Chapter 32: Here, a pleasant scent permeates.
The water in the basin he soaked Gu Hai’s uniform shirt with before leaving for school had already turned yellow by the time he got back in the afternoon.. He picked up the shirt and gave it a closer look, noticing a that large yellowish blemish persistently remained in the middle. It’s not going to be easy removing that stain, he thought.
Bai Luo Yin rarely did the laundry. Most of the time, it was his father who did the laundry most of the time. Only once in a while, when Bai Han Qi wasn’t at home, would Bai Luo Yin wash some of his clothes and perhaps throw in a few pieces of his grandparent’s. But it’s still very likely that he couldn’t wash them clean enough.
To remove the stubborn residue, Bail Lou Yin fetched a small, short wooden stool, sat down, and began to wash. Considering that his height was over 180 centimeters, the stool was simply a tad small, which made it too strenuous to have his legs stretched properly. Nevertheless, he anticipated that the task would only take a while longer, and thus, decided to bear with the uncomfortable posture he was in.
In the end, Bai Luo Yin guessed wrong.
Eliminating the tenacious mark was not a matter that could be settled in a short amount of time. Regardless of the detergent he used, whether it was the powdered detergent or Aunt Zou’s sulfur soap, the stain merely faded a little and could not be completely removed. Bai Luo Yin was already tired even though he had just started washing for a while. This type of exhaustion is completely different from the weariness felt from exercising. Despite the fact that hard physical exercise may leave the body aching and worn out, but the mental state remains calm and relaxed. However, this boring and tedious task wears down everything.. Not only does it drain the body, but also saps the mind with restlessness. As young and determined Bai Lou Yin was, he was at the brink of throwing the uniform away.
To tell the truth, there was a brief moment he actually considered replacing the uniform with a new one. Nonetheless, having to spend 40 yuan quickly steered him away from this original idea.
“Lao Bai, Lao Bai.” 
Aunt Zou’s kind and gentle voice drifted into his ears.
Bai Luo Yin stood up, and used his arm to wipe away the glistening sweat pooling on his forehead as he turned and smiled at Aunt Zou’s direction.
“Auntie, you’re here.”
“Yes, I am!” Aunt Zou was wearing a big apron. Her long hair was bundled, forming a loose knot at the back of her head, and on her smooth, childlike-rounded face, settled a warm smile.
“ I just made a whole lot of dumplings awhile ago, so I thought I’d bring some over to you guys. The stuffing is minced pork with star anise seasoning.”
Bai Luo Yin wiped his hand with a piece of cloth that was hanging on the clothesline. He couldn’t help but drop a praise as he appreciatively took the plate from her hand. “Smell so good!!”
“Nah, don’t be ridiculous!”, Aunt Zou said with a humorous tone. “You’re already used to your father’s cooking, of course anyone else’s food would seem delicious..”
Bai Han Qi just came out of the kitchen. When he saw both aunt Zou and the plate in Bai Luo Yin’s hand, his face immediately blushed red.. Strenuously, suppressing his awkwardly overjoyed, yet embarrassed expression, he forced a wooden smile and addressed her in an unnaturally courteous manner.
“Ahh… What a coincidence!! I was just thinking of inviting you over for dinner with us. And here you are, so kind, as far as to bring this delightful dish over to us.”
Bai Luo Yin slanted his eyes at Bai Han Qi, he wouldn’t give him any chance to leave.
“Dad, don’t tell me you’re going to serve Aunt Zou that hideous dish?”
“Why not? The stir-fried eggplants that I made for you last time, wasn’t it good?”
Some incidents were better-off unspoken. Once Ban Ha Qi mentioned the eggplant tragedy, Bai Lou Yin nearly exploded. It goes without saying that Bai Luo Yin really loved eating eggplant. The stir-fried eggplant dish that Grandmother Bai made was especially delicious. That day, Bai Han Qi insisted on helping by cutting the eggplants himself. Sadly, after that, the he forgot to soak the sliced vegetable with salt water. As a result, when the eggplants were fried, all of them turned black, and resembled more of pickles when arranged in a dish. Yet this was only the tip of the iceberg. What really blew Bai Lou Yn over the top was was when he ate the dish and discovered that not only did Ban Hai Qi double the amount of salt, but he also mistakenly added dark soy sauce, as well . After Bai Lou Yin finished the dreadful eggplants , he couldn’t utter even a single word.
Aunt Zou caught a glimpse of the clothes inside the washtub. Since Bai Han Qi was in the kitchen until a while ago, out of curiosity, she asked, “Who’s washing the clothes”
“Oh, it’s me.” Bai Lou Yin simply replied.
Aunt Zou became slightly concerned. “How can your dad let you do these laborious tasks?”
