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231 Comparing People 2

 "Oh well, I was wrong, but eh, it's my first time performing this operation, so it's totally understandable if I'm a little off with my estimates," Chen Lie said shamelessly. He stepped aside to let Huo Shaoheng enter the operating room. "Well, get in there. Mrs. Song is waiting for you inside." Chen Lie was eager to be out of Huo Sheoheng's crosshairs, as soon as possible.

Huo Shaoheng put his hands in his trouser pockets. He stood quietly before the door to Operating Room B, as though trying to make up his mind.

Chen Lie shot Gu Nianzhi a pointed look. They exchanged a nod, before sneaking out of the operating suite. Gu Nianzhi shut the door firmly behind her.

"...This should be good enough, right?" Gu Nianzhi looked around anxiously. "No one can see what's going on inside, right?"

"There are hidden cameras and microphones in all the public spaces inside this residence." Chen Lie looked straight ahead when he said this, a pleasant smile on his face. His voice was barely above a whisper, but Gu Nianzhi was standing close enough to hear him. She realized he was showing her how to fool the cameras and microphones.

"Seriously? I thought he was pulling my leg..." Gu Nianzhi mumbled to herself, before trailing off into silence.

"You said that you'd help me analyze the data. Well, let's go. No point standing around here." Chen Lie ushered Gu Nianzhi into the small office opposite the operating suite.


At the door to Operating Room B, Huo Shaoheng quelled his urge to smoke, and reached for the door instead. He pushed it open.

The room was lit by a shadowless lamp fixed to the the ceiling. The room had no windows, but it was bright as day.

A hauntingly beautiful woman, dressed in a white patient gown, was lying on the operating chair. Her face was turned towards the direction of the door; the look in her eyes was one of excited curiosity, coupled with a trace of uneasiness.

This was his mother, the woman he remembered.

Huo Shaoheng calmed down.

He stepped across the threshold and shut the door gently behind him.

Song Jinning looked up and saw a tall, majestic man enter the room.

When he looked at her, she was momentarily taken aback.

Was this devastatingly beautiful man truly her son, Huo Shaoheng?

The Shaoheng she knew was an introverted, good-looking boy of 12. He had been a quiet boy, but she knew how much he loved her: he always brought a birthday cake to her laboratory on his birthday, when she was too busy with work to celebrate his birthday with him. He had to take the bus and transfer at a few stops just to get to her laboratory, but he did it anyway-all because he wanted to be with her on his birthday.

Her son had never asked for anything more.

She remembered that the day of the laboratory explosion, 16 years ago, had been the day before Huo Shaoheng's birthday.

She had wanted to finish the experiment as soon as possible, so that she would be able to spend the next day with her son to celebrate his birthday.

The next thing she knew, 16 years had passed by.

The young boy had grown into a mature, dignified young man. She had a difficult time reconciling the two.

Huo Shaoheng slowly made his way to his mother. He sat on a chair beside the operating chair, his stoic, impassive expression in place.

He nodded to Song Jinning. "Hello, Mrs. Song."

Song Jinning's eyes widened at "Mrs. Song." She stared at Huo Shaoheng for a long moment, before smiling bitterly. "...Is that you, Shaoheng? You're an adult now. I wanted to celebrate your birthday with you. It was supposed to be tomorrow..."

Huo Shaoheng froze, but only for a split-second. He said calmly, "...You remember?"

"Yes." Song Jinning extended a hand and tried to touch Huo Shaoheng's head, but he made no attempt to move closer.

She withdrew her hand, embarrassed. She continued to look at him, taking in the sight of him. "You're all grown up now."

Huo Shaoheng smiled faintly. "It's been 16 years. Of course I'm all grown up." He added, "You've suffered for so many years, Mother."

"Suffered?" Song Jinning cocked her head. She asked quizzically, "Are you saying that I was injured, and have been sick for the last 16 years?"

Huo Shaoheng: "..."

Was this what Chen Lie had meant when he said there was a "surprise" waiting for him?

