Tao Xiaodong’s flight landed at the time that Tang Suoyan would usually get off work.
Tao Xiaodong phoned over.
“I’ve touched down, Yan ge.”
“How about you Are you off work yet” Tao Xiaodong asked.
“Not yet, I have to work overtime.” Tang Suoyan was reading medical records in the office at the inpatient wing.
He planned to make rounds in a while.
There were a few other resident doctors in the office who also hadn’t gotten off work yet.
“Overtime again” Tao Xiaodong walked through the arrival hall, chatting with him.
“What’s up with that”
Tang Suoyan swept a look around.
The other doctors were reading their own computer screens or tidying things up; no one was paying attention to him.
So he said quietly, “It doesn’t make any difference, I’ll still be alone when I get home anyway.”
In a corner, one of the junior doctors on duty stifled her laughter.
The junior doctor opposite her darted a look at her; they made eye contact, then she hurriedly straightened her expression, putting on a professional demeanour again.
“Are you going out for dinner tonight” asked Tang Suoyan.
“Yeah, Xiao Kai came over to fetch me.
I’ll probably be eating with them, there are a number of people around.”
“Don’t drink too much.
Tao Xiaodong responded smilingly, “I won’t drink.
Drinking too much will interfere with work.”
“Mm.” Tang Suoyan chatted a bit more with him before hanging up the phone.
Actually, he almost let slip a “come back soon”, but right before he did, he ended up changing it to something else.
It wasn’t that appropriate for his station given that there was a room full of people who could listen in.
But Consultant Tang had over-analysed it.
Strictness of conduct at work was one thing, but this short sentence wouldn’t affect his image at all; the doctors knew better than that.
Xiao Kai used to be an apprentice under Tao Xiaodong, entering the industry under Tao Xiaodong’s wing.
He had an extremely distinctive style and solid fundamentals from art school.
He was recently on the up and up, and swiftly managed to start his own fledgling business.
He used to work alone in a small studio of around twenty-odd square metres.
In recent days, he was opening a studio in collaboration with a few other young tattoo artists in his area and hoped for Tao Xiaodong to throw some backing.
The boy had potential, which was why Tao Xiaodong had previously taken him in and imparted his knowledge, and was also now willing to give him a leg up.
This industry needed a fresh stream of inspiration, and this young generation was exactly that.
It was another reason why Tao Xiaodong kept so many young tattoo artists in his employ.
The older folks, Tao Xiaodong inclusive, learned the ropes by emulating others from Europe and Japan before starting to flesh out a personal style.
Apart from the handful who were willing to keep up with the times whilst improving their craft, most others were still doing the old stuff.
The oldies would always be classics, but this industry had to evolve, and for that ‘experience’ and ‘innovation’ were both indisposable.
Young tattoo artists nowadays had different perspectives from those who entered the industry at its genesis.
Their minds were bursting with fresh ideas.
“Dong ge, I’d wanted to stay with you but you didn’t want me.” It was still hard for Xiao Kai to speak of the past; Tao Xiaodong hadn’t always acknowledged him.
“Isn’t this better than if you’d stayed” countered Tao Xiaodong.
“What’s so good about that It’s the coolest under the shade of a large tree.” Xiao Kai gave him a look.
“But you leaned towards Dyer.”
Tao Xiaodong chortled.
“What nonsense are you going on about That’s irrelevant.”
Speaking of this, back when Xiao Kai was an apprentice under Tao Xiaodong, he didn’t get along well with Dyer; the two of them had spats often.
They had similar styles but Dyer had more abstract designs while Xiao Kai had more angular designs.
Disdainful of each other, they were always at odds.
But that wasn’t the reason that Tao Xiaodong didn’t retain Xiao Kai, he wasn’t concerned about that.
The reason that he didn’t was that at that time, Xiao Kai’s skill didn’t meet the bar that Tao Xiaodong set.
He was a rookie and a bit too wet behind the ears.
Although he was willing to help him out, the tattoo artists at Dong Da Domain were the cream of the crop; only the best could remain.
There were a few others from Xiao Kai’s studio gathered around the table, all pretty young guys.
Tao Xiaodong was an idol to them; it was a rare opportunity that such an outstanding individual was here, chatting and sharing his expertise with them.
Dyer was sitting to the left of Tao Xiaodong, and a boy in a duckbill cap sat on the other side, an introverted child who quietly passed Tao Xiaodong something or other every now and then.
Tao Xiaodong accidentally toppled his glass and spilled warm water on the boy’s leg.
