The Shi Yan who had gone berserk grabbed the conch sh.e.l.l and was about to throw it onto the floor when He Nuo pulled on his hand, “Don’t, don’t throw it.”
Shi Yan looked at the hand that was tugging on his arm coldly, “Let go!”
He Nuo loosened his fingers, but he didn’t let go of his hand. His eyes had a look of reluctance as he said, “It’s so pretty, isn’t it good if you keep it?”
“Pretty?” Shi Yan sneered, “Isn’t it because you dislike it that you don’t want it?”
“If I want it, you won’t have any.” He Nuo said quietly.
“……” Shi Yan’s anger was completely extinguished by this sentence. How could he still not understand him and had even misunderstood his question? When he had asked “You picked up a lot of these?”, he had thought that He Nuo wanted even more of these sh.e.l.ls. Dammit, why did he think that He Nuo would demand for things?
“I do have one, it’s even bigger and prettier but I couldn’t bear to show it to you. I was afraid that you’ll try to s.n.a.t.c.h the one I like.”
“I won’t s.n.a.t.c.h other people’s things!” He Nuo retorted.
“So you want it now right?” Shi Yan pa.s.sed the conch sh.e.l.l back to him, “I carried it all the way back here from Hainan. Even if other people want it, I wouldn’t give it to them.”
He Nuo held it in his hands and suddenly looked nervous. A conflicted look flashed through his eyes as he faced his internal struggles. He saw Shi Yan’s sincere and encouraging smile, then stretched his hand out to take the conch sh.e.l.l and smiled abashedly, “Thank you.”
When he saw that smile on He Nuo, the Shi Yan who was sitting in a narrow s.p.a.ce felt more comfortable than he did on Hainan’s beach where he had basked in the glow of the setting sun and cooling sea breeze. He Nuo held the conch sh.e.l.l with an embarra.s.sed and helpless look on his face, so Shi Yan involuntarily softened his voice when he said, “There’re still some things inside, you’re not gonna take a look?”
He Nuo opened half of the packaging, then clasped the thousand layer buddha’s hand conch in his hand again. He really likes it; when he looks at this conch sh.e.l.l, he can imagine how vast the boundless ocean actually is. This was his first time (in taking the initiative) to receive someone else’s gift, he couldn’t control his face from turning red. He remembered about the incident when he had exchanged shoes with his cla.s.smate before; his Papa had scolded him before that “there is no such thing as a free lunch in this world1”, so He Nuo had never coveted other people’s things.
He gently opened up the top segment and saw many gaudy-looking small packages inside. He Nuo carefully placed the conch sh.e.l.l on his bed and picked up those sweets 一一 then he just looked at it. Afterwards, he raised his head and said seriously, “Is it okay if I don’t want these?”
Shi Yan felt waves of powerlessness wash over him, this stubborn guy ah.
“These are all local specialties, they’re very cheap.” Yet he still answered in a light and casual manner.
Suddenly, they heard some sounds coming from the neighbouring room. He Nuo anxiously stood up and went over, so Shi Yan followed along. His nephew had awoken. He Nuo helped him put on his shoes, then carried him off the bed, “Take a seat, I’ll bring him to go pee.” The toilet was in the yard, Shi Yan nodded and took the chance to size up the room that he was in.
This room was s.p.a.cious and bright. It had a big writing desk with two chairs on each of its sides, which of course couldn’t be compared to his leather swivel chair at home, but it was still way better than He Nuo’s worn out stool. Two single-sized beds leaned against the wall on each side of the room correspondingly and were both equipped with mosquito nets. A bookshelf stood in the middle of the two beds, while a weak electric fan was placed atop the bedside table. No wonder He Nuo put his nephew in this room to take his afternoon nap. Aside from a commode (it’s a type of furniture that has five drawers), this room even had a huge wardrobe with a mirror, and there were windows at the front and back of the room — its condition far surpa.s.sed that of He Nuo’s small room. He Nuo wasn’t clear about He Nuo’s family situation, but based on his intuition he could tell that their finances were probably quite tight; but even so, when he saw the difference in the quality of the two rooms, he still wasn’t too happy about it.
He Nuo brought his nephew back in, turned off the electric fan then looked at the Shi Yan who was still standing, “Un, let’s go to my room ba.” Then he looked like he had suddenly realised something before saying, “O, is it too hot, I’ll carry the electric fan over for you ba.”
“I’ll take it.” Shi Yan was a step ahead of He Nuo as he went to carry the electric fan himself to the other small room. He Nuo plugged out his table lamp and switched it with the electric fan’s plug, then adjusted the fan such that it was facing towards him and his nephew. The little guy had already seen the things on his bed and pounced on them a long time ago. Shi Yan unwrapped the sweets for him, but he placed the conch sh.e.l.l on the bed and only allowed He Nuo’s nephew to touch it, but not pick it up.
When he saw that his nephew was eating Shi Yan’s sweets, He Nuo apologised with an embarra.s.sed look and lightly reprimanded the little guy, “You haven’t even thanked this uncle before eating his sweets?”
The little guy then said in a loud voice without holding back, “Thank you uncle!” Shi Yan and He Nuo both laughed. Shi Yan was even grateful to this little thing for eating his sweets, or else He Nuo would really ask him to take it back with him. So he teased him, “Little guy, you’re so much more straightforward than this uncle of yours, I’ll give you more sweets next time.” The little guy was very interested in stuff he could eat; he wolfed down the sweet in his mouth while gripping two more in his hand. He Nuo rubbed his head, “No one will fight for the sweets with you, slow down, if you can’t finish them Six uncle will bring it to your home for you.”
Shi Yan heard what he said and was immediately against that idea; he had only brought over these few bags of coconut specialties for He Nuo, he doesn’t want He Nuo to not have any left to eat for himself. He opened up a packet of coconut silk, “Here.”
“You eat it.”
“I’ve eaten my fill, I’m sick of it, I ate it everyday in Hainan.”
He Nuo took the sweet. His nephew tugged on He Nuo and asked him for a story. His tiny legs nimbly jumped off from the bed, then He Nuo bent down and took out an uncovered paper box from underneath his bed. His little nephew squatted down to pick a children’s book that he liked. Shi Yan had leaned over to see what was in the box; there were only a few children’s books at the top while at the bottom laid all of He Nuo’s textbooks. He took a second look around the room; aside from the books that were placed at the edge of the table, there was no bookshelf where He Nuo could keep his books. In the end, Shi Yan couldn’t retain his composure and asked, “Who lives in the adjacent room?”
“My younger brothers, they’re twins.” He Nuo told Shi Yan with some pride.
“Where are they?” From what Shi Yan sees, since there were two of them, why aren’t they the one accompanying the kid when He Nuo is sick? “Why aren’t they babysitting this little guy?”
The little guy immediately raised his head, “I don’t want those small uncles. They’re very mean to me, and will even hit me.”
“When did your small uncles ever hit you? Don’t spout nonsense. If it wasn’t because you were being disobedient, they wouldn’t have disciplined you.” He Nuo pinched his little nephew’s nose, “You can’t talk about your small uncles like that.”
“But even though they’ve left, they didn’t allow Six uncle to use their electric fan no?”
1. Original phrase is “拿别人的手短，吃别人的嘴软”, which means that when you take something from others/accept a meal from others, you’ll owe them a favour; so I loosely translated it as there’s no such thing as a free lunch in this world?