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Chapter 45: “You’ve been on a roll lately, huh Zhou Zui?”

Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations

Editor: Mimosa


After the Tattoo Exhibition, Zhou Zui’s place suddenly became a hive of activity. The photos from the show were rounded up several times on social media platforms, and the address of their store was no secret as there were many out-of-towners that came over just to get a tattoo with Zhou Zui, and even more local ones.

Technology was indeed cutting-edge for one thing as, in addition to the tattoo exhibition being next to the location of the organizer, the previous price of five thousand went up. Zhou Zui was at this price level, not to mention that the difference was more than twice. For a big picture to be done at the price difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars, it was worth it to buy a plane ticket to fly over.

Xiao Lin originally had minimal pressure at the front desk as the daily number of people that came were limited and were generally in advance with WeChat or telephone. The little girl read the gossip every day and did her nails quite well, but this time, there were suddenly more people coming so she was a little confused.

These people had been with Zhou Zui for so long that they had long been accustomed to a fixed number of customers every day, and they talked about the figures or were all busy doing tattoos. Not to mention Lu Xiaobei and Xiao Lin, even the other tattoo artists in the store also did not have much happiness. The reason they hung here was because this place originally did not lack customers, and tattoos were unlike opening a restaurant to cook so no matter how many people came, they could only do a certain amount of people in a single day. Since they had been working with Zhou Zui, they were used to his character that was not too flashy. The slot was usually scheduled for two months out so they could relax.

The people who came were not only customers, but also colleagues in the industry who wanted to watch and communicate. There were also many circles of tattoo artists who wanted to come over to pay homage to the store and wanted to follow Zhou Zui to learn something. There was the willingness to spend money, and they even said to Zhou Zui, “You open a class to accept students, no matter how much the tuition is, you state the price.”

Zhou Zui was helpless and said, “It’s not about the money, thank you for looking up to me. I don’t know how to teach anything, and I’m not really at a level where I can teach people, many places have classes that are better than mine.”

He didn’t say anything more, and told everyone that he would be busy with his own things and would not be able to respond again, but they wanted to learn something from Zhou Zui so they all gave support to East University where Tao Xiao Dong was.

They were originally very casual at the tattoo parlor and unless the customer himself asked, it was otherwise done in the hall. Now that more people were suddenly watching, the store was too busy so tattoo artists went to work in the tattoo rooms. Lu Xiaobei and Zhou Zui hid upstairs, and no one was left in the lobby.

Xiao Ke came over on weekends when there was no one downstairs except for Xiao Lin, and he looked back at Xiao Lin before he cried and laughed, “Is this how it’s supposed to be now?”

Xiao Lin’s face was bitter. “The coffee and juice are finished, and the new ones haven’t arrived yet, Brother Xiao, do you drink milk tea?”

Xiao Ke laughed and shook his head. “I don’t drink it. Where’s Zhou Zui?”

“The boss is upstairs.” Xiao Lin pointed upstairs. “I don’t know in which room. You can ask.”

Xiao Ke went up to each room with closed doors and knocked on one of them first before he asked, “Who’s in there?”

Lu Xiaobei’s voice came through, “Come in, Brother Xiao, it’s Beibei!”

Xiao Ke smiled and opened the door. Lu Xiaobei was inside wearing a mask and doing leg-rings for a beautiful woman. Xiao Ke greeted, “Hello, Xiao BeiBei.”

Lu Xiaobei from behind the mask gave a “tsk” as a response.

Xiao Ke closed his door before he turned his head to knock on another that should have no one else, but he still deliberately asked, “Who’s inside?”

Zhou Zui answered, “Me.”

Xiao Ke hadn’t been here for a week, and now he heard Mr. Zhou’s voice that made him really want it. Zhou Zui’s client was a male, and Xiao Ke pushed the door in to see the big brother lying naked on the bed while fast asleep. Zhou Zui was outlining his buttocks, and it looked like he was doing a full-body on the backside.

