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151 Worried for Him

 "Let's go." He Zhichu escorted Gu Nianzhi out the courtroom doors and into the parking lot.

He Zhichu was puzzled by the worried expression on Gu Nianzhi's face. "I told you, don't worry. Those tapes represent the final weapon in their arsenal. They have no further cards to play."

"It's not my case I'm worried about," Gu Nianzhi said truthfully.

"What are you worried about, then?" He Zhichu was even more perplexed.

"I'm worried about what Xin Xinggao is hiding-what if it's something she can use against the Empire?" said Gu Nianzhi uneasily. In truth, she was worried for Huo Shaoheng.

Gu Nianzhi knew that Huo Shaoheng considered it his duty to safeguard the interests of the Huaxia Empire. It was his number one obligation as a soldier: he was devoted to his mission, and would willingly lay down his life for it.

He Zhichu put a hand in his pocket and stared at her in silence. After a moment, he gave a sudden snort and murmured, "...You actually love that country? That's surprising..."

Gu Nianzhi had been too absorbed in her own thoughts to catch what He Zhichu had said. "Sorry, what was that?"

"I said, I didn't think you were the patriotic type." There was a hint of ridicule in He Zhichu's voice. His eyes flashed enigmatically, a reservoir of inscrutable emotion.

Gu Nianzhi did not like He Zhichu's tone. "So what if I'm patriotic? I'm a citizen of the Huaxia Empire. Why shouldn't I love my country?"

He Zhichu saw her displeasure and was about to say something, but changed his mind at the last second. He tousled her hair and forced a smile, suppressing the cold, contemptuous expression that was threatening to show on his face. "Well, whatever makes you happy."

He Zhichu gave a small, expressionless nod to Zhao Liangze before getting into his own car.

Gu Nianzhi frowned as she watched He Zhichu leave in his car. She followed Zhao Liangze to He Zhichu's yellow Hummer; they would be traveling in it for the time being, as a safety precaution.

Once she was back in her apartment, Gu Nianzhi entered Zhao Liangze's room and repeated to him, in a hushed voice, her conversation with He Zhichu. "Brother Ze, what do you think? Does Xin Xinggao still have something she can use as leverage?"

Zhao Liangze's brow furrowed. He shook his head and said, "I didn't hear anything about that while I was in the Empire. Still, we better tell Mr. Huo about this, ASAP-we'll have to act quickly if we missed something."

Xin Xinggao's father had already been dismissed from his post. On top of that, the foreign connections of all Nandou System personnel had been thoroughly investigated and vetted a second time. There had been nothing out of the ordinary when Zhao Liangze left the Empire for America.

Had they overlooked something?

"Call him quickly, then..." Gu Nianzhi hesitated. "Can I... stay and watch?"

Warning bells rang in Zhao Liangze's head; he knew it was a bad idea, and immediately refused her. "No, there may be sensitive information. You can't listen in, you don't have the security clearance for this."

"Oh." Gu Nianzhi was a little disappointed, but did not insist. She returned to her room without another word.

Zhao Liangze hurriedly contacted Huo Shaoheng.

It was exactly 11 o'clock at night, over in the Empire.

Huo Shaoheng was in his study, writing a report on improvements that could be made to the administration of the 6th Military Region.

He heard his headset notify him of an incoming call to his private number, and looked up at his computer screen: Zhao Liangze was calling him.

He removed his headset, opened the video messaging system, and asked: "What's the matter? Is Nianzhi's trial over?"

Huo Shaoheng checked the time on his watch: Gu Nianzhi should still be in the middle of her trial.

Zhao Liangze shook his head. "New evidence was introduced to the court, so the trial has been adjourned to next week." He explained how the existence of Xin Xinggao's surveillance tapes came to light after He Zhichu demanded to know who had been visiting her at the hospital. "Nianzhi thinks Xin Xinggao has something else the Americans want, and is using it as leverage with the US military. That would explain why they're willing to go so far for her."

Huo Shaoheng took hold of his mouse and opened several top-secret programs on his computer.

