Tang Suoyan’s birthday brought a qualitative leap in their relationship.
Tao Xiaodong accompanied him in eating the two cakes, even cooking a bowl of noodles for him despite Tang Suoyan’s claims that he was really too full for it, rejoining, “You still have to eat even if it’s one noodle strand.
Longevity noodles are a must on birthdays.”
Tang Suoyan cooperatively ate the noodles, and Tao Xiaodong kept a tight watch on him to make sure that he didn’t do anything as inauspicious as biting through the strands.
After a few mouthfuls, Tang Suoyan said, “Director Tao, I really can’t eat anymore.”
Tao Xiaodong didn’t force him, bringing the bowl over to finish it instead, smiling as he said, “It’s hard to keep longevity noodles.
I’ll eat them for you.”
He did it smoothly without a hint of unease.
Tang Suoyan watched him finish off the noodles, and as he wiped his mouth Tang Suoyan asked out of the blue, “Have you ever gotten worked up at anyone”
Tao Xiaodong asked him, “What type are you referring to”
“Disagreements and suchlike.”
Tao Xiaodong burst into laughter.
“Of course I have.”
He found the question odd; how can anyone living in this world never have had a single quarrel Tang Suoyan said, “What kind of person can’t get along with you”
Processing that, Tao Xiaodong asked tentatively, “Ah, is that a compliment”
Tang Suoyan simply chuckled.
Tao Xiaodong said, “I’m a people person, so I’ve many friends.
But there are many who annoy me as well.
I can be quite snooty sometimes, a scrooge, too.”
He had a rather objective view of himself, ticking off methodically, “My bluntness can really get on the nerves, my temper isn’t as good as you’ve seen, and I make people tick in lots of places.
You’ll see after spending more time with me, you’ll start to find me annoying.”
Tang Suoyan nodded and told him, “I’d like to see that.”
The noodles were gone and the sky had darkened hours ago.
They had spent the better part of the day in each other’s company, even sharing an embrace.
Before this, the only skin contact was the hand Tang Suoyan set on the small of his back to move him along.
So this, today, was huge.
Though he had sobered up from the alcohol in the afternoon, it was still unlawful to drive.
Tang Suoyan said, “Why don’t you stay the night and leave tomorrow”
Tao Xiaodong instantly shook his head.
“No, I have to go.”
Staying would blur the lines further; it wasn’t just about that.
Despite Tang Suoyan’s suggestion, Tao Xiaodong always took more into account.
In the end, he employed the services of a driver for hire to take him back.
En route, he thought back to everything that happened today.
His mind was still reeling slightly, however, more of it, giddy.
With Tang Suoyan, he felt secure.
It was late by the time he returned home.
All the lights were turned off and he opened the door to darkness.
Tao Huainan was not yet asleep.
Hearing him return, he whispered, “Ge, you’re home”
The bedroom door wasn’t shut.
Tao Xiaodong felt his way over in the dark and hit his leg against the couch.
Tao Huainan asked, “Did you bump into something”
“Yeah, the lights are off.” Tao Xiaodong spoke to him from the door.
“Why aren’t you asleep yet”
“I took an afternoon nap,” said Tao Huainan.
Tao Xiaodong chastised, “Quickly go to bed, I’m also going to bed after my shower.”
“‘Kay, goodnight,” said Tao Huainan, quietly.
Tao Xiaodong hummed in response and returned to his room, straying slightly and knocking against the door frame as he did.
After coming out from his shower, he found a message from Tang Suoyan: Still not back yet
He hurriedly replied: I’m home, just finished showering.
Tang Suoyan: You should have told me.
Tao Xiaodong: I couldn’t bring myself to text you.
Tang Suoyan responded: Still feeling shy
Tao Xiaodong lay in bed, smiling as he replied: Little bit.
After exchanging a few messages, Tao Xiaodong checked the time and sent a voice message: “It’s late, go to sleep, Yan ge.
And again, happy birthday.”
Goodnight.” Tang Suoyan responded with a voice message as well.
Tao Xiaodong gave no response to that.
As he was about to put aside his phone, he received another text message from Tang Suoyan.
There was no mention of what the thanks was for, and Tao Xiaodong didn’t have to ask.
Tao Xiaodong reread their chat, and recalled what he had said earlier in the day.
