After taking a shower, Lin Shiyu sat on the bed and blow-dried his hair.
He had a lingering sensation that there was still a leftover food smell on his body. He blew his hair while sniffing his arms in confusion, but it seemed like there was no odor.
Mao Silu beside him was in the same situation. He applied the medicine while pinching the hem of his clothes and sniffed like a big dog, saying, “Why do I still smell?”
The dormitory door opened, and Zhong Qi and the others returned after taking a shower. Mao Silu called out to Ruan Zhikai, “Can you smell me and tell me if I still smell bad?”
Ruan Zhika put down the basin, walked over, grabbed his hair, sniffed it disdainfully for a second, and then let go. “No.”
After blow-drying his hair, Lin Shiyu put down the hairdryer, pulled up the loose collar of his short-sleeved shirt, and sniffed it again under his nose. He began to think that odor from the kitchen had messed with his sense of smell.
He looked up and saw Zhong Qi sitting in front of his desk playing with his phone, so he called out to him. “Zhong Qi.”
Zhong Qi turned his gaze toward him.
Lin Shiyu reached out his arm towards him. “Is there still a smell? If so, I’ll go wash again.”
Zhong Qi looked at him. Lin Shiyu’s expression was natural, his amber-like light brown eyes looking at him with a bit of uncertainty and doubt about his own judgment.
Zhong Qi put down his phone, raised his hand, and held his wrist.
His fingers were long and powerful, with a much deeper skin tone than Lin Shiyu’s due to their recent sun exposure. When he held Lin Shiyu’s wrist, the heat was clearly transmitted.
The slightly warm touch gently enveloped Lin Shiyu’s hand, like the drifting clouds in the night sky descending among the mountains.
In just one or two seconds, Zhong Qi released Lin Shiyu’s hand, sat upright, and picked up his phone from the desk again. “It’s gone.”
Lin Shiyu retracted his hand and pinched his slightly warm wrist. He felt a bit strange for a moment, but before he could grasp any specific thought, he felt that feeling disappear.
Lin Shiyu didn’t know how to interact with people or differentiate levels of intimacy. He never thought about it before because he had no friends and no frame of reference. However, the gesture just now was nothing out of the ordinary for interactions between boys, just like between Mao Silu and Ruan Zhikai. It was nothing different.
Feeling relieved, Lin Shiyu lay back on the bed and held his phone to message his mother.
It seemed like Lin Wanyue, who hadn’t seen him for several days, had become a little unhappy. Lin Shiyu asked a few questions in the message, and Lin Hui replied that there was no problem and told him to focus on military training. She asked how he was getting along in the dormitory and if he had been fighting with anyone.
Lin Shiyu said he hadn’t fought, and Lin Hui asked if he had made any friends. Lin Shiyu couldn’t be bothered to discuss that topic with her, so he simply replied, “No.”
The woman then started talking to him in that sighing and pitiful tone, rambling on and on, saying that he was in high school now and should make a few friends. The topic would circle back to the beginning, asking him to control his temper and not get angry so easily.
Finally, she said, “Don’t be like your father.”
Lin Shiyu forcefully ended the conversation and threw his phone aside.
The phone hit the wall, making a moderate sound. Zhong Qi looked over, but Lin Shiyu turned around, facing the wall, without saying a word.
Gao Ji stretched his neck and glanced over. “What’s wrong?”
Lin Shiyu said, “It’s nothing, I just dropped my phone.”
Since Mao Silu twisted his ankle, his training had been directly suspended. As a result, Lin Shiyu became the only direct outlet for the harsh instructor. Perhaps it was because two other people who directly challenged him appeared in his class all of a sudden, and half of the soldiers at the base were sent to search for missing students. This caused him to lose face among his comrades. Just washing dishes for a day was far from enough; he had to torment Lin Shiyu even more until he completely vented his frustration.
When Lin Shiyu was punished for the third time for not performing the military exercises properly and was sent to the playground for timed laps, someone finally couldn’t bear to watch it anymore.
Although Mao Silu couldn’t train, he still needed to sit nearby and watch. He watched helplessly as Lin Shiyu barely fought back and had already run more than ten laps. Seeing his complexion changing, Mao Silu couldn’t help but stand up anxiously and say, “Reporting to the instructor, he doesn’t seem to be feeling well.”
Instructor Chen glared at him. “Since when do you get to decide if he’s comfortable or not?”
