Chapter 23: Training Camp II
Translated by Shiya of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
The water in the mountains was clean, it was natural and unpolluted. As the location of the pond was surrounded by trees, very little sunlight could reach it, so the temperature of the water was just as low as the underground ones. The four of them submerged in the chilling water for a while, and soon their anger and hotheadedness were all gone; it was comforting and refreshing, in no time they felt like they had recovered most of their strength.
Li Sui stared at the reflection of his scars on the rippling water. They were once his deepest, darkest secrets, but now, he had made his peace with those memories; they were now merely a part of his life experiences. Li Sui couldn’t remember how long ago the nightmares had stopped, but ever since the familiar warmth of Lu Shang appeared, Li Sui’s dreams were never plagued by anyone else again.
In the ancient times, people would take a new name to purge illnesses and curses, some would also use it to flee from their fate. Li Sui always wondered if perhaps the one who bestowed him with a new name also blessed him with a new life.
“The water is so refreshing. Wang Wei, are the vines usable?”
Wang Wei swam over, he grabbed one and pulled on it, “Should be fine, but there are spikes on it.”
“Who is the lightest? Test the vines out first.”
After SiMa JingRong finished the sentence, SiMa Yan who was beside him paused a bit before realizing who he was referring to. He glanced at SiMa JingRong with a not-so-pleased face, but he still swam to the waterfall understandingly. He grabbed a piece of vine, and encircling the vine on his arm, he swiftly pulled himself out of the water using the vine as support.
SiMa Yan was thin and slim, and he was agile—it was as if he were a veteran climber. Li Sui neared the small waterfall carefully, raising his head to examine it. Looking on dry land, the waterfall didn’t seem tall. When Li Sui got closer, he noticed that the rocks were all covered in moss. If one wasn’t capable enough, it would be impossible to even set foot on the rocks. Luckily, beneath the vines and rocks there was a pond, so even if they fell, it wouldn’t cause any serious damage.
“Take it slowly.” Wang Wei stared at SiMa Yan with a hanging heart, though he wasn’t worried that SiMa Yan would fall. As these rocks were under constant stress from the flowing water, some of them might be loose, it looked like they could fall down anytime.
SiMa Yan was quite steady on his feet, and his legs were strong as well; very quickly, he reached the top part of the rocks. The higher he got, the heavier the water became, so his vision was also hindered. The soaked shirt stuck to his skin, Li Sui looked up and noticed that his lower legs were trembling slightly.
“What’s wrong? Don’t push yourself, if you can’t, then come back down.” Li Sui swam closer to where he was at, so he could help if anything happened.
SiMa Yan rubbed the water on his face away; he said something, but it was covered up by the sound of the rushing water. He wrapped his arm in another thicker vine, then with one push from his right leg, he climbed up another meter or so, he was almost at the top.
But just at that moment, SiMa JingRong who was quiet all this time suddenly screamed, his voice unexpectedly tinted with worry, “Rocks! Quick! Let go!”
Right after the warning, a piece of loosened rock fell down along with the water, it was dropping directly towards SiMa Yan’s head.
At the same time, SiMa Yan clicked his tongue. He loosened his grip on the vine, then placed his feet on a piece of rock, pushing himself outwards. He landed in the pond bellow on his back.
A circle of water splashed up. Li Sui quickly swam over and dived in to pull SiMa Yan up.
“Cough……” SiMa Yan was choking on the water, his face red as he coughed, lying on Li Sui.
“Are you okay?” Wang Wei went over as well.
SiMa Yan was coughing so much that he couldn’t even speak, so he just waved his hand to show he was fine.
“Let’s get out of the water first.” Li Sui said in concern.
He was soaked in water; his T-shirt and shorts were all wet. Perhaps he was shocked, his face was pale, he was a bit like a wet baby bird, and it was quite gut-wrenching. That was when Li Sui noticed, SiMa Yan was seriously thin, perhaps even lighter than most girls his age.
“I was almost there…” SiMa Yan stepped out from his vigorous coughing, he said, feeling dejected.
“Safety first,” Li Sui patted his shoulder.
“Don’t try to steal the limelight, if you can’t do it.” SiMa JingRong said as he handed SiMa Yan a dry change of clothes.
SiMa Yan didn’t take the clothes, he laughed coldly, “You are quite disappointed that the rock didn’t injure me, aren’t you?”
SiMa JingRong did not refute this time, on his face was something that looked a lot like guilt. That was unexpected; Li Sui and Wang Wei stared at each other, both had shock written all over their faces. It seemed like the siblings’ relationship was not as rocky as they had originally thought.
