Chapter 19: “Merry Christmas, Mr. Zhou. Happy birthday.”
Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Xiao Ke spent nearly three hours in a meeting, and came out of the conference room feeling a burst of blackness in front of his eyes. Today it was cloudy outside, and the conference room’s lights were too bright which made his eyes hurt. His phone had been muted, and in the middle of the meeting, it vibrated a few times. When he returned to the office, Xiao Ke clicked on it to see Lu Xiaobei’s message and felt happy.
He replied to Lu Xiaobei, [Just had a meeting. Tch, Master Xiao does not go for a few days and someone wants my idol?]
His message was not seen since Lu Xiaobei had already gone to do tattoos for people. Zhou Zui took down the flowers and prepared to throw them into the bucket, but before he threw them in, he also picked out a few leaves that were not so healthy. Lu Xiaobei saw it and laughed out with a pfft sound. When he laughed, the girl in front of him shivered with fear, and her shoulders tensed up.
“It’s okay, don’t be nervous.” Lu Xiaobei sounded a little soothing. “Why are you scared of me laughing a little?”
“You laughed too suddenly. I was not prepared.” The little girl was also a little embarrassed while half-lying there and looking at her phone.
“Then what should I do? Give a warning before I laugh?” Lu Xiaobei wore a mask which only showed his eyes and his bald head. It was not ugly, and the whole person looked pretty cool. The little girl was getting her ankle tattooed with a simple little figure of a small cat that had angel wings and a halo that was lying down and sleeping. For Lu Xiaobei, this kind of small figure did not even need to be transferred, and it took only a few minutes to finish.
The little girl said, “No, I’ll stabilize it myself.”
Lu Xiaobei said to Zhou Zui while working with his head down, “Brother, can you sort out your flowers? Some of those buckets in the front are rotten, why don’t you just throw them away?”
Zhou Zui ignored him and walked to the side to look at the first few buckets of flowers.
It is true that it has been a long time so some of the flowers were rotten. Zhou Zui cleaned up these buckets, but in the end, still picked out some that weren’t completely withered and returned them. Lu Xiaobei peeked at him with his eyes and saw him pull out those flowers that were still okay and put them aside so he smiled and tsked twice.
Unfortunately, Xiao Ke was not there. If Xiao Ke had seen this scene, he would have felt moved inside. However, he would not have been here to see. How could Zhou Zui fiddle with those flowers in front of him?
“This weekend, Brother Lin is bringing in that customer that you said you’d finish in your spare time.” The cute kitty really did not take much effort. Lu Xiaobei talked to Zhou Zui while working on it, “Then, you have a black and gray flower arm for the weekend, one that will cover a scar. I talked to him, finalized the drawing, and there’s no problem. I was going to move it to another date since Brother Xiao was here and you’ve been getting tattoos so it’s not interesting. But now there is no chance. Brother Xiao does not miss you, so you will work. I scheduled the appointment.”
Lu Xiaobei, this child, sometimes spoke very poorly, but Zhou Zui was too lazy to care about him. The rotten flowers were packed into two buckets before they were carried out and dumped.
When Zhou Zui went out, the little girl raised her eyes from the phone and asked Lu Xiaobei in a low voice, “This is your boss, right?”
“Yes, boss.” Lu Xiaobei asked her, “What?”
“Aren’t you afraid of offending your boss by talking like that?” She looked towards the door and smiled before asking, “Will your salary be deducted if he gets angry?”
“He can if he wants to.” Lu Xiaobei switched the machine from one hand to the other and tugged at his mask. After having it on for so long, he was starting to feel stuffy. “I don’t mind giving it all to him. What’s mine is his.”
The little girl immediately started giggling. She even gently cocked an eyebrow. Lu Xiaobei knew what she was thinking as the girls who came to get tattoos were all in touch with the most popular trends. None of them wouldn’t understand what being gay meant. Practically ninety out of a hundred of them were in support of it while the other ten knew of it, understood it, but didn’t care about it. Their mentality was, gay or not gay, that’s not related to me.
“Get your mind out of the gutter, okay, pretty lady.” Lu Xiaobei vigorously shook his head. “You’ve got the wrong person.” Zhou Zui came back after throwing the trash away. Lu Xiaobei said, “This sullen man makes me depressed.”
The little girl pressed her lips together and smiled. Zhou Zui glanced at the two of them, then headed upstairs to paint.
Zhou Zui actually wanted to say something to Xiao Ke, because last time when Tang Yawei made such a scene in front of Xiao Ke, it was very unpleasant and impolite. Professor Xiao was a very nice person, in every way. In the past, Zhou Zui should have been able to say “no”, but this time he couldn’t since he didn’t have the same strong urge to say “no” to him.
Xiao Ke was sometimes very close to his identity as a university teacher as he was knowledgeable, courteous, empathetic, never embarrassed, and very comfortable to get along with. However, sometimes he was also like a young boy with impulsiveness and enthusiasm and a passionate purity in his eyes. A mature brain and a young heart, this combination was wonderful and perfect.
A person with such a good character could not be handled casually, and Xiao Ke’s brain was not likely able to cope with the past. Zhou Zui retreated again and again, and then retreated again. His defenses were almost gone.