He traced his bottom lip with a finger as he checked the programs carefully. His eyes were as deep and dark as black holes-not even light could escape the intense gravity of his gaze.

He looked the files over one by one. Suddenly, his brow creased, and a dangerous glint appeared in his eyes: he had evidently discovered something. "You're right, we have a problem. Little Ze, keep an eye on Xin Xinggao. It should be easy for you, since they already have a camera on her."

Zhao Liangze tensed. "Sir? You found a problem?"

"Yes, and I have to get a squad to act on it, stat." Huo Shaoheng rose from his chair. "We were too focused on Xin Xinggao and her involvement with the civilian password system to conduct a proper investigation on the personnel working on the encrypted channel. That was our mistake."

Zhao Liangze's eyes widened in surprise. "You don't mean-?! The encrypted channel password-"

Huo Shaoheng had turned away, but jerked his head back to the screen at this. He looked sharply at Zhao Liangze and commanded in a harsh voice: "Shut up!"

Zhao Liangze immediately shut his mouth. He stood up and bowed towards the camera, contrite.

Huo Shaoheng did not have the time to reprimand him further. He strode out of his study, and began issuing orders into the mouthpiece of his headset: "Activating Squad B of the 6th Military Region: all armed personnel, report to the helipad with your parachutes in five minutes. Our first target will be J City in G province. Second target, the Secret Service department in the Imperial Capital. Move."

A minute later, an alarm began to sound throughout the Special Ops military base, notifying all the relevant personnel to assemble for an emergency operation.

Three minutes later, 100 Special Ops soldiers from Squad B, fully armed and strapped into parachutes, assembled at the airport's helipad.

Huo Shaoheng had changed into his military uniform. He would have been indistinguishable from the rest of his men if not for his weapons, which were considerably more powerful.

"Get on the helicopter. Our first target: Room 532, Building A, Nandou R&D Center, J City, G Province-we arrest everyone inside." Huo Shaoheng was the first to board the helicopter.

The soldiers boarded the helicopter after him, all 100 of them.

The helicopter roared to life and flew towards J City in G Province.

As this was a special military operation, an urgent message was sent to every air traffic control tower in the country, instructing them to keep all air routes clear for the helicopter.

Two hours later, they arrived at the Nandou R&D Center in J City, G Province.

Huo Shaoheng was the first to jump out of the helicopter. His men were right behind him.


The occupants of Room 532, Building A, Nandou R&D Center were in a meeting, and had evidently been at it for a long time--the air was thick with the smoke from their cigarettes.

"Put your hands up! You are all under arrest!" The leader of Squad B of the Special Operations Forces broke through the door and shoved an arrest warrant into the face of Zeng Quan, deputy director of the Nandou R&D Center.

Everyone in the room immediately paled. Before they could resist, they were tackled to the floor by the Special Ops soldiers and brought to the helicopters, gagged and trussed.

Huo Shaoheng left 50 of the Special Ops soldiers to guard the building. With his letter of authority, he now had complete control over the R&D center's security system.

"What do you think you're doing?! I'm a military officer! You, you're from the 6th Military Region-this is unacceptable! You can't just do whatever you like!" Zeng Quan returned to his senses as soon as he was bundled inside the helicopter. He was shaking in his boots, but disguised his fear by protesting loudly at the Special Ops soldiers guarding him.

Huo Shaoheng heard the shouts. He opened the security door inside the helicopter and walked over to Zeng Quan. His voice was icy when he said: "Don't call yourself a soldier, Zeng Quan. You're an embarrassment to the rest of us. Tell the truth: what's your connection with Xin Xinggao? Did she come into contact with confidential passwords while working on the Nandou project?!"

Upon hearing Xin Xinggao's name, Zeng Quan's red, angry face immediately drained of all color. He avoided Huo Shaoheng's piercing gaze as he mumbled, "...Xin Xinggao? Who? I don't know her."

"You don't? Well, we'll see about that, once we return to the capital." Huo Shaoheng was furious, but did not give in to his anger. He left the compartment, kicking the door shut behind him.

At that very moment, Gu Nianzhi was calling the number Huo Shaoheng had given her, over and over again. She could not get through.