Tao Xiaodong had told Tang Suoyan about his dinner with Tong Ning beforehand, which was in a sense also giving him a heads-up.
Partly because he wanted to hear that sentence from him, and partly because it was a multi-faceted affair.
He would rather go for it with less on his mind.
Regardless of what they ate or talked about during this meal, it would actually be irreverent to Tang Suoyan.
He didn’t know the circumstances under which this appointment was made, and while he would inevitably come up in conversation, he wouldn’t know what about.
Therefore, Tao Xiaodong had to inform him in advance.
Tong Ning was allowed to be more casual about it; having been coddled all these years, he could just do things on the whimsy—but Tao Xiaodong couldn’t.
He was in an awkward position, and every step he took had to be accountable and aboveboard.
Now with Tang Suoyan’s affirmation that the exes wouldn’t be getting back together, Tao Xiaodong could also have more confidence when he went.
Tong Ning and Tao Xiaodong got along well in the first place, and Tao Xiaodong was further easy company to be around.
Even though they didn’t really have much contact in private, they often bumped into each other at more crowded occasions and Tong Ning would talk to him more often than he did to others.
He would mostly address him as ‘Director Tao’ but every now and then after warming up a bit, it’d switch to ‘Xiaodong’.
On that basis, they both put on smiles in spite of the increasing awkwardness of their more recent encounters, neither of them throwing dirty looks or making verbal affronts.
This was their first time eating out alone, and their mentalities had changed vastly since their first introductions.
But none of it could be told from their expressions; they still greeted each other warmly, and after taking their seats, they chatted and joked amicably over food.
Tao Xiaodong was all decorous when eating with others now.
He ate slowly, taking only one bite every now and then when engaged in a long conversation.
“Is your brother doing well” asked Tong Ning.
“Yeah he is, the same old,” said Tao Xiaodong.
“Your brother is very pretty,” Tong Ning praised sincerely.
Most adolescent boys would be praised as handsome, but the fact was that Tao Huainan was pretty, with fair skin and exquisite features to top it off.
The chic female tattoo artists in Tao Xiaodong’s parlour liked to call him the ‘little beauty’.
“He’s been pretty since young, got it from my mom.” Tao Xiaodong grinned.
“Way more than me.”
“You’re handsome too.
Your family has good genes,” said Tong Ning.
Tao Xiaodong shook his head.
“I can take it if this came from anyone else, but from you, it just sounds mocking.”
Tong Ning was fetching.
He had an air about him that Tao Xiaodong didn’t believe he could ever measure up to.
Tong Ning smiled at his words.
“Everyone said that I was ugly when I was a child, my elder brother was better than me in everything.”
“Are you pulling my leg You, ugly” Tao Xiaodong was astonished.
“You have a brother”
He’s out of the country and doesn’t often come back.” Tong Ning had a faint smile as he spoke.
He looked young, maybe even younger than him.
Tao Xiaodong asked, “Which year were you born”
Tong Ning said his age, to which Tao Xiaodong replied, “We’re the same age.”
With a bit more prodding, it turned out that Tong Ning was even a few months older than Tao Xiaodong.
Tao Xiaodong rubbed his own face, wryly amused.
“I always thought that I had to be older than you.
I do look the part.”
“Not at all, you look young as well,” Tong Ning looked at him and said.
Their conversation up to this point was basically an exchange of compliments, and with that through they could get to topic.
The switch was abrupt.
Tong Ning asked, “Is Yan ge doing well lately”
Tao Xiaodong looked a bit thrown.
“You’re asking me this, Dr.
Tong Considering your relationship, it’s more apt for me to ask you this.”
Tong Ning poured himself a cup of tea, saying evenly, “It’s been a while since we last met.”
“You’re both too busy,” said Tao Xiaodong.
And Tong Ning said “as we’ve always been.”
Since it had come up, it was inevitable for the conversation to circle around Tang Suoyan.
While it was a topic that interested Tao Xiaodong, he didn’t have much to say as he didn’t have a deep understanding of Tang Suoyan, and even if he did he wouldn’t say much either.
Tang Suoyan, as portrayed by Tong Ning, was different from what he saw.
After all, these two had lived under the same roof for more than a decade, and so Tang Suoyan through him was more homely, more tangible.
Tao Xiaodong said, “I always felt it a pity that you went separate ways.”
Tong Ning smiled without saying a thing.
