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Home > Hello Mr Major General

384 The First Glimpse

 Xie Dezhao agreed with a smile but made sure to remind her, "Your uncle made it clear that the Special Operations Forces is not a regular branch of the military. We just came back from abroad, so we must be careful to not get in trouble. It can make things difficult for your uncle." The truth was, Xie Dezhao's marriage was not strong enough to bring their two families close together. This was the second marriage for both of them and they also didn't have a child together, so it wasn't a particularly powerful union. Fortunately, Xie Dezhao didn't need to rely on Speaker Long for any benefits: the two families got along well for now and grew closer together gradually. Xie Qingying agreed immediately and went back to her room to dress after a quick dinner. Because she didn't want Huo Shaoheng to know she was going to be there too, she went to the cafe early. However, she didn't realize that with the nature of Huo Shaoheng's work, the entire cafe would be monitored if he was going to be meeting Xie Dezhao. It would be impossible for Xie Qingying to ambush him.

Huo Shaoheng was still on his way to the cafe when the personnel monitoring it notified Zhao Liangze that Xie Dezhao's daughter, Xie Qingying, has gotten there early and was dining at the table behind a screen. Zhao Liangze forwarded it Huo Shaoheng and then called him as well. "Mr. Huo, Miss Xie also went to the cafe. Do we need to escort her out?"

Huo Shaoheng considered it and finally said, calmly, "That's not necessary, just keep an eye on her. We won't be asking him anything classified today, it'll be general and likely not even more than five minutes."

Zhao Liangze received the command and passed it onto the personnel at the cafe so they could watch Xie Qingyin and prevent her from interfering.

...

Xie Dezhao entered the European-style cafe near Speaker Long's home. "Sir, do you have a reservation?" An elegantly dressed hostess walked over and bowed at him. Xie Dezhao glanced around to see the cafe appeared very European to even someone who had lived there like him. There were many foreigners present as well as Huaxia people who had returned from abroad. It seemed that the cafe owner probably came from Europe themself.

Xie Dezhao smiled at the waitress and said, "Thank you, but I'm waiting for someone..." he trailed off as he looked around.

"Are you waiting for Mr. Huo?" The waitress bowed slightly. "Mr. Huo made a reservation. Please follow me."

Xie Dezhao was a little surprised. He had thought they would be talking in the lobby. He hadn't expected Huo Shaoheng to book a private room.

Xie Qingyin watched her father follow the waitress into the private room and grew nervous. Why had she even bother coming along then? She'd planned on listening from the corner. Xie Qingying listlessly ordered a seafood paella and ate alone behind the screen. The European style cafe also offered simply fare for the evening menu and the paella was very authentic. As she was digging into the food, Huo Shaoheng arrived at the cafe. He wore a navy wool casual uniform, his shoulders broad and his build especially strapping in the getup.

Xie Qingying peeked over from behind the screen to see Huo Shaoheng's stride by, her gaze heavy. For a moment, she forgot to breathe. After Huo Shaoheng walked past, she finally realized she was feeling suffocated and massaged her neck. Taking a deep breath, she looked at the plate of paella before her which, for some reason, seemed lackluster now.

...

Huo Shaoheng opened the door to the VIP room and saw an elegant man sitting at the table. He appeared well taken care of for his age. Huo Shaoheng could discern the features typical to the Xie family, such as a slim and austere nose that looked finely sculpted, deep set eyes, and strong eyebrows. The man was relaxed yet sharp, although his features were not as handsome as those of direct Xie lineage.

Huo Shaoheng approached him slowly and stood before Xie Dezhao, chin slightly raised as he asked, "Are you Mr. Xie Dezhao?"

"Yes, I am. Are you Major General Huo?" Xie Dezhao was suddenly taken aback when he saw Huo Shaoheng.

Huo Shaoheng was very amicable; there was not a trace of aggressiveness in his gentle eyes, yet Xie Dezhao had a strange feeling of breathlessness.

