Spring Festival arrived just like this, and He Nuo obtained a 10-day vacation. After New Year’s Eve, He Nuo’s parents could only go to Zhou Xiaoyu’s maiden family because their twin sons were still there. So from the second day of the lunar new year onwards, only fourth bro, fifth bro and He Nuo were left at home. His other older brothers all had their own activities and usually returned late at night.
On Shi Yan’s side, it was a lively and bustling scene. His family always receives an endless stream of gifts and New Year greetings during this time of the year, and the Spring Festival lasts until the 15th of the first lunar month. Shi Yan had gained quite a lot of benefits. His parents had already began work, so usually, after they made a phone call, Shi Yan would wait for guests at home. These people kindly sprinkled the tall and handsome teenager with compliments, as well as a New Year’s red packet that showed off their elderly benevolence — lucky money1. Thus, Shi Yan managed to make a small windfall.
Shi Yan didn’t like to wait for people at home, but the moment they left, that was when he would get really happy. He always picked out things from his gift pile that he thought He Nuo could use, then like a hamster, he would never get tired of carrying all these gifts over the He Nuo’s house. He Nuo now got a headache whenever he saw him come over with a backpack, and had begun calling him a “porter”. He begged Shi Yan to quit such a laborious job, because He Nuo’s cabinet had been filled to the brim with all the healthcare products and snacks that he had brought over. He Nuo’s sweet complaints made Shi Yan’s heart bloom with happiness; he gave He Nuo a carton to place underneath his bed and continued his job as a porter.
The Lantern Festival is a major event in this city, and a very lively one at that. All the fancy lanterns in the festival are customized by each company, so they all represent the unique characteristics of the company that crafted them. No enterprise can go without one. Thus, every enterprise participates in the festival with a competitive mindset as they all wanted to win the Chief Lantern award. As for the private participants, they have their separate awards, so there are many lantern enthusiasts who would join as well. Their hand-made lanterns are on the smaller side, but they are all incredibly exquisite; they were all covered in either fine and dainty paintings, or cute and charming cartoons. Every year, the lantern festival would begin in the afternoon, and because of its large scale, most of the lanterns could only be hung up with cranes.
Companies were practically emptied out in the afternoon, and the He Nuo who went to school didn’t have a night self-study session today. Shi Yan asked him to go to the lantern festival together in advance. For this kind of bustling event, it was impossible for Shi Yan to separate from his group of friends, but they were all going to bring their girlfriends along anyway, so He Nuo wouldn’t be the only outsider there. Several cars were already parked outside When they arrived at the place they arranged to meet. Since the streets were crowded with a lot of people, Shi Yan held He Nuo’s hand tightly the whole time; fortunately, everyone was afraid of being separated in the crowd, so no one thought it was strange.
He Nuo had watched the lantern festival from afar before. But he had never wanted to go to the festival alone, and he wasn’t used to its crowdedness either, so this was the first time for him to watch the lanterns up close. Thus, it was inevitable for him to be a little more interested than the others in the festival. Whenever he bent down to study the lanterns’ mechanisms — some could even spew flames out — Shi Yan would use his body and arms to block other sightseers from bumping into He Nuo. When the girls who were walking with them saw this, some of them acted coquettish with their boyfriends while others joked about how Shi Yan treated He Nuo like he was his darling. When Shi Yan heard their jest, he didn’t think much of it and just smiled, “He’s so skinny. If I don’t look after him, he might get blown away by the crowd.”
He Nuo didn’t want to pay attention to what they were saying, and instead looked at all the lanterns on the street. Every time he saw one that he thought was so special it made him gasp with admiration, he would point it out to Shi Yan. Shi Yan escorted him like this all the way to the end of the lantern exhibition. Since all the lanterns were hung along both sides of the road, for the sake of convenience, sightseers would look at all the lanterns on one side first, then make a u-turn at the end to see the lanterns on the other side. Thus, by the time they reached the last lantern, it wasn’t as crowded anymore so their group slowed down.
Suddenly, a pleasantly surprised voice could be heard in the crowd, “He Nuo! He Nuo!”
He Nuo looked up to see where the voice was coming from. Yu Yao was shouting his name as she waved while running over. After He Nuo recognised who she was, he revealed a faint smile as well. A 川 appeared in the middle of Shi Yan’s eyebrows who was standing next to him. He had never told Yu Yao that He Nuo resumed classes, and didn’t tell He Nuo that Yu Yao had inquired about him either. At first, Shi Yan thought that since He Nuo didn’t like Yu Yao, there was no need to tell him about it. Afterwards, he just didn’t want them to contact each other.
Yu Yao ran over and grabbed both of He Nuo’s arms, “I actually got to see you right after I got home, this is great! I thought it was you from afar, but I wasn’t very sure. It was only when I saw Shi Yan that I thought it should be you.” She turned around and asked Shi Yan, “How did you contact him? You should have found him when you returned during the winter holidays ba?”
He Nuo didn’t know what the premise for her question was, and didn’t put too much thought into it either. He thought she was talking about how Shi Yan went to his school to find him during his holidays, so he answered, “He came to school to find me as soon as his holidays began. I only knew that winter vacation started when I saw him after school.”
Shi Yan’s buddies approached them. Yu Yao was quite familiar with them, so they all asked one another about their life during the winter holidays. After Yu Yao’s vacation started, she went to her grandmother’s place immediately and waited for her parents there to celebrate the festival together.
They chatted as they walked and blended into the crowd once again. Yu Yao openly held He Nuo’s arms, and saw that He Nuo seemed embarrassed so she spoke as if nothing was wrong, “There are so many people. If I don’t hold onto you, we might end up losing our way in this crowd.”
He Nuo sneaked a peek at Shi Yan and didn’t see any abnormal signs from him, so he allowed Yu Yao to hold onto him. Shi Yan continued to hold onto one of He Nuo’s hands as tightly as usual. They finished looking through the lanterns on this side incredibly quick, Shi Yan didn’t really allow them to stop very often this time. Yu Yao and He Nuo chatted along the way; when she knew that He Nuo had gone back to school, she was sincerely happy for him and even offered him some encouragement for the college entrance examination this year. Yu Yao even talked about how she had asked Shi Yan to find out about his whereabouts since last year’s National Day, but she had never known that He Nuo actually went back to school. He Nuo looked at Shi Yan in surprise for a moment, while the other party merely raised his eyebrow.
When He Nuo and Shi Yan looked at each other like that, doubts emerged in Yu Yao’s heart. She pretended not to care much as she asked He Nuo when Shi Yan contacted him. The He Nuo who wasn’t good at lying had the night as his cover, his face wasn’t flushed red but he was humming and hawing. Yu Yao thus returned to the more casual topics of the lanterns and his school life.
“During New Year’s, I bought a really beautiful greeting card for you. I wanted to get Shi Yan to bring it back for you at first, but I couldn’t find him when I went to his college. Did he return before New Year’s Day?”
“He went to his friend’s house and didn’t come back.” When He Nuo answered, his hand that was being held by Shi Yan hurt a bit from the sudden pressure in his grip.
Shi Yan enunciated, “Idiot!”
When he saw Shi Yan and Yu Yao’s unyielding gazes, He Nuo knew that he had been tricked by Yu Yao.
1. Red packet money~↩