“Why not?” Bai Luo Yin laughed heartily.
Without further ado, Aunt Zou walked towards the washtub, sat down, and started scrubbing the clothes with her hands.
“Your job is to study, meanwhile the kind of thing is our job.”
At first, Bai Luo Yin was flustered and wanted to stop her. But as he approached, seeing her wash with determination and might, he suddenly lost his courage to extend his hand and put her to a halt.. For some reason, Aunt Zou, a typical day-to-day housewife whom by no means was any stronger than him, seemed to exude this strong willful power while taking action. In a nick of a time, the once recognizable stain, gradually fainted with each and every heavy stroke applied and eventually disappeared. To his astonishment, her handicraft was as if divine light itself had shown and exorcised evil from the once barren piece of land. There’s bound to be an expert and an ameteur in every field.
Aunt Zou drained the dirty water and poured more fresh water into the washtub. After soaking and rinsing the uniform a few more times, the previously tragic scene was now laundered into a pleasant view. Although not comparable to one entirely new uniform, but at least the horrendous bloodstains were nowhere to be seen anymore.
Looking at the white uniform on the hanging on the clothes rack, Bai Luo Yin’s heart unknowingly brightened up.
The next morning, Gu Hai rode his bike and strolled around Bai Lou Yin’s neighborhood. It wasn’t until quite a while that Bai Lou Yin’s silhouette appeared amidst the morning sunrays. The corners of Gu Hai’s mouth revealed a beautiful smile as he lifted his tall and slender legs and thrusted the wheels forward, leaving dewdrops behind.
Bai Luo Yin was walking his usual pace when a bicycle suddenly brushed against his body. The bicycle itself was rather swift Moreover, complemented with the rider’s heavy build, the draft wind it created was strong enough to make Bai Luo Yin lose his footing as his body leaned slightly forward.
Without a second thought, he had already deducted who the stupid perpetrator behind this was.
Just as the bicycle was about to pass, Gu Hai suddenly leaned toward the side and stepped the ground. With a sharp pull at the grip and a slam on the brakes, the wheels immediately stopped, leaving the remainder of the bike to shift and draw a beautiful arc on the ground. Gu Hai smiled at Bai Luo Yin as he leisurely turned his head towards the mark of his antic. From Bai Lou Yin’s point of view, it was more or less a young devil’s grin, mischievously honest and annoyingly playful at the same time. Perhaps, it was the early rays of sunrise that helped paint a dash of tenderness on Gu Hai’s stern, masculine frame.
However, Bai Luo Yin was incapable of admiring Gu Hai. He nonchalantly walked away and threw a few icy words.
“You can still drift with that lousy, second-hand bike?”
Gu Hai was half-walking and half-riding the bike, following Bai Lou Yin from behind, “How do you know it’s a second-handed one?”
“A bike gets stolen every day in this area. If yours were new, it would’ve went missing by now.”
“Why didn’t you tell me earlier?!” Gu Hai’s expression showed an emotional setback. “If I had known earlier that bikes are easily stolen here, I wouldn’t have spent so much money on it.”
“Didn’t you say that you’ve always lived here? How can you not be not aware of this problem?”
Of course, Gu Hai mentally choked hearing this sentence.
“Aunt Zou, please give us two bowls of bean curd, five sausage-stuffed sesame seed bread, and two deep-fried sugar pancakes.”
Gu Hai also called towards Aunt Zou, “Give me a portion as well, the same as Bai Lou Yin’s.”
Bai Lou Yin jolted and glared at Gu Hai with a surprised look.
Gu Hai asked, “What’s wrong?”
Actually, Bai Lou Yin intended to tell him that the order he placed earlier included portions for both of them. But since Gu Hai had already shouted out his order, Bai Lou Yin became reluctant, and later decided to drop the topic altogether.
The two boys sat in front of the table piled with breakfast. Honestly speaking, Bai Luo Yin had no difficulties finishing all the foods alone. At most, he would just eat less during lunchtime. However, he was more worried about the possibility of Gu Hai wasting it. food. Afterall, Aunt Zou does serve ‘generously’ for her line of business.. Furthermore, all her dishes are Chinese authentic and traditionally prepared.l. Precisely because of this, Bai Lou Yin absolutely loathed the customers that spared leftovers when eating here.
Gu Hai took a bite of the deep-fried sugar pancake. The outer crust was crunchy crisp while the inner dough was chewy soft. It tasted twice the deliciousness when it completely melted inside the mouth.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve last had such authentic, traditional sweet, deep-fried pancakes.”
