Shi Yan left before He Nuo’s family returned and told He Nuo that he would come back after he had dinner at home. He Nuo ate by himself in the kitchen after his family finished their meal. Ever since his college entrance examination results were released, his father’s disgust and anger towards him had never dissipated. The moment he saw He Nuo, he would start scolding him and when his emotions got riled up from scolding him, he would give him a few slaps too. For the sake of a peaceful environment that their family can eat in, He Nuo’s mother thus asked him to eat a little later, and such an arrangement has continued up till this day.
He Nuo ate uneasily by himself. He was worried about Shi Yan’s visit later, and he was afraid that his father might hurt Shi Yan with his words. In the afternoon he had tried to persuade Shi Yan not to talk to his parents, but he kept insisting on having He Nuo resume his classes. How could He Nuo not want the opportunity to attend college again? But he understood it clearly in his heart: his younger brothers have already entered high school and their parents would definitely support them to go to college. If he enrolled in college too, the burden on his family would be too great. Also, if he had managed to get into college, the guilt he felt from deceiving his family might have lessened; but now he was a disgrace to his family, so the He Nuo who felt a sense of guilt didn’t want Shi Yan to provoke the discomfort of his father.
In just a few months, He Nuo had experienced several severe psychological traumas. He had never touched on the idea of friendship before, and never had any friends he could speak of either. His life was truly as bland as plain boiled water, but it was also peaceful and tranquil. After he met Shi Yan, He Nuo’s life became much more vibrant and colourful; Shi Yan’s overbearing manner had taught He Nuo a lot, and had forced him to learn how to interact with people and how to get along with them (although it was only within the small scope of a school). However, everything changed within just one day. He Nuo didn’t even have the chance to think about whether or not he should forgive Shi Yan before Shi Yan had severed all ties with him. Of course, this was only the answer that He Nuo had come up with because Shi Yan never appeared again after that day.
When something like that had happened, He Nuo had hated Shi Yan to the core. But it wasn’t the kind of hatred that arises because someone had killed your father or the hatred you would have for a sworn enemy, but a hatred that arose because of Shi Yan’s slanderous accusations. That kind of accusation seemed dirty and degrading to He Nuo — Shi Yan had insulted his character. He didn’t want to think of him or see him again; he was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to control his impulse to duke it out with him — even though he knew that he wouldn’t be able to overpower Shi Yan — and shout at him loudly, “I didn’t fuck your woman!” But because of Shi Yan’s disappearance, during the time when He Nuo suffered from loneliness as he endured his punishment at home, he came to understand that he was such an obscene person in Shi Yan’s eyes, so Shi Yan kicked him out of his list of friends.
He Nuo’s heart was bleeding; whenever he thought of how Shi Yan saw him as a despicable and shameless person, his heart would stir with pangs. However, his grim reality compounded his suffering by stabbing his wound over and over again — taking the recruitment exam implied that the aspirations he held since he was a kid would be shattered. Whenever his father saw him, he would fly into a rage and wreck the peace of their family. Due to his self-reproach for bringing upon such a calamity to his household, he didn’t even have time to soothe his wounds before he only thought of earning more money to make up for his past mistakes. So when his mother asked him to be a temporary worker, he quickly applied to work everyday, including weekends.
The He Nuo who had already been working for awhile did his job diligently and didn’t think too much about anything else. Actually, this was the first time in He Nuo’s life that he chose to escape. He was so badly hurt that he couldn’t save himself and couldn’t heal himself, so he had to use a cloth to cover up his wound. But really, by doing so, even though you may not be able to see anything on the surface, the wound underneath the cloth would actually still be deteriorating at a rapid rate. Darkness besieged him from all sides and was gradually swallowing him up — this was also the reason why He Nuo had never been able to sleep peacefully from then on.
Shi Yan’s reappearance was completely unexpected, because his experience at work had made him clearly see the gap between him and Shi Yan that he never knew existed before. Walking into the lower echelon of society taught him one thing: he and Shi Yan were from two different worlds. Even if he hadn’t severed their relationship, the difference in their statuses would have eventually driven a wedge between their friendship. But when he was pressed into Shi Yan’s arms and heard that pained voice calling his name, He Nuo still yearned for that temporary burst of sunshine to resist the gloom that permeated his body.
