Chapter 32: “This is my leader.”
Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
After Feng Lei’s “Happy New Year, big brother,” Zhou Zui gave little response. Lu Xiaobei stopped first, then reached out and made a stop motion. He stood up and said, “You can’t call him this blindly. He’s my big brother, and it’s not appropriate for you to call him that. He’s Mr. Zhou to you.”
“Don’t be so wary,” Feng Lei smiled before he took a red packet from his pocket and threw it to Lu Xiaobei. Based on the thickness, there should be a huge stack of bills inside, “Aren’t you old enough to stop protecting your food?”
Lu Xiaobei threw the red packet in his hand back before saying, “No. We are of the same generation. You can not give this to me.”
Zhou Zui pointed to the other side of the sofa and said, “Sit. When did you get back?”
“I just got back today. I dropped off my stuff and came over to you first.” Feng Lei went over and sat next to Zhou Zui before he leaned back on the sofa and wiped his face. He breathed a long sigh of relief, “I’m so tired, I’m really old. I feel tired even after sitting on the train for a few hours.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Lu Xiaobei snorted, “A tattoo artist sits all day, dare I think that Teacher Feng Lei usually squats when working?”
“Xiaobei, you take a break.” Zhou Zui gave him a look to get him to stop for a while.
Xiao Ke could see that this person was an old acquaintance who probably had something to say, and it was not appropriate for him to be here. Xiao Ke intended to go upstairs to see Zhou Zui’s paintings, but Zhou Zui stopped him just before he was about to leave, “Professor Xiao.”
“Yes?” Xiao Ke looked back at him before he smiled. “You guys talk.”
Zhou Zui looked at him, and patted the couch next to him before he said, “Come sit down.”
Xiao Ke blinked, and then smiled. “Okay.”
He came over and sat down. Zhou Zui’s arm was raised and rested on the back of the chair behind him while he relaxed and leaned back.
Feng Lei’s eyes then fell on Xiao Ke and asked, “Who is this?”
Lu Xiaobei was watching while waiting to hear how Zhou Zui would answer, and Xiao Ke was just about to take the initiative when Zhou Zui gave Xiao Ke a sideways glance before he said with a faint amusement in his eyes, “This is my leader.” 1
“Hey, I’m really sorry,” he said with a smile as he reached over. “I haven’t met you before, I’m Feng Lei.”
Xiao Ke shook his hand and said, “Hello, Xiao Ke.”
Lu Xiaobei made two “tsk” noises before he glanced at Xiao Ke twice and mouthed to him, lea–der….
Xiao Ke did not pay attention to him and laughed.
“Every time I see Xiaobei, I feel like I’m in a trance,” Feng Lei said while looking at Lu Xiaobei and shaking his head. “How old was he then? He hadn’t grown a beard yet, but his hair hasn’t changed.”
Feng Lei seemed to have simply come to visit, specifically to catch up on old times. He had been with Zhou Zui for three years, as an apprentice. At that time, like Lu Xiaobei, he also called Zhou Zui “big brother,” but at that time, Lu Xiaobei was still young and very protective of food so he was not allowed to call him that.
Lu Xiaobei expressionlessly said, “You were also young at that time, and your name was not Feng Lei then.”
Feng Lei’s original name was Feng Chunyang, which doesn’t sound so atmospheric now. When he was still following Zhou Zui, Lu Xiaobei could see him, but Lu Xiaobei’s eyes went up the top of his head every day as otherwise he would not be able to see how he looked. At that time, he was most annoyed with Feng Lei calling Zhou Zui “big brother.” When others called him “teacher,” how can you be that close?
“If I want to change my name, I can.” Feng Lei laughed. “Brother, your name is not loud enough.”
Lu Xiaobei grimaced and said, “What are you afraid of? You post your designs which can be used everywhere.”
Lu Xiaobei was just openly squeezing him as the heart of the matter made him feel very uneasy.
When Feng Lei left before, he took almost all of Zhou Zui’s sketches with him.
Each tattoo artist had a large number of completed drafts. If the work had been tattooed on someone else’s body, then it was called a collector’s flash work, and the completed drafts were the private collection of each tattoo artist. Many tattoo rooms had a bunch of drawings hanging on the walls, waiting for a high price from someone to claim. That was the strongest burst of inspiration to make new tattoos. As these were the strongest inspiration, it may be a tattooist’s heart, but all their feelings and expressions were put into them, especially the ones they were most satisfied with. These sketches were not put in a flash design book that waited for people to pick them; but they were waiting for the tattooist to pick the people based on the temperament and the aura.
