For the rest of the time in the ward, Shi Yan had his arms around He Nuo who sat in front of him. The two of them didn’t say anything as they quietly savoured this joy, and this happiness. When their hearts were connected, they didn’t need any superfluous words, because the other party was the same — they were both recalling every footprint that led them to where they were now. When they turned around, they realised that they had spent the past three years together in a trance; the scene of their first meeting could still appear vividly before them — at that time, He Nuo would have never expected that the one who would stand beside him as they withstood the winds together would be this haughty young master.
He Nuo admitted that the Creator was playing tricks on them. For both parties, the other was someone of a different dimension — regardless of background, temperament, and even their ideas seemed to belong to species as different as that between fishes and birds. Their conflicts turned into peace, their peace turned into harmony, their harmony changed into acquaintanceship, and their acquaintanceship changed into the maxim of love that they promised each other today. He Nuo has no regrets.
He didn’t know when it started, but Shi Yan was no longer just a friend to him. His relationship with Shi Yan had transcended friendship and went beyond being bosom friends as they became closely integrated with each other. He had never been willing to pursue what was concealed underneath the veil of taboo as he wanted to leave it be, but he knew very clearly that he just lacked the courage to face the truth. If he didn’t like him, then why would his body choose to accept him before his heart did? If he didn’t love him, then why would he be willing to endure the shame and intimacy that he wasn’t used to? It was all because he did like him.
The violent reaction that was triggered by Yu Yao’s appearance didn’t make him feel like he had been punished or humiliated, because Shi Yan’s nervousness that had emerged from his unclear uncertainty was caused by the ripples in the ocean of vinegar hidden within the haze of their friendship. It was impossible for He Nuo to take the initiative to lift the protective veil, but he wasn’t so dull as to be without emotions or love. Throughout his entire lifetime, only Shi Yan could cause ripples in the stagnant water in his heart, and only Shi Yan could make his heart palpitate time and time again.
Shi Yan couldn’t restrain his excitement; his memories with He Nuo have always been accompanied by his countless bullying and the injuries he had brought upon He Nuo. Today, almost all of the sufferings the lover in his arms had to endure was caused by him. At the moment he heard about the cause of his illness, Shi Yan felt so much pain that it could turn the world upside down, and the only wish he had left in this life was for He Nuo to be healthy again.
When their eyes met, He Nuo no longer avoided it. There was no more concealment within his pitch-dark pupils — his profound gaze that was as deep as the sea contained feelings as deep as the ocean. Shi Yan carefully tightened his grip on his arm, “You’re mine.”
He Nuo nodded. Shi Yan placed his forehead against his, “Tell me.”
Shi Yan held him in a powerful embrace and dove straight onto his pale lips that had just uttered the promise that came from his soul. Their lips joined together as they tossed about and sucked on each other; it was the first time for He Nuo to turn his passivity into pandering as he danced and entangled with Shi Yan, and it was the first time for him to taste the flavour of Shi Yan in his mouth. After they parted, He Nuo had to gasp for breath, and the darkness that had accumulated in Shi Yan’s chest because of He Nuo’s illness began to dissipate as if the snow was clearing up.
“What are you thinking about?” Shi Yan asked the He Nuo who still kept his gaze fixated on himself.
“From now on, I won’t be alone?” He Nuo’s words was filled with vague uncertainty, and it also revealed a kind of vulnerability that was rarely seen.
“Of course,” Shi Yan seemed to completely comprehend what his lover was thinking. He could really understand why his lover would reveal this side of him. This lover of his was like a traveller who travels alone at night, and he had always been in the company of loneliness. Shi Yan understood, which was why his heart ached. He held both his shoulders and gazed into his eyes, “Remember, I belong to you too!”
Shi Yan thought of He Nuo’s blissful smile as his response.
Shi Yan stood up. He grabbed He Nuo’s ankle and took off his socks; He Nuo retracted his feet, and Shi Yan didn’t exert any force. He only lowered his head, “I want to know.”
He didn’t need to look for it. There were two deformed nails on his right foot — it must be them. Shi Yan caressed these two nails, and didn’t look up for a long time.
“I feel very fortunate, everything that had happened to me in the past was a part of my fortune. If I didn’t have those bits of fortune, there wouldn’t be today.” He Nuo tried to withdraw his foot as he soothed his lover who was pricked with guilt.
