Peering towards each other after being reunited by chance in the same intensive care unit, two frail and aged Chinese veterans agreed one last mission – to make it out of the hospital together.
The story of the two fragile men who fought side-by-side in the Second World War has touched the heart of China, generating millions more comments on social media than the launch of the country’s first home-made aircraft carrier, an event which was heavily pushed by state media.
Decades after losing contact, Zhuang Shuifa, aged 88 and his former comrade Lin Shuishou, and 90, were reunited when they received treatment for the same illness - a chest infection - at the same intensive care unit in southern China.
The pair had fought together against the Imperial Japanese Army, serving in the same platoon in the East River Column in 1944-45.
The guerilla force operated in the southern Guangdong province and Hong Kong, which was at that time a British colony occupied by Japan.
Mr Zhuang, who was admitted to a hospital in Shenzhen on April 15, told doctors of his military past last Thursday, setting in motion the dramatic reunion.
“Through casual chatting with the nurses, Zhuang realised that the patient next to him was none other than his former comrade-in-arms,” a report by The People’s Daily said.
Other reports said the pair had been separated in the ward, but once their beds were pushed together they began to show signs of recovery.
Medical staff said the pair had shown little fighting spirit against their conditions when they arrived at the hospital, but the reunion had boosted their will to live.
Ling Li, a medical worker in the ward, said Mr Lin’s meeting with Mr Zhuang had “lit up his mood immediately”, according to China Central Television (CCTV).
"Their eyes shined when seeing each other, with hands tightly held together,” he said.
“They were too thrilled to believe that they saw each other.”
Mr Zhuang, who had lost an eye to a Japanese bullet, had apparently met up with Mr Lin after the war, but the pair had lost contact about 20 years ago. In recent years their heath has deteriorated.
But connected to breathing apparatus and drips as they fought their latest battle for survival, the pair clutched each other’s hands for one last daring objective.
“Hold on old friend,” Mr Zhuang told Mr Lin. “We’ll leave the hospital together!”