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217 Discovered

 Gu Nianzhi followed Huo Shaoheng out of his official residence. She took the opportunity to have a good look at her surroundings.

It was always freezing cold during winter in the Imperial Capital; thanks to the low temperature, the heavy snowfall from Christmas Eve had not fully melted.

Gu Nianzhi looked appreciatively about her. The contrast between the black topsoil and the scattered islands of white snow was pretty to look at.

The road leading to Huo Shaoheng's official residence was entirely devoid of snow, however. There was probably a snowmelt system buried beneath the road.

They had not been outside for long when they saw a motorcade enter the grounds.

"Sir, Senior Colonel Chen Lie has arrived!"

Huo Shaoheng nodded. He stood beside Gu Nianzhi, his hands clasped behind his back, as he watched the motorcade come to a halt before his residence.

The rear door of the front-most car opened. Chen Lie stepped out with a large box.

His face, nose, and eyes were still as round as Gu Nianzhi remembered them to be. Everything about him was round, in fact: his black-rimmed glasses were round, and his figure seemed even rounder and balloon-like than before. He had put on quite a few pounds in the last few months.

Gu Nianzhi could not help herself. She walked over with open arms and hugged him. "Brother Chen, I'm so glad to see you!"

Chen Lie smiled as he patted her on the back. "I missed you too. How have you been, Nianzhi?"

"This isn't the place to chat. We should go inside." Huo Shaoheng pulled Gu Nianzhi over to him, and steered her towards the main entrance of his residence.

Chen Lie grinned. He ran after them with his box, and said loudly, "Hey now, what's with the attitude? I'm here because you asked me to help, you know. It's been months since I last saw Nianzhi, what's wrong with a little hug?! Look at you, storming off in a huff the moment something upsets you-what are you, some kind of diva?"

Huo Shaoheng glared at him. "Hurry up and get ready to operate. We don't have much time."

Chen Lie frowned. He said petulantly, "What do you mean, we don't have much time? Are you saying my surgical skills aren't good enough for you? Bring it then, let's have a showdown in the operating room: we'll see which one of us is better with a scalpel!"

Gu Nianzhi turned around and made a funny face at Chen Lie. "That's silly, Brother Chen. It makes no sense for Huo Shao to compare surgical skills with you. I mean, would you dare get into a shooting competition with Huo Shao?"

"Bah, you always side with your Uncle Huo..." Chen Lie wriggled his eyebrows at Huo Shaoheng, before he realized what Gu Nianzhi had said. He did a double-take. "Wait, aren't you supposed to call him Uncle? Watch out, he'll box your ears if you don't behave."

"Huo Shao would never do that." Gu Nianzhi's expression was smug. "Heh, there's no point explaining it to you, Brother Chen. You won't understand..."

"Oh suuure, I don't get it, but you two obviously do. Well, as a poet once said, 'we may not have wings on our backs, but our hearts are connected'-keep it up, I'm sure the two of you will be reading each other's minds soon enough." Chen Lie sensed the subtle shift in the relationship between Gu Nianzhi and Huo Shaoheng, and leapt at the chance to tease them.

Chen Lie knew his suspicions were correct when Huo Shaoheng ignored him entirely: he nonchalantly continued walking, without turning to look at Chen Lie. The old Huo Shaoheng would have glowered at Chen Lie and told him off by now.

Gu Nianzhi, on the other hand, was not the type to keep silent when she was being teased. "You should spend your time reading medical journals, Brother Chen, instead of reading wishy-washy poetry. What's the point in being a poet, if Dr. Ye doesn't understand what you're trying to say?"

"Shush!" Chen Lie's face drained of color as he shushed Gu Nianzhi, mortified. He had caught sight of Ye Zitan, who had come out of the residence and was now standing on top of the steps.

Gu Nianzhi nodded gleefully. "Serves you right, Brother Chen. Try to make fun of Huo Shao again, and I'll bully Dr. Ye!"