Originally, Gu Hai intended to say that he was around five or six years old when he first tried traditional pancakes. The words were on the verge of his tongue, but he then, quickly realized that this first meal at Aunt Zou’s might just turn out to be his last if his secrets were to be exposed. As such, he thought that it would be better to guard his mouth and decided to swallowed the words half-way.
“Where do you usually go for breakfast?” Bai Luo Yin asked casually.
“…Usually….Hmmm,…. I don’t specifically have a certain place. It’s more like randomly buyingstuff along the way and make do with it.”
Bai Luo Yin didn’t probe any further and focused more on finishing his own meal. Bai Lou Yin had a peculiar habit of eating sesame seed breads. He always separated the stuffing from bread. He would would finish the sausages first, and then the remaining bread later, always in this orderly manner. As such, a stack of five thick sesame seed bread slowly amassed as he nibbled away the sausages.
Gu Hai noticed this and assumed that Bai Lou Yin doesn’t like to eat the bread, so he removed all the ham sausages from his sesame seed breads and placed them on Bai Lou Yin’s plate Then, took Bai Luo Yin’s pile of sesame seed breads all for himself and put it in his own plate.
Bai Lou Yin was slightly baffled. Thus, he raised head and shot a curious glance at Gu Hai whom appeared to be gobbling up all the bland sesame seed bread without a faintest sign of reluctance.
Gu Hai paused when he felt the pair of eyes staring at him. “Does it make you full when you watch me eating?”
“I can’t exactly say whether I”m full or not, but I certainly don’t feel like eating anymore.”
Despite his sharp, stingy replies, Bai Lou Yin’s impression towards Gu Hai had somewhat changed. Initially he felt that Gu Hai was more of a distasteful jerk, a plague-like existence, the last person he’d be around with. Later on he forgave him and found him tolerable to a certain degree. As of now, he felt that it was passable, if not agreeable with Gu Hai around. He even felt slight tinges of good impression and fondness towards Gu Hai. For a person like Bai Lou Yin, who judged and condemned people for life based on first impressions, such development towards anybody was unheard of. Gu Hai ‘s improvement was exceptional.
“Alright, I’ve finished eating. Let’s go!”
The sight of empty plates and bowls dispelled Bai Lou Yin’s worries. This was the first time he encountered a well-matched rival at eating. As expected, his good physique isn’t only from physical training but from eating properly as well, he thought.
Gu Hai grabbed the bike and rode to school with Bai Lou Yin.
You Qi had spotted Gu Hai and Bai Lou Yin coming to class together twice already. He was extremely puzzled, given the fact that both of them were not on good terms. He couldn’t resist himself from asking, “Why do you come to school together with him?”
“I ran into him by coincidence.”
You Qi still wanted to ask further, but Bai Lou Yin had already turned around and diverted his attention elsewhere.
He tossed a bundle of cloth at Gu Hai..
Quick with his hands, he caught it right away and shook it a few times to undo the folding. Gu Hai was rendered speechless as he gazed at the uniform. It wasn’t until a while that he finally asked Bai Lou Yin, “Whose uniform is this?”
“You even need to ask me whose uniform it is? You think I’ll give you my uniform?”
“This is mine?”, Gu Hai exclaimed.
Gu Hai had already forgotten about this matter. Before he transferred to this school, Fang Fei had already prepared unlimited school uniforms for him. Accordingly, he couldn’t care less when that bloodstained uniform went missing.. He even thought that Bai Lou Yin already threw it away.
“This is the uniform you wore in the fight the other day.”, he pointed out as he conveniently laid on the desk preparing for his afternoon nap.
Gu Hai, on the other hand, was completely exhilarated. He couldn’t stay calm as he kept on poking Bai Lou Yin with his large pincer-like hands, asking him over and over again, “Were you the one who washed the uniform?”
“Come on! Stop lying.” Gu Hai said with a canny smile on his face, “You dare to let your family see this uniform?”
“You know yet you still ask!”, Bail Lou Yin replied indifferently.
Afterwards, Gu Hai continued to put on his smiling face for God knows how long. The expression in his eyes was just like a pair of hooks, they were stuck on Bai Lou Yin as they kept skimming up and down his entire body.
Bai Lou Yin washed my clothes?
Gu Hai felt awfully satisfied and happy imagining that particular scene. A smart, handsome, young man washing my clothes with his very own hands. And yet, it wasn’t getting anywhere near the cleanliness he wanted. He must have been annoyed, and thought: Why should I wash his clothes? I might as well throw it away! Then, his conscious would pester him endlessly until the thought left him completely. His eyebrows would knit like a knot and it would only loosen when the shirt is properly cleaned.
He had no idea that the smell of soap could actually be this intoxicating.
 Lao Bai is a nickname for Bai Lou Yin’s dad. Just like Da Hai. Lit. means Old Bai.
Are you Addicted?