When he came in, the big brother looked back at him without much concern.

Xiao Ke paused and said to him, “Sorry, brother, are you afraid of me watching?”

“Not afraid,” the big brother waved his hand casually, “You can feel free to take pictures, I think that I am quite photogenic.”

Xiao Ke smiled and said, “There’s no rush to take pictures, we’ll take them after we’re all done.”

He went over to stand next to Zhou Zui, and when Zhou Zui looked up at him, Xiao Ke silently made a kissing motion. Zhou Zui also wore a mask so he couldn’t see his smile, but he could see the soft curves at the corners of his eyes. Xiao Ke put his hand on his shoulder to gently squeeze his neck and mouthed to him with his lips, ‘I missed you.’

Zhou Zui’s hands were dirty, and he couldn’t empty his hands of the machine so he just leaned back to touch Xiao Ke.

The interaction of small gestures between the two of them was very warm. While Zhou Zui tattooed, Xiao Ke occasionally poured him a glass of water for him to drink. If he went between the lines, then Xiao Ke would also reach out to touch him or something so that he could silently brush a sense of presence.

When the big brother had his buttocks tattooed, he was quite calm, but when it reached his thighs, he suddenly couldn’t take it anymore and started to cry out in pain. He shouted so badly that Xiao Ke couldn’t listen to him anymore and told him, “Bear it, you’ll be sublimated after the pain.”

“I don’t have to bear it, I feel like I’m going to ascend to heaven now.” The big brother’s forehead was sweating from the pain, and he gritted his teeth as he said, “This is too damn painful….”

Zhou Zui stepped on the foot switch to stop and asked him, “Take a break?”

“No, it’s the same thing, let it finish hurting in one go.” He was still strong and clenched his fist while talking.

The thigh was actually not a major part of the body for tattoo pain, but each person’s pain tolerance for various parts were different so there was no fixed standard. The dude’s idea was good, but presumably it really hurt too much, because he could not carry on and said that he needed to stop for the day when halfway through. 

It had already been a bit over four hours. At most, they would’ve been able to continue for two more hours. When he had said that he wanted to stop, Zhou Zui naturally agreed. Xiao Ke was already here and he didn’t really want to make the other sit around while watching him work.

Zhou Zui packed up the machine before he and Xiao Ke went out to allow the client to get dressed inside. Both of them had a tacit agreement that neither of them made a sound when they headed to the bedroom together and closed the door before they kissed for a brief period of time.

Xiao Ke was wearing a white short-sleeved T-shirt and light green shorts which made him look clean and young like a student. Zhou Zui wanted to touch his face with his fingers, but after taking off his gloves without washing his hands, he put his hand down and did not touch Xiao Ke’s face.

Xiao Ke bent his eyes and smiled. “It’s okay, touch it. It’s not a big deal for me to wash my face later.”

Zhou Zui silently kissed him on the cheek and shook his head.

The time was still early, and since there were no customers in the store, Zhou Zui took Xiao Ke’s hand so that they could leave. There were two youngsters who came downstairs to have a look around, and Xiao Lin saw Zhou Zui coming down so she hurriedly said, “That’s our boss, talk to him directly if you need anything.”

Xiao Ke moved his hand and wanted to let go, but Zhou Zui held it tightly without letting go. Xiao Ke held the other hand out to gently wave it as he smiled, “We both have to go out, whatever you need, you can find Teacher Lu.”

Xiao Lin momentarily did not react with a blank expression on her face. “Which Teacher Lu?”

Xiao Ke smiled and answered, “Teacher Bei.”

Xiao Lin snorted before she nodded and said, “Okay. Bye bye old man. Bye Brother Xiao.”

Xiao Ke was still laughing until he got into the car, and he asked with a lopsided smile, “Very bold, Mr. Zhou?”

