Hello, Mr. Major General Chapter 195: Light My Fire
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The black, glossy credit card lay in the palm of Gu Nianzhi's hand, conspicuous and eye-catching against her fair skin. She wanted so badly to return the card, but when she saw the hard, unyielding look on Huo Shaoheng's handsome face, she knew that he would not take no for an answer. Gu Nianzhi shrank back, discouraged.
She stood helplessly in front of Huo Shaoheng, her expression a mixture of worry and delight. Her eyelashes fluttered like butterflies, stirring the placid lake of the emotions within him into a surging wave.
Huo Shaoheng turned away. His hands had become restless, and he felt like smoking. He took out a pack of cigarettes from his trouser pocket, and began to toy with it. He could not make up his mind whether to smoke now, in front of Gu Nianzhi, or to hold off until she left.
Gu Nianzhi's eyes were now glued to his hands. She could not help it: his hands were flawless, strong. She was overcome with the urge to reach out and hold them—she needed to feel their gentle touch against her skin, give into them as they eased away the regrets and concerns she had felt all these months apart. She felt hot at the the thought of Huo Shaoheng's hands caressing her, soothing her…
Huo Shaoheng was intrigued by the naked, undisguised look of desire and infatuation in Gu Nianzhi's eyes.
His leaned over slightly, and waved the cigarette pack in his hand before her eyes. "What are you looking at? Hmm?"
His "hmm" was light and teasing, but their was a seductive undertone to the words, low and crisp. It seemed to brush against Gu Nianzhi's ear, and sent a red flush over her earlobe and down her neck.
Gu Nianzhi stepped backwards, flustered and afraid Huo Shaoheng would be able to tell what she was thinking. She took another unsteady step backwards as she stammered, "Uncle Huo, do you want to smoke? I-I'll light your cigarette for you."
She looked up, her eyes sparkling at Huo Shaoheng as she tried desperately to hide the whirlpool of emotions within her.
His fire had already been lit.
Huo Shaoheng looked searchingly into her misty, shimmering eyes as he slowly returned the cigarette pack to his trouser pocket. "You were looking at my cigarette pack?"
"Y-Yes!." Gu Nianzhi nodded quickly. It was a lame excuse, but she jumped at it. "It's late. I have to go to bed." She looked up at Huo Shaoheng. "Uncle Huo… where will you be sleeping today?"
"The guest room." Huo Shaoheng straightened up and stared at Gu Nianzhi briefly before he left the room.
Gu Nianzhi did not have an excuse to get him to stay in the master bedroom this time. She felt as though they had once again reached an obstacle that was keeping them apart. However, her spirits lifted as soon as she changed into her pajamas—one of Huo Shaoheng's T-shirts. She slept soundly under the light goose down duvet, satisfied.
It was a deep and dreamless sleep. She woke up at early the next morning, refreshed and ready for a new day. After washing up, she opened the bedroom door and saw that Huo Shaoheng was already awake and impeccably dressed. He stood before a bookshelf in the study, flipping through a set of documents.
The door to the study was just opposite the door to the master bedroom. It was wide open and allowed Gu Nianzhi to gaze at Huo Shaoheng openly.
Huo Shaoheng's his dark gray, tailor-made cashmere trousers were crisp and impeccably straight. They were held up by a broad, dark brown military-issue belt around his waist, attached to suspender straps of the same color. A dark blue shirt of fine wool was tucked into his trousers; the muscles on his broad, V-shaped back flexed underneath the fitted garment. Gu Nianzhi's heart raced as she watched him.
Huo Shaoheng turned around and saw her standing at the door to the master bedroom. He nodded to her in greeting. "Up already? Go eat your breakfast. We'll go up to the third floor after that."
His mother, Song Jinning, lived on the third floor.
Gu Nianzhi recalled her scattered thoughts, and grinned at Huo Shaoheng. "Let's go together?"
Huo Shaoheng considered it. He put the documents back onto the shelf, walked out of the study, and closed the door behind him. They left the suite together.
As soon as they stepped outside, they saw Huo Jialan talking to the orderly standing guard at the door.
Gu Nianzhi politely greeted her. "Morning, Auntie Lan."