His fingers were long and slender as he poured the tea, and his complexion was blanched against the dark hue of the teapot.
This was a pair of hands that wielded a surgical knife.
In Tao Xiaodong’s opinion, this man was attractive from tip to toe, easy on the eyes to look at.
It was no wonder that Tang Suoyan was once so enamoured with him.
Tong Ning set down the teapot.
He lifted his gaze, looking over, and he softly asked, “Xiaodong, are you going out with Yan ge”
Tao Xiaodong instantly said, “No.”
The denial was direct and definite.
“Nothing of that sort.”
Tong Ning’s eyebrows raised slightly.
“I thought you already were.”
“Nothing like that.” But as Tao Xiaodong denied it, he didn’t conceal his intentions.
“Presently, I’m the one who is a little interested, though I can’t say if Dr.
If you’re talking about getting together, we’re far from that.”
“You’re interested in him” Tong Ning looked at him and asked.
“Yeah.” Tao Xiaodong nodded candidly.
“It isn’t odd for anyone to be interested in such a fine fellow, don’t you think”
Tong Ning was aware that Tao Xiaodong was a man of refreshing candour, but he didn’t expect him to be this upfront, serving it straight-up without being prompted.
The last time when Tao Xiaodong shattered shards across the table, Tong Ning was watching him, his expression frigid as he defended Tang Suoyan.
He had an abundance of charisma.
Talking to him now, Tong Ning believed that it was only natural for people to warm up to and be drawn to him.
His eyes shone with sincerity when he spoke, and it was near impossible for others to feel dislike in the face of wholeheartedness.
Tang has also brought you up in our conversations.” Tao Xiaodong carried on, “We weren’t as close back then, but he shared many stories of your younger days.
They sounded nice.”
Tong Ning sipped at his tea while listening to Tao Xiaodong.
A lukewarm smile hung perpetually on his face, neither overt nor cold.
“So, since you’ve asked, then I’ll ask too.” Tao Xiaodong asked bluntly, “What about you, Dr.
Tong I’d like to hear what you want.”
Since when did anyone play cards this way Never.
Tong Ning was briefly unable to pick up the conversation.
“You can’t let go of Dr.
Tang, right” A smile tugged on the corners of Tao Xiaodong’s lips.
It was without a hint of taunting, more like an inside joke between friends.
“If I were you, I wouldn’t be able to move on either.
I can’t bear to lose those thirteen years.”
Tong Ning was silent for a while, then suddenly smiled.
“Am I right” Tao Xiaodong winked.
Tong Ning was still smiling, and even after the smile faded away he didn’t give a direct answer, asking instead, “It’s been raining heavily lately.
Yan ge‘s hand has been uncomfortable, right”
“I really haven’t heard him talk about it.
We don’t see much of each other,” said Tao Xiaodong.
Tong Ning said that he might feel pain in his hand, for it had been crippled by injury before.
A broken wrist bone.
Tao Xiaodong frowned after recovering from his surprise.
“Was it serious”
“It was.” Tong Ning looked down at his own hand.
“He traded his hand for mine.”
The tale was regaled via someone else and yet it still chipped away at his composure.
The furrow between Tao Xiaodong’s brows deepened the more he heard.
It was, similarly, a mission trip, and they were driving on a mountain pass, just the two of them.
Tired, Tang Suoyan rested on passenger side.
A heavy truck came from the opposite direction, and the road-weary driver abruptly came barrelling towards them.
Tang Suoyan was the first to react, reaching over to push the steering wheel, and the car made a sharp turn, ultimately receiving the collision on its right front side.
“That’s why his hand hurts on rainy days, and it also hurts when he’s exhausted.” Tong Ning pulled back his sleeve with one hand, topping up Tao Xiaodong’s cup with tea.
The dinner didn’t take long, about two hours altogether.
They each got into their own cars, heading separately on their own ways from the restaurant.
Maybe their conversation had jinxed it, for rain started to pour midway through the drive.
It was no light shower, either.
The windscreen wipers swiped back and forth furiously, and the downfall obscured the view ahead.
Tong Ning said that it was a close shave but Tang Suoyan almost lost his right hand.
A doctor’s primary hand.
For that reason, Tong Ning was stricken by guilt and fear that lingered for a long time afterwards.
Tang Suoyan explained it to him as this: His hand treated eyes, while Tong Ning’s hand treated the heart.
