Chapter 41: “I hope Professor Xiao is happy forever and spontaneous after any choice.”
Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Xiao Ke did not wake up Zhou Zui in the end and headed to the bathroom with light steps as he came back to sleep on his own. When he woke up early the next morning, Zhou Zui was lying next to him while awake.
Xiao Ke looked at him and smiled as he said, “Good morning, Teacher Zhou.”
His voice sounded relaxed and hoarse from recently sleeping, and Zhou Zui smiled back, “Good morning.”
People who had to go to work were not entitled to stay in bed, and Xiao Ke ate the breakfast that Zhou Zui made for him after cleaning up, which made him feel very satisfied, Life was complete. The congee was put in the pot last night while timed with a little salt and sesame oil, and it smelled very good. Xiao Ke had limited ingredients here, so apart from the congee, he could only eat an egg cake at most since he couldn’t make anything more.
Xiao Ke sighed as he drank the congee, “I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot to meet you.”
Zhou Zui laughed before he shook his head and said, “I should say that.”
“Are we boasting politely to each other?” Xiao Ke took another sip of porridge and said with a smile, “Are you still coming to stay with me tonight? I won’t drive if you want to.”
Zhou Zui thought for a moment and said, “I have a client this afternoon, and I’m not sure if I can finish at 5:00. Is it too late to pick you up at 5:30?”
“No need to pick me up, I’ll take a taxi to the shop and look for you.” Xiao Ke looked at Zhou Zui and smiled, “You don’t have to be so careful with me, we’re just two guys, don’t worry too much about me.”
Zhou Zui disagreed with him and immediately said, “I’m a rough guy, you’re not.”
Professor Xiao was, of course, still a man. In Zhou Zui’s opinion, Xiao Ke lived a delicate life which he understood very well. Xiao Ke was very attentive to him as he was very thoughtful and never perfunctory so Zhou Zui naturally put Xiao Ke in a very important position and respected him.
Zhou Zui wanted to pick up Xiao Ke from school, but the client came an hour late while Xiao Ke couldn’t finish his work at the end of the day so he ended up taking a taxi there himself.
As soon as Xiao Ke came in, Zhou Zui said to him, “Sorry.”
Xiao Ke laughed at that time and went over to put one hand around his neck, “What are you sorry for, baby? Stop it.”
The words were said in a very small voice, and the customer sitting with his back to the front probably could not hear clearly with the tattoo machine buzzing.
Zhou Zui said, “I’m not done, so wait for me a little longer.”
“Okay, no rush.” Xiao Ke let go of Zhou Zui and let him get back to work. He looked around and asked, “Where’s Xiaobei?”
Zhou Zui’s chin pointed towards the inside of the tattoo room, so Xiao Ke wandered over. The door was not closed so he was not afraid to look. Xiao Ke leaned against the door frame, and Lu Xiaobei looked up then over to him. Xiao Ke smiled at him.
Lu Xiaobei wore a mask and a hat so no expression could be seen, and he winked as a greeting.
His client was a cool beauty with long straight black hair draped over her shoulders. The upper half of her body only wore a black half undershirt, and Lu Xiaobei was drawing spiders on her waist. The big spider in pure black looked fierce, but also cool as well. This kind of drawing was still a bit too much for Xiao Ke, and he felt uncomfortable after looking at it for a long time.
Xiao Ke had just turned to leave when he heard the girl ask Lu Xiaobei, “Dude, do you have a crush on my little brother?”
Lu Xiaobei calmly replied, “You think too much.”
Xiao Ke looked back in. The girl was lying on the back of the chair with her black nails tapping the front frame as she expressionlessly said, “That’s fine, my brother is honest and can’t be teased.”
Lu Xiaobei said, “I’m not teasing him.”
The girl lying there said, “He’s just an idiot, bro. It’s best that you’re not interested. If you’re in it only for the novelty, spare him.”
According to Lu Xiaobei’s character, he should now talk back like the bursts of a machine gun machine gun, but he was silent after only a “hmm” sound.