Tao Xiaodong hurriedly caught his glass.
“I wasn’t careful, sorry doll.”
“Don’t worry about it.” The boy stood up and got to the side, facing away from the table, wiping his trousers.
When he sat back down, he said, “It will dry in a while.”
Tao Xiaodong apologised to him again.
The boy said, “It’s really all right, Ge.”
In truth, Tao Xiaodong hadn’t only come on this trip as a favour to Xiao Kai but also to negotiate a partnership while he was here.
The schedule was rather tight in the initial few days and he was only able to contact Tang Suoyan after returning to the hotel in the evening.
Tang Suoyan had set the call on loudspeaker, exercising on the balcony whilst conversing with him.
He was short on breath from the exertion.
Tao Xiaodong kept chatting before a few snickers escaped him, and when Tang Suoyan asked what he was laughing about, Tao Xiaodong merely smiled.
Tang Suoyan went, “I asked you a question.”
“Can’t you take a guess, knowing me” Tao Xiaodong sprawled on the bed.
“My mind’s straight down the gutter.”
And so Tang Suoyan chuckled as well, then asked if he was tired.
Tao Xiaodong said that he wasn’t.
When Tang Suoyan was out on business, every other word from his mouth was how ‘tired’ and ‘drowsy’ he was.
Tao Xiaodong, quite the reverse, was never tired or drowsy and was always all good.
Translated on ninetysevenkoi.wordpress
– ❀ –
Please do not repost or retranslate.
In the end, Tian Yi’s twin boys were born during the weeks that Tao Xiaodong was away.
Tang Suoyan visited them in his place.
When he went over after work, Tian Yi was cutting fruits for his wife while the two babes slept soundly in the cot next to the bed.
Tang Suoyan gently knocked on the door with a bouquet of flowers in his arms.
Tian Yi looked up.
He introduced him to Song Zhu.
“This is my senior from med school.”
Song Zhu returned the greeting with a nod.
She was also the more straightforward sort, asking Tian Yi, “Is he… Xiaodong’s S.O.”
Before Tian Yi could make a peep, Tang Suoyan smiled and nodded, replying affirmatively.
Tian Yi took the flowers from him and placed them on the bedside cabinet.
Tang Suoyan gazed at the two children.
The newborns were tiny,both around two and a half kilos.
They looked so small and soft.
Tang Suoyan said with a faint smile, “They don’t look like you.”
“They take after their mom more,” Tian Yi acceded happily.
Look here, he was a father now.
Tang Suoyan asked, “Can I take a picture”
“Nobody’s stopping you.
In fact, I reckon I’ve already taken a few hundred myself,” Tian Yi said with a laugh.
Tang Suoyan turned off the flash and took pictures of them each separately then together, after which sending them to Tao Xiaodong.
Red packets were placed on the left and right, pressed under the small mattress.
On the left were two hefty cash envelopes that Tao Xiaodong had prepared, whereas those on the right contained two pairs of gold bracelets and gold locks that Tang Suoyan had prepared, customary gifts for newborns.
“That’s from your godfather and…” Tian Yi stumbled over his words, pausing before saying, “And Tang bo… Scratch that, let’s go with Tang shushu.”
> Both mean uncle but, put simply, bo is for older men whereas shu is for younger men
Considering that Tian Yi was younger than Tang Suoyan, it would be more apt for his children to use bobo to address Tang Suoyan, yet using that made it seem as though there was a whole generation gap between Tian Yi and Tang Suoyan.
When taking into account his status as Tao Xiaodong’s partner, he could be considered another godfather, yet using that seemed to almost take advantage of Tang Suoyan, as though shoving two godchildren under his care.
“Both works,” Tang Suoyan smiled, “It’s just a form of address, either is fine.”
Tian Yi had sent across pictures to Tao Xiaodong when the newborns were brought out of the maternity ward that morning.
But somehow when Tang Suoyan sent more over, they were already looking subtly different.
That evening, Tao Xiaodong started a video call with Tang Suoyan.
He still seemed antsy when talking about the two children.
Tang Suoyan asked him, “When will you return”
Tao Xiaodong said, “The flight is on Sunday; I arrive at noon.”
“I’ll fetch you,” said Tang Suoyan.
Tao Xiaodong, lying on his side, flipped over.
Tang Suoyan looked really handsome reading in his pyjamas through the video call; it still had Tao Xiaodong occasionally spellbound.
Nuzzling the pillow, Tao Xiaodong called out “Yan ge” and was just about to say something when there suddenly came a knock on the door.
