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wildfire CH 36

Author:Bu Wen San Jiu Not Asking If It's Three Or Nine Category:urban Update time:2023-01-01 02:56:11


Well, that was thrilling.

From morning to the present, Tao Xiaodong had faced trial after trial in this apartment.

But the afternoon passed quite peacefully.

Tang Suoyan selected a movie and they watched it together, and drowsiness crept up on them afterwards.

Then, they each rested on the couch; Tao Xiaodong on the reclinable seat, Tang Suoyan on the long side, dozing off for a while.

This last period had run Tang Suoyan ragged.

Sleep-deprived, he slept deeply.

On the other hand, Tao Xiaodong woke up once in between.

He reached out to draw the long curtains close, blocking the light for Tang Suoyan.

Having a pocket of time to do nothing in each other’s presence was actually difficult to come by given their busy schedule, usually only found on a good weekend.

Except for Tang Suoyan’s birthday, they had not had such a peaceful and restful day together.

Moments like this quickly closed the distance between them.

By spending a whole day together, not even dressing up properly, one could immediately discern a person’s natural state.

How he kept his home and how he slept all defined him, and witnessing that was an insight into who he was.

This was Tang Suoyan letting Tao Xiaodong see him and understand his life.

Now, what Tao Xiaodong was getting to know, getting closer to, was the most authentic him.

There was some difference between this and that when they were first acquainted.

In front of strangers, while Tang Suoyan was cordial, there was still a sense of distance to him.

Now, that distance was dwindling.

Tao Xiaodong could just reach out and he’d be able to touch his face.

By the time Tang Suoyan awoke, the sky was almost dark.

Nightfall came earlier in the winter, and the drawn curtains darkened the room further.

Tao Xiaodong sat on the sofa with a leg propped up, chatting with others on the phone.

Tang Suoyan squinted at the electric clock on the coffee table and grunted.

“Awake” Tao Xiaodong looked over, smiling at him.

Tang Suoyan hummed then shut his eyes, drifting off a bit again.

He remained lying down in a groggy blur.

Tao Xiaodong spent this ten minutes chatting with someone, fingers tapping a rhythm on his phone.

Previously, Lao Mao had sought out Tao Xiaodong on the behalf of a showrunner to participate in a reality television series focused on the art of tattoo as a judge on a panel.

For a programme like this, clout was everything.

Tao Xiaodong had turned it down.

To him, it was a joke to promote a niche craft for mass audiences.

It was in poor form no matter what the ratings were.

If it was a flop, the audience would mock it for being made into a series; if it was a hit, one had to consider the message it propagated.

Youngsters nowadays were headstrong and not strapped for cash.

If the programme made tattoos trendy, an ill-considered tattoo on their body could limit their career options in the future.

Tao Xiaodong had declined immediately after reading the planned programme, resolute not to go no matter how much they paid him.

On the phone with him today was an old friend who had taken up this gig.

His original plan was to use it to promote his parlour, but a family emergency cropped up at the last minute, preventing him from fulfilling the contract.

However, he had prior agreed to do it and even signed the contract.

Filming for the programme was right about to start; pulling out now would incur a termination fee.

And that friend’s first thought was to come to Tao Xiaodong.

If he could step in for him, the production crew wouldn’t raise any issue.

Tao Xiaodong had the status, the ability, and the popularity; he was more than qualified to enter the panel of judges and take his place.

Tao Xiaodong would usually try to help with small trivialities where he could.

With his friend making this request in earnest, it was impossible for Tao Xiaodong to sit on his hands.

Truthfully, though, he really didn’t want to be involved in this.

He wasn’t a no-name guy in the business.

People knew him, he was recognisable; he couldn’t just offer his namesake up for any odd job.

Tao Xiaodong suggested a few names for him to ask instead.

The other end said, “The show approached them long ago.

None of them would bite, it’s beneath them.”

It didn’t move Tao Xiaodong, either.

The compensation sounded hefty, but to people like them, inking a couple of big tattoos would garner the same amount; it wasn’t worth doing it for a little bit of petty cash.

Those who accepted the invitation were eyeing the boost to their popularity not the money.

In the end, Tao Xiaodong said: I’ll help you think of other options.

