Devil’s WarmthChapters List
Chapter 10: Sulking
The New Year arrived with the sound of firecrackers.
It was the happiest time for children as in the C-City, it snows during this time every year.
Outside was paved with silver-white snow, while Chen Hu was beaten up by his bad-tempered father, who held him down after reading his paper.
Chen Hu scored only 50 marks and was at the bottom of their preschool class.
Little Fatty was wailing like a pig on slaughter and was almost heard by the entire neighborhood. Zhao Zhilan shook her head, somewhat amused, she said, “This child’s voice is too loud and piercing.”
The New Year became a get-out-of-jail card for little kid Chen Hu. He was deprived of his new year red packet, but at least his grumpy dad didn’t beat him up anymore.
Chen Hu took a group of kids from the community out to play. Six or seven boys followed him in a mighty manner. Two of them were about two years older than him, just they were not as robust as him.
Li Da said, “Let’s go find Minmin.”
Chen Hu thought, “We are going to catch birds and set off firecrackers. We are not gonna play with girls.” Yet thinking again about Fang Minjun’s beautiful and noble appearance, he agreed, “All right, let’s go find her.”
All the boys in the old neighborhood were here now except Pei Chuan. The construction and features were particularly old here, and it was a bit like a large compound. However, the floors were a bit higher.
The south wall would have been full of creepers in the summer, but now it was caked with ice crystals.
It was especially easy for them to find someone. They stood downstairs and shouted at the top of their lungs, “Fang Minjun-”
The children’s voices echoed downstairs, and after shouting Fang Minjun, Chen Hu remembered that he had eaten Bei Yao’s apple. So he continued to shout with everyone, “Bei Yao-”
The clear and tender voices were heard throughout the neighborhood.
Pei Chuan was wrapping dumplings with his mother Jiang Wenjuan in the opposite building, as Jiang Wenjuan just wanted him to have something to play with. After all, Pei Chuan finished his winter vacation homework in just two days. However, other children won’t take the initiative to bring a “burden” to play with him. So Jiang Wenjuan was very sad, but she could only spend some time with her son by herself.
Pei Chuan’s eyes were downcast, and his pale fingers were pinching the folds of the dumpling, which looked like a model. He was always like this, learning everything really quickly.
Seeing him like this, Jiang Wenjuan was even more uncomfortable. When Pei Chuan came back from school and gave his paper in their hands, she cried under the blanket for half the night with her muffled voice. Pei Chuan was the only one in the preschool class who got one hundred percent. Her son was so smart and excellent, but he was deprived of his legs, which ruined most of his life.
Pei Chuan, who was seriously making dumplings, heard the echoing voice from downstairs to call Bei Yao, and his hands subconsciously pinched the skin of the dumpling causing it to break slightly.
His black eyes looked at it faintly and pinched that gap again.
Jiang Wenjuan had been observing him and noticed it at once. No children would take the initiative to play with Pei Chuan. After all, children were like brisk birds, they couldn’t push, and they wouldn’t be willing to push a heavy wheelchair and take Pei Chuan with them.
Jiang Wenjuan was afraid that her son would feel bad, “No more dumplings, mommy will take you outside to play, okay?”
Pei Chuan’s lips parted, but he again closed his mouth. He wanted to refuse. However, in the end, he didn’t say anything. At the age of five, he still had expectations and yearnings for the world, and he also wanted to go out and see the snow.
Jiang Wenjuan washed her hands and pushed Pei Chuan out of the house.
A hundred meters or so towards the north of the neighborhood, there was a teahouse and a smell of smoke was dispersing around in the air. People would usually come to play mahjong here.
Jiang Wenjuan wasn’t going to play mahjong. She was just pushing Pei Chuan to show the fun, and children would also be playing around.
The tall cypress tree was covered with snow, and the children were laughing underneath it.
Pei Chuan’s wheelchair was placed aside and someone in the teahouse greeted, “Dr. Jiang has come over to play, ah?” A light gaze drifted over to Pei Chuan, and that person also called out to Xiao Chuan with pity.
“Yeah, you guys play. I’ll just take a look.”
Pei Chuan’s gaze crossed over the cypress tree and landed on the little girl, who stood there covering her eyes.
