Kong Shenfeng swiftly delivered his own hair sample, along with those of his wife and Kong Zong, to the laboratory for an urgent paternity test.
On the third evening, he received the test report, which confirmed that Kong Zong had no biological relation to him or Kang Yixin.
Holding the report, Kong Shenfeng returned to his assigned apartment in Tokyo. He felt mentally absent as he placed the report on the table and sat silently in the room for hours.
It’s funny how Kong Shenfeng treasured every second of his life. The last time he wasted time like this was outside his wife’s delivery room nineteen years ago, waiting anxiously for the birth of their first and only child, Kong Zong.
Kong Shenfeng didn’t smoke or drink, and he didn’t have many ways to relieve stress. He sat on the cushion, feeling dizzy, and spent the night recalling events from over ten years ago.
He remembered a time when he placed several peas in front of little Kong Zong, who was chubby and adorable. He explained repeatedly, trying to make Kong Zong understand why one plus one equals two, and therefore, two plus two equals four. No matter how dry his mouth became from explaining, Kang Yixin couldn’t bear it anymore and came over, grumbling, “Stop teaching. The baby is about to cry.” Meanwhile, Kong Zong quickly grabbed a pea and stuffed it into his mouth.
There were also moments like the first time he nervously took Kong Zong for a primary school interview. Sneaking out of an important meeting, he picked up Kang Yixin and proudly attended Kong Zong’s middle school graduation ceremony. Then there was the disappointment of seeing his carefully chosen books stacked in the bookcase by Kong Zong.
The living room clock struck twelve times. Kong Shenfeng stood up, took a few steps, and pushed open the glass sliding door in the living room. He walked out onto the balcony, letting the early winter wind clear his mind a bit.
It wasn’t the right time to tell Kang Yixin yet.
He shook his head, lingered in the cold air for a while, and returned to the room. He opened his notebook and made a rough sketch.
The sketch had two lines. The short line represented his attempt to obtain Ning Yiwei’s DNA sample for a new paternity test. The long line started from the hospital where Kang Yixin gave birth, uncovering the cause and effect of the child’s mistaken identity.
As Kong Shenfeng started thinking, his mind gradually calmed down. He looked at the sketch, sorted out his thoughts, wrote a ± 3 next to Kong Zong’s birth date, closed the notebook, and went to freshen up.
The next morning, Kong Shenfeng contacted his friend who had previously helped him check Ning Yiwei’s household registration information. He asked the friend to search for archived records from the hospital many years ago.
Over a decade ago, Liang Qichao’s group’s hospital was still just a plan on paper. The medical conditions in D City weren’t as good as they are now. Kang Yixin had received prenatal care at the D City Maternal and Child Health Hospital and planned to give birth there.
She had booked a single room in advance, but plans changed. Ten days before her due date, her water suddenly broke, so she had to go to the hospital earlier. The hospital rooms were scarce, and the single room wasn’t available yet. Her water had broken, but she didn’t have contractions. She strongly desired a natural birth, so she stayed in a three-person room for two days before being transferred to a single room.
Kong Shenfeng needed specific hospital records of newborns for a few days, along with registration information of the newborns’ parents.
He thought it would take a long time to find these things, but to his surprise, his friend had remarkable abilities. On the same afternoon, his friend sent him all the data he needed. Kong Shenfeng finished his work, returned to his office, and opened the files. Based on the clues he had conceived the night before, he sifted through the information one by one.
According to the records from the Maternal and Child Health Hospital, there were over eighty boys born in the three days around Kang Yixin’s delivery.
If the child had been switched at that time, the difference in their sizes wouldn’t be too significant. Kong Shenfeng narrowed down the birth weight range for boys to within plus or minus five hundred grams of the weight of his wife’s delivered baby. That left only ten boys. Using Kang Yixin’s delivery date as the horizontal axis zero point and Kong Zong’s birth time as the vertical axis zero point, with the hospital rooms of other newborns’ mothers as the vertical axis origin, he established a coordinate system. Kong Shenfeng located each baby’s parameters in the coordinate system and found the infant who resembled the child born to Kang Yixin the most, along with his family.
