Lu Xiaobei discovered that his big bro had subtly changed recently. He didn’t know when it happened either, because Lu Xiaobei didn’t pay that much attention to him normally. But after noticing some differences, he started observing more and realized that certain changes were truly very unique.
For example, one day, the shop received a package. Lu Xiaobei saw that it was addressed to Zhou Zui, so thought it was tattooing equipment and opened it. But what it actually contained was a set of men’s facial cleansers, including face wash and moisturizer. Lu Xiaobei thought that someone had shipped it to the wrong address, so sneeringly brought it over to Zhou Zui. Who would’ve thought, though, that Zhou Zui would only calmly take it over and set it off to the side.
Lu Xiaobei had known Zhou Zui for so many years and never seen this person use moisturizer.
Only a few days later, he noticed that Zhou Zui was using a very childish phone case. It was honestly very childish; the phone case was printed with the big, fat face of a cartoon pig on it. It was dumb and ugly. Zhou Zui had never used phone cases in the past. He found them troublesome, and also didn’t like them.
On the spot, Lu Xiaobei asked him with black lines by his face, “Big bro, has something snapped in your brain?”
Zhou Zui put his phone back into his pocket and calmly stated, “Well, you aren’t minding your own business.”
“If you want a phone case, I have a bunch. Our shop even has some custom ones. I’ll grab one for you?” Lu Xiaobei lifted his gaze to ask.
“No need,” Zhou Zui shook his head. “Not interested in yours.”
“Yo, then you like this one?” Lu Xiaobei couldn’t hold in his laughter. His shoulders shook, “You like big fat pigs?”
Zhou Zui ignored him. He walked around him and headed downstairs. Lu Xiaobei laughed for a long time behind him. It was the end of the year. Perhaps his big bro was so tired that his brain had gotten muddled.
Lu Xiaobei had been by Zhou Zui’s side for almost ten years. The two of them were extremely close. In the past, Lu Xiaobei could casually grab Zhou Zui’s cup to drink out of. They were all men, so nobody cared about these issues. They were used to it. But recently, Zhou Zui refused to let him use his cup. This person bought a new one; anyone could use the old one, but after switching to the new one, he specially announced, “Don’t randomly use this. Don’t grab the wrong one.”
At the time, Lu Xiaobei couldn’t keep his mouth from falling open. He silently nodded and made an “OK” gesture.
If by now he couldn’t guess that this was because of Xiao Ke, he would be wasting his super intelligent, bald head. Previously, Lu Xiaobei had thought that the two of them were over. But now, it seemed that not only had they not broken up, they were closer than ever.
Lu Xiaobei called Xiao Ke. As soon as the call went through, he shouted, “Wishing my Xiao ge an early happy new year! Happy new year Xiao ge, I hope that in the new year you can be my sister-in-law!”
Xiao Ke had been in the middle of cleaning up a fish for Doctor Xu. Upon hearing him yell like a crazy person, he started laughing. “What’s wrong with you now.”
“There’s nothing wrong with me, there’s something wrong with my big bro.” Lu Xiaobei sat in the bathroom and smoked a cigarette while he said, “My big bro isn’t my big bro anymore. Is it because of the power of love or the mysteries of nature!”
Xiao Ke freed a hand to hold onto his phone. He chuckled and asked, “What’s wrong with him?”
“He’s using makeup!” Even now, thinking of this caused Lu Xiaobei to feel disbelief. It was very dreamlike. “My god, that’s Zhou Zui ah. Zhou Zui using makeup?”
Xiao Ke glanced at his mom who was watching him from the other side of the kitchen. He wiped his hands and walked out, all while still laughing. After he finally stopped, he said, “You mean toner? Makeup sounds too terrifying. He’s just using toner, that’s not on the level of putting on makeup.”
We’re sorry for MTLers or people who like using reading mode, but our translations keep getting stolen by aggregators so we’re going to bring back the copy protection. If you need to MTL please retype the gibberish parts.
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The night that he received the set of facial cleansers, Zhou Zui directly took a photo and sent it over at midnight. He asked: Teacher Xiao, how do I use them?