He was talking about Zhou Zui who held hands in front of people, and Xiao Ke would not let go of the matter. Zhou Zui looked at him and smiled but did not say anything at that time. After a while, Xiao Ke’s thoughts turned to other places, and he slowly opened his mouth to say, “Recently, I sometimes feel very childish, and there are a lot of things I absolutely wouldn’t have done before, but I’m of old age now and am out-of-tune.”

“Well?” Xiao Ke looked over and wondered where he was getting this from.

Zhou Zui’s eyes turned forward so as not to look at him, and the soft curve at the corner of his eye revealed his faint smile. “I just wanted to keep holding, and did not want to let go. One reason is that it is not necessary to be afraid of others looking. The other is that I think…”

Xiao Ke rarely heard this boring guy say these kinds of things and certainly wanted to get to the core of it so he crookedly smiled at him, “Think what?”

Zhou Zui pursed his lips and rubbed the tip of his nose with his knuckles out of embarrassment before he said in a muffled voice, “I think Professor Xiao is so good-looking and I want to show off.”

“….” Xiao Ke looked at this person and felt a little shocked. This was not like the words his Teacher Zhou would usually say, and he actually wanted to laugh at first, but his heart felt sore and soft like it was bitten by a small animal without teeth.

He raised his hand and touched Zhou Zui’s ear before he took a deep breath and said, “Recently very provocative, ah, Zhou Liwu?”

Zhou Zui did not feel like he had said something flirty but had just felt shy and ashamed which showed on his old face.

The two of them went out for a meal to a restaurant introduced by Lin Xuan in the group, and it was really good. This place happened to be very close to Old Cao’s store so Zhou Zui took Xiao Ke there.

Xiao Ke remembered that Old Cao had said that he was a craftsman, but he hadn’t been to his place yet. When he arrived, he found out that it was a store outside a local high-end home furnishing building plaza. The store was not very big, but Xiao Ke was still a bit shocked once he entered as it was like entering an art gallery.

The store was indeed full of handicrafts that were both large and small. There were metal products, wood products, bamboo products, bone products, and stone products that were all readily available. On the wall directly opposite the door, an irregular metal piece hung while connected by a huge hanging piece, and it was very eye-catching and shocking.

The shopkeeper at the door was a sister in a cheongsam who looked to be older than thirty and had a very unusual and elegant temperament. When she saw Zhou Zui, she greeted him with a smile, “Welcome, Brother Zhou.”

Zhou Zui nodded with a smile and asked her, “Is Cao Yuan here?”

“Yes,” The beautiful sister saw Xiao Ke and smiled kindly at him before she said, “You guys go in first, I’ll go and call him.”

When Cao Yuan came out and saw both of them with their eyebrows raised high, he was surprised and asked them, “Why are you two here? The love show for the group is not enough, but were you guys also ousted to show this at my home? You have no shame?”

Xiao Ke laughed at him and shook his head before he said, “I came by to take a look.”

Cao Yuan sat next to both of them and poured himself a cup of tea before he said, “So don’t leave empty-handed, pick out something to take with you, as my gift to you guys for getting laid.”

Xiao Ke was not at all polite and said to him, “Point me to a few that you made, I’ll pick one.”

Cao Yuan pointed out about a dozen of them, and Xiao Ke finally picked out a metal hanging piece which was similar to the one on the wall but only smaller.

It was no wonder that Fang Xi introduced Old Zhu and Old Cao when they first met by introducing both of them as artists. He now seemed very artistic indeed and not similar to his usual untamed look.

Xiao Ke finished picking out something and Old Cao said, “I don’t give them away for free, you have to pay me.”

Xiao Ke asked him, “How much?”

“Two hundred and eighty.”

“It’s too expensive, just remove a zero and give it to him for 200,” Zhou Zui said.

Xiao Ke took his cell phone and transferred two hundred before he said, “Thanks, Mr. Cao.”

Cao Yuan pointed at Zhou Zui and looked disgusted, “You are too stingy.”

