When Li Du was discharged, April had arrived.
Hans stopped ridiculing him. His cold had lasted for a week, which was much longer than they had expected. If Li Du continued in that state, Hans had planned to send him to a national hospital.
Li Du was hoping to transfer to Saint John Red Cross Hospital, but considering that Sophie was a specialist, his sickness was not in her field, so he gave that hope up.
Hannah came every day to visit and provide him meals. She was the most self-reliant. Rose disliked housework, while Hans wouldn't even eat the food he cooked for himself.
As for his cold, Hannah said, puzzled, "You haven't gotten a cold in the half a year you have lived in Flagstaff; why was this one so bad?"
Li Du was sensitive enough to pick up on the implication of her question, and asked, "What the h*ll kind of look is that? Stop making fun of me—I was just drenched in the rain!"
Hans laughed and didn't say anything. He waited until Hannah left before pulling a chair over and sitting down.
"What?" Li Du could sense that his attitude was different.
Hans said, "I have something I need to tell you. Prepare yourself. Since I think you have a big heart, I bet you won't be bothered, but this kind of thing…"
"Don't beat around the bush like a sissy! Spit it out!"
"Okay—because you were down with a cold for so long, the treasure hunters spread rumors that you weren't down with a common cold, but that you contracted HIV and have AIDS."
"Huh?" Li Du was stunned. "AIDS? Which piece of sh*t made that up? Who the hell would be so vicious?"
To hear Hans say this so seriously made Li Du believe it was clearly a big issue. If not, he would have said it as a joke.
Hans said, "Don't be afraid, you're not infected…"
"Of course I'm not infected—I'm still a virgin!" Li Du furiously interrupted. "How the hell would I have contracted HIV?"
As he had not fully recovered, he started coughing due to his raised emotions.
Ah Meow nimbly ran over with a paper cup in its mouth that was half-filled with water.
Hans gestured to him to stay calm. "I know you're not infected. In fact, the hospital had speculated such in the preliminary stages of your stay. Because with such a serious cold, it showed that your immune system had some problems."
The HIV virus that leads to AIDS was not directly harmful to person's life, but it would slowly destroy the immune system. Once that immune system was destroyed, the person would have no protection against foreign organisms.
If the common cold virus infected a normal person, it would be cleansed by their immune system within a few days. But when an AIDS patient was infected, it would become a heavy cold and then worsen into meningitis, pneumonia,...and could ultimately lead to death.
"The hospital tested you for HIV and found that there were no issues; just that your CD4 and CD8 immunity cells were low. Of course, after treatment, you're healthy again."
"CD4 and CD8? What are they?" Li Du was confused.
Hans gave him an expression that said: "You're really a bumpkin."
"They are the crucial immunity cells within the immune system. But that's not what's important. Anyway, you're healthy now."
Li Du knew, of course, that he was healthy. But other people might not think so.
On the second of April, the skies were clear. After the storm, Flagstaff had warmed up; it was full of lush greenery, and flowers bloomed all over.
In the morning, Li Du was about to go out for a walk, when he received a call from the owner of Phoenix Steampunk Hostel.
On the phone, Ironman Bedes first inquired about his health, and then said, "Li, don't lose faith in life. AIDS is actually not that scary. I have an old friend that has carried the virus for over 20 years. He knows a lot about this. Do you need me to introduce him to you?"
Li Du said helplessly, "Bedes, I don't know where you heard these rumors, but I don't have AIDS!"
"Ah? D*mn it, did someone spread this rumor? Then I'm sorry—I thought that it was unlikely you would have contracted AIDS. Enjoy the sun; see ya, buddy."
This call made him realize the gravity of the situation. When nighttime arrived, Li Du called Hans over. "Bring me to a treasure hunter's bar."
Hans said hesitantly, "I thought you didn't like going to bars."
"I'm curious, alright?" Li Du said.
"Sure, you're my brother. I'll back you up. Let's go."
The bar Hans drove to was near the foot of the hill where Li Du found Ah Meow. That was the red-light district of Flagstaff, with many bars around.
The place they went to was called "Primal Desires." The atmosphere was wild and rough. The bar, chairs, and tables were made of granite and basalt. The ornaments were made from wood, and there was a simple rock painting on the wall.
Hans said, "The owner is a smart man. Treasure hunters are often ill-mannered men. They start fights after having too much to drink and frequently destroy the furniture. But with granite, they are fine."
"Why not make whoever damages the furniture pay up?'"
Hans laughed. "You're naïve. First, do you think these rednecks would have the money to pay? Secondly, cleaning up and refurbishing—wouldn't that waste a lot of time?"
The bar was noisy, and the thick smell of alcohol lingered in every corner.
A woman dressed provocatively was pushing herself through the crowd, with people constantly touching her breasts and butt. Women's shrieks, men's vulgar laughter, flirting sounds; these resonated around their ears endlessly.
"Such a mess," Li Du lamented.
But Hans liked this sort of chaotic environment. The moment he entered, he started moving his body to the beat.
People soon noticed him, and called out, "Big Fox, why aren't you taking care of that poor guy in his bed? What brings you here?"
"Ha! He must have gotten tired of the kid's hole..."
"Are you guys blind? That's his partner, the cunning Chinese Li!"
The last sentence was very loud and made many people turn their heads to stare. Li Du also looked around and saw a familiar face. It was Lambis, whom he had beaten at the Harley Davidson storage auction.
Lambis noticed that he was observing him, and gave a vulgar smile while making the gang-like action of cutting the throat.
Hans said, "If you care about his bullsh*t, then you've lost."
Li Du scoffed and sat down. "Give me a glass of milk."
Hans stared wide-eyed at him. "What the hell? We drink alcohol here!"
Li Du said, "It's fine. If anyone calls us sissies, we'll compete with them!"
Hans curled his lips in a smile. He recalled the time when Li Du easily brought Buffalo Lucas down with that terrifying drinking capacity.
The bar was not a friendly place. Even if you didn't want any trouble, it would just come looking for you. They had just sat down when a drunk ruffian came walking over.
"Hey kiddo, wrong place. This isn't the gay bar."
Homosexual relationships were stereotyped as one of the main ways to spread AIDS. Infection through blood had been well-controlled in America.
Hans pushed him away while saying, "Picardo, get back inside your bottle. We don't talk with damn alcoholics."
"An alcoholic can live until eighty, but can one live another eighty months with AIDS? Ha!" The ruffian gave them the middle finger.
A treasure hunter walked over to them. "We don't discriminate against gay people, but we don't want to hang around with someone who has AIDS. Big Fox, can you get your friend and leave?"
The others started adding oil to the fire.
"F*ck, I still want to go home and hug my kids. AIDS, get away from me!"
"No wonder this guy always seemed to get the treasures—he must have made some dirty deals with those storage owners!"
"I heard that he made a deal with the devil though. Ha! The devil took him from behind, and then he contracted AIDS."
Li Du ignored the chattering and asked Hans, "Do you know who spread these vicious rumors?"
"I can find out. Do you want me to take care of him?" Hans said.
Li Du coldly scanned the room of treasure hunters. "No need. I'll take care of everyone here. The one who started this won't get away!"