Shi Yan stepped forward and silently dragged He Nuo out. They rode together towards He Nuo’s house. When they reached the door, the courtyard’s door was still locked — it was not yet the time when people ended their cla.s.ses or work. He pulled He Nuo over, “Why were you so foolish? Am I that bad?” Shi Yan no longer shouted angrily, but instead spoke with a gentleness that he never knew he had to He Nuo.
He Nuo’s eyes that were devoid of dirt looked at Shi Yan, “Of course you aren’t bad. I’m the one who deceived you first, you got angry because I did something wrong.”
Shi Yan immediately embraced He Nuo. He Nuo’s words made him feel sour, pained, and bitter.
“I’m not angry anymore, but you need to tell me why your family doubts your books.”
“Fifth brother’s money went missing.” He Nuo pushed Shi Yan away.
“So they suspected that you took it to buy those books?”
“It’s not like you’re the only one in your family? What about those two younger brothers of yours? Did they get beaten too?”
He Nuo shook his head.
These were all within Shi Yan’s expectations, but he still flew into a rage, “Then why are they okay? If they’re gonna suspect you then everyone else should be suspected too.”
“They spent half their summer holidays at their grandmother’s place, and I’m the one who picked up Fifth brother’s key.” He Nuo told Shi Yan about him picking up the key and how his parents had discovered the books and conch sh.e.l.l on Sat.u.r.day. He also told Shi Yan about how his parents had asked him to invite his schoolmate over to take the books away and tell them clearly that he was the one who picked up the conch sh.e.l.l for He Nuo.
Now Shi Yan understood why He Nuo called him on Sat.u.r.day. He pinched He Nuo’s lower jaw to raise it and examined his face, “Did you get beaten because I didn’t come over on Sat.u.r.day?”
He Nuo wasn’t willing to answer such a question, but Shi Yan was watching him so he couldn’t try to conceal the truth by saying ‘no’; yet he didn’t want Shi Yan to feel guilty by saying ‘yes’.
Shi Yan sighed, “If you hand the money over, won’t you be admitting that you had taken it?”
Of course He Nuo understood that principle. He didn’t want to bear the accusation of being a thief on his shoulders, which was why he had thickened his skin up to beg Shi Yan. But after he was bluntly rejected by Shi Yan, he had no other choice. He had no one else he could beg to tally his testimony with. So he could either hand the money over and admit his fault, or admit that he had taken the money to buy the books and receive his punishment, but the books would belong to his family (and he would never be able to return them to Shi Yan in the future). Which was why He Nuo thought of selling his blood to exchange it for money. It’s just a pity that the sales of blood he read about in novels all happened at blood collection stations in huge cities; the hospitals here go to the nearby countryside at a fixed time every year to collect blood — the farmers’ blood would be deflated to a very low price by the hospital.
“How much money did your fifth brother lose?”
Shi Yan’s question had stunned He Nuo. He widened his eyes in confusion.
“You,” Shi Yan said helplessly and sighed in his heart, “you don’t know, do you?”
“I didn’t ask my parents.”
Shi Yan rubbed his glabella, or else his thick eyebrows would have already stuck to each other in an intimate manner.
People who just ended work and school were beginning to appear. He Nuo asked Shi Yan to wait outside for a little while; when his other family members returned they would open the courtyard’s door for him. He had to go in first to wait so that his family wouldn’t realise that he had sneaked out. The courtyard’s door was locked — he had climbed over the wall to get out, and now he had to climb over the wall again to get back in.
Shi Yan first saw the twins return. They had seen him a few times during the summer holidays, so when they saw him they were considerably polite — because they knew that all the movies they had managed to watch was due to the person in front of them now. They saw that he had an imposing manner, and had heard of his fame, but they couldn’t understand how He Nuo managed curry favour with him.
“You’re here to look for He Nuo ba, wait for my parents to come back before you go in then. Come over here first.” They wanted Shi Yan to go over to the living room at their parents’ side to wait. Shi Yan has always heard them say He Nuo, He Nuo as they directly called He Nuo by name, and he had never once heard them call him Ge1. And now they had brought him here to wait because they were afraid that he would collude with He Nuo, just thinking of that made him detest them.
“Did you really give that conch sh.e.l.l to He Nuo?” One of them couldn’t help but ask, because the books didn’t hold much appeal for them, but they had taken a fancy to the conch sh.e.l.l at first glance so they hoped that He Nuo had stolen the money to buy it, then after he gets punished the conch sh.e.l.l would belong to them. Shi Yan just flat out ignored them.