Bei Yao was wearing her red jacket. Her two small hands covered her eyes tightly, and Chen Hu was leading Fang Minjun to hide in the alley. The little girl cried out in her clear voice, “3, 2, 1...I’m coming to find you!”
She smiled and let go of her hand, but the first thing she saw was the eyes of the boy in the wheelchair.
He was the first to avert his eyes.
Bei Yao’s eyes lit up. She still couldn’t understand the little secret written by her in the notebook, yet it didn’t prevent her from getting close to Pei Chuan. She wanted to talk to him, but Pei Chuan hadn’t paid much attention to her for the entire semester. Besides, now she had to go to find Chen Hu and the other children with her short legs first.
Chen Hu was lost, she couldn’t find him. He took everyone into the warehouse next to the teahouse, which was filled with piles of nylon bags.
The kids squatted inside, and Bei Yao could never find them in the middle of nowhere.
She had a good temper. She searched around, tired, and panting. She lifted the drapes and grass to see, there was nothing inside. While Pei Chuan indifferently looked at this all.
The cypress tree fluttered and snow fell on the girl’s face.
The cold snow touched her warm skin and melted away, and then became water flowing over her cheeks. She looked embarrassed to hide out, and her apricot eyes were moist as if she was bullied to cry.
Pei Chuan’s fingers fastened on the wheelchair, and waited for a long time for Bei Yao to pass by him, he whispered, “Warehouse.”
The voice was very light. However, it sounded raspy and rusty like pulling out a hard silk thread buried in the snow for a long time.
Bei Yao stayed and looked back at him blankly. His face was cold as if he hadn’t said anything.
She turned and walked over to the warehouse and flipped through the nylon bags with her small hands. There was indeed a row of children squatting down.
Chen Hu was momentarily confused at the sight of Little Bei Yao’s smiling face, then burst into a roar, “Bei Yao, you must have peeked!”
“I didn’t peek.”
“I don’t believe it, you’re cheating!”
The little fatty was like a cannonball shot from its shell. Li Da looked at the helpless and bewildered little Bei Yao and asked, “Who did you see first?”
Pei Chuan’s eyes looked through the open warehouse door.
Bei Yao looked at the aggrieved little fatty, who was about to weep with anger. She said softly, “I didn’t see anyone.”
She thought to herself, she was a girl with third-grade memories, she can’t bully kids.
She covered her eyes, “You guys hide.”
Chen Hu was relieved and scampered away. Fang Minjun also hurried to keep up, and all the children scattered to hide.
Pei Chuan pursed his lips tightly, his heart was depressed, ‘Is he being nosy?’
They didn’t bring him along to play in the first place, so he shouldn’t have said that.
Bei Yao let go of him and went to look for the other kids. He looked at Bei Yao coldly, then his pale fingers pulled Jiang Wenjuan’s hem, “Mom, let’s go home.”
Bei Yao saw Auntie Jiang pushing Pei Chuan away, and her almond eyes blinked while thinking, what’s wrong? She hadn’t said thank you yet.
Zhao Zhilan was playing mahjong with Zhao Xiu at the teahouse. Zhao Xiu had a bad day and kept hitting Zhao Zhilan. She was upset and drank hot water before saying, “Next year, my Minmin and Zhilan’s Yaoyao will also be in the first grade together. This child is growing up really fast.”
The mahjong was rattling, and Zhao Zhilan measured her cards well while saying, “Yes.”
“Zhilan ah, don’t be discouraged. If Yaoyao really can’t keep up with the progress, she can study for one more year at preschool. She’s young anyway.”
Zhao Zhilan was confused, “What are you talking about?”
“Didn’t Yaoyao do poorly on her final exam? I heard she just got passing marks. Don’t rush up, I’d say it’s more important to have a solid foundation. I was thinking the same thing about Minmin. I told Minmin if she doesn’t do well in the exams, she will have to study another year. But once she came back with the paper, I got to know that our Minmin passed with a score of 90 marks, so it should be fine to continue studying in the first grade.”
Zhao Zhilan could pretty much hear the gist of the story. She looked askance at Zhao Xiu, “Who told you that my Yaoyao just passed?”
Zhao Xiu thought to herself, pretend, you just pretend, ah!
