It was a weekend the next day.
Neither of them had to go to work, which was why Tong Ning would let loose with his drinking.
They each occupied a room, were each behind closed doors, and when Tang Suoyan awoke, Tong Ning had yet to rise.
The balcony, fully equipped with fitness equipment, also doubled as a gym.
To doctors, working out wasn’t only about looking good but primarily to fortify their physical constitution.
It was almost noon by the time Tang Suoyan was done exercising, but Tong Ning still hadn’t come out.
Tao Xiaodong sent a message over, providing him an address, quickly followed by a voice message: “Dr.
Tang, your place happens to be along the way.
Why don’t I pick you up; you don’t have to drive.”
Tang Suoyan responded to him: “Sure, just let me know when you reach.”
Before he left, he placed the box he had packed for Tong Ning at the door, leaving a piece of paper on top.
His strokes were bold and vigorous.
Tong Ning had complimented his handwriting on numerous occasions.
He had written many things for Tong Ning with this handwriting in the past, also helping him copy notes before.
In the present, Tang Suoyan only wrote to him two short sentences on the paper—
I’m sorry that it didn’t work out between us.
Go set forth on your new life.
Translated by luckykoi
On this day, Tao Xiaodong took the rare effort of tidying himself up, doing away with the sweatshirt and jeans he usually wore, fishing a dress shirt out of the wardrobe instead.
He’d even shaved his stubble.
The five o’clock shadow was intentionally trimmed and kept in the past; the young ones at the store said that it was trendy nowadays, affecting on him a roguish flair.
Now, clean-shaven and in a black shirt, this new style was like a breath of fresh air, making him look quite dashing.
He messaged Tang Suoyan when he reached the gates to the community, and Tang Suoyan came down soon after.
When Tang Suoyan got into the car, they exchanged greetings.
They were going to a speakeasy-style restaurant run by Tao Xiaodong’s friend.
This friend was a food connoisseur with a knack for cooking, putting his soul into the food he made.
They chatted idly on the way there.
Tang Suoyan didn’t talk much; most of the air time went to Tao Xiaodong.
He talked about the kids in his parlour, and even said that Tao Huainan had gone green with envy after learning that his brother was about to have lunch with Tang Suoyan.
While Tang Suoyan wasn’t chatty, he wasn’t a brick wall either.
Tang Suoyan’s occasional quips would spark laughter from Tao Xiaodong.
They took a long time to find a free lot at the car park.
As Tao Xiaodong reversed the car into it, he asked, “Do you have anything you don’t eat”
Tang Suoyan said, “I don’t eat ginger.”
Though Tao Xiaodong didn’t freeze up, he glanced at Tang Suoyan askance.
It was just a casual question out of courtesy when eating with others—he didn’t expect that Tang Suoyan would actually give an answer.
During the few times that they shared a meal in Tibet, he didn’t notice the other to be much of a picky eater, so he had assumed that Tang Suoyan would surely deny having any dietary restrictions.
Once the car was parked, Tao Xiaodong couldn’t help but break into laughter, and Tang Suoyan as well.
The reason behind it was understood between each other, implicitly understood without the need for words.
The restaurant had a good ambience.
There was a waiter that guided them to their seats through the corridors and courtyard.
It prided itself on creating a private space.
The route to each room was different; if you didn’t want to see anyone, you wouldn’t see a soul from the time you entered to the time you left.
Tian Yi had arrived early and was already waiting for them inside.
When he saw them come in, he went ‘yo’ in surprise, greeting Tang Suoyan as he normally did before asking Tao Xiaodong, “Where did you come from”
Tao Xiaodong said, “I came from home.
“Then why did you dress up so nicely” Tian Yi was a terrible friend.
“You’ve even shaved your stubble.
What are you looking so fresh for”
“Don’t I always look fresh” Tao Xiaodong touched his face.
“Glam and gorgeous.”
“Pfft,” Tian Yi snickered, and after he was done ragging on his face he started on his outfit.
“And I haven’t seen you looking so sharp in more than a year.
What on earth is up with you today”
A young waitress in a cheongsam left after serving them tea, gently closing the door behind her.
Tao Xiaodong sighed after finishing his tea, saying, “My image is all gone thanks to you.
I dressed a bit smarter out of respect, in consideration of how Dr.
Tang is always in a dress shirt.”
“You’ve even put on cologne” Tian Yi couldn’t stop laughing.
“Did you dig out that cologne I gave you to use in conventions Hahahaha, have you come to brighten my day”
“How about you zip it.” Tao Xiaodong sighed theatrically.
“I didn’t expect it’d turn out like this, too.
It’s rare to see me looking all presentable yet who knew that the two of you would dress down today.”
Tang Suoyan wasn’t wearing a button-up today but a T-shirt and a casual jacket.
It was very homely.
There was no need to look at Tian Yi, who dressed very informally even at work, not putting on any airs.
So, next to them, Tao Xiaodong was especially striking, sending Tian Yi into fits of laughter.
Tang Suoyan was chuckling as well.
“It’s my fault.
I didn’t put on a dress shirt today.”
Tao Xiaodong nodded.
Among the three of them, Tian Yi was more average in appearance.
The other two were cream of the crop and could be immediately picked out in a crowd—on the contrary, only he had settled down.
As for the other two, one had been single for a spell, whilst the other once had a partner but now didn’t.
