Chapter 11: “Have you ever had a boyfriend, Warrior Zhou?”
Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Fang Xi added Xiao Ke’s WeChat after heading back, and spoke to him directly if there was anything.
Fang Xi was a bit of a self-starter and such people get along without pressure while not giving people the chance to slow down.
He sent a WeChat message to Xiao Ke, [Big Treasure Xiao, can you drive?]
His usage of “Big Treasure Xiao” shocked Xiao Ke into confusion. He had known Fang Qimiao for over twenty years, and they had never called each other by such nicknames. Xiao Ke didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as he replied, [Yes.]
Fang Xi said, [Okay. How about you and Old Zhou take one car? You guys can take turns driving. The rest of us will drive a van.]
Xiao Ke replied, [Oh, okay.]
He knew that Fang Xi was purposefully leaving time for him and Zhou Zui to interact alone. He would remember this favor in his heart. Fang Xi was very obviously someone who had a lot of experience in dealing with people since he had been in the business field for many years so he was accustomed to acting greasy. However, this wasn’t a bad thing and it did it mean that he was a bad person. Xiao Ke could tell that Fang Xi was interested in helping things move along between him and Zhou Zui which he liked a lot. Getting acquainted with Zhou Zui’s friends was another way of getting more involved in the other’s life.
On Thursday night, Xiao Ke simply packed a few things, grabbed a change of clothes, and brought a cotton jacket with him. On a trip of only men, nobody would bring a suitcase so a larger bag would be fine since Xiao Ke’s cotton clothes were not that thick. He finished packing pretty early, but Xiao Ke couldn’t sleep even though they were leaving tomorrow morning so he called Zhou Zui’s private number.
It took a while for the phone to be answered, and Zhou Zui’s low voice rang out over the phone, “Hello?”
Xiao Ke felt very pleased as soon as he heard his voice, and he really hadn’t been so moved for such a long time. Even he himself found it funny that he was somehow interested in pursuing someone, and he was quite energetic about it which was why he opened his mouth with a slight smile revealed in his voice and greeted, “Good evening, Teacher Zhou.”
“You’re a real teacher, so don’t call me that.” Zhou Zui’s tone sounded very relaxed as if he had rested. The voice sounded slightly different from usual during the phone call, and it sounded really provocative on a quiet night.
Xiao Ke said, “Okay.”
This was the first time he called Zhou Zui’s number which he had saved for a long time but had never called.
Zhou Zui asked him, “Is there something wrong?”
“Well, I wanted to ask…,” Xiao Ke leaned back on the bed while tapping his fingers on his knee. “Should I meet you at the shop in the morning? Or do you want to meet me somewhere?”
“Fang Xi didn’t finalize it with you?” Zhou Zui paused for a moment before saying, “I thought he had discussed it with you. Then give me an address and I’ll pick you up.”
Xiao Ke said, “Okay.”
After hanging up the phone, Xiao Ke sent him a location without any courtesy.
Zhou Zui’s side received the location and looked at it which wasn’t very far from him. He frowned and sent a message to Fang Xi that said that he was unreliable, and Fang Xi said in the afternoon that he was going to pick up Xiao Ke which Zhou Zui saw but ignored. It was because Fang Xi’s mouth was not in tune so he was not very eager to reply.
Fang Xi returned the message quite quickly and immediately said, [You didn’t reply, ah, but I don’t think you didn’t see it.]
Zhou Zui said, [If he hadn’t asked me, would you have just left him there tomorrow morning?]
Fang Xi first sent him a bunch of “hahas” before responding, [How could that be possible? I was planning on sending him a message at ten. But see, you didn’t need me to do that.]
Fang Xi added, [You must be constantly thinking of Professor Xiao, right?]
Fang Xi, [Old cucumber. 1
Fang Xi, [Prude.]
Zhou Zui replied to him, [Fuck off.]
Zhou Zui, Don’t mess around. These things aren’t certain.]
Fang Xi did not reply at first, then sent over a phrase after a while, [Boss Zhou, if you do not find someone, your sexual function will fucking decline, how many years have you been single? It’s almost time.]
Zhou Zui did not return his message since this matter had been a frequent comment so he had become numb. Being single for so many years, this lifestyle had been carved into his bones and he had no intention of changing.
After showering, he only wore a pair of pants and stood by the window at the moment as he smoked. The temperature in the room was a bit cool.
Zhou Zui was a very boring person, to say the least, and whether it was his personality or his living habits, he was like a stereotypical machine. His heart, or rather his soul, had long been corrupted by this life on a shelf, and he felt no desire. In the words of Fang Xi, he was not a human being at all.
He did not consider himself a human being.
The next morning, Zhou Zui went to pick up Xiao Ke according to his location, and when he arrived downstairs, he called Xiao Ke who answered quickly, “Good morning.”
