Xiao Ke shook his head at him, “No, just a little bit of a stuffy nose, nothing more.”
“Oh.” Zhou Zui said, “If you feel sick, go upstairs and lie down.”
“Okay.” Xiao Ke answered him with a narrow-eyed smile and looked very well-behaved.
Lu Xiaobei’s client, who was a young girl, wanted a deer tattoo on her calf, and Xiao Ke took a look at his drawing which was particularly nice.
The deer was blue-colored and filled with starlight.
This kind of deer design was actually a bit lame, but Lu Xiaobei tried to make the design as unique as possible so that she could see that it was different from others.
Lu Xiaobei told the girl, “I need to color this several times, otherwise it won’t work, I can’t finish it today, but I’m afraid you’ll be in pain and upset later on.
Anyway, you have to come over a few times afterwards to fix up the color, if you can’t stand the pain anymore, you can rest today.”
The girl said, “It’s okay, bring it on.”
Xiao Ke sat with him for a while, and Lu Xiaobei looked really cool when he was working.
With the mask on, he was silent.
Xiao Ke spent a lot of time in the store and loved the parlor while he now also felt from the bottom of his heart that tattoos were a very elegant thing.
It was amazing to see a pattern branded into the body for a long time and feeling the pain in order to keep its beauty.
Perhaps after a few years, they may not like it, but this was the result of the decision they needed to make when they got the tattoo.
Everything was unknown, and that was part of the beauty of tattoos.
Zhou Zui’s client today was also a girl with long hair shaved on one side, and she was wearing a light pink down jacket with bell bottom jeans and snow boots which made her like a very quiet little girl.
It was probably because Zhou Zui usually focused on more European and American style that he had more male customers than female customers, and he seldom did small designs as he usually did full backs, floral arm sleeves or something of the sort.
The larger works for female customers were a lot less.
Today, this little girl had been scheduled with Zhou Zui for more than three months as she decided that she had to have his tattoo.
The little girl spoke in a small voice and smiled very shyly, “Happy New Year, Mr.
Zhou Zui also said to her, “Happy New Year.”
The design she wanted to have made today was a personal portrait, which would be tattooed on her thigh.
This kind of design was a small job compared to Zhou Zui’s usual ones since it was very simple.
These female clients’ preparatory work was usually done by Xiao Lin, but since she was not there, Zhou Zui could only do it by himself.
The image she wanted to do was close to the base of her thigh, so Zhou Zui went upstairs and got a pair of shorts and a blanket for her before he pointed out a room on the first floor to her, “Go inside and change your pants, the door can be locked.”
The little girl received the shorts a bit shyly and lowered her head before she went to the inside room.
Xiao Ke also once saw Xiao Lin take a silk nightgown for a girl customer, only to find out that for the girls, no matter where the tattoo was, there were corresponding clothes which they could change into at the shop if they were not prepared.
The basics were gray and black since the shades were uniform.
They weren’t cheap, and they were given directly to the customer after the tattoo.
“How generous.” Xiao Ke joked at the time.
Xiao Lin nodded and said, “It’s really generous, I said I could just order a batch from Taobao, but the boss wouldn’t let me.
A set for hundreds of dollars, some girls who obviously do not need to change will get them.
Makes me heartbroken.”
Xiao Ke laughed and said, “Don’t feel bad for your boss, it’s his decision to send it to anyone who wants it.
He casually does a figure of eight thousand, not bad for a set of pajamas.”
When she came out, the tattoo chair already had a blanket spread out on it and Zhou Zui said to her, “Put your stuff in the cabinet over there.
There is no one else in the shop today, just put it in without locking it.
Then come and lie down here, sitting is also fine.
The blankets and pants are all new, don’t worry.”
“I know.” The little girl finished putting her things away and sat on the chair while Zhou Zui put the blanket to cover her which only revealed the left leg that was going to be tattooed.
Zhou Zui took the stencil and compared it to her leg while saying, “Look at the position.”
The girl nodded and said “yes”.
Zhou Zui let her look at the drawing again and said, “You look again.
If there is no problem, I’m going to start outlining, it’s not easy to change after.”
