He Nuo stood in front of the window. Shi Yan watched his body tremble as he was trying to suppress it with all his might. Shi Yan walked up behind He Nuo and stretched his arms out as he wanted to put his arms around his beloved.
“Don’t touch me.” It was as if He Nuo had grown eyes on his back, but his voice was very light.
Shi Yan retracted both his arms in shame. He stood upright with his head drooped down. When Shi Yan realised that there water stains on the ground in front of He Nuo, he anxiously yanked He Nuo around. The He Nuo who would rather bleed than shed tears, and who never cries in front of others, was currently allowing his tears to run rampant.
“Nuonuo.” Shi Yan cried out in anguish and tightly pressed him into his embrace. Right at this moment when he saw He Nuo’s face that was awash with tears, he thought that if he could turn time back, if he could buy a regret pill, then Shi Yan would be willing to exchange his life for all these ‘if’s. As long as he could make it such that He Nuo wouldn’t cry anymore, Shi Yan was willing to do anything. His heart wrenched as if a knife had stabbed it and was twisting around inside as he grabbed He Nuo’s hand and placed it on the left side of his chest, “It hurts like hell! This place hurts, it really hurts!”
His scorching tears permeated straight through into his heart that was filled with regret, bitterness and suffering. Tears pooled in Shi Yan’s tiger eyes; he had no face to beg, and could offer no words of comfort. So the two of them continued to snuggle like this as they shed their silent tears.
He Nuo returned to normal a bit earlier. He walked over to the table and asked Shi Yan to sit on his bed.
“Ever since I was a child, I’ve never known how to please others, how to be likable, or how to communicate with other people.” Without an introduction, He Nuo sounded like he was talking to himself, but Shi Yan was listening to him very carefully.
“So I’ve always been in my own world. I watched others as they experienced joy, anger, sorrow and happiness, but I never had those feelings. Then I met you. You were very sunny, and you were a very warm person. I know that I’m a bit corpse-like, and I have a zero-degree existence. We’re different people, so I didn’t want to come into contact with you. But you didn’t care about my attitude at all, so we became friends. Although it was partly through force, I did like the new warmth in my life. Actually, who wouldn’t yearn for sunshine? You lived your life so ebulliently, and I secretly admired your insolence and arrogance as well. I admired your unbridled way of life.
I think what you said just now made sense, and it was a part of the reason. You’re a very zealous person, when you saw that my life was different from yours, your zeal set off your impulse to help me, because the hot-blooded you didn’t want to see your friend live in such a murky world. You pulled me out of my castle, and gave me a taste of basking in the sunshine, and you made me realise that life could be sweet. You dusted off all the dirt that had accumulated on my body over the years, and drove away the decay within me that seemed like it belonged to a dead person. I’m very grateful for that. Today, I still owe you a ‘thank you’.”
Shi Yan opened his mouth, but no words came out — they had all turned into chokes that remained stuck in his throat.
“But, when I was standing in the world outside my castle, experiencing life to my heart’s content and living in bliss every day, you let go of my hand. It was my first time being in this universe; but before I could familiarise myself with it and put myself on a more stable footing, you left. I was like a toddler who was learning how to walk as I got lost in that ostentatiousness. Shi Yan, honestly, I would rather have not known what sunshine is, I’m not willing to pay that kind of price. But because of your ‘compassion and pity’, I paid it. So, can I say that I’ve already repaid you too, and that we don’t owe each other anything anymore?”
He stood in front of Shi Yan. Shi Yan looked up, his face was full of anguish. He Nuo smiled. Big, fat teardrops slid down his cheeks. Shi Yan’s face already looked blur in his vision but his voice was still as clear as ever, “Shi Yan, I cherish myself a lot, and I can’t bear to dirty myself. So, I will choose to get rid of all the dirty things in my life that have stained me. Even if I had to gouge them out and carve them out of my bones — I would still not hesitate to do so!”
Shi Yan was stunned silly. Unlike his previous refusal, He Nuo’s cold and ruthless words were part of the sacrificial script uttered at the burial of their feelings.
He Nuo walked next to the door and pulled it open, “Please!”
Shi Yan felt his whole body go numb as he shifted towards He Nuo. He forced himself to look straight into his eyes that looked like black grapes, “Nuonuo, please give me another chance, give us another chance.”
He Nuo turned his head sideways and looked out the window, then stubbornly withdrew his tears.