“I took a peep before I jumped down.” SiMa Yan dried his face, then he stood up. Pointing at the waterfall, he said, “Up there is a pool, beside it are some trees. I’m not sure if there are watermelons up there though.”
When SiMa Yan put it like that, it reminded Li Sui. If there was a pool up there, it means the ground above would collect water very easily. The soil would subsequently be sticky, could watermelons grow in soil like that?
“Fuck. That trainer is toying with us?”
Li Sui had a better grasp of the situation now, that calmed him, he said after sitting down, “It makes sense that he’d toy with us.”
Though he was never in the army, he knew how much they valued order and discipline. People who ignored the rules so blatantly, then showed absolutely no remorse, would naturally be punished as an example for others.
The trainer’s whistling reached them from afar; judging from the sounds, the other must had started their morning training. SiMa Yan sank his feet into the water, “We can skip the trainings, that’s even better. Who wants to be there?”
Losing Lu Shang’s face the first day here, Li Sui didn’t feel good about that, the only one who could possibly help him persuade them was Wang Wei. Yet, his only hope was sitting by the water, not budging, with eyes shut—he was asleep again.
“Since we can’t find it anyway, maybe we should go back and report to the trainer. If he wants to punish us, then there’s no escape.” Li Sui tried persuading them.
Just hearing the word punishment made SiMa JingRong quit. Back at home, he was the master of the house, everyone obeyed him. Not flipping out at the trainer was already the best he could do, now you want him to go receive punishment obediently? That was absolutely out of the question.
“I’m not going to go back, see what he’s going to do about it.”
SiMa Yan was quiet, but on his face, you could see that he was unwilling as well. Li Sui knew in his heart that these two were rich kids, his words wouldn’t be enough to change them from their habits, so he gave up. Now, he was even more aware of how far apart he was from Lu Shang, no matter the situation, that person’s words seemed to have an absolute effect on others, it was as if his leadership skills were innate and that no one will ever doubt his decisions.
They played with the water leisurely, looking at the shadows under the sun turn from long to short, then long again. At the beginning they fooled around, splashing water at each other, but as time passed by, they just laid on the ground exhaustingly. They were out of options, they were on an empty stomach, without food, they lacked strength. They were all growing males, just missing a single meal was unbearable, plus, a certain someone thought the meals in the cafeteria tasted horrible, so he didn’t even move his chopsticks last night.
“Are we going to stay in the water for the whole day? If we don’t go back, we won’t make it to dinner,” Wang Wei said.
Due to his experiences in earlier years, Li Sui was already quite well-versed in the starving department, but even he felt weak on his limbs. It was imaginable what state pampered big and small SiMas were in.
When they first arrived at the campsite, SiMa JingRong brought snacks, but his father somehow caught wind of it. The next day, he ordered the vice-captain to confiscate everything, he even reminded all the servants not to bring them anything again. At this critical moment, they were reminded how the whole drawer of cup noodles, chocolates, and biscuits were forever out of their reach. SiMa JingRong’s face turned grim, he said, “But that trainer is obviously just playing us, we have to come up with something to get past him.”
Li Sui looked at the setting sun at a distant, he stood up and batted away the dust on his trousers, “You guys go back to the dormitory, I’ll go take the punishment myself.”
“We can’t have that.” Wang Wei immediately stood up.
With a piece of grass between his lips, SiMa JingRong sighed, “Li Sui. You’re great in every aspect, but you’re too obedient.”
Li Sui didn’t know what to reply with. SiMa JingRong crawled up from the ground, arching down, he searched the ground for a while. Scratching up a small green germinating seed, his eyes glowed, “I got it!”
“What is that?” Wang Wei asked.
“Watermelon sprout? This thing is smaller than a bean, how do you know it’s a watermelon sprout?”
SiMa JingRong smiled proudly, “Who say this isn’t a watermelon sprout?”
“You go scam people, don’t pull us down.” SiMa Yan didn’t take him seriously.
SiMa JingRong giggled in front of them, revering the little thing in his hands, “Don’t worry. Your brother will lead you to food and spice.”
Most of the attendees had left the training ground already, only two males were left, they were doing planks, it seemed like they were being punished as well. The trainer was standing straight beside the two, in his hand was a stopwatch.
“Trainer! We found it!” SiMa JingRong ran over as if he was presenting a great treasure.
The trainer looked grisly, he stared at them coldly.
“Here. Watermelon,” SiMa JingRong took his hands out while smiling brightly.
On his hands, there were some black dirt and a sprout; the trainer stared at the thing as if he just saw an alien species. He couldn’t formulate a single sentence. With this, not only Li Sui, everyone was having cold sweats, they had a feeling the trainer was going to roundhouse kick SiMa JingRong out of the solar system.
