Lao; an honorific for people older than the speaker.
Generally speaking, at least.
Depends on context.
An honorific for people respected in their fields, not only limited to those in teaching positions.
White Moonlight; a man’s ideal lover, typically used to describe somebody who’s always in your heart but not around.
Tang Suoyan didn’t want to let his parents worry about him.
That would be too much of a disappointment; he was already an adult.
While it was true that he and Tong Ning were still together, their present relationship couldn’t be considered healthy either.
Tong Ning didn’t return on this night.
Tang Suoyan wanted to have a talk with him, but it was obvious that the other was unwilling.
Tong Ning was a prodigious cardiac surgeon and had returned to the country for Tang Suoyan.
They had been together for many, many years.
Tang Suoyan was still young when he pursued Tong Ning, back in the seemingly unending days of their medical studies.
Tong Ning was a year under him.
He was a very prideful underclassman; he was handsome, he was fair, and he was remarkable.
Regardless, all of his impressiveness could hardly hold a candle to Tang Suoyan, who was practically a legend in their university.
As a highly favoured student directly under Professor Xu’s tutelage, Tang Suoyan was brought along to observe every surgery and guaranteed a spot in any of his academic projects.
Tong Ning’s arrogance took a backseat in the face of Tang Suoyan’s advances.
He didn’t keep him on the hook for too long, agreeing in less than two months.
People weren’t as embracing as they were now to different sexual orientations.
On that account, no matter how one looked at it, it was serendipitous for two similarly outstanding men to be so enamoured by each other.
A photograph of them was framed near the door, of Tong Ning hopped onto Tang Suoyan’s back, his smile radiant and disarming.
That was the year when Tang Suoyan was twenty-three.
Now, he was thirty-six.
Through this time, they had fallen apart and made up, also separating several times.
Tong Ning once said: Breaking up hurt the first time; it hurt the second time as well, albeit less so.
After many times more, you’d turn numb to the pain.
This was someone worldly-wise, who wanted to live comfortably and with confidence.
There was once last year that he had a bit too much to drink.
Without even changing out of the white shirt that he wore to go out, he wrapped his arms around Tang Suoyan’s neck.
He buried his face into the hollow of his shoulder, and… he cried.
Adults didn’t seem to cry much, like it was very unbecoming to cry after reaching adulthood.
Tong Ning had always conducted himself with poise, even before Tang Suoyan.
So, it had been many years since Tang Suoyan last saw Tong Ning cry.
And that day, he had broken down, hard.
Unsightly wrinkles crumpled his white shirt.
He said with his arms around Tang Suoyan’s neck, “I don’t want to be with you anymore, but I also… can’t bear to let go.
Tang Suoyan, these years have just been torturous on both of us.
Being with you has made me… the most conflicted I’ve ever been in my life.”
Tang Suoyan couldn’t comprehend the reason Tong Ning felt that their relationship was torturous, but one couldn’t seek truth in the words of a drunk.
And so he simply pressed a kiss to Tong Ning’s ear, coaxing him, just like the way he did every time.
Tong Ning was occasionally critical, scathingly blunt words rolling off his tongue like venom.
But he wasn’t often this way; he also had his obedient moments—just like every time he came back to reconcile with Tang Suoyan after they separated.
He would be very docile and warm and compliant, admitting his faults and promising to make amends.
He was effusive in his apologies and hugs.
He would sheath his claws and lower the proud arc of his chin, eyes curved in a smile as he said, Dr.
Tang, forgive me. In Tang Suoyan’s eyes, they had never really separated; it was only either Tong Ning flaring up alone.
After getting the cold treatment for a few days, the other would have sorted things out by himself.
But this time, Tong Ning’s temper lasted even longer.
Winter had turned into Spring, and Tong Ning had yet to return.
At some point unbeknownst to him, the other had returned to pack most of his things, probably on a day that Tang Suoyan was on shift.
Tang Suoyan had sought him out several times in between, but Tong Ning only said that he was tired—he wanted a change in his life.
We’re sorry for MTLers or people who like using reading mode, but our translations keep getting stolen by aggregators so we’re going to bring back the copy protection.
If you need to MTL please retype the gibberish parts.
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That was precisely what was so despicable about this person.
His haters were completely maddened by him; they felt that he stunk of money from head to toe, but they had to admit—the inks from his hands were world-class, far beyond the domestic standard.
“Hey, help me touch up my tattoo, I feel like the colour here is fading a bit,” Xia Yuan made a long trip over to call Tao Xiaodong out for a meal and get him to do a colour touch-up while he was around.
