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Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
Although the TV didn’t broadcast a clear image of his face, the CIA certainly had internal footage of it. Huo Shaoheng considered it and disposed of his blue contact lenses and also removed his aquiline nose. Looking at his original appearance in the mirror, he somehow felt he looked unfamiliar. Without the disguise of his blue contacts, Huo Shaoheng changed into a pair of large, black-framed, fake glasses. With something like that on, Gu Nianzhi would be the only one who would recognize him, while even his own parents probably wouldn’t. Huo Shaoheng chuckled at the mirror. Although his actions today had been risky, it was necessary to break the stalemate and create chaos for the person pulling the strings behind the scenes.
Glancing at his watch, it was already 9pm locally and 9am in the Hua Xia Empire. Nianzhi should be awake by now. Huo Shaoheng quietly took off the black-framed glasses and put them back into their case before toying with his phone. He discovered he had the urge to call Gu Nianzhi, but his many years of professional training quickly dispelled this notion, and he finally shut it off before going to bed.
During the next few days, Huo Shaoheng often sported a classic Ralph Lauren blue and black striped shirt, straight slim-cut wool trousers, and a pair of comfortable Oxford shoes. He appeared very casual and elegant, the complete opposite of the agile and daring figure on TV. People living in his apartment building were also talking about the “hero” who rescued the girl, but no one linked him to the fashionably dressed, casual, and elegant man wearing black-framed glasses.
Taking advantage of not going out for the last few days, Huo Shaoheng used a VPN to log in to the European Hermes website and finally used a French mail forwarding address to purchase some Hermes silk scarves to mail directly to Gu Nianzi’s apartment on the Third Ring Road of the Imperial Capital. What he didn’t know was that Hermes’ official website had a sudden technical difficulty, and the French mail forwarding address he entered somehow changed into a German mail forwarding address. The German location was a name that the Hua Xia citizens were familiar with as of late.
It was summer break, and Ma Qiqi had landed a law firm internship. She left early in the day and returned late at night, so Gu Nianzhi was often alone in the dorm. That day she got up bored and didn’t want to go to the library to research and write essays, so she holed up in the dorm to play video games. Her neck grew sore after playing all afternoon, and she finally rubbed the back of her neck and got up to wash in the bathroom. She planned to go out for food, and when she glanced at her watch, it was almost lunch time.
Suddenly, the dorm PA rang out with the Resident Advisor’s voice. “Gu Nianzhi! You have a package!”
Gu Nianzhi was very surprised. Who would be sending her a package? She quickly tied her long hair into a ponytail and took the dorm key downstairs. A UPS truck was parked in front of the dorm, and a delivery man passed a small cardboard box to her. “Gu Nianzhi?”
“Right, that’s me.” Gu Nianzhi showed her identification to him and signed for the package. She studied it for a long time and saw it had been sent from Germany. The address looked familiar, and the box felt light in her hands but was sealed tightly. She didn’t know what was inside. Gu Nianzhi returned to her dorm room and set the box on her desk. After looking at it quietly some more, she finally put on gloves and used scissors to cut through the tape. Removing the exterior packaging, the box underneath was the familiar orange box from Hermes! Hermes silk scarves!
These had been sent from Germany… Gu Nianzhi’s heart hammered. Her first reaction was that Huo Shao had sent them to her! Only Huo Shaoheng liked to buy Hermes scarves as her birthday gift! Although her birthday was still a few months away, that didn’t deter Huo Shao’s habit of preparing and planning things well in advance. Was this Huo Shao’s way of allowing her to feel reassurance? Although he couldn’t tell her where he went or what he was doing, a silk scarf sent from a long distance could discreetly tell her that all was well with him.
Gu Nianzhi sat in front of the desk hugging the scarf, and her heart was warm. Like a traveler traversing through snowy terrain finally finding a warm fire, she wanted nothing more but to cast her whole body and mind into that fire, even if it burned her to ashes. She would do it without hesitation.
So Huo Shao was in Germany? Gu Nianzhi took the cardboard box and carefully noted the address on it. She entered the address into the computer and finally found the place. The German city familiar to all Hua Xia Imperial citizens as of late appeared on her search results, and Gu Nianzhi couldn’t help widening her eyes. All her suspicions suddenly revealed the answer. Huo Shao must’ve gone to Germany?
It was because of the torture and murder of that Hua Xia female exchange student. Calculating the time, Huo Shao had left for his mission abroad shortly after the case occurred, and not many people knew about the incident domestically at the time. One of the important responsibilities of the Special Operations Forces was to protect the interests of Hua Xia citizens abroad. Looks like that case was fishy… Gu Nianzhi thoughtfully looked at the related search results for the case, and her hands began to itch.