When He Nuo’s Papa returned, Shi Yan stood up and politely introduced himself, “Uncle He, nice to meet you. I’m Shi Yan, He Nuo’s schoolmate. I came over to your house to play a few times during the summer holidays. I was at my grandmother’s house during the weekend, and yesterday my father told me that He Nuo had called me on Sat.u.r.day and said that he had finished reading the books I loaned him so he wanted to return them to me. But today he didn’t go to school, so I came to check if he’s fallen sick? And take the books away in pa.s.sing.”
He Papa looked at this tall boy who had a dignified bearing — he spoke in a steady and forceful tone that was neither humble nor arrogant, while maintaining an upright and sharp gaze. He was doubtful, “You’re schoolmates with He Nuo? The two of you have a very good relationship?”
“We’re good friends. He Nuo’s a really nice guy, we all like him.” Shi Yan smiled warmly.
“Come over ba.” He Papa brought Shi Yan over to look for He Nuo. The two twins followed along, and their Mama had just returned home from work.
Shi Yan greeted her, the twins told their Mama that this was He Nuo’s schoolmate who was here to verify He Nuo’s story. Their Mama said that she would be right over after she put down the vegetables in her hands at the kitchen.
Shi Yan followed closely behind He Papa as he went to the small room that he had visited several times in the pst. Within these short ten minutes, the two who had met again had two completely different frames of mind. It was different for He Nuo to have been discovered that he was. .h.i.t versus having Shi Yan personally see his actual wretched state; and it was different for Shi Yan to see He Nuo’s swollen face versus him personally watch He Nuo getting punished — He Nuo was kneeling in the corner of the room.
He Nuo greeted his Pa, but he was too ashamed to see Shi Yan. Shi Yan also regretted coming in, but now there were the two twins behind him so the narrow s.p.a.ce they occupied had been filled to the brim.
“Come over here!” He Papa called He Nuo, then turned around and discovered that the books were still on the table but the conch sh.e.l.l had disappeared, “Where’s the conch sh.e.l.l?”
“At my place. Pa, why not you ask about the conch sh.e.l.l first?” One of He Nuo’s younger brothers replied.
Shi Yan suppressed his temper, then answered patiently, “Uncle He, that’s the thousand layer buddha hand conch, it comes from the deep sea. When my father brought me to Hainan, an uncle whom he often had meetings with gave it to me. I thought that it looked quite nice, so I gave it to He Nuo. It’s a white-coloured sh.e.l.l with waves……”
“Right, right, that’s the conch sh.e.l.l. It’s really pretty, it should have been pretty expensive right?” He Mama had came in as well.
“It’s not that expensive, it’s of an average price in Hainan.” Shi Yan saw He Nuo’s shock, then continued, “He Nuo doesn’t like to receive gifts from other people, so I told him I had picked it up. Also, those books are about the generals in World War II. There are two sets: one set contains the books on the Three Main Culprits in the Axis Powers: Hitler, Mussolini, Hideki Tojo and the Three Giants in the Allied Powers: Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, while the other two miscellaneous books are the autobiographies of my favourite generals. Both of us like to read this kind of books. My father had bought them for me during the holidays so I brought them over to read them with He Nuo.”
Shi Yan knew that they wouldn’t know what terms like ‘Allied Powers’ or ‘Axis Powers’ would mean, so he threw them all these names on purpose. He was grateful for flipping through the books with He Nuo during their summer holidays and for listening to He Nuo talk about it a little, or else he wouldn’t have been able to discern the names of these two alliances at all.
He Papa checked the t.i.tles of the books and they all tallied, then he raised his head. Shi Yan looked at him and said, “You can give my parents a call to confirm if my father had bought them for me.”
He Papa had already believed him. He shook his head and smiled, “No need, Uncle He believes you.”
Shi Yan smiled back, “Thank you Uncle He,” then his expression immediately turned stern and sincere before he said in an aggressive manner, “He Nuo’s an honest guy. Ever since I became friends with him, I have never heard him utter a single lie. His words are the most trustworthy.”
He Papa was taken aback. He had already heard the condemnation behind this boy’s words. The boy looked at him boldly — his gaze was both unyielding and firm.
“I have never ever doubted He Nuo’s words before!” Shi Yan smashed another hammer down on them.
T/N: The aforementioned ma.s.s update…. one dramatic episode is over and done with~