Xiao Ke was a little surprised and thought that Brother Bei had recently become more gentle. He really wanted to know who the girl’s brother was. Although Xiao Ke was not that interested in other people’s affairs, this was Lu Xiaobei after all. His identity was different, and the relationship was there.
The exhibition would start the next weekend, and those with the intention to go were nearly ready. Most of those in the shop and the majority of the tattoo artists were enrolled in the artwork group with only one enrolled in the on-site group. The artwork group needed to be done in preparation for the tattoo, and they’d then need to tattoo directly on the model for the on-site portion. Thus, the store was very busy at this time since one tattoo artist could add up to five works so the models frequently came in.
There was a tattoo artist who had been preparing for more than two months, and intended to enroll in a Japanese full-body group. This was the first time that Xiao Ke saw a full-body tattoo in the shop. After all, if it weren’t for a competition, there wouldn’t be many people who dared to do this on a daily basis since the impact of those who did not understand tattoos was still too great.
Japanese tattoos were very fancy as they had very bright colors. They were full of tattoos from the neck to the feet, and although the back was not done, only the front needed to be colored so rushing this work was really hard.
There was more than a week left to go, and a leg was also not finished with coloring. The finished part looked really stunning, and Xiao Ke had occasionally gone to see him do tattoos in the past. The model was recruited online, and originally wanted to get a flower back, but he was happy to come when he heard that it was going to be free to have the whole body done. Although, it was unusual for him to not regret it by now. In fact, tattoos were also quite painful, not to mention the pain, so continuing to come every day for two months to do this one thing was very tortuous.
Xiao Ke asked Zhou Zui privately, “Do you think this can win a prize?”
Zhou Zui said, “I don’t know, I can’t say.”
Lu Xiaobei was also there since he and Zhou Zui were the only ones left in the store packing up their things.
Xiao Ke asked him, “What do you mean?”
Lu Xiaobei held a cigarette but did not light it and instead chewed on it as he said,
“He has been grinding for too long, the figure can not take that much grinding, so grinding out of these things is not spiritual.”
Xiao Ke laughed and said, “I thought the tattoo had to be carefully crafted.”
“It’s not wrong to say so,” Lu Xiaobei disassembled his machine and put it away while his head was down, “but the grinding has to be in the details, the little things. If the outline is grinding and grinding is not smooth, then the inspiration is not enough, the feel is also general, the same as the drawing, changing it too much will make it lose all feeling. Look at his tattoos, the front and back are detached, the back is filled with imaginary things, except for a face, no content, and the tone is also darker.”
Xiao Ke did not understand this as he was a spectator just to watch a lively scene so he could not understand the intricacies. In his opinion, the work was so stunning, but he could only say this as an outsider.
“It’s a pity,” Xiao Ke said as he thought about the two months of working day and night to not get the award in the end and felt a bit regretful, “It took so long to prepare.”
Zhou Zui walked past him and touched Xiao Ke’s chin with his wrist since his hands were not clean.
Zhou Zui said, “No pity, he knows it himself. And it’s not necessarily that you can’t get a prize, there are fewer people in this big group so less competition.”
Trying to get a prize from the tattoo competition was actually very difficult as it didn’t count for those who paid for it, and it was very difficult to win the formal tattoo exhibition. There were people that lined up one after the other, and tattooing was dependent on hand-feel. Many people were skilled, so the competition was quite fierce for those who wanted to win and gain fame.
In fact, this full-body tattoo was not done by everyone as many were done for the first time directly at the competition. For one, the competition was small while another very important reason was that the tattoo was too big with hundreds of hours put into it so hiring photographers was pricey which was why there was very little competition, and the entries were generally very authentic.
Lu Xiaobei snickered at the time and said, “Anyone can hire a master to do a half-scapular or an arm tattoo, a full-body tattoo would cost at least a million or eight hundred thousand, and because it is worth so much money, an apprentice would not have the time to spare. Not all teachers and apprentices are like my brother and I who charge cheaply.”
