In the following days at school, Shi Yan acted like how he usually would and didn’t bother sparing He Nuo a single glance or pick a fight with him. He Nuo thus luckily “peacefully” resolved his crisis. It was during the Friday on the second week when Shi Yan gave him a cold look at the sharing area, “Don’t forget about tomorrow.”
He Nuo nodded his head. The next day after school, he went to honour his promise to be a “sandbag”. This time, as a precaution, he deliberately ate less at lunch because puking felt worse than the pain he endured during the beating. He thought that if he ate less, then he wouldn’t puke, but he ended up vomiting gastric juice instead which tasted so bitter he shivered. But he thought that it was worth it in return for a peaceful school life.
The weather was turning warm, so it raised slight inconveniences. He Nuo never wore shorts, and he always adorned long-sleeved shirts. During physical education, the boys would run around the field, play soccer and basketball but He Nuo rarely joined them. Even if he didn’t wear short-sleeved shirts or shorts, there would probably be some scuffles and folding up of sleeves, so he avoided such activities as often as possible.
Students had to take a standard test for their physical education cla.s.s. The boys had to complete a 1000-metre run, pull-ups and some other items. The teacher asked the students to warm up then form a queue in front of the horizontal bar to do pull-ups. The others could watch or cheer for students who look like they are about to give up. He Nuo’s fitness was far from his old standards. Usually, the bodies of boys going through p.u.b.erty should be shooting up and greedily engulfing nutrients. But when it came to He Nuo, his body didn’t get the extra nutrients it needed and even had to use its reserves to fight off the disease he had contracted in the village.
He Nuo only did a few pull-ups before he started panting, but since this was a test, he thought to himself that he had to bite down on his lips and at least finish the minimum number of pull-ups required for pa.s.sing. His arms were trembling as he forced his pitiful, lean muscles to contract and pull his body upwards. Just as he finally got his head above the horizontal bar, the breath that he was holding suddenly let loose and his body fell, but both his hands continued to grip the horizontal bar which left him dangling for awhile before he fell to the mats. Within a short moment, several people saw He Nuo’s arm – because his arms were too thin, his sleeves had slipped down past his elbow. The arm that was so skinny you could see bones protruding through the skin had a long, terrible strip of purple that perched on his white jade skin; the transparency of his white skin accentuated the meandering, frightening-looking bulge (that was so swollen it formed a ridge), which made the other, smaller wounds of differing colours less conspicuous.
When he saw the looks that the other students were giving him, He Nuo’s expression was as calm as usual. He said to Zhu Laoshi, “Laoshi, I accidentally injured my arm the other day, can I retake the test another day?” Usually, students who failed to attain a pa.s.sing mark for the items retook the test together during the weekend, so He Nuo wouldn’t be the only one who would retake the test.
Shi Yan naturally saw the masterpiece that his gang had left on He Nuo’s arm. Plus, he clearly knew how that b.l.o.o.d.y scar came about. He Nuo obediently turned into their human sandbag once every two weeks, but he wouldn’t make any noise when he was beaten up. So even after everyone had finished practicing their punches and kicks, they didn’t feel any sense of achievement. The day before yesterday, his buddies took a bicycle chain lock (an iron chain) and whipped He Nuo. The He Nuo who stood in his spot cowered a bit and shrugged his shoulders. When his leg was whipped, He Nuo couldn’t help but dodge, but his buddies had ordered him to stand properly then whipped him again to make up for the dodged whip. They had promised him to only beat him in places that aren’t visible, so Shi Yan wouldn’t even think about inspecting the aftermath of their beatings. Every time, his buddies would beat He Nuo up until they had their fill then washed their hands of him.
This was the first time Shi Yan saw a wound on He Nuo’s body, and thought that they had only whipped his arm once, and the rest of the whips landed on his legs. Oh right, Shi Yan was always the one who starts the beating, but he wouldn’t do anything else – he usually starts that day’s round of beating by kicking He Nuo to the floor then stand at a side to enjoy the show. He didn’t do it out of kindness, to be honest, Shi Yan was the kind of person who didn’t like to personally get into fights – it wasn’t worth tiring himself out for, and it would cause him to sweat and smell bad. As long as he had the intention, naturally, someone else would do the work for him.
He saw He Nuo apply for a make-up test like nothing had happened, then naturally pulled his sleeves down and stood at a side. Shi Yan’s line of sight kept chasing him as he waited for He Nuo to return his look. He thought that at this time, He Nuo should be looking at him, but in reality He Nuo had no reaction and didn’t even spare Shi Yan a glance. At first he felt disappointed, then it turned into anger. This dead man actually didn’t even have eyes for him!
On Friday, at the sharing area, Shi Yan: “Tomorrow after school, go and wait for me.”
“Tomorrow?” He Nuo was taken aback, “Shouldn’t it be next week?” The few whips from the iron chain was much worse than fists, and even until today, he couldn’t sleep at night without taking extra care to not touch the places that had been whipped.
“I said tomorrow, so I mean tomorrow.” Shi Yan threw him this sentence then walked away.
At night, He Nuo looked at the various wounds that criss-crossed on his leg in a myriad of patterns, then shook his head and sighed, “If only I had the legs of Sun Wu Kong.” When the Great Sage Equalling Heaven in the Journey to the West encountered whipping, he could turn both his legs into metal – an ability that He Nuo was extremely envious of right now. He didn’t understand why Shi Yan suddenly changed his mind, didn’t they make a deal for a fortnightly beating? Does this guy want to change it to a weekly beating? Sigh, never mind, when the soldier comes the General will block him, and when the water comes the earth will drown it. Even though you don’t have the metal legs of Sun Wu Kong, but it’s not like the iron chain is dripping with salt water (Sun Wu Kong was whipped with a whip dripping with salt water). He Nuo comforted himself and thought to himself that it was more important for him to get some sleep instead.
He’s the monkey demon of Journey to the West, Xi You Ji.
TN: Shi Yan had better redeem his a.s.s