"Yes, please have a seat." Huo Shaoheng motioned for Xie Dezhao to sit down and sat opposite to him. The waitress serving their room came in to ask for their orders. Huo Shaoheng ordered a Jamaican Blue Mountain black coffee and a black forest cake. Xie Dezhao ordered a cappuccino with cream and sugar, as well as a tiramisu. The waitress quickly served the orders and the two men began chatting idly.

"I didn't expect to find such authentic cappuccino here, and yet look at how fine the milk foam is!" Xie Dezhao couldn't stop raving about the coffee, and then went on to comment about the delicious tiramisu.

Huo Shaoheng only drank coffee; he hadn't touched his black forest cake at all. He nodded. "This coffee is well roasted." The two men talked for a while and took a long time before delving into the main topic. It was as though they had been competing to be the most patient.

Xie Dezhao finally coulnd't hold it back anymore and pushed aside his cup with a frown. "Major General Huo, I'm assuming you didn't invite me to just chat about coffee?"

Huo Shapheng smiled faintly without giving a clear answer. "If we are here for a chat, that means anything can be a topic. That includes coffee."

"Alright then, I'm done talking. Coffee, cake, and yes, although this tiramisu is pretty good, it's not as good as what my daughter makes. She makes exceptional tiramisu. I'll have to invite Major General Huo to try it in the future!" Xie Dezhao lit up at the mention of his daughter.

He was finally talking about his daughter. Huo Shaoheng frowned slightly, his eyes serious. "Your daughter? Is that Miss Xie Qingying? She gets along well with Mrs. Long; how nice."

"My wife is also a great woman. She treats Qingying like her own. Speaker Long and his wife care for us like family as well." Xie Dezhao praised his wife without reservations. His second wife was younger than him by seven or eight years, but they were both over 40 and weren't considered a large age gap couple.

Huo Shaoheng nodded. "Speaker Long's cousin? I've met her once! She seems like a good person."

"Yes, we met in Europe; she'd been sketching alone in the rural area. There was a big rainstorm and she couldn't leave in time, so she stayed at my place for the night." Xie Dezhao reminisced about meeting his second wife and his expression visibly relaxed. He wasn't as nervous anymore.

Huo Shaoheng finally delved into the main topic languidly. "Are you planning to have more children? As far as I know, you only have one daughter, Miss Xie Qingying, right?"

"Oh? Children..." Xie Dezhao's beautiful memories were disrupted by Huo Shaoheng's mention of children. He frowned and looked away at the abstract painting on the wall. "I'm already at this age now. It's time for me to enjoy time with grandchildren. Why would I want more children?"

"What if your wife wants one?" Huo Shaoheng templed his hands on the coffee table and broke down Xie Dezhao's emotional defenses one at a time.

"My wife? I don't think so." Xie Dezhao's frown grew deeper as he said, "We've never talked about this and maybe we don't need to talk about it. Neither of us are young. I'm almost 50 and she's over 40. Could we even have children?"

"If both of you are healthy. It's not uncommon for women in their forties to get pregnant." Huo Shaoheng chuckled as he sipped the coffee. The magic of coffee was that the bitter drink somehow had a sweet aftertaste. The first taste was bitter, the second was unique, the third was sweet and the fourth was addictive.

Xie Dezhao curled his hands into fists, agitated. "No...No! We don't want children! Giving birth destroys a woman's health! I never want to make a woman have birth again for the rest of my life!"

Huo Shaoheng had learned from his cousin in the Xie family that Xie Dezhao's first wife, Gu Tian, had collapsed after having a child. Her immune system had shut down and she died from a minor cold the first month after her baby was born. This was Xie Dezhao's complex and the reason why he'd waited over 20 years to remarry. Huo Shaoheng wasn't a psychiatrist and his goal wasn't to help Xie Dezhao resolve his trauma. All he wanted to know was where Gu Tian had come from and what her family was like. "Mr. Xie, I can't say I agree. Most women give birth normally." Huo Shaoheng began tapping his finger on the coffee table.