The other said: I’ve already considered every option imaginable, I’m stuck.

Damn it to hell, I didn’t think that much when I signed the contract; I’ll have to pay triple in damages if I breach the contract, otherwise I would have just paid for it instead of asking for help.

Tao Xiaodong exchanged a bit more small talk with him then set down the phone.

“Did you fall back asleep” He asked in Tang Suoyan’s direction, seeing that he hadn’t stirred in a while.

Tang Suoyan said “no” with his eyes shut, without making to rise at all.

It was the same this morning.

Tao Xiaodong gazed at him, and after a few minutes of staring, he laughed.

“I’m suddenly finding that you like to laze in bed.”

“That’s just how it is when I’m sleep-deprived,” Tang Suoyan informed him.

“And all this time I’d thought you were Superman.

You returned home in the middle of the night and rose in the wee hours of the morning for so many days in a row.” Tao Xiaodong recalled the first mission trip they went on together; it was virtually impossible to catch sight of him.

“I don’t feel tired when I’m busy.” Tang Suoyan said with his eyes shut.

“I get through it in one breath, then, once I relax, it crashes over me.

It takes me a few days to recover when I do.”

Tao Xiaodong let him lie in for a bit more before inching over.

“Hey, by the way.”

Tang Suoyan cracked open his eyes, “Yeah”

“I might need to take a trip out next week,” Tao Xiaodong said, “as a favour to a friend.”

“Where to” asked Tang Suoyan.

Tao Xiaodong told him the region; Tang Suoyan asked how long for; Tao Xiaodong said that he didn’t know, might be about two weeks-ish.

Tang Suoyan blinked, then sat up and said, “Go.

Stay safe, and make sure you get enough rest.”

Tao Xiaodong shifted a little closer, sitting next to Tang Suoyan.

Both of them were people with little time for breaks.

Tao Xiaodong had actually pushed away many things this year, making more time by focusing on the parlour.

Even then he was still rather busy, and it was hard to tell what would end up blocking his time.

Tang Suoyan had just finished hosting the annual symposium which went on for nearly three weeks.

Having just cleared this, he had time to relax a bit, yet this coincided with when Tao Xiaodong had to leave.

It was particularly difficult, it seemed, for them to spend quality time together.

Tang Suoyan went to prepare dinner.

As neither of them were hungry, he used leftover soup stock from lunch to cook noodles.

Tao Xiaodong hovered behind him.

“Cook less, I’m not that hungry.”

Tang Suoyan voiced his assent.

After dinner, they sat around for a while more until it was close to eight.

Tao Xiaodong stood up and said, “I’ll change out, I should go soon.”

Tang Suoyan caught his hand.

Tao Xiaodong looked at him, and Tang Suoyan asked, “Will you be back tomorrow”

“Yeah,” Tao Xiaodong replied.

Tang Suoyan didn’t say anything more, but he didn’t let go either, and simply looked at him.

They locked eyes; a blink from one and then a slow blink from the other.

Tao Xiaodong moved his fingers, asking tentatively, “Shall I… stay longer”

Tang Suoyan didn’t give a straight answer, saying instead, “I remember you promised to spend time with me.”

“I did,” Tao Xiaodong sat back down, and Tang Suoyan released his wrist.

“Aren’t I doing that right now”

“But you’ll be leaving next week, am I wrong” Tang Suoyan asked him.

Tao Xiaodong briefly mulled over it.

He was smart enough; digesting Tang Suoyan’s words, he murmured, “Tell you what… since I have to come back tomorrow, why don’t I just… not go”

Tang Suoyan, “Okay.”

Tao Xiaodong hadn’t thought about that, honest to god.

When he came, he wasn’t angling for any funny business at all.

He had come pure-intentioned with breakfast, and the rapid unfolding of events as the day progressed caught him completely off-guard.

It was as though Tang Suoyan had a pocketful of crackling balls, bunting one at him every once in a while.

“But I don’t mean…” Tao Xiaodong hesitated, slightly worried that the rapid pace in the day would spiral out of control at night.

Though he believed that Tang Suoyan wasn’t that kind of guy, he still clarified, “I don’t mean anything else by this but where will I sleep tonight”

Tang Suoyan smiled the moment the words were out.

He pointed at the guest bedroom.

