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219 What Do You Want?

 The car came to a halt with an ear-piercing screech.

Bai Changhui and Bai Jinyi, who had not fastened their seat belts, were tossed out of their seats from the inertia. Their foreheads collided with the back of the front seats.

"Do you even know how to drive?! You're fired!" Bai Changhui yelled at the driver as he rubbed the bruise on his forehead.

"What the hell are you doing?! You're the deputy secretary-general of the Imperial Government Secretariat-couldn't you have afforded better tires? What a joke!" Bai Jinyi spat from between clenched teeth as she got up from the floor of the car. She ran her fingers over her own swollen forehead.

The driver clutched the steering wheel, his face white as a sheet. He trembled all over in the driver's seat, and stammered, "Secretary Bai, the tires didn't burst on their own. Someone shot them out!"

"What?!" Bai Changhui looked out the window, but could not see what had happened to the tires.

Yin Shixiong's men had attached silencers to their sniper rifles. The bullets had been quick and precise; the two snipers, positioned on either side of the road, had fired at the same time, each taking out two tires.

Bai Changhui's car was soundproof, which made it practically impossible for the people sitting inside to hear the silenced bullets. It had not occurred to Bai Changhui and Bai Jinyi that someone had shot out their tires, but their driver knew better.

This driver had previously served in the military as an army driver. After leaving the army, he had joined the Imperial Government Secretariat as a driver-cum-bodyguard for government officials. He was not as skilled as a professional bodyguard, but he was the best bodyguard among all the drivers on the government payroll. The inverse was also true: of all the bodyguards, he was the one with the best driving skills.

As soon as the car sank to the ground, the driver had rapidly analyzed the tremors he had felt, and concluded that the tires had been shot out.

Bai Changhui pounded the seat beside him in irritation. "Open the door. I'm going out to check the tires."

The driver was reluctant to leave the car. He nervously said, "Secretary Bai, we're in a restricted military area. This is serious. They have the right to shoot you dead if you don't comply with their orders!"

"Nonsense! They wouldn't dare touch a hair on my brother's head!" Bai Jinyi said confidently.

When Bai Jinyi first met Huo Shaoheng more than a decade ago, he had seemed to her to be an exceedingly polite, disciplined, and taciturn young man who never overstepped his boundaries.

He had joined the military several years after their first meeting, which only strengthened her belief that he would never do anything reckless or out of the ordinary: soldiers were highly disciplined, rule-abiding men, weren't they?

Bai Changhui did not share his sister's confidence, however. He supported himself on the seat before him and asked the driver uneasily: "...They'll shoot us? You're joking, right?"

He was woefully ignorant of military law: he did not usually deal with the military, and the few men he knew in the military always went out of their way to accommodate him.

"Why would I lie to you?" The driver gave a wry laugh. "Stay here, sir. I'll get down and ask them to let us off the hook. We'll retreat." With that, he opened the door and got out of the car with his hands up. He said loudly, "I am the driver of Deputy Secretary-General Bai, from the Imperial Government Secretariat. I would like to talk to your commander!"

Yin Shixiong remained hidden with his men on both sides of the road. He did not answer the driver; instead, he called Huo Shaoheng on his phone and whispered: "...Sir, what do you want me to do next?"

"Force them to retreat behind the warning line, and try your best to delay them." Huo Shaoheng's voice was low and subdued as he gave his order.

An hour had passed, but it wasn't enough; Chen Lie was still in the middle of his operation. Huo Shaoheng had to put off going out to meet the two siblings from the Bai family for as long as possible.

Yin Shixiong grinned as soon as he heard the order. He knew it was time for him to get out there and delay their uninvited guests.

"Put your hands up and step out of the car. I'm warning you, I have to see your hands in the air at all times; anyone who puts their hands down will be shot in the arms!" Yin Shixiong, fully masked, walked out from his ambush point with his gun pointed at the car. "I'll count to three. Come out, turn around, and run back across the line!"

Bai Changhui and Bai Jinyi saw the fully armed soldier emerge from the woods beside the road, gun at the ready. The color immediately drained from their faces.

"Which squad are you from? What's your number? Who's your commander? Tell him to come out, I want to talk to him." Bai Changhui was a secretary-general; he was too proud to explain himself to a lowly foot soldier. He would only speak with Huo Shaoheng.

Bai Jinyi added, "I'm warning you, you're making a serious mistake. Hand over Song Jinning, immediately, or else..."

"Not coming out, eh?" Yin Shixiong ignored their rambling. He raised his gun, aimed at the car window, and pulled the trigger.

Bai Changhui's car did not have bulletproof windows. His rank wasn't high enough to qualify for the extra protection.

Bang! Bang! Two bullets burst through the car window next to Bai Jinyi. They whizzed past her cheek before embedding themselves on the car seat.

She froze in place, scared witless. She could not remember how to speak.

"I'll say it again: come out with your hands up! Get behind the warning line! You have exactly one minute. If you don't come out, we'll blow your car up." Yin Shixiong returned his finger to the trigger on his sniper rifle.

Bai Changhui looked out the car window. He saw that his driver had run away and was now already behind the warning line. The hundred-odd SWAT officers he had brought with him were fully armed, but every single one of them was standing behind the warning line.

