This brush of lips was truly chaste, and it was maybe because of that, the fleeting press, that neither of them felt any trace of awkwardness.
It was as if it never happened; they went about what they had to do, no matter in their gaze or in their speech, neither seeming like they had just engaged in an act of intimacy.
It was comfortable, following the flow and letting nature dictate the course.
The last time, Tao Xiaodong had indeed overstepped.
He hit the fast forward, which was too early for them at that time, and that made him uneasy, giving rise to discomfort.
Now that they were staying together, it was obvious to perceive that Tang Suoyan was, at an albeit slow but comfortable pace, persistently laying the latticework for the bridge between them.
The reins were in his hands; when Tao Xiaodong went fast he would slow it down, and when it faltered he would spur it forward.
This, thereby, stabilised their relationship, breathing longevity into their love.
If the two people in a relationship both lost control, while it might start off fiery, they’d eventually still have to compensate for what was lacking.
Passion broke the fetters of rationality, but resultantly the foundation that was ignored would have to be re-established.
Tao Xiaodong was also a rational animal, however, his instincts were honed over the years as a consequence of socialising and networking; he’d be held over the barrel if he didn’t.
The more he associated with Tang Suoyan, the more he discovered that the other’s rationality and composure were an integral part of him.
That was just how he was born, staid and far-sighted, a steadying presence to the people around him.
During this period, Tao Xiaodong left his two younger brothers to their own devices.
On the night before Christmas, Tao Huainan called him on the phone, saying, “Ge! Merry Christmas Eve to you and Dr.
Tao Xiaodong was having fruits on the couch.
At this, he checked, mystified, “It’s Christmas Eve already”
“Already!” Tao Huainan teased, then laughed.
“Ge, have you forgotten about us”
“Uh-huh,” Tao Xiaodong went, “completely wiped from my mind.”
“Fine!” Tao Huainan seemed to be in high spirits, his tone chippy.
“Whatever makes you happy!”
“The way I see it, you seem happy,” Tao Xiaodong shot back at him.
“I’m doing all right, the main thing is that I get all excited by the thought that you’re going to have a partner soon,” Tao Huainan exclaimed, then asked, “Is it still a work in progress or are you already there”
Tao Xiaodong couldn’t be bothered to hold the phone while eating fruits; he only had one functional hand right now, so he often put the phone on speaker these days.
Tang Suoyan was sitting next to him, watching him eat the fruits, and Tao Huainan’s question was too sudden for Tao Xiaodong to turn off the loudspeaker.
But he didn’t have to anyway.
They made eye contact, then Tao Xiaodong said, “Kinda there.”
“What is ‘kinda’ supposed to mean” Tao Huainan harrumphed.
Tao Xiaodong repeated, “Just that.
Tao Huainan felt incredibly safe entrusting his brother to Dr.
When he was still young and immature, there were days he had hoped his brother would never date and marry anyone.
He wanted his Ge to be his alone.
After growing up, he started to hope his brother could be himself, fall in love, and live well.
These years, Tao Huainan kept praying that his brother would find a good man to settle down with, but his brother never seemed to have the inclination.
Now that he finally did, Tao Huainan prayed harder than anyone else that it would work out.
Tao Xiaodong chatted to him for a while, then heard Chi Cheng from across the line asking Tao Huainan to turn on the air conditioning.
Tao Huainan didn’t like the air con.
He felt that it made the air too dry, which was why he’d secretly turn it off.
Besides, it wasn’t good for the health; it was easy to catch a cold.
Chi Cheng, unable to find the remote, told him to stop hiding it.
Tao Xiaodong said, “Hurry up and get ready for bed, tell Ku ge not to stay up too late studying.”
Tao Huainan said okay then bid his brother goodnight, hanging up the phone.
“Xiao Nan is a sensible child,” Tang Suoyan said to him, “you raised him well.”
“He often thinks too much,” Tao Xiaodong’s tone when thinking of Tao Huainan was soft.
“He’s very sensitive.
Sometimes he reminds me of a little animal, he sticks to his folks and is wary towards anyone else.”
Tang Suoyan tapped a crooked finger next to his eye, “Because of this.”