—Heh, it’s only proper.
While Tao Xiaodong was busy taking care of his personal matters in the past few days, he didn’t neglect his work, diligently clocking in hours at the store.
Huan Ge photographed his pieces every day, effusive with praise; in his opinion, his Xiaodong was unmatched by anyone else in the world—his hands were godly.
After tweaking the colour, he uploaded the photo and waited for praise to rain down.
Dong ge‘s works deserved all the praise, though there were also salty haters, of course.
A tattoo artist with a modest following of about 80k followers reposted it, spouted a whole bunch of seemingly professional remarks, and claimed that Tao Xiaodong’s tattoos were technically impressive but lacked soul.
Huan Ge instantly went on an alt account, replying to the other: If Dong shen lacks soul then stop copying him, mister.
The tattoo that you have pinned to your profile is one that my Dong shen inked in September.
Copycats shouldn’t be so loud.
The guy on the opposite side had a scathing tongue, responding: Stupid simp.
Huan Ge changed his ID to ‘Legendary Dong Simp’ in a snap and shot back: See my ID Watch out, I’m going to hound you at your heels every single day starting now.
And thus got blocked by the other guy.
Huan Ge tutted non-stop, and showed the hard-on-hearing guy beside him the same piece.
The latter pursed his lips, disdain written all over his face, signing ‘shameless’ with his hands.
The majority of the deaf and mute people in this store were students.
Tao Xiaodong would employ most that came to him and give them opportunities to work.
The wages weren’t high but they weren’t low either, standard fare for students working part-time.
The work and remuneration at Tao Xiaodong’s place had always been competitive, never inflated nor paltry without reason.
Tao Xiaodong had been working on a full body piece for more than ten hours in the past few days non-stop.
He hadn’t delivered lunch in a week, and wasn’t able to make time over the weekends as well.
Their feelings should have burned hot after Tang Suoyan’s birthday, but Tao Xiaodong was abruptly unable to take time off, so they could only text each other after work every day, yearning for more.
When he rose in the morning, he proactively told Tang Suoyan over voice message: “Yan ge, I’m off to work now.”
It was past six in the morning.
Tang Suoyan ought to be awake by now.
Tang Suoyan was already at the office by the time he saw the message.
He had just changed his clothes for work.
A few interns were at the door with a stack of patient charts, waiting for him to do the rounds.
Once listening to his voice message, Tang Suoyan replied: “I’m at work too, I won’t have my phone with me.
Call you tonight.”
Tao Xiaodong swiftly replied okay, afraid to hold him up.
Tang Suoyan slid his phone into a drawer and left the office.
The ophthalmology annual symposium was next week.
Many international doctors had travelled over a week in advance, even following behind to the wards, shadowing surgeries more so and learning from observation.
Despite being surrounded by doctors watching his every move, Tang Suoyan’s hands were very steady during the surgery.
Professor Xu rarely took on surgery in recent years.
Tang Suoyan was the best surgeon in the San Hospital’s Ophthalmology Department, and the surgeon who wielded the knife with the most finesse was also him.
Those that required consultations tended to have knottier medical conditions.
Professor Xu had permanent creases etching his forehead from the furrow between his brows all year round.
To facilitate discussion with their international peers, the consultations were conducted in English.
Incidentally, it was also currently one of the busiest months for the hospital and many complex cases had been admitted during this time.
However, before he could conclude matters on this side, a house officer jogged in, surreptitiously requesting that he head down to the wards.
Tang Suoyan questioned what for.
The house officer whispered into his ear, “A post-op glaucoma patient is pitching a fit in his ward now.
It’s quite serious.”
Tang Suoyan asked him what that was about in a low voice.
“You’d better go over to take a look.
That patient… he’s the one in the private wards.
He’s been clamouring to see you.”
Tang Suoyan frowned.
“What’s the issue”
The house officer was nervous, knowing that it was hard for Tang Suoyan to take his leave now, but they were left with no choice.
He kept his voice extremely low, “The sutures were removed earlier in the morning… there are slight complications now.”
It was a patient that the head of department (HOD) had personally arranged and specially instructed Tang Suoyan to take extra care.
They were supposed to play nice with him.
Tang Suoyan himself had performed the trabeculectomy, even giving two post-procedure massages.