Bai Changhui gritted his teeth. He knew that he had been thoroughly humiliated. He glared at his sister, before turning to look at Yin Shixiong again. He raised his hands, got out of the car, and then quickly turned and ran for the warning line.

Bai Jinyi knew she was at a disadvantage. She opened the car door on her side, raised her hands, and ran after her brother. In a flash, both siblings had retreated behind the warning line.

Yin Shixiong lowered his gun and pointed to the surrounding bushes and walls. "Only those with a permit can step beyond the warning line. Which one of you has a permit?"

Bai Changhui had been too impatient to get to the Special Ops base to apply for a permit from the military bigwigs. He shot Bai Jinyi another glare, before changing his approach to the situation. He took out a piece of cloth from his trouser pocket, wiped his glasses, and said genially to Yin Shixiong, "This is all just a misunderstanding. I am the deputy secretary-general of the Central Government Secretariat. Major General Huo took Song Jinning with him, but she is extremely important to both the military and the central government. Please return her to us."

Yin Shixiong snorted as he rested his sniper rifle against his shoulder. He shook his head and said loudly, "Mrs. Song is the major general's mother. The major general is one of the senior generals in the military. What is your relationship with Mrs. Song, pray tell? Why should we hand Mrs. Song over to you? What an absurd request. I bet all of the Lushan Waterfalls can fit in your skull, it's so empty in there."

Bai Changhui was the deputy secretary-general, but he was no match for Yin Shixiong's sarcastic wit.

Bai Jinyi saw that her brother had become tongue-tied, and knew it was up to her to fight the battle now. She put on her best "I have an urgent matter to discuss" look, and said, "You wouldn't understand even if we told you. Why don't you go get Shaoheng and tell him his Aunt Bai wants to talk to him?"

"The mother of our major general is an only child. She has no sisters. Which aunt are you supposed to be?" Yin Shixiong was the best, most eloquent debater among Huo Shaoheng's four personal secretaries [1]. In three concise sentences, he had deftly turned Bai Jinyi's words against her.

Bai Changhui realized that the soldier they were up against wasn't going to let them pass anytime soon. He racked his brains, and suddenly remembered a confidential document regarding Song Jinning that had been written years ago. He immediately called his office and instructed his men to find the document and bring it to him.

This particular document clearly stipulated that both the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Imperial Military would be jointly responsible for treating Song Jinning, finding out the cause of the laboratory accident, and getting the experiment back on track again.

Bai Jinyi was the director of the Institute of High Energy Physics. She represented the Ministry of Science and Technology, and had been authorized to take up the role of Song Jinning's psychiatrist.

The military was represented by Huo Guanchen, Song Jinning's ex-husband and the director of the Military Political Department.

Song Jinning was seriously ill. In the eyes of the law, she was no longer self-sufficient, which meant that the document now dictated her life and freedom. It was within Bai Jinyi's legal rights to take Song Jinning away.

This confidential document had been collecting dust in Bai Changhui's office for over ten years. He had virtually forgotten about it.

The current deadlock with the Special Operations Forces had unearthed the existence of the long-forgotten document from the murky depths of his memories.

Yin Shixiong had overheard Bai Changhui talking on the phone. His face paled when he heard about the "confidential document." He quickly sent a message to Zhao Liangze asking him what that was about.

Zhao Liangze ran a search on Song Jinning and found the confidential document. He immediately reported it to Huo Shaoheng.

Huo Shaoheng wasn't at all surprised by the new development. He smoothed his uniform and put on a bulletproof vest. "I was wondering how long it would take for them to think of that document. What idiots."

The document was legally binding. It was the main reason Huo Shaoheng had rushed Chen Lie into operating on Song Jinning.

He was caught in a race against time.

Huo Shaoheng checked the time on his watch. "Assemble the Squad Two defense guards. They'll be coming with me in half an hour."

Before leaving, he left further instructions for Zhao Liangze and his cyber squad. After half an hour, Huo Shaoheng left his residence in his personal bulletproof car, and led the squad of defense guards-who followed behind on motorcycles-to the warning line outside the Special Ops HQ.

Huo Shaoheng and his men arrived at the warning line at the exact same moment Bai Changhui's subordinate, escorted by a police car, arrived with the confidential document.

Huo Shaoheng stepped out of the bulletproof car. He had put on white gloves, a bulletproof steel helmet, and oversized shades. The scent of gunpowder wafted from the gun holster around his waist. He clasped his hands behind his back and stood before his audience, as majestic and imposing as a mountain.

Bai Changhui looked him over. He sneered. "Fully armed and protected, eh? How very cautious of you, General Huo. Are you afraid we'll try to attack you?"

"You can attack me if you want. I'm just protecting myself against snipers." Huo Shaoheng bowed slightly, and nodded politely to Bai Changhui in greeting. "Deputy Secretary-General Bai, you entered the headquarters of my Special Operations Forces without permission. What do you want?"

"Don't play dumb." Bai Jinyi pointed a finger at Huo Shaoheng and said bitterly, "You weren't like this, before. Think of your mother-she would be heartbroken if she knew how conceited and arrogant you've become!"

[1] The author previously established that Huo Shaoheng has two personal secretaries (Zhao Liangze and Yin Shixiong), not four. This is most likely a retcon by the author, to make Yin Shixiong sound more impressive.