“He, he…” Mao Silu remembered something and hurriedly said, “He has injuries on his body and can’t engage in strenuous exercise.”
“Other classes are doing fine, and here you all come one by one saying you can’t engage in strenuous exercise. Is the 7th class exceptionally delicate?” The stern instructor said sharply, “After teaching you all the military exercises for so long, if you still can’t perform properly, what’s wrong with punishing you?”
Gao Ji murmured quietly, “I think he’s doing well.”
“Who’s whispering? Do you want to go to the kitchen and wash dishes?!” the instructor sternly shouted.
Gao Ji quickly closed his mouth.
Lin Shiyu ran another five laps and returned to the side of the formation, taking a breath before saying, “Reporting.”
His voice was a bit hoarse, and sweat had soaked through his military training uniform. The color had drained from his lips, making him look somewhat pale.
Instructor Chen walked up to him. “Still being stubborn?”
Lin Shiyu adjusted his breathing, not looking at him or speaking.
Instructor Chen sneered and raised his hand, patting his chest. “I heard you got injured? Where’s the injury? Let me see.”
Lin Shiyu stood expressionless and motionless.
“Just so others won’t say I mistreat injured soldiers,” Instructor Chen sarcastically remarked. “Come on, show me the proof.”
Mao Silu nervously watched them. Even Ruan Zhikai couldn’t help but glance sideways, thinking to himself, what’s wrong with this guy named Chen? He’s always fixated on Lin Shiyu for no reason.
Under the scorching sun, the two of them stood face to face, locked in a standoff.
Instructor Chen shouted, “You can’t understand the human language, huh?!”
Lin Shiyu took a deep breath, the fire in his eyes almost reaching the face of the instructor in front of him. He clenched his fingers, suppressing his anger, and reported, “Sir! I’m not injured.”
“Oh, not injured,” Instructor Chen nodded. “Then I punished you too lightly.”
Zhong Qi listened to their conversation and furrowed his brows slightly.
“Since you’re not injured, do fifty squats, ten laps. While others go to eat, you run,” Instructor Chen issued the punishment orders. “Go!”
Lin Shiyu’s breath hadn’t calmed down yet, his face still pale. However, upon hearing the command, he didn’t say a word and just turned around.
Soon, it was lunch break, and everyone dispersed to have their meals, leaving only Lin Shiyu running on the vast playground.
Under the scorching sun, the overwhelming sunshine enveloped the earth. Lin Shiyu’s shadow ran on the heated track, monotonously running around lap after lap.
When Mao Silu hurried to the playground after getting his food, he saw that Lin Shiyu was still running.
“Shiyu, Lin Shiyu!” Mao Silu limped onto the track and shouted at the lonely figure. “Stop running, come and have your meal!”
Gao Ji also raised his voice and yelled, “Are you stupid? The instructor has already left, why are you still running?”
Ruan Zhikai looked at their figures and asked, “Are those two at odds with each other?”
“That black-hearted instructor Chen acts strange, why does he keep targeting Lin Shiyu?”
“Maybe he thinks Lin Shiyu is too stubborn and wants to break his temper?”
“You can’t break it like this. With such a scorching sun, running over twenty laps in the morning, his legs will be exhausted.”
“Shiyu!” Mao Silu approached and grabbed him. “Stop running. Look at how much you’re sweating… come and have your meal quickly.”
Lin Shiyu looked like he had been pulled out of hot water, dripping with sweat all over his body, his skin turning reddish from the sun. Without saying a word, Mao Silu grabbed him and tried to lead him away, saying, “Let’s go, you need to take a break.”
Lin Shiyu broke free from his grip, continuously panting, bending over and supporting his knees. Sweat dripped from his hairline, forming dried water stains on the plastic track.
His consciousness became somewhat blurred. The sun was too intense, causing dehydration. From his brain to every organ in his body, they were all stirred up by the rhythm of running, making him feel nauseous.
Gao Ji ran over, and bent down to pat Lin Shiyu lightly. “Don’t stay under the sun for now. Let’s go to a shaded area. Can you still walk?”
Lin Shiyu slowly straightened up, his voice dry when he spoke. “I can still walk.”
The two of them had no choice but to step back. Lin Shiyu weakly wiped off the sweat from his chin, struggling to support his legs that were almost numb, and slowly walked forward. Along the way, when Gao Ji tried to support him, he impatiently waved him away, saying, “I can walk by myself.”
