Xiao Ke’s new sweetheart was really very cool. He could predict that he still had a long ways to go to be able to get him, but Teacher Xiao wasn’t scared at all. These situations called for more bravery when facing each battle.
On Sunday, he didn’t tell Zhou Zui that he would be going to the shop beforehand. Either way, he was accompanying Fang Qimiao, so had a proper excuse. When they got there, no one was in the front; the little girl from last time was nowhere to be found. In the back, they only saw Lu Xiaobei. He was playing games, ganging up on the other team with his friends. His audio was on.
“Fuck! There’s someone behind me! Thirty-five degrees thirty-five degrees! Hurry up!”
“Fuck, so badass. That scared me to fucking death just now!”
“Shut up. Help the emperor up.”
Fang Qimiao walked over. Lu Xiaobei had his earphones in so couldn’t hear his footsteps. Fang Qimiao held a corner of his phone up to the shiny back of his head. He lowered his voice and said, “Robbery. Don’t turn around.”
“Robbery my ass!” Lu Xiaobei didn’t believe it for a moment. He took off his earphones and saw that it was Fang Qimiao and Xiao Ke, so greeted, “You’re here?”
“Un, you keep playing. We’re not in a rush,” Fang Qimiao said.
“Then you guys just take a seat and wait a moment. I’ll be done soon. Today little sis isn’t here, so I’ll make some coffee for you guys later.” After speaking, Lu Xiaobei turned back and continued playing. Xiao Ke looked around the whole place but didn’t see Zhou Zui.
He walked over and asked Lu Xiaobei, “Zhou Zui isn’t here?”
Lu Xiaobei glanced at him in the middle of his game. He pointed upwards. “There’s lots of rooms upstairs. Just go up and shout for him to see which one he’s in.”
He still spoke so fast, but Xiao Ke understood him. He patted Lu Xiaobei’s shoulder and said, “Thanks. Keep playing.”
Thus, Xiao Ke walked up the concrete stairs to the second floor. The entire aesthetic here was concrete and rock. It looked awfully unrefined. In addition to the decorations on the wall and tattooing equipment on the racks, it looked cold and unfriendly. Despite this, it was very cool.
The room upstairs was a large-scale tattooing room. In it, several chairs were placed, along with tattoo machines in even more abundance than downstairs. There was a whole shelf full of colored ink.
There were also several small rooms. Xiao Ke didn’t even need to shout, because the doors were all open. He had already spotted Zhou Zui.
The other was in an art room. Canvases scattered the ground and artwork hung on the wall. There were art supplies on the table too, neatly organized.
Zhou Zui sat on the floor, back against the door and legs crossed. There was a canvas on his legs. His head was lowered, which created an angle along his back; the lines of his muscles were very easily decipherable. This person’s body always looked so powerful. Xiao Ke liked it a lot.
He turned around upon hearing footsteps. Surprise flitted across his face the moment he saw Xiao Ke.
Xiao Ke raised an eyebrow. “Good morning, Boss Zhou.”
“Good morning,” Zhou Zui greeted. There was a pencil in his mouth. He pulled it out and also put down the drawing in his lap. He pushed against the floor with his hand and stood up.
“You keep drawing, don’t worry about me.” Xiao Ke stood at the door and didn’t walk in. His gaze travelled across each piece of art in the room, pausing for a few seconds on every one. Actually, he was someone who didn’t get art, but he still felt very stunned. He could feel the energy in the artwork. A majority of the paintings were done in a traditional Chinese style, but amidst the ink drawings, a few with color would occasionally peek through. It balanced out the solemnity and severity of the black and white. There were also some oil and watercolor paintings, as well as pencil sketches. These were in the minority, though.
“Did you paint all of these?” Xiao Ke asked him.
Zhou Zui said, “Most of them. There are some by other people too.”
“Did you write these too?” Xiao Ke pointed at the two pieces of calligraphy hanging on the wall. Truthfully, even without Zhou Zui’s confirmation, he could already guess that they were written by him. For some reason, they just seemed like his work. The feeling of raw power arising out of them matched this person perfectly.
Zhou Zui nodded. “Un, just for fun.”
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.
Xiao Ke looked at the room full of drawings and suddenly felt that Zhou Zui’s image in his heart had changed a bit from before. He couldn’t exactly put his finger on it, but there was a slight difference. His gaze fell on the piece Zhou Zui had just been working on. It was a pencil sketch of a spirit monkey; its gaze was piercing and its teeth sharp. It was in a crouched position. Looking over, it seemed like a vicious and evil monkey was about to jump out of the paper.
“Ktja’r gfjiis ubbv.” Wljb Bf’r fsfr kfgf uiefv ab atf qlfmf bo qjqfg ecali Itbe Iel kjixfv bnfg jcv abbx la boo atf fjrfi.
Itbe Iel abbx j qlmaegf bo la klat tlr qtbcf, atfc gfwbnfv atf vgjklcu ogbw atf ybjgv jcv gbiifv la lcab j aeyf. Lf tjcvfv la ab Wljb Bf. “P’ii ulnf la ab sbe.”
Xiao Ke was bewildered. “So casually?”
“Un. Someone requested this image. I was just testing it out beforehand.”
“Will it look like this when you’re done tattooing it?” Xiao Ke unfurled the drawing and examined it closely. Just by looking at his art, he felt that Zhou Zui was such a cool person.
