Chapter 10

The Promise Sealed with Our Lips Guan Gai Man Jing Hua, 冠蓋滿京華 2022/9/13 16:52:23

Once he entered senior high, He Nuo felt the strain of time. Firstly, the number of subjects he had increased, so he had a wider curriculum to cover. The mountain of homework he had to do after school far outnumbered that of junior high. It wasn’t like the times in junior high when he would have some extra time after doing his brothers’ laundry (I forgot to mention, he started washing small items since he was 5, and gradually moved onto washing bigger items, and he’s been doing the laundry till now). His afternoons were either spent on washing clothes or doing his homework from his early afternoon cla.s.ses. He ended his afternoon cla.s.ses at 5:30, then had to return at 7:00 for night self-study1. Within this one and a half hour break, he spent an hour of it travelling to and fro home. Students who stayed a bit further rode bicycles. He Nuo’s house had two second-hand bicycles, but one was used by Fifth Brother, and the other was shared by his two little brothers.

Self-study lasts till 9:00. By the time he reaches home, it would already be 9:30. If he does the laundry too, his day would only end around 11:00. He didn’t have the time to read his books — because in order to ensure that his Fifth Brother who was in his third year of senior high wasn’t disturbed, he had already moved out and was sharing a room with his two little brothers. His little brothers had just entered junior high. They slept by 9:00, and they were resolutely against turning on any kind of light as they slept. So He Nuo could only make use of the time in school to try his best and finish all his homework during self-study.

He Nuo always reached his cla.s.s when the bell rang, and left without talking to anyone, much less mingle with the other new students. He had a new desk mate who was a boy, and they would politely greet each other everyday, but Hei Nuo didn’t really get close to anyone. Every Friday he would come a bit earlier, because he was basically the only one who cleaned the sharing area. The group leader wouldn’t be absent, but he had to go to the cla.s.sroom and corridors to check up on everyone’s cleaning progress; he would usually just take a few cleaning tools and walked one round before leaving. He Nuo knew his plans from the start, so he had never pinned a single hope on him and didn’t bother making a fuss over this. Shi Yan also knew that He Nuo wouldn’t tell on him, so he had handpicked He Nuo to be in charge of the sharing area with himself. One can say that when Shi Yan was splitting duties, he never expected himself to actually take a broom to clean and eat a mouthful of sand.

The first school term was nearing its end. Shi Yan continued his elementary and junior high’s dreamy-like demeanour that dazzled the ma.s.ses; he had both popularity and prestige. He liked playing soccer, and often brought a group of boys to the field to compete, which often garnered much support and cheers from the girls. He Nuo swept away the fallen leaves in the autumn wind and removed the build-up of frost during the winter alone, as if it was expected of him to do it by himself. No one noticed this, and of course the victim didn’t voice anything either. Shi Yan was pretty satisfied with the b.u.mpkin’s performance; he didn’t look as disobedient as he did on the first day of school.

But this thought was immediately subverted. This guy really didn’t know his place. So what happened was this: Shi Yan’s buddies came from good families, so a few of them had started coming into contact with cigarettes. For boys their age, smoking was seen as the symbol of maturity and adulthood; plus it was a display of coolness. But no matter how cool you want to be, the high school student’s code of conduct clearly stated that smoking was prohibited, so this kind of display of “maturity” in school had to be done in secret. That day was a rare, bright winter day in the south, a few of them were smoking in the early morning on He Nuo’s territory. But He Nuo only cared about doing his own cleaning duties.

They threw a cigarette b.u.t.t onto a spot that He Nuo had just swept, then He Nuo went to sweep it away. After awhile, another cigarette b.u.t.t fell. He Nuo looked up and saw that no one was looking his way, so it should have been unintentional. He swept it away again. When the third cigarette b.u.t.t showed up, He Nuo walked over, “Hey, student, could you not throw your cigarette b.u.t.t here?”

He Nuo didn’t know that the one he was talking to was teaching the other guys how to flick away their cigarette b.u.t.ts far away in a cool and imposing manner.

The few of them were stunned, then sized up the oversized uniform he was wearing. The uniform belonged to his older brother. Because his older brother received a new uniform every three years, his old uniform would be pa.s.sed on to He Nuo; it was much warmer than the other cotton coats he had that had been washed countless times to ruins. It’s not that his brother wanted him to wear old clothes on purpose, but the standard uniform’s colour would change every 3 years, and his workplace required workers to wear the standard uniform. A 3-year-old uniform would inevitably be old and worn-out, but other than a few un-washable stains from work, He Nuo had cleaned the uniform thoroughly.

Shi Yan walked in fashionably late. Someone shouted, “Shi Yan, your territory prohibits smoking?”

Shi Yan walked closer, glanced at He Nuo, then asked his buddies, “Who said so? Who prohibited it? I never said anything, you can smoke whatever you want here.”

Your subordinate said so, a few of the guys said at the same time. Shi Yan glared at He Nuo, “It’s not that big a deal, you won’t die from sweeping a few more times. Can’t you just finish sweeping the rest of the area first, then come back later to pick up the cigarette b.u.t.ts.”

He Nuo understood clearly that there was no need to continue talking to them, so he took his broom and turned around to sweep the trash that he had piled up into his dustpan and tossed it into the dustbin. When he came back, Shi Yan’s buddies said to him, “Hey, pick up these cigarette b.u.t.ts.”

He Nuo ignored them and continued walking towards the school building. “Well aren’t you an impressive one. Shi Yan, he doesn’t listen to us, guess it’s up to you.”

“He Nuo.”

He Nuo clearly understood why Shi Yan called for him, so he didn’t want to respond to his call. But after all, they were cla.s.smates, so in the end He Nuo hesitated a bit before turning around.

“Come over.”

He Nuo looked at them, but didn’t walk over.

Shi Yan got irritated, then walked over and grabbed him, “Pick them up!”

He Nuo tried to break free of his grasp and failed, but he still refused to pick up the cigarette b.u.t.ts. Shi Yan felt like he had lost face, so his tone turned sharp, “You better pick them up you f.u.c.ker.”

Actually Shi Yan felt that it wasn’t a big deal for He Nuo to pick the cigarette b.u.t.ts up to give him some face in front of his friends. Usually didn’t he clean the sharing area by himself without complaints anyway? But this guy just had to be stubborn in front of other people, his buddies were all watching! It was impossible to stop halfway at this point; he had to pick the cigarette b.u.t.ts, even if he didn’t want to.

He Nuo continued standing in place with no hint of moving, so Shi Yan got a bit anxious and kicked the back of his knees, “Pick them up.”

1. The amount of time u spend in school in China is crazy… in high school their days are like this: 7:00AM – 12:00PM school, then 12:00PM – 2:00PM break where students usually go home to have lunch, then 2:00 – 5:00 PM school, 5:00PM – 7:00PM break for dinner at home, then 7:00PM – 11:00PM night self-study. These timings vary, I guess since He Nuo just started senior high the night self-study periods aren’t that long yet?

TN: Everything in brackets are the author’s notes, not mine.