Xie Dezhao lapsed into his memories and was almost hypnotized by the rhythmic tapping he mumbled, "No, you don't understand. Qingying's mother, it was because she'd wanted a child. She had poor health and I knew about it so I told her we didn't need to have children. The Xie's are such a large family, so it didn't matter if we had children or not. But she didn't listen and insisted on giving birth."

"Really? Miss Xie's mother was in poor health? Did you know this even when you married her?" Huo Shaoheng forced the topic on.

Xie Dezhao nodded in despair. "I knew it, but I loved her anyway so we got married. She was so happy and didn't tell me she'd gotten pregnant, just to surprise me. She'd told me not to worry because her older brother had prepared something for her so that she could give birth without any problems."

"Her older brother? Your first wife's brother? Who is she? What's his name?" Huo Shaoheng also grew anxious. Although he appeared calm, he could feel his heart shaking rapidly.

"Her brother was Gu Xiangwen! You don't know such a famous person?" Xie Dezhao looked up and his tone carried some disdain. "What a wonderful brother who loved his sister so much... that he couldn't even help her as she was dying!"

Huo Shaoheng clenched his fist tightly, quietly watching Xie Dezhao in silence.

Xie Dezhao was chilled by Huo Shaoheng's gaze and didn't dare meet his eyes anymore. He turned away and muttered, "I'm sorry, I'm too angry and I know I shouldn't talk about him like that."

Huo Shaoheng composed himself and interjected. "You said Gu Xiangwen is famous? In what way? I don't think I've ever heard of this name."

Xie Dezhao weighed his words and reaction to make sure he wasn't lying. He frowned in thought before finally saying, "Well, that was me overthinking. Gu Xiangwen is famous abroad. However, in the Empire, people who've heard of him don't know him by that name."

"Then by what name?" Huo Shaoheng grew excited. It was no wonder that hadn't found anything after all those investigations.

Xie Dezhao picked up a pen from the coffee table and wrote "Kevin Ku" on the napkin. "This is his English name and what he uses to publish papers. You can find it all online."

Huo Shaoheng took the napkin from him and glanced at it casually before setting it aside like it was nothing. "Oh, he's an academic? In what field?"

"That I'm not too sure about. I just know that he has many patents that are widely used abroad. Even though he's very low key, his wealth is extraordinary, so he's considered an inconspicuously wealthy person." Xie Dezhao said this nonchalantly. The Xie's certainly didn't look up to other people's money. The truth was, if it wasn't for Gu Tian's rich brother supporting her, she would've never had the chance to meet Xie Dezhao and marry him.

"Is that so? Then, are you still in contact with him now?" Huo Shaoheng said airily, "Our nation may consider working with such an esteemed person."

"Ha!" Xie Dezhao's expression darkened as he sneered with contempt. "So what if he's esteemed? He went back on his word and left his own sister to die. I wouldn't want anything to do with him no matter how great he is! The truth was, I haven't contacted him since my wife died."

Huo Shaoheng looked confused.

"I beat him up 26 years ago at my wife's funeral and kicked him out. I never allowed him into our house again!" Xie Dezhao slapped the coffee table, causing the plates to clatter.

"So, you haven't contacted him for 26 years?" Huo Shaoheng's hopes fell. "He never came to visit his own niece?"

"It didn't matter if he tried to come, since I never allowed him in. He tried to visit the first few years my wife passed away, but was always kicked out by me and eventually stopped coming. He then started sending Qingying gifts every birthday." Xie Dezhao paused, a trace of concern in his voice. "But ever since six years ago, he's never sent gifts to Qingying again."

Six years ago yet again. Just what had happened exactly? Huo Shaoheng was essentially certain that Gu Xiangwen was Gu Nianzhi's father, but he had never thought that Gu Xiangwen and Xie Dezhao would have had such a dispute between them that they hadn't spoken in over 20 years. As a result, Xie Dezhao had no idea what Gu Xiangwen had been doing for the past 20 something years. He also didn't know about his niece, Gu Nianzh, because she hadn't been born when they'd had the fight.