Chapter 3: Guardian
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
Huo Shaoheng was a soldier. At the moment, he wasn’t in C City.
He had accepted a secret mission a month ago, and had soon after left the C City military base. No one knew where he had gone.
Before leaving he had entrusted Gu Nianzhi to Chen Lie, instructing him to look after her.
Who would have thought she would get into trouble the moment he left?
Chen Lie thought of Huo Shaoheng’s cool, imperious eyes, and his methods of punishment. Just thinking about them made him feel as though his heart was about to leap out of his throat.
Holding his phone, Chen Lie stole a sideways look at Gu Nianzhi, who was writhing and moaning on the sofa., Well, he thought, surely this counts as a matter of life or death?
Chen Lie was thinking of the phone number that Huo Shaoheng had given him before he left. Huo Shaoheng usually came and went as he pleased, without a thought for anyone else, but this time he had actually left a number with which he could be reached at any time.
Of course, Huo Shaoheng had also warned Chen Lie, repeatedly, that he should never, ever call this number unless it was a matter of life or death.
This was it. It was now or never.
Chen Lie dialed the special four-digit number, then stared at the phone interface, muttering agitatedly, “C’mon, pick up! Pick up! Pick up!”
When Chen Lie called him on the phone, Huo Shaoheng had already completed his mission and was in the imperial capital, standing outside the door leading to the Senate, awaiting his turn.
His current mission was to persuade the Senate to fund the newly established Sixth Military Region.
It was not yet time for him to enter the hall.
Huo Shaoheng stood at the end of the corridor outside the assembly hall, a cigarette between the fingers of his white-gloved right hand. His left hand was in his trouser pocket. He stared quietly and vacantly at the night view beyond the large glass window, his thoughts elsewhere.
Not too far from him, a few female assembly interns hung about, all beautiful women from distinguished families. They kept looking his way, but none dared to walk over and strike up a conversation with him.
Huo Shaoheng was in full military uniform today. He had on a navy blue army blazer, made of fine wool; the bright brass buttons shone in a line, up to his slender neck. On his epaulettes, a pine branch and a solitary star, both picked out in gold, glittered under the lamp light.
Around his waist was a wide military-issue belt made of rhino skin. Below that were the navy blue uniform trousers, also made of fine wool, the seams impeccably straight. His feet were clad in a pair of knee-high riding boots.
He was about six feet tall, and with his shoes on he was easily over six feet. He was not only tall but strapping, with wide shoulders and a broad chest. He had begun his military career at the age of 15, and before that he had trained in martial arts. Standing there, he was as imposing as a mountain.
The military uniform clung to his waistline, before dropping away. Below the waist his long legs seemed to go on forever.
His tall, strapping figure alone was enough to set hearts racing, but as though that weren’t enough, the face that went with the body was so handsome that all who looked upon it despaired over their own inadequacies.
Fortunately, the world wasn’t completely unfair. His enviable looks were balanced out by the fact that nobody dared go near him. His exceptionally handsome face was perennially grave and forbidding, and anyone on the receiving end of his gaze always felt overwhelmed by the weight of it. His eyes, cool and aloof, seemed to say—this was how Gu Nianzhi described it, at least—”you are all scum.”
He had earned a reputation as the “unicorn” of the Special Operations Forces, the unattainable flower growing on a mountain top, forever out of reach. He was the perfect specimen everyone coveted, but that could only be admired from afar.
Huo Shaoheng gazed at the deep blue night sky beyond the window as he breathed out wispy circles of cigarette smoke. He was mentally going over the lines of the speech he was about to present to the Senate.
Suddenly, his bluetooth headset began to ring.
Someone was calling him on his private, military-use only, top-secret number. He had only ever given this number to Chen Lie, and Chen Lie was supposed to only call him when it was a life-or-death situation for Gu Nianzhi.
Had something happened to Gu Nianzhi?
Huo Shaoheng composed himself, flicked his cigarette into the bin, and said, tonelessly, “Speak.”
His headset immediately established a private line, meant only for the military. Huo Shaoheng’s deep, mellow voice shot through the connection and into Chen Lie’s ear on the other end.
Chen Lie let out a long sigh of relief, as though finally free of a heavy burden. He quickly explained what had happened to Gu Nianzhi.
Huo Shaoheng’s thick, oblique brows contorted. “An aphrodisiac? You’re calling me, on this line, because of something as silly as that? Just give her the antidote!” His voice was low and indifferent, but Chen Lie could tell that Huo Shaoheng was annoyed.