Zhou Zui said, “I’m downstairs now.”
“So early?” Xiao Ke was a little surprised before he said, “Then you’ll have to wait for me for a few minutes, sorry.”
“It’s okay.” Zhou Zui said.
In fact, Xiao Ke had just gotten up when he had answered the phone since he didn’t expect Zhou Zui to be so early or he would have gotten up a little earlier. Xiao Ke finished packing as quickly as possible before he took his bag and went downstairs. His hair was not even dry before he went down.
Zhou Zui gently honked the horn, and Xiao Ke put his things in the back seat before opening the door and jumping into the passenger seat, “Excuse me, excuse me.”
Zhou Zui smiled. “It’s okay, I’m early.”
Xiao Ke exhaled and put on his seat belt. “Where are we going?”
Zhou Zui said, “You haven’t eaten anything, have you? Let’s eat something first, and then wait for them on the highway.”
“Okay.” Xiao Ke nodded before smiling and looking around the interior of the car. He exclaimed, “Cool.”
Zhou Zui smiled and didn’t say anything.
Xiao Ke intuitively felt the economic gap between him and his idol as his idol’s car was more expensive than his house. The man he was pursuing was too rich which made him very stressed.
They found a restaurant and had some breakfast, but it was too early for Xiao Ke to eat much so he simply ate a few bites, and Zhou Zui also didn’t eat much either.
Fang Xi arrived before the two of them had, and they were already waiting at the highway entrance when they headed over. Xiao Ke got out of the car and noticed that there were four other people besides Fang Xi, who introduced him to the circle of people.
“Lin Xuan2 was a construction worker, and Cheng Ning was a restaurant owner. These two are Old Zhu and Old Cao who, like Zhou Zui, are artists.”
The one named Old Zhu laughed and said, “Fuck calling me an artist. I sell photos.”
Xiao Ke laughed, and Fang Xi patted him on the shoulder before telling them, “This is Xiao Ke, Old Zhou’s…friend.”
He had already told them so the group already knew Xiao Ke was a teacher which was why Fang Xi almost didn’t say “Old Zhou’s friend.”
“So young! Looking at you makes me think of my younger days,” Lin Xuan sighed. “But I was not that handsome when I was young.”
“Don’t fucking sigh,” said Old Cao, who was wearing the least amount of clothes with his shoulders hunched. “Let’s talk about it when we get there, it’s cold.”
“Okay, so you’re still in the same car as Old Zhou, right?” Fang Xi looked at Xiao Ke and said, “Call us if you need anything.”
Xiao Ke nodded. “Okay.”
After getting into the car, Zhou Zui drove. He turned up the temperature before looking at Xiao Ke and saying, “You’re underdressed.”
Xiao Ke said, “Yes, a little. I didn’t expect it to be so cold today.”
Zhou Zui did not say anything more, and he just turned up the temperature by two degrees.
Xiao Ke liked this kind of alone time with Zhou Zui, especially in the relatively small space of the car. The distance between him and Zhou Zui was close enough that he could clearly see the side of Zhou Zui’s face with one turn of his head. Although Zhou Zui did not talk much, what was on Xiao Ke’s mind was already on the table so it didn’t matter what was said as the atmosphere was a little less ambiguous.
The two bottles of water were taken from the back seat and were handed to Zhou Zui, who took a sip.
Xiao Ke also took a sip of water before clearing his throat and asking Zhou Zui, “When did you start doing tattoos?”
“A long time ago.” Zhou Zui also seriously thought about it before shaking his head. “I can’t remember. It’s been twenty years.”
“So early?” Xiao Ke was really a bit surprised. “The country did not have tattoos then, right?”
“There were.” Zhou Zui was expressionless as he spoke. He calmly continued sharing, “But not a lot. Remember Young and Dangerous? There were tattoos back then. Actually, even before then. It just started becoming more popular starting from that time.”
“Who doesn’t remember Young and Dangerous?” Xiao Ke laughed. He tossed the bottle in his hand into the air and caught it. “But wasn’t that a film from Hong Kong? There were also tattoos in the mainland?”
Zhou Zui nodded. “Yes.”
Xiao Ke thought that he had found a good topic as he had rarely heard Zhou Zui talk so much. He enjoyed listening to Zhou Zui talk about tattoos as much as he enjoyed listening to tea masters talk about tea and painters talk about paintings. The very fact about a person speaking little by little about something that he has familiarity with to others was a fascinating thing in itself.
“You were in your teens at that time, right? How did you get in touch with it?” Xiao Ke asked while looking at him.
When a car overtook him, Zhou Zui looked in the rearview mirror and said, “I was just in high school at the time, and a man from Hong Kong rented my house and lived in the backyard. When he came, he only carried a handbag, which contained all those things.”
