On Friday, Shi Yan waited for the letter before he went home. On his journey back, he had already ruminated over hundreds of ideas in his head, and every one of them revolved around He Nuo. He managed to arrive at his school the moment classes ended. When He Nuo walked out of the school, he merely nodded when he saw Shi Yan and gave him an almost imperceptible smile before he continued walking forward. Shi Yan was so angry that he strode over and pulled He Nuo away, while the latter said earnestly, “What’s the matter? Let’s talk as we walk?ba, I have several papers I need to finish tonight. Laoshi will be going through the answers tomorrow, so they can’t be delayed.”
“I have something to ask you.”
“Un, what is it?”
“Did you hook up with someone else?”
When He Nuo heard that, he paused, then answered Shi Yan, “I don’t quite understand why you’re standing here? And what I don’t understand even more is why you’re asking such a question? But I do want to tell you, Shi Yan, I’m very thankful that you gave me the opportunity to resume classes. If it’s not too much to ask, is it okay if you don’t take this chance back? The college entrance examination is in 40 days, my time is really tight with my studies. If you don’t agree to giving me this opportunity, I can return it to you1; but if you agree to my request, I would like to focus on the examination. I don’t want it to be like last year when I had to hear and see some baffling affairs.”
Shi Yan’s heart had been lingchi-ed2?by He Nuo’s words. This busy and clear person was making a humble request — since when has He Nuo ever pleaded with someone like this before? Or rather, since when has He Nuo ever made a request before?
All of the hatred in his sea of rage and the malicious rebukes he wanted to utter became groundless as it vanished. What replaced them were feelings of guilt: he didn’t give He Nuo the chance to resume classes, he was the one who?caused?him to resume classes.
“Do you agree (to give me this opportunity)?” He Nuo’s voice softened, “I won’t have another chance after this.”
Shi Yan stared at He Nuo and didn’t say anything as his heart ached for him. After the first time Shi Yan applied medicinal cream for him, he couldn’t bear to let He Nuo suffer any grievances or harm anymore, so He Nuo’s words were undoubtedly like a barbed whip that was flogging Shi Yan.
He didn’t get Shi Yan’s reply, so He Nuo seemed to become a little nervous. He tried to do his best for the sake of his future, “I really cherish this chance to resume classes. Studying can be quite arduous, I’ve been working very hard. I, for our first mock examination, I was ranked 2nd; in May I was ranked 1st,” This kind of bragging made He Nuo’s face flush red with unease, “So, I’m a bit reluctant to give it up. I, I’d like to ask you, to please, please agree,” He Nuo’s voice was trembling as he wasn’t used to making requests.
“Nuonuo, Nuonuo.” Shi Yan hugged him tight. If his previous words had carved out bloody wounds in Shi Yan’s heart; then his latter words kneaded and crushed his bleeding heart into mush. Shi Yan felt like being turned into dust wouldn’t hurt as much as the pain he was feeling right now, “Nuonuo, you’ll definitely pass! Definitely!”
He Nuo pushed Shi Yan away and took two steps back, “Thank you, I’ll repay you after I’m done being busy for the next forty days.” He Nuo gave Shi Yan a bow before he turned around and left.
With an empty embrace and outstretched hands, Shi Yan turned utterly silly.
This was the longest and darkest night that Shi Yan had ever spent. He Nuo — would he ever be able to pull out this thorn in his heart? On Saturday, Shi Yan rested at home listlessly as he looked at the ceiling in a daze. When the phone rang at 4pm, he was so startled that he jumped up from the sofa. Wang Feng had returned. Shi Yan complained as he asked him why he didn’t accompany him back yesterday. Wang Feng actually didn’t plan on coming back, but Qiu Linsong’s family car had gone over so they hitched a ride back. Wang Feng wanted to go pick up He Nuo from school; he thought that Shi Yan was willing to come back because he had reconciled with He Nuo, so since it was the weekend, they could celebrate their reconciliation by having a meal together.
As soon as Shi Yan heard that, he wanted to fabricate a reason to reject him, because he really didn’t dare to experience He Nuo’s pleas again. His words of courtesy could kill even though they had no concrete form, Shi Yan was afraid that he might go crazy if he heard them again. But Wang Feng said that it was Ah Song who suggested to have dinner together, so Shi Yan immediately changed his clothes and left. He met up with the Wang Feng who was waiting at the intersection before they went to their high school. During the weekend, students rushed out the moment their classes ended. When He Nuo and Qiu Linsong came out to get their bike, Wang Feng and Shi Yan saw two people who were chatting happily as they walked. Qiu Linsong had one foot on the ground as he waited for He Nuo to sit down at the back properly before he rode off. Wang Feng greeted them. The He Nuo who was sitting at the back responded, then smiled politely at Shi Yan.
Wang Feng didn’t see He Nuo jump off to sit on Shi Yan’s bike, so he hesitated for a moment. He thought that since they had just reconciled, they might still feel awkward with one another, so he tried to adjust the atmosphere as he complained about his hunger, “Let’s eat a bit earlier today, hurry hurry.”
Qiu Linsong picked a place, and Qin Mingxu went home to pack his things before he would meet them at the restaurant. The funniest thing happened when they were choosing their seats after everyone entered the room they had reserved. Wang Feng was used to sitting next to Shi Yan, and Qiu Linsong casually sat next to Wang Feng, but He Nuo actually sat beside Qiu Linsong. Wang Feng was about to call He Nuo over, but Qin Mingxu chuckled as he sat on the other side of Shi Yan. This round table had eight seats. Wang Feng blamed this guy for playing gooseberry, “You have a big ass, come over here.”
“I won’t.” Qin Mingxu squinted his eyes. He knew what his intention was, but he didn’t want to move.
“Why is your fucking ass so heavy…”
“Forget it, it doesn’t matter where we sit. Start ordering, aren’t you hungry?” Shi Yan interrupted.
This meal had suffocated Wang Feng to death. He learnt a lesson today: it wasn’t easy being the good guy. The atmosphere around the table was strange; Shi Yan kept staring at He Nuo, and he stared at him with the kind of gaze that made him look like he wanted to gobble He Nuo up. Yet when He Nuo looked up, his line of sight would drift away. He Nuo appeared to be sitting on pins and needles — it was as if he had forgotten that he needed to pick up some side dishes as he ate, and it was Qiu Linsong who often got the side dishes for him. All you could hear were his thanks in return. And there was a Qin Mingxu who seemed to fear that the world wasn’t chaotic enough as he kept adding fuel to the fire — he would either ask about the resumption of He Nuo’s classes, or discuss with Shi Yan about whether or not his girlfriend was hot enough. No matter how hard Wang Feng tried to create an opportunity for Shi Yan to say something to He Nuo, his efforts would always be reduced to naught by this “brute”.
They were about to go their separate ways after the meal. Wang Feng didn’t want to put in any more futile efforts. He wasn’t going to be so stupid as to suggest that Shi Yan should send He Nuo back — he knew that they hadn’t reconciled yet, so he wasn’t going to eat this meal that was difficult to swallow. Yet the person at the dinner table who hadn’t spoken a single word to He Nuo actually spoke up and said that he would send He Nuo home. And He Nuo sat on his bicycle’s backseat without any objection. That was when Wang Feng felt like he hadn’t eaten this meal in vain.
When he sent He Nuo to his doorstep, Shi Yan asked, “Can I go in?”
After they entered, he greeted He Nuo’s family and exchanged pleasantries with them, then they went to He Nuo’s room. He Nuo poured a cup of water for him before quietly sitting at one side as if he was awaiting trial.