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Yu Hao lay quietly on the bed with only the ceiling of the school's infirmary in his eyes. He heard Xue Long speak to a doctor outside to gain a better understanding of his current situation.
"He doesn't need to transfer to another hospital. He didn't inhale much, so we just need to observe him for awhile more."
Xue Long ensured that his life was no longer in danger before he left.
It has been said that those who've died once wouldn't seek death again. Right now, it seems that he had really gotten rid of the idea. It was as if "General" had stayed in his heart and was repeatedly telling him, "you will be fine".
Someone knocked on the door a few times. Yu Hao turned his head, then widened his eyes in surprise. That person was carrying his backpack and he was the Sports Department's basketball captain — Fu Liqun. He thought of the familiar voice he heard when he was unconscious — the one who had carried him to the hospital was him!
He knows Fu Liqun. He had helped him fill in an application form for a work-study program, and they have had brief conversations. Right now, his hair was drenched in sweat, yet he still looked very energetic. He had thick and black eyebrows, and his nickname was "Sports Department's w.a.n.g Leehom1".
"Feeling better?" Fu Liqun said, then put his medical record next to his pillow and pa.s.sed Yu Hao his campus card and mobile phone.
Yu Hao wanted to get up, but Fu Liqun asked him to lie down and said, "I have a roommate who said that he saw you near the field."
Yu Hao uttered an "un", then Fu Liqun continued, "Don't worry. If someone asks, we'll just say that you just got dumped, so you went up the mountains to take pictures of gingkos and entered that old house to burn your diary but ended up choking on the smoke instead." As he spoke, he laughed to himself and said, "It actually sounds quite reasonable when I put it that way."
"No one will ask me anyway." Yu Hao answered.
"But there'll always be people who like to gossip." Fu Liqun answered.
Yu Hao whispered, "Thank you."
Fu Liqun was wearing a sports jacket with a basketball vest underneath it and a pair of training pants that he hadn't changed out of. He bent over slightly as he sat on a chair. He had carried Yu Hao to the infirmary as soon as he left the court so he was still gasping for breath as he looked at Yu Hao. Yu Hao remembered that there was once when he saw from afar someone drive a BMW to school to pick him up. Rumours has it that the car belonged to Fu Liqun's girlfriend from the Dance Department at Sichuan Conservatory of Music — a beautiful woman with fair skin and long legs.
There were many girls in the college who had a secret crush on Fu Liqun, plus he came from a well-to-do family as well. This kind of male-G.o.d-like existence seemed to be destined to live a bright and magnificent life. He belonged to a different world from Yu Hao, and had rarely taken the initiative to talk to him.
"You're welcome." Fu Liqun had stayed silent for a long while before he replied. His expression looked like he was trying to find something to talk about, but his mobile phone rang. Fu Liqun thus lowered his head and began to reply on his WeChat.
Sneezing sounds could be heard outside, and the sneezes sounded one after the other.
"Redhead?" Fu Liqun said.
Someone followed behind the nurse and entered the ward. The school infirmary's ward was part.i.tioned into two with a privacy screen. Zhou Sheng entered while he sneezed, looked at the Yu Hao who was on a drip and uttered a "yo", then said, "What happened?"
"He's sick." Fu Liqun answered for Yu Hao.
"You're not getting enough nutrition ba, look at how skinny you are." Zhou Sheng's snot was dripping as he walked to the other side of the privacy screen. The nurse smiled as she held a tongue depressor2. She has seen all kinds of weirdos in the school infirmary, so she didn't make any comment. She held up Zhou Sheng's chin and asked, "Where does it hurt?"
"Everywhere hurts. My throat hurts, and my head hurts too."
"You're faking it right." The nurse said, "Say 'ah'."
Their voices travelled over from behind the screen. Zhou Sheng whined as he refused to get a shot and asked the nurse to prescribe him some medicine instead. Then he was lectured once again about how the weather had turned chilly recently and why they weren't taking better care of themselves in this kind of weather.
"You always take off your shirt when you play basketball, but what for? Ah? To act handsome?" The nurse said.
"Because it's unbecoming to take off my pants." Zhou Sheng said.
