He Nuo looked at the plastic bag that laid by his feet with a stunned expression. He didn’t know why Shi Yan was behaving so abnormally today. He picked up the plastic bag and opened it to find three small boxes. He held one in his hand to examine it, on the box were the words “Die Da Jiu”1! He read through the instruction manual he found in the box – it was the kind of Die Da Jiu that was applied externally by rubbing it on one’s skin; there was a second bottle of the same kind, and the third box contained oral medication used to promote blood circulation and dispel blood stasis.
Actually, He Nuo’s family is eligible for free medical care, so there isn’t a lack of medicine at home. However, most of the medicine he had at home were the more commonly seen types like the ones for colds, fevers and diarrhea. He Nuo would definitely not ask his parents to help him obtain the medicine he needs, and he did rummage through the medicine he had at home in secret before to find some pain medication. In the end, he saw that paracetamol had pain relief effects, so he ate a few tablets over the weekend; he didn’t dare to take too many as he was afraid that his family would notice the reduction in their medicine stash.
At night, He Nuo applied the medicinal wine to his wounds, but the pungent smell of the wine immediately attracted complaints from his brothers who slept in the adjacent room. He made up an excuse that he had sprained his ankle in school so some medicine was applied in his school’s clinic, then hurriedly kept the medicinal wine and didn’t use it anymore. But he still ate the oral medication while following the instruction manual; after all, he still wanted to reduce his pain if he could.
During Monday in school, he forced himself to find Shi Yan to thank him in cla.s.s. It’s not that he wasn’t willing, but it’s because had accepted the other party’s goodwill, so he felt a bit embarra.s.sed. In his heart, one matter was one matter – Shi Yan’s fortnightly agreement and the medicine he offered were two unrelated matters. Shi Yan ignored his “thank you”; after he heard those two words his face remained expressionless as he stood up and left the cla.s.sroom.
For the past few days, Shi Yan had been feeling upset – even his buddies could tell. He wore a cold face and didn’t seem to be interested in anything. He wouldn’t even answer if you asked him a question. It was only when they saw that Shi Yan’s face had swollen up a bit that they thought they had found the reason: toothache. Shi Yan’s tooth was swollen and he was currently taking anti-inflammatory medicine, once the inflammation goes away he had to stuff his tooth. He really hated going to the dentist; whenever he heard the sound of the machine grinding his teeth, he would feel like his body was overrun by creepy crawlies which made him extremely disgusted.
Shi Yan requested a leave of absence on a Sat.u.r.day afternoon; his mother was accompanying him to fill his tooth and they had an appointment with the dentist. If someone with no connections had registered, G.o.d knows how long they would have to queue for; Shi Yan was not someone with that kind of patience and leisure. After his filling, Shi Yan’s mouth was filled with the stench of medicine, then he was brought by his mother to the office. (Now do you know how spoiled Shi Yan is?)
Shi Yan was rummaging through some magazines in boredom while he waited for his mother to go home when he suddenly jumped up from the long bench he was sitting on. He told his mother that he had to go back to school to retrieve something then ran towards the school. He hastily rode his bicycle and flew to the school wall where his buddies greeted him, “You’ve filled your tooth? Why did you arrive so late? We’ve already finished the job and were just about to go back.”
He saw the person who was curled into a fetal position on the ground – his eyes were shut tight, and from the depression in his cheeks he could see that this person was biting down on his teeth with all his might. Large beads of sweat were trickling down his forehead and his face was spasming; he was hugging his body and looked like a ball – his body had shrank so much that it couldn’t shrink any further.
Whenever He Nuo was beaten to the ground, there were times when it would hurt to the point that he would bend and curl his body, but the extent of his curling was never very much. He wasn’t someone who could pretend, he would press down on the parts that hurt, and if he could stand up, then he would stand up and continue enduring the hits. And he would never look at the person who was training their fists and legs on him, nor would he close his eyes to escape – he always only looked at himself. A reaction like today was a first.
Shi Yan squatted in front of him, “What did you guys do to him?”
His hand had just touched He Nuo when the body under his hand started to tremble fiercely – it scared him so much that he immediately retracted his hand. He turned around and asked again, “What did you guys do to him?”
Shi Yan’s gloomy expression, fierce interrogation and underlying anger had stunned his few buddies; eventually, someone broke the deadlock and replied naturally, “Just the usual – we punched and kicked him.”
Shi Yan’s sharp eyes forced him to lower his voice, then he added, “And we used the chain to hit him a bit.”
Shi Yan’s expression soothed slightly, then he went to support He Nuo with his hands. He Nuo softly refused, and even his voice was trembling, “Don’t.” Yet, he couldn’t move by himself. Shi Yan glanced over the part where his hands were supporting, then suddenly turned and looked at his friends, “Where was he whipped?”
There was a sudden outburst of rage in his eyes, no one would be stupid enough to reply him, but the silence also verified his conjecture. His anger started to boil, and he definitely, definitely couldn’t suppress it as he shouted, “Get lost! All of you, get lost!”
His friends were stunned, but they didn’t refute him and unhappily rode their bikes as they left.
Shi Yan’s hand gently supported He Nuo’s head, “I’ll help you up slowly?”
“Don’t, don’t move me.” He Nuo’s eyes remained closed.
Shi Yan didn’t dare to move him, but he couldn’t help but take out his handkerchief to wipe the sweat on his face. He couldn’t stop wiping. Even when there was no more sweat left, he was still lightly wiping He Nuo’s forehead.
He Nuo let out a long breath, his eyelids twitched, and he slowly opened his eyes. One hand entered his line of sight, and he looked up to see Shi Yan looking at him silently. The two was once again surrounded by a weird atmosphere. He Nuo tried to straighten his body to stand up, but the immense pain that came from his groin turned his face white. His mouth twitched, and he couldn’t help but close his eyes and frown.
A hand pressed down on him. Shi Yan held one of his ankles, and slowly extended it. He did the same for his other leg, then moved both of He Nuo’s hands to the side. Then he went to He Nuo’s front. Shi Yan lifted He Nuo’s head up first, then carefully propped up his upper body at his waist; his other hand went under He Nuo’s knees and lightly carried them, then he turned He Nuo’s body upright and made him lean against his body.
With one doing the hugging and the other doing the leaning, He Nuo groaned softly and Shi Yan quickly said, “Lean on me for a bit, don’t move yet.”
1. Dit Da Jow is a popular Chinese liniment sold to heal external damage such as bruises or sore muscles.?
T/N: Finally, some sweetness after a bitter storm