Zhou Zui used to do a lot while only relying on his feelings. His own favorite designs must really match up with the people. Thus, he had a lot of his designs he was particularly fond of and would not just give them to anyone.
These were the designs that Feng Lei had taken.
He did not say goodbye before he left since he took a call that said that his father was sick. When he left, he took hundreds of drawings which were not only from his private collection, but also from the drafts Zhou Zui usually drew, as well as from the works Zhou Zui had done before that were stored on his computer.
Feng Lei’s famous work, which was one that he did for a film director in Beijing, was one of Zhou Zui’s favorites. While Zhou Zui and Tang Yaning actually agreed on a lot of things, when it came to tattoos, they each wanted to make their own. They didn’t want to just do European, American, Japanese, or other countries’ stuff. These two had spent a long time figuring out how to integrate and innovate to create a different form of tattoo from the contemporary imitation-based.
The ones Feng Lei took away were the best of what Zhou Zui had created.
That drawing put Feng Lei into the Beijing tattoo circle which allowed him to stand on his own. They even claimed that he “carried the flag of the mainland tattoo industry and was the leader of the new era of tattoos.”
They originally did not know about this, but Lu Xiaobei had seen it on the Internet. Lu Xiaobei was still in high school at the time when he watched the video of the entire stupid situation. He searched for “Feng Lei” on the Internet, and the pictures he found made Lu Xiaobei drop the keyboard and mouse and curse, “You motherfucking user!”
Lu Xiaobei was so furious that he cried. He had never been so angry.
After so many years, in fact, everything had faded, but Lu Xiaobei still could not help but mock him. Zhou Zui did not care about fame and fortune, or else he would communicate with the outside world and go to those tattoo competitions. However, that did not mean that his stuff should be taken away, regardless of whether it could bring fame. That was because what belonged to Zhou Zui should only be his.
Since then, all of Zhou Zui’s drawings were stashed away by Lu Xiaobei and put somewhere outsiders couldn’t see.
Feng Lei was not angry when Lu Xiaobei cussed at him, but still had the same smile on his face. He said to Zhou Zui, “Xiaobei is still angry with me.”
Zhou Zui smiled slightly and said in an indifferent manner, “Childish temper.”
Feng Lei sighed with a sincere expression on his face as he rubbed the back of his hand and said, “Big brother, I told you before, all these years I can’t get over it in my heart. I know you actually don’t care about those drawings, and I thought so when I took them. Although I wasn’t around you anymore, and I hadn’t forgotten the ones you taught me, I still took them with me. Later, Beijing was too difficult to live in. I had to show my skills in order to stay, and I used them.”
Zhou Zui still looked like he didn’t care. His hand on the back of Xiao Ke’s chair even caressed Xiao Ke’s ear, “You can’t rely on those drawings for a lifetime and you can only stay in Beijing if you have real skills. Let’s not talk about this.”
Xiao Ke heard this before he understood that this was a story of a wolf with white eyes. It looked like the white-eyed wolf was doing well now, and he had become a model tattoo artist with the aura of an important man in the circle.
“I don’t have any real skills.” Feng Lei laughed self-deprecatingly, “Anything that is refined depends on talent, I don’t have any talent at all, and I’m just fooling around with people outside of the circle.”
He placed himself very low, practically burying his head into the dirt. It was only that Mr. Feng Lei, who had such a high status in the Beijing tattoo industry could say this. However, it was only said because he was here for something else.
Sure enough, after Feng Lei said what he meant by the trip…
He wanted to start a company that was a chain of brands and make it big. He wanted Zhou Zui to do business with him, and Zhou Zui did not have to pay anything as there was no need for him to invest, operate, or any of these things. He only needed to do one thing which was creative outsourcing. He was not stingy at all and would give 30% of the shares.
He spoke without Zhou Zui interrupting him, who listened till the end.
“Brother, think about it. Do not rush to reject me.” Feng Lei took a sip of tea sent by Xiao Lin and said to Zhou Zui, “The market is difficult now, I know you do not value these. But money does not burn your hands, don’t you think so? Big fish eat small fish. If we do not fight, sooner or later someone will have to swallow us up.”
He was all done when Zhou Zui laughed and shook his head before he said, “I can’t afford it. You think too highly of me.”
“If you can’t afford it, no one can afford it. In fact, I work with a lot of people, but I really don’t have a bottom in my heart.” Feng Lei said. “I’ll be honest with you, big brother, I often find inspiration from you now, looking at pictures of you. Of all the domestic tattoo artists, I only recognize you, the others I really do not trust.”
