Chapter 12: Arc 1: Rural Love 12 – Be With Me
A gust of wind rushed by and there was a rustle of leaves in the hills.
By the time Li Gen reached over, the snake had already twisted its head just a moment before, biting into Huang Dan’s calf.
Sharp pain shot straight to his mind, and Huang Dan squatted down with a cry of agony.
Li Gen squeezed the snake’s seven inches1 firmly and threw it to the ground. He did not even take a breather and quickly reached out straight to Huang Dan’s trousers. He saw two bite marks on his leg and those marks were bleeding a little.
“It’s all right. It’s a tri-rope2. It’s not poisonous.”
Huang Dan was in so much pain that he fell onto the grass as he hugged his leg in his arms, his teeth gritting tightly.
Li Gen also sat down, his body exuding cold sweats. The night was too dark, almost devoid of light, and the fact that this snake had entangled with a person who was different from the norm, made him panic suddenly. He was not sure what kind of snake that was, but he was afraid that something would happen to the person, and his hands were still shaking at the moment.
“Ah, how many times do you want to frighten your Ge?”
With a sigh, Li Gen held the young man in his arms and patted him on the back with his broad and rough palms. “Bear with it, you’ll be fine soon.”
Huang Dan had a temporary moment where he was about to faint from the pain.
Li Gen sighed again. If it was someone else who had met this misfortune, he would have given them a ridiculing smile and said, “Wasn’t it just a bite? It isn’t even venomous.” But now that this happened to this person, don’t even talk about laughing, his heart was already squeezing together. “Ge will kill the snake and cook a pot of meat to make it up for you when we go back.”
Huang Dan was like a dead dog hanging in front of the man’s chest. His face was wet and cold. Cold sweat and tears mixed together and trickled down onto the man’s shoulder.
Li Gen diverted his attention and coaxed, “I heard from Zhou Zhao Di that the city has changed a lot. A movie theater has opened, there is also a discotheque. When we go there next month, Ge will take you to the movies and the disco.”
He also talked about the old hen that was in his house. Every time an order was placed, he would go out to pick eggs from its nest. Changing from one haystack to another haystack, the eggs it laid were often taken away by others.
The man’s voice poked Huang Dan’s nerve endings, and although he felt slightly better, his aching leg was still shaking.
Suddenly, Li Gen found that he felt distressed by the sound of the young man’s breathing and the vague crying coming from his throat.
That’s it. His problem was getting bigger.
After a while, Huang Dan’s pain sensation descended from the summit. He took a deep breath, turned towards one side and blew his nose.
Li Gen clicked his tongue in disdain. “Be mindful, don’t fling your mucus on my gown.”
Huang Dan sniffed. His face was green and white, so were his lips. “Ge, is the snake really not venomous?”
Li Gen saw tears on the young man’s chin and he wiped them with his thumb. “It’s true. When has your Ge lied to you?”
Huang Dan said, “You didn’t brush your teeth in the morning but you lied to me saying that you did.”
Li Gen, “…”
Huang Dan looked at the bite marks on his calf and felt the lingering trepidation. “It’s good to have you, Ge.”
Li Gen’s mouth was raised. “Glad you know.”
He pulled the young man aside and took out a black bag from the snakeskin bag.
The villageside was not as developed as the city. It could only rely on nature. Some folk matters were passed down from generation to generation and were then treated as life knowledge.
After making the decision to go to the early green hills, the group of people had dug up commonly used herbs in advance. It was not only to relieve snake venom, but also bites by unknown insects. They had washed and packed them in the bags, since just in case of any bad luck, it would be able to save lives.
Li Gen also had brought a lot. He crushed the Chinese Lobelia3 and carefully applied it to the bitten part of the young man’s calf. “Replace it when it’s dried, so that the wound will not swell up.”
Huang Dan asked, “Is the snake dead?”
Li Gen replied, “Not dead.”
Huang Dan said, “It bit me, so it’s mine.”
Li Gen’s face convulsed. He gave up. “Yes, yes, yes. What you say is what it is.”
Huang Dan’s snakeskin bag was finally not empty.
With this heart alarming episode, Li Gen let Huang Dan stick to himself and tried not to stay far apart. He twisted his eyebrows and stayed highly alert. Even if there was wind blowing or grass fluttering, he would be on guard to pull the person.
Living for decades, Li Gen had never been so worried about anyone.