“Does it hurt?”
“It stopped hurting a long time ago.”
Shi Yan kissed those two nails, then let go of them. This was his silent apology.
Wang Feng brought dinner for them, then left after he chatted with them for a bit. After Shi Yan cleared up their leftovers, he realised that the chocolate disappeared — He Nuo had hidden it the moment he saw Wang Feng walk in.
“Stingy, you want to eat it alone?” Shi Yan knew the reason behind it, but he deliberately misinterpreted He Nuo.
“I just want the box. You can take the rest and go eat it with the rest, I won’t care about that.”
“But I care. Only the two of us can eat them, no one else can have it. These chocolates are a token of our love, they’re happy sweets.”
He Nuo’s face flushed red with embarrassment. Shi Yan leaned over, then took the chocolate and began to open it up, “I haven’t seen what it looks like on the inside. I wanted to sneak a bite yesterday, but it was covered in a transparent film.”
He opened it up and found round chocolate balls in them. It looked incredibly cute under the bright and translucent lights as they emitted a sweet fragrance. Shi Yan took a piece and placed it next to He Nuo’s mouth, but He Nuo moved to one side and avoided it, “You eat it.”
“You eat one first.”
“I don’t like it.” He Nuo said slowly as he hesitated.
“I don’t like eating sweets.”
“Eat it! Why are you so picky? You’re even picky when it comes to snacks.” Shi Yan tried to stuff the chocolate into He Nuo’s mouth, but He Nuo turned around to dodge it and suddenly pushed him away, “I’ve never eaten sweets!”
It was as if the current scene turned into a freeze frame. One of their memories was unlocked, and a familiar scene replayed at the same time in their hearts; the atmosphere turned cool and suffocating in an instant.
“You have no cavities, and you’ll eat sweet and sour dishes as well, so why (don’t you eat sweets)?” Shi Yan completely refuted the excuse He Nuo gave in their first year.
He Nuo turned his head to one side. Shi Yan didn’t question him any further and pulled his hand, “Sour, sweet, bitter, spicy: we’ve tasted bitter and spicy flavours together, and we’ve also tasted sourness together, so why don’t we taste this sweetness together too?” Shi Yan gnawed on the back of He Nuo’s hand, “If you’re so generous, then I’ll eat it all by myself. Don’t say that I’m bullying you for this.”
He Nuo looked back, and after a moment of silence he talked about the incident with his sweet. Shi Yan restrained himself from hugging him, from comforting him, all because Shi Yan could clearly see the scene on that winter day — a child burying his one piece of sweet, who also buried a lifetime of sweetness along with it. From then on, his life has always lacked that one flavour. Shi Yan could deeply experience the loneliness in He Nuo’s solitary character — in order to avoid disappointment, he had closed all his windows of hope.
Shi Yan smiled lightly, “I thought it was some major thing too, how could you stop eating sweets because of such a trivial incident? You’re really dumb, and stupid.”
He Nuo didn’t want Shi Yan’s sympathy, but he didn’t expect Shi Yan to respond in this way?
“You’re really something, it’s not that big a deal.” Shi Yan took a piece of chocolate and threw it into his mouth, then pounced onto He Nuo’s mouth and kissed him. His tongue rolled over He Nuo’s tongue and wrapped it with this sweetness. When He Nuo stopped resisting, Shi Yan parted from his lips slightly, “We get half each.”
Shi Yan use the tip of his tongue to hold the piece of chocolate and bit it down in between their teeth; it had a nut in the middle, and Shi Yan sent the half that contained the nut into He Nuo’s mouth. The pain he suffered during his childhood had left behind a deep-rooted influence that lasted for a long time; He Nuo’s refusal to eat sweets was merely what could be seen on the surface — what he had really abandoned was hope, and his hopes of being loved. Shi Yan would get hurt for him, and he would endure any sort of pain for him, but he couldn’t let He Nuo continue to keep himself in the prison that he had drawn around himself.
The first step was for Shi Yan to let him know how sweetness tasted like again; the second step was for Shi Yan to use today’s memory to get rid of the pain in his old one. So he waited until the chocolate in He Nuo’s mouth had melted before Shi Yan was willing to let He Nuo go.
“Sour, sweet, bitter and spicy — not one will be overlooked; I’ll accompany you through them all.”