Zhou Zui changed his posture to sit up straight and said, “I don’t want to think about it, I appreciate the offer. As I get older, I just want to live comfortably. As for the big fish eating the small fish… Anyone who wants to swallow me can come. Nothing will happen. But if anyone can swallow me by creating better tattoos…that’s a good thing, it means the tattoo scene is really developing, right?”
He finished these sentences and also looked sideways at Xiao Ke, and smiled at him before he slowly said, “Besides, I have a leader and I can’t go to Beijing. I’m not going anywhere, I’m here to put down my roots.”
After talking well and suddenly making such a scene, Lu Xiaobei thundered and stood up on the spot. Even Xiao Ke did not hold back his laughter, and lowered his head for a long while as he chuckled.
The old man would not be able to be stopped if he wanted to make a scene. The old thing was very cute recently, Xiao Ke thought to himself.
Feng Lei still asked Zhou Zui to reconsider that day and said that even if he did not go to Beijing, it was not impossible.
Before Feng Lei left, Lu Xiaobei asked him at the door, “Do you know why I didn’t let you call him ‘Big Brother’?”
“Why?” Feng Lei raised his eyebrows and looked at him with a smile.
Lu Xiaobei said, “You should only call him ‘Teacher.’ After learning, you took his things with you when you left. Only I can call him ‘big brother’ and I will call him brother for life, I will never leave. When I was younger, I knew you stole his things and claimed them as yours. I could only cry then and scold you.”
He rubbed the tip of his nose and looked at Feng Lei before he said, “Now you try calling him brother again. Someone said I am his dog, no problem, who dares to think about my family’s things, wait for me to bite you, you won’t die.”
After Feng Lei left, Lu Xiaobei didn’t come in again for another 30 minutes and squatted at the door while smoking. What he just said, Zhou Zui did not hear it, but Xiao Ke heard it. He came out to accompany Lu Xiaobei to squat for a while and said, “Brother Bei is domineering.”
While smoking, Lu Xiaobei squinted at him, “In the future, Brother Bei will also cover you.”
“Thank you, Brother Bei.” Xiao Ke smiled and stroked his bald head as he said that sentence.
The person who appeared from nowhere did not affect Zhou Zui as the man continued to give tattoos as usual for the rest of the day while Xiao Ke sat next to him and occasionally said a few words to him. On the contrary, Lu Xiaobei was very sad, and even with a mask on, he did not say a word when he worked on his tattoos.
Xiao Ke whispered to Zhou Zui, “Master Bei is very angry.”
“It’s nothing,” Zhou Zui also whispered back to him. “These years, as long as he hears something related to Feng Lei, he will blow up. Right now, he’s even more angry after seeing him in person. Tomorrow he’ll be fine.”
Xiao Ke asked him, “So are you angry?”
Zhou Zui thought nothing of it and shook his head. “No, when I first found out, I just felt sorry for my drawings, but I didn’t feel angry.”
In fact, Xiao Ke believed what he said. He knew Zhou Zui quite well, and he seemed to not communicate with people and was very indifferent. In fact, he simply did not have a temper and would not get angry at all. It may be that he didn’t care about anything, and there wasn’t enough to make him angry.
Xiao Ke was satisfied with his personality as he always had a calm and steady atmosphere about him.
That night, Xiao Ke went back and thought about what he heard today. He felt quite aggrieved, but Xiao Ke didn’t really take it seriously as he could understand what kind of mood Zhou Zui was in.
They were just some drawings, and then they were finished. Others were using his designs to earn fame and fortune, but that didn’t really affect Zhou Zui, whose open-mindedness made Xiao Ke very happy.
They had been ambiguous for long enough. Today, the way Zhou Zui had called him “leader” twice truly caused Xiao Ke’s heart to beat faster. Also, when he was going upstairs, Zhou Zui did not let him, and told him to sit next to him. This was Zhou Zui’s change that he took sincerely.
This was the piece of cake Xiao Ke had been saving for quite a long time and could not contain it any longer.
Thus, he sat on his bed after showering and sent a message to Zhou Zui, [Teacher Zhou, I remember you don’t have a client scheduled for tomorrow, right?]
Zhou Zui replied to him, [Yes.]
Xiao Ke said, [So what does Teacher Zhou think about our current relationship?]
Xiao Ke put down his phone and decided to put on a facial mask. An old man still had to pay attention to his skin as he was not sure when he would have to be in close contact with his man so he had to be prepared in advance.
When he was done, he looked at his phone to find some very honest words from Zhou Zui, and Xiao Ke laughed out loud when he finished reading them.
[I would like to confirm our relationship, and want to clear up everything.]
[But I’ll listen to you, leader.]