“Watermelon?” The trainer’s expression swung back and forth, like he wanted to laugh but was also mad, “The watermelons at your house look like this?”
SiMa JingRong shifted from his usual chipper-self to a serious-looking face, “Trainer! This might not be a full-grown watermelon, but it is a watermelon sprout. It’s only too small now, so you couldn’t differentiate its species. Once it’s all grown up, you will see the watermelon.”
The trainer was too angry that he laughed, “How do you prove that this is a watermelon sprout and not some random thing you found to trick me?”
SiMa JingRong said with a serious face, even though he was obviously pointing at a deer and calling it a horse (i), he said, “Easy. We can plant it here now. When it grows up, we will know, won’t we?”
T/N: (i) There’s a four characters idiom that says, “pointing at a deer and calling it a horse”, it means people who are blatantly bending the truth, also used to express how a person is stupid or lack independent thinking.
When this sprout would be fully grown, they’d be long gone from the campsite. Hearing their conversation, Li Sui couldn’t help but have a little bit of admiration for SiMa JingRong. Though this person seldom did anything useful, Li Sui had to admit that his thought process was extremely flexible, and it went in a completely different direction than anyone else’s. Another point was that he was extremely thick-skinned.
This was the biggest difference between them. SiMa JingRong was used to being lazy, and he had grown to think out of the box for that purpose. Others’ rules and customs were like garbage in his eyes, as long as he could reach his goals, anything was possible.
For Li Sui it was different; before he learned how to enjoy his life, he learned how to follow orders and rules. If he did not obey, he would starve, get beaten or worse. He had the subconscious habit of locking himself up with others’ rules. This point included Lu Shang, so when Lu Shang asked him not to leave his sights, he never left. Lu Shang only asked him to warm his bed, so that was all he did, he never crossed the line.
T/N: Ahem. Throwback to the numerous times when you kissed him while he was asleep.
Standing here, Li Sui suddenly realized, for all this time, he was like a person who only knew how to walk inside set walls. What SiMa JingRong said reminded Li Sui to look at the scenery outside these walls. The gate in his heart, locked for 18 years, finally showed signs of opening, on a crimson dusk such as today.
The trainer’s face was black, it was obvious he was mad, but after a long hard brainstorming, he didn’t come up with anything to refute. Without any choice, he just made them run a few laps, then let them off to have dinner.
“Li Sui. Where are you drifting off to?” After they got out from the cafeteria, SiMa JingRong asked him from behind.
“Nothing, I’m just thinking, what if the sprout grew too fast. Before we left the campsite, it grew into something that was definitely not a watermelon.”
“Ha. And I was wondering what you were thinking about.” SiMa JingRong waved his hand, “I can just come out to stomp the sprout tonight. Dead things don’t talk, what can they do to us then?”
“Oh my. Maybe I ate too much just now.” SiMa JingRong slapped his own stomach, then he leaned onto Li Sui, “Good little brother, carry your bro back, would you?”
Li Sui swapped his hand away in disgust, “What’s wrong with you?”
“I’m a bit dizzy and nauseous.”
Li Sui looked at SiMa JingRong; his face was slightly red, it didn’t look like he was pretending. He reached out to test his temperature, then he said in shock, “You have a fever?!”
As Li Sui gasped, both Wang Wei and SiMa Yan turned their heads over to them, “What’s wrong?”
“Did you get a cold from being in the water for too long?”
“How long were we there? It’s so hot today. Even SiMa Yan is fine, am I the kind of person that would get a cold that easily?”
SiMa Yan ignored him, he pulled down the collar of his T-shirt. His face turned pale, “What is this on your neck?”
On his skin were rashes, there were insect bites after insect bites, all swelling. SiMa JingRong looked down, then he said nonchalantly, “These are just the mosquito bites from last night, all of you were bitten too, right?”
SiMa Yan pulled up his own sleeve, the swelling from bites were mostly healed, only small red dots were left. Li Sui was even better; he couldn’t even see the bites anymore.
“We have the same blood type; our health condition should be similar too.” SiMa Yan frowned, “The medicinal spray, did you use it?”
The second he mentioned it, everyone remembered. Last night after they got bitten, all of them except SiMa JingRong applied the spray, he didn’t take the spray because he was tired.
“To the nurse’s office.” SiMa Yan grabbed SiMa JingRong’s arm and began pulling him there.
“How stupid? I just got bitten by mosquitoes, I’m not going to the nurse’s office for something so tiny.” SiMa JingRong swung his hand away in annoyance.
