heart swelled. "Ok, thank you, auntie. I'll eat it." Gu Nianzhi ate every single thing Ma Qiqi's mom served her, and she even swallowed her most detested onion and calamari without hesitation. Although it made her a bit sick, she didn't refuse because she was too greedy for the warm and intimate feeling from Ma Qiqi's mom.

In terms of caring about her, Huo Shaoheng, Yin Shixiong, and Zhao Liangze, as well as He Zhichu, were people who were much more concerned about her than Auntie Ma, whom she had just met. But Gu Nianzhi thought that Auntie Ma's care was a different kind from Huo Shaoheng and his men's. It was like there was a spot in the bottom of her heart that she didn't even know was missing something, but Auntie Ma's care had discreetly staked a flag there to let her know that there was a deficiency. Afterward, she realized that this kind of care was a mother's care. This type of deficiency was due to missing a mother's love.

Seeing Gu Nianzhi eat the onion and calamari in big bites, He Zhichu, Huo Shaoheng, and even Yin Shixiong were uncomfortable and almost couldn't take it anymore. Yin Shixiong set down his chopsticks several times and wanted to say something, but when he saw Gu Nianzhi keep eating with a contorted expression yet still didn't refuse to swallow it, he couldn't say a single word. He could only feel pained. This child had always been that way. Whenever someone gave her the smallest kindness, she would latch on without letting go...

Huo Shaoheng recalled the books about child and adolescent psychology he had asked Chen Lie to loan him recently. He was very certain that Gu Nianzhi's symptoms were the result of a serious "deficiency in motherly love." It wasn't because she lost her memory and forgot her mother's love, but that in the deepest recesses of her memories or subconscious, there had never been a place for motherly love. In other words, she was a child that never knew a mother's love from the time she was young, so she had a strong sense of insecurity, and this insecurity was most likely implanted deep in her subconscious, even before she lost her memory. Huo Shaoheng watched Gu Nianzhi quietly. She was completely unaware and simply ate as she discreetly studied Ma Qiqi's mom. She appeared curious, yet obedient and eager to please.

Huo Shaoheng suddenly felt uncomfortable and stood up to say, "You guys keep eating. I need to go out to make a call." He strode out and soon after, He Zhichu's phone also rang. He took it out to look at and also stood up. "I'm going to take a call." The two men went out to the large tree in the backyard one after another. Huo Shaoheng held a cigarette, and it flickered as a tiny red light within the darkness.

He Zhichu walked over and said dryly, "Mr. Huo was looking for me. What can I do for you?"

Huo Shaoheng inhaled from the cigarette and flicked away the ash before finally saying, "He Zhichu, just tell me straight. What do you want in order to help Nianzhi find her parents?"

He Zhichu was momentarily speechless. Looking away, his shimmery, sultry eyes flashed briefly under the dark sky. "I don't understand what you're talking about."

"You've been plotting all this time and began looking for Nianzhi seven years ago. It wasn't until last year that you finally got news of her and suddenly came to our nation from the United States." Huo Shaoheng methodically laid out the cards for He Zhichu. "He Zhichu, I believe you wouldn't hurt Nianzhi and believe that you came here to find her. But you've found her now, so why didn't you ever mention anything about bringing her home? What about her parents? Are they still alive?"

"What are you trying to say?" He Zhichi frowned, appearing puzzled.

"You saw it just now as well. You should understand what Nianzhi longs for. She's been with us for seven years, and although she lost her memory, she's never mentioned her parents even once. A 12-year-old child must know what the word 'parents' means, even if she lost her memory." Huo Shaoheng continued urging He Zhcihu in hopes he would help Nianzhi.

After some time, He Zhichu finally responded icily, "Gu Xiangwen is her father, so what's wrong with that?"

"What's wrong with that?!" Huo Shaoheng threw away the cigarette in his hand and growled quietly, "Don't you tell me that you weren't aware that the comatose Gu Xiangwen isn't her biological father!"