“I’m wiped, why must I still have dinner with you” Tao Xiaodong said to Xia Yuan over the phone.
“Go have it yourself.”
“Can’t you see that I miss you” Xia Yuan cackled in glee.
“So, are you back yet”
“I’m back but I can’t today, maybe next time.” Tao Xiaodong always had his brother on the forefront of his mind when returning from a trip and would normally head straight home after touching down.
Xia Yuan said sure, let’s go out for drinks another day.
Da Huang initially wanted to fetch Tao Xiaodong then pick up those two kids and head over to his, but this plan was waylaid by Tao Huainan, who told them that dinner was already being prepared.
As such, Tao Xiaodong went back directly.
When he opened the door, Tao Huainan was waiting on the little stool by the entrance, listening to something on earphones.
The moment Tao Xiaodong came in, the boy took off his earphones, calling, “Ge.”
“Why are you sitting here” Tao Xiaodong patted the crown of his head.
“Waiting for you, why else” Tao Huainan smiled at him and stood up.
“Ku ge‘s ignoring me.”
“What is it this time” Tao Xiaodong changed out of his shoes.
“Did you tick him off again”
Tao Huainan said from behind, “‘Course not.”
The aroma of food spread across the house.
Chi Cheng was stewing soup in the kitchen.
When he saw that Tao Xiaodong was back, he turned his head, greeting, “Ge.”
Tao Xiaodong greeted him back then went into his room to wash up and change into a fresh set of clothes.
Tao Huainan followed behind him, waiting on his bed.
Tao Xiaodong glanced at him but didn’t ask, undressing and going to take a shower.
Still and quiet, Tao Huainan laid down on his older brother’s bed.
These children had reached the age where they’d be bogged down by their thoughts.
Tao Xiaodong didn’t want to get into it.
However, the row between the duo lasted rather long this time.
They were still awkward in each other’s presence even three days later.
He pulled them aside separately, but neither divulged anything much.
Tao Xiaodong asked Huan Ge in the store, “What’s in the heads of big boys like you”
Thrown by his question, Huan Ge turned to look blankly at him.
“How am I big”
A tattoo artist by the side guffawed, piping up, “Is Huan Ge big I glimpsed it by chance the last time we went to the sauna, but I didn’t get a good look at how big he was.”
At this, Huan Ge’s whole face flushed red.
He yelled, indignant and embarrassed, “Hey!”
Tao Xiaodong chuckled, and the several people around them also snickered softly.
“You’re so annoying.” Huan Ge had thin skin and stood up to leave.
He snapped at the tattoo artist who spoke, “Grow up.”
Tao Xiaodong levelled him a look for him to sit back down, then said, “What I mean is, boys your age.
What do you worry about”
“I don’t have much to worry about.” Huan Ge even laughed as he spoke of this.
“I used to worry about my future and had a bit of low self-esteem.
But now I’m happy every day.”
Huan Ge was a good child.
He did have a disposition that was constantly bright and cheery, while also being driven and thoughtful.
Tao Xiaodong smiled, nodding.
“That’s good, it’s good to be happy.”
Translated on ninetysevenkoi.wordpress
– ❀ –
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After Tang Suoyan’s long trip out, a whole bunch of surgeries had piled up.
The back-to-back surgeries and check-ups, as well as hospital affairs, kept him busy for many days.
There was even a medical error in his department that had occurred during his absence.
An intern doctor, who was at the operation table for the first time, was so nervous that his hand shook, resulting in the failure of the surgery.
The attending physician at the side had to step in and, though the surgery was salvaged, the outlook was terrible.
The patient’s family had been acting up at the hospital for the past few days, demanding a statement from the hospital.
Consequently, the atmosphere in the department lately was oppressive.
The young junior doctors were all afraid of Tang Suoyan; he could be overly strict at times.
Such errors were not permitted when Tang Suoyan was around.
This intern was doomed to leave the department, as well as the attending physician, who was similarly responsible.
Surgeries had a possibility of failure, that was a given, but San Hospital’s Ophthalmology Department had zero-tolerance for low-level blunders like this.
Tang Suoyan was actually quite gentle most of the time.
