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wildfire CH 74

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


It was to go big or go home.

Having accepted such a large gig, Tao Xiaodong didn’t have any time to rest until the convention ended.

For a long period, Tao Xiaodong was unimpressed by the quality of the works to be showcased in the main convention area.

The portfolio submissions bored him.

Those able to get a booth in the main convention area were not run-of-the-mill tattoo artists.

Each day went out for 1.5k, and while it sounded like a hefty sum, due to its placement, it had the potential to rake in much more than that a day.

However, the main convention area was also the centrepiece of the event.

If the submission was subpar, Tao Xiaodong refused to offer a booth even at a rate of 3k a day.

It’d disgrace him.

The main convention area must stand out.

Tao Xiaodong impatiently tossed aside the pile of portfolio submissions in his hands.

“Yan Xian wants a spot, do we give it to him” Da Huang asked, sitting opposite Tao Xiaodong.

Tao Xiaodong rummaged through the pile for Yan Xian’s portfolio, went through it, then tossed it aside again.


“How do we break it to him” Da Huang laughed snidely.

“He’ll be annoyed when we tell him, and then hold another grudge again.”

“His tattoos are worsening year by year.” Tao Xiaodong sneered, “Thinking of making money when his hand has become so lousy I’m sick of seeing the same old stuff.”

“Break it to him yourself.” Da Huang grabbed a portfolio and flipped through it casually.

“There’s nothing that impressive this year.

It’s getting repetitive.”

“And the rest are outside submissions, or more experimental designs that no one will get.” Tao Xiaodong frowned and pinched the bridge of his nose.

“It’s too shabby.”

“Set your expectations lower.” Da Huang said, “Nobody can meet your standards at this rate.

Any parlour has its masters and its deadweights, just cobble them together.”

“That’s not true.” Tao Xiaodong scoffed, turning to angle his chin towards the work area.

“I have no deadweights here, each is a showstopper out there.”

Da Huang nodded with a chuckle and concurred.

“Uh-huh, your parlour is the best, don’t get all big-headed about it.”

That was just trash talk, though.

There were actually many outstanding tattoo artists who could be hailed as masters in the craft.

There were also many tattoos that Tao Xiaodong would acknowledge as being top-quality work.

However, he also needed one that could serve as the showpiece of the convention.

The main convention area couldn’t be fragmented into smaller booths.

He needed one with a versatile style, with enough works to their name.

The style of the established names in the industry was nothing new.

If going old-school, one had to do it better than everyone else out there, otherwise fresh content would be preferred.

Therefore, even after much deliberation, Tao Xiaodong wasn’t able to find anything that impressed him.

He spent the weekend working out the event flow with an external party at the studio.

At noon, Tang Suoyan brought Tao Huainan and Chi Cheng out for lunch, then brought takeaway for him.

Tao Xiaodong’s voice had gone slightly hoarse, and he guzzled half a cup of fruit juice in a go.

Upon seeing him, he called Yan ge with a smile and shifted aside, availing the space next to him for Tang Suoyan.

“Have they gone home”

Tang Suoyan said, “They have.

They are taking an afternoon nap.”

“Are you tired Do you need to rest for a while” Tao Xiaodong asked him softly.

“It’s fine,” Tang Suoyan leaned in closer, then whispered against the shell of his ear, “I told you that I’d accompany you.”

Tao Xiaodong smiled and then went back to his previous discussion.

There were several event planners opposite who got along well with Tao Xiaodong, having worked together many times.

They smiled knowingly.

Tao Xiaodong had rejected the proposals they came up with.

The venue layout hadn’t been firmed up yet.

The whole process was tiring; there was too much to do.

He could consult Da Huang for the commercial side, but when it came to the tattoos, Tao Xiaodong was the one and only person qualified to make the call.

Tao Xiaodong got ulcers in his mouth again.

Aggrieved, he had taken his complaints home in the evening, asking, “Is the amount of vitamins I’m taking every day still not enough”

“You’ve been supplementing vitamin A.” Tang Suoyan told him, while holding the tweezers to put on an ulcer patch on the affected area.

“Vitamin A, yes, but after all the fruits and veggies I ate I must have built up a whole stock of vitamin C as well,” said Tao Xiaodong.

After applying the patch, Tang Suoyan used an alcohol swab to clean the tweezers.

He said, “Vitamin C can’t treat ulcers.”

“So I just have to bear with the pain” Tao Xiaodong hooked his chin over Tang Suoyan’s shoulder.

The numbing effect of the ulcer patch on his tongue slightly caused him to slur his words slightly.

Tang Suoyan said smilingly, “Didn’t I stick the patch on for you You will also have to eat an anti-inflammatory later.”