She stared at the picture for a long time before she smiled and said, “Actually, his nose is not so high, but this is more handsome, it’s good.”
“So I’ll just start tattooing?” Zhou Zui asked her.
Once the tattoo machine turned on, the sound was quite nerve-wracking and the girl’s legs were tense so Zhou Zui said with his head down, “Relax.”
“I’ll try,” she smiled with embarrassment.
“I’m quite afraid of pain.”
“Well, relax or it’ll hurt more.” Zhou Zui said.
Once the tattoo needle was next to her leg, the girl shivered and let out a hiss.
Xiao Ke came over and asked her, “Little beauty, have you graduated? You look young.”
She said, “I’m in my postgraduate study.”
Xiao Ke said, “Then we’re the same age.”
The little girl nodded, “I thought so too.”
Zhou Zui looked up at Xiao Ke and laughed while Lu Xiaobei said from the other side, “Brother Xiao, you should be ashamed of yourself.”
“What’s wrong with me?” Xiao Ke raised his eyebrows.
“I’m in my first year of graduate school.”
The young girl said, “I’m in my second year.”
“Ah,” Xiao Ke immediately called out, “Older sister.”
Zhou Zui lowered his head to fix the point while his mouth hung in a smile.
Lu Xiaobei’s face was expressionless, and he did not even bother to make a remark.
In fact, Xiao Ke knew she was too nervous and came to chat with her to distract her, otherwise Zhou Zui could not get started.
Xiao Ke pointed to the picture and asked her, “Boyfriend?”
Xiao Ke said, “He’s pretty handsome.”
“Not bad,” the young girl looked at the picture and smiled, “Not so good-looking in person, but Mr.
Zhou made him more handsome.”
There were many customers who tattooed their loved ones on their bodies, but usually it was a very small picture that was cartoon or abstract, which Lu Xiaobei had done a lot.
A sketch of a large picture directly on the tattoo was quite rare, although Xiao Ke still thought that the girl was still too young.
What kind of future she had, it was impossible to say.
In case it did not go all the way to the end, then what would she do later?
However, this was the unpredictable nature of tattoos so you could only bet on it.
That day, Xiao Ke sat next to her and talked to her every now and then.
She was indeed quite afraid of pain, and her leg would twitch every now and then while a layer of sweat would appear on her forehead.
Zhou Zui asked her which school she was from, and she said T University.
“Oh coincidentally, alumni.” She happened to be at Xiao Ke’s school.
The young girl said she was a finance major, and Xiao Ke said he was a bioengineering major.
All the way till the end, he had said that he was a junior in the first year of his studies.
The monochrome picture was done quickly which Zhou Zui finished in more than two hours.
After the figure was completed, it looked very good and was very cool.
The little girl went to look at herself in the mirror while in her shorts and was very satisfied so she said to Zhou Zui with red eyes, “Thank you, Mr.
Zhou Zui said, “You’re welcome.”
Later, after she left, Lu Xiaobei said to Xiao Ke, “You are too old to care about your face.
In case people meet you at school in the future and call out to you, I will see if you are embarrassed.”
Xiao Ke smiled and shrugged, “Call me, and I’ll say yes, who let Professor Xiao look young?”
The time around Zhou Zui always flew by, and Xiao Ke spent the entire day in the store without feeling bored at all.
When it was dark and he had to leave, Xiao Ke rubbed his sore nose and said to Zhou Zui, “I have to go now, Mr.
Zhou, are you still in the shop tomorrow?”
Zhou Zui nodded and said, “Yes.”
“Okay,” Xiao Ke said with a smile.
“I’m leaving then, I’ll send you a message tonight.”
Zhou Zui said, “Don’t come tomorrow, spend the New Year at home.
Come back after the New Year, after you spend time with your family.”
Xiao Ke promised, “Okay.” He looked back, and Lu Xiaobei was looking down while concentrating on the tattoo, so Xiao Ke quickly raised his hand before leaving to touch Zhou Zui’s face.
He blatantly molested him, and he looked him in the eye as he whispered, “Mr.
Zhou, I have no one else.
Just you, my darling, don’t worry.”
This sentence was actually what Xiao Ke wanted to say last night, but was afraid of troubling him in his sleep so he did not dare to really say it.
