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Chapter 10 - What Did Shakespeare Do Wrong?
The next day, 6:30 A.M.
Tang Kai entered the courtyard, bathing in the bright morning light along with the gentle breeze from the mountains.
The courtyard was quiet and many of the rooms still had their windows tightly covered behind curtains. It seemed like everyone had stayed up too late the previous night and was still sleeping. He rubbed at his flat stomach and sighed, intending to scavenge something to eat from the kitchen.
Tang Kai opened the door soundlessly and entered the building. He pa.s.sed by the living room on his way to the kitchen on the first floor. From far off, he could already smell a tantalizing aroma, accompanied by the slight clatter of pots, oil splattering, and the rumble of boiling water. His hunger immediately went from eight points to ten.
Tang Kai thought that the owner of the resort had returned, but when he looked up, he realized it was actually Sun Zinan standing at the kitchen counter.
He didn’t know when Sun Zinan had woken up. The other man was currently idly frying eggs in a small saucepan. Beside him was a large pot full of tumultuously boiling water and silvery threads of noodles floating and sinking within. On the other side of the counter, the coffee pot was already half full. The fragrance of all the different foods mixed together with the view of the other person’s back. This synergy created a mysterious chemical reaction, turning into an indescribable warmth that filled the small kitchen with a comforting substance.
Tang Kai’s gaze was glued to the scene; he felt as if he could just watch him like this until the end of time.
But he had only stayed there for a few seconds before his stomach began protesting in hunger. Tang Kai knocked twice on the doorframe and Sun Zinan turned around.
“Morning.” Tang Kai saw the dark circles under Sun Zinan’s eyes and his brows furrowed slightly as he asked, “Why did you get up so early? Did you not sleep well last night?”
“I slept okay,” Sun Zinan replied. “Used to it. Did you just come back from outside?”
Tang Kai was dressed in running clothes, and his forehead was still slightly sweaty. His plain, straight-cut T-shirt couldn’t hide the broad shoulders that fanned out nor his slim waist. He looked particularly pleasing to the eye.
Tang Kai said lightly, “I went to the top of the mountain for a short walk.”
Sun Zinan silently saluted him.
He had woken up this morning with both of his legs aching, probably from the strenuous hiking yesterday. When he went downstairs, he couldn’t even bend his legs. Professor Tang was truly a beastly wolf. He wasn’t satisfied from only climbing up half the mountain yesterday, so he got up early today to reach the peak.
Sun Zinan glanced at the timer on his phone. “It’ll be awhile before breakfast is ready. You can go upstairs and shower. Do you want your eggs fully cooked or runny?”
Tang Kai’s brows relaxed and he said, “Fully cooked. Thanks for your hard work.”
“It’s nothing.” Sun Zinan took a spatula and flipped the fried eggs over with one hand. “No need to thank me.”
Sun Zinan had also made him a portion; this discovery gave Tang Kai an inexplicable happiness that lasted until he had finished showering and went downstairs again. In the kitchen, Sun Zinan was currently taking the noodles out of the pot and rinsing them. He heard the sound of footsteps in the midst of the chaos and pointed at the dining table without even turning his head around. He instructed, “Take a bowl and a pair of chopsticks and bring the noodles and sauce to the table. Serve yourself however much you want to eat.”
The noodles were air-dried noodles, the sauce was made of shredded pork and preserved vegetables. The three golden yellow eggs lay on a white porcelain plate. Tang Kai wondered, “How many people?”
Sun Zinan poured oil into another pan; it was unclear what he was busy with. “Three.”
Tang Kai, “Who else?”
“My a.s.sistant.” Sun Zinan asked, “Didn’t you see him when you walked through the living room? He’s sleeping on the couch.”
Tang Kai recalled that he had seen a car outside the courtyard when he entered earlier. He had even been slightly confused, wondering if there had been a car there last night. Turns out it was Sun Zinan’s.
