When Qiu Linsong found He Nuo’s uncle’s house according to the address on the paper, He Nuo wasn’t at home. Since Qiu Linsong came in a car, He Nuo’s cousin led him to find He Nuo. It wasn’t too far away if you drove, but if he had to walk or ride a bike then his cousin would have probably been unwilling because there was a hilly road in the middle that was quite bumpy. Qiu Linsong asked his cousin what he was doing so far away, the other party said that he would know once he got there.
After they drove past two villages, they arrived at a small town. The market here was very small, his cousin asked Qiu Linsong to park the car by the roadside cause they needed to walk in. When he saw He Nuo, Qiu Linsong didn’t know what he was doing for crying out loud. He was sitting on two bricks as he read a book, and in front of him was a bunch of plants that Qiu Linsong couldn’t recognise. The roots of each plant were all wrapped up in newspapers — there was probably mud on them.
He Nuo looked up from his book and saw Qiu Linsong. He was surprised at first, then he looked behind him.
“San Ge’s not here. Have you had enough? He’s so sick that he’s at death’s door but he still asked me to come find you.” Qiu Linsong was really impulsive as he talked, because he really couldn’t understand how big a deal it could have been; friends should bear with one another more and be more tolerant, how could friends fuss over every little thing? What’s more, with how well San Ge treats He Nuo, what’s there to be critical about? From Qiu Linsong’s point of view, San Ge must have been so tormented and angered by this that he fell sick for no reason.
He Nuo smiled bitterly. Qiu Linsong really deserved to be called a ‘brother’ and ‘buddy’. He Nuo does feel a little ashamed when he has to face Qiu Linsong, “We’re no longer friends……..”
“What the fuck are you saying? He Nuo you bitch, how could you be so inhumane?” Qiu Linsong flew into a fit of fury the moment he heard those words and jumped in to interrupt He Nuo. He condemned him like a machine gun, “Do you still have a heart? San Ge is so sick now that he has to be supported by someone if he wants to pee, yet he still wanted me to pass you this message: he asked you to please forgive him, and that he was sorry. Even if San Ge did something wrong, isn’t it fine since he has already apologised to you? When have you ever seen San Ge apologise before? What’s more, how San Ge treated you in the past is something we all saw with our own eyes. Don’t make me think that you’re someone without a slightest shred of conscience.”
He Nuo didn’t know why, but when he faced the ignorant Qiu Linsong, he had no way of justifying himself.
“I’m not here to beg you, we must go back today, it’s just a matter of how you’re going to go back. He Nuo, if worst comes to worst, you can just break it off with me too.” When Qiu Linsong saw how He Nuo never spoke a single word, he got anxious.
“Then let’s go back?ba.” He Nuo sent his cousin back home first. He packed his bags and brought two of the plants from before onto the car.
On their way back, Qiu Linsong told him everything about Shi Yan’s hospitalisation without exaggerating anything — he merely stated the truth. He told He Nuo that they still couldn’t find the reason for his fever now, and the doctors are worried that if things were to go on like this, Shi Yan’s vitality might be adversely affected. He Nuo was listening to him quietly, but when Qiu Linsong saw the anxiety in He Nuo’s eyes that he couldn’t conceal, he felt quite comforted. After he finished listening to Qiu Linsong, He Nuo looked out in a daze at the trees that were few and far in between as they zoomed past them. Qiu Linsong thought that he didn’t really want He Nuo to worry too much, so he changed the topic and asked about those unknown plants.
He Nuo introduced them as Goji plants. He had digged them up at the mountains in front of the village, and told Qiu Linsong that he knew about them when he came here to attend school before. The people in the village don’t really know what it was, but those in the city all know that if you use its fruits to make wine and tea, it would be very beneficial for the eyes.
When Qiu Linsong asked why he wanted to dig these up to bring back to their town, He Nuo looked a little embarrassed. To sell them, of course. There was a small number of migrants in their town. They would buy these back to plant them in a flower pot and grow them like they were growing flowers. The goji fruits will sprout in autumn, and although there won’t be a lot of them, you could treat them as an ornament — it would be a very beautiful sight to see those bright red fruits along its branches. When Qiu Linsong knew that each plant could only be sold for a few cents, he really “admired” He Nuo.
They only got back around 7pm. According to Qiu Linsong’s plan, they should be going straight to the hospital now to see San Ge. But He Nuo wanted to go home first so he told Qiu Linsong that he would go to the hospital tomorrow. Qiu Linsong thought that since he had pressured him into coming back, it wouldn’t be good to pressure him too much so he sent He Nuo home first before going to the hospital himself. Shi Yan’s mother was rubbing alcohol on his palms and feet while Wang Feng ate at one side. When he saw that Qiu Linsong was alone, Shi Yan’s eyes instantly dimmed, but Qiu Linsong was already smiling as he nodded, “He’s back.”