“Yeah,” Tao Xiaodong nodded, “he’s scared inside.”
Tang Suoyan was well-versed with Tao Huainan’s condition, the deficiency present in those beautiful eyes.
He said to Tao Xiaodong, “There will eventually be a medical cure.
Research has been making constant progress, all that we need is time.”
While there was a treatment now, its effects weren’t obvious and it could only slow down the progressive degeneration.
Tao Xiaodong knew this all too well.
He turned over to look at Tang Suoyan, nodding.
“I’ll wait for Dr.
Tang to cure my baby brother, then.”
He said that with an affected hint of good humour.
Tang Suoyan added, “He’s my baby brother, too.”
Tao Xiaodong winked, a soft radian at the corners of his eyes when he smiled.
Translated on ninetysevenkoi.wordpress
– ❀ –
Please do not repost or retranslate.
Every Christmas, all the staff would go out and celebrate together.
It was a rather large crowd and the majority of them were youngsters, so they stirred quite a ruckus.
With Tao Xiaodong’s hand in that state, he avoided alcohol and only pretended to take a token sip in good spirit.
Although Tang Suoyan came along, no one dared to mess with him; they still hadn’t quite gotten used to the ethereal aura that seemed to shroud him, so much such that it even felt disrespectful to be cracking jokes around him.
Therefore, the both of them headed off right after eating, leaving the space to them to go wild. Da Huang couldn’t leave; he had to take care of these little troublemakers.
Christmas was in the air out on the streets, full of joy and jubilation.
Tao Xiaodong said, “I went to the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) for university, while Tian Yi went to your med school.
In our first year, he, Lao Xia, and I went to a pub for Christmas.
It was my first time at a pub.”
Tao Xiaodong abruptly recalled an incident from over a decade back when they walked past a pub.
“I was still poor back then, and they were ordinary students too.
Anyway, the three of us just wanted to join in the festivities.
Then came along two, quite pretty, chicks, who sat down to drink with us.
We thought that they wanted to share a table, maybe they wanted to hook up or something, so Lao Xia and Tian Yi got stupid excited and matched them drink for drink.
I didn’t dare to drink.
I had to take them home if they got sloshed.”
The memory amused Tao Xiaodong now.
It was too stupid.
He went on, “Afterwards, when the two idiots were almost at their limit, the girls moved on to the next table.
That was when we realised that their drinks were considered ours.
The chicks belonged to the pub, it was their job to get people to rack up their tabs.”
Tang Suoyan rarely frequented pubs and wasn’t familiar with such practices, thus also smiled when he heard about it from Tao Xiaodong.
“The bill turned out to be over two thousand yuan when we closed the tab.
At that time, two thousand was hard to come by.
I was poor, so I definitely couldn’t afford it.
Besides, why should I be paying when I didn’t touch a drop I’m a stingy bloke.”
Tang Suoyan asked, “So who paid in the end”
“None of us had the money.
Those two idiots were pissed, too.
They had only drunk half the tab, so why did they have to pay for drinks that were not theirs Anyway, I couldn’t be arsed.
The moment I heard the bill was over two thousand, I was out of there.”
He leaned back in the seat, chuckling.
“After that, the two of them jumped from the second floor washroom and fled.
But it hung on their conscience.
They were spooked for a long time after that, afraid that the school would get involved.”
Tang Suoyan laughed quietly, too, then asked him, “You weren’t scared”
I was a CAFA student, I had less to lose.
You’re all elite students over there.
If word really got to the school, they’d be kicked out.”
Tao Xiaodong was about to speak when a ringtone interrupted him.
Tang Suoyan’s phone was placed in between them.
As he was driving, he asked Tao Xiaodong, “Who is it”
For some reason, without even having to look, he had a hunch who it was.
Tao Xiaodong glanced at the screen, reading off it.
After two seconds, Tang Suoyan said, “Leave it.”
The phone kept ringing in Tao Xiaodong’s hand.
Tao Xiaodong, staring at Tong Ning’s name, said, “It doesn’t feel right to do that, though.”
Tang Suoyan glanced at him.