“I don’t have the time, I’m busy.” This was a job that Tao Xiaodong had been working on for almost a week now.
It was a Japanese-inspired full-body tattoo design from the neck down to the ankles.
Other tattooists in the parlour wanted to assist so they could have a slice of the pie, but the client refused to let anyone else step in.
The price was irrelevant, as long as Tao Xiaodong was the one—and the only one—who did it.
A design like that couldn’t be finished in one sitting, especially since some areas would show signs of scabbing in the midst of it.
He had to slowly get it done over a few sessions.
“When you’re done with your work later just squeeze in a bit of time for me, it’s just this tiny thing,” Xia Yuan moved a chair over to sit next to him.
Tao Xiaodong was wearing a mask.
He was laser-focused on his work, not lifting even his head at this.
Several tattoo artists surrounded him, learning from observation.
It was a treat to watch Tao Xiaodong ink.
“It’s all the same no matter who does it for you; you’re only doing a touch-up not inking a new one,” Huang Yida wandered upstairs as well, drinking a large cup of tea.
“It can only be him,” Xia Yuan was unmoved.
“Ye of little faith,” Huang Yida chuckled.
“Which of us here aren’t up to scratch”
“It’s really not a matter of trust,” Xia Yuan shrugged, laughing, “If I get him to do it, I’m cool with not paying up, but I’ll feel bad if one of you boys do it.”
Huang Yida clicked his tongue.
“Why are you talking about money with me”
Tao Xiaodong huffed a laugh at this, telling Xia Yuan, “I can’t believe I’ve got a friend as shameless as you.”
Xia Yuan was an old friend of Tao Xiaodong’s from way back in school.
They had known each other for more than a decade now.
This man was made a living out of manufacturing medical equipment.
He was very business-savvy.
After graduating from university, he threw caution to the wind and started his own thriving business.
“Is Lao Tian on shift today” Xia Yuan asked from next to him.
“I don’t know.” The machine in Tao Xiaodong’s hand droned incessantly.
It might sound noisy to others, but for a tattooist, listening to it brought a sense of comfort.
Xia Yuan lowered his head and tinkered with his phone for a while, then said, “He doesn’t have to work overtime.
We can pick him up along the way later.”
In the end, Xia Yuan wanted to drink that night, so Tao Xiaodong was unable to help him touch up the colour on his small tattoo today.
“I don’t like going to your hospital, it’s always so congested,” Xia Yuan chatted with Tian Yi, seated behind.
“It took us half an hour just to make a turn at a traffic light.”
Since they were giving him a lift, Tian Yi didn’t have to drive and just chilled in the back.
“You should have just gone by the back entrance, you won’t get caught in a jam then.”
“It’s also jammed, this whole area is red on the GPS.” He still had to make a turn out onto the road he came from.
The car only inched past three vehicles when the traffic light turned green; Xia Yuan was pretty much fed up from the queue.
“This area is jammed; Xiaodong’s area was even more jammed.
My entire day was spent caught in a jam.”
“Stuff it,” Tian Yi leaned forward and patted the back of his seat.
“Your grumbling is hypnotising our Xiaodong to sleep.”
Tao Xiaodong was already dozing off, only just barely conscious.
Tian Yi nudged him, calling him awake, “Hey, are you that tired”
“Mm,” Tao Xiaodong responded with his eyes shut.
“Did you pull an all-nighter” Tian Yi asked him.
“I was rushing a tattoo out,” Tao Xiaodong’s eyes were still shut.
He and Tian Yi were so close that he could greet the other without having to even open his eyes.
“Was it another celebrity”
Tao Xiaodong hummed in assent.
Tian Yi chuckled.
“Why do those celebrities always like to do their inks at night”
“They’re all night owls, they can’t get up during the day,” Tao Xiaodong said.
Tao Xiaodong had done tattoos for many celebrities and was on friendly terms with those who were tattoo enthusiasts as well.
Sometimes, having one contact was equivalent to having a foot in the door; as a result, the number of friends on his WeChat was about to hit the upper limit.
Tao Xiaodong didn’t know the name of the person he tattooed last night; the other had come under someone’s recommendation.
Either way, Tao Xiaodong had probably come across his face somewhere before, for he looked a bit familiar.
This man was a theatre actor who had come over directly from the set, and the condition of his skin after removing his make-up at the parlour was very poor.
Tao Xiaodong had a total of three studios, among them was the shophouse in a residential block that he had started out in.
Usually, celebrities or clients who didn’t want others seeing them would go over that side to get their inks done.
It was only around a hundred square feet, yet the price of any tattoos inked there was astronomical.