Shi Yan urged his mother to go home. Since his buddies have been accompanying him here for the past few nights and his ward was a single room, there was now an extra bed here. Mama Shi repeated all the precautions that she has been nagging him about every day before she left. Once the door closed, Shi Yan immediately asked if he was still unwilling to come.
Qiu Linsong said that He Nuo was too tired, so he would be coming over tomorrow. Shi Yan could thus only lie down, relieved, though he quickly got up again anxiously and wanted to make a call no matter what. The other two had to support him as they walked over to Wang Feng’s mother’s ward. Wang Feng pulled the doctor on duty out to chat with them at the nurse’s station so that Shi Yan could make a call in the office.
Shi Yan didn’t get to talk to He Nuo. He Nuo’s family told him that He Nuo went out as soon as he got back. He boldly guessed that He Nuo might have left to come visit him, and the moment he thought of this possibility, he rushed out to ask his buddies to help him back to his ward. It was only when he suffered the disappointment from waiting that he remembered how He Nuo still didn’t know which ward he was in, so he couldn’t come and visit him of course, unless he would search for him ward by ward? So Shi Yan told Qiu Linsong that he must meet up with He Nuo before coming over tomorrow, with the reason being that he wouldn’t be able to find his ward by himself.
When Shi Yan and He Nuo met, it was when the ward was extremely crowded — Shi Yan’s mother who was nursing him, Wang Feng’s mother who came to visit after her morning meeting ended1, and the nurse who had pushed a cart in with the prepared infusions. But even though there were so many people in the ward, as soon as Qiu Linsong and He Nuo walked in, tears immediately welled up in Shi Yan’s eyes. His eyes widened as he stared fixatedly at He Nuo and didn’t let his tears slip out.
The two of them greeted their elders, then walked over to the bed. Shi Yan stretched his hand out. He Nuo hesitated for a bit before he put his hand out too, then it was immediately grasped — Shi Yan’s grip was weak but he was unwilling to let go, “Sit.”
Shi Yan wanted him to sit next to his bed. Qiu Linsong had seen the glistening tears in Shi Yan’s eyes, so he specially pointed at the cans that they had put down, “San Ge, He Nuo bought these with his own money.”
Shi Yan smiled, but his smile that spread across his burning red face was so fragile that it shattered immediately. Shi Yan mouthed silently, “I’m sorry.”
The two mothers were still talking about how helpless they were over Shi Yan’s fever that refused to abate; Wang Feng’s mother talked about the prescription for a tonic soup that she had prepared for Shi Yan, so Mama Shi went out with her to get it. Qiu Linsong said that he was going to fetch some hot water over, but he actually just wanted to give them a chance to reconcile. With him around, how could San Ge have the face to apologise?
There were no more outsiders in the room. Shi Yan grabbed He Nuo’s hand, and when he spoke again his voice was choking back sobs, “God is punishing me for all the suffering I’ve caused you.”
“You’ve turned muddle-headed from your fever, no one’s punishing you. Get better soon?ba, everyone’s worried about you.”
“Give me one more chance, I won’t lie to you anymore. She was introduced to me by Qin Mingxu, I was supposed to help Qin Mingxu……..”
He Nuo refused to let Shi Yan continue, because he didn’t want to know, and Shi Yan’s mother had returned too. She was chatting with Wang Feng’s mother just now, so she had just cast a cursory glance at He Nuo initially, but now she paid a bit more attention to him. She could tell from He Nuo’s dressing that he looked like someone from a commoner’s household. But she didn’t recognise him as the one whose house she had gone to make a ruckus in — she just looked at him with disdain as she thought that he was some lackey who had come over for a chance to butter up to her son. So she lovingly told Shi Yan over and over again to sleep and rest more, and not waste his energy on talking.
He Nuo could understand the overtones of her words, so he sensibly decided to end his visit. When Shi Yan heard that He Nuo wanted to leave, he tried to stop him. But Mama Shi said, “I’ll accompany you. Don’t ask your classmates to stay here all the time. The hospital isn’t a good place, you can hang out with them again once you’ve recovered. Also, you might want him to stay with you, but just the stench of the medicine here would be tough on your classmate.”
Shi Yan thought of He Nuo’s poor constitution, and also felt that there were too many germs in the hospital which could infect him. So even though he really couldn’t bear to part with him, he agreed to let He Nuo go. He Nuo had just left the room when Mama Shi immediately followed him out. Once they were quite a distance from Shi Yan’s ward, Mama Shi said, “You don’t need to come and visit Shi Yan anymore. He needs to rest more, so he won’t have the time to talk.”