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103 Only One Outcome

 Zhao Liangze's lips trembled. Try as he might, he could not think of a rebuttal.

What Mr. Huo had said was entirely reasonable, under the circumstances.

But Zhao Liangze had a careful and analytical mind. He was a computer hacker who had prowled the depths of the internet for years; his brain was wired to probe for bugs and loopholes.

"Mr. Huo, what if - this is completely hypothetical - what if something happens to Nianzhi?" Zhao Liangze returned to his computer and sat down. "If that happens, we'll never find out where she came from, and the last six years will have been all for nothing..."

Huo Shaoheng propped his head in his hand, his elbow resting on the sofa's armrest. He smoked in silence, and did not reply.

Zhao Liangze knew better than to ask again. Everyone knew that Huo Shaoheng never answered hypothetical questions.

For Huo Shaoheng, once a decision had been made, he made absolutely sure that it would be carried through. He was prepared for every potential problem and difficulty, and would not have his hands and feet bound by hypothetical outcomes.

He was a soldier, and there was only one acceptable outcome for him: victory.


Gu Nianzhi awoke the next day, and remembered what she had asked Yin Shixiong the previous evening. She was still lying in bed with her eyes closed when she called him.

Yin Shixiong had already been up and about for some time. He had returned from his morning exercise, and was now breakfasting merrily with his fellow soldiers in the cafeteria.

When he saw the incoming call from Gu Nianzhi, he knew it was about the internship at the US Congress.

"Nianzhi, you're up early." Yin Shixiong put on his Bluetooth headset. He walked out of the cafeteria and made for his office.

Gu Nianzhi responded to this with a lazy "Yeah." She rubbed her eyes, sat up in her bed, and asked, "Brother Xiong, did you ask Uncle Huo about my passport?"

"Yeah, about that..." Yin Shixiong coughed. "Mr. Huo is currently busy with a mission, so he didn't really have time to talk. But he did say that he'll get a passport and visa for you if you want to go. When the time comes, I'll go with you to America, as your temporary guardian."

"Really?" Gu Nianzhi was beside herself with joy. She could barely keep herself from jumping up and cheering. "Uncle Huo agreed? It's all settled then, I'll tell Professor He about it, like right this instant." She promptly hung up on Yin Shixiong and dialed He Zhichu's number.

But no one picked up.

Gu Nianzhi was forced to send him a message instead: "Professor He, my guardian says I can go for the internship. What's my next step?"

She had to wait three days before He Zhichu finally responded to her message.

[Professor He]: "Nianzhi, if you're interested in the internship, you can look up the registration procedure for it on the B University Law School website. Today is the last day for you to register."

The message was followed by an email: He Zhichu had corrected her graduation thesis for her.

Gu Nianzhi looked at the message. She gave a small sigh.

She knew she had angered Professor He by not taking up his offer as soon as it was presented to her.

It was patently obvious that his attitude towards her had cooled considerably. The goose had been in the bag, and she had let it fly away...

Gu Nianzhi inwardly cursed He Zhichu for being so petty, but opened up the website for B University Law School all the same. She found the registration page for the internship at the US Congress.

Professor He had not been joking: it was the last day to sign up.

She filled out the necessary forms as instructed and clicked the Send button.

A minute later, she received an email stating that her registration had been successful. It also gave her a number: 38.

Gu Nianzhi: "..."

Had 37 other students also signed up for this?

She hadn't even realized there were that many doctoral students studying under He Zhichu.

Gu Nianzhi was He Zhichu's first and only graduate student.

He Zhichu's other students were all studying for their doctorate, and were ahead of her academically.

In other words, she was the least qualified of the 38 students.

Gu Nianzhi did not like being in last place. She liked the view from the top.

Once she was done with the registration, she began to study and prepare for the exam.

Her graduation thesis had been meticulously revised by He Zhichu.

She read it from beginning to end, but could not find any fault with it. She finalized the paper, printed it out, and submitted it to her thesis supervisor. Her thesis defense was scheduled to take place a week later.

She spent the rest of the week diligently studying for He Zhichu's exam.

Mei Xiawen accompanied her, as usual. She studied from morning till night, and Mei Xiawen was always there to keep her company whenever his schedule allowed it. He helped her studies along by putting together mock exams and pop quizzes for her.

Gu Nianzhi welcomed Mei Xiawen's company. She did not like to be alone.


Huo Shaoheng and his men had arrived in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, a few days ago, and were now well-acquainted with the area.

They had made detailed notes and observations regarding the various landmarks and ethnic communities on their topographic map of the city.

The Huaxia Empire's Nandou Global Satellite Navigation System - designed and launched into orbit by the Empire without any outside help - had done most of the heavy lifting for them.

The three Whitewater Security Group mercenaries in Prague did not live in the same vicinity.

Rahm - the oldest of the three - lived in a residential house near Old Town Square in Prague. The area was densely populated, and he appeared to be living with his family. He went about his business like any ordinary person - neither his appearance nor his behavior suggested that he was actually a war veteran who had retired from the Special Forces.

Rahm was the most vigilant. He was also the leader of the eight mercenaries, and had the highest kill count.

The second mercenary, Huttu, was a man in his prime. He had no wives, no children, and no property of his own. He was staying in a home-style hotel near St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague, and appeared to be content there.

Huttu was the easiest target of the three.

He was a heavy drinker, and was hopelessly intoxicated six days out of the week.

The third mercenary, Mike, was an Englishman. After retiring from the British Special Forces, he accepted a job offer from Whitewater Security Group, and became yet another mercenary who was willing to risk his life for money.

The words "country" and "state" held no meaning for these mercenaries. They cared only about money.

They were willing to do anything, as long as their clients were able to pay for it.

Their job scope ranged from small tasks, such as killing their client's archenemy, to massive undertakings, such as overthrowing the government of a country.

They had not been 100% successful with all of their missions, but nevertheless these mercenaries were fearless men who never backed down from a request.

Although Rahm, Huttu, and Mike were part of the same group, they acted independently, and were not in regular contact with one another most of the time.

They only scheduled regular briefings and strategy meetings when there was an active mission.

This time, Whitewater Security Group had accepted a major job: they had to kill Gu Yanran, a young, wealthy woman in Barbados.

Whitewater Security Group had initially assumed the task to be easy money, and had therefore not taken it very seriously.

They had sent their best men, this group of eight mercenaries, just to humor the client; the money offered for their services had been considerable.

But as the days passed, it became apparent that the first half of their plans had gone awry: every single one of the military weapons delivered to C City in the Huaxia Empire had been confiscated by the city's police.

Whitewater Security Group had reacted to this by assigning more men to smuggle weapons into the Huaxia Empire, in hopes that they would be able to get back on track. The weapons had to be in place before the International Extraordinary Women Commendation Ceremony, as they were supposed to kill their target, Gu Yanran, during the ceremony.

Gu Yanran herself was not a threat. She was reportedly not in the best of health, and spent most of her time ill in bed. Thanks to her secluded life, she was a complete enigma in Barbados.

Whitewater Security Group had tried several times to track her whereabouts in Barbados, to no avail. They lost many men in the process.