Speaking of family, the mother of that baby came to the hospital alone. She gave birth one day before Kang Yixin and stayed in the same room with Kang Yixin for two days. On the second day after Kang Yixin’s delivery, she was discharged.
Kong Shenfeng organized his thoughts, first sent the name of that baby’s mother to his friend, and asked for help in finding out her current situation. Then, after a moment of contemplation, Kong Shenfeng mentally prepared himself and called Kang Yixin.
Kang Yixin answered the call, and Kong Shenfeng first told her that he planned to return to their home country this week to celebrate their wedding anniversary together. Taking advantage of Kang Yixin’s happiness, he smoothly shifted the conversation to the topic he wanted to discuss. He asked Kang Yixin, “Darling, do you still remember what happened when you gave birth to Kong Zong?”
“Of course, I remember,” Kang Yixin casually replied. “I laid in bed for nine months and endured so much pain.”
“Do you remember the other mother who was in the same room with you after your water broke and you were admitted to the hospital?”
“Why are you asking about this?” Kang Yixin questioned, sounding puzzled.
Kong Shenfeng paused, not deceiving Kang Yixin but also not giving specifics. He said, “I need to investigate something. I’ll let you know once I confirm.”
Kang Yixin and Kong Shenfeng had that understanding, so she didn’t press for more information. After thinking for a moment, she said, “I only remember a single, unmarried girl who didn’t have any family. She was much younger than me.”
“Unmarried?” Kong Shenfeng asked.
“Hmm,” Kang Yixin reminisced, “You forgot? She was like a child, much younger than me by seven or eight years. She had no one with her, didn’t understand anything. She never saw her child’s father even once. She did ask me a lot about our family, thinking back, it was quite strange.”
Kong Shenfeng remained silent for a while and asked Kang Yixin, “Do you remember her name?”
“How could I still remember that?” Kang Yixin said, then paused and slowly added, “Oh, right. Her name seemed to have the character ‘Meng’ in it, as in dream.”
Kong Shenfeng hung up the phone and looked at the note next to the baby’s name on the axis: Mother, Shu Meng.
Half an hour later, his friend sent him the information: Shu Meng passed away five years ago due to illness. She had no relatives and left no belongings behind.
This was the most chaotic week Ning Yiwei had during his four years in university.
Afraid that Liang Chong might be busy with other things, he didn’t contact Liang Chong frequently. At most, he would ask about Liang Chong’s mealtime and whether he had eaten or slept.
But with Liang Chong not returning, Ning Yiwei couldn’t calm down. During the Quantum Field Theory class on Friday afternoon, Ning Yiwei forgot to bring his book. He sat in the front row with Zhou Zirui, sharing a book between them, their heads close together as if they were whispering.
Professor Zhou, who taught Quantum Field Theory, was very strict. He noticed that Ning Yiwei not only forgot to bring his book but also kept staring at the blackboard with a distracted expression. So, he called Ning Yiwei’s name several times, asking him to answer a question.
Despite being distracted, Ning Yiwei knew the answers to the questions and responded quickly. However, Professor Zhou, for some reason, became even more displeased.
Finally, when the afternoon class ended, Ning Yiwei grabbed his backpack to go eat when he received a call from Kong Shenfeng.
Kong Shenfeng asked Ning Yiwei to come to his office at the research center.
Ning Yiwei asked Zhou Zirui, “Didn’t Professor Kong just leave last week? Why has he come back?”
Zhou Zirui shook his head and commented, “Mysteriously appearing and disappearing like a g-ghost.”
Confused, Ning Yiwei went to the research center and knocked on Kong Shenfeng’s office door. Kong Shenfeng’s voice came from inside, “Please come in.”
“Professor Kong,” Ning Yiwei pushed the door and entered, nodding at Kong Shenfeng.
“Have a seat.” Kong Shenfeng pointed at the chair across his desk. After Ning Yiwei sat down, Kong Shenfeng noticed the injury on his mouth and casually asked, “Yiwei, what happened to your mouth?”
“I bumped it,” Ning Yiwei mumbled vaguely, “It’s been a few days since I got hurt. My blood clotting function isn’t very good, so it hasn’t fully healed.”
After hearing his explanation, Kong Shenfeng paused for a moment and told Ning Yiwei, “My father also has the same condition.”
