Shi Yan answered the phone, but all he heard was a disconnect tone so he thought the line got cut. He put the phone back down to wait. Ten minutes later, it still didn't ring. If it was his buddies like Wang Feng and the rest who often contacted him through the phone, Shi Yan's parents would have been able to tell who it was. So Shi Yan asked his father who had called, but his father said he didn't recognise the voice; the other party had only said, "Hello, is Shi Yan at home?"
Shi Yan thought that his buddy wanted him to bring something back for them because the others didn't return, while Shi Yan had been sent back in a car this afternoon. Now that he heard his father say that, Shi Yan was certain that it wasn't them. Those buddies of his would call his parents Uncle Shi and Auntie, and they definitely wouldn't say 'nin', but 'ni'1. While he was searching his brain for someone who would talk in that kind of manner, he suddenly felt like he was struck by lightning — a hunch made Shi Yan's heart hurt as if it was being burnt by hot oil.
He suspected that he had come back — this phone call wasn't for him, but for his own confirmation. Shi Yan went back to his room, sat down, stood up, walked about here and there before he made up his mind and grabbed his keys to go out. When he met He Nuo, Shi Yan observed all his nuances and found nothing unusual about He Nuo. All of his reactions were extremely normal and natural; his pleasantly surprised expression was exactly the same as when he had suddenly appeared several times before. And he still happily poured a cup of water for him, then he had the "appropriate" blaming tone in his voice, "If you had something on yesterday, then you should've told me ah. I almost fell asleep while waiting for you."
When he passed the water to Shi Yan, he suddenly cried out in surprise, "Ah! Ah!!! I forgot, I thought you weren't coming back so I refunded the ticket, what do we do?" A 川 appeared between Shi Yan's eyebrows.
He Nuo sat down and smiled as he massaged the wrinkle between his brows, his fingers stretched it out as if they were ironing them, "Who knew you……."
He didn't continue, because Shi Yan had grabbed He Nuo's icy hands. If you only looked at He Nuo's perfect expression, you wouldn't have noticed that his hand was trembling.
Their eyes met. He Nuo smiled modestly, "A flat stretch of land is better2."
Shi Yan jumped up, He Nuo was still looking at him with his perfect expression. Shi Yan turned around and walked outside, "Go, let's head out."
He Nuo wasn't bothered either. He sat behind Shi Yan's bike as they rode all the way to the park, then walked to the place where they had taken an intimate picture together. On that autumn, fallen leaves the colour of bananas were strewn everywhere, and their feelings were reconciled within all that desolation; this autumn, there were peaches and plums everywhere, and there was a thick scent of spring in the air. But in He Nuo's eyes, everything was falling with a whistle and a patter, and who knew if Shi Yan's world was also full of wreckage and debris. It was as if they were in a competition as these two people at a standstill became more motionless, and more silent than the other.
A silent world needed someone to break its ice, He Nuo decided to shoulder this heavy responsibility. He puffed his chest out, raised his head and looked at Shi Yan; while Shi Yan went through the same process in synchrony — their eyes met. Too familiar, their familiarity with each other had seeped into their bones, so their best disguises seemed like it was being placed under an X-ray under each of their perspectives — everything could be seen through at a glance.
"You knew I came back?"
"Aren't you standing in front of me now." He Nuo was amused at Shi Yan's superfluous question.
"In that, in that period of time when we were together, did you see it as us being in a relationship?"
"Should be ba."
"Did you, ever think that we had a lot of misunderstandings?" Every word Shi Yan forced through his mouth seemed like he was trying to squeeze out toothpaste, and he even wore a pained expression on his face.
"And?" He Nuo had always worn his perfect expression, and didn't look impatient at all.
"When we first met, you were badly bullied by me, so afterwards I always felt like I've let you down and I wanted to make it up to you. Then I found out that you didn't have any friends, that you were in poor health, and how you weren't being treated very well at home too. On the other hand, because of how well I treated you — or because there were too few people who treated you well — you thought that I was the best person for you. But sympathy isn't love, and gratitude isn't love either. We just mixed these feelings up, which was why so many misunderstandings occurred."
He Nuo listened carefully to Shi Yan's speech; Shi Yan said it both anxiously and hurriedly as if he was reciting a script, like beans that were falling out of a bamboo tube as it jumped out everywhere with a splutter.