Xiao Ke and Zhou Zui both laughed and ignored him. In fact, Xiao Ke knew that Old Cao was just playing around with the money that he was charging, and his stuff was definitely not at this price. He had just seen a sign next to a small metal ornament with a price tag of more than 8,000, and the pendant he took was estimated to be tens of thousands of dollars.

The three of them drove across three districts in order to go to a store that was said to be very tasty. On a weekend night without a reservation, there was a line of more than 20 in front of them so they waited in the car while chatting, and Old Cao said that he was hungry when it was their turn.

Xiao Ke told them to order something first while he washed his hands, and Cao Yuan said, “I’ll go as well, let’s go together.”

Xiao Ke turned around and asked, “Little sister, huh?”

“Ah,” Cao Yuan took his words expressionlessly, “It could have been a couple, but you did not open your eyes with Old Zhou, now I really became a little sister, or Old Zhou and I are little sisters? My God, I don’t want to think about it.”

The name “Little Sister” could be used by Xiao Ke as a self-deprecating joke, but it was too much for Zhou Zui as he hurriedly grabbed Cao Yuan’s neck and headed for the bathroom while saying, “Shut up, brother.”

There would never be any shortage of coincidences in the world, and the word “coincidence” occasionally surprises people, while it sometimes represents a huge embarrassment slammed onto people’s heads as it hits people without the power to fight.

Xiao Ke and Cao Yuan were jokingly walking towards the bathroom when they reached the door and met someone who was coming out after washing his hands.

The person suddenly stood in front of him, and before Xiao Ke could look up, he heard the voice that he was once familiar with speak with surprise and disbelief, “…Xiao Ke?”

Even if they hadn’t seen each other for a long time, the voice was familiar to Xiao Ke. He lifted his head and smiled slightly, “Mr. Lin? What a coincidence.”

Lin An’s eyes turned back and forth two times from Xiao Ke to Cao Yuan, Cao Yuan sized up Lin An across the room. The elite never needed to ask more questions as they could just look into the eyes and guess the identity of the person across the room.

Lin An asked, “Who is this?”

Xiao Ke said, “My friend.”

He and Old Cao had just now been joking while walking over which probably made Lin An misunderstand, but Xiao Ke also did not want to explain anything more and could not explain.

Lin An nodded as, in the end, a high-end intellectual had to have a cool appearance in front of others. He tensed his chin and straightened his back and shoulders to make himself look proud.

Xiao Ke had no intention of talking to him, and it was not appropriate for him to exchange pleasantries here with his predecessor from any angle so Xiao Ke smiled and said to him, “I’ll wash my hands.”

Lin An’s eyes were always glued to his face, and it was clear that he still wanted to say something, but since Xiao Ke had said so, and there were outsiders around, he didn’t say anything more and nodded before he turned away first.

Xiao Ke pursed his lips and washed his hands, and Old Cao was also rubbing his hands beside him while he looked at him in the mirror and asked, “Ex?”

“Yeah, ex.” Xiao Ke nodded his head.

Old Cao laughed, “I see that your ex is young. If this were my ex, I probably would not remember his face.”

Xiao Ke thought, We were together for more than five years so we should remember each other with our eyes closed.

There wasn’t any reason to keep the fact about him meeting his ex a secret, but he didn’t want to purposely go to Zhou Zui to say “I just saw, you know.” That felt too deliberate and unnecessary. Old Cao was also not likely to say anything, and he would not be involved in other people’s affairs.

Xiao Ke’s heart was straightforward, and he didn’t even put that much thought into it. “Yesterday was dead,” according to Zhou Zui, and his heart was now naturally full with Zhou Zui while the previous history was faint.

Zhou Zui would order a pot of hot soy milk for him to slowly drink once he came out to eat, and he even thoughtfully mixed it with sugar as he knew that Professor Xiao liked it a little sweeter. He and Old Cao drank their beer, while he still tried to give Xiao Ke a dish to eat.

