When he returned home at night, He Nuo waited for the rest to fall asleep before going to the kitchen to boil some water. He placed one of his legs on his other knee, then carefully peeled off his shoe. Every slight movement made his feet sting with the pain of ten thousands of needles, so he couldn’t take his shoes off during the first few tries. In the end, he clenched his teeth and used both his hands to forcibly tug his shoe off. The tip of his nose was drenched in sweat from the pain. His foot had swelled to the point that its skin was glistening; his foot was round and fat like a little elephant’s foot, a slight touch would make his whole body tremble. He grimaced in pain as he took off the other shoe as well, then sunk his feet into the basin of hot water before he let out a long sigh of relief. As he soaked his feet in the water, he continuously topped it up with hot water, and he had to soak his feet for a full half an hour before his toes felt some warmth. He expended another round of effort to stand up and wear his shoes again, and it was only when he had finished wearing his shoes and was about to start walking when He Nuo felt like he had encountered the greatest challenge of his life. Every time his foot landed on the ground, a sharp pain would pierce through his feet. He hobbled over to a gla.s.s bottle to fill it up with hot water before carrying it with him to sleep. At night, he placed this hot water bottle underneath his feet.
He did this ritual every night to help reduce the swelling in his feet, but in the daytime it would wantonly swell up again. Actually, He Nuo could learn to get used to the feeling of pins and needles underneath his feet when he walked, but it was extremely difficult for him to get used to his little brother’s teasing. His little brother was starting to urinate blood, and it was so painful he felt like he wanted to die. He always had the urge to urinate, and even when he finished urinating he would feel like there was some residual urine that he couldn’t get out no matter how hard he tried. If he wanted to see a doctor, he would have to travel to the town that was two villages away. Plus, He Nuo didn’t have the money to see a doctor. This place wasn’t his home – his father is a worker so he could receive medical treatment using public expense – in the village, he had to pay for the medical expenses himself. He Nuo just tried his best to get through by drinking water whenever he got the chance to; he’d drink both cold and hot water so that he could urinate more. But every time he peed he felt like he was going through torture – it was so painful that his whole body would tremble, and his warm back would be soaked with cold sweat.
He Nuo thought of picking up some wild herbs himself. But the mountains were desolate – aside from the brown-coloured land, dried up gra.s.s, bald branches that swayed to the winter’s wind, there wasn’t a hint of green anywhere. He disappointingly searched about for awhile before walking back. A stray branch was blocking his way so he stretched his hand out to push it aside when he noticed something that was hanging on the branch. It was an extremely thin and translucent layer of membrane, and upon closer inspection, He Nuo immediately realised that it was a layer of molted skin from a snake. He carefully touched it, but it looked like it was about to fall apart. It looked incredibly fragile. He Nuo opened up his lunchbox and slowly collected the snake’s skin in it piece by piece. When he was soaking his feet at night, he steeped some hot water with the snake’s skin and drank everything. Every afternoon, He Nuo would go to the mountains to look for some snake’s skin, then drink it with hot water at night. He didn’t know if it was because of the snake’s skin, or because he insisted on soaking his feet in hot water every night, but his blood urine symptoms began to go away.
By the time Chinese New Year was over, He Nuo would have stayed at his Uncle’s place for about a year. When the new school term begins, he would start his latter half of his second year in senior high. In the county, their academics would definitely be much further ahead than in the village, and He Nuo had always been pondering over this problem. He knew that he definitely would have fallen behind his county counterparts in terms of studies. But coincidentally at this time, his Uncle actually told him that his family wanted him to return to his old school – this was truly good news! As it turns out, it was when his Fifth Brother – who was attending university – returned home to celebrate Chinese News Year and told his parents that the village’s quality of education was poor and had a low frequency of promotion into the next grade that his parents wanted him to return.
He Nuo’s registration in his old school was never voided, so he returned to his original cla.s.s. Even though he kept a low profile and didn’t have much of a presence, if someone in cla.s.s who had disappeared suddenly reappeared, everyone would definitely notice – especially Shi Yan. Shi Yan didn’t know that He Nuo’s disappearance had anything to do with his family; he only thought that this guy was afraid of his revenge so he transferred schools to avoid him. The anger that he had pent up from He Nuo’s kick and his indignation from then had already cooled with time, but there was another matter that made him curse He Nuo for a long time — the sharing area. Every Friday morning, as Shi Yan thought that he looked like he was stupidly swinging a broom around while he cleaned the sharing area, he would curse He Nuo and his ancestors, and the cursing only stopped when he couldn’t stand it any longer and appointed someone else to take over his job.
Now that He Nuo was back, the current person-in-charge of the sharing area looked for Shi Yan to retire from his duties honourably and wanted to give the job back to He Nuo. When Shi Yan notified He Nuo about his duties, He Nuo had no opinion on the matter and quickly agreed to take over – it was his job in the first place anyway. But when Shi Yan finished talking and skirted a few glances over him, He Nuo was a bit nervous. He wanted to ask if Shi Yan’s injuries were okay, but the words never came out; but judging by his composed manner, he should be okay by now. Within the year that he was away, He Nuo did think of Shi Yan. He never knew how bad Shi Yan’s injuries were (Shi Mama’s att.i.tude seriously misled He Nuo; he thought that for Shi Mama to stomp over to his house so angrily like that, Shi Yan’s injuries must have been very serious). For the first time in his life, He Nuo had injured someone else that badly, so it was a matter that had been engraved deeply into his memories.
Shi Yan left without saying much, because he realised that the guy in front of him…he wasn’t sure if it was because he had grown taller or something, but he looked so skinny; his chin seemed sharper, and his emaciated face made his eyes look much bigger than before, and his face looked kind of sunken in. Plus, all the joints on his hands could be seen clearly. Shi Yan’s mind was filled with images of the dinosaur bones that he had seen in a museum, and he said without thinking, “Why do you look like a dinosaur.” But what’s surprising is that Shi Yan didn’t link He Nuo’s image to the skeletons that he had seen in hospitals.
TN: Exams will be over on 5th Dec………. can’t wait…….. also, interested in picking up another novel cuz it’s just so hilarious hahahahha it’s called 妖孽哪里跑 (Evildoer, don’t run!)