“I have a few different antidotes for sexual stimulants, yes. But this is an act of sabotage. Someone tried to ruin her, which is why I thought that you, her guardian, might want to know about it. Also, this is no ordinary aphrodisiac! It’s highly potent and I don’t know if I can neutralize it… here, just listen to her.” Having finished his angry outburst, Chen Lie placed his phone close to Gu Nianzhi’s cheek and said, “It’s Huo Shao , your guardian.”
It was as though a ray of sunlight had penetrated Gu Nianzhi’s fuzzy, muddled brain. Mustering all the strength she had left, she called out “Huo Shao…” before fainting dead away.
“Huo Shao”—the two words came out soft and purring. Huo Shaoheng felt as though a newborn kitten had reached out a fleshy paw and playfully caressed the palm of his hand.
Huo Shaoheng was a solemn and restrained man, standing in a stately and dignified place. He had never thought of Gu Nianzhi as anything other than a young child under his care. And yet, despite all that, he felt his scalp go numb all over at the sound of her voice.
Something wasn’t right here.
Huo Shaoheng immediately asked, “How long does she have?”
Chen Lie glanced at Gu Nianzhi, who was now tossing and turning on the sofa, trying to get her clothes off. He said, his temples throbbing, “I don’t know. I’m going to try giving her an antidote. I have to warn you, I don’t know what’s in the aphrodisiac so I can’t guarantee that the antidote will work– oh no, I have to go, can’t talk, she’s taking her clothes off…”
Huo Shaoheng’s brow raised at this, but when he spoke his voice remained level. “Tie her up and gag her. Just think of it as Special Operations Forces training.”
“I know, but I don’t have anything handy here…” Chen Lie looked around. “Hey, do you have ropes in your villa?”
“There should be some in the storeroom. Stop wasting time. Take her to your clinic at the military base, as soon as you can.” The veins on Huo Shaoheng’s temples were standing out by now. He ended the call, and lit a cigarette. He took a long drag on it before slowly breathing out, the smoke dissipating in the twilight.
Chen Lie glared at his phone. He tossed it aside and hurried to the storeroom. He found the ropes and trussed Gu Nianzhi up like a Chinese rice dumpling.
Gu Nianzhi was now tightly bound. The plaintive, protesting moans coming from her were still too much for Chen Lie, even with his medical training, so he gagged her with some gauze. He carried her from the house and towards the villa’s basement carpark. He then secured her in a car before driving out of the Dexin villa precinct and towards the C City Special Operations Forces base.
Huo Shaoheng’s face remained calm and composed, but inside, he was beginning to worry. It was just an aphrodisiac, hardly a poison. Nianzhi’s life was not in danger. There was no need for him to hurry back home.
But… who could say for certain?
He checked his watch for the time, then called for his orderly, Fan Jian. “Prep a military plane for me. As soon as the meeting is over I’m heading back to base. I’m taking the fastest plane, Gray Shadow. This is non-negotiable. Tell them it’s for a test flight.”
Gray Shadow was the latest two-seater supersonic fighter jet to come out of military R&D, and it was still in the testing phase.
Huo Shaoheng was not concerned by this. He had been trained as a fighter pilot, and his skills as a pilot were second to none in the entire military.
The orderly, Fan Jian, immediately stood at attention. “Yes, sir!” He then hurried off to secure the plane.
Huo Shaoheng had just finished giving out his orders when a pretty woman with a shapely figure came out of the assembly hall. She bowed and said, “Major General Huo, it’s your turn now.”
Huo Shaoheng strode solemnly into the hall; his face was the very picture of collectedness and composure.
The main assembly hall for the Imperial Senate was set up like a giant shell, with the seating arrangements for the senators resembling an open fan. Those at the front had the lowest seats, while those at the back had the highest. Each row was distinct and no one obstructed the view of another.
The speaker’s podium was placed at the center, right where the pivot of the fan would be.
Behind the podium was a massive electronic screen: it was so large that it took up the entire wall.
Huo Shaoheng stepped onto the podium and snapped his heels together in military salute to the senators below. He introduced himself: “I am Huo Shaoheng, Major General of the Imperial Military, and also the Commander of Special Operations Forces, operating under direct military command. I am here today to request that the Senate allocate the funds necessary to support the 6th Military Region through the next 10 years.”
The floor was quiet.
After a moment, a gray-haired senator seated in the front row said, in a tone that conveyed his skepticism, “Major General Huo, there are only five military regions in our empire: East, South, West, North, and Central. Where is this 6th Military Region you speak of?”
 “Huo Shao” is Gu Nianzhi’s nickname for Huo Shaoheng.