This was another point which people used to wag tongues at Tao Xiaodong about, that he claimed not to have time when people over there could cut the queue.
In short, money made the world go round.
Some said that Tao Xiaodong didn’t have the least bit of airs; he sold his soul to money.
Tao Xiaodong didn’t like to talk while working, but he still had to talk to distract them when the other party was in discomfort or agitated.
Last night, that actor kept calling him ‘Xiaodong laoshi‘, and eventually, Tao Xiaodong smiled and shook his head, saying, “Don’t call me that, it makes me feel like a barber.”
The other burst into laughter, then coyly called him ‘Dong ge.’
Tao Xiaodong was handsome and easy on the eyes.
The faint stubble on his chin gave him a rugged and laid-back aura, and a section of his medium-length hair was bunched together in a high ponytail.
The plain, short-sleeved shirt he wore accentuated his arm muscles.
While his visage was masked and always bowed as he worked, his movements and expression when tattooing were very striking.
He wasn’t any young’un; he had come across all sorts.
The other’s manner of speaking and expression made his intent clear to Tao Xiaodong at a glance.
The tattoo was situated on the inner forearm.
Tao Xiaodong had to pinch the other to ink this area.
His fingers were wrapped in black gloves and the skin he held turned red from the pressure after some time.
The actor raised his free hand, bumping it lightly against the back of Tao Xiaodong’s hand, saying softly, “You’re pinching a bit too hard.”
And so Tao Xiaodong stopped and stood up.
“Let’s take five.”
When he was back, the other stop acting in that manner and didn’t say much else.
Before he left, he asked to exchange contacts on WeChat.
Tao Xiaodong skirted the question by instructing him on tattoo aftercare and what to watch out for.
It was normal for there to be a bit of sounding out and an unspoken understanding between strangers; by now, Tao Xiaodong had become very adept at pushing the interest away.
Tonight it was just the three of them, finding a place to get together and drink.
There was none of the usual niceties and pleasantries between old friends, and they trash-talked each other without reservation.
It had been too long since they last met up.
Actually, there were still a few others in this social circle, only that the others weren’t free as this impromptu gathering was on a weekday.
Xia Yuan brought them to support a newly-opened bar by his friend.
It was in a prime location, though bars also tended to pop up overnight there.
Tao Xiaodong went in with Tian Yi first while Xia Yuan went to chat with his friend.
Tian Yi took a short clip for his partner, deliberately shooting Tao Xiaodong in it, saying to the video, “My love, I’m out drinking with Xiaodong and Xia Yuan now.
There’s no one else, don’t think too much.
That’s all, over.”
Tao Xiaodong was tickled.
You don’t understand the joys of marriage,” Tian Yi sent the short clip over to his wife, who replied with an ‘OK’ emoji.
“I really don’t,” Tao Xiaodong nodded, still smiling.
After a while, Tian Yi’s wife directly sent a message to Tao Xiaodong: When you guys are done just bring him straight to your place, don’t let him come back.
I can’t be bothered to wait on him when he’s smashed.
Tao Xiaodong tossed his phone to Tian Yi.
“Your wife has abandoned you.”
Tian Yi used Tao Xiaodong’s phone to reply: Gotcha.
By the time Xia Yuan came back, they had both finished a pint each.
However, Xia Yuan had not come back alone.
He had brought along someone with him.
“What are the odds I ran into someone from school.” Xia Yuan appeared delighted.
He glanced at the man in a white shirt next to him.
“Let me introduce everyone, this is… hey, right. Lao Tian, the two of you should know each other.
Do you still remember him”
Tian Yi looked at the young gentleman beside Xia Yuan, slightly surprised.
He smiled and said, “‘Course I do.
Long time no see.”
Tao Xiaodong didn’t have any impression of this man.
He hadn’t met him before, nor did he recognise him.
Xia Yuan made introductions.
Tian Yi said from beside him, smiling, “That’s Tong Ning, don’t you remember He’s the one that Xia Yuan used to harp on and on about.”
Now that he put it that way, it did ring a bell.
At that time, Xia Yuan was still on the fence about his sexuality, pining after an underclassman from his university all day long.
By the time he got his act together, the other party had already been taken off the market, which Xia Yuan had never been able to get over.
Later, Xia Yuan became completely bent.
This prodigal son never again had such an innocent crush, and he’d often still reminisce over drinks about the days that he once had a White Moonlight.
He harped on about him too many times; it did end up sticking in Tao Xiaodong’s memory.
Tao Xiaodong extended his hand.
The other man also took his hand.
The palm was slightly cool to the touch.
He introduced himself with a smile, “Tong Ning.”