Later in the night, many people ran into each other and they shared their harvest of this trip. Huang Dan didn’t catch any snakes. There were four in his snakeskin bag, all of which were caught by Li Gen.
When others learned of Huang Dan’s counts, they were all surprised. Someone said sourly, “Dong Tian you, this boy is pretty good ah. You even caught four and I only caught one. Tell us all where’ve you caught them?”
Huang Dan said that he caught two in the cracks of stones, one in the grass and one by the water.
Everyone was envious that his luck was so good. They had been searching all over the hills and dales such that their legs were almost worn out. Their gown were scraped by branches in many places. Their hands were pricked, not to mention some blood was seeping out. Looking at this man again, besides the mud and grass on his shoes, all the other places on him were clean and he even caught so many snakes.
Huang Dan was stared at by more than a dozen eyes. He looked at the man smoking by the tree.
Li Gen flicked the ashes and inquired with his gaze.
Huang Dan went over. “My mom is depending on me to catch some snakes and sell them. She will save the money to use it for my marriage next year.”
Li Gen squinted. “Thinking of woman?”
Huang Dan shook his head. “No ah.”
Li Gen remained silent as he smoked. Suddenly he started to pull at Huang Dan’s snakeskin bag. When he spoke, the cigarette in his mouth shook. “Give me back all the snakes in it.”
Huang Dan, “…”
Li Gen’s low voice that was accompanied by the smell of tobacco, dabbed onto the young man’s face. “Taking the snakes your Ge caught for you and selling them to marry a wife. Zhang Dong Tian, what you are doing makes your Ge bitterly disappointed.”
Huang Dan’s mouth curled, “I just said it, this is not what I want.”
Under the night, Li Gen’s eyes that were hidden in the smoke, were deep and complex. “Then, are you getting a wife or not?”
Huang Dan said, “Not getting.”
Li Gen’s breathing paused and he experienced a surge of uncontrollable happiness. He put his arm on the shoulder of the young man and took him into his folded arms, “Take a rest, Ge will catch two more for you.”
Huang Dan said, “Four is enough.”
Li Gen rolled his eyes. “Others are begging for even more. Are you stupid? You even think that it’s too many.”
Huang Dan pursed his lips. “The terrain on the hill is not easy to walk. It’s dangerous. In the case of encountering any venomous snakes, it would be troublesome.”
Li Gen’s heart jumped and he covered up his mood with a joking tone. “Aiyo, is this worrying about your Ge? Don’t worry, even if it’s a venomous snake, your Ge won’t have anything happening to him.”
Huang Dan frowned. “Don’t be too greedy.”
Li Gen looked at the young man’s dark eyes as if he could see his soul. He gave out a laughter after a while, “Okay, I’ll listen to you, we won’t catch snakes anymore.”
In the early green hills, almost all of the snakes were non-venomous snakes, but it did not mean that there were no venomous snakes.
At dawn, everyone captured another wave of snakes during this time period, and an accident happened. One person accidentally dropped his hand while grabbing the snake and was bitten back in return.
That was a Bamboo Leaf Green Snake4.
Others on the same route rubbed the prepared Paris Polyphylla5 and other herbs on the man’s wound in time. They even used the old generation’s method to pull out a small strand of the long hair cut from their wife. They tightened the arm of the man who was bitten, to prevent the toxin from flowing.
The man was rushed to the nearby hospital at the fastest speed. His life was saved but he could not keep his arm and it just happened to be his right arm.
Everyone broke into a cold sweat. To lack an arm meant that the family’s work would not be done easy. If the work could not be done properly, how would life go on?
When Huang Dan came back from the early green hills, he found that Li Gen was acting strange. He kept looking at him. When he caught him, he would hurriedly turn away with his ears all red.
When Huang Dan came back after fetching water from the river, he met the man halfway. He shifted away from his position but the other party did not move. He just pestled in front of him and remained quiet.
Putting the barrel on the ground, Huang Dan grasped the pole and asked, “Ge, do you have something to say to me?”
Li Gen put his hand in his pocket and held the matchbox. Ever since he came back, he always wondered what would the outcome be and what would happen to him if it was not a tri-rope but any poisonous snake that had bitten the youth that night.
Thinking about it, Li Gen felt terrified, but he was also thankful that the young man was okay.
Although he had never formally dated anyone, he was aware of what the root of his illness was, so he simply just recognized it.
Huang Dan waited. “Ge?”
Li Gen bent down and held the young man’s face in both of his hands. “Dong Tian, be with Ge, okay?”