He Nuo wanted to take it out but he was afraid that he would break it, so he kept the protective bubble wrap on as he carefully held it in his hands and admired its every nook and cranny. Other than going to the village for a year, He Nuo had never left the county, so of course he wouldn’t have seen the sea either. When he saw such an exquisitely crafted conch sh.e.l.l, he couldn’t help but marvel in his heart and wonder how spectacular and beautiful the sea is. He really wanted to see it!
“Did you pick this conch sh.e.l.l up while swimming? Are there a lot of sh.e.l.ls on the beach too? Did you pick up a lot?” He Nuo unwilling looked away to ask Shi Yan.
When he saw He Nuo’s loving expression as he held the thousand layer buddha’s hand conch, Shi Yan suddenly felt dispirited. He knew why he thought of He Nuo the moment he saw this conch, it was because they were the same – both of them exhibited the same purity of being isolated from the world.
When he had requested for an additional meeting outside the school walls, Shi Yan originally had two plans beforehand. According to his first plan, He Nuo should have complained that it hadn’t even been two weeks and would be worried that he wanted to change their agreement, then He Nuo would beg him to maintain the status quo. If that was what had happened, Shi Yan had planned to let him off, then give him the medicine and end their agreement. Afterall, he had no interest in bullying the weak. However, if He Nuo had continued to ignore him like before, then he would “educate” him until He Nuo acknowledged himself. He Nuo’s att.i.tude after he had been exposed during their physical education cla.s.s angered Shi Yan a lot. It thoroughly made him feel He Nuo’s insubordination, so Shi Yan stubbornly wanted He Nuo to yield to him.
However, when He Nuo showed up, he had just quietly put his school bag down, then sat at a side to wait for the rest of the gang to come. If Shi Yan wasn’t the mastermind, he wouldn’t have thought that He Nuo was there to be a “human sandbag”. That person had just calmly and peacefully sat down while he looked at the fields, like he didn’t know what was going to happen next.
This calmness lasted until Shi Yan realised that he was cheating their hits with his thick layers of clothing. But what shook Shi Yan was: He Nuo didn’t try to explain, nor did he try to beg for forgiveness, instead he was only ashamed of his insignificant self-protection tactic. He expressed his apology — by removing his pitiful, protective clothing. Shi Yan had to repeatedly confirm that the emotion expressed in He Nuo’s eyes was shame, and not fear. He couldn’t have imagined that there would be this kind of person – what kind of situation would force this kind of person to this point? Did he only think of how he didn’t properly fulfill their unreasonable agreement? How could someone so pure-hearted exist in this world?
He started to recall, from the moment they had set up their “dates”, He Nuo had never tried to sneak out of it. He wouldn’t beg, and wouldn’t act, he would just show up punctually at their meeting place once every two weeks. Whenever his buddies started their rounds, they would usually end their turn once He Nuo falls to the ground, so if he was smart enough he could have fallen to the ground earlier than usual and no one would notice or bother him about it. Then, he would have had to suffer a lot fewer punches and kicks. However, He Nuo would always fell only when he had reached his limit. Other than his occasional groans, most of the time he stayed silent. When the places where he was. .h.i.t hurt, he would at most press down on it for a bit before standing up again.
Within a moment, Shi Yan suddenly understood that He Nuo had never tried to challenge or despise others; whatever he had done, all of his reactions had come from his sincere heart. Shi Yan no longer searched for the answer to his insubordination, and in the following days after that, whenever he thought about that body, there would be an unknown turmoil in his heart. Shi Yan realised that he could no longer bear to see any more wounds on this body; he almost severed ties with his buddies because of what they had done; and he had relentlessly pursued the culprits when he found out about what He Nuo’s parents had done to him.
And just like now, Shi Yan was still angry at He Nuo’s stupidity just a moment ago so he told them that all the tonics were bought at public expense – and yet He Nuo didn’t doubt him at all; but the truth was that even though the Apollo’s oral liquid did come from public expense, only families of high status could obtain it from the hospital’s prescriptions under different names. The Royal Jelly was given to him by others, his house had a whole stash of it that they would never be able to finish. And even his obviously sarcastic remark of picking up the thousand layer buddha’s hand conch didn’t raise any doubts from He Nuo. But once he saw the gleam in his eyes, and the unmasked happiness on his face, Shi Yan was glad for his simplicity, his innocence.
He Nuo still didn’t know that this kind of conch sh.e.l.l only appeared in the depths of the ocean, and it couldn’t even be found within the seas of China, much less that you would be able to see this kind of conch or sh.e.l.ls easily on beaches. He thought that the sea was deep and vast, and a treasure trove of all the things under the sun. He really did like it, he liked it so much he didn’t want to let go.
“You picked up a lot of these?” he looked at Shi Yan expectantly.
As he looked at He Nuo’s expectant eyes, Shi Yan regretted not buying more of the other types of sh.e.l.ls. The stalls scattered about Hainan’s beaches had sold all sorts of sh.e.l.ls, conches, starfishes, and handicrafts that used these sh.e.l.ls as materials. But because it wasn’t convenient to bring them around across long distances, he just bought this one that he thought suited He Nuo. If he had known that he liked it so much, he would have stuffed a few more conches in the luggage that he didn’t check in.
“I only picked this one, don’t be so greedy. It was so hot, who would have the time to pick these things up under the sun.” Shi Yan sat down by the bed and continued to lie to him, though his heart was filled with regret, “That’s why I said that you’ll definitely like it and asked you to open it. See, this can still be opened further.” Shi Yan remembered that he had placed other things inside the conch.
“It’s really pretty.” He Nuo didn’t open the conch sh.e.l.l, but wrapped it back up instead.
Shi Yan looked at his movements with a puzzled expression. Just as he had finished wrapping up the last layer of the bubble wrap, Shi Yan had a premonition and quickly pressed down on his hand. With a dangerous look in his eyes, he stared at He Nuo, “What’s the meaning of this?!” Shi Yan prayed that He Nuo wouldn’t force himself to act up in his own house.
“I’ll return it to you, thank you.”