The patient had an ophthalmologist in the family; having relatives knowledgeable about the condition was usually convenient as it saved them time on the explanations.
Last night, however, the patient suddenly started complaining vocally that he was feeling extreme discomfort in his eyes; the filtering bleb was slightly congested with blood, so the relative insisted on having the sutures removed.
Upon hearing this, Tang Suoyan apologised to the crowd and followed the house officer out.
After exiting, he questioned, “Who removed them”
Lin was on shift yesterday.
He didn’t dare to remove them and tried to contact you but wasn’t able to get through.” The house officer spoke quickly.
“The relative had threatened to call the HOD, saying that if we refused to remove them he would do it himself.”
“Who removed them in the end” Tang Suoyan asked again.
Lin…” The house officer, knowing that Tang Suoyan didn’t permit errors, worried for Dr.
When Tang Suoyan arrived, the patient in question was kicking up a right row, yelling loudly in the wards for the person in charge.
Tang Suoyan examined his eyes and found that the anterior chamber was almost gone and the choroid had detached.
He immediately arranged for bandage contact lenses over the dilated pupils and steroids to be administered at once.
The patient and relative were both demanding to see the HOD, accusing the hospital of negligence and calling for someone to be held responsible.
Infuriated yet not daring to openly talk back, Dr.
Lin muttered under his breath, “You were the one who insisted on removing it yesterday, we signed an indemnity form.”
Tang Suoyan shot him a look, warning him to desist.
But this utterance still riled up the patient’s family, who claimed that the hospital was shirking responsibility.
Tang Suoyan let them go on at it, keeping his face neutral throughout it all, making arrangements as per normal to resolve the issue, not engaging them whether in aggravation or appeasement.
His lack of response conversely provided no opponent for their agitation to latch onto, and they eventually quietened down.
Many patients were like this.
Having a smattering of knowledge was sometimes a blessing and other times a curse.
They don’t cooperate because they trusted their own understanding and willed things to be done their way.
The resident doctor did not dare to defy them.
Since the call didn’t get through, he signed an indemnity to waive all risk and then went along with the patient’s wishes.
He was still young and inexperienced.
Indemnity form or no, this was still classified as an incident.
After the family quietened down, Tang Suoyan didn’t try to placate them patronisingly but avowed that he would take full responsibility and would be in charge of redoing the surgery in the event of failure.
With this short assurance, the patient and his family didn’t continue making a scene.
After all, they had been the ones to bring up the removal of the sutures; pressing the issue further would come off slightly hypocritical.
However, when it came to ward rounds, the patient still bellowed in front of all the doctors.
Professor Xu asked what was the matter, and the house officer swiftly briefed him, then Professor Xu gave directions on how to handle the situation should any complications arise.
Only one family member was left in the room during the ward rounds; the relative who worked in ophthalmology was absent.
In actuality, Professor Xu simply talked the patient in circles to quell his temper.
The foreign doctors didn’t understand Mandarin.
Professor Xu and Tang Suoyan did a bilingual review of the case; Mandarin for the patient’s ears and English for the doctors’, but what was conveyed was not the same.
At last, Professor Xu concluded the review with a nod and the crowd of doctors headed off.
Tang Suoyan never turned off his work phone.
The doctor on duty only called him once, unanswered, and thus assumed that the phone was off.
It wasn’t a good look for patients to make a scene in the hospital, reflecting badly on the hospital.
He was Tang Suoyan’s patient.
Whether or not upper management offered a patient special treatment made no difference to Tang Suoyan.
The sutures had been removed early, the anterior chamber was almost gone, and the surgery had been done in vain.
It didn’t matter that the patient had insisted on the request; it was filed as an incident regardless.
The indemnity was a piece of paper that only meant anything in a lawsuit, completely disregarded out of court.
The HOD had asked for extra care for the patient.
If fingers had to be pointed, the blame would fall on Tang Suoyan.
In the morning, Tang Suoyan had told Tao Xiaodong to expect a call from him, but it was already late at night when he emerged from the hospital.
He checked his phone.
There were two messages that Tao Xiaodong had sent in the evening.
—Yan ge, are you pulling overtime I just got off work, I can bring you dinner.
The second one came in almost an hour and a half later.
—It’s okay if you’re busy.
I’ve left packed food on the roof of your car.
Remember to take them.