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464 The Looming Fog

 Huo Shaoheng crossed his arms in front of the window and watched the scenery outside. The sky was blue and bright with sunshine, there was peace in the world, and all was well. Still, Huo Shaoheng could sense the raging waves looming in the distance revealing a sliver of its fearsome body. The names Gu Yanran and Gu Nianzhi were linked together because of Gu Xiangwen. Perhaps Gu Nianzhi's father, Gu Xiangwen merely had the same name as that of Gu Yanran's? But what was the likelihood of that? Less than one in ten million. The more likely possibility was that this was the same person, just like how Yamaguchi Youko and Yamaguchi Aiko were the same people. Without Yamaguchi Aiko's appearance, they would never have been alarmed by the Yamaguchi Youko incident. The woman's appearance was what helped them come up with their new hypothesis. It was nothing strange for sisters to resemble each other, but to have them behave nearly the same was uncanny. Even identical twins acted differently, so why would sisters of different ages be so alike? As for He Zhichu, what role did he play? He came because of Gu Nianzhi, and he also knew about her past, so why didn't he reveal it to her? Interrogating He Zhichu was pointless. As an experienced lawyer and tenured professor at the Harvard Law School, he had countless methods of concealing the truth without giving away a single clue. That's why Huo Shaoheng had never tried to learn the truth from He Zhichu. He only believed in what he personally investigated. All the doubts swirled through Huo Shaoheng's mind and seemed to connect into a web, yet he couldn't link certain key points together.

Zhao Liangze hugged his laptop and fiercely keyed in commands to launch yet another Trojan virus attack on the Yamaguchi-gumi's internet in an attempt to extract more information. Yin Shixiong twirled a dart in his hand and frowned as he threw it at the dartboard. The two men looked up from time to time to see Huo Shaoheng standing by the window. His back was powerful and extremely straight, just like it had been during past missions when nothing could ever challenge him. He was the backbone and column of the Special Operations Forces. He was where all its members rested their beliefs.

Huo Shaoheng stood at the window for some time. His two subordinates noticed the sun gradually travel west and illuminate the west-facing window in a golden glow. A long time passed before Huo Shaoheng turned around to look at Zhao Liangze and Yin Shixiong and said calmly, "Our problem is that we never directly interacted with Yamaguchi Youko and Yamaguchi Aiko. These are two people, but one of them has always been a mystery to us."

Zhao Liangze stopped typing and Yin Shixiong put away his dart. They looked at Huo Shaoheng nervously and asked in unison, "Mr. Huo, you want to investigate these two people again?"

"No." Huo Shaoheng walked over from the window and responded in his baritone voice, "We have to investigate her true identity."

"True identity?"

"Yes, since searching for Yamaguchi Youko and Yamaguchi Aiko yielded no results, we have reason to believe that these two names could be a kind of disguise. Her true identity is someone else." Huo Shaoheng returned to his desk, braced himself on two arms, and looked at his two personal secretaries.

Zhao Liangze and Yin Shixiong shared a glance as they both had the same realization.

"And her target is actually Nianzhi, so we don't have to let this woman lead us by the nose." Huo Shaoheng's gaze returned to the computer monitor on his desk and he used to cursor to start several programs. "Notify the personnel in South America to continue the operation. This time, focus on Gu Yanran. He Zhichu can be set aside for now." Since they'd already determined that Gu Xiangwen was Gu Yanran's father, they decided they should continue in that vein. After all, the only reason they had investigated He Zhichu was to find out more about Gu Nianzhi's past.

"Big Xiong, get a new sample from Gu Yanran. This time you'll have to obtain it personally," Huo Shaoheng commanded Yin Shixiong.

"Roger, Chief!" Yin Shixiong immediately left Huo Shaoheng's office to discover a way to find Gu Yanran and get her DNA sample.

"Little Ze, you don't need to continue attacking the Yamaguchi-gumi's internet." Huo Shaoheng was silent for a long time and finally continued,

"Send a letter directly to the Yamaguchi-gumi inquiring about Yamaguchi Youko and Yamaguchi Aiko, with emphasis on Yamaguchi Youko's car accident."

"Send a letter directly?" Zhao Liangze's eyes bulged, "But... that's against regulation. With what identity are we sending the letter?"

