An early Happy Lunar New Year to everyone!
Any surprise that there’s more sweetness in this chapter? But sprinkled between the sweetness is a little bit more about Teacher Gu’s past and its effect on him …
Chapter 8.3 – To “Wash Her Hands and Make Soup” (3)
Aromas from the kitchen came wafting in in waves.
Turning her head away to the side, she stared at the light of the kitchen and murmured under her breath, “You clearly just did something bad, and then you go pretending to be innocent.”
He let his chin rest upon her shoulder and then exaggeratedly breathed in the aromas. “What are you saying behind my back?”
She shook her head, also feigning innocence.
Gu Pingsheng suddenly sniffed at the air again. “I think I smell something burning.”
Tong Yan cried out in alarm, and when she dashed over, she discovered that, sure enough, the beef was burnt.
And so, just like that, her first time stewing beef ended up as an offering to the garbage can.
Originally, she had wanted to simply remove the burnt sections, and, though it would be scraping by, there would at least still be some left. Gu Pingsheng, though, very adamantly educated her that eating burnt food could cause cancer, thereby successfully crushing all her thoughts of being able to manage the home diligently and frugally.
Fortunately, there will still a few other dishes.
In particular, there was something she was certain he would like.
Soft, silken tofu pudding with cilantro sprinkled on top and mixed with a “thousand year sauce.”
Tong Yan set it down in front of him. It definitely tasted pretty good. She had secretly had a taste.
Smiling, Gu Pingsheng picked up a spoon and ate a couple of spoonfuls. Then, he ate another couple of spoonfuls, all the while not lifting his head. Hence, she was not able to ask him anything and could only pull over a chair to take a seat and watch him in eager anticipation.
From this angle, she could see he was smiling, his dimple etched deeply on his cheek.
She propped her chin up on her hand and gazed at him until he had finished eating his entire bowl of savoury tofu pudding. When he lifted his head to look at her, she finally could ask, “Taste good?”
“Tastes very good.” He pulled out a napkin and wiped his mouth. “Extremely good.”
A single affirmation of “tastes good” caused her to be exhilarated for a long time. Even after they had finished dinner, when she was watching him wash the dishes, she still could not help secretly delighting in it.
Gu Pingsheng’s home was not far from the store where she worked her part-time job. ‘On Monday, he had already suggested to Tong Yan that she stay over at his home on Saturday night, and that way, she could sleep in a little longer on Sunday morning.
In the beginning, she had felt a little shy about this, but after thinking it over, she concluded that it was not a big deal.
However, when she was actually standing in his bathroom, hugging her clothing to herself and getting ready to take a shower, she at last realized that it really was a big deal. So nervous. Honestly, so nervous. Fortunately, the water temperature was warm enough, and he had prepared all the necessary things for her.
The entire showering process basically went smoothly, and no unexpected incidents occurred.
Only after she had put on all of her clothing did she face the mirror and breathe out in relief.
A foggy layer of condensation covered the mirror, and because the temperature of the room was very high, there were no indications at all that it would be dissipating. Stretching out her hand, she randomly drew a couple of scribbles on the glass, and then, somehow, as if guided by a supernatural force, she wrote the character of his surname, “Gu.”
Before she had the chance to actually admire her own calligraphy, in an instant, blackness fell before her eyes, leaving her in shock.
A power blackout? In this day and age, there were still power blackouts?!
Instinctively, she called out, “Teacher Gu,” but then immediately, she understood that it would be no use. After several seconds, her eyes adjusted to the darkness, and she moved to open the door. When her hand contacted the handle, knocking suddenly sounded out on the door. “Tong Yan?”
His voice was rather loud, and it seemed to contain a slight anxiousness in it.
Hurriedly, she opened the door and then saw, in the darkness, him looking at her.
“There might be a power outage,” he said.
“Can you see me speaking?” she asked.
It was quite dark here, and there was no natural light. It should be very difficult.
As predicted, when he realized that she was speaking, he at once told her, “Let me find some things that have a light source. Right now, if you speak, I won’t be able to see you.”
She nodded with a large, exaggerated motion, then turned around, picked up the towel on the bathroom counter, and wrapped it around her dripping wet hair.