Yu Hao suddenly laughed because he was so amused, then started coughing violently. The nurse walked over to take a look, then said, "We'll take you off the oxygen tank, do you feel dizzy?"
The nurse took off Yu Hao's oxygen mask which made him feel much better. Zhou Sheng looked at the drip bottle, then glanced at Fu Liqun to hint him the question "Leaving?". Fu Liqun answered, "I'll accompany him until this drip bottle finishes."
"You guys go back first ba." Yu Hao felt very apologetic. He didn't know how he could ever repay Fu Liqun, yet Fu Liqun only smiled and said, "Your form teacher sent me a message to say that he had just gotten off the train. He'll be coming over soon to see you."
Yu Hao could only nod his head. College freshmen were first under the supervision of the college's counsellor. Their entire cohort had about 70 people, so Xue Long couldn't possibly handle so many of them. The college thus appointed a form teacher — who was most likely a postgraduate student — to each cla.s.s. Yu Hao didn't like to owe other people favours. He had always hoped that he could cut off all ties with the outside world as much as possible. It was like he had sealed himself off, which gave him a lot of freedom most of the time. But the favour he owed Fu Liqun for discovering his whereabouts and carrying him to the hospital is a favour that Yu Hao would never be able to repay for the rest of his life.
This grat.i.tude he felt weighed down on his heart — it was like a gift, yet also like a shackle that was so heavy it suffocated him a little bit.
I must be crazy. Yu Hao really hated his current self right now.
"Then I'll wait with you ba, let's eat some hot pot later." Zhou Sheng lied down on the other sickbed, and the ward suddenly fell silent. Fu Liqun lowered his head and fiddled about with his phone, while Yu Hao quietly recalled the "General" he saw in his dreams. He didn't know why, but when General appeared, he didn't feel like rejecting this person's help at all. It was as if he was an old friend that Yu Hao had known for many years.
"Don't forget that you still have me."
Maybe this could be my reason for living, Yu Hao thought in a daze. He will never forget this dream for the rest of his life, and he will never forget about Fu Liqun; it was as if these two occurrences had coincided miraculously.
He scrutinized Fu Liqun, and without knowing how much time has pa.s.sed, someone's voice broke through the silence in the ward.
"Are you Yu Hao Tongxue3?"
Yu Hao snapped out of his daze and raised his head. A man dressed in a casual linen suit was dragging his luggage behind him as he strutted4 into the ward.
The bespectacled man had handsome and refined facial features; his lips looked moist, the edges of his thick hair curled up slightly and he exuded an amiable and scholarly vibe. The b.u.t.tons on his linen suit jacket were undone, and he wore a scarf around his neck. This man rubbed his hands a few times until his hands were warm, then walked up and patted the back of Yu Hao's hand.
"Chen Yekai." That man introduced himself and said, "Your form teacher. You can just call me Shixiong5, I have just completed my postgraduate studies."
Yu Hao nodded. He didn't quite know how to handle this kind of one-on-one self-introduction situations, but Chen Yekai adjusted to it very quickly. He looked towards Fu Liqun and said, "I'm in charge of your Sports Cla.s.s 1 and Yu Hao Tongxue's Psychology Cla.s.s 1."
Fu Liqun quickly stood up to shake hands with Chen Yekai and called him Chen Laoshi6. Chen Yekai pulled a chair over to sit down, looked at Fu Liqun, then looked at Yu Hao, and suddenly felt a little embarra.s.sed as he smiled and said, "How would the two of you rank in your respective cla.s.ses in terms of looks?"
Yu Hao, "……"
Fu Liqun laughed, "Above average I guess."
"Then that's great." Chen Yekai looked as if a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders as he said, "There should be a lot more people who're more handsome than me, so I won't be surrounded all the time by girls who want to flirt with me anymore."
Yu Hao didn't know if he should laugh or cry. Fu Liqun patted Chen Yekai's shoulder and said, "Trust me Chen Laoshi, the girls will still flirt with you. Look……" As he spoke, he motioned for Chen Yekai to look, and the young nurses who were leaning on the doorframe secretly taking pictures of Chen Yekai with their phones immediately turned around and left.