Shi Yan paused and waited for He Nuo's feedback. The upward curve of the latter's lips still existed.
"I was thinking that we could still be friends, but we need to calm down for awhile. Before we resolve all our misunderstandings, we shouldn't meet up."
When Shi Yan heard this simple, one-worded reply, he didn't know why he was dissatisfied. He raised his eyebrow and asked He Nuo, "Do you understand what I mean?"
"Un, I understand."
"What are your thoughts?"
"That's fine, whatever you say goes."
He Nuo's calm expression that didn't exhibit a single crack made Shi Yan feel like he was being very cold and detached about it. He said a little angrily, "I'm saying that we should break up! We won't be lovers anymore!"
"Un, okay." Still no waves.
Shi Yan's anger roared and it wanted to burst out with the force of a thunderbolt, but within the blink of an eye, when he saw He Nuo's porcelain white face, he blamed himself in his heart: what am I doing? Since I already said that we should break up, then do I still want him to look like he's reluctant to part with me? And to cry as we discuss this?
"Then I'll go back first, I have a lot of homework today." He Nuo took his leave.
Shi Yan looked at the pond in front of him and nodded. He only saw He Nuo turn around from the corner of his eye. After he walked about ten metres away, Shi Yan suddenly chased after him, "He Nuo."
The figure stopped. A few seconds later, he turned around to look at the Shi Yan who ran over with an inquiring gaze.
"I'll send you back."
"No need, it's not that far. You should head back soon ba." He Nuo was still as gentle as ever.
"Do you blame me? Or hate me?"
He Nuo shook his head with a warm, sunny smile.
Shi Yan felt like thousands of words were stuck in his throat, yet he couldn't even say a single one of them. He only knew that something was being torn apart, and a pain that he couldn't resist was spreading throughout his body.
"I was sincere when I said that I wanted to be friends with you, and I do treat you as my best friend. I, I,"
"I know." He Nuo said sincerely, "I'm not very good at saying thanks, but how could there be hatred between us? Are you scolding me for being an ingrate?" He waves his hands, "I'll be leaving first. Thank you. Shi Yan."
Shi Yan stared as he watched He Nuo disappear around the corner; that figure was still as slender and thin as ever, yet he didn't waver in every step he took — there was no hesitation, no hobble, and he never turned back to look at him even once.
Shi Yan suddenly felt like he had been abolished of all his powers by a martial expert. He staggered backwards and leaned on the trunk behind him, then slid down onto the grass. He would rather spit out a few mouthfuls of the blood like he had just suffered a defeat — if this were so, would the pain be transferred, would it be alleviated? Wasn't he worried about a situation where he would cling onto him and refuse to let go? Why did he manage to get away so easily? Yet his organ that was beating in his chest had been smashed into smithereens with just one palm. He Nuo was so indifferent, and so cold as he waved his sleeves before he walked away; he didn't leave anything behind, and didn't take anything away either.
Unwillingness and indignation emerged in Shi Yan's heart; compared to He Nuo, he was actually the one who was filled with hatred right now. He hated He Nuo for his inhumanity, he hated him for his heartlessness. He hated He Nuo for not asking him for his reasons, for not trying to persuade him to stay; even if he didn't beg, if he really did care about him, then wouldn't he have shown at least a little bit of sadness and sorrow? But, was there ever a trace of surprise, panic or pain on He Nuo's face? He only assumed an indifferent attitude, as if he was saying 'Shi Yan, you can do whatever you want'.
Shi Yan couldn't vent the hatred in his heart. So all of this had been his own wishful thinking all along. He Nuo merely accepted his goodwill; he had always pandered to him, so of course he would be happy to accept it, which was why he was now so indifferent to his behaviour. Shi Yan brutally smashed out several pits, then left with the wound inflicted on him by the one who had been abandoned.
1. Hello in Chinese is ni hao, which is the more informal version. When He Nuo called, he said 'nin hao', which is the more formal version of addressing someone else as compared to 'ni'↩
2. He's talking about how the 川 is better if it's flattened i.e. it's better if Shi Yan stopped frowning↩
T/N: Honestly after 90 I knew this was coming, and I really didn't want to continue. But I did, and now my heart is broken. Brb crying