His tongue also hurt when he was discussing work, and he would hiss every now and then.

Eventually, when the event planners left, Tang Suoyan sat on the couch and stuck on another ulcer patch for him.

Tang Suoyan asked him if it hurt, and Tao Xiaodong softly grumbled that it was tolerable.

After the medicine took effect and his tongue stopped feeling so numb, Tao Xiaodong stayed on the couch and made a few calls.

Tang Suoyan went to wash his hands, then came back and sat next to Tao Xiaodong, peeling oranges while listening to Tao Xiaodong speaking on the phone.

“Do it for a bro, c’mon.” Tao Xiaodong took an orange wedge from Tang Suoyan and said to the person over the line, “You’re like a reclusive master.

I envy the quiet life you lead, seriously.”

Something was said on the other end, and Tao Xiaodong cursed with a smile, “Bull**, don’t give me that nonsense, got it”

The person over the line was someone that Tao Xiaodong had met in an African-American neighborhood back in the day, having both apprenticed at the same place at the same time.

Tao Xiaodong could get along with anyone given his personality, so they got along well and became pretty good friends.

However, this old friend was somewhat of a hermit.

He didn’t chase fame and money, hiding away his talent over the years, even laying low after someone else had plagarised his work to rise to prominence.

This time, Tao Xiaodong was determined to dig him out.

Stop hiding away; now, especially, was the time to show off.

Tao Xiaodong’s calling him bro made them both recall their time together out there.

The other returned the sentiment; except for making an appearance, Tao Xiaodong was free to use his art.

Tao Xiaodong went bro, I’m giving you a spot that others are paying me 1.5k a day for, you must come down in person, I insist.

Over the course of the phone call, Tao Xiaodong finished the orange that Tang Suoyan peeled, and it was only after it ended that he felt the acidity sting his tongue, hissing, saying that it hurt.

By now, he had also learned how to say that it hurt; afforded privacy from wandering gazes by the upholstery of the couch, he softly grumbled to the handsome doctor.

Tang Suoyan had a warm amusement in his eyes, smiling now and then.

Whatever it was that they were chatting about, there was a discernible intimacy in the air around them.

A month to the convention, Tao Xiaodong travelled out on business.

He now needed to keep an eye on things on-site, which couldn’t be done remotely.

During this, there were two weekends that Tang Suoyan actually went there.

Even though Tao Xiaodong stressed repeatedly over the phone that it wasn’t necessary, that he should take the weekend to rest or check on his experiments in the lab, Tang Suoyan still took the late Friday night flight over.

It was eleven in the evening when he got to the hotel that Tao Xiaodong was at and knocked on his door.

Tao Xiaodong was going to bed at first but had to settle a pressing issue that came up at the last minute, so got out his computer to download a document.

As soon as the door opened, seeing Dr.

Tang at the door, he was both surprised and startled, and asked with a smile, “Why have you actually come”

Tang Suoyan pecked him on the mouth and then entered the room.

“Didn’t you say that you missed me last night”

Tao Xiaodong took two steps to the side and allowed him in, and when he shut the door, his heart dropped.

—His staying up late and staring at his screen, caught entirely red-handed.

“…Yan ge.” Tao Xiaodong clung onto him from behind, smudging his face into the other’s shoulder, refusing to budge.

“To think that I’d believed you.” Tang Suoyan chuckled, angling his head to the back.

“The lights are so dim and you didn’t reduce the glare of your computer, either.

Do you not care for your eyes anymore”

The moment Tao Xiaodong heard this chuckle, his chest grew tight, knowing that his partner was getting upset.

Just now when Tang Suoyan had alighted the plane, the two of them were exchanging messages and Tao Xiaodong himself had claimed that he was getting ready for bed.

That was a blatant lie now.

“I care, I wasn’t lying to you.” Tao Xiaodong didn’t let go, still hugging him from behind, softly explaining, “I have never.

I do go to bed and take my medicine when I say I do.

It is just that I have to download a document today, it’s really urgent.

Only today, I can show you the chat.”

As he spoke, he was about to grab his phone to go through his chat when he suddenly remembered that all these were conveyed over a phone call earlier, so there was not a single piece of proof to be found.

“Really, I’m not bluffing you.” Tao Xiaodong let him see his call record.

“The call at 11:06, we were discussing right this thing.”

While Tao Xiaodong was afraid of disappointing Tang Suoyan, in truth, he didn’t have to adhere so strictly to the rules that Tang Suoyan had laid out, as long as he didn’t take it too far.

However, lying and complacency was another thing altogether, which was why Tao Xiaodong didn’t want Tang Suoyan to misunderstand.