The words were on his lips for the entire day while he did not dare say it out loud to tease him.
The old man, Zhou Zui, let him molest his face, and was called ‘my darling.’ The expression on Zhou Zui’s face was one that Xiao Ke liked to see, which was as it was before, very helpless but with indulgence.
Xiao Ke smiled at him again, then opened the door to run away.
Zhou Zui’s face was not so obvious, but after being called that, his heart felt warm.
The old man had flowers blooming everywhere in the spring, and the air was filled with the smell of flowers.
Zhou Zui deliberately went to look at his bucket of roses and picked up some of the wilted ones to throw them away.
Xiao Ke ran out of the shop and got into the car before covering the smile on his face.
In fact, he did not show up in such a good mood.
His heart felt a bit heavy.
Others had gone home for New Year’s Eve, and the two cool guys had not returned as the two old bachelor children had no one to care for them.
It was a broken and miserable feeling.
Xiao Ke did not ask Zhou Zui about this matter, but even if he did not ask, he could somewhat guess which made him feel quite distressed.
A big brother with a messy past and an orphaned little brother.
Both without a home, could only rely on each other.
In fact, older people did not like New Year’s Eve and felt that it was only troublesome, but could not do anything.
Thus, even if Xiao Ke especially wanted to run out from his grandmother’s house to find Zhou Zui, he also dared to not really carry out this plan.
Their family tradition was that they must all be at his grandmother’s house on New Year’s Day, and no one could be missing.
They had to go early in the morning and stay until midnight after eating dumplings.
Xiao Ke sent a message to Zhou Zui at 11 p.m.
to ask him, [Teacher Zhou, where are you?]
Zhou Zui said, [Fang Xi and Old Cao are coming over for a drink.]
Xiao Ke asked another question, [They went to your house?]
Zhou Zui answered him, [Yes.]
Xiao Ke later sent a message to Old Cao, [Handsome, send me your location.]
After thinking about it, he immediately followed it with, [Shhh.]
Old Cao, after all, was not some straight man without a brain so Xiao Ke hit the head on the idea of what he knew.
The message said, [Hush money.]
Xiao Ke quickly transferred a red packet with two hundred with the message, “Congratulations, Cao Cao is the most handsome.”
Old Cao received the red envelope and sent a location.
He also said to be especially considerate, [Go into the gate on the north side to the front, building C6, number 2201.]
Xiao Ke gave out another red packet with two hundred.
“Dad, you hurry up and eat.” Xiao Ke had already finished eating the dumplings and so had Dr.
Xu, which left Old Xiao by himself.
Grandma slapped him with her hand.
“Why are you rushing? Let your father eat slowly!”
“I’m afraid he’ll be sleepy,” Xiao Ke said with a smile, while hugging his grandmother and feeding her a sweet grape that he put into her mouth.
“And it’ll affect your rest if we’re all here.”
Uncle said, “The whole thing, your grandmother can not sleep until after she watches the Spring Festival dinner.”
Xiao Ke was anxious as he thought about Zhou Zui, but he couldn’t say it directly so he kept staring at his father eating the dumplings.
As soon as his father put down his chopsticks, Xiao Ke hurriedly put on his coat.
“Let’s go, I don’t seem to have recovered from my cold, I have a headache, and I’m going to fall asleep.”
Grandma made him laugh, “Then you’ll sleep here! Aren’t there enough rooms for you to sleep in?”
“I want my bed,” Xiao Ke said to Grandma as he tucked Dr.
Xu’s jacket into her arms.
“Grandma, I’m sick, I had a fever yesterday.”
Grandma waved her hand.
Xiao Ke didn’t hesitate at all and gave his grandmother a kiss on the cheek before he ran straight downstairs.
By the time Old Xiao and Dr.
Xu came down, his car was already warm.
As soon as Old Xiao got into the car, he said, “He’s in a hurry like a big horse monkey.”
Xiao Ke turned on the fire to head out of the neighborhood, and smiled while saying, “Even a big horse monkey is not as anxious as I am, so you two should be considerate of your handsome son, who is still a bachelor.