Xiao Ke asked him, “A tattoo artist?”
Zhou Zui nodded and said, “Mn, quite a powerful man, came over here after getting into trouble in Hong Kong. Occasionally people asked him for tattoos, those who mixed with triads. I would sometimes sit next to him and watch, and over time, he would teach me. At that time, I was very foolish. After I studied for a few days, I dared to tattoo someone else’s body, but no one minded if it was crooked and ugly anyway.”
Zhou Zui drove and talked while pausing two or three seconds between each sentence as if he were reminiscing by picking stories from his memory for people to hear. His voice was already quite low so he spoke slowly which sounded more elegant, as if he had added a filter with a sense of old age.
“The man from Hong Kong was not short of money, so he let me practice with his colors and machines and poke pictures on people. Let me do it according to his drawings. If I made it ugly, it was okay, he would fix it. That way I could practice quickly, and later I was able to draw directly from my own sketches, and my hand was stable.”
Xiao Ke laughed, “And then you became a master?”
“No.” Zhou Zui shook his head and laughed before he said, “It’s not that easy.”
“At that time, the drawings were more or less the same, green dragon, black snake, dripping blood wolf’s head, most of them were like this,” Zhou Zui continued indifferently. “It looks very ugly now, but at that time, it was the most trendy. I can’t say that there was a problem with the aesthetics at that time, it was decided by the time and cultural background, as well as the identity of the triad/society. He said a few drawings were too graphic.”
Xiao Ke immediately laughed and confessed, “In fact, before I met you guys, my impression of tattoos was also basically stuck to these.”
“That’s normal, you don’t usually have access to it,” Zhou Zui laughed. “That era was good. It was the pioneering era of tattoos.”
“Do you have tattoos on your body?” Xiao Ke suddenly asked.
Zhou Zui paused before he responded with a “no,” and he had a faint smile in his eyes. “I do not need to practice with myself since a lot of people let me practice on them. Most of the tattoo artists were neither good nor bad so they had a black piece of the figure tattooed on the body since the tattoo didn’t matter. Now, that would be considered destroying skin. Later on, tattoo artists didn’t have such a good environment. Tattoos were no longer specific to hooligans, so people’s expectations got higher as well. They started getting more and more serious about tattoos, and there wasn’t as much skin left to destroy. If you see some of them with tattoos, know that they didn’t get it because they liked them. After entering the field, there are fewer works to show those close to you like your friends, and even yourself, all have become victims of destroying skin before a tattoo artist becomes a master.”
Xiao Ke was diligently listening. When he spoke, Zhou Zui gave off the feeling of someone who had journeyed a thousand seas. He turned to look at the other to stare at his eyes while Zhou Zui’s gaze was mainly focused on the front, and he only occasionally glanced in the rearview mirror.
Xiao Ke asked, “Xiao Bei said you went to college, what did you study?”
Zhou Zui said, “Chinese painting.”
Zhou Zui saw what he was thinking and said, “The man from Hong Kong taught me to paint the entire time, right before college. You can’t do tattoos if you don’t know how to paint, and tattoos are also paintings, just another form of them.”
Zhou Zui spoke a lot, and Xiao Ke was fascinated by him. Zhou Zui said he had gone to many places after graduation which were Japan, India, Taiwan, and he also spent a lot of time in the US. Xiao Ke did not say much afterwards and just kept listening to him.
He didn’t want to interrupt him since he enjoyed listening to him. The first half of his life was like listening to the experiences of a warrior in the jungle.
Later on, Zhou Zui smiled and asked him, “What else does Professor Xiao want to hear?”
Xiao Ke’s emotions had already been carried over by Zhou Zui, and his heart felt very full and lifted. He looked at Zhou Zui. He did not know where the impulse came from, but he wanted to know him better and be closer to him.
Xiao Ke also smiled while his fingers gently rubbed the bottom of the water bottle, and he asked, “I’d like to hear…Have you ever had a boyfriend, Warrior Zhou?”
The author has something to say: This chapter has a little more dialogue. Talk about Zhou Zui, talk about tattoos.
- Old cucumber [老(old)黄瓜(cucumber)] comes from the saying 老黄瓜刷绿漆 Old cucumber with green paint. It’s a derogatory phrase meaning someone is Pretending to be young. When the big cucumber is old, it loses its green color, wrinkles, turns hard and turns yellow, and is dull, because of the joke of “painting the old cucumber with green paint – pretending to be young.” https://www.hudong.com/wiki/%E8%80%81%E9%BB%84%E7%93%9C%E5%88%B7%E7%BB%BF%E6%BC%86?view_id=1f2ydz2sgkv40
- In chapter 13, the author changes the name of his guy from Lin Dong to Lin Xuan, so I changed it to keep it the same throughout the novel.