In the same vein as how, in this day and age, power outages do not occur, most people also do not keep candles on hand anymore.
He searched for a long while but was unable to find any source of light, and finally, he could only pull out his mobile phone, turn on the flashlight function, and set it on the coffee table.
“Would you like me to get you some more dry towels?” He could see that her hair was still wet.
She had originally brought a hairdryer, but since there was no electricity, she could only rely on the most primitive method now. “Sure. One or two will be enough.”
In the end, Gu Pingsheng brought over one very large, white bath towel.
She took it from him and began very meticulously rubbing her hair, trying hard to remove all the water content. Due to the overcast sky, outside, it was shadowy and moonless. Inside, there was only the light from his mobile phone. While she massaged her hair dry with the towel, he simply sat there and stayed with her.
“Come, let me hold you,” he suddenly spoke up.
Tong Yan paused momentarily in surprise, then very obediently set down her towel, shifted over until she was beside him, and stretched out her arms to encircle his waist.
In the darkness, Gu Pingsheng took her into his arms. Tong Yan could hear that his heartbeat was somewhat uneven, but her heartbeat was possibly even more erratic than his. Slowly, the sound of the beating heart beside her ear started to become more regular, steady, and strong.
Separated from her by only a single shirt, his body temperature, which gave such a comforting feeling, and his scent, so faint that it almost did not exist, also caused her heartbeat to gradually quiet down.
“I was thinking about my mother.” The tone he used was rather neutral, but within his voice, a tinge of sorrow could be heard. “On the day of her mishap, I actually could have discovered even earlier that something was wrong. If I had been just a bit more aware, a bit more attentive, if I had truly listened carefully to the sounds that were coming from her room, perhaps she may not have left this world so early.”
He spoke very vaguely, omitting many of the details.
The sound of knocking at the front door rang out, and from outside the door, someone inquired, “Is Mr. Gu there?”
Tong Yan instinctively shifted slightly. Detecting her motion, he asked her, “What’s the matter?”
She hesitated for half a second before lifting her face to look at him. “Nothing.”
Upon saying this, she lowered her head again, burrowing her face against his chest and hugging his waist tightly.
For some people, to stir a chord in them such that they will open up and speak what is on their hearts is very difficult. Tong Yan felt that both he and she were such people. And so, she had not wanted to interrupt what he was saying.
The building’s management personnel continued to knock on the door a couple more times. It seemed someone was saying that Mr. Gu had returned home this afternoon and was likely asleep already, or something along those lines. Very soon, quietness was restored.
“From now on, when you’re here at home, if you’re in a certain room, turn on its light. Then, if you feel unwell or if there’s an emergency, just press the light switch. Once I see there is no light, I will come over,” he told her, changing the subject. “Okay?”
Something in her heart seemed to silently melt. Using her index finger, she wrote on his back, “OK.”
“Are you sleepy?” He seemed to be amused as he asked softly, “How come you’re not even bothering to lift your head and talk?” Tong Yan nuzzled her cheek against his shirt, not speaking.
He touched her hair. It was still wet. “I’ll help you rub your hair some more. If you sleep with it wet like this, it’s easy to get migraines.”
Still, she did not speak. She felt one of his arms loosen its embrace on her, and picking up the towel that had been tossed off to the side, he began to massage her hair with it. She was the one who was obviously being cared for right now, but echoing repeatedly through Tong Yan’s mind were the brief words he had spoken on that topic about his mother.
Unable to hold back a sense of heartache, she at last sat up slowly from his embrace.
He, too, had just taken a shower, but due to his hair’s short length, it was nearly dry. Because he was tilting his head downwards to look at her, his hair fell down softly across his forehead and partly concealed his eyes.
She remembered, many years ago, as he sat outside the doors of the ICU, it had been the same. Perhaps because he had been younger at the time, his hair had been even longer, completely concealing more than half his face, and no expression could be seen. .
The “him” sitting before her seemed to superimpose itself on the “him” of the past.
Suddenly, she reached forward and cupped Gu Pingsheng’s face between her hands, closing her eyes and bringing her face up to kiss him.