I can’t go to my new love on this day of the family reunion to welcome the New Year?”
Old Xiao laughed at him.
“Who went out with his ex for a couple of laps and got a fever?”
“Don’t talk nonsense, old comrade.” Xiao Ke laughed and shook his head.
“I was freezing from the wind.
Xu can prove it.
I can’t come out of that big fire of being separated for a hundred years.”
He sent his parents to the neighborhood, and then stuffed one of them with a thick red envelope and said with a smile, “Since I’m not coming back tonight, the red envelope is given in advance, wishing my parents good health and peace.”
“Hurry up,” Old Xiao and Dr.
Xu took the red envelope since they knew that he was in a hurry, and Dr.
Xu said, “Drive slowly, it’s not that different.”
“Don’t worry.” Xiao Ke watched them enter the neighborhood and drove away.
The roads at night were the most peaceful of the year, and Xiao Ke did not even see a few cars along the way.
Following the navigation to Zhou Zui’s neighborhood, he found that people and vehicles were divided in the neighborhoods so cars were not allowed to enter.
Xiao Ke wandered around and found a parking space outside to park the car at 11:50.
Xiao Ke ran all the way in.
Although he kept his mouth closed, he still choked on the wind.
His throat, which was still inflamed, felt dry and astringent like he was going to explode if he didn’t drink some water.
Xiao Ke found C6 on the door of the unit when it was 11:53, and Xiao Ke was baffled once inside as the door could not be entered without a card.
Xiao Ke immediately sent a message to Old Cao to ask him to try not to be discovered when he opened the door and called an elevator.
Old Cao guessed the time with the phone that was at hand and was particularly efficient.
The elevator went up to the 22nd floor, and before the door opened, Xiao Ke looked at the time which was 11:57.
This was very good.
Old Cao was already leaning against the door frame waiting for him and Xiao Ke smiled before he whispered, “Thanks.
Is Zhou Zui here?
Old Cao pointed his finger behind him, “Fang Xi sent him to look for cigarettes.”
Xiao Ke changed his shoes before he went in, and Fang Xi looked at him with a raised eyebrow from the table while pointing towards the kitchen.
Xiao Ke smiled at him and nodded without speaking and ran over.
Zhou Zui was rummaging in a cabinet with his back to the door, and was about to turn around after grabbing the pack of cigarettes when Xiao Ke pounced on him and covered his eyes.
“Fuck.” Zhou Zui thought it was Fang Xi or Old Cao who was messing around again, and was just about to reach out to remove the hand from over his eyes when his breath suddenly paused.
Xiao Ke did not make a sound, but because he was running too fast, he was still panting roughly.
Zhou Zui’s hand touched Xiao Ke’s hand, and his thumb gently scraped the back of his hand.
Xiao Ke could feel his eyelashes fluttering against the palm of his hand.
Zhou Zui also touched the sleeve of his coat as Xiao Ke ran in from outside without taking off his coat so his body still carried the cold air.
Zhou Zui opened his mouth, “Xiao Ke?”
Xiao Ke smiled but did not take his hand away, and the other hand felt for a red packet in his pocket which he stuffed into Zhou Zui’s hand.
His voice was still unsteady and full of laughter, “Professor Xiao rushed to deliver this red packet.
Am I still good?”
Zhou Zui nodded his head and replied in a deep voice, “You’re good.”
Xiao Ke then smiled and came up to Zhou Zui’s ear to whisper to him.
His throat was very dry and hoarse, and he was the best at using this voice to say some mesmerizing words of love.
Zhou Zui heard Xiao Ke say to him with an unsteady voice in the darkness after running fast, “It’s midnight now, remember that Professor Xiao has accompanied you to cross the New Year.
I don’t care how many years you have spent on your own, but from now on, I will be with you every New Year that you have left.”
These words, this voice, and this person in front of him were things that were so perfect that Zhou Zui did not even dare to open his eyes as he was afraid that they were illusions and that they did not exist.
Zhou Zui did not take away Xiao Ke’s hand, but only reached out to encircle the person who was behind him with the hand holding the red envelope around his shoulders and the other hand pressing against Xiao Ke’s waist.
Happy New Year, sweetheart.”
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