“Bleach your brain.”

“What’s there to bleach!” Tao Xiaodong hurriedly said, “It’s sparkling clean.”

Tang Suoyan gazed meaningfully at the long pillow at the side, yes, exactly the one that Tao Xiaodong held in his lap in the morning.

He didn’t say a word, but with this one look, Tao Xiaodong conceded defeat, laughing and averting his gaze.

 Tang Suoyan wanted him to say for one because Tao Xiaodong would still have to come tomorrow morning, it wasn’t worth the drive back and forth.

Also because he wanted to leave time for them to talk.

That should have been for the afternoon, but he ended up sleeping the afternoon away.

Tang Suoyan pulled a carpet over to the balcony and moved the coffee table over, two chairs as well, one for each of them.

Tao Xiaodong was in short sleeves.

The balcony wasn’t as warm as inside the room, so Tang Suoyan took a jacket out for him.

Ever since getting to know each other better, they had never seemed to have any deep conversations.

The longest span was on the balcony in Gansu where they chatted for about three hours.

First talking about Tao Xiaodong and his brother, then talking about Tong Ning.

At that time, they each had their own mind.

They didn’t clearly put across any interest, remaining strictly within bounds.

After that, there was neither opportunity nor time.

Being where they were now, even having shared an embrace, it wouldn’t do to keep the lines blurred.

It was time for a talk.

“Next week you’ll be away again for almost two weeks, so why not stay for a while” Tang Suoyan, seated across, asked.

“I’ll stay,” Tao Xiaodong smiled, bobbing his head.

Tao Xiaodong leaned on the glass door behind him, gazing out.

It was a moonless night, but every apartment in the block across was lit up.

The glinting glass reflected the room interior.

The reflection was true to life, tangible, softened by the dark night outside.

Of warm lighting over a coffee table, where two men sat across from each other.

Tao Xiaodong smiled.

“I quite like your place.”

Tang Suoyan said, “That’s good.”

“Actually, it still feels surreal that I’m staying overnight at your place.

I never thought about that before.” Tao Xiaodong had yet to inform Tao Huainan that he wouldn’t be back tonight.

If he did, who knew what mental acrobatics that little fox’s imagination would get up to.

Likewise, Tang Suoyan leaned against the glass, chuckling.

“You make it sound like we’ll be up to something.”

“Just staying over is shocking enough.” Tao Xiaodong carefully thought back and admitted, “It’s been a long time since I last stayed over at anyone’s.”

“Not used to that” Tang Suoyan looked at him.

“That’s not it, not really.” Tao Xiaodong took a sip of his tea.

“It just hadn’t occurred to me yet.

I was afraid you’ll feel that we’re moving too fast.”

Since the conversation had come to this, Tang Suoyan went along with it, adding, “It’s true that I hadn’t intended to move this quickly.”

Tao Xiaodong got that.

They had always had a tacit understanding when it came to this.

Tang Suoyan had a traditional clay teapot, a gift from his father, which he used to brew tea today.

Conversation suited the slow and painstaking process of tea preparation well.

“I can’t tell if you’re deliberately trying to charm me.” Tang Suoyan smiled wryly, “But no matter, it’s like I told you.

My resolve is crumbling.”

Tao Xiaodong simply smiled without a word, quietly taking sips of his tea.

“So, just go with the flow, never mind fast or slow.” Tang Suoyan said, “Just follow where our hearts lead us.”

It was only after reaching a certain age, weighed down by life, that one could appreciate the luxury to follow one’s heart.

Tao Xiaodong appeared to be much luckier than others in that regard, facing few restrictions in both work and his life outlook.

“I don’t dare to follow my heart.” Tao Xiaodong openly confessed.

“I never had.

I have to tread gingerly at every step, because I’ve got nothing.

I’m afraid of causing offence, I don’t dare to lose and I don’t dare to fail.

Because my brother and I have to get by.

We have to live well.”

Tao Xiaodong chuckled.

“Eventually, it became a habit.

People tend to use one way to approach problems, and then get used to that.

So, I don’t know what following my heart means.

It scares me when it comes to other stuff, and it scares me when it comes to you.”

Tang Suoyan poured more tea for him.

Tao Xiaodong went on.