“Why did you call your a.s.sistant over? Do you have other work today?”
“No.” Sun Zinan dropped another egg into the pan. “I can’t wear my clothes from yesterday, so I had him deliver a new set.”
Tang Kai’s mind was immediately soothed, and he cast a sympathetic glance at the living room.
Capitalists were really cruel.
He divided the noodles into three bowls, but didn’t start eating. Like a small child waiting at the table for food, he asked, “What are you making now? Don’t make yourself so busy, the others will probably wake up very late. Come eat first.”
Sun Zinan cleaned up the stove and turned off the kitchen ventilator, then placed an omelette in front of him. “I didn’t make anything for the others. You eat first, I’ll go wake my a.s.sistant.”
However, Tang Kai still waited until he came back and sat down before eating his breakfast. The Yu Liang who had been tragically dragged out was so sleepy and muddled, his soul was about to float out. But the moment his b.u.t.t hit the seat across from Tang Kai and he raised his head, he immediately felt a thrill even greater than seeing a ghost. “Pro-pro-professor Tang h.e.l.lo!”
Tang Kai remembered this plastic bag-like little a.s.sistant. He said slowly, “En, h.e.l.lo.”
After this greeting, he completely ignored him.
Yu Liang had been afraid of teachers since he was young. Tang Kai had also left a heavy psychological shadow upon him so he ate his meal with great trepidation, as if he were sitting on needles, always fearing Tang Kai would cold-call him to answer a question at any second.
Sun Zinan ate a mouthful of the pork and pickled vegetables. The eggs were cooked to perfection and the delicious, warm breakfast soothed both his stomach and heart. He saw that Tang Kai hadn’t touched the omelette, so quipped, “I didn’t know you were going to exercise in the morning so I only made a pot of noodles. You probably won’t be full from just that. I saw there was a bit of meat from last night still in the fridge so I made an omelette. Try it and see how it tastes.”
After a moment’s hesitation, Tang Kai picked up a portion of the omelette with his chopsticks. He wasn’t sure what base Sun Zinan had used for the omelette, but its combination with the eggs made it fragrant and soft, which was different from the crispy omelettes sold on the streets. The omelette included diced onions, bell peppers, fried chicken, and a little bit of black pepper and spicy barbecue sauce. Even Tang Kai, who didn’t like onions and bell peppers, accepted the taste without any resistance.
Like a large cat whose fur had been just brushed smoothly, he expressed a sincere compliment towards his owner. “It’s good.”
For some reason, Sun Zinan thought his ‘it’s good’ was more of an ‘it’s delicious,’ and he felt indescribably happy about it. He couldn’t resist lowering his head and smiling before pressing the corners of his mouth back down. “As long as you like it.”
Yu Liang’s eyes became very big and round. He had personally experienced interacting with both of these men and still remembered how his boss had been badly rejected by Professor Tang. He also remembered how angry his boss was when he was forced to go on a blind date. How come even the heavens had changed after he took a nap? Not only were these two harmoniously eating together, his boss was even giving Professor Tang special treatment…was he dreaming?
The Yu Liang who hadn’t seen the battle against the moths last night obviously did not know that Sun Zinan had nearly sold himself for a bottle of polyhexamethylene guanidine. At this moment he was only a small third wheel between these two powerful men, and could only pitifully think to himself: I drove up this mountain at three in the morning to deliver clothes, I’m not full…I want an omelette too.
The three of them finished breakfast. Yu Liang went back to sleep while Sun Zinan and Tang Kai each took a cup of coffee and sat in the courtyard to sunbathe while it was still fairly cool outside.
Tang Kai stretched his legs out and asked, “You agreed to cook for me for a week. Do we start counting from today’s breakfast?”
“Think of it as a trial meal, open to the public,” Sun Zinan replied lazily. “After I’m less busy at work, you can stay at my house for a week and order whatever you want. I’ll make whatever you want to eat.”