He wasn’t that stern, yet at times like this, the doctors in his department feared him more than they did the head of the department, Professor Xu.
Tian Yi came by soon after Tang Suoyan returned from the outpatient building with a boxed lunch that he got along the way.
He knocked on the door.
Hearing the person inside tell him to enter, he opened the door and poked his head through it.
It caught Tang Suoyan slightly off-guard to see that it was him.
“Yo, are you just having lunch, senior” Tian Yi pushed the door open and walked in.
Tang Suoyan invited him to take a seat, but Tian Yi hurriedly said, “Don’t let me take your time.
I only came over to give you something.”
He pushed over the paper bag, chuckling.
“Xiaodong got me to pass this to you.
I’ve been holding onto it for two days already, but I only managed to catch you now.”
Tang Suoyan could smell the medicinal herbs even without having to open the paper bag.
I didn’t expect him to remember; I thought he was just saying it.”
“There’s no such thing as ‘just saying’ when it comes to him,” said Tian Yi.
“He’s the more sincere sort.”
“Xiaodong’s a good guy,” Tang Suoyan recalled those few days that they were in Tibet, as well as their chit chat on the plane.
“He’s probably doing it on purpose,” Tian Yi chortled.
“He doesn’t really talk much when he’s with us.
He can be a bit introverted sometimes.”
“Introverted” This deviated from the impression Tang Suoyan had.
“You don’t seriously think that he’s outgoing, do you” Tian Yi shook his head and said, “He’s the least chatty one among us.”
Tian Yi had come by only to deliver this.
Tang Suoyan wasn’t done with his lunch, so Tian Yi didn’t delay him, leaving after the short conversation.
Tang Suoyan still had a lot to do after lunch.
By the time he got off work, the sky had since turned dark.
Before he left, he had changed out of his work clothes and took the paper bag containing the medicines with him.
He sent Tao Xiaodong a voice message: “Xiaodong, I received the medicines.
Tao Xiaodong didn’t immediately respond.
Tang Suoyan was already seated in his car by the time he received a message from the other: “Just saw this; I didn’t have my phone with me.
Don’t mention it, Dr.
Tang, remember to use it when your hand hurts.
It works really well for me; you should give it a try, too.”
Tang Suoyan said, “Okay.
I won’t hold you up.”
This time, Tao Xiaodong’s response came quickly.
“I’m not busy, it’s fine.
Let me know if you like it, I’ll get Tian Yi to send more your way.”
Tang Suoyan smiled, replying to him, “Will do.
We still haven’t set a date for the meal we talked about last time; I’ve been too busy since coming back.
Are you free this week Shall we call Tian Yi along as well”
Tao Xiaodong said, “I’m not around, I’ve been out.
It’s okay, don’t worry about it.
We can find a time when you’re less busy.”
Tang Suoyan hummed in assent.
Keep me posted”
Tao Xiaodong, “Alrighty.
Catch you later, Dr.
There was a bit of congestion on the road back.
It was almost eight by the time Tang Suoyan reached home.
When he opened the door, unexpectedly, the entryway was bright.
Tang Suoyan paused.
He pushed the door open and entered.
“You’re back” Professor Bai’s voice drifted over.
Tang Suoyan looked over and was momentarily surprised to see his parents.
> Professor Bai refers to Tang Suoyan’s mother.
Women are generally addressed by their maiden name even after marriage.
In truth, when he saw that the lights were on, his parents weren’t the first thought that came to his mind.
Tang Suoyan changed out of his shoes and came in, saying to them, “Dad, mom.
Why have you come over”
“We went to your aunt’s today and thought to drop by on the way back to help you tidy your place.” Professor Bai walked over to take his coat for him.
“Dinner is ready.
I’ll heat it up for you.
Why did you end work so late”
“It was a busy day.”
As she took his coat, Professor Bai also took the paper bag from Tang Suoyan.
The professor of traditional Chinese medicine was naturally sensitive to the herbal smell of traditional Chinese medicine.
Tang Suoyan said, “Medicine from a friend.”
She opened it and looked inside.
“Did you finish using the medicine I gave you last time”
“Yeah, I did.” Tang Suoyan went in to change his clothes, and when the door was closed, he silently sighed.