Chen Yekai tried to suppress his embarra.s.sment and didn't turn around. He looked like he was at a loss and Fu Liqun couldn't help but laugh aloud. Chen Yekai was indeed very good-looking, to the point that he even looked like a celebrity. He smiled as he looked at Yu Hao, then said, "Life will always give good-looking people preferential treatment, but I didn't think of that at all."
"Am I good-looking?" Yu Hao answered, "I don't think so."
Chen Yekai scrutinized Yu Hao, then said, "You're just too skinny, you need to eat more."
Yu Hao said, "Can't afford to, I'm too poor."
"What did you eat for lunch?"
Yu Hao answered, "Hot pot."
Chen Yekai said, "And I was thinking of bringing you out to eat that later."
Yu Hao spent 200 yuan on that meal. He had squandered away the last bit of his living expenses.
"If you want to chat, then let's chat." Chen Yekai said, "Don't try to bottle it up all the time, I did that when I was younger too."
Yu Hao was a bit surprised; Chen Yekai looked like a pretty optimistic person to him.
"I didn't steal anything." Yu Hao suddenly said.
Chen Yekai scrutinised Yu Hao, then looked like he suddenly made up his mind about something and said, "I believe you."
When Yu Hao heard those words, he was completely stunned. Ever since this whole incident started, this was the first time someone told him "I believe you". Both the counsellor and the police only answered him with "don't worry, we'll definitely uncover the truth"s. There had never been someone who gave him a definite answer as they were all afraid of shouldering the blame if they said something wrong too soon.
"Why?" Yu Hao asked instead.
"The police working on your case said so." Chen Yekai opened up his WeChat, put his phone on loudspeaker, then played a voice message.
"The kid's lying, I've seen too many of such cases……but we can't prove it, so it's not convenient for us to mention it to her parent……we can't accuse the guy of stealing just because he's poor……"
After he finished playing the voice message, Chen Yekai explained, "The police who handle cases have seen all kinds of people, they can tell if someone is lying just from their eyes. But that kid is too smart, no matter how much they questioned her, they couldn't catch any loopholes in her testimony." As he spoke, he looked towards Fu Liqun again and said, "When he went to tutor the kid, the kid placed her father's watch in Yu Hao's bag and framed him."
"That's too much." Fu Liqun understood the gist of the situation from their conversation, then said, "Why did she do that?"
Chen Yekai shrugged7, then said, "Now we need to find a way to obtain evidence."
Yu Hao said, "There won't be any evidence, unless she admits to it herself."
Chen Yekai thought about it, then answered, "Not necessarily."
Yu Hao, "The same thing happened when I was in junior high."
Chen Yekai was extremely surprised. He has never seen Yu Hao's files, and counsellor Xue Long hadn't mentioned this inside story to him.
"Can you talk about it?"
Yu Hao pondered for a bit, then said, "Actually, the person who did it was quite a good buddy of mine."
In the latter half of his second year in junior high, a rather wealthy boy transferred into his cla.s.s. His nickname was Hua Lun, his father dealt with coal in Shanxi and had so much money he could use it as kindling. Hua Lun often gathered a clique to accompany him out to play, and he would foot the bill whenever they went out. Whenever he went out on the weekends, he would buy Zhonghua cigarettes in strips8, and he even had a car of his own when he was still a minor. His family had a good relationship with the city officials as well, so he was never investigated.
Hua Lun bought over9 quite a few so-called "useful" people, just like their language textbook's "Gentleman Meng Chang's Three Thousand Spongers10". His followers would help him copy his homework, help him cheat during exams, bring textbooks for him, clean the cla.s.sroom for him, take over his cleaning duties and so on and so forth…….everyone realised their worth as they divided up numerous and diverse tasks amongst themselves and took charge of their own specific duties.
Yu Hao had felt the distinct disparity between him and the other kids ever since he was in kindergarten, so he had an inferiority complex and was particularly sensitive during junior high. So naturally, he wasn't willing to join this group of guys and become one of Hua Lun's hangers-on. But, he had a buddy whom he was quite close with who was from a working cla.s.s family; this buddy of his learnt a lot from Hua Lun and would hang out with him all day. He often borrowed money from Hua Lun and could easily borrow two to three hundred yuan from him each time. If he needed a bit more money, he could even borrow up to a thousand yuan in one shot.