Ning Yiwei didn’t understand why Kong Shenfeng brought that up, but he still nodded obediently and said, “My issue isn’t severe and doesn’t affect my daily life.”
Kong Shenfeng nodded and asked, “What happened in your Quantum Field Theory class? Just now, Professor Zhou complained about you in our group.”
“I forgot to bring my book.” Ning Yiwei thought Kong Shenfeng called him for this matter and felt a bit embarrassed. He explained, “It wasn’t intentional.”
However, even after he finished explaining, Kong Shenfeng didn’t let him leave. The two of them sat in silence for a while. Then, Kong Shenfeng asked Ning Yiwei, “Yiwei, do you have something on your mind?”
Actually, Kong Shenfeng wasn’t the type to be good at discussing personal matters. It seemed like he asked the question with a bit of effort. Ning Yiwei initially wanted to brush it off casually, but he heard Kong Shenfeng cautiously add, “You can tell me if you have anything on your mind.”
Kong Shenfeng was slightly younger than Ning Yiwei’s parents, about the same height as him, or maybe slightly taller. He seemed to have found time to get his hair groomed since the last time he visited, looking much more energetic.
As usual, Kong Shenfeng wore a slightly worn-out cotton checkered shirt, with the buttons on the collar done up neatly. He looked like an untidy scientist, plus a father who didn’t quite understand how to be a father.
Ning Yiwei locked eyes with him for a few seconds, unsure of what had shaken him. Hesitatingly, he said, “If I tell you, you might scold me.”
Kong Shenfeng smiled faintly at Ning Yiwei and said, “Go ahead and tell me.”
“I want to take a leave and go to Australia,” Ning Yiwei said, “to find someone. But I have classes these days, so I don’t know if I should request a leave.”
Kong Shenfeng smiled again and teased, “Girlfriend?”
Ning Yiwei quickly denied, “No, it’s not.”
“Then, what are you going to do there?” Kong Shenfeng asked, puzzled.
“His family is in Australia for medical treatment, and I want to accompany him,” Ning Yiwei said. He carefully observed Kong Shenfeng’s expression and added an unnecessary remark, “He is someone I like.”
“Oh, young people need some drive,” Kong Shenfeng smiled again and said, “How long do you plan to stay?”
“It’s hard to say. I want to stay with him until his father’s surgery is done,” Ning Yiwei said.
“What kind of surgery? Do you need my help?” Kong Shenfeng furrowed his brows, sensing something amiss but unsure where to start guessing.
Ning Yiwei shook his head and said, “Heart transplant.”
“Why would he go to Australia for a heart transplant?” Kong Shenfeng frowned, feeling that something wasn’t right. He began to guess from where his thoughts led him.
“His father is undergoing treatment in Australia,” Ning Yiwei said, “and suddenly he had a health crisis. He found a doctor and is on the way there. The surgery is scheduled for tomorrow. He’s very upset, so I want to be there for him.”
Kong Shenfeng seemed to have finally figured out something. His expression changed suddenly, and he stared at Ning Yiwei, speechless.
Ning Yiwei thought Kong Shenfeng probably guessed it, after all, he had provided so much information, and Kong Shenfeng was so intelligent. Ning Yiwei couldn’t explain the exact reason why he told Kong Shenfeng, perhaps it was simply because of his unexplainable blind trust in Kong Shenfeng, combined with the drive of a young person as mentioned by Kong Shenfeng.
It was not shameful nor necessary to hide one’s feelings for Liang Chong. Eventually, everyone would know.
Kong Shenfeng looked at Ning Yiwei, gradually recovering his composure from the shock. He spoke slowly, “Do I know him?”
“Yes,” Ning Yiwei admitted.
“Do you have a visa?” Kong Shenfeng asked.
Ning Yiwei nodded.
Unconsciously, Kong Shenfeng grasped the pen on the table, repeatedly rubbing his thumb against the top of the pen cap, silently lost in thought.
After a while, Kong Shenfeng seemed to have made a decision. He relaxed his tense posture and whispered to Ning Yiwei, “If you like him, then go.”
“I’ll request the leave for you,” he added, “Do you have enough money for the plane ticket?”
“Yes, I do,” Ning Yiwei said.
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