The cigarette belonged to Tao Xiaodong.
He would sometimes smoke on the balcony when stressed.
Not often though, he didn’t get nicotine cravings.
Due to his eyes, it had been a while since he last smoked.
He had stopped doing anything harmful to his body.
Tang Suoyan smoked a cigarette on the balcony.
The last time he smoked should have been when he was still in university.
He had always been a very self-disciplined man, good at controlling himself, and never formed a dependence on any vice.
Smoking in the middle of the night because he couldn’t sleep, in all seriousness, didn’t sound like something that he was capable of.
Tao Xiaodong would sometimes feel that his appearance had added a lot of uncertainty and broken apart the stability in Tang Suoyan’s life, even if that was not his intention.
Before they had gotten together, Tao Xiaodong had never imagined the way things would be like today.
He had hoped to provide Tang Suoyan an even better life, allowing him more stability and happiness.
Translated by luckykoi
They went to work as usual the next day.
Before getting out of the car, Tang Suoyan said to Tao Xiaodong, “Take care of your eyes, don’t strain them.”
“Yeah, I know.” Tao Xiaodong promised him, “I’ll be good.”
Tang Suoyan smiled and caressed his hand on the gear shift.
“Pick me up after work.”
“All righty,” said Tao Xiaodong.
Tang Suoyan got out of the car and silently went up the building to his office, nodding back to the people he encountered along the way who greeted him.
He changed his clothes, and, before going out, his phone rang.
Tang Suoyan accepted the call.
The hospital director was across the line, requesting that he drop by in the afternoon.
Tang Suoyan indicated that he understood.
Professor Xu wasn’t in the country, but the hospital director had something that he wanted to convey directly to Tang Suoyan.
The hospital director got a glass of warm water for Tang Suoyan, and went, “Suoyan.”
Tang Suoyan was able to hazard a guess even without needing him to speak.
He said, “I’ve guessed it, sir.”
In front of the water dispenser, the hospital director sighed.
“I know that you are in a hurry.”
Tang Suoyan frowned minutely.
“Not one was approved”
The hospital director’s brow was locked with deeply etched creases.
He didn’t give an answer.
Tang Suoyan nodded.
Tang Suoyan applied for three clinical trial projects this year, which were gene-editing projects for three pathogenic genes of retinitis pigmentosa—set a target in the mutation area, edit and reproduce the gene on the target, and repair the point mutation.
That was the project that he had been working on all these years, and the research team at San Hospital had made remarkable progress in recent years.
The trials on white mice and pigs had yielded remarkable results to their sight.
However, the clinical trials were never approved, and testing on animals could never replace testing on humans.
They couldn’t forecast the effects of gene therapy on humans.
San Hospital had always supported their projects, and the recent introduction of a large number of scientific research talents in the Ophthalmology Department was also for this purpose.
If a project was successful, it could be applied clinically one day, and that would be a giant leap forward for the whole world.
Although Tang Suoyan had been working on this for years, it was still in the research phase and wouldn’t move so swiftly to clinical trials.
They had not received approval for clinical trials domestically, much less internationally.
“Is the funding enough” The hospital director asked, putting the cup of tea on the table in front of him, and standing next to him.
“It’s enough.” Tang Suoyan pinched the bridge of his nose.
“I’m not lacking funding, sir.”
“I know you’d like to enter clinical trials as soon as possible.
The hospital is also doing its best to apply for approval.” The director patted him on the shoulder and consoled, “Take it one step at a time.”
Tang Suoyan still had two surgeries in the afternoon, so he didn’t linger at the hospital director’s office, leaving after that.
The objective of scientific research was for clinical application, otherwise, all laboratory results would have been in vain.
Retinitis pigmentosa was the eye disease with the highest rate of blindness in the world, with more than fifty types of genes that could result in blindness.
The cost of treatment was upwards of several hundred thousand dollars, which was an astronomical sum for ordinary families.
Academics around the world had been tackling this eye disease for many years now; it should have been surmounted by now.
Genetic therapy was one research direction, while retinal implants were another research direction.
Tang Suoyan’s research was directed at gene therapy to target the mutated genes.
Despite being successfully manufactured, retinal implants weren’t viable in the short term due to their limited functionality.
Those years ago, Tang Suoyan had patted Tao Huainan on the head and told him ‘no one has given up on you’.
Tao Huainan carried two point mutations in total, one of which happened to be within his research scope, which was also pending approval for clinical trials.
If it proceeded to clinical trials, Tao Huainan was on his list of volunteers.
Before Tao Xiaodong had tested his genes, Tang Suoyan had hoped to see identical genetic mutations on the test report.
It was hard to say whether it was a blessing or a curse; while Tao Huainan had inherited two point mutations from his father, Tao Xiaodong had only inherited one.
This one, however, was not ABCA4, which Tang Suoyan had made remarkable progress in researching.
It was another one that was not within Tang Suoyan’s scope of research.
The blessing was that it was easier to treat one gene than to treat two.
The curse was that once it entered clinical testing, Tao Huainan could be treated as a volunteer, and while they couldn’t forecast the results, he still had hope—but the scientific research on the gene mutation that Tao Xiaodong had lacked results, thus he couldn’t even be involved in clinical testing.
In the office, Tang Suoyan took out every section of Tao Xiaodong’s report once more, studying them again.
He had gone through these paper reports so many times that the fringes of the first and last pages had curved, yet there was nothing more he could do.
Lately, Tao Xiaodong had been discussing business for a couple of hours every day with someone through voice message, unconsciously scribbling and doodling on paper with a pencil as he talked.
