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117 Spoiling Her Silly

 Yin Shixiong inwardly rolled his eyes: Mr. Huo was a perfectionist, a complete tyrant with exacting standards and a critical eye, but he was always spoiling Gu Nianzhi silly. Her pajamas were ugly as sin, and yet Mr. Huo had, with a completely straight face, praised them all the same.

You've got to be kidding me.

Zhao Liangze was also mentally cussing Huo Shaoheng out. If he was so insanely protective of her now, what was he going to be like when Nianzhi married?

Zhao Liangze involuntarily shuddered at the thought. He muttered a silent prayer for Gu Nianzhi's future husband.

As for Gu Nianzhi, everyone else had disappeared from her world the moment she laid eyes on Huo Shaoheng.

She launched into a long-winded and detailed account of everything that had happened to her since arriving in America. She did not mention the cameras Wen Shouyi had concealed in the previous apartment, of course-she did not want Huo Shaoheng to worry.

Huo Shaoheng did not speak. He merely watched Gu Nianzhi as she prattled on in a one-sided conversation.

This went on for some time; Gu Nianzhi eventually noticed Zhao Liangze and Yin Shixiong yawning, and realized she had been dominating the conversation. She said, sheepishly, "Oh, am I boring you? Uncle Huo, I'll be sure to keep it short and sweet next time, but you must call me more often." She looked at her watch and discovered that it was almost time for her afternoon classes.

Huo Shaoheng finally spoke. "How many of those black T-shirts do you have?"

Gu Nianzhi immediately flushed.

Sure enough, she had been caught red-handed.

Gu Nianzhi stammered out," N-Not many..."

"How many?" Huo Shaoheng frowned, ever so slightly. "This is very important."

"Just...four." Gu Nianzhi's forehead was glued to the table as she bent over and hid her face. Her posture and expression clearly displayed how embarrassed she was.

Huo Shaoheng said, "Okay. Give them to Big Xiong so he can dispose of them."

He was not in the habit of explaining his instructions, but made an exception this time since Gu Nianzhi seemed about ready to die of embarrassment. "Those T-shirts were custom-made for me, and have very specific markings on them. You might attract unwanted attention if the wrong people over there sees them."

Gu Nianzhi, Yin Shixiong, and Zhao Liangze suddenly understood what he was saying. If they had admired him for his intelligence before, they were ready to put him on an altar and worship him now: Huo Shaoheng had been one step ahead of them, as usual. The black T-shirts belonging to Huo Shaoheng had been especially manufactured by the Imperial Army for him, and were all uniquely marked.

If the United States CIA got their hands on even a tiny piece of the fabric, they might be able to restore the entire shirt, and deduce that one of the Huaxia Empire's major generals, or at least someone with close ties to him, had come to America.

Huo Shaoheng was right: this could end up being disastrous for both Gu Nianzhi and Yin Shixiong.

"I'll destroy them right away, Sir." Yin Shixiong thumped his chest; he ran to Gu Nianzhi's room and rummaged through her closet for the pajamas she had brought with her.

Gu Nianzhi's face had turned a deeper shade of red. She was very embarrassed, but she knew she had to apologize for her mistake. She stood up, bowed towards the camera, and said sincerely, "Uncle Huo, I messed up. This won't ever happen again, I promise."

Huo Shaoheng was not completely convinced the danger was over. He asked, "Did you bring anything else?"

"No." Gu Nianzhi shook her head vigorously. "Only those T-shirts-" her lips trembled, and she let out a gentle sob. "Those four shirts are all that I have left!"

It had taken her years to successfully "smuggle" the shirts out of Huo Shaoheng's closet and into hers without him realizing it-and now she would lose them all!

Huo Shaoheng watched her for a moment. He said nothing. He got out a cigarette and tapped it on the computer desk as he looked about for his lighter.

Zhao Liangze, hurried over and lit Huo Shaoheng's cigarette for him.

Huo Shaoheng took a drag on his cigarette. He said, indifferently, "You can pick out a few more from my closet once you're back."

"Really?! It's a promise! I'm holding you to your word!" Gu Nianzhi immediately lifted her head, her face lighting up with a brilliant smile. Huo Shaoheng had to look away; he lowered his eyes and took another drag on his cigarette.

"Yes, really." He exhaled a lungful of smoke, momentarily obscuring the camera.

"Awesome! Uncle Huo, I'm off to class now. I'll call you tomorrow!" Gu Nianzhi was more than satisfied. She waved at the camera and turned to leave.

Once she had left Yin Shixiong's room and was out of sight, Huo Shaoheng nodded towards Zhao Liangze. "Delete all traces of Nianzhi's video."