Both were important, and yet—people could live without their sight, but they couldn’t live without their heart.
In accidents, however, people act on instinct; no one would consider that much.
In a split-second like that, all worth was immaterial.
Those were just excuses for his actions.
Tao Xiaodong didn’t head home.
He went to the parlour first, another outlet which had only two tattoo artists at work.
This was where Tao Xiaodong received private commissions, and when he dropped in the others thought that he had a booking.
He came here because it was nearby.
The rain was too heavy, beating restlessly into his heart during the drive.
Tao Xiaodong sat in a corner of the store, and he messaged Tang Suoyan: Yan ge.
Tang Suoyan replied: Yes
Tao Xiaodong: Does your hand hurt
Tang Suoyan asked: It came up in conversation
That was the thing about talking to intelligent people.
They cotton on to what you want to say right off the bat.
Tao Xiaodong: Yeah.
Tang Suoyan: Slightly.
It isn’t too bad.
Tao Xiaodong sat there in thought for a long time and then sent: I have medicine.
Tang Suoyan went through his drawers where the medicine that Tao Xiaodong had passed to him before was kept, unused.
Tang Suoyan’s education was more rooted in Western than traditional Chinese medicine, therefore he didn’t depend much on the latter.
He had also received an assortment of medicines from his parents that were largely left untouched.
He found the paper bag from Tao Xiaodong; there were herbal patches inside.
Tang Suoyan took out a strip and just then noticed that there was a piece of paper slipped in with them.
Tao Xiaodong had written two sentences on it: ‘Put a hot towel over the patch after sticking it on for quick effect.
Do that through the plastic backing, then your hand won’t get wet.’
They weren’t close yet at that time, merely having gone out once on a mission trip together.
Tao Xiaodong probably reckoned as well that it was unlikely for him to use the medicine, therefore didn’t directly tell him this.
Tang Suoyan opened a patch and pasted it on his hand, then took a photo and sent it to Tao Xiaodong.
Tao Xiaodong: I have more.
Let me know if it acts up in the future.
Tang Suoyan: Okay.
Translated on ninetysevenkoi.wordpress
– ❀ –
Please do not repost or retranslate.
The rain stopped on Monday.
At noon, Tao Xiaodong was back at the Ophthalmology Department with lunch.
“Here again, Director Tao” Someone asked.
Is Consultant Tang in” Tao Xiaodong greeted with a smile.
“No, he’s doing his rounds and isn’t back yet.
Why don’t you wait for a while” The other suggested.
And so Tao Xiaodong stood in front of the office door, waiting, and when Tang Suoyan was back Tao Xiaodong was leaning against the wall next to the door, carrying the food container in his hands.
Tang Suoyan said with a smile, “Couldn’t you have gone in to wait, you look like you’re being mistreated standing out here.”
Since the door was opened, Tao Xiaodong followed him in, grinning.
“That’ll feel weird.
It’s a bit too unbecoming, like I wasn’t taught proper manners.”
“Director Tao is rather particular, I see.” Tang Suoyan teased him, “Then is it becoming for you to run over every day like this”
“Totally, just treat me as a delivery boy.” Tao Xiaodong sat down and opened the food container, pushing it over to Tang Suoyan.
“Have you washed your hands”
“I have.” Tang Suoyan took up the chopsticks and bowed his head, eating.
As he ate, Tao Xiaodong kept his eyes on his hand.
Tang Suoyan looked up at him and flapped his wrist.
“It doesn’t hurt.”
Tao Xiaodong nodded and went “good.”
After that, neither spoke.
Tang Suoyan was a slow eater.
With an elbow propped on the table, Tao Xiaodong’s gaze wandered to him and around the room, back to him and around again.
As soon as Tang Suoyan was done, he rose to pack the food container, then deftly picked it up, all set to leave.
Tang Suoyan said to him.
“Sit for a bit.”
Tao Xiaodong replied with a smile, “I’ve got something on.”
“Are you that busy” Tang Suoyan asked him.
“Yeah,” said Tao Xiaodong.
“The weather forecast said that it’s going to rain tomorrow.
Why don’t you put on a patch tonight I’ve still got some with me, I can bring them over for you tomorrow.”
Even before his sentence was finished, the door was open and he was already a foot out of the door.
Tang Suoyan looked at him, then he spoke.
Tao Xiaodong turned his head back.
Tang Suoyan said, “I asked you to stand there.”