A home lived in alone by a single person was fundamentally different from one lived in by two people.
Most of Tong Ning’s possessions had been moved out, and there was only one set of toiletries in the bathroom.
Some signs just couldn’t be hidden.
No one brought this up over dinner.
His parents tacitly didn’t ask about Tong Ning, and their words were spoken more gingerly.
After dinner, when Tang Suoyan was washing the dishes, his father, no longer able to sit still, was sent over by his mother to softly ask, “Where’s Xiao Tong”
Tang Suoyan calmly said, “He moved out.”
“Why did he move out” His old pops glanced back at the living room, then quietened his voice to ask, “Did you get into an argument”
Tang Suoyan hummed in affirmative.
“There was a bit of a problem.
We’re both taking some time to cool our heads.”
“What prob…” Outside, Professor Bai abruptly cleared her throat.
Tang Suoyan’s father glitched for a beat then said, “I won’t ask what it’s about.
You young ones have your own lives; I won’t pry.”
Their carefulness amused Tang Suoyan.
After the dishes were done, he wiped his hands and led his father out by the shoulder, sitting him on the couch, then taking a seat himself as well.
“Let’s have a chat.
I won’t keep it from you, and you don’t have to worry about me.” Tang Suoyan poured tea for them.
It was getting late.
The tea that he brewed was very mild; the aroma of tea faintly dispersed.
It was a clean and refreshing scent.
“As you’re both aware, Tong Ning and I haven’t been in a stable relationship.
He feels that it’s tiring to be with me, in which case, I can’t just make him stay.
After talking it out, we believed that breaking up would be better for us, so we respected each other’s decision.
No one is at fault.
Even though we’ve been together for many years, you haven’t seen much of him, so you might not know him well—but he isn’t a bad person.
I’m also partially to blame for him not visiting.
I’ve been too busy and didn’t bring him around much.
Now, you’ve seen for yourself as well that he has moved out.”
It was rare for Tang Suoyan to be so forthcoming.
In the past, he wouldn’t talk much of it even if he and Tong Ning had fallen out; when asked, he’d always say that they were doing fine.
This time, Tang Suoyan didn’t hide it from them, nor could he hide it anyway.
“It’s true that I’m presently single.
But don’t worry about me, I’m already in my thirties; I can look after myself.
I know that you’ve always been anxious for me because I cannot have a normal marriage and form a family.
It’s my fault.”
“What are you saying this for” Professor Bai furrowed her brows.
“We don’t blame you.”
Tang Suoyan smiled.
I’m very blessed.”
With the situation so openly brought out to air, his parents conversely were at a loss for words.
While they weren’t overly fond of Tong Ning, it was still better to have someone than to live alone.
However, since things had already come this far, also understanding their son enough to know that he wasn’t rash in making decisions, they didn’t insist on persuading him towards reconciliation.
Tang Suoyan’s father scratched his head, then coughed.
“As long as you’ve thought it through.”
“Mm.” Tang Suoyan sipped his tea.
“Go with the flow.”
“Why don’t you come back to stay with us Since you’re living alone now, it’s all the same anyway,” Professor Bai said, “simply that it’s a bit further from work.”
Tang Suoyan smiled, shaking his head.
“It’s too far, mom, it’ll wear me out.”
After his parents left, Tang Suoyan continued to sit on the couch.
The room was submerged in stifling silence.
His parents dropping by today had come as a surprise to him; he hadn’t planned to tell his mom about this yet.
After their talk, he and Tong Ning hadn’t gotten in touch, and it had been a long time since.
Even so, they hadn’t reached a proper conclusion that night.
It was difficult to define the current relationship between them.
This was another trick that Tong Ning liked to play; never spelling out his words in full, leaving himself a way back.
He had taken Tang Suoyan for a ride for many years, yet it was hard to tell what was on his mind.
Tang Suoyan simply put up with his little tantrums.
He didn’t take them seriously and let him be.
But it really was different this time.
Tang Suoyan had meant his words that night.
No depth of love could weather such turbulence, and over the years Tang Suoyan had his heart whittled to nothing by Tong Ning.