But what followed after was somewhat of a blur in her memory. She had been the one to initiate the kiss, but in the end, his arms were wrapped around her waist and, with her body snug against his chest, he had taken all her breath away in a deep kiss.
There was the fresh taste of toothpaste in his mouth — mint — and even after they briefly separated, she could still feel a slightly cool tingling on her own lips.
“What are you trying to do?” Meticulously, he brushed kisses around the outline of her lips, as if he was having candy.
She only smiled, extending out the tip of her tongue and entangling it with his for several seconds before leaning back into the couch and breathing out heavily. “Don’t go thinking in the wrong direction.”
The same sentence he had spoken this afternoon she now threw back to him in its entirety.
“Alright, I won’t think in the wrong direction.” Gu Pingsheng was also smiling. He then took her into his arms, brushed the firm tip of his nose against hers, and, tilting his head to the side, brought their lips together, continuously deepening the connection. Tong Yan’s back was pressed against the couch, and the sounds of their two heartbeats blended together. She surmised that there was no force that could settle this tumultuous sound.
She was sharing a room with him, and hence, she dared not turn over in bed too much and was also unable to sleep. Suffering all the way through until past six o’clock, she finally managed to doze off for half an hour. However, before she had even seen the Duke of Zhou’s shadow [truly fallen into a good sleep], he was already waking her up again …
The next day, while Tong Yan was sitting in the corner of a dining area eating leftovers from the previous night’s meal, she recalled something that he had said.
They had actually only been together as a couple for a very short period of time, but everything had happened so naturally.
Their first date. Their first kiss.
Last night, she had even thought that he really would do something.
But in the end, he had only let go of her and went to pour a glass of water. Only when they were about to sleep had he finally brought up that, although he was not a Christian or Catholic, he very much believed in one of their statements.
When she curiously asked him further, he sat down on the edge of the bed and in the darkness, told her this:
“God created sex and gave it as a gift to mankind, but only in marriage is it the most intimate expression of love. Outside of marriage, any type of sexual act is wrong.” He had given her another deep kiss before saying quietly, “Unless you very much want to … But at the very least, we still need to wait until you are no longer my student.”
Even as Tong Yan thought about it now, a slight warmth rose into her cheeks, and she stabbed at her rice with her chopsticks.
Have I ever shown that I very much want to? …
 卤汁 “lu zhi.” Luzhi, called either a master stock/sauce or “thousand year sauce/stock” in English, is a stock that is reused repeatedly for poaching or braising meats. The base ingredients are water, soy sauce, rock sugar, and Chinese cooking wine and then individuals add their own variations of seasonings such as star anise, Szechuan peppercorn, ginger, etc. The base stock is used as the braising or poaching liquid for meats, but when the cooking is finished, the stock is retained, stored, and later, reused over and over again. With each use, the flavor of the stock intensifies and becomes bolder. This stock can be handed down for years, even generations; hence the name, “thousand year sauce.”
 周公 “Zhou Gong.” The Duke of Zhou was a statesman of the Zhou dynasty, a man of significant political achievements and influence on the Chinese culture. He is credited with writing the I Ching and the Book of Poetry. There is also a well-known dream interpretation dictionary 《周公解梦》Zhou Gong’s Book of Auspicious and Inauspicious Dreams, to which he is attributed. He is known sometimes as “the god of dreams” and, according to the folk stories, the Duke of Zhou will visit your dreams to tell you of anything significant that will be happening to you. Hence, there is a saying that you will “dream of the Duke of Zhou.”
1 of 1 Prologue
25 of 66 Main story segments
0 of 3 Epilogue segments
The published copy actually has quite a few areas where there are noticeable pieces of text added or removed compared to the online version. (And I’m generally okay with the changes.) In the last part of this chapter, Tong Yan and Gu Pingsheng are in the guest room and no, they did not even share a bed. The online version explained that, because of the power outage, Gu Pingsheng was a little worried and decided to stay in the guest room with her, sleeping on the couch. I don’t know why the editor would want to cut that clarification out, but a few chapters later, Tong Yan states that she has never seen Gu Pingsheng’s bedroom, so the intention here definitely is still that Gu Pingsheng was 100% the gentleman.