“I do listen to you, I listen to everything you say.” Tao Xiaodong stood in front of Tang Suoyan, rubbing the top of his own head.

“Do you believe me, Yan ge”

He got more flustered the more he tried to explain and his gaze brimmed with affection.

How could Tang Suoyan remain unmoved when faced with this It was impossible for anyone to stay upset at someone like Tao Xiaodong, any anger instantly fizzing out before even taking hold.

“I believe you.

I was just teasing you.” Tang Suoyan smiled and reached out, grazing fingers across his jawline.

“Just be mindful that you don’t take it too far.”

“Fuck… that frightened me to death.” Tao Xiaodong smiled only then, looping his arms around the person before his eyes again, hanging onto him, nuzzling his neck and shoulders, needy and besotted.

It had been two long weeks without seeing him, of course he missed him.

Tang Suoyan was wearing a plain white T-shirt and casual bottoms, giving him a fresh and young look, much more casual than his usual button-ups.

When Tao Xiaodong looped his arms around him, his hands directly slid under his T-shirt, wrapping around his middle.

“Are those my clothes” Tao Xiaodong really liked it.

He could smell the faint herbs emanating from Tang Suoyan when he hugged him like this, and feel, under his palms on Tang Suoyan’s slim waist, the warmth of his body.

“Yeah they are.” Tang Suoyan kissed his ear, murmuring, “Hurry up and download your document.

I’m going to take a shower.”

“Righto.” Tao Xiaodong did also intend to do that anyway, so he agreed with alacrity.

However, both men were unwilling to let go even after that, thus silently hugged for a long while more, feeling the pulsing of each other’s hearts.

It was certainly different having company on a business trip.

Tao Xiaodong was over the moon the two weekends that Tang Suoyan came over.

He thought about letting Tang Suoyan rest in the hotel, not for any reason but because the visual impact of so many tattoo enthusiasts gathered in the same space might be a tad shocking, and he feared that it would be too much for Tang Suoyan.

Tang Suoyan said that it was fine.

And so Tao Xiaodong brought him to see the venue.

The venue was essentially ready, right now simply awaiting tattoo artists to take their places at their booths and showcase their art.

Da Huang was there as well, helping to deal with what was basically all the social niceties that Tao Xiaodong had no time for.

An acquaintance saw Tao Xiaodong and also Tang Suoyan, who was at his side.

Tao Xiaodong openly introduced, “This is Dr.

Tang, my boyfriend.”

The other flashed a thumbs-up at him.

Tang Suoyan had an impressive presence.

Austere and pristine, he seemed incongruous with the tattoo convention hall he was in.

However, leaving aside the surroundings and focusing solely on the two of them, they were an absolute match.

Similar in height and stature and with stellar looks and auras, they commanded attention, each radiating confidence and competence, poised in every environment.

In the past, Tao Xiaodong had mused that Tang Suoyan and another person were a perfect match.

Now, in the eyes of others, there was no more perfect match for Tang Suoyan than him.

At the thought of this, Tao Xiaodong smiled.

Fate was unpredictable but it did work in interesting ways.

The tattoo convention that Tao Xiaodong organised this year went smoothly and was a resounding success.

There were a number of outstanding artworks that amazed fellow international attendees who came to the convention.

The domestic tattoo scene had been making steady progress, and the influence of Chinese culture on tattoos synthesised a singular and startling beauty.

Organising the tattoo convention ate up a few months of Tao Xiaodong’s time and much of his energy.

With a single convention, Tao Xiaodong earned enough to fund another two years of medical mission trips, entirely from the few days that the convention ran, not yet taking into account the intangible benefits that came about after.

Tian Yi and Xia Yuan mocked, “This fella is riding on the gravy train.”

Tao Xiaodong disagreed.

“I worked hard for that money.”

“Aren’t I working hard, too Do you have it as hard as me I do so much overtime and only take in 2.5k a month.” The more Tian Yi thought about it the more unfair it seemed.

“Cough up your godsons’ milk powder money.”

Xia Yuan snorted, and Tao Xiaodong laughed as well, nodding, “I did, haven’t I already handed over a year’s worth of milk powder money”

“That’s only for one son, don’t you have two” Tian Yi unblushingly made a blatant grab for cash.

“The quality of the milk powder they get is up to their godfather.”

Laughing, Tao Xiaodong instantly transferred him the milk powder money on his phone.

Xia Yuan transferred money as well, and Tian Yi pocketed it all, heaving a sigh, “In this day and age, it’s not enough to just have one dad; children also need a godfamily.

I’m the most enterprising dad; I made sure to bag godfathers and a goduncle for them early on.

I hope they inherited my smarts.”

“What smarts, please,” Xia Yuan huffed.

“That’s just you being shameless.”


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