Tao Xiaodong said, “What if something happened”
Tang Suoyan didn’t tell him to accept the call, and Tao Xiaodong wouldn’t selfishly move to accept it.
It was Tang Suoyan’s phone, after all.
When the phone silenced, the ensuant silence in the car was slightly stifling.
But the silence didn’t last long.
The phone soon started to ring again.
Tang Suoyan still didn’t give the go-ahead.
Tao Xiaodong held the phone all the way, the vibration making his hand prickle with numbness.
Actually, Tao Xiaodong had yet to work out what Tong Ning’s angle was.
The other had sought him out, sought Tang Suoyan out, yet never divulged anything.
While it was certain that he didn’t want Tang Suoyan to move on with someone else, he had been restrained throughout.
Apart from that time during Tang Suoyan’s birthday, he hadn’t lost control or acted excessively.
He was full of contradictions.
The only explanation that Tao Xiaodong could come up with was that Tong Ning wanted to salvage the relationship but was unable to swallow his pride.
When the phone began to ring for the third time, Tao Xiaodong said, “Yan ge, what if something really happened”
Tao Xiaodong had many things running across his mind.
He had a younger brother that required constant care and attention and often thus considered all kinds of possible situations that could pop up.
He was already stuck in this type of mindset.
Tong Ning lived alone.
If something happened to him, the first person he’d ask for help would definitely be Tang Suoyan.
Life is unpredictable, moreover, with the persistent calls, Tao Xiaodong didn’t dare to leave things up to chance.
Tang Suoyan, “The reason I’m not answering is not that I’m afraid of what you might hear.
I’m not trying to hide it from you.
It’s just inappropriate.”
“I know.” Tao Xiaodong said, “I don’t mind.
Take the call I’m a little worried.”
Tang Suoyan looked at him.
Tao Xiaodong’s finger slid across and the call connected.
He put the phone on speaker, holding the phone towards Tang Suoyan.
Tong Ning called “Yan ge.”
Tang Suoyan asked, “What happened”
In a relatively calm tone, Tong Ning asked him, “Where are you”
Tang Suoyan said, “I’m outside.”
Tong Ning asked, “Are you alone”
Tang Suoyan said no, then asked what this was about.
Tong Ning, abruptly, said something that sounded random but was actually very direct; just four simple words.
“…I regret it now.”
Tao Xiaodong looked out of the window.
The Christmas lights brightly illuminated the night.
It was unusual for Tong Ning to be so forthcoming.
Tang Suoyan didn’t ask him what he regretted, only saying, “Don’t regret the past, look forward.”
Then, he took the phone from Tao Xiaodong’s hand and hung up.
“That’s why I didn’t want to accept the call in front of you.” Tang Suoyan said in a low voice, “Regardless of what he says, it’s inappropriate to let you hear it.”
Tao Xiaodong smiled and said that it didn’t matter.
As Tang Suoyan turned the car into the community, Tao Xiaodong murmured, “Why is he only regretting it now”
Tang Suoyan said, “Were you hoping that he would regret it sooner”
“No way,” Tao Xiaodong retorted before laughing.
“I’m not going to fake it anymore.
It’s scaring me to death that he’s regretting it now.
I could have written it off as thirst before I’d gotten a taste, but now that I have I’m scared silly that someone else will whisk you away.”
“What did you get a taste of” Tang Suoyan smiled faintly at this.
I know what it’s like to be treated well by you, Tao Xiaodong mused, I’ve tasted it.
Which was why he seriously couldn’t understand Tong Ning.
“I can’t believe that Dr.
Tong is only admitting that he regrets it now.”
Tang Suoyan stopped the car and undid his seatbelt.
Turning off the engine, he said to Tao Xiaodong, “No one will whisk me away, you can keep me for yourself.”
With that, he got out of the car, and Tao Xiaodong took a moment to recover before getting off too, catching up with Tang Suoyan and taking his hand in his.
Tang Suoyan said self-mockingly, “It’s amusing that you’re scared someone will steal or snatch me away when you have no competition.”
Tao Xiaodong tightened his hold on his hand.
“How is there no competition That’s an outrageous lie.
Besides, I want you.”
Tang Suoyan said, “I know.
You really, really want me.