At the time, Xiao Ke had sent several lines of “hahaha” in reply. It was quite brainwashing. Zhou Zui was very exasperated on the other end of the phone too. He could only indulge in Xiao Ke’s antics and stare at the laughter on the screen until Xiao Ke had had enough and eventually responded normally: Use the face wash to wash your face, then rinse with water. Next, use the tall bottle, and finally, the short and fat jar.
After around ten minutes, Zhou Zui finally replied: Spare me.
Once again, Xiao Ke very blatantly typed out five lines of “ha”.
It was quite tough for Zhou Zui, at his age, to accompany Teacher Xiao in his ploys. This person looked cold, but in certain aspects, he really didn’t have a temper. He agreed without a word no matter what Xiao Ke told him to do. Every extra day Xiao Ke interacted with him, he would feel more strongly that he had found a treasure.
He really liked him a lot.
Of course, the phone case had also been ordered by Xiao Ke. That was him being evil on purpose. The day that Zhou Zui received it, he directly put it on his phone. That night, during their call, he said, “Just now I spent forever looking for my phone. When I look at it, I can’t recognize it as my phone. So I always ignore it.”
Xiao Ke laughed without restraint. He answered, “Then Teacher Xiao will get a darker colored one for you instead?”
“No need,” Zhou Zui’s tone was tinted with faint exasperation. “This one’s nice.”
Every time in the past few days that Xiao Ke thought of this, he had a great urge to laugh. He felt that he was very childish, but since someone was willing to play with him, it was okay to be a little childish. These were the small acts of romance between a couple. After laughing enough, Xiao Ke felt that he needed to make time soon to visit the shop. Xu Wen and the other tattoo artists had headed home for the new year. The only people left in the shop were the lonely brothers. They had no one to take care of them, and also weren’t even taking a single day off. They were completely scheduled.
Mainly, though, it was that it had been several days since he had last seen Zhou Zui. He honestly missed him a little.
But wasn’t there some sort of saying? It said: great pleasure results in tragedy.
Xiao Ke had been too unrestrained with his laughing these past few days. That afternoon, someone knocked on the door. As soon as he opened the door, he could no longer laugh anymore.
In that moment, Xiao Ke thought in his heart, I’ve been overly careless. He had been too focused on teasing Teacher Zhou that he had forgotten youngsters needed to visit their elders before the new year. He should’ve left to avoid this situation.
The person at the door froze too. After a pause, he said, “You’re here ah……Long time no see.”
“Ah,” Xiao Ke nodded and wiped the surprise off his face. He said, “Happy new year.”
“Yo, Little Lin is here?” Old Xiao walked out from the living room. He tugged Xiao Ke back and smiled. “Come, come in and sit.”
Thus, Xiao Ke left the door open and walked inside. After walking inside, he made eye contact with Doctor Xu. Xiao Ke sighed at her. Doctor Xu patted his arm.
There was a pile of stuff outside the door. It took Lin An a long time to bring it all in; he made several trips. Xiao Ke hesitated, but ultimately decided not to help. Old Xiao and Doctor Xu told him that he had brought too many things. If he kept being like this, they wouldn’t let him in the door anymore. The gentle smile on Lin An’s face hadn’t changed at all. It made people feel close to him. It was very comforting.
Lin An moved his gaze past them and onto Xiao Ke. His eyes were filled with unspoken messages. Xiao Ke looked at him. When they made eye contact, he smiled.
When Lin An looked away, his eyes were already red.
Xiao Ke sighed in his heart.
He had originally decided he was going to visit Zhou Zui in the afternoon, but obviously wouldn’t be able to now. He and Lin An had technically broken up on good terms. They hadn’t caused a commotion, so Xiao Ke couldn’t have a cold attitude towards him. Their relationship hadn’t gotten that bad, so there was no need.
Which was why it would be better to never see each other again. But now that he was stuck at home because of the other, he wouldn’t find an excuse to leave. It would made Lin An look bad, and everyone else would also feel awkward as a consequence.