“I really pulled the stops on you.

I deliberately hang around you and deliberately leave you hanging.

I’m always planning what next, even today.”

It was brutally honest.

Tang Suoyan faltered in his movements, then shook his head with a smile.

“You’re wicked smart.

You get things.” Tao Xiaodong smiled at him.

“You can tell that I’m deliberately charming you, and I won’t lie.

It’s true.

But I’ve also mentioned that I’m being hundred percent genuine.”

Tao Xiaodong softly thumped his heart with his right hand.

“I am manipulating you, but my feelings are sincere.”

“You don’t have to be so blunt.

I didn’t say that you’re manipulating me, don’t speak like that.” It was hard for Tang Suoyan to keep listening.

He was being so candid that no one would have the heart to hold it against him.

“You tell me to follow my heart, but I’ll be real with you.

I can’t.” Tao Xiaodong looked out of the window.

“Even if we agree on that today, tomorrow morning I’ll still wake up considering what would sound flattering and what would be appropriate.

I’m used to it.”

“You don’t have to around me,” Tang Suoyan murmured.


Especially when it’s you.” Tao Xiaodong tucked his chin down, tugging his ear, smiling abashedly.

“I’m more indifferent to the other stuff now, but I can’t do that around you.”

Tang Suoyan watched him.

Tao Xiaodong paused midway, gathering his words.

Tang Suoyan had wanted to listen to him talk about himself today, and Tao Xiaodong didn’t shy away from that.

It was a fairly good way to get to know each other better, becoming more intimate with every sentence shared.

“It’s been too long since the last time I went out with anyone.

I can hardly even remember when the last time was.” Tao Xiaodong smiled as he laid his heart bare.

“Age didn’t matter to me when I was in my twenties, it was easy to find flings then, but I was busy.

Then when I entered my thirties, I didn’t want to go for anyone younger than me, it was too much work.

And then the more time that passed the harder it got to find the spark.

Someone older and more stable is hard to come by.”

“And then I finally met one.” Tao Xiaodong glanced at Tang Suoyan out of his peripheral vision.

Tang Suoyan was also focused on him.

“Anyhow, I stopped caring about age or whatnot.

All goes, anything will do.

I just don’t want to miss the chance, that’s all that matters to me.”

Tao Xiaodong had always been straightforward in his speech, and this brand of honesty sent a hot pulse to Tang Suoyan’s heart with every sentence.

“I’m serious.

This time, I really… really want you.

I can’t blow this off, so, Yan ge, don’t fault me for employing every trick in the book on you.”

His honest emotions shone through his eyes, and, after listening to him, Tang Suoyan returned, “Don’t say that.”

Could anyone remain unmoved after listening to him He didn’t pull his punches, saying anything that would hit the heart.

Tang Suoyan rose to his feet and went into the living room, chuckling, “I’ll go cut some fruits for you.

It’s hard to take the way you’re speaking.”

After growing up, people learned tact; they prevaricate, hiding their emotions behind layers.

But Tao Xiaodong didn’t play by the usual rules.  He would sit in front of you, look squarely into your eyes, and say I charmed you, I left you hanging, because I care too much about you, I really want you.

His words were still echoing in Tang Suoyan’s ears as he cut the fruits.

It was too impactful.

After returning, Tao Xiaodong had changed his posture, knees bent, slouching casually in his seat.

Tang Suoyan passed him a plate.

“Stop that, you’re making this chat seem like I’m interrogating you, making you spill everything to me.

Let’s just chat, don’t be so forthcoming.”

“Is it bad for me to open up” Tao Xiaodong took the fruits, eating a piece of pineapple off a fork.

“The conversation won’t last if you keep going,” said Tang Suoyan.

“You don’t like hearing such stuff” asked Tao Xiaodong.

“Whether I like hearing that does not change that I can only take so much.” Tang Suoyan forked a piece of apple from the plate in his hands.

“If you keep going, if you continue to tell me how much you really, really want me, I’ll still go cut fruits for you.”

Tao Xiaodong’s chewing paused for a beat, then he jerked his face away, shoulders shaking with quiet laughter.

“So, make sure you talk properly,” Tang Suoyan said.

“Aye,” Tao Xiaodong agreed, face still turned away.


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