"Got it." Zhao Liangze was familiar with the protocol. He returned to his computer to clear the cache and delete whatever had been saved of the video.

Just then, Yin Shixiong reappeared on-screen with four black T-shirts. He asked Huo Shaoheng, "Sir, shall I destroy the shirts now?"

Huo Shaoheng nodded and watched as Yin Shixiong stuffed three of the T-shirts into the stainless steel trash can in the room. He set fire to the hem of the last shirt with a lighter before throwing it into the trash can and putting on the lid.

The apartment's smoke detector remained silent since the smoke from the burning T-shirts had been effectively contained within the stainless steel trash can.

He waited till all four of the black T-shirts had been reduced to ashes before flushing them down the toilet. Once he was satisfied that all evidence had been thoroughly destroyed, Yin Shixiong returned to his computer and sat down. He said to Huo Shaoheng and Zhao Liangze, "Nianzhi pretty much covered everything, I have nothing to add. There's something I would like to ask Mr. Huo, however," He paused briefly, before saying, "I would like to ask for his permission to teach Nianzhi how to cook."

Zhao Liangze erupted into a violent coughing fit. He gasped for air as he said, "What are you, her mom?! Teach Nianzhi how to cook? That's the dumbest thing I've heard from you yet!"

"I'm serious! This is not a joke!" Yin Shixiong had already guessed they would make fun of him. He hastily recited his reasons: "Just think about it. Nianzhi will be 18 in a few months. Has she ever cooked rice? No. She probably doesn't even know how to wash the rice, let alone cook it. She has to marry, eventually. She can't very well get takeout for her husband and kids every day-that would be completely absurd, even if she could afford it. What if her husband resents her for being a lousy cook and a terrible housewife? Do you think her marriage will last?"

"Haha, you're getting way ahead of yourself, Big Xiong. Maybe you should be Nianzhi's godfather!" Zhao Liangze slapped his thigh, bent over with howling laughter.

Huo Shaoheng frowned. He could not articulate the reasons, but he did not like the idea of Gu Nianzhi learning how to cook. "Big Xiong, that's none of your business. Just watch over her and make sure that she gets through the next six months safe and sound."

"What?" Yin Shixiong had not expected Huo Shaoheng to object. "You mean I'm not allowed to teach her?"

Yin Shixiong had a plethora of reasons for not wanting to cook: it meant he would have to cook for her every single day! Yin Shixiong would rather go on a mission and brave a hailstorm of bullets than spend all his time in the kitchen cooking. He was a soldier! Not some lowly cook!

"Meh, cooking is easy. You don't actually have to teach her; she'll pick it up on her own." Zhao Liangze finally understood what Yin Shixiong was worried about, and was now helpfully offering suggestions. "Don't worry. Go out and get a couple of recipe books. A genius like her, she'll pick it up in no time. You'll see!"

Yin Shixiong realized Zhao Liangze was right. He gave him a thumbs-up. "My friend, you just did me a huge favor. How can I ever repay you? You can have my body, if you like." Yin Shixiong winked at him.

Zhao Liangze made a face. "Get your ugly a*s outta here! I'm saving my virginity for my future wife!"

After exchanging a few more jokes with Zhao Liangze, Yin Shixiong finally became serious: he sat up and looked at Huo Shaoheng, his face solemn. "How's the mission going? I've been feeling uneasy the past few days, as though omething isn't right."

Huo Shaoheng and Zhao Liangze hesitated. They had not decided whether to tell Yin Shixiong about their situation yet.

However, Yin Shixiong could sense that something was wrong. He persisted with his questions, until finally Huo Shaoheng relented, and authorized Zhao Liangze to tell him. "We have a problem. We don't know how, but our targets are always one step ahead of us. They even hit back at us. Two of our men are injured."

Yin Shixiong sucked in a breath, and was speechless for some time. Things were escalating to higher levels of danger.


Gu Nianzhi had been in a good mood ever since her video call with Huo Shaoheng.

She left the university campus and made a beeline for her apartment once her afternoon classes were over. She wolfed down her dinner, did her homework, and washed up. Once she had gotten everything out of the way, she ran over to Yin Shixiong's room, and tried to talk him into calling Huo Shaoheng again.

Yin Shixiong objected to it, naturally. They had already taken a huge risk with their previous video call, and he deeply regretted it. He told himself that he was not going to indulge Gu Nianzhi a second time, no matter how badly she begged for it.

But Gu Nianzhi was extremely persistent and persuasive. Yin Shixiong found himself cornered, and finally decided to tell her the truth. "Look, I'm not objecting to it just because. It's just too risky to call them." He followed this with an explanation of the predicament Huo Shaoheng and his men were in.