SEDUCING MR CHARMING GENERAL - Season 2 Episode 53
Once he was outside of the Secret Service building, Huo Shaoheng looked up at the night sky and let out a long sigh.
Despite his efforts, Bai Yusheng had slipped out of his fingers.
Yin Shixiong walked over and offered him a cigarette.
The two men stood under a large tree, a short distance away from the Secret Service building, and began to smoke. For them, smoking was the quickest way to de-stress and calm their nerves.
Yin Shixiong was halfway through his cigarette when he received a call from the Senate.
“Hello, this is Yin Shixiong speaking. Oh, yes, I’ll let him know right away.” Yin Shixiong ended the call and then said, “Sir, it’s for you. They want you to report to the Senate Hall.”
Huo Shaoheng threw his cigarette butt into the trash can under the tree. He packed his M16 assault rifle into its case and tossed it to Yin Shixiong. “Let’s go.”
It was now three o’clock in the morning. Huo Shaoheng stood before a podium in the Senate Hall conference room and was giving a report of his military operation to his audience: the chairman of the Senate, the Foreign Affairs and Intelligence committees, and the heads of various government agencies.
General Ji, the commander-in-chief of the military, sat in the last row with his guards and personal secretary. The m anger on his face was plain to see, but his wrath was not directed towards Huo Shaoheng; on the contrary, he was here to back him up.
Bai Yusheng was the deputy director of the Secret Service department, and therefore occupied a high-ranking position. On top of that, he was a member of the powerful and influential Bai family; the Bais were deeply rooted within both the upper levels of government and the elite society of the Huaxia Empire.
Huo Shaoheng had gone after a member of the Bai family without giving any of the military higher-up prior notice. He was well aware of what would happened if he did not put forth a valid reason for doing so: the potential fallout with the Bai family would be disastrous.
General Ji had carefully groomed Huo Shaoheng to be his successor, and fully intended for him to take over his position as commander-in-chief of the Imperial Military one day. For that to happen, however, Huo Shaoheng’s resumé had to remain clean of any possible scandals. However, General Ji had already made up his mind: he would side with Huo Shaoheng, even if it meant incurring the wrath of the entire Bai family.
Huo Shaoheng was sure that General Ji would support him to any extent, yet he did not think he was worthy of any such protection from the general; he had failed to put a bullet in Bai Yusheng’s head, and now Bai Yusheng had escaped from the Huaxia Empire. This was by far his worst failure since joining the military.
Huo Shaoheng looked at the documents in his hand: Yin Shixiong had obtained a list of everyone who had exited the country in the last month from the Huaxia Imperial Customs, and had sent it to him a moment ago. There was a grim smile on his lips as he said, “Good morning, Chairman Long, and esteemed gentlemen. I stand before all of you today to inform you of a high-level defection in the Secret Service.”
The room quickly erupted into a litany of angry exclamations and threats.
“Watch what you’re saying, General Huo!”
“The Bai family has served the Empire faithfully for many generations. Many of our family members have given their lives for the country over the years as well. How dare you speak such lies and slander?!”
“General Huo, you have been extremely impudent and reckless in your dealings with the Bai family. Did you think that you could get away with it, just because your father is the head of the Military Political Department? Or were you relying on the reputation of your grandfather—the former deputy commander of the military—to bail you out of trouble?!”
Many of the high-ranking officials in the Empire were from the Bai family: of the seventeen officials in attendance, five bore the Bai family name.
Huo Shaoheng had led his men on a midnight raid of Bai Yusheng’s office and had arrested all the subordinates of the Secret Service deputy director. But he had not stopped there; he had gone one step further and instructed the military police to take control of the Secret Service, effectively paralyzing the Imperial Intelligence Agency’s Secret Service.
In the eyes of the officials in attendance, Huo Shaoheng had grievously overstepped his boundaries.