“Xiao Ke, you haven’t really changed.” When the conversation suddenly fell onto the topic of him, Xiao Ke became bewildered. Lin An held his tea cup and gently caressed the bottom. “……You’re still the same.”
“Un,” Xiao Ke nodded, then smiled and said, “Worker Lin is still just as handsome. But you look a bit thinner.”
Lin An was sitting on the one person sofa. Old Xiao and Doctor Xu were seated on the long sofa. Xiao Ke sat on the armrest next to Old Xiao. There wasn’t anywhere else to sit. Lin An pressed his lips together and showcased a very faint smile. He lowered his gaze and said, “Is that so? I haven’t really noticed.”
In the past, Xiao Ke always called him Worker Lin. His voice would always raise at the end, making the nickname sound both like a tease and an endearment.
Lin An took a sip of the hot tea. It slightly burned his mouth. He pursed his lips again and asked, “Have you been alright recently?”
Xiao Ke answered, “You know how it is. Passable.”
This not distanced but also not close small talk made people uncomfortable. Xiao Ke sighed once again in his heart.
If you said they were strangers to each other, they had once shared the closest relationship. If you said they were familiar with one another, they hadn’t met in over a year. During this time, the communication between them was practically none. They knew nothing about how the other was doing.
What a conflicted state.
Old Xiao and Doctor Xu were stuck in the middle, so tried finding conversation topics. Xiao Ke saw that they were suffering too, so decided to take initiative. “Worker Lin, let’s go for a walk?”
Lin An almost immediately nodded. “Okay.”
Xiao Ke picked up his jacket and walked out of the door. Lin An turned around and shared another brief conversation with the two elders before following Xiao Ke. Xiao Ke said, “Zip your jacket up. It’s quite cold.”
“Un,” Lin An responded. He pulled up his zipper.
The two of them walked in a circle around the garden downstairs without saying anything. They were only one step apart, silently walking. But they couldn’t keep walking like this. Eventually, Xiao Ke spoke first. With a very relaxed tone, he asked, “When’s the wedding?”
Lin An briefly paused in his stride. Shortly after, he returned to normal. He smiled and shook his head, lowly saying, “There’s no wedding. We haven’t confirmed anything.”
“Still no?” Xiao Ke cocked an eyebrow. He smiled and said, “You’re not young anymore, Worker Lin.”
Lin An didn’t respond. He only nodded.
It was truly rare that people would walk around like this in the middle of winter. At a certain moment, the thought that flashed through Xiao Ke’s mind was I can already feel the cold in my bones. How can I sound extra pitiful to Teacher Zhou tonight to get him to pay more attention to me?
When he thought of Teacher Zhou, Xiao Ke’s expression relaxed quite a bit.
“Xiao Ke,” Lin An glanced at him. He slowly asked, “Why didn’t you keep the watch I gave you?”
Xiao Ke shook his head and said, “Wouldn’t have been right, Worker Lin. Don’t buy me things. If you want to see my parents, you can buy them some fruit. Don’t spend too much money.”
He hadn’t changed his nickname for Lin An. It was still the same two words. This was because Lin An was older than him by a few years, so all other nicknames didn’t really work. Thus, Xiao Ke always called him “Worker Lin”. Lin An liked hearing this too. But now, the feeling it gave him was different from before.
Lin An laughed, mocking himself. He said, “When you call me this now, it doesn’t sound as intimate as before.”
They had once been lovers for five years. Xiao Ke had also used his whole heart to pursue him. When they had been together, he had truly been in love. As he observed Lin An’s slightly ashen face in this moment, it was impossible for Xiao Ke not to feel anything in his heart.
He felt pity and disappointment. He was very upset.
But he didn’t feel regret. He didn’t want to turn back.
In the past, his voice always lifted when he called “Worker Lin”. Now, he always laughed and called “Teacher Zhou” in that same manner.
He still didn’t know how to respond to what Lin An had just said without it being too awkward. But suddenly, the image of Teacher Zhou very sincerely telling him, “Just, to continue. Like you said before,” flashed in his mind.
Bonus chapter 3/3