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608 Proof of Allegiance

 Huo Shaoheng had suffered a flesh wound to his abdomen on the night of the explosion but hadn't been able to treat it in time due to planning Sean's assassination. The wound had worsened, so he'd spent the last month in his apartment to recover.

Because the wound had become infected, he'd run a fever for a few days but hadn't passed out from it. There was no way he could go to the hospital. He knew that American hospitals had an obligation to notify police about gunshot wounds and burns and wounds from explosions. His situation would be exposed as soon as he went to the hospital, and he couldn't let those people know of his injury. Besides, it wasn't a serious injury.

All Special Operations Forces personnel brought all sorts of anti-inflammatory drugs with them during missions. His wound healed very quickly with his rest in the apartment and the timely application of ointment. When he took off the gauze this time, there was no longer any need to dress the wound again. He looked in the mirror to see several new scars on his powerful abdomen, but they were so faint they were barely visible. This type of injury was nothing, so he calmly threw the used gauze into the stainless steel wastebasket before flipping open his lighter to set it on fire. He then dumped the ashes into the toilet to flush them away.

He was a bit tired after doing all that leaning, and he lay on the couch with his eyes closed to rest. With one arm draped across his forehead, he covered his eyes from the piercing sunlight filtering through the windows. He was fully aware that for him and his fellow soldiers, death was the only option if the mission failed. Huo Shaoheng was in an even more peculiar position-his industry could only allow success, never failure. It was his own negligence that had resulted in him being betrayed and falling into the trap. Luckily, he reacted quickly and retreated to the shadows in order to escape the enemy's pursuit. In the end, he ended up getting the upper hand and gaining a powerful ally.

Two weeks had passed since he had eliminated Sean. Huo Shaoheng didn't make another move but patiently awaited his recovery in the New Jersey luxury apartment. When he thought about it, James had already been Director of the Asian Intelligence Branch of the CIA for two weeks by now. If Huo Shaoheng inferred correctly, James should have been attempting to contact him.

Huo Shaoheng cleaned himself up and changed into a black Ralph Lauren polo, casual khakis, and large sunglasses and carried a tennis bag. He drove his rented Mercedes SUV toward Long Island. He had previously arranged with James for Tan Guiren's Long Island villa to be their meeting place and had told him to say he was giving something to Mr. Gu. He'd also explained this to Tan Guiren, but, of course, he'd purposely left the information with her without leaving a contact method. That way, after James contacted Tan Guiren, she would certainly try to find a way to deliver the letter to him but didn't actually have his contact information and would have to ask her parents back in the Huaxia Empire.

Huo Shaoheng wanted to use this to provoke the mole who had betrayed him domestically because he was certain that the mole had a relationship with the person urging the Tans. If it wasn't for this person, the Tans wouldn't have relentlessly sought help from the high-ranking military officers to have Huo Shaoheng personally rescue their daughter in New York. As long as the person instigating the Tans was exposed, the mole would be revealed any day now.

The two-week wait would allow the situation to stew back home. Huo Shaoheng had concealed himself all this time so the enemy would grow anxious and make a mistake in their rush, revealing themselves.

...

New York was extremely hot in mid-August. The nearly incandescent sun made people dizzy. Huo Shaoheng was vigilant about his surroundings during his drive on the seaside road to Long Island. The car was equipped with radio monitoring detection functions, but there had been no indications the entire way there. He remembered that there had been many hidden and blatant CIA agents monitoring Tan Guiren's home.

After parking his car at a tennis court near the villa district, Huo Shaoheng went inside to play several games before checking his surroundings again and finally ringing the doorbell to Tan Guiren's villa.

A woman in her 40s, who appeared to be a maid, opened the door to ask, "May I ask who you're looking for?"

"I'm looking for your mistress, please tell her Mr. Gu is visiting." Huo Shaoheng smiled and gently tapped the tennis racket against his palm.

Tan Guiren's heart hammered as soon as she heard that "Mr. Gu" was here. She quickly put on shoes and ran outside to see Huo Shaoheng's strapping figure standing outside the iron gates. Tan Guiren suddenly felt tears dampen her eyes-she had been very anxious over the last two weeks. Although she had contacted her parents back home to ask for help finding Huo Shaoheng's contact information and they had managed to get her his phone number and email, all her phone calls and emails had been to no avail. She almost thought Huo Shaoheng was purposely avoiding her... She hadn't expected him to finally appear.

Tan Guiren strode over to open the gates and whispered, "You're here?"

Huo Shaoheng's normally calm face broke into a faint smile. "Pardon the intrusion, Miss Tan."

"You're too polite," Tan Guiren replied. "Come in. I've been looking for you all this time, but you didn't come by again for so long. I didn't know your contact information, so I was quite anxious. Luckily, you came back again."

Huo Shaoheng greeted Tan Guiren with a smile at her door, then said, "I was playing tennis with some friends, so I decided to visit since it's on the way. What is it? Is it safe here? Why aren't you going home yet?" He then asked, "What did you need me for?"

His tone was so relaxed and casual that Tan Guiren's uneasy heart finally settled down. She looked around and leaned over to him to whisper, "Someone sent 'Mr. Gu' a letter."

Huo Shaoheng knew it was probably from James, so he nodded. "Can I bother Miss Tan to show it to me?"

"Come on in. Are you busy?" Tan Guiren's face flushed slightly with small beads of sweat on the tip of her nose. There was an alluring sense of delicateness on her porcelain face, but unfortunately, the man before her had no such appreciation.

Huo Shaoheng folded his hands behind his back and looked at the trees nearby. "...My friends are still waiting for me."

"Ok." Tan Guiren was a bit disappointed. "I'll go get it for you." Setting the letter in Huo Shaoheng's hand, the normally reticent Tan Guiren suddenly asked, "...Are you on some type of a special mission?"

Huo Shaoheng looked up at Tan Guiren and said calmly, "Yeah, don't tell anyone."

Huo Shaoheng had undergone professional training, so he knew that the best way to spread "secrets" was to tell one person a "secret" and ask them not to tell anyone else. What was a secret? Only something that was never spoken of. Anything that was said out loud was no longer a secret-even if it was spoken to a hole in a tree. Who knew if a pair of ears was behind that hole?

Tan Guiren felt as if she had been entrusted with a sacred task. She clasped her hands in front of her chest and nodded furiously. "I'll certainly not tell anyone! I swear on my life!"

Huo Shaoheng said nothing. Looking down, he quickly glanced over James's letter and was temporarily shocked. This was probably "proof of allegiance" from James...