Huo Jialan looked up and saw Huo Shaoheng and Gu Nianzhi coming out of the room together. A smile immediately spread across her face. "Up so early, Miss Gu? You could have slept in." She turned to Huo Shaoheng and greeted him. "Morning, Cousin Brother."
"Morning." Huo Shaoheng was in a good mood. "Is breakfast ready?"
"Yes. You can eat in the dining room," Huo Jialan replied as she turned to walk with Huo Shaoheng. "Cousin Brother, how long will you be staying here? Grandpa and Second Uncle were just talking about you—they wanted to know if you want to invite your friends over for the New Year's party. It's been some years since you were last back for the New Year, after all."
Gu Nianzhi cheerfully followed behind them, surreptitiously checking out the rooms and corridors as she walked. She passed the corridor in which she had seen Song Jinning the previous day, and could not help but stare openly at the window at the end of the corridor. There was no one there today.
"Watch your step. What are you looking around for?" Huo Shaoheng was walking in front, with Huo Jialan next to him, but he had been watching Gu Nianzhi out of the corner of his eye.
Gu Nianzhi heard Huo Shaoheng, and hurried to catch up to him. She smiled and said, "Uncle Huo, your house is massive. I'm just trying to memorize the layout so that I won't get lost."
Huo Jialan smiled. "That won't be necessary. If you're afraid of getting lost, just get one of the servants to show you the way."
"I don't want to trouble them." Gu Nianzhi laughed as she shook her head. "I can take care of myself."
"It's no trouble at all." Huo Jialan assured her. "We have many servants standing around doing nothing. We have to give them something to do."
Gu Nianzhi humored Huo Jialan with a chuckle, and left it at that.
The three of them arrived at the dining room and seated themselves. The dining table was already laid out with breakfast.
Huo Shaoheng's plate was, as usual, piled with food that were high in calories and protein. Gu Nianzhi, on the other hand, was served toast, fried eggs, and milk.
Gu Nianzhi was not particularly fond of Western-style breakfasts, and she did not need as many calories as Huo Shaoheng. She had to force herself to eat.
Huo Jialan noticed her lack of enthusiasm over breakfast. She pointed at her plate, smiling. "Do you still feel unwell? Or is the food not to your liking?
"Oh, I've only just recovered. My appetite hasn't returned, just yet." Gu Nianzhi smiled at Huo Jialan.
Huo Shaoheng finished his plate. Without missing a beat, he reached over and began eating the rest of Gu Nianzhi's uneaten breakfast.
Zhang Wenna and Zhang Wenjie were also at the table, eating their breakfast. They could not believe what they were seeing.
Huo Jialan was just as dumbfounded. She stared at Huo Shaoheng—who continued to nonchalantly dig into Gu Nianzhi's leftovers—and then at Gu Nianzhi, who seemed to think it was the most natural thing in the world for Huo Shaoheng to help her clean her plate. Huo Jialan frowned.
After breakfast, Huo Shaoheng led Gu Nianzhi to the third floor to visit Song Jinning.
Huo Jialan wanted to go with them, but at that moment Huo Guanchen came down the stairs and called out to her. "Jialan, what did the Xue family give us for New Year's last year? Do you have a list?"
Huo Jialan quickly said, "I do, Second Uncle. I'll go get it for you, right away."
Huo Guanchen nodded. "Be quick about it. I have other things to attend to." Huo Jialan nodded and hurried to the studio on the first floor to find the list detailing all the gifts they had received during the previous New Year.
Huo Shaoheng and Gu Nianzhi arrived at the third floor, and walked down the corridor to the innermost cloakroom. Inside the cloakroom was a cleverly hidden staircase.
Gu Nianzhi looked at the stairs in complete surprise. "I didn't know there was another floor."
Huo Shaoheng explained, "The third floor was actually a single floor that had been split into two. From the outside, the building looks like it has only three floors."
Gu Nianzhi mulled over this as she followed Huo Shaoheng up the stairs.
They arrived at what seemed like a loft; the ceiling was a lot lower than in the floor below.
Huo Shaoheng was six foot two. The top of his head almost brushed against the low ceiling.
It was a narrow, oppressive space—even more so for someone as mentally unwell as Song Jinning, Gu Nianzhi thought frustratedly.
Gu Nianzhi sighed inwardly as she followed Huo Shaoheng to a door that stood slightly ajar.