Zhou Zui picked up his phone and opened the chat interface with Xiao Ke. The keyboard popped up, but he still could not type anything. He hesitated for a long time and put it down. The phone was thrown to the side and he picked up a paintbrush.
–Forget it. There were some people who should always live in the light.
The next day would be Christmas. It was not that Xiao Ke didn’t want to go to the parlor, but he was very busy during the month of December due to final exams for his two classes, grading papers and passing grades after the exams, so he had some messy things to do at school. However, he would be free after this period of busyness so every day when he worked, he was quite energetic.
Being busy wasn’t the only reason he wasn’t going into the parlor. Xiao Ke also had some other reasons since he had pursued a lot of people in the past, he knew when to let the line go slack and when to pull it tighter. Someone who always stuck around was annoying so they should let them loose once in a while for them to breathe..
For Christmas, he must go to Zhou Zui, and also prepare a gift in advance. He ordered a belt for Zhou Zui which was handmade by an old leather craftsman and was very expensive and hard to get a reservation for. Xiao Ke also shyly borrowed his relationship with Old Xiao and went through the backdoor to have it rushed out in advance so he was just waiting for Christmas. Christmas was important, not only because of the holiday, but also because it was Zhou Zui’s birthday.
Almost two months ago, Lu Xiaobei said that Zhou Zui had two more months until he was thirty-six. Xiao Ke remembered it in his heart and asked Xiao Lin about it later. She said her boss’ birthday was very easy to remember since it was Christmas day.
From the last time he met that person of the shop from that day until now, Xiao Ke did not contact Zhou Zui and only looked at Zhou Zui’s circle of friends once a day. The new pictures were still posted which were very abstract but cool. Xiao Ke could not resist and clicked a like.
After waiting for so many days and loosening up enough, it was time to tighten it up.
He originally wanted to send a birthday wish in the early hours of the previous day, but thought better of it and did not send it as he felt better about not giving hints directly to the past. However, Xiao Ke didn’t expect him to jump on the bandwagon. Zhou Zui wasn’t there at all when he went over in the afternoon.
Xiao Lin was excited to see him come in and greeted him, “It’s been a long time since you’ve been here, Brother Xiao.”
“Well, I’ve been a little busy lately, with all the school stuff.” Xiao Ke smiled at her, and gave her a box containing a cake which was the Christmas version from the bakery next to his school.
“Oh my God, it’s for me?” The girl could not refuse the beautiful dessert, her already high favorability rating for Xiao Ke which was now hardened by two more ranks.
“Who else? You’re the only little girl here.” Xiao Ke smiled, “Is Zhou Zui here?”
“Ah, the boss is not here,” Xiao Lin looked at her watch. “It’s been an hour, he seems to have gone out to dinner with friends.”
Xiao Ke blinked, not knowing what to say for a while.
“Crap, my Brother Xiao is here?” Lu Xiaobei heard the sound, and scurried out from inside while bumping into Xiao Ke. “Beibei missed you to death.”
“You’re too dramatic.” Xiao Ke’s face was a bit disgusted as he handed him the two large boxes of crayfish he was carrying which were specially bought for him. ” Microwave these late to warm them up and eat them together. They’re probably cold. Your big brother is still out at night?”
“You are my real brother.” Lu Xiaobei took the crawfish, ran into another tattoo room to heat them up, and then came out again. He then said to Xiao Ke, “He probably won’t come back. He went out with Fang Xi and the others to drink, I don’t know when he will be back.”
Xiao Ke smiled helplessly and nodded before he said, “Okay then, I’ll go. Merry Christmas, I’ll come back tomorrow.”
Lu Xiaobei was about to pull his arm which was probably to stop him, but he thought about it before he retracted and said, “Then you go. See you tomorrow.”
After only being in the parlor for ten minutes, Xiao Ke left again.
While walking, he lamented that he had been too ambitious and had not expected Zhou Zui to be away from the store so he should have known better than to not say something in advance last night which led to his gift not being delivered. Professor Xiao hadn’t been pursuing people for too long and was still not very skilled.
The Christmas atmosphere had been getting stronger and stronger these years, and the streets were full of flowers and greenery which were especially lively. Xiao Ke drove back slowly. It snowed last night and there were piles of snow on the side of the road, and many stores had built snowmen of all kinds and placed them in front of their doors. Xiao Ke received a text message from an unfamiliar number which he glanced at when the red light was on, and it didn’t say much, just a “Merry Christmas.”
Xiao Ke locked the screen and did not reply. As soon as the phone was put aside, it rang, and Xiao Ke looked at it to see “Zhou” on the screen.
Xiao Ke had to admit that his heart was very active at that moment as if he had jumped up into the air and flipped before landing back, and he had even turned upside down a few times. Xiao Ke picked up his cell phone and answered. Xiao Ke said with a comforting smile in his voice, “Merry Christmas, Mr. Zhou. Happy birthday.”
Zhou Zui said “thank you.” When his voice came out of the receiver, Xiao Ke sighed in his heart. It had been quite a long time since he had called, and when he heard his voice, he realized that he really missed it.
Zhou Zui said “thank you” and then paused for a moment before slowly opening his mouth and asking in a low voice, “Professor Xiao, are you coming to dinner? It’s all the people you’ve met.”
Oooooh, a personal invitation from the man himself!
Thanks for translating and editing.
It made all kinds of sense that XK would be busy with school at that time of year.