“Why are you so stubborn?” Gao Ji helplessly said.
Mao Silu followed them to the side of the steel pipe, and Lin Shiyu slowly sat down, leaning his elbows on his knees, gasping for breath.
“Have something to eat.” Mao Silu handed the packed meal to Lin Shiyu, saying, “You’ve exerted too much energy.”
As soon as Lin Shiyu smelled the oily aroma of the food, he felt nauseous. He frowned and pushed the meal away, saying, “I don’t want to eat.”
“If you don’t eat, you won’t be able to train in the afternoon.”
Ruan Zhikai said from the side, “He might be feeling nauseous from running for too long.”
“What should we do then? Training will start in half an hour.”
Lin Shiyu felt annoyed. Exhaustion and dizziness screamed throughout his body. The intense pounding of his heart strained his chest, making it feel tight and suffocating. He wanted to be alone in a quiet place. His mind buzzed loudly, and his consciousness felt like it was about to fade away.
Ruan Zhikai’s voice came, “Hey, where were you just now?”
Then another low voice approached. “I went to buy something.”
Footsteps approached him, dissipating the excessive body heat and sunlight that surrounded him. The air began to circulate smoothly, bringing some relief to Lin Shiyu.
Then a shadow cast over his field of vision.
A bottle of mineral water was handed to him.
Lin Shiyu looked up and saw Zhong Qi squatting in front of him, holding a bottle of water.
Zhong Qi unscrewed the cap and handed the bottle to him, saying, “Have some. You seem a bit dehydrated.”
Lin Shiyu almost couldn’t grasp the bottle of water. He resisted the dizziness and brought the bottle to his lips, taking a slow sip.
Zhong Qi patiently waited as he drank by taking small sips, finishing about half of the bottle of mineral water. He then took out a piece of chocolate from his pocket, tore open the packaging, and broke off a piece. “Have some chocolate. It’ll help with the dizziness.”
Ruan Zhikai finally understood. “Did you just go to the convenience store to buy these?”
Zhong Qi responded with a nod.
“Your complexion still doesn’t look good.” Mao Silu sat beside them, expressing concern. “How about taking a leave in the afternoon and skipping the training?”
Ruan Zhikai sneered. “Do you think that guy surnamed Chen would agree?”
After Lin Shiyu finished eating the chocolate, Zhong Qi took out a bottle of sports drink from his pocket, unscrewed the cap, and handed it to Lin Shiyu, saying, “Drink this, and after you finish, have your meal.”
Lin Shiyu looked down at the sports drink in his hand, feeling a bit puzzled.
Gao Ji exclaimed, “Brother Qi, are you Doraemon? How can your pocket hold so many things?”
While holding the sports drink, Lin Shiyu drank slowly. Mao Silu, sitting beside him, suddenly noticed something. “Shiyu, why are your legs trembling?”
Since the beginning, Lin Shiyu’s legs had been trembling uncontrollably. Zhong Qi lowered his head and glanced at them, then suddenly reached out and held his calf.
Lin Shiyu instinctively wanted to struggle, but Zhong Qi held him down, preventing any movement.
“The sudden increase in exercise intensity is too much for your muscles,” Zhong Qi said. “When you stand up later, you might experience cramps. Let me help you massage it.”
He acted very naturally as he started to gently rub his legs while holding them down. Lin Shiyu became tense immediately and was about to say that he could do it himself, but Mao Silu eagerly put aside his meal and rolled up his sleeves while saying, “Let me help you too.”
“No, wait…” Lin Shiyu was caught off guard as the two of them started massaging his legs without hesitation. He felt both embarrassed and at a loss. “I can do it myself… be gentle, Mao Silu!”
Mao Silu’s touch was neither light nor heavy, but he still accidentally pinched Lin Shiyu’s bone, causing him to almost kick him away. Mao Silu quickly released his leg and apologized.
“Let go.” Lin Shiyu tried to push away Zhong Qi’s hand. This time, although he was refusing, his tone was no longer as rigid as before. “…I can do it myself.”
Lin Shiyu’s legs were thin, and Zhong Qi’s palm was large with long fingers. When he held Lin Shiyu’s legs, he could almost wrap his hand around his calf.
When his palm covered them, he could feel the slight tremor of muscles and skin through the thin fabric.
Zhong Qi let go, stood up, and stepped back, creating a safe distance between them once again.
Edited by: Jaisland