Huo Shaoheng stood on the podium with his hands clasped behind his back, his face calm and indifferent. He said nothing. He waited until the uproar died down, before carefully saying, “Those of you from the Bai family, please leave the room. In accordance with the confidentiality laws of the Empire, you are not permitted to hear what I have to say next.”
“What?! You’re throwing us out?! On whose authority?!”
“This is outrageous, Chairman Long! Someone’s trying to set us up! This is a conspiracy!”
“Shut up!” Huo Shaoheng slammed his fist down upon the table, the veins at his temples visibly throbbing with anger. “You have no right to complain! Just think of the Secret Service personnel who lost their lives in North America!”
The Senate Hall was immediately silent.
Chairman Long stood up and said to the Bai family: “I assure you, I will not allow an innocent person to fall victim to defamation and slander. At the same time, I will not allow a traitor to my country to walk away unpunished.”
The Bai family discussed the matter amongst themselves. Finally, one man stood up and said to Chairman Long, “We believe you, Chairman Long, and so we will listen to you out of our respect for you. But as for him,” the man pointed to Huo Shaoheng, who was still standing on the podium, “he’d better have conclusive proof to back up his claims, or there will be consequences!”
The Bai family rose from their seats and marched out of the room in anger.
Once they stepped into the corridor outside, they were immediately detained by Huo Shaoheng’s guards, who were acting under the instructions of Yin Shixiong. The officials from the Bai family were handcuffed and quickly escorted to a private holding room; this was a necessary precaution, in order to prevent them from tipping off the rest of the family.
Back inside the Senate Hall, Huo Shaoheng was now presenting his evidence to the remaining occupants of the room, pulling up the documents on the large projector.
“This is what has happened. I’m sure you are all aware of Xin Xinggao, who betrayed us by leaking the civilian code for the Nandou System. As it turns out, she had secretly approached Zeng Quan— deputy director of the Nandou System’s R&D department—while she had been part of the Nandou project. Both Xin Xinggao and Zeng Quan tried to conceal this from others, and we had overlooked their connection during our initial investigation. We were only tipped off recently when we received concrete intel that the US military still has Xin Xinggao under close surveillance—presumably because they have something else they want from her.” Huo Shaoheng turned around, his face grim.
“Xin Xinggao went abroad, and helped Zeng Quan open a backdoor to gain entry into the United States. However, Zeng Quan only gave her the civilian code—he did not give her the password for the encrypted channel. Zeng Quan had tried to use Xin Xinggao as a go-between, and the password for the encrypted channel was his bargaining chip. Their deal was discovered by our Secret Service personnel stationed in North America, and the information was relayed to Bai Yusheng, the Secret Service deputy director in charge of North America.”
Huo Shaoheng pointed at the chart on the screen with the laser pen in his hand as he explained the tangled web of connections.
“Bai Yusheng learned of this, but did not inform us. Instead, he got in touch with Zeng Quan and asked him to contact the US CIA through Xin Xinggao, because he wanted to defect.”
Chairman Long and General Ji widened their eyes at this, their faces troubled.
If Huo Shaoheng’s allegations were true, then Bai Yusheng’s defection would destroy everything the Imperial Secret Service had built in North America over the last 30 years!
Chairman Long sprang up from his chair. “Where is Bai Yusheng?! Issue a top priority arrest warrant for him this instant! Hunt him down! We cannot let him get away with this!”
“It’s too late.” Huo Shaoheng shook his head. “I moved to arrest him as soon as I had received the news, but all I found was his tracking microchip, hidden in his office. He’s been gone for at least four days now.” As he spoke, he took out the list of people who had exited the country. “This is the list from customs; you can have a look for yourself.”
Chairman Long collapsed into his chair, his mouth trembling. He was at a complete loss for words.
“Zeng Quan recorded every meeting with Bai Yusheng, because he was afraid Bai Yusheng might be a loyal spy for the Empire, trying to collect damning evidence on Zeng Quan’s betrayal. If Bai Yusheng was simply testing Zeng Quan, however, he would not have quietly escaped the country for fear of punishment. I believe that Bai Yusheng is already in the United States—the question now is whether he has made contact with the CIA.”
