Little Poplar, Chapter 6: I swear to God I will run

Little Poplar《小白楊》Xiao Bai Yang

Little Poplar, Chapter 6: I swear to God I will run

Bai Xinyu walked over shakily, Xu Chuang jumped off the podium, walked up to him with his hands behind his back and circled around him, his fierce gaze cutting every inch of his skin.

Xu Chuang spoke, he didn’t shout at the top of his lungs but the volume of his strength was already tingling in the marrow of his bones, “I’ll tell you first, this place is different from other units. Why is it different? First of all, this is a highland. You need to work twice as hard to get used to the climate. Secondly, your instructors are different. In my hands, you forget that you were born and raised by your father. Don’t expect to graduate from a recruit company in three months with any slacking. We’re not border guards but every soldier here could use a real gun to fight a real man. If you see any of those bastards invading messing around on our turf, you’ll have to go in there and kill them one by one! When you get here, forget that you come from a peaceful times and when you put on this vest, you can lose your heads and shed your blood but you can’t disgrace the soldiers.” After Xu Chuang said this, his eyes fell on Bai Xinyu, “I don’t care how you got in here, once you’re in the army, you’re treated equally. Today you were 5 minutes and 38 seconds late, if I punish you, it’s a punishment for not teaching you, so on the first day I’m not punishing you, tomorrow you’ll be 5 minutes and 38 seconds earlier than the scheduled time.”

Bai Xinyu shivered and said, “Oh, okay.”

Xu Chuang slapped him on the back, “Straighten your back and say ‘yes’!”


“Move back.”

Bai Xinyu rushed to the team he was in.

Xu Chuang and said: “These days you’ll mainly be learning the barracks rules, housekeeping and parade training but I think you new recruits, you’re all lackadaisical, you don’t have the spirit of a soldier, run 3 km for me first, this will serve as a wake up call!”

Bai Xinyu was starving and light-headed, so when he heard that he had to run 3km, he thought it wasn’t that far and he could handle it.

Their recruit class leader, a young man in his early twenties, pale skinned, wearing glasses, looking pretty and gentle, standing in a beautiful posture, was standing motionless at the head of his platoon, when he heard Xu Chuang’s order, he shouted without looking away and said: “At ease, attention! –”

Squad by squad, the Class Leader led them to the poplar forest outside the playground, while Xu Chuang and Wang Shunwei followed behind on their motorcycles to supervise.

All around the camp were forests of poplar trees, said to keep out the freezing wind and the frost and in this barren part of the frontier, the resilience of the poplar was a sign of its stubborn spirit.

Unfortunately, after 300 meters, Bai Xinyu was no longer in the mood for the straight poplar trees or the freezing wind and found himself puffing and panting.

More than half of the soldiers were brought over from the plains, the camp was located at an altitude of nearly 3000 meters, which wasn’t very high, if they didn’t do overload exercises, the young men would get used to it in a day or two at most but once they started exercising, Bai Xinyu immediately understood what Xu Chuang said, “We need to work twice as hard”. What’s the meaning of” to adapt to the climate”.

Even though he lacked exercise, he couldn’t believe that at his age, he would be out of breath after running less than 500 meters, his feet would start to get weak and it would be difficult for him to breathe. Not only him but others started to suffer from altitude sickness, the more they ran, the more breathless they became, the more the difference between 3km of flat ground and 3km of high ground.

Class Leader led them to run around the poplar forest, just one kilometer out, the original team was still quite stylish, began to disorganize, the physical gap began to show, some people, such as their Class Leader, such as Yu Fengcheng, still lead without any change in color, while Bai Xinyu. Qian Liang and a few fat brothers, were at the end of the line, giggling and moving.

Yu Fengcheng was running in front but when he turned around and saw Bai Xinyu had fallen behind, he deliberately slowed down and ran beside him, teasingly saying, “How’s it going? Are you hungry?”

Bai Xinyu’s heart cursed his ancestors, he was so hungry that he could stuff two white buns without water in between.

Yu Fengcheng said: “You think you’ll get breakfast as soon as you wake up? The training is pretty easy now but when you get on track, physical training every morning will be a must for you and you can’t have breakfast until you’re done.” He smiled, “I told you, you’re a bear to be in the army?”

Bai Xinyu glared at him, “It’s not like I wanted to be here.”

Qian Liang said breathlessly and said: “Big brother, how did you…. You know so much about the army.”

Yu Fengcheng said: “My whole family was in the army.”