Tao Xiaodong had gained strong momentum in recent years, gradually becoming a leader in the circle.
In Tao Xiaodong’s own words, he was a schemer and a smooth talker, able to network well at various events.
As a social butterfly and one of the best technically, it was no surprise that he was secure in his position at the top.
The domestic tattoo scene was constantly evolving.
It used to be passed up by those internationally, but now that there were some eyes on them now, they could also start hosting conventions.
If it were in the past, Tao Xiaodong would definitely accept the role of the organiser.
He had never shirked back from such.
Given his status, being esteemed and respected by others, he ought to step up to task at critical moments.
No one else was better suited for it.
However, Tao Xiaodong wasn’t interested in accepting the gig this year.
He really didn’t have the energy.
A convention as large as that would take minimally a month of work.
It was too exhausting.
Every aspect had to be personally vetted by him, from decisions as big as the venue layout and vendor reception, to details as small as dress code and admission ticket design, all of which he had to oversee.
Although he could earn a fortune, Tao Xiaodong’s goal wasn’t to earn that much this year.
Now, all he wanted was peace and stability.
There weren’t any with the ability to execute this well.
Tao Xiaodong had tried passing the buck to many others—he had many homies in the circle and wanted to recommend his own friends to those on the global scene, but the association over there only recognised him.
The final message was that if he didn’t want to do it, they might as well take the convention to Japan.
In truth, those overseas had always disdained the stuff from China.
It would really have been a waste to turn down the opportunity to host a convention, so Tao Xiaodong accepted the responsibility in the end.
The development of the domestic scene was the combined effort of all the tattoo artists.
There were many outstanding tattoo artists with great artistry.
They didn’t fall short of the overseas stuff and could be, frankly, even more impressive.
Other than some old-timers who preferred to keep a low profile and hide away from fame, it was time to shine.
Of course, before accepting, he still had to run it by the doctor at home.
After all, he had to follow the doctor’s instructions in everything he did now.
Having someone to take care of everything was wonderful.
He didn’t find it bothersome; he would be unhappy if the other left him alone.
Being cared for in this manner gave him a sense of belonging.
Tang Suoyan didn’t restrict him from taking on the convention, telling him, “Do what you enjoy doing, you don’t have to feel stressed about it.”
“I have to go on business trips.
I’ll also be very busy.” Tao Xiaodong, lying on Tang Suoyan’s legs, looked up at him.
“Is that okay”
“Take care of your eyes and don’t tire yourself out.” Tang Suoyan stroked his head while reading.
“If I don’t have to work overtime on weekends, I can fly over to accompany you.”
“Really” Tao Xiaodong first asked, eyes twinkling with delighted surprise, then felt bad and said, “Nah don’t, it’d be too exhausting.”
“It will be okay.” His hair scraped Tang Suoyan’s palm.
“Do what you would do in the past, don’t believe that you are any different.
If you want to hold the convention, so be it.
If you want to travel, go for it.
Just make sure to take care of your eyes and take regular breaks.”
Tao Xiaodong lay down, nodding, and said, “All right.”
Recently, he had been as docile as an obedient little child.
Tang Suoyan smiled out of the blue, asking him, “Do you feel that you and Xiao Nan are becoming more and more alike”
“In what way Personality” asked Tao Xiaodong.
“Yes.” Tang Suoyan placed a hand over his eyes.
Lying down like that, the lights were slightly glaring.
“Close your eyes, don’t look at the light.”
Tao Xiaodong shut his eyes under his palm.
“You both follow instructions well,” said Tang Suoyan.
“I really follow them, he fakes it.” Tao Xiaodong chuckled.
“He deliberately tries to get on people’s nerves.”
“On yours” Tang Suoyan casually massaged the area around Tao Xiaodong’s eyes with one hand while reading the book in his other hand.
“He can be quite obstinate sometimes, and he doesn’t listen,” said Tao Xiaodong.
“Not mine usually, but he infuriates his xiao-Ge a lot.”
Tang Suoyan didn’t speak for a long beat.
Then, his hand pressed down more heavily and he said, “Just like you.”
Tao Xiaodong, knowing what he was referring to, felt a prick in his conscience.
He clasped Tang Suoyan’s hand, flipping it over and pressing a kiss to the back of his hand.
There was still some time until the tattoo convention, there was no hurry for the time being.
However, since the deal had been made, Tao Xiaodong certainly couldn’t afford to relax.
He started to rush off his feet the whole day.
He had accepted running the convention on the behalf of the whole company, so all the tattoo artists in the parlour had to showcase some works.
The lazier tattoo artists like Dyer wore their reluctance on their faces, finding it too troublesome.
“How can the young be so lazy,” chided Tao Xiaodong, baffled.
At their age, Tao Xiaodong was like a force of nature with nowhere to expend his energy.
On the contrary, these people didn’t care to carve a name for themselves and instead gladly stayed put in the shade of Tao Xiaodong’s vast reaches, without a lick of ambition.
For a time, the two sides in the studio would occasionally regard each other with mutual disgust—the lazybones would scorn the troubles that Tao Xiaodong was going to, and Tao Xiaodong would scorn them for their lack of ambition.
People tended to look more energetic when life got busy, as though being faced with a challenge gave them a boost.
The tenacious vitality contained in Tao Xiaodong was roused again.
He was in his element, unyielding and unbeatable, sleeves rolled up and raring to go the entire day.
Tang Suoyan liked that look on him.