“We have to withdraw all our Secret Service personnel from North America, immediately!” The head of government slammed a heavy fist on the table. “We cannot let this traitor compromise the lives of our men!”
“I’ve informed our North American Secret Service men that Bai Yusheng is a traitor—they are already aware that any information originating from him cannot be trusted, and will be evacuating shortly.”
General Ji wiped the sweat from his brow. He had fought many battles throughout his life, but this was the first time he felt uneasy.
The Bai family would resent him for this.
The Bai family was a large family. Although Bai Yusheng had turned out to be a despicable traitor to his own country, the rest of the Bai family could not be punished for his crime. It would have been acceptable once, a long time ago, to punish everyone with familial ties to a criminal, but that was now considered barbaric and uncivilized. Times had changed.
Moreover, it was impossible to eradicate the Bai family’s influence; they were intimately connected with many people in positions of authority, either through marriage or actual blood relations.
Huo Shaoheng was also aware of this fact. He suggested an alternative.
“I propose a comprehensive review of all members of the Bai family with government positions at the departmental level or above. Those without suspicious connections or activity can be reinstated to their positions.”
The implication behind his words was clear: anyone connected to Bai Yusheng’s act of treason would be charged and sent to jail.
Chairman Long exchanged a look with the head of government, before saying, “Yes, you’re right, an investigation is in order. Hand over the evidence. We’ll take over from here. As for the Secret Service, send your men to follow up. That will be all for today—the meeting is over!”
Huo Shaoheng walked out of the Senate building alone. The sky was lightening he and was greeted by the faint blush of dawn.
The golden outline of the morning sun could be seen through the clouds hanging over the horizon.
“Sir.” Yin Shixiong greeted him with a solemn face. “Little Ze has just confirmed that Bai Yusheng has made contact with the CIA. Should we ask Nianzhi to return to Huaxia?”
Huo Shaoheng looked towards the rising sun. He narrowed his eyes. The sunlight filtered through the verdant trees lining the avenue; it was like looking at an explosion of emerald and gold confetti.
Huo Shaoheng was silent for a long moment as he considered Yin Shixiong’s suggestion. Finally, he shook his head and said, “That won’t be necessary. No one knows her real identity, not even the Secret Service. Bai Yueran knows—and she’s from the Bai family—but she’s always been loyal to General Ji. We’ll give her the benefit of the doubt, for now. And besides, Nianzhi still has to deal with Xin Xinggao’s lawsuit.”
“But aren’t you worried?” Yin Shixiong was overcome anxiety; in his mind, Gu Nianzhi was still no more than a child.
“Of course I’m worried,” Huo Shaoheng said carelessly as he walked to his car, “but I can’t hide her away just because I’m worried. Your concern for her is clouding your judgment.”
“Clouding my judgment?!” Yin Shixiong sputtered. He wanted very much to protest, but could not say to Huo Shaoheng’s face: You’re the over-protective one!
Yin Shixiong sullenly got into the car after Huo Shaoheng, unable to voice his frustrations.
Fan Jian started the car and drove Yin Shixiong and Huo Shaoheng to the airport.
At that moment, over at the C City International Airport, Mei Xiawen heard over the airport’s PA system that his flight would be delayed for two hours: all planes had to give way to a private military jet that was currently flying to the airport from the Imperial Capital.
Mei Xiawen sent a text to Gu Nianzhi: “My flight’s been delayed for two hours.”
Gu Nianzhi, on the other hand, was already regretting her impulsive promise to Mei Xiawen.
She saw Mei Xiawen’s message and hastily texted back: “Actually, I can wait for half a year, you don’t have to hurry.”