Huo Shaoheng finally shot Gu Nianzhi a pointed Look. She immediately shut up, and obediently walked beside him.

Ye Zitan was close enough to hear them now. Chen Lie did not dare tease Huo Shaoheng and Gu Nianzhi again, but he wasn't about to let Gu Nianzhi have the last laugh, either. He mumbled under his breath, "What is love? Love is what happens when two people realize they're each other's weakness..."

Huo Shaoheng: "..."

Gu Nianzhi: "!!!"

The three of them walked up the steps to the main entrance of Huo Shaoheng's residence. Ye Zitan saluted Huo Shaoheng and Chen Lie. "Sir, the operating rooms are ready."

Chen Lie's and Huo Shaoheng's faces immediately grew solemn.

Chen Lie asked Huo Shaoheng, "Where's your mother?"

Huo Shaoheng looked at Ye Zitan. "Dr. Ye took my mother inside, just a moment ago."

Ye Zitan quickly added, "The patient has been anesthetized. She's in Operating Room B."

Chen Lie nodded. He looked Gu Nianzhi over, before turning to look at Huo Shaoheng. "You told Nianzhi all about it?"

Huo Shaoheng understood what he was hinting at, and gave a low grunt in reply. "Nianzhi, are you ready?"

"Anytime!" Gu Nianzhi immediately replied. She took off her coat and rolled up the sleeves of her cashmere sweater to reveal her fair, delicate arms. "See, I'm totally ready!"

Huo Shaoheng: "..."

Chen Lie smiled as he tugged Gu Nianzhi's sleeves back into place. "Let's go. Come with me."

Gu Nianzhi followed Chen Lie into Operating Room A.

Ye Zitan was wearing a sterile surgical gown and long medical gloves that reached her elbows. Her face was obscured by a large blue surgical mask. She waited beside a highly sophisticated operating chair, ready for the operation.

The operating chair had been specially designed by Chen Lie. It had been put together at the most technologically advanced factory, by the most talented craftsmen in the military.

It had a lot more features than the standard operating table, and was therefore much more convenient to use.

Outside Operating Room A was a small lounge that also served as a pantry.

Chen Lie put his box down. Two orderlies in sterile surgical gowns took the box to the operating room as Chen Lie seized the opportunity to have a brief chat with Gu Nianzhi.

"Nianzhi, are you ready? You volunteered for this, right?" Chen Lie asked gravely. "You can tell your Brother Chen, I won't judge you-you're doing this because you want to, yes? Or did Huo Shao pressure you into this?"

Gu Nianzhi wiped the smile off her face. Her expression grew solemn. "Brother Chen, I'm doing this because I want to. I want to help Mrs. Song, I want her to get better. If my bone marrow can help her, well, take as much as you need. Don't worry about me, I'm young and tough as nails. I can take it."

Chen Lie looked at her with heartfelt emotion. He closed his eyes and muttered, "Nianzhi, do you... do you blame us?"

"Why would I blame you?" Gu Nianzhi was puzzled. "You guys saved my life. I thought I'd never get the chance to repay you-any of you-but here's my chance, and I couldn't be happier. What on earth are you talking about, Brother Chen?"

Chen Lie grinned. "You're right. What was I thinking? You're such a good girl, Nianzhi. Okay, enter the sterilization room and wait there for five minutes. When you come out, put on a surgical gown, and go to the room in the back. Look for Dr. Ye, she'll put you under."

Gu Nianzhi listened attentively. She repeated the steps to Chen Lie to make sure she had understood them correctly, before entering the sterilization room.

Chen Lie went to the sterilization room for men, and put on a full set of scrubs. He entered Room A to assemble his highly sophisticated instruments.

Ye Zitan assisted him. With her help, Chen Lie quickly set up the necessary surgical instruments.

When they were done, Ye Zitan reported to Chen Lie: "Mrs. Song is in Room B. She's already under."

Chen Lie went to Room B to check on Song Jinning, who was already unconscious, and collected a few more blood samples. He ran the blood tests while waiting for Gu Nianzhi to get ready.

