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383 Chasing the Truth

 "Xie Dezhao must know all about the Gu's if he married Gu Tian." Chen Lie sighed deeply. "We finally found them." He paused for a moment then said, "Do the Gu's not live in the Empire?"

"No, my cousin said Xie Dezhao and his first wife met and married abroad. They were also born and raised there." Huo Shaoheng frowned slightly.

Chen Lie sensed something was amiss and turned to ask him, "What is it? Is there a problem?"

"I was thinking that if Nianzhi really was the Gu's daughter, then she... might not be a Huaxia citizen." Huo Shaoheng looked at the stack of information thoughtfully. "She probably appeared in our nation when her family took her her to travel or visit friends and family- and then something happened. But why hasn't anyone looked for her in all these years?"

"I agree. We checked the missing person's records back then and there's was not a single case that matched Gu Nianzhi's situation." Where was her family? They clearly knew she was missing, but why had they not looked for her? With Huo Shaoheng's authority and familiarity of the Huaxia Imperial customs system, he would have known if someone had crossed into the border.

"I forgot to check one thing." Huo Shaoheng's expression changed. "If Nianzhi is a foreigner, then customs must have the border entries! Back then, we only looked for police reports across the nation, but we hadn't looked for her name in the border records."

"Who would have thought she was a foreigner?" Chen Lie smiled wryly. "I still remember: at the time, she was like an alert little animal who refused to speak. But as soon as she spoke, it was fluent Chinese. She had no hint of any foreign accents."

Huo Shaoheng stood up immediately. "Repeat the experiment again; let's hope for the same results. I'll go look for Little Ze." Rushing out of Chen Lie's lab, Huo Shaoheng returned to his office and said to Zhao Liangze, who was waiting there, "Immediately check all the customs border entries from six years ago, before Nianzhi appeared. See if there's someone with her name."

Zhao Lingze exhaled sharply and stood up. "Mr. Huo! Have you found Nianzhi's family?!"

"Not yet. But I hope it'll be soon." Huo Shaoheng walked past him. "Investigate carefully and don't let anything slip past you. I want to know who brought her through the borders at the time." Six years ago, Gu Nianzhi had only been 12 years old so she couldn't have come by herself. Even if she had come alone, there should have been a traceable authorization from her family to allow the air attendants to care for her.

Zhao Liangze grew excited. "I'll go check right now!" Using a special database, he was able to quickly search for names in the endless sea of information. Nothing would slip past and it was much more efficient than searching manually. Zhao Liangze and Chen Lie worked in tandem while Huo Shaoheng dispatched any support necessary. From the Customs Border Agency to temporary foreigner registrations at local agencies, they were able to obtain any information requested. If they came across any resistance, Huo Shaoheng personally called their management. With green lights all the way, everyone was able to work extremely quickly.

...

Huo Shaoheng took it upon himself to find time to meet Xie Qingying's father, Xie Dezhao. When Speaker Long received Huo Shaoheng call asking to meet Xie Dezhao, he grinned widely. "Shaoheng, you're truly efficient! It's only been a few days and you already want to meet her father? Have you even asked Qingying out yet?"

Huo Shaoheng knew that Speaker Long misunderstood what was going on but he didn't bother explaining too much. He merely laughed. "Speaker Long, this is for business. We need to cooperate with Mr. Xie for official matters and I was hoping that Speaker Long could help pass the message?" He held the phone tighter. "It's not formal. We can even meet at the cafe by your house."

"Meet at the cafe? Are you asking the wrong person? Shouldn't you be asking Qingying out? Why ask for her father instead?" Speaker Long was delighted and couldn't help slapping the desk with his free hand as he chuckled heartily.

Huo Shaoheng merely waited on the other line before saying, "Do you have his contact information? I'll ask my personal secretary to arrange a time with him."

"Is this really for business?" Speaker Long grew serious. "Can you tell me what this is about?"

Huo Shaoheng hesitated for a second. He knew it wasn't the right time to divulge any information to Speaker Long. Also, Gu Nianzhi's past needed to remain strictly confidential so he didn't want to say anything until he possessed indisputable evidence. "It's just a routine investigation." Huo Shaoheng added: "The Special Operations Forces has the right to contact any foreigners entering the nation at any time."

Speaker Long sensed that there was more to situation but didn't urge Huo Shaoheng since he knew it wasn't the right opportunity. He merely said, "Ok, then I'll pass the message and you guys can sort out the time and location."

"Thank you Speaker Long." Huo Shaoheng set down the phone and called Yin Shixiong over to help him set up a time to speak with Xie Dezhao. Yin Shixiong began looking for his contact as soon as he received the command.

...

Xie Dezhao was a man nearing his 50's with a slim build and elegant face. His skin and figure were in great shape. When he received a call from the Special Operations Forces, he was running on the treadmill. "Hello, who is this?" Xie Dezhao frowned and stopped the machine, taking the towel hanging around his neck to wipe sweat off. Stepping off, he sat on the sofa in the corner and drank a cup of lightly salted water to replenish himself.

Yin Shixiong answered politely over the phone, "May I ask if this is Mr. Xie Dezhao?"

"Yes, this is. Who is this?" Xiw Dezhao repeated his question with some annoyance. He figured that it was a telemarketer. Just when Xie Dezhao was about to hang up, Yin Shixiong spoke again, "I am Yin Shixiong, Personal Secretary for Major General Huo of the Special Operations Forces. Major General Huo would like to have a discussion with you. May I ask what day you would be available for us to book a time for?"

"Special Operations Forces?" Xie Dezhao instantly recalled what Speaker Long had mentioned. He hadn't expected to get a call so soon. After a moment of unease, he quickly composed himself. Anyone would be nervous to receive an invitation to chat with such an organization, but after carefully thinking about it, he knew he hadn't done anything immoral; there was no need to worry about the meeting.

"Ok, I'm free on all days. I can go with whatever Major General Huo arranges."

"That's great." Yin Shixiong relaxed. "We hope to book a time as soon as possible. How about this-do you have time this evening? Around 7 or 8pm?"

"That early?" Xie Dezhao paused. He was curious as to what Huo Shaoheng would say to him.

"Right, our Chief is normally very busy with work. He happens to be free this evening." Yin Shixiong laughed but didn't allow room for Xie Dezhao to refuse. "Let's meet at the European-style cafe near Speaker Long's house. What do you think?"

"Ok, no problem." Xie Dezhao let his posture relax. He hadn't been to that cafe before, but since it was close to Speaker Long's home he was sure that it would be a highly secure place. He was reassured of its safety. Aftering ending the call, he went to shower then planned for an early dinner.

When Xie Qingying returned home, she saw that dinner was already served and asked with surprise, "Dad, why are we eating so early tonight?"

"I have to go out later tonight," Xie Dezhao said with a smile. "Major General Huo of the Special Operations Forces invited me for a chat at a cafe and I don't want to be late. So, we're going to have an early dinner and I'll wait there ahead of time for him."

Xie Qingying froze. "Major General Huo? You mean, Huo Shaoheng?"

"Yes, do you know him too?" Xie Dezhao was even more reassured, "So he's someone we know. In that case, I have nothing to be nervous about."

Xie Qingying nibbled on the end of her chopstick thoughtfully for a while as she contemplated why Huo Shaoheng would invite her father for a chat. She also recalled how he had suddenly called after her the other day to ask about her biological mother's name-something felt strange. "Dad, can you take me too? I won't show my face and I'll wait for you from the sidelines."