Song Jinning had recovered from her condition, but she did not remember anything that had happened in the last 16 years-was this supposed to be a good thing?

Huo Shaoheng was momentarily thrown off-balance, but he quickly pulled himself together. Another realization dawned upon him.

If Song Jinning had recovered from her illness and was now able to recall the events that had led to that fateful laboratory accident 16 years ago, the military would finally be able to learn the cause of the accident.

He now understood why Chen Lie had led Gu Nianzhi out of the operating room, leaving him alone with his mother.

That had been Chen Lie's subtle way of saying that he didn't want to know anything about the experiment, and also a reminder to Huo Shaoheng that he was under no obligation to tell anyone else about it.

The experiment was strictly confidential; it was a joint secret between the military and Song Jinning's laboratory.

Huo Shaoheng and Song Jinning had the right to discuss it, but the same couldn't be said for Chen Lie and Gu Nianzhi.

Huo Shaoheng was thankful for Chen Lie's good judgment, but Huo Shaoheng was actually one step ahead of him.

He knew that news of Song Jinning's recovery would quickly spread; everyone would know about it after the New Year, if not before.

Once the news was out, Song Jinning would be like meat thrown into a pack of wolves.

There were people out there who would do just about anything to learn what Song Jinning knew about the accident in her father's laboratory.

If her memory of the accident was intact, she would be able to solve many of the long-standing mysteries surrounding the experiment. If she could recall the exact parameters used for the experiment, she could probably reboot the top-secret experiment and get it back on track.

Everyone would be watching with bated breath to see if she could pull off the experiment successfully.

Experiments were bound to fail before a breakthrough success.

The military understood that very well, and were sympathetic to Song Jinning.

The military bigwigs were more than happy to overlook past failures, no matter how egregious, as long as the experiment could be replicated successfully-with positive results, this time.

Huo Shaoheng was willing to do whatever it takes to divert the pressure and attention away from Song Jinning.

He had made up his mind.

"Your injuries in the accident gave you a strange form of anterograde amnesia. You retained your memories from before the age of 18, but your memories reset every day, which meant you were stuck at the age of 18 for 16 years." Huo Shaoheng gave Song Jinning a concise explanation of her illness.

Song Jinning frowned. She mumbled to herself, "How did that happen? It has to be that magnetic field."

She was the only participant in the experiment who had survived the sudden explosion, and therefore the only person who had experienced the abnormally strong magnetic field first-hand.

"We don't know what actually caused your amnesia. The doctor said it was just a form of mental illness, triggered by PTSD." Huo Shaoheng noticed that his mother's lips were chapped. He got up, poured her a cup of water, and placed the cup in her hands. "Bai Jinyi volunteered to act as your psychiatrist in her spare time, and help find a cure for you."

"Bai Jinyi?" Song Jinning gave a jolt. She tightened her hold on her cup. "My old classmate at Princeton? The woman who was a frequent guest at our home? That Bai Jinyi?"

"Yes, her." Huo Shaoheng nodded. He continued impassively, "She's Father's girlfriend, now. They're officially together, everyone knows about it."

Song Jinning sat upright on the operating chair as she listened to what her son was saying. For a few seconds, she felt as though her brain had suddenly turned into an empty box. She could not remember how to think. Soon after, her ears began to ring. There was now a loud buzzing in her head, as though tens of thousands of bees had tunneled into her skull. The noise was unbearable; her expression alternated between confusion and pain.

If Chen Lie had been around, he would have stopped Huo Shaoheng from "destabilizing his patient with an information overload," as he would have called it.

But Huo Shaoheng knew his mother was a strong, resilient woman. He knew she would be more upset if he wasn't entirely honest with her.

"What was that? I didn't catch it. Can you repeat that?" Song Jinning recollected herself. She elegantly placed the cup on the small table next to the operating chair. Her face was still pale, but her expression was calm. "Is your father still in the military?"

"Yes, of course. He's a general now." Huo Shaoheng lowered his eyes. "And he divorced you 10 years ago."