The results, as he expected, were unbelievable. They went against everything he had learned in medical school.

Chen Lie shook his round head. He said wistfully, "So many of us would kill to be young again-but I don't think any of us realized that growing younger means your brain will end up regressing, too!"

The face of a 30-year-old, and the intellect of an 18-year-old, versus the face of an 18-year-old, and the intellect of an 8-year-old-which combination would you prefer?

What a conundrum...

Ye Zitan had been nervous, but Chen Lie's little joke caught her off-guard, and she burst into laughter.

Both of them were wearing surgical masks and scrub caps, which obscured most of their faces. They could only see each other's eyes.

But Chen Lie was happy enough to see Ye Zitan's eyes curve into delighted crescents. He could not ask for anything more.

"Yes, that's what I'm talking about: smile, laugh! Don't be nervous," Chen Lie told Ye Zitan encouragingly.

Gu Nianzhi had just finished changing into a surgical gown in the sterilization room. She entered Operating Room A, and called out: "Dr. Ye?"

Ye Zitan quickly answered her. "Coming!"

She hurried to Operating Room A and helped Gu Nianzhi onto the operating chair, before pulling an anesthesia mask over her face.

Gu Nianzhi immediately passed out.

Ye Zitan produced a monstrously thick needle and plunged it into Gu Nianzhi's spine.


Huo Shaoheng stood in the middle of the living room and checked the time on his watch. According to the schedule Chen Lie had given him, the operation had just begun.

He made a quick note of the remaining time, and waved Yin Shixiong and Zhao Liangze over. "Big Xiong, take one of the defense squads with you, and make sure everyone is fully armed. Set up a defense line 500 meters outside the base. Don't let anyone enter the base for the next three hours."

Yin Shixiong was surprised by the instructions, but he did not question them. He immediately snapped his heels together in a military salute. "Yes, sir!"

After Yin Shixiong left, Huo Shaoheng turned to Zhao Liangze. "You're in charge of the cyber squad. Keep a close eye on the Imperial Capital's garrison troops. The moment you see something out of the ordinary, report to me immediately. Also, here's a list of names-monitor their mobile phones, landlines, and all their activity on the internet. Watch the surveillance cameras near them, too."

Zhao Liangze took the list, and saluted Huo Shaoheng. "Yes, sir!"

Yin Shixiong and Zhao Liangze did not understand what Huo Shaoheng was preparing for, at first, but they soon found out.

15 minutes later, Zhao Liangze noticed a sudden spike of activity among the mobile phones he was monitoring.

There was a confused frenzy of calls among the Imperial Capital's garrison troops, which was eventually quelled. Zhao Liangze guessed one of the bigwigs in the military must have intervened, because the troops stayed put. Not a single soldier from the garrison was deployed.

The police SWAT team, on the other hand, was dispatched from police HQ. They were now on their way to the 6th Military Region's headquarters.

Huo Shaoheng turned on his computer as soon as he heard from Zhao Liangze. He watched the surveillance cameras near Yin Shixiong's defense line.

Bai Changhui, the deputy secretary general of the Imperial Central Government Secretariat, and his sister, Bai Jinyi, were speeding towards the base with one hundred SWAT officers in tow.


At that very moment, over in one of the B University faculty buildings, He Zhichu was sitting at his desk, looking at the photos spread before him. The expression on his face was terrifying.

The photos were of Gu Nianzhi and Huo Shaoheng.

The photo in the middle had been taken on Christmas Eve. It showed Huo Shaoheng, dressed in full military attire, embracing Gu Nianzhi under a streetlight as the snow fluttered about them.

Another photo showed Gu Nianzhi snuggled against his chest, a contented look upon her face.

The most recent photo was of the two of them in Scion Square. Gu Nianzhi's face was positively radiant with joy. The photo had caught Huo Shaoheng in the act of turning to look at her, his eyes brimming with deep affection...