He Nuo strolled idly and leisurely all the way back home. After he completed a set of review papers, he felt like he had gotten too many questions wrong and was being quite inefficient. So he simply pulled out a bundle of scrapped books (He Nuo had saved up all the papers he had finished to sell them off, and it was unnecessary to explain where the money had gone), then began to write down its contents from memory. Every time he silently finished reciting ?Remembering Your Charm — Remembrance of the Tale of the Crimson Cliff?, he would pick the text up to admire it for awhile, then flip to a new page to begin reciting the next one. He didn’t stop his fanaticism for classical poetry until lunch time.
When it was time for dinner, He Nuo was surprised that time would fly by so fast, it seemed as if he hadn’t finished digesting his lunch before it was time to eat again. While He Nuo sat down after scooping his second bowl of rice, his younger brother asked, out of curiosity, “He Nuo, how are you able to eat so much today?”
He Nuo laughed in embarrassment, “I still have some homework left to finish at night, so I wanted some extra nutrition.”
His parents said that if he couldn’t stomach it all down now then he shouldn’t force himself to. If he became hungry at night, he could soak some of the cooked rice in soup or cook some noodles.
After dinner, He Nuo tidied up the kitchen before returning to his room. Just as he sat down, he sprang back up like a rocket. He held his mouth and ended up vomiting before he could even run out the door, catching his vomit with both hands. Because He Nuo had suppressed himself from outright vomiting all contents, some of the vomit choked his trachea, triggering an earth-shattering bout of coughs that drew his younger brothers’, and then his parents’, attention.
He Nuo was bending over, but he waved his hand to motion that he was okay. He accepted the water that his mother handed over and, after downing a few mouthfuls, he stood straight back up, apologetically telling them that he had eaten too much.
“You’re this old already, yet you still can’t tell how full or hungry you are? Don’t bite off more than you can chew.” His father shook his head, “Wait a little?ba. When you feel better and if you get hungry, then you can go eat a bit more.”
He Nuo nodded in embarrassment, then grabbed a broom to clean up the mess on the ground. After he was done tidying it up, he leaned on one side, muttering to himself, “If you eat more you’ll have the strength to study more too. It’s time to sprint, He Nuo. Grasp this chance well. In front of you is a vast sea that you can leap into, and a boundless sky that you can freely fly through. You don’t need tears for this battle.”
He walked to his table and picked up the small calendar on it. Shi Yan had brought this over after the 22nd of February. He Nuo flipped to the page where the first star in it was drawn; this calendar had it the moment Shi Yan brought the calendar over, and it was the only star that Shi Yan had drawn in it. He Nuo added all the subsequent stars under Shi Yan’s coercion. In the mornings following their passionate collisions, Shi Yan would ask He Nuo to record down one or two stars (according to the number of times they got it on). He Nuo drew a star for today’s date————… a shooting star.
After he was done with all these, He Nuo kept the calendar and the conch shell on his table in his cabinet, then began to study.
On Monday, He Nuo approached learning in a state of valour. He acted as if someone had injected him with a stimulant as he threw himself into his work without the slightest intention of sleeping.
On Tuesday, He Nuo discovered that there were times when even adages could be wrong: “there is no end to learning but it feels bitter to build a boat for it” was totally inconsistent with the actual situation. He Nuo roamed about freely in the ocean of learning and got completely engrossed in it. This behavior made his younger brother, who woke up at 3am, tell his parents that He Nuo probably owed quite a bit of homework, so he was doing a crash job.
On Wednesday, under the supervision of his parents, he stopped when the clock struck 12. He slept well for the entire night, yet his eyes were bloodshot.
On Thursday, He Nuo was the last person to walk out of his classroom. When he was walking down the stairs, he suddenly fell down for no reason. With no one in the corridor, he shamelessly lied on the ground and didn’t get up. He realised that some liquid had been flung out of his eyes because of his tumble — it was salty. “You’re so fucking delicate!” He Nuo dissed himself, then patted the dust off his body.
On Friday, as He Nuo pulled out some clothes to change into, he accidentally tugged onto a small bag that he appeared to have tucked away a few days ago. This iron forged robot had short-circuited; but unfortunately, the body underneath this iron forged shell was still a mortal one — which human could be without consciousness or feelings, which human could live without happiness or sadness? He Nuo admitted that his cultivation was lacking, because right now, this small bag had shaken his internal organs into bits and pieces as it turned his insides into a hideous mess.