When He Nuo was clearing the dishes, Shi Yan came. He Nuo became nervous at once, and he couldn’t help but feel afraid. It was as if he had looked for a helper to stick up for him and reason with his father, so he was afraid that it would provoke his father even more because He Nuo knew that his father was a very proud person. Shi Yan ignored his cold feet and dragged him in to find his parents, then Shi Yan affably greeted ‘Uncle He’ and ‘Aunt He’.
The He couple knew who he was, because ever since that incident with the conch shell, Shi Yan had seen them a couple of times when he came over to look for He Nuo. When He Pa saw that it was him, he kindly asked him to sit down but ignored the He Nuo who had greeted him as well. He Pa felt doubtful about Shi Yan’s appearance at this kind of timing, did he not get into college? Shi Yan explained to him that it was the military training period now and lessons hadn’t officially started yet. Also, since National Day was approaching, he applied for leave to return in advance. When he knew that Shi Yan had enrolled in college, He Pa did look quite happy about it and asked him a few questions out of concern like ‘which college?’, ‘where is it?’, ‘are you used to living away from home?’
Shi Yan was a sociable person, with just a few words he had coaxed the He couple into grinning from ear to ear and they were praising him incessantly. This was when Shi Yan pulled over the He Nuo who was standing at the side, “Uncle He, I want to talk to you about He Nuo too.”
The smile on He Pa’s face instantly vanished, “He’s different from you, why are you still looking for him? Since you’re already in college, don’t look for him anymore.”
When Shi Yan heard this, fury rose up in his heart, though he still put on a sincere look on his face, “Uncle He, I’m the one who held He Nuo up. He’s my best friend, how could I not come over to apologise to you?”
The He couple didn’t understand why Shi Yan said that, and even He Nuo was confused as to what Shi Yan wanted to do. When he heard him talk about apologising, He Nuo’s face turned pale immediately. Don’t tell him Shi Yan wanted to talk about…….
Shi Yan soothed him with a smile before he said to the He couple, “Uncle He, Aunt He, it’s all my fault. I was the one who thought He Nuo did very well in the arts. He has outstanding literary talent and was famous for it throughout our entire cohort. So when we were splitting streams, I saw that he chose science and thought it was a pity so I suggested him to change it. But He Nuo said that he couldn’t do that, because the two of you had chosen the science stream for him. Thus I kept persuading him, and convinced him not to tell the two of you. I thought that once he got into college, the two of you wouldn’t be unhappy about it anymore. I came up with all these ideas for He Nuo, so Uncle He, Aunt He, it’s all my fault.”
He Pa remained silent for a while, but he still faced Shi Yan calmly, “You can’t be blamed for that. How old is he now? Does he have to do whatever other people tell him to? Would he lie if others told him to? Does he not know how to discern right from wrong for himself? Good at arts? Hng, if he was good at it then why would he get that kind of score?!”
“Uncle He, do you guys know? He Nuo took the examination when he was sick. I wasn’t in the same examination venue as him, but other people had seen it. He Nuo was suffering from a high fever in the examination venue and couldn’t write his answers down the whole time. He had forced himself to endure it until the end of the examination. Had it not been for his illness, He Nuo would have definitely passed. The fact that he failed had even shocked our teachers into disbelief.”
When He Pa heard this he looked at He Nuo, “Really?”
He Ma also asked, “Didn’t you say you had a toothache? Why did it change into a fever?”
“I didn’t know I had a fever and thought that it wasn’t anything serious, so I didn’t mention it. I ate some medicine and thought I would be alright.”
He Ma blamed He Nuo for not taking good care of himself even though he was already this old and actually fell sick before the examination. In the end, she concluded, “Forget it, it all happened such a long time ago. Shi Yan, your uncle He and I don’t blame you, the root cause of it all is still because of He Nuo’s own problems.”
T/N: WHAT PROBLEMS??? WHAT PROBLEMS DOES HE NUO HAVE YOU BETTER STATE IT ALL OUT CLEARLY flips a table