A woman's voice could be heard from behind the door. "Mrs. Song, what are you doing in the kitchen so early in the morning? If you want something to eat, tell me. I'll get the cooks in the main kitchen downstairs to make it for you."
Song Jinning did not reply. The fragrant aroma of food wafted from the door.
A thought occurred to Gu Nianzhi. She moved past Huo Shaoheng and walked into the room, a bright, crisp smile on her face. "Good morning, Mrs. Huo!"
The door opened into a small living room. There was another door in the opposite wall; a middle-aged woman, dressed in the white shirt and black trousers of a household maid, emerged from the door, and jumped at the sight of Gu Nianzhi. A second later, she saw Huo Shaoheng standing behind Gu Nianzhi, and hastily curtsied. "Good morning, Young Master, Miss Gu."
Huo Shaoheng stood behind Gu Nianzhi. He did not say anything.
Song Jinning heard their voices and came out to see what was going on. She saw Gu Nianzhi's smiling face, and was momentarily dumbfounded. "Who are you?"
Gu Nianzhi had mastered the skill of being gregarious and friendly with strangers. She said easily, "I'm Gu Nianzhi. Mrs. Huo, you told me yesterday that you wanted to cook for me. Well, I'm here!"
Song Jinning looked at her vaguely. She mumbled to herself: "Did I say that? But I don't remember…"
A pained expression came across her face as she tried to remember. She hugged her head, overwhelmed. Suddenly, she looked up, saw Huo Shaoheng, and instinctively shrank backwards.
Gu Nianzhi saw the woman's fear and immediately ook her hand. "If you don't remember, that's okay. Don't force yourself. Let's just pretend I'm here to mooch off of you! I've already had my breakfast but it wasn't enough, to be honest!"
She had turned her nose up at her breakfast. Now, however, the smell of food made her hungry. Gu Nianzhi's mouth began to water.
Her casual, friendly demeanor was infectious. Song Jinning relaxed, and leaned over excitedly. "You're hungry? Really?"
"Yeah, I'm super hungry." Gu Nianzhi took her hand and led her back to the small room. "Is this your kitchen?"
They stepped into a simple kitchenette. There was only one burner on the stove, with a pot of porridge simmering upon it. The fragrant aroma of food had come from the porridge pot.
Gu Nianzhi looked down at the porridge pot, and swallowed. The porridge looked delicious: clumps of the rice had broken apart in the soup, but each individual grain of rice had remained intact. It was not the goopy mess characteristic of poorly made porridge.
Song Jinning was amused by the look of open hunger on her face. She got out a ladle and filled a bowl with porridge. "Eat up, if you're hungry. There's more in the pot." Having said that, she glanced at Huo Shaoheng, who had silently followed them into the kitchenette. She shyly asked, "Do… do you want some, too?"
Huo Shaoheng nodded.
Song Jinning quickly handed him a bowl of porridge.
Gu Nianzhi and Huo Shaoheng seated themselves on opposite side of the table in the kitchenette, and began to eat their porridge.
The porridge was the real deal. It had been on the stove long enough for the rice on top to dissolve into a thick, nutritious soup. The porridge was sweet with the natural fragrance of rice; it did not require additional seasoning or other condiments. It was the best porridge Gu Nianzhi had ever had.
Gu Nianzhi finished her bowl and immediately ate another. Song Jinning's porridge pot was now practically empty.
"Whoops—I'm so sorry, Mrs. Huo, I should have left some for you." Gu Nianzhi apologized, thoroughly embarrassed.
The two bowls of porridge had been the tastiest food she had eaten in the last two days; the only food that had truly sated her appetite.
Song Jinning smiled happily. "It's fine. I'm just glad you enjoyed it. I have my own food, I made this especially for you."
"See, I was right! You do remember what you told me yesterday!" Gu Nianzhi joyfully slid a hand around Song Jinning's arm. "Okay, since you cooked for me, how about I cook something for you in return?"
Song Jinning nodded eagerly. "Okay. What can you cook?"
Gu Nianzhi remembered however, that she could not actually cook anything—only instant noodles.
Huo Shaoheng was not about to let her feed his mother instant noodles. He shot her a look. "Why don't you... take her outside? I'll do the cooking."
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