On Saturday morning, He Nuo was startled awake. He opened his windows to welcome the sunrise. The dark blue clouds in the sky were gradually inlaid with a golden lace. When the first ray of sunlight illuminated the world, the scorching red wheel rose into the sky, and rays of light burst forth, washing away all darkness in the clear, blue sky. “Shi Yan, I’m sorry.”
On Sunday, He Nuo told his parents that he would be studying with his classmates today, so they shouldn’t expect him to return for lunch and dinner. At 7:30am, He Nuo sat on the coach that he once bought tickets for in the past, and once again bought the ticket for yesterday morning, then rode it to that city. He Nuo alighted the coach at 12pm and took out a letter that Shi Yan wrote to him before. He asked around at the station for the route to Shi Yan’s college, and the number of the bus he needed to ride. The college turned out to be quite close, it was only a 15-minutes bus ride before He Nuo arrived at his destination.
Upon walking through the college’s gate, He Nuo thought he stumbled into the wrong place. He only ever viewed several famous colleges’ campuses in China through pictures and on television, so he felt like there was a great discrepancy between reality and his expectations. You could see the entire college at a glance, and the first evaluation of it would be its dirtiness and messiness. Also, its atmosphere of learning was severely lacking, because even though He Nuo had walked by what he believed to be a teaching building, he didn’t see anyone inside. He Nuo guessed that the two buildings not too far away should be the dormitories. He didn’t need to ask around about it before he walked straight up to the dormitories.
The left building was the one he was looking for. He Nuo walked to the room number written on the letter. The door was locked. Someone walked over in the corridor, he was from another dorm room. Seeing He Nuo standing at the door, he took the initiative to tell him that the people in that dorm were eating in a restaurant behind the school. The other group had just settled the bill when they left, so they should be back soon. That gang had all slept in, so they only began eating at 11am as they merged their breakfast and lunch.
He Nuo hurriedly went downstairs. In the first place, he had gone up to ask someone to help him call out the person he was looking for in that dormitory because he didn’t want to see the whole gang of them. But He Nuo had just left the dormitory building — he hadn’t even finished walking the last few steps — before he bumped into that gang. They were such a huge group, both men and women were included in the bunch; Shi Yan’s arm belonged to someone too, and it belonged to the girl that He Nuo had seen before.
Everyone was taken aback. Wang Feng and Qiu Linsong were the first to walk up happily, “When did you come? Why didn’t you tell us beforehand, we could have gone to fetch you.”
“Have you eaten yet?”
Five or six mouths spoke all at once, He Nuo had no room in between to answer them.
“This is my friend — Shi Yan’s precious, He Nuo.” He even pulled He Nuo to introduce him to their new buddies at college, before some people who had quicker reactions realised that the two parties had not yet said hello to each other.
He Nuo greeted the two strangers, “Hello.”
“I know you, they often talk about you. Bro, you wanna go out and eat? Or do you want us to get some takeout so you can eat in the dorm?” The other party answered cheerfully.
“Thank you, you don’t need to buy anything, that’s too troublesome. Qiu Linsong, can you accompany me to go eat? Will you be okay with eating again?”
Everyone was astonished. They looked at the woman who was holding onto Shi Yan tightly and could understand why He Nuo wanted to look for Qiu Linsong, but they still thought that He Nuo didn’t need to do that. Isn’t he regarding Shi Yan as too much of an outsider?
Qiu Linsong draped his arms around He Nuo’s shoulder, “Then I’ll have to lay my life down to accompany this gentleman. Let’s go,?ba.” Then, he said to the rest, “We’ll return in awhile,” before pulling He Nuo away. He Nuo said goodbye to everyone, but Qiu Lingsong anxiously yanked him away, “If you have anything you want to say, do it later. Eat first.” These words were for the both of them.
After they left the college, He Nuo told Qiu Linsong that he didn’t want to eat anymore, but he had something that he wanted to trouble him with. Of course Qiu Linsong knew that something was up. The only reason that could make He Nuo travel all the way to their college would definitely have something to do with Shi Yan. And the reason appeared to be quite serious too. Otherwise, how could Shi Yan not say a single word after hearing that He Nuo hadn’t eaten yet? Shi Yan worries about He Nuo’s body even more than He Nuo does. He wanted to talk about it after eating lunch, but he didn’t expect He Nuo to mention it first.
He Nuo pulled an envelope out from his bag and asked Qiu Linsong to pass it to Shi Yan. After receiving this letter, Qiu Linsong felt much more relieved. Even if they did have any disputes or conflicts with each other, He Nuo already traveled all this way to deliver a letter to explain himself; with how much San Ge cared about He Nuo, all the clouds in the sky would probably drift right by and he would run up to He Nuo to pander to him again.