However, most were still unaware that Tang Suoyan had become single again.
As far as Tao Xiaodong was concerned, he was under the impression that they would have made up by now.
Even so, Tao Xiaodong definitely wouldn’t ask about this; he didn’t even make any mention of Tong Ning.
After all, it would be awkward in the event that they had yet to reconcile.
But Tian Yi was different.
He wasn’t as attentive as Tao Xiaodong was and always shot out whatever crossed his mind.
He brought Tong Ning up twice; Tang Suoyan gave a brief sentence in response before changing the subject.
When Tian Yi brought him up again, Tao Xiaodong diverted the conversation.
“Crap, I forgot to tell them not to put ginger.”
Tang Suoyan said, “It doesn’t matter, it was just a passing remark.”
“I got distracted all thanks to him mocking me ever since we stepped in,” said Tao Xiaodong.
With the conversation diverted, the previous subject was forgotten and brought to a close.
After that, Tao Xiaodong was the one leading the flow of the conversation, and Tian Yi went back to slandering him again.
No one had to put on any pretences.
The mood was laid-back and the company was refreshing.
The food here was delicious as well; before they knew it, they’d all eaten a good amount.
“Senior, you wouldn’t have guessed.
Our Director Tao actually has a history with the boss here.” Tian Yi’s mouth opened and Tao Xiaodong’s ‘grand exploits’ came pouring with alacrity.
Tao Xiaodong almost choked on his tea.
He swallowed it down and coughed a few times, then sighed.
“Oh my god.”
“Refuse to ‘fess up, huh.” Tian Yi was deeply convinced.
“Do you think we don’t know that you stayed at his place the last time you got smashed here”
“Please, I went home after that.” Tao Xiaodong shook his head.
“Honest to god.
In any case, why would I gun for a big guy in his fifties Quit trash-talking me.”
Tian Yi said with mirth, “I remember that Yang ge is only forty-six; how did you spin it to become that he’s in his fifties”
Tao Xiaodong gave up on him, waving his hand.
Tang didn’t know my orientation before this, you blabbermouth.
You’re so annoying; I won’t take you with me when eating out with anyone in the future.”
Tang Suoyan smiled and he said, “I know.”
Tao Xiaodong looked at him, startled.
“I overheard your call last time.” Tang Suoyan had just the lightest touch of a smile on his face as he spoke.
“I didn’t mean to.”
“Ah,” uttered Tao Xiaodong.
“You were awake”
Tang Suoyan nodded.
“I woke up the moment your phone rang.”
Tao Xiaodong recalled the obscene language that Lao Mao used and went silent for a while, before saying a little helplessly, “They’re really not letting me keep up appearances.”
Ever since Tang Suoyan was acquainted with Tao Xiaodong, Tao Xiaodong gave him a comfortable feeling; it was relaxing to be in his presence.
This was a guy far too astute.
After lunch, Tian Yi headed back in his own car, while Tao Xiaodong sent Tang Suoyan back.
When the two of them got into the car, Tao Xiaodong said, “Dr.
Tang, all those are just stuff my friends pull from thin air to make digs at me.
Please don’t take them seriously.”
Tang Suoyan laughed, then said, “I won’t.”
“That’s a relief,” Tao Xiaodong said.
“It’s all in good fun when everyone’s together, but it’d be disastrous for me if you really misunderstood.
I swear that I’ve never streaked after drinking before.”
“Mm,” Tang Suoyan hummed.
“I didn’t take them seriously.”
Tang Suoyan nodded and didn’t go on.
After a while, he heard Tang Suoyan say, “Don’t keep calling me Dr.
Doesn’t it feel stiff”
“What should I call you in that case” Tao Xiaodong inclined his chin towards this side, looking all ears.
Tang Suoyan said, “Anything will do.”
“Yan ge, then.”
Tang Suoyan paused.
“My friends call me Suoyan.
You can just go with that.”
Tao Xiaodong said, “But you’re a bit older than me, I have to call you ‘Ge‘.”
So, Tang Suoyan asked him, “How old are you this year”
Tao Xiaodong answered, “Thirty-four.”
After, they agreed to meet again for a meal next time and bade their goodbyes.
Tang Suoyan got out of the car, but Tao Xiaodong didn’t immediately drive off.
He stopped the car at a parking lot outside the gates of the community to light a cigarette.
While smoking, wherever it was that his thoughts wandered, he wound down the car window, spacing out slightly.
When Tong Ning came out carrying the box, Tao Xiaodong had just finished his cigarette and was about to leave.
Seeing Tong Ning, he pressed on the horn.
Tong Ning looked over.
Tao Xiaodong got out of the car and walked over, asking him, “Hey, Dr.
Where are you headed to”
“Why are you here” Tong Ning was rather surprised, smiling at him.
“What a coincidence.”
Tao Xiaodong answered quite candidly, “I was having lunch with Dr.
Tang and Tian Yi.
Where are you going I can give you a lift.”
Tong Ning gave a start.
He asked him, “You just sent him back”
Tao Xiaodong nodded.
“He just went in.
You didn’t see him”
After recovering, Tong Ning shook his head and said, “I walked by the underpass.”
For a time, Tao Xiaodong didn’t know what to say.
He could only repeat his question, “Where are you going I’ll send you.”