Zhao Zhilan grabbed the cards and beamed with joy as she told them, “Yaoyao was very good this year. She was only one mark away from getting 100 percent, she got 99!”
Zhao Xiu was stunned.
The other two women at the poker table raised their heads in surprise and praised, “Yo, this kid has a good future.”
Zhao Xiu’s face changed, “Zhao Zhilan, you don’t have to make this up to trick people, do you?”
“Do I have to lie to you? If you don’t believe me, go ask Teacher Yu ah, the teacher has the score records there.”
Zhao Xiu also understood this. Such a lie could be debunked at once, and that Zhao Zhilan wouldn’t be stupid enough to use this to trick her. So it meant that little girl Bei Yao really scored 99?
Zhao Xiu thought of what she had just said and felt ashamed. However, the other two women at the table winked at each other. They looked at Zhao Xiu with strange eyes and then praised Zhao Zhilan’s daughter for her intelligence and cleverness.
The first time Zhao Zhilan beat Zhao Xiu since she was a child. She was so angry that smoke was about to rise from her eyes.
She was both ashamed and aggrieved. She quit the game of Mahjong. She now only wished to catch Fang Minjun, who was playing outside, to ask her what was going on.
This year went quickly, and it was a great time for the kids.
Eating candy and melon seeds and watching TV could be a bliss. Bei Yao was happy every day, but sometimes she would look at the house across the street, with her chin in her little hand, and would wonder why she hadn’t seen Pei Chuan out to play today.
Fang Minjun was scolded by her mother and cried so hard that she sobbed and argued, “90 are a lot of marks, and Chen Hu got only 50!”
“I want you to win against Bei Yao!”
“Mom, I’ll do it well next time.” She sobbed, “Except for Bei Yao, I scored the best in the class.”
Zhao Xiu thought about it and found it right. Fang Minjun at least got 90, the rest of the kids in the community were a bunch of monkeys. The only one whose score she didn’t know of, was the kid with broken legs in the Pei family. But how well could a kid like that be expected to do? Maybe he even failed the exam.
Zhao Xiu poked Fang Minjun’s head, “Work hard after the New Year, okay?”
Fang Minjun quickly rattled and nodded her head.
At the beginning of spring, the classes began to read the content of the next semester. The time of childhood always passes away happily.
In Xiao Bei Yao’s eyes, Fang Minjun was still aloof and cold, fatty Chen Hu’s sharp voice would still pierce through the ears, and Pei Chuan sitting in the corner did not take the initiative to speak to her again. It was as if the day when he whispered to her in the warehouse was all her illusion.
In the last month of preschool, the school enacted a policy of canceling the preschool exams.
Children like Chen Hu were overjoyed, and their cheerful cries almost pierced through the roof of the class.
The rest of the kids were happy to know that they didn’t have to take the final exam. Only Fang Minjun thought forlornly, if there were no more exams, how would she surpass Bei Yao in the first grade?
It was already summer. When Teacher Yu Qian was sending these children away, she looked at them. They all looked like newborn seedlings, each one of them was young and tender.
She didn’t know what they would become when they grow up, or where they would go.
She waved her hand to the children, “Come on, kids!”
From knowing nothing to already understanding the rules, the children all answered well.
Pei Chuan was now six years old.
His legs didn’t “grow back as he grows up” like his mother said. He would look at the mutilated ones every night before going to bed, but they didn’t grow back at all.
Before he went to the first grade, he had heard Jiang Wenjuan and Pei Haobin fighting.
Jiang Wenjuan sneered, “There is no teacher in first grade who can help Xiao Chuan to go to the bathroom anymore!”
“I told you, I’d ask the teacher and give them a gift to help Pei Chuan!”
“You can gift them in the first grade, then what about after that? What about the fifth or sixth grade of elementary school! What about junior high and senior high? Can you do this forever? I’ll find a hospital to put a prosthetic leg on Xiao Chuan, and I’ll get him back on his feet even if I lose everything!”
“Xiao Juan, don’t be impulsive, Xiao Chuan is still too young…”
Pei Chuan looked at his empty pant legs.
Actually, he wanted to say that he hadn’t asked his teacher to help him go to the toilet since kindergarten.
However, he didn’t say anything. He didn’t know what a “prosthetic leg” was, but he understood “get back on your feet”.
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