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442 Probing the Past 4

 Gu Nianzhi sat uncomfortably on the corner sofa. She stared at the small round coffee table; it looked like frosted glass. These were details she hadn't noticed before, but because she was anxious now even the tiny things were obvious.

After waiting for an unknown period of time, it could have been just a second or an hour, she finally heard He Zhichu's voice from behind her. Gu Nianzhi turned around and saw him holding a very familiar object. It was a doll wearing a lavender gown, with full bangs resting on its forehead, gentle eyes, a full face, and pretty figure. It looked like a young girl from an ancient painting, unlike the common Western-style dolls. An expert would have known right away that these dolls weren't available to buy and had be custom made. The exact same doll had accompanied Gu Nianzhi since she was 12 years old. Where she lived, there were several of these dolls cluttered by her bed, on the sofa, or positioned in her open bookcase. In the past, she had really loved these dolls and when she was first placed in Huo Shaoheng's care she could only sleep when hugging them. Although she would still have nightmares, she wouldn't have been able to sleep at all without the dolls. Later on, Huo Shaoheng put her through military training which had continued on for several years. She'd gradually stopped needing the dolls to sleep with, but they still represented some of her happiest memories from her childhood. Or maybe they were a symbol of the childhood memories that she had lost.

However, ever since Gu Nianzhi had met Wen Shouyi, Gu Nianzhi thought her memories had been completely ruined; all these dolls looked similar to Wen Shouyi. Gu Nianzhi had put away the dolls in her room as soon as she realized that, so she wouldn't have to see and be bothered by them. Now here was He Zhichu holdingone. Gu Nianzhi was completely speechless.

He Zhichu gently sighed with relief when he saw Gu Nianzhi's astonishment. Holding the doll, he walked over and held it out to Gu Nianzhi. "Nianzhi, do you remember this doll?"

Gu Nianzhi stared at the doll He Zhichu was holding, then at He Zhichu. She thought about it for a long time then asked hesitantly, "Professor He, where did you get this type of doll from?" As far as she knew, the doll that she held in her childhood photo was not sold in the Huaxia Empire or any other countries. Her dolls had been custom ordered by Huo Shaoheng to replicate the ones in the photo. Could He Zhichu have ordered one too? But where did he know this style from? Or was this a leak from Huo Shaoheng's personnel? In the blink of an eye, countless possibilities surged through Gu Nianzhi's mind, but none of them were what He Zhichu expected.

When Gu Nianzhi blurted out all her suspicions, He Zhichu almost flung the doll at the wall.. "You think I stole the doll from you, and then replicated it?! Do you even hear yourself?" He Zhichu snorted and threw the doll onto the sofa.

"Looks like you really forgot everything. You can't even tell what's right and wrong!"

Gu Nianzhi blinked at his outburst. "Professor He, don't be upset. Can't we talk about this calmly?" Her heart thumped wildly; she was becoming more certain that He Zhichu may have something to do with her lost memories. She was anxious without Huo Shaoheng by her side-she lacked the support in her heart and didn't dare make a decision or make judgements for fear of putting Huo Shaoheng at risk somehow. This was especially so in the case of something as important as her past. Huo Shaoheng had just been here; he certainly knew that He Zhichu might know something about her lost memories and he also how much she relied on him. Yet, he had left her here to face this situation alone.

In the depths of her heart, Gu Nianzhi was terrified that she felt a trace of resentment towards Huo Shaoheng. No, she thought firmly as she shook her head, I need to get rid of this sort of thinking right now. Gu Nianzhi reminded herself that Huo Shao had done more than enough for her and that she couldn't overstep her bounds or push all the responsibility and burden on him. Still, she wished more than anything to have Huo Shaoheng by her side right now. He was the only person she trusted in the world. Why did he have to leave? Why had he left her alone?

Gu Nianzhi struggled between wallowing in self pity or encouraging herself, but then saw He Zhichu's expression turn grim. Suddenly, it dissipated and he resumed his normal and aloof look.

"Nianzhi, you don't notice anything familiar about this doll?" He Zhichu's blocked off all the emotions in the recesses of his heart and kept even Gu Nianzhi at an arm's length distance. In that moment, although he normally pushed the world away, he could now be kinder than ever to Gu Nianzhi.

No longer sensing fluctuations in He Zhichu's mood, Gu Nianzhi also calmed down. She attempted to not reveal her own feelings and replied objectively, "It's familiar. Of course it is. I have many of these dolls at home, with the same dress and face. If this one didn't look so old, I would have thought that Professor He had asked for one of my dolls from Huo Shao."

"If you can see that this doll is quite old, that means your observation skills are sharp." He Zhichi passed it to Gu Nianzhi once again. "Here, look at it once more and this time, carefully."

Gu Nianzhi reached out for slowly and then finally accepted the doll from He Zhichu. She turned it over in her hands and found that the doll was indeed very old-the princess gown was faded and the fabric pilling, which meant that it had been held many times; its face was also worn. Turning the doll around, Gu Nianzhi saw the name "Gu Nianzhi," written in crooked handwriting on the back of its neck. It looked like some type of tattooing ink had seeped deep into the fabric. Even over all these years, the words hadn't faded at all. Gu Nianzhi stared at them, her breathing shallow. She suddenly threw it on the sofa as though it were burning and moved far away. Averting her eyes quickly, she didn't even dare to look at the doll again.

That was her own handwriting! That messy scrawl could only be hers! Of course, that didn't eliminate the possibility of someone else forging her writing, she reasoned. However, why would someone have forged her writing then write her name on a doll?

"What is it? Do the words look familiar?" He Zhichu took his time taking out the reflection report she had written earlier and placed it next to the face down doll on the coffee table.

"Doesn't it look like it was written by the same person?"

Gu Nianzhi turned away stubbornly. "Or maybe someone forged my writing intentionally. My writing isn't a fancy script, it's not hard to copy."

"Yes, it's not hard to forge your handwriting, but to obtain your handwriting from that many years ago and forge it--that's pretty impossible." He Zhichu tapped on the coffee table gently. "Moreover, why should someone even forge your handwriting? You were only 12 years old at the time of the accident six years ago and had been unable to take any criminal responsibility. Even if your family was incredibly wealthy, your signature has no legal effectiveness."

He Zhichu had reflected on this before. If someone had needed a motive to fake Gu Nianzhi's handwriting, it would have been for wealth or power. If neither was fulfilled, then what other reason was there? Gu Nianzhi herself was confused. Yes, she was an orphan girl without money or power. Even if someone forged her handwriting now, they would have to wait until she became an adult and then painstakingly forge a minor's handwriting. How was that smart? It didn't make sense. Gu Nianzi felt that there was only one possibility left-the handwriting on this doll wasn't fake. But, Gu Nianzhi wondered, how was it genuine? Perhaps many years ago, a young Gu Nianzhi had seriously written her name stroke by stroke onto her most beloved doll to indicate ownership. This certainly sounded like a stupid thing she would have done. Gu Nianzhi looked down and stayed quiet for a long time.

Seeing Gu Nianzhi's expression, He Zhichu's heart couldn't help softening. He knew the doll must be a great shock, so he remained silent while waiting for Gu Nianzhi to digest the truth.