Xiao Ke smiled and thought, Mr. Zhou treats me like a child in a relationship.’Although Xiao Ke did not need to be taken care of, his boyfriend’s feelings must be reciprocated.

Xiao Ke really did not expect that Lin An would deliberately come here. Lin An’s character had always been quite introverted and low-key since he was not willing to show his heart in front of outsiders. Xiao Ke had guessed that he would probably contact him after he went back, but did not guess that he would directly confront them.

In fact, it was understandable that Lin An misunderstood and thought that he and Old Cao were a pair. The old lover who had been in love with him for more than five years had a new lover, and no matter what the reason for the separation was, the shock of seeing each other with new lovers would still be very strong. There would be reluctance with the desire to brush a sense of presence and stamp the old lover in order to prove that they once had each other.

Thus, Lin An headed straight over while holding a wine glass and a bottle of wine.

Xiao Ke saw him approaching and knew that it was going to be over. He saw a pot of dog’s blood falling on his head.

“Let’s have a drink, Xiao Ke.”

Lin An stood in front of Xiao Ke’s eyes and spoke with a lot of emotions in his eyes without being able to hide them as he was slightly red-eyed.

Zhou Zui, who was talking with Old Cao, had already stopped talking and was quietly looking over.

Lin An finished pouring himself a glass and looked at Xiao Ke before he said, “Let’s have a drink. It’s been a long time since we’ve had one. Let me toast to you, to…To your innocence, passion, purity, romance, and bravery.”

He paused between each word, and when he finished the sentence, his eyes turned completely red while his voice trembled. He tilted his head to drink the glass of wine. Xiao Ke’s fingers twitched, but he still did not move.

“I’m not as brave as you, so I have nothing now.” Lin An poured himself another cup, and he should have already had too much wine which made it obvious that he was really sad. His Adam’s apple twitched gently, and he continued after a while, “This cup is to all that you have given, to the past that was like a poem or a picture, to the past that was like clouds and the years that disappeared without looking back, but also to…To all the things that fate had given me which I loved but failed to cherish.”

For a moment, Xiao Ke hesitated to drink the wine, because the lover of his fate was no longer the person who was toasting him.

However, Xiao Ke still drank the soy milk in the cup first and then put the empty cup next to him before he took Zhou Zui’s wine to pour it for himself.

The table remained quiet as no one made a sound while only the pot in the middle was bubbling away.

Xiao Ke pulled up the corners of his mouth and smiled while saying, “Mr. Lin, this is my toast to you. May the future be bright and promising.”

He finished and drained his glass of wine very quickly.

Lin An closed his eyes and then said, “You still owe me a glass.”

He used the wine bottle in his hand to fill up Xiao Ke’s glass again and put the bottle on the table before knocking his own glass with Xiao Ke’s. He said in a muffled voice, “I was reluctant to drink with you before, for fear that you would suffer from stomach pain. I’m flying to Munich on a flight next week, and when I met you today, I thought it was probably meant to be, so…I’d like you to be a little more reckless for me.”

When Xiao Ke heard these words, he thought that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to drink a glass of wine but also thought that he spent five years with a genuine interest. He did not say anything and reached for the glass.

However, he couldn’t pick it up as Zhou Zui, who had been sitting inside, pressed his palm against the mouth of the cup.

“Forget it, it’ll hurt your stomach if you drink more.”

Xiao Ke looked at him, and Lin An also looked at him. Zhou Zui raised his eyes to look at Lin An and asked indifferently, ” Do you want to be reckless? I’ll accompany you. You two can toast as much as you want, for the past and for tomorrow, but pour the wine for me, I’ll drink it.”


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March 22, 2023 1:57 am

Old Cao must be very talented and generous to his real friends.
Well handled, ZZ.
Thanks for translating and editing.

April 6, 2023 8:42 am

The author describes ZZ’s ‘old’face, but I have a hard time imagining a handsome man with a muscular body and tiger line as old.

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