Subsequently, the coal boss' coal mine met with some problems. After some introspection, he gave his son a good lecture and deducted half of his allowance. Since then, Hua Lun's glory was no more, and his hangers-on immediately fled helter-skelter. However, it's easy to switch from a thrifty lifestyle to a luxurious one, but difficult to do the opposite. After Yu Hao's buddy realised that his ATM had shut down, it was inevitable for him to feel the sudden discrepancy in his standard of living.
Thus after their physical education cla.s.s ended, he took Hua Lun's wallet, turned it out, took a few of the notes inside it then stuffed it back into his table. But right after he placed the wallet in the table, the students began to return to the cla.s.sroom one after the other. Hua Lun realised that his wallet was stolen, so he quickly reported his loss to the teacher.
The form teacher was a quick-witted one too. He knew that it wouldn't be smart to approach this matter by enforcing a cla.s.s-wide body search for the wallet, so he asked Hua Lun not to disclose his loss first. They would search for his wallet through careful observation and try their best to capture the thief red-handed. After school ended, Hua Lun finally found his wallet in Yu Hao's table…….
"Why?" Fu Liqun asked.
Yu Hao calmly answered, "He was too nervous, so he stuffed it into a table without much thought and had accidentally misplaced it. Coincidentally, my seat was adjacent to his."
Yu Hao had done his best to argue with reason then, but as luck would have it, he also had 300 yuan on him which was given to him by his grandmother - it was his living expenses for the month. After they argued for awhile, Yu Hao ended up getting into a fight with Hua Lun. Hua Lun had disliked him for a long time; after all, when he was at the peak of his glory, he had tried to recruit Yu Hao a few times but Yu Hao never agreed be his hanger-on. On the other hand, Yu Hao was furious about being accused, so he took a cup and used it to smash Hua Lun's head.
After the matter was blown up, Hua Lun's mother came to the school and brought along proof that Hua Lun was suffering from a grade 3 disability11, and had proclaimed that she would definitely not let this matter rest easily. In the end, Yu Hao's grandmother went to the school as well and knelt down to Hua Lun's mother in front of a lot of people. This matter had shocked everyone in their grade, and had completely shocked Yu Hao too.
"Within the entire grade, only my English teacher spoke up for me." Yu Hao calmly said, "I still remember what she had said. She said, 'When Hua Lun was gathering his clique, Yu Hao never hung out with them, so why would he go and steal his money now?"
Subsequently, this incident left a criminal record on Yu Hao's file, but he still managed to graduate. After he graduated from junior high, that buddy of his told him the truth. In the beginning Yu Hao wanted to let bygones be bygones, but that buddy had actually looked for him to borrow money from him again. In the end, Yu Hao unintentionally discovered that his buddy had been roped into taking drugs by some gangsters, which was why he always lacked money. Yu Hao lent him money, then called the police while he was taking drugs in his friend's house who then sent him to a drug rehabilitation centre.
A few years later, his buddy quit his drug addiction and was released from the centre, but he has never contacted Yu Hao since then. After Yu Hao graduated from senior high and was on his way home, he b.u.mped into him by chance and greeted him, but the other party treated him like he was invisible.
"Drink some water." Chen Yekai had brewed a cup of glucose water which he pa.s.sed to Yu Hao.
Fu Liqun had never encountered this sort of thing before. If it wasn't because he was seriously ill right before his college entrance examination and had screwed it up as a result, he wouldn't have enrolled in this third-rate college. Hearing Yu Hao's story was like viewing a whole other world up close.
Yu Hao drank some water. After he started talking, he couldn't help but want to pour his heart out and talk to Chen Yekai. By doing so, it was as if he would be able to get rid of all his pent-up resentment that had acc.u.mulated over the years.
"What happened next?" Chen Yekai asked again.
Afterwards, Yu Hao kept up a very strong guard as he completed his third year of high school. During that period, he had read a few Psychology books due to certain reasons and learnt that his personality was intrinsically linked to the environment that he grew up in. His grandmother was a very overbearing woman; she was so overbearing that his mother couldn't stand this mother-in-law of hers at all. After his father pa.s.sed away, his mother had once brought him to the East River's reservoir to play. She had given him a shovel and a small bucket, then asked him to use those tools to dig up some snails.
