striking nerves & other things
When Shi Jinghui first opens the doors to the room, a boy shoves past him, storming out of it.
He considers going after Yue Yunqi, but thinks better of it. Xiu Lihua sits on the bed, covered in bandages.
“He’s upset,” Shi Jinghui starts, gentle.
“He’ll come around,” Xiu Lihua answers, stretching her limbs mildly. With a wince, she adds, “He can’t stay mad at me for long, ha, this weekend is my b—...well, he can’t stay mad at me forever.”
Shi Jinghui frowns. He crosses the room to where the drawers are, pulling one open to wordlessly rummage through the ointments.
“You can’t keep doing this,” he says.
She looks away. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“Yes, you do, Xiu Lihua,” Shi Jinghui presses, insistent, shutting the drawer. “This is by no means the first time I’ve treated you because you decided someone else’s life was more important than yours, do you know that? Or does every moment you decide to be a human shield just meld together because they’re so common?”
Xiu Lihua whips around at that, indignant. “I don’t—you have no idea what you’re talking about, Shi Jinghui—”
“I think I have a fairly good one, and enough to have a theory, maybe, that—”
″—I’ve done everything I can to stay alive this long—”
″—that you think it’s acceptable,” Shi Jinghui finishes, somber, “because you think they won’t care in the end, anyways.”
Xiu Lihua stiffens. She says nothing.
“I’m right, aren’t I?” he continues, mildly opening the ointment jar. “Ren Liufang, Qian Guozhi, Zhang Yuting, Yue Yunqi. You cared for them so much at some point, and when everything fell apart, you thought they’d never felt the same. And from there, I think—you decided that no one could ever feel the same, either. Who would care about you, right?”
Xiu Lihua’s hands balls into fists in her sheets. She stares down at them in lieu of a response.
“You’re wrong,” Shi Jinghui sits down on the bed next to her, letting out a breath. “You’re wrong, Xiu-guniang, and I say that as a friend. You can’t keep nearly dying for people that you love, and then deciding that you’re...a burden to them before they can get the chance to say that they don’t care about you.” He pauses, laying a gentle hand on hers. “You decide yourself that they don’t care about you because you don’t want to give them the chance to. But people do, Xiu Lihua. Is it so hard to believe that there’s at least one person in this world that loves you enough to ask you to stay?”
Xiu Lihua’s deathly still at that, but—her hands shake ever so slightly. After a long few moments of silence, she answers, giving a small, mirthless laugh, “It’s not like anyone ever has.”
Shi Jinghui sighs, pushing aside the jar, then turns to face her properly. He opens his arms, head tilting in question. She scoots forward, then meets him in an embrace.
“It’s bad luck to be crying the week before your birthday,” he says, patting her back consolingly as she hiccups quietly.
“Sorry,” she mumbles, watery. “You didn’t even say much, and I’m...”
He hums. “As a physician, people tend to react the most when I’ve pressed closest to the wound. We just pressed...really close to the wound, is all.”
″Yeah,” Xiu Lihua answers, laughing wetly. “That was kinda scary, Shi-yisheng.”
“Oops,” Shi Jinghui says, deadpan. They both laugh at that. And everything's not perfect, but—time heals. So long as treatment is there.