"Have the Huaxia Consulate General in Japan represent it. The Yamaguchi-gumi is now parading itself as a legal business. It has cut off all clandestine ties, but its core is still illegal." A hint of ridicule appeared on Huo Shaoheng's face. "So send a letter as a formal inquiry."

"Roger, Chief!" Zhao Liangze quickly returned to his own office to contact the Huaxia Consulate General in Japan.

Before Zhao Liangze was able to reach someone from the Huaxia Consulate General in Japan, Yin Shixiong flung the door open with a strange look. "Mr. Huo, I just confirmed that Gu Yanran has already returned to Barbados. Her private jet took off four hours ago. It left the Empire's borders a long time ago." Yin Shixiong placed his findings from the airport on Huo Shaoheng's desk. "Look at the time. It's the exact same moment that Prime Minister Dou's group had the incident at the airport. They were all there at the same time!"

"What a coincidence!" Zhao Liangze also came over to look at Yin Shixiong's research results. "What should we do?"

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"Check to see who accompanied her on the flight. Get detailed information." Huo Shaoheng ordered Zhao Liangze to contact the General Administration of Customs Department and obtain the documents and security footage of Gu Yanran departure. Ten minutes later, the General Administration of Customs Department found the departure records and sent it to the Special Ops special inbox. Zhao Liangze printed all the information about the people who had departed with Gu Yanran, including their photos. He then sent it all to Huo Shaoheng's desk.

"A total of five people accompanied Gu Yanran onto the jet, including two housekeepers, one male, and one female. There were three bodyguards, all male." Zhao Liangze placed the stacks of information in front of Huo Shaoheng. "These are their photos and copies of their passports."

Huo Shaoheng flipped through each one, and his eyes finally fell on the photo of Gu Yanran's middle-aged female housekeeper. He picked it out and pushed it back to Zhao Liangze. "Run a digital analysis to remove her glasses, and find out who she really is."

Zhao Liange quickly transcoded the photo and loaded it into his analysis program. It appeared the woman had been fully prepared. After careful digital analysis, the image revealed a middle-aged woman they had never seen before. This was not the Yamaguchi Aiko they had envisioned.

"Mr. Huo, this person either isn't Yamaguchi Aiko, or she's more powerful than originally anticipated." Zhao Liangze magnified the photo and projected it onto the large screen in the office. "You can see that there is no trace of camouflage on her face. This is either her real face or her skills are more advanced than ours. As far as I know, only the United States is more advanced than us in this respect."

"This person is the focus of the investigation." Yin Shixiong shook his head. "Unfortunately she already left the country."

But Huo Shaoheng smiled. "That's exactly what I wanted."

Zhao Liangze and Yin Shixiong's brains whirred, but then immediately understood their Chief's intention. They both laughed.

"Understood!" Yin Shixiong and Zhao Liangze high fived each other with bright smiles. "If she's still in the nation, our power is restricted. But now that she's left the borders, the sky's the limit for us!" The Special Ops had unlimited operational capabilities outside the Huaxia Imperial borders and were not subject to any legal restrictions. Their battlefields were never within the borders of the Huaxia Empire. Their domestic actions were severely restricted, and they could not overstep jurisdiction. In other words, their domestic operations were often encumbered and often could not proceed as intended. Only when the battlefield was placed outside their borders could they use their full power to achieve their goals.

The next day, the Huaxia Consulate General in Japan replied to Zhao Liangze. The results were shocking. The Yamaguchi-gumi denied any affiliation with Yamaguchi Youko and Yamaguchi Aiko, as well as any attempt to intervene with the Huaxia Imperial Prime Minister elections.

"Mr. Huo, is the Yamaguchi-gumi responding truthfully?" Neither Zhao Liangze nor Yin Shixiong believed the Yamaguchi-gumi's reply, but at the same time, they also didn't understand why Huo Shaoheng would send a formal inquiry letter to them.

Huo Shaoheng sat at his desk to read the Yamaguchi-gumis' reply forwarded by the Huaxia Consulate General in Japan. He remained silent for a long time.

"I have to see General Ji. Connect me to his phone line." After some time, Huo Shaoheng finally broke the silence and tidied the files on his desk. "Make preparations and be on standby."