The reservoir was very slippery. If you weren't careful, you would slip straight into the waters.
As Yu Hao narrated this part of his past, even Chen Yekai and Fu Liqun shuddered a bit.
"Don't overthink it." Fu Liqun comforted.
Yu Hao said, "That was the intention. I didn't understand it when I was young, but when I thought about it a little after I had grown up, I could comprehend it."
Yu Hao gradually gained a better understanding of himself. But the more he understood himself, the more he wanted to seal himself off and build a wall around him. Within that wall was where he would truly be free. He had always been a man of few words, and his only relative was his old grandmother. He studied for her sake, and he took the college entrance examination for her sake as well. Sometimes, he had even thought that if it wasn't because he couldn't bear to hurt his grandmother, there may have been nothing in this world that he could feel happy about.
"How could that be?" Chen Yekai said, "Love, and friendship are all beautiful things."
"Love is truly beautiful." Yu Hao muttered to himself, "I know."
"A handsome boy like you," Chen Yekai said, "is just like the melancholy prince. You'll definitely be very popular with the girls, I'll introduce you to one another day."
"No need." Yu Hao stiffly rejected. There was one part about his past that he didn't divulge. What he hadn't told them was that: his buddy who had stolen money in junior high was the person that he had been secretly in love with. And after he sent him to the drug rehabilitation centre, he finally confessed to him. But what he got in return was a barrage of curses from a madman and vicious insults.
1. w.a.n.g Leehom is a singer who's pretty handsome i.e. Fu Liqun looks like an idol lolol
2. Tongue depressor:
3. Tongxue = student↩
4. Added connotation is that he walked in 'without consulting anyone'; this phrase is often used to describe Kaikai to make him seem more imposing I think↩
5. Shixiong = senior brother↩
6. Laoshi = teacher↩
8. A strip of Zhonghua costs about 450 Yuan, which is approx $67 USD:
9. Original phrase is 包养, which is a term commonly used to say that you're keeping someone, like a mistress. Eg. if a man 包养s a girl, he's being the sugar daddy. So in this context Hua Lun is like being the sugar daddy to his friends, but sugar daddy didn't sound exactly right either…..he's basically just buying their friendship↩
10. Translating this novel teaches me more about my culture than my Chinese teachers ever did (I apologise to all my Laoshis). Anyway, in the Warring States period, there was a common practice amongst monarchs to 'raise' spongers who had all sorts of talents. Some would know martial arts, others would know how to plot schemes etc. And amongst Meng Chang's spongers were a few people who were very good at mimicking a dog's bark and a c.o.c.k's crowing, so Meng Chang kept them. In the end, when they had to escape through some Hangu pa.s.s, it were these people who saved him and he's like "wow I keep so many talented people and it were because of these few guys who're only good at mimicking a dog's bark and a c.o.c.k's crowing that I managed to live". <- i="" don't="" think="" the="" latter="" part="" of="" this="" was="" relevant…hua="" lun="" is="" just="" collecting="" a="" group="" of="" talented="">
11. Grade 3: Severe damage to or deformity of an organ; serious functional deficiencies or complications; requiring special medical care and support; partial loss of ability to care for oneself, e.g. loss of a hand, dangerous and impulsive behaviour caused by psychotic disorders; serious disfiguration on the face; compensation for a grade 3 disability: a lump sum amount equivalent to 20 months of wages and a disability allowance paid each month and equivalent to 80% of their monthly wage↩
T/N: I'm going to tear. I'm going to cry. As I translated the last part, my heart was really squeezing as Yu Hao talked about how his mother had tried to indirectly kill him. And it feels even more real now that I'm translating it into English, because the Chinese version is much more…ambiguous. But that ambiguity couldn't be fully expressed in English, so my translated version is a little clearer. Just a heads up, this novel has many parts there are ambiguous and requires a lot of inference to understand what the author is trying to say.
This chapter was difficult to translate in a completely different sense from chapter 2………I had to stop in between because of how much my heart was aching.
IT'S OKAY HAOHAO I LOVE YOU ;__;