“Holy shit, that’s amazing…. Hoo……hoo… I really can’t, how far have we gone?”

“Half of it.”

Bai Xinyu rolled his eyes, he thought he was going to die if he kept running, why was he so tired.

Feng Dongyuan also slowed down and ran to them, smiling and said, “You city folks are no good, you lack exercise. You can’t breathe like this, follow me count your breaths, one, two, three, exhale, yes, it’s much better.”

Bai Xinyu tried it and it did get a little better but just a little better and then about two kilometers into the run, he just couldn’t take it anymore and he went down on the ground with a big thud, “I can’t…  I can’t run… I can’t run anymore….”

Feng Dongyuan tried to pull him up, “Xinyu, you better get up, you’re in trouble with Company Commander.”

Bai Xinyu waved his hands repeatedly, “I… I really can’t… Leave me alone… Let me sit for a minute.”

Yu Fengcheng wasn’t as gentle as Feng Dongyuan, yanking Bai Xinyu by the collar and scooping him off the ground, “Run!”

Bai Xinyu cried and said: “Damn it, I’m not running! What’s the matter with getting up early in the morning before dawn to run, whoever wants to run is going to run, I’m not going to run!”

Although his voice wasn’t loud, dozens of people in the front and back heard him and turned to look at him.

Their white skinned Class Leader came running back, glancing at Bai Xinyu, “What’s going on?”

Bai Xinyu was playing hard to get, “Class Leader, I can’t run anymore, I need to rest.”

Class Leader narrowed his eyes, “How would you like to rest?”

Bai Xinyu froze, “Sitting and resting?”

“Okay, you sit.”

Bai Xinyu gulped, feeling a little weird about the crowd.


Bai Xinyu doesn’t care, he spreads his legs wide and fell to the ground.

Class Leader sat on his back, pushed his upper body towards the ground, Bai Xinyu cried out and felt the tendons in his thighs ripped apart with violence, causing tears to well up in his eyes from the pain, “Ahhhhhh pain-”

Class Leader pushed up his glasses, that white face without a trace of expression and he pointed forward, “You keep running and whoever wants a break, can sits down and stretches.”

Yu Fengcheng, holding back his laughter, also turned his head and ran away. Only Feng Dongyuan looked at Bai Xinyu sympathetically and ran forward. Bai Xinyu’s screams boosted their morale and no one in the three classes, front and back, dared to take a single step slower, so they all ran.

Bai Xinyu cried, “Class Leader, Class Leader, I will run! I will run!”

Class Leader crossed his legs, sitting firmly on his back, “You’d better take a break, before you get tired.”

“No, no, no, I’m not tired. I’m running! Class Leader, let go of me!” Class Leader looks so skinny but when he sat down on his aching legs, it weighed like a thousand pounds, Bai Xinyu couldn’t even lift his neck, he’s a man, his body is already hard, so when he was stretched like that, his legs immediately went numb.

“Really not tired?”

“No more tired no more!”

Class Leader then moved his hips, pulled Bai Xinyu off the ground, patted the dust off his pants, adjusted his belt and touched Bai Xinyu’s head, saying kindly, “Go on.”

Bai Xinyu ran, even though his legs still hurt from the cramps but he didn’t dare to stop for a second, running is tiring at best and the cramps are really f-cking painful.

It was only later that Bai Xinyu found out that Class Leader, Chen Jing, had a nickname, “The Cold-Faced Scholar”.

Just three kilometers, in the high altitude climate and before the dripping of rice, had taken its toll on some of the recruits who were in poor physical condition.

As he circled back to the playground from the poplar forest, Bai Xinyu felt like he was being dragged back on two legs and he couldn’t even breathe in.

Xu Chuang and Wang Shunwei drove back leisurely on their scooters, Xu Chuang jumped off, squinted at them for a long while and bellowed, “Attention!”

Everyone stood up straight away.

Xu Chuang sneered and said: “Look at you guys, you’re as tired as dogs after three kilometers.” He slowly took a cucumber out of his bag, broke it in half, handed it to Wang Shunwei, took a bite and said as he chewed: “I’ll tell you in advance, from now on, when you wake up in the morning, 5km run will be your breakfast appetizer. When you’re too tired to eat breakfast, you’re qualified to eat.”

Bai Xinyu couldn’t stop crying, wondering who could be such a b-tch.

“Are you all awake yet?”

The crowd replied weakly and said: “Awake.”

“Speak up! For heaven sake!”