“Who is that” Tao Xiaodong asked in a raised voice.
The person behind the door answered, “It’s me, Dong ge.”
He couldn’t tell who that was across the door, so Tao Xiaodong got up to open it, informing Tang Suoyan, “I’m going to get the door.”
Tang Suoyan said, “Go ahead.”
It was the boy from Xiao Kai’s studio, on whom Tao Xiaodong had spilled water, at the door.
Surprised and drawing a blank as to his name, Tao Xiaodong called the boy “doll” and invited him in.
The boy went “Ge” again, saying, “I saw that you didn’t eat much at noon.
Was it too spicy I bought you Cantonese for dinner.”
Tao Xiaodong went “yo” in surprise before thanking him, then asked, “Is there anything that you’re here for”
He’d thought that the boy had a request to make or was trying to butter him up before telling something.
In the end, the other was simply here to give him dinner, no strings attached.
Tao Xiaodong asked, “Really nothing”
The boy said, “Yeah.
I live near here, it isn’t any hassle to get you something.”
Tao Xiaodong stared at him, and the boy looked back at him.
Tao Xiaodong instantly got it.
What kind of delivery could one be making at this hour
The boy had an ear stud and tattoos over his fingers.
The sleeves of the broad coat jacket were slightly long.
He looked up again and went “Ge.”
Tao Xiaodong internally cursed—stop going Ge, if you keep going on I’ll have no way of explaining this to my own Ge.
“Hang on one moment,” Tao Xiaodong interrupted him to fetch his phone from the bed, smiling.
“Actually, I’ve already had dinner.”
The boy went “ah” and then saw him take the phone, saying to the video call, “Yan ge, a young kiddo is over.”
Tang Suoyan hummed indifferently.
“Should I keep the video on” Tao Xiaodong asked softly, “or dial you back later Will our conversation distract you from reading”
Tang Suoyan leaned against the headboard without looking over, flipping a page.
So Tao Xiaodong set the phone aside, saying, as though nonchalantly, to the boy, “I forgot I left the video call on when I got the door.
That’s my boyfriend.”
Quick on the uptake, the boy nodded and asked Tao Xiaodong a few technical questions, then took his leave.
Tao Xiaodong shut the door and listened to his fading footsteps before sighing in relief.
He went to get his phone and groaned.
Tang Suoyan, still reading in bed, asked without looking up, “What are you making that noise for”
Tao Xiaodong went “Yan ge,” to which Tang Suoyan responded with a hum.
There was no need to hide before Tang Suoyan, nor was there anything he could hide anyway.
Tao Xiaodong slumped down and covered his face in his arms, saying in a muffled voice, “I’m completely innocent.”
“Really” Tang Suoyan eyed him.
“Yeah, I’ve been wronged.” Tao Xiaodong groaned again.
“I don’t even remember his name.”
“You wouldn’t dare say even if you did.” Tang Suoyan took a pen from the nightstand, drawing a small mark on his book as he read, making an annotation.
He said slowly, “Quite good-looking.”
Knowing that he was screwed, Tao Xiaodong turned his voice silky soft.
“Yan ge, spare me.”
Done with the annotation, he put back the pen, then opened his mouth to say, “Not a chance.”
“Spare me, please” Tao Xiaodong was on the verge of laughing and spoiling the scene.
He touched a finger to the screen; he missed home.
Tang Suoyan was about to speak when it abruptly went dark on Tao Xiaodong’s side.
Caught off guard, Tao Xiaodong cursed in surprise, startled.
“What happened” asked Tang Suoyan.
“There’s been a blackout.
Probably a power trip.” Tao Xiaodong’s side was doused in darkness.
People were coming out to the hallways to check what was going on.
“The electricity will be back after a while,” said Tang Suoyan.
Tao Xiaodong’s vision was blanketed in darkness; he couldn’t see anything other than Tang Suoyan on the screen.
There was a commotion in the hallways, but Tao Xiaodong wasn’t that concerned about the power outage; it didn’t really affect him since he was going to bed after the video call anyway.
“You’re not still angry, are you” Tao Xiaodong touched the screen again.
Tang Suoyan gazed at the pitch-black screen.
“I am, but now that there’s a blackout I’m a bit unable to bring myself hold onto my anger.”
Despite his answer, Tao Xiaodong continued to press, “Why”
“I can’t bear to.” Tang Suoyan smiled at the video.
“Xiaodong is having a hard time on the business trip, so I’ll drop it this once.”