Tang Kai almost choked on his sip of coffee. Sun Zinan glanced at him and smiled mischievously. “Don’t worry, I won’t take advantage of you.”
Tang Kai scanned Sun Zinan’s slender arms and legs, then asked in a suspicious yet sincere way, “What makes you think I’d be worried about fending off your advances?”
Sun Zinan, “…” This guy was really harsh.
He often quarreled with Tang Kai until both of them had suffered battle wounds, so Sun Zinan was already used to being suddenly choked by his words. He only humphed from his nose and ignored him.
Tang Kai held the coffee cup and his eyes bent involuntarily as if he were smiling.
It was completely silent except for the wind and birds singing in the mountains. The sun was shining like gold. The sky was clear and peaceful, but it was not lonely.
Tang Kai scrolled through the articles on his moments and lamented, “We’re like two retired old men.”
Sun Zinan skimmed through his Weibo feed and replied, “Are old men this fashionable? Drinking espresso without fearing for their stomachs or hearts?”
Tang Kai, “…”
“But this place is pretty nice, it’s quiet.” Sun Zinan’s tone changed. “After I retire, I’ll buy a small building here and live in seclusion.”
Tang Kai, “Live in seclusion with the giant moths?”
Sun Zinan put his phone down. “Professor Tang, I’m warning you, if you say anything else I’m going to hit you.”
“You don’t have to be afraid of bugs.” Tang Kai smiled indifferently. “As long as you bring me along to live in seclusion with you.”
Sun Zinan had to think for a bit before he understood what Tang Kai was saying.
The question that had been hanging between them, like a bridge that could not be mentioned nor crossed, had finally found an answer. Sun Zinan had expected a dramatic, heart-rendering finale, but it had actually appeared so lightly through idle conversation on this fine morning.
It came so lightly…that it was like a reckless promise.
Sun Zinan looked like a person who could handle complicated matters without much thought, but he was very clear with himself that every step he had taken in these past years had left a solid footprint upon his life. Every decision he made had to be the result of careful deliberation over the consequences.
This exceedingly important life decision had been too floaty since the beginning, like a handheld balloon that was made without much effort. Although it looked bright and enticing, it would break with a single blow.
Now that Tang Kai had asked him to regard this balloon as a pearl he must protect for a lifetime, Sun Zinan realized that even a normal person would hesitate over this.
But there seemed to be another force within his chest that desired to break through the iron bars of conformity. Just like how he wanted to retire to the mountains and live his life out in seclusion, he knew better than anyone that he was always looking for a way to escape. He yearned for freedom, antic.i.p.ated going all in…to be honest, all his dreams were a distinct opposite against his personality.
Hasty marriage seldom proveth well.
This was an example in an English textbook explaining how to use the word ‘hasty.’ Sun Zinan had forgotten where he had seen this phrase before, but it now sprung up from the depths of his mind, like a bell or some dangerous stimulant, tempting him to run wildly in the direction of madness.
Sun Zinan turned his head around to look at Tang Kai. He seriously asked a question completely out of the blue. “Have you read Shakespeare?”
Tang Kai subconsciously shook his head.
His literary knowledge was quite mediocre, and he only knew the phrase ‘to be or not to be.’ He didn’t even know the names of Shakespeare’s four great tragedies.
Sun Zinan leaned back in his chair. As if he had cast away the stones in his heart, his entire body felt the relaxation of ‘releasing a breath.’ He looked up at the distant peak of the mountain and promised without any hesitation, “In that case, I’ll take you with me when I retire.”
Tang Kai made use of every bit of time and glanced over his phone screen. He scanned over the Baidu search results for ‘marriage shakespeare’ and saw an article t.i.tled ‘Shakespeare’s Famous Saying About Love…Hasty Marriage Seldom Proveth Well.’
He curled his lips up in satisfaction, exiting the browser. In this warm morning breeze, an agreement was made cheerfully. “En. It just so happens that I don’t like Shakespeare either.”