Shi Yan left. He did not look as carefree or as unrestrained as He Nuo did whenever he left. Shi Yan’s steps were evidently a lot heavier…….then he couldn’t take another step forward. Shi Yan called Wang Feng’s house with a public telephone — he wasn’t home. Then he called Qiu Linsong’s house. But the two of them came to pick him up together. After Wang Feng sent Shi Yan to He Nuo’s house, he went straight to Qiu Linsong’s place to complain. When they saw the Shi Yan who was sitting on the curb and his forehead full of sweat, the two of them were so angry that their lungs almost exploded. It was such a swelteringly hot day, yet Shi Yan didn’t care about how he had just been discharged as he came to look for He Nuo, but He Nuo didn’t care even though he was returning in this kind of state? Even if he doesn’t want to send him back, couldn’t he have let Shi Yan call them at his house and wait for them to come pick him up?
After he got home, Shi Yan became a little more energetic. They couldn’t help themselves from blaming He Nuo, but Shi Yan smiled, “Don’t blame him, you don’t need to blame him anymore in the future.”
Wang and Qiu looked at each other, then looked at Shi Yan. They guessed that they had really broken off their ties this time, and even though they expressed their regret for Shi Yan, they did think that He Nuo had crossed the line. Since He Nuo didn’t want to be friends with them, they didn’t need to go beg him either. If worst comes to worst, they’ll just be strangers in the future.
Throughout that week, even though Shi Yan had just recovered from his fever and his parents weren’t willing to let him leave the house, his buddies could all go to his house to play. They could watch videos and play poker together, but going out to play soccer or swim wasn’t allowed. Everyone knew that Shi Yan and He Nuo had broken it off; Shi Yan didn’t say anything, so the rest naturally didn’t know why they broke it off, but they eventually thought that it couldn’t be because of Shi Yan.
College cut-off points and the examination results were released at the same time. The annual hot topic discussed amongst families began to revolve around the admission of a certain family’s child to a certain school. Shi Yan and gang didn’t really need to ask around before they knew of He Nuo’s results, because it was difficult for them to not know who the the top scorer of their alma mater’s arts class was. Shi Yan usually hung out with his friends who would laugh and make fun of one another in the day, but he only knew how difficult it was to smile when he faced the dark sky outside his window at night. He Nuo’s outstanding results exacerbated his misfortunes, his wings had fluttered open! He was afraid that he would never see the He Nuo who was soaring into the sky again. Every time he thought of this, Shi Yan would curl up underneath his towel blanket and grit his teeth as hard as he could — just so he could suppress his desire to roar out into the skies above; Shi Yan wanted to scream his pain out, he wanted to yell out: give me one more chance!
On this day, his buddies had gathered at Wang Feng’s house. As soon as Qin Mingxu entered the house, he happily said that he brought some good news. Shi Yan wasn’t interested at all, so he only dedicated one ear to it as he was bored stiff, “He Nuo didn’t get accepted!”
This news was quite earth-shattering to a certain extent, because no matter what, everyone had been acquaintances with He Nuo before. And as the top scorer of their alma mater, how could something like this happen to He Nuo? When everyone questioned Qin Mingxu about the inside story, he said that he wasn’t very sure about it either. He just heard that the admission exercises for all the key colleges have already ended, and all the college admission notices would be mailed to their alma mater, but He Nuo still hadn’t received his admission notice until today (the last day). Qin Mingxu snickered, “Look at how wretched he is now, so what if he’s the top scorer? Shouldn’t he take a good look at himself before he considers getting into a key college? Now I’d really like to see if he can still be as arrogant as before. Shi Yan, your anger should all be vented now ba? Do you want to give him a call to say ‘hello’?”
Shi Yan was originally leaning on the sofa as his words went through one ear and out the other, but he didn’t know when he was already sitting up straight stiffly. When Qin Mingxu asked him that, he suddenly jumped up and ran outside. Wang Feng’s house was on the fourth floor. When he came, Shi Yan climbed up the stairs a bit breathlessly because he hadn’t completely recovered, but now he was rushing all the way down with a whoosh like a locomotive.
Everyone was shocked. Qiu Linsong was the first to react, he grabbed his keys, “I’ll go chase him.”
Qiu Linsong ran downstairs as quick as he could. Shi Yan had already ran from unit 3 to unit 1. Qiu Linsong shouted at him to stop and said that he would send him over, and that was when Shi Yan knew he had to turn back. They didn’t say anything on their way over; Qiu Linsong was anxious too. Even though he was no longer friends with He Nuo, he knew that he had studied very hard and getting into college was his best way out. He Nuo wasn’t like them, he had nothing to rely on.
When they reached He Nuo’s house, his yard’s door wasn’t locked so Shi Yan ran straight to He Nuo’s room. When he heard this flurry of footsteps, He Nuo turned around. Shi Yan saw He Nuo prop himself up with the edge of the table with a vacant and helpless gaze.