This statement was very right since most of the teachers and apprentices in the tattoo circle were tied to the money and paying respect to the master meant spending money. When the apprentice also had to spend money, tuition fees were also quite expensive. Not all masters were willing to help, like if Lu Xiaobei went into the competition, then Zhou Zui may not even help him look at the design.
The competition was a competition, and the competition had to be about rules, and a human being also had to have rules.
This exhibition was actually full every year, but this was the largest international exhibition of the year which was hosted in Beijing this year. Several tattoo artists in the shop were nervous about the preparations every day while only Zhou Zui and Lu Xiaobei were still free to do daily drawings and paintings.
The whole first floor was vacated for the tattoo artists who wanted to compete, and the two brothers worked upstairs. Xiao Ke was on the sofa looking at the data coming from his phone while also discussing a few words with other teachers in the work group. Zhou Zui’s client this day was quite special as he wanted to make a set of rings, more specifically hand, foot, and neck rings.
Two boys came together, in fact, the meaning of this kind of design was very obvious. Although Xiao Ke was not mixed with that circle, he more or less knew a little. The pure black ring was made of a specially-made leather texture while the edges were made with an old burlap treatment,and the neck ring below even had a metallic pendant which had initials on it.
Before Zhou Zui started to tattoo this, he stressed once again, “A black tattoo is not easy to cover, and if you want to get rid of it later, you can’t. Think about it again.”
The one getting the tattoo looked towards the one that had accompanied him. That boy was expressionless. He looked quite cold and only responded, “It’s your choice.”
The boy replied with very firm and downcast eyes, “No, you do it, teacher.”
Xiao Ke thought that the children nowadays played too wildly, and were crazy and fearless without leaving themselves a way back. This kind of ring tattooed on the body was essentially a label for themselves, and those who knew would understand it at a glance.
The boy looked quite pure when he looked at the other’s eyes with a devout and passionate expression in his eyes.
Later, when only the last bracelet was left to be done, the boy who had been watching coldly suddenly spoke up to say, “I’ll do this one.”
Zhou Zui looked at him but did not nod.
Tattoos weren’t paintings as they had to be engraved into the skin. If it were too dark, then it would destroy the tissue while if it were too light, then it wouldn’t last long. Although coloring the pure black ring was not that difficult, the tattoo was inherently dangerous so it was impossible to let them go in blindly.
The boy who was getting the eyes of the tattoo done seemed to light up several degrees as he stared straight at the other boy and nodded vigorously while saying, “Let him do it, teacher.”
Zhou Zui could not let him do it so he only let the boy make a few light swipes before he finally added more color. Despite this, the tattooed one was still very satisfied even though his whole face was swollen red, and he looked nervous and excited with tightly pursed lips..
Xiao Ke looked at them at the time and sighed in his heart. The road ahead was hard, and he hoped that the young kids would always carry such reckless enthusiasm. The ring tattooed on the body represented eternal freedom and not shackles.
That night, Xiao Ke pointed to the scar on his ankle and asked Zhou Zui why he hadn’t been given a tattoo yet.
He had asked this question several times, but Zhou Zui had always turned him down. This time, Zhou Zui gently touched his scar as he looked him in the eye and said, “Don’t carve things on your body.”
Xiao Ke raised his eyebrows and asked, “Why?”
Zhou Zui smiled lightly, and the air was still charming after the intimacy. He rubbed Xiao Ke’s ankle and whispered, “No matter what is left on your body, it will be carried for life. The carving of something on the body is a kind of burden, to bear the wishes and thoughts of the time until death. When the intention remains the same to remember and give, if the heart changes, it is an eternal burden. Having such a thing on your body, a constant reminder of a mind you no longer have, that thing in itself is painful.”
Xiao Ke frowned and was about to speak when Zhou Zui kissed him on the lips before he continued, “I hope Professor Xiao is happy forever and spontaneous after any choice.”
Wonder if XK will ever get his tattoo.
Thanks for translating and editing.
Does ZZ not want XK to get a tattoo because he’s afraid XK will tire of him? And then XK would be left with a reminder of their love affair? If so, then ZZ still believes XK might leave him someday.