Xu Chuang nodded and suddenly threw the remaining cucumber tail in his hand at Bai Xinyu hard, “Stand up straight you give it to me!”

Bai Xinyu was hunched over, falling straight to the ground, when that little piece of cucumber hit him just right.

Xu Chuang said: “This morning, no more physical training, the class leaders will take you back to your dormitory, study housekeeping, then dinner, before dinner, there’s a 3 km run, after dinner, your instructor will give you a lecture, that’s about it.” He looked at Wang Shunwei, “Lao Wang, did I forget something?”

Wang Shunwei and said: “That’s rough speaking.”

“It’s your job to talk rough, it’s my job to teach them rough, okay, we’ll talk tonight, that’s it, I’m hungry, let’s go eat.” Xu Chuang pointed to the group of recruits, “Class Leader leads the group back to the dormitory.” Then he and Wang Shunwei went to have breakfast together.

Bai Xinyu looked at the cucumber on the floor, thought about the white steamed buns and braised pork they discussed last night, gulped and felt his stomach acid coming out, thinking about how delicious the mushy food on the train might have been.

Chen Jing called out slogans, led them back to the dormitory, then made everyone in the dormitory form two rows and started to introduce themselves one by one, telling their names, where they were born, where they were from, how many people in their families, what their hobbies were, whatever they wanted, just to let everyone get to know each other.

There are more than twenty of them, covering almost eight or nine provinces in China, most of them from Beijing, Shandong, Shaanxi and Xinjiang.

Qian Liang is from Shandong, he is simple and thick character but also a bit leathery, love to laugh, when introducing himself, he was especially proud to say that he has a girlfriend back home waiting to get married, causing a bunch of never held a girl’s hand half of the boy to look at him with envy.

Feng Dongyuan was from Shaanxi Province, his family is poor and he came to the army because he couldn’t afford to go to college but he made it a point to say that when he makes money, he wants to go back to school. When he talked about this, his face, always with a gentle smile, showed a hint of determination.

Yu Fengcheng was originally from Hebei, he followed his family to Shanghai in his teens, although he didn’t mention anything about his family but Bai Xinyu could also guess that he must have been transferred to Shanghai with his elders he was three years younger than him.

Bai Xinyu couldn’t help but stare at Yu Fengcheng for a few times, Yu Fengcheng felt his gaze, turned his head, looked at him with a smile, suddenly stuck out his tongue and licked the corners of his mouth, the expression was so evil and suggestive that Bai Xinyu almost vomited blood.

The last one who introduced himself, is the youngest in their class, only sixteen, is an Uyghur, called Batur, home is nearest to the camp, Bai Xinyu didn’t pay attention to him before, because the boy was a bit short and always stood at the end of the line. When he opened his mouth, he spoke very strange Mandarin, which made people laugh, so Bai Xinyu turned his head after everyone else,  the boy was so shy that he lowered his head and looked at the two rows of thick, curly eyelashes that flickered and flickered, simply blinding. When Chen Jing told him to raise his head, he raised his head, although it was a little dark but his face was like a doll’s, very pretty, especially under the gaze of the public unintentionally showing shyness, it makes you really want to pinch his face, he stammered that he wanted to be a soldier to catch the bad guys.

Chen Jing asked him what kind of bad guys he wanted to go catching and villain catching was police work.

Batur blushed and said, “There are goat-robbing villains, murdering villains.”

Chen Jing frowned, he was silent, Bai Xinyu wasn’t ignorant but the news was all over the place and he didn’t understand a thing, the border was not peaceful and a lot of it didn’t come directly from outside, just the news he saw before he left, that was enough to shock him.

When everyone in the class had introduced themselves, Qian Liang coaxed and said: “Class Leader, you haven’t introduced yourself yet.”

Chen Jing pushed up his glasses, “Yeah, I haven’t introduced myself yet. My name is Chen Jing, I’m 21, a first sergeant in an artillery reconnaissance company, this time I’m assigned to train you, after the new recruits are done, some of you may become my comrades, or you may be assigned to another company, then it’ll be hard to see you, so I hope you’ll cherish these three months and train well.”

Bai Xinyu thought, Chen Jing is a typical” dog that bites but doesn’t bark”, he looks so gentle but he is really ruthless, so it’s better not to mess with him in the future.

Chen Jing clapped her hands, “Everyone introduce yourselves, get along well in the future, cherish your comradeship, now I’ll explain the housekeeping to you.”

~Little Poplar~


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