Of course, Huo Shaoheng didn’t know that the Hermes official site had such an error. He stayed in his apartment for several days and only remained connected to the outside world by going online. The CIA was like a bat flying out of its cave, and their search seemed to expand to the areas around New York.
Huo Shaoheng changed his clothes and once again disguised himself as a dull-looking Chinese IT worker. Wearing a backpack and flat shoes, he headed to New York. This time, he didn’t go to Fifth Avenue but directly went past it and made a loop around the area by the CIA’s New York branch. The CIA would never believe that the person they had locked the city down in an attempt to find was walking right under their noses.
The most dangerous place was also the saddest. This grain of truth was also applicable in the US. The neighborhoods around the CIA branch were very peaceful and had fewer street cameras. There were also no police cars speeding by. All the people there smiled brightly and wore T-shirts or dresses as they walked under the summer sun.
Huo Shaoheng had coffee and sat at an outdoor cafe on the ground floor of a building right beside the CIA branch as he played with his phone. A somber-looking, middle-aged white man walked out of the CIA branch and came to the cafe. He ordered a coffee with two sugars and two milks before sitting not too far from Huo Shaoheng. They almost sat back to back while Huo Shaoheng discreetly sipped his black coffee. From the corner of his eye, he spied several people who seemed to be CIA agents come over to sit by the middle-aged man. They encircled him and were carrying healthy lunches from Chipotle. Each of them had a coffee in front of them as they had lunch and complained about work.
“James, just look at the brat gloating over our heads! There are so many agents in our branch, why did he get promoted out of all people?!”
“Exactly! You’re the true backbone of our branch! We all follow you! I get riled up when I see that brat’s smug face!”
“He’s always shouting in the branch and treats you like a servant. We all can’t stand it!”
These people were indignant for what the somber-faced man was suffering, and they all seemed truly affected and sincere–they weren’t merely complaining.
Huo Shaoheng perked up his ears and gleaned the information he wanted from their chattering. The somber-faced, middle-aged man was no stranger to Huo Shaoheng. This was an important figure in the Asian Intelligence branch of the CIA, James. He was also one of Huo Shaoheng’s main enemies. But from what these people were saying, it sounded like he had failed to get promoted.
Huo Shaoheng rubbed his chin as he mulled it over and began recalling what he knew about James. James was a veteran and served in Asia for many years. After retiring from the military, he returned to the US, and because of his outstanding intelligence abilities, the CIA took him in to head the Asian Intelligence Branch. This person had deeply compromised the Hua Xia Empire’s intelligence network in North America, and he also played a big part in last year’s case of Bai Yusheng turning against the Empire. James was nearly 50 years old and had married rather late. He had two children. One was about to start college, and the other was just in high school. His wife was a homemaker.
Huo Shaoheng didn’t expect that an intelligent and capable person like that would be bullied, so who was this other person? Huo Shaoheng realized he didn’t know anything about his new leader they mentioned. However, he was certain that this new director was a recent external promotion into the CIA Asian Intelligence Branch and couldn’t have been there for more than a month because it was only in the past month or so that Huo Shaoheng hadn’t been in contact with the Hua Xia Empire and also hadn’t followed intelligence reports.
Huo Shaoheng opened the newspaper in his hands to block his face. However, because there were so many people reading newspapers and playing on their phones as they drank coffee there, it probably wasn’t even necessary. These were all white collar workers from nearby buildings, so Huo Shaoheng’s disguise completely blended in. Like a drop of water melting into the vast sea, even the sharpest agents didn’t notice him.
The truth was, Sean also came to this cafe. He was already unhappy to see several older agents in his branch crowding around James. Walking over with a sullen face, he barked at them sternly, “Lunch break is only half an hour, and you’ve all been here for an hour now.”
The agents got up nervously and quickly cleaned up before rushing back to work. James was the last to stand up and said to the furious Sean, “Director, I’m not feeling well and want to take the rest of the day off.”
“Not well? Do you have a doctor’s note?” Sean asked shrewdly, “How can I believe you, if you don’t have a doctor’s note?”
“Director, according to the CIA’s regulations, only sick leaves over two days require doctor’s notes. I’m only taking half a day, so that’s not necessary,” James replied slowly and got up to leave the cafe.
Sean stared at this retreating back and balled his fists angrily, yet there was nothing he could do. Huo Shaoheng waited for Sean to leave before slowly getting up and following James.
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