The disgraced brother

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I blocked out from the bite, waking up hours later. When I woke up, I found myself inside a dark unfamiliar hut. It's one I've never seen before. I saw a figure and recognized Li He right away, he sat beside me, his shoulders slumped low. He's seemed relaxed despite what happened.

My leg throbbed, and I winced at the pain nagging at me. Someone bound the wound and slapped medicinal leaves to fight off the infection...and hopefully the effect of rabies.

I groaned, my entire body tight and swollen from pain. 

Li He's eyes flickered once he heard my groans, he had been awake – just incapacitated. He lifted his head and turned to me, his face expressionless as though he'd been far away somewhere else in the clouds.

I gazed at him and noticed his glassy eyes, his pupils dilated as well. I smelled the distinct waft of drugs veiled the room. Li He held a pipe in his hand, a pipe that's been lit for hours. He sucked a lungful of smoke, and I knew right then it had been opium.

Li He reached his hand to my back and helped me up. "Here," his voice held that familiar tenderness and guided his pipe to my mouth. "Take a couple puffs, it should help out with the pain."

I did, taking a few inhales of the pipe, coughing at the sensation of smoke swarming my lungs. The opiate took a few minutes to take effect, but once it did, it took over and let me escape my suffering.

Is this what Li He had been all about? Had he done nothing but spent his days sedentary, worthlessly getting high on his drugs?

"Your wife tried to feed me to the dogs." I snarled softly.

"She doesn't like you." Li He murmured.

No one had to tell me that.

"You shouldn't have come, this wouldn't have happened. What're you doing here, Hui?"

"My bad, I was worried about you."

He scoffed. "There's nothing to worry about me, go home."

"Come back with me, Li He. You're wasting away your life. " My attention wavered to the pipe held on his hand, trying not to make accusations of anything.

He laughed as though something I said amused him. He turned to me, his glassy eyes unfocused. "Wasting my life, you say? I sold my soul to the devil for you."

"What're you talking about?" I murmured.

"You were always so innocent, that's why it's so satisfying to protect you. It made me feel like I'm doing something good with my life."

"No, stop talking like I'm still a twelve-year-old little girl."

"Oh?" His eyes widened. 'You think you're all grown up now, do you?" He whispered and drew his face closer. "You think you can protect yourself now? Niang killed your baby, and almost succeeded offing you too. My wife just tried feeding you to her vicious dogs." He scoffed. "What can you do for yourself? You're helpless as a wet cat. You can't survive without anyone taking care of you."

Li He leaned away and pressed his back on his chair, he sucked another lungful of his pipe. 

"What's gotten into you, Li He? This isn't you at all."

I went ignored.

"And, where are we?" The hut appeared to be made of leaves and branches for walls, dirt for a floor and leaves stacked neatly over each other, fastened by bamboo for a roof. "Do you live here?"

Li He stretched a lazy smile. "Welcome to my home, baby sister. See how far I fell from grace?"

My mouth dropped, stunned, and angry at the same time. I don't understand, I don't understand how can Li He let himself fall so low like this. "Was this your storage?"

"Nope." He smacked his lips. "I'm not allowed there either. Jiaying kicked me out of the house a long time ago and those dogs were trained to keep me away for good." He laughed as humor found him again, Li He threw his arms out. "Thank you for helping me kill the dogs! Now, Jiaying is out of mutts to send after my ass."

"Come back to the manor then, Jiaying doesn't want you around any longer."

"No, she doesn't." He groaned and fell into silence, Li He dipped his head down and fell asleep in the middle of our conversation.

I took his pipe away from his hand and placed it by his side, watching the tendril of smoke curl up to the ceiling. Perhaps the drug is the only way he can cope with his life, the only way to calm his mind down. I don't know what's happening to him, the kind of demon he's fighting, but I could imagine Li He has worse demons he's fighting than anyone else.

I succumbed to guilt, I knew he became this way partly because of me. "Li He..." I whispered.

"Hnnn?" He moaned.

"Let's go back to the manor. I'm sure Hooney still have your position open for you."

"I can't. I'm not allowed there either." Li He coughed and his purred breaths grew loud again. Li He went back to sleep and I followed behind him. The cloud of smoke veiling the small hut kept me sedated and sleepy with him.

When I woke up that night, I was delirious with fever. The medicine Li He slapped on my leg had not taken effect fighting the infection off.

"Li He..." I moaned.

"It's okay, Hui. I'm here, I'm always here taking care of you."

He was clueless about how to take care of me, he boiled a pot filled with poppy seeds and made me drink every drop of it. I knew what he did, but I didn't stop him. I was in pain and welcomed anything that could make me feel better. Before long, I was dosing into sleep again, escaping the torture of my raging fever.

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