Mei Xiawen smiled at his phone, imagining Gu Nianzhi’s impatient face through her quick reply. He bowed his head and was about to type out a reply when a slender hand reached over and plucked his phone away.
“Xiawen, are you really going away? You’re leaving me? Is that really what you want?” Jiang Hongcha’s sorrowful face appeared before Mei Xiawen, her eyes bright with unshed tears.
Mei Xiawen was stunned. “Y-You… How did you know that I’m here?!”
“Nothing is impossible, if you set your heart on it.” Jiang Hongcha turned off his phone. “Xiawen, don’t go. I’ve never asked you for anything, but this time—I’m begging you!”
She bit her lip and looked at Mei Xiawen, the expression on her heart-shaped face tender and beseeching. She stepped forward and wrapped her arms around Mei Xiawen’s waist and looked up at him. “Xiawen, give us another chance. I’m not asking for much, just the next six months. By the end of six months, if you don’t think our relationship is working, you can be with her, okay?”
Mei Xiawen closed his eyes. He knew that Jiang Hongcha was a proud woman. Yet, she had swallowed her pride just to beg him to give them another chance—what more could he ask from her?
Mei Xiawen folded Jiang Hongcha into his arms, burying his face in her hair. “Okay. I won’t go to America. We’ll give ourselves another chance, for half a year, but you have to promise me not to tell anyone about this. Not even Ai Weinan.”
Jiang Hongcha let out a sigh of relief as a gentle smile spread across her face. “Okay, I promise.”
It was better this way.
They would try again for six months. If they could not get their relationship to work, they would stealthily break up. Nobody would ever know, saving the two of them from potential embarrassment and awkwardness among friends.
Just then, an attendant walked over and asked them to leave as the area was now off-limits—the private jet of the high-ranking military official had just landed.
Mei Xiawen put an arm around Jiang Hongcha’s shoulder. “Let’s go home.”
“You’re not going to America?” Jiang Hongcha pointed to Mei Xiawen’s phone. “You have to tell her, you can’t just leave her hanging like that. She may end up waiting for you.”
Mei Xiawen smiled. He raised his phone and sent a message to Gu Nianzhi: “Something’s come up, a family matter. I won’t be able to go to the US for the time being. I’ll wait for you to return in six months.”
Gu Nianzhi had been restless and fidgety the entire time as she ate her dinner. She would open her mouth a few times to say something, but would quickly stop herself every time.
Zhao Liangze, on the other hand, was too preoccupied with carrying out the plan entrusted to him by Huo Shaoheng—the evacuation of the North American division of the Secret Service—to notice the turmoil within Gu Nianzhi.
He hurriedly finished his dinner and reminded Gu Nianzhi to put the plates and chopsticks into the dishwasher, before excusing himself to return to his room to work.
Just then, Gu Nianzhi received Mei Xiawen’s text.
She let out a long breath; she was relieved, but could not help feeling puzzled, all the same. She frowned as she carefully placed the bowls and plates into the dishwasher. She absentmindedly added the detergent and set the cycle before returning to her room to bathe.
She was not in a good mood—a bubble bath would be just the thing to lift her spirits.
She filled the bathtub with water, stirred in the bubble bath liquid, and—as a finishing touch— added a few drops of rose essential oil. Her bubble bath, fragrant and inviting, was now ready.
She removed her clothes, coiled her hair, and put on a shower cap. Once she was ready, she stepped into the bathtub and eased herself into the blissfully warm bubble bath.
Huo Shaoheng disembarked from his private jet at the C City International Airport. He exited the airport through the VIP passageway, got into the Special Ops’ private limousine, and was soon back at the military base.
He was a little tired: he had spent all of last night dealing with the Bai Yusheng situation. On top of that, he had not slept for several nights before the incident.
After a simple, make-shift meal, he decided to take a shower and go to sleep. Before that, he remembered his private phone. He had made it his habit to check it every day. He looked at his phone, and discovered a long list of missed calls from Gu Nianzhi.