As an outsider, Li Sui couldn’t just butt into their affairs, Li Sui tried persuading SiMa JingRong, seeing that it didn’t work, he stopped. Li Sui had some medicine for fevers in the little box Lu Shang prepared for him, so if anything, he could at least give SiMa JingRong those.
At night, they still need to run laps and take lectures, as Li Sui and the others slacked off for the entire day, they still had a lot of strength left, so they managed to finish the laps without much fuss. The others were less fortunate, their tortured muscles were protesting hard, they could barely walk much less run. The only two girls in the camp straight up cried, while the trainer ignored them.
There was no water supply at night, Li Sui took the bucket of water he got earlier in the day and took a cold shower. The second he got out of the bathroom, he saw SiMa JingRong lying face down on the bed, not moving an inch.
“Wake up. Go take a shower already.” Li Sui pushed him a few times, seeing that he still did not budge, he tried taking his temperature. SiMa JingRong didn’t have a fever anymore, but his body temperature seemed lower than average now.
SiMa Yan happened to finish his shower as well, he walked out and saw them, “How is he?”
“His body temperature is a bit low.” Li Sui opened up his medicine box. There were pills for fever inside, but SiMa JingRong didn’t have a fever anymore, so Li Sui wasn’t sure if he could give him those pills.
“There’s something I’m not sure whether I should say…” Wang Wei was sitting on his bed while reading a book, he pushed his glasses and said, “His fluctuating body temperature and mosquito bite made me wonder… could he have gotten malaria?”
The second he finished talking, SiMa Yan’s face turned pale. He pulled out SiMa JingRong’s tablet from the bed, and he searched the book gallery for information; the more he read, the worse his complexion became. The disease might not be common in the city, but in the mountains like here, it wasn’t uncommon. Plus, the more he looked at the symptoms, the more alike they sounded. SiMa Yan pushed SiMa JingRong again, the latter was either asleep or had fainted, because he still gave no reaction at all. He was scared now, he called out to him a few times, even Wang Wei and Li Sui got worried. If it was really malaria, then they had to send him to the hospital immediately, the disease could be deadly if he didn’t get treatment in time.
“I’ll bring him to the nurse’s office.” SiMa Yan lugged SiMa JingRong onto his shoulder, then he started running immediately.
He looked scrawny and thin; Li Sui wasn’t sure where that strength came from. The entire weight of a grown man was on SiMa Yan’s shoulders, just looking at the scene was hard enough, so it was imaginable how heavy it would be for SiMa Yan. Li Sui was going to help him, but Wang Wei stopped him, he also made a pose that meant “be quiet”, as he said, “Shhh”.
Li Sui was confused, but Wang Wei just smiled, “It will be fine.”
The nurse’s room was quite far away from the dormitory, the roads were harsh as well. SiMa Yan still pulled his brother all the way to the nurse’s room, when he finally put SiMa JingRong down, he felt like he was going to faint.
“Doctor. It’s an emergency!”
The on-duty doctor was an old man, he looked like a veteran. After hearing SiMa Yan’s description, he first comforted SiMa Yan, then he pulled out the stethoscope, pressing it on SiMa JingRong’s stomach and listening. Finally, he wrote a prescription, handing it to SiMa Yan, he asked him to go take the medicine at the Pharmacy room next door.
“This is it?” SiMa Yan frowned as he looked at the paper, “Malaria could be treated with just some pills?”
“What malaria?” the doctor laughed. “It’s just heatstroke and indigestion.”
SiMa Yan was still worried, he asked again, “Are you sure? You didn’t examine him wrong, did you? You’re sure he doesn’t have malaria?”
“Do you want me to have malaria that badly? What are you plotting…” SiMa JingRong woke up, he sat on the sofa with droopy eyes.
SiMa Yan turned his head back, he saw his brother’s complexion was looking a lot better now. He also had a teasing kind of expression on his face; that made SiMa Yan boil up, he immediately felt like he was tricked, he said furiously, “Are you sick? I’ve called you so many times and you heard nothing?!”
“Oh, you called me. Well, sorry. I was too tired and didn’t hear you.” SiMa JingRong rubbed his eyes, he looked around and finally realized where he was. Then he scanned the room, SiMa Yan was the only person in the room he was familiar with, Li Sui and Wang Wei were nowhere to be seen. Without much effort, SiMa JingRong deduced that the only person who could’ve brought him here was the person in front of him, the person who had anger written all over his face.
SiMa JingRong was a bit startled, on his face was a rare expression of awkwardness, “Did you carry me here?”
“A ghost carried you here!” SiMa Yan threw a coat on his head, then stomped out of the room angrily.