“Of course not. It’ll be different,” Zhou Zui answered nonchalantly. “This doesn’t have coloring and is only a simple sketch. Also, there’s a very big difference between skin and paper. They’re two different textures.”
“Un. Will it look better than now?” Xiao Ke asked.
Zhou Zui nodded. “Yes.”
“Cool.” Xiao Ke glanced at Zhou Zui and gave him a thumbs up. He repeated himself, “Cool.”
Zhou Zui slightly smiled. He questioned, “Do you want one?”
“I’m good.” Xiao Ke shook his head. “I’m scared it’ll hurt.”
Zhou Zui nodded and said, “Me too.”
The room in the middle was a tattooing room. The two on the side were a simple bedroom and an art room. Zhou Zui was tidying up his art supplies. Xiao Ke didn’t leave, only leaning against the door and chatting with him on and off. Neither of them were very talkative people, but the atmosphere was nice. It wouldn’t get awkward.
After their talk, Xiao Ke finally learned that there weren’t only two tattoo artists in the shop, but five. Except not everyone worked all the time. Most often, it was only him and Lu Xiaobei. Lu Xiaobei was Zhou Zui’s one and only apprentice. He had stayed with the other for a while.
Zhou Zui grabbed Xiao Ke a box of milk, put the straw in for him, then handed it over. Xiao Ke accepted it from him. He didn’t have anything he wanted to discuss currently. Instead, it was Zhou Zui who took the initiative and asked him, “How come you’re here?”
“My friend’s getting touch-ups, so I tagged along.” Xiao Ke looked at Zhou Zui. After thinking about it, he added, “After all, I said I would woo you. It wouldn’t be right for me not to make a move after all this time.”
Zhou Zui couldn’t hold himself back. He chuckled. “Quit playing, people’s teacher.”
“I’m really not.” Xiao Ke’s expression was pretty serious. He asked Zhou Zui, “Why didn’t you answer my texts?”
Zhou Zui said, “I didn’t see them.”
“Are you lying? Boss Zhou.”
“I don’t lie. I don’t really read my texts. I’ve already reached the max limit for unread text notifications, so don’t receive them any more.” Zhou Zui took out his phone and unlocked it. He pressed at the screen a few times, then asked Xiao Ke, “What happened to you?”
“You really didn’t see it?” Xiao Ke was in disbelief.
“There’s no need for me to lie to you,” Zhou Zui responded lightly.
Xiao Ke side-eyed him. “Then what would you do if you saw it? Would you answer?”
Zhou Zui said, “I don’t know.”
Xiao Ke guessed that he wouldn’t have responded even if he had seen it, but he really didn’t care about these things. He was already thirty, no longer hung up over such trivial matters like a seventeen or eighteen year old would be. Xiao Ke said, “Boss Zhou, add me on WeChat ba.”
Zhou Zui didn’t reject him. He threw his phone over again for Xiao Ke to fiddle with. Xiao Ke thought, just seeing him throw his phone every time you can tell this person’s single. He has nothing to hide on it.
In the end, Xiao Ke didn’t sit for long before he had to leave. Fang Qimiao’s touch-up didn’t take much time. When he went downstairs, the other was already leaned over next to Lu Xiaobei’s computer helping him game.
Xiao Ke tapped him. “Time to go.”
“So fast?” Fang Qimiao’s expression was shocked. “I thought you’d take at least two or three hours? Which one of you was it? He doesn’t last very long.”
Xiao Ke took a moment to realize what Fang Qimiao was alluding to. He kicked him after he did. Before he could say anything, Lu Xiaobei cut in from the side and said, “Definitely not my big bro.”
“You shut up too.” Xiao Ke thought I would like a chance to not last very long. But their relationship now wasn’t close enough for figuring out if either one of them lasted long or not.
Zhou Zui had been standing in the back the whole time. He didn’t say anything even though he heard the entire conversation. Xiao Ke felt pretty awkward. He turned around and told Zhou Zui, “Leaving.”
“Un,” Zhou Zui replied.
Xiao Ke didn’t care that Fang Qimiao hadn’t finished his game. He grabbed his clothes and dragged him away. Today he had already received a lot: a drawing and the other’s WeChat.
That day, Xiao Ke took a picture of the drawing Zhou Zui had given him and publicly posted it to his Moments. The comments underneath were all asking him who had drawn it. Xiao Ke didn’t reply to any of them.
Because he didn’t know how to describe Zhou Zui. If he said they were friends, that was too general. But it wouldn’t be appropriate to say they were something else. He found a frame and framed the drawing, then put it up by his bed. He wanted to take a few extra glances at it every morning after waking up and every evening before going to sleep. A few days later, though, he took it off. The monkey was really too fierce. Sometimes he would see it without any mental preparation and get scared.
Xiao Ke sent a WeChat message asking Zhou Zui: Teacher Zhou, can you give me another drawing?
Zhou Zui finally did reply this time. A very simple word: Okay.
Xiao Ke laughed. He continued to send: I only want ones you drew. Is that okay, Teacher Zhou?
Zhou Zui replied: Un.
Xiao Ke put his phone away. He felt great. Zhou Zui was the type who looked cold at first, but the more you got to know him, the more comfortable you would feel interacting with him. He didn’t really like to speak, but also wouldn’t really let the atmosphere get awkward. He wasn’t as distant as he appeared to be. Xiao Ke always said he was very cool, but not to the point where he felt above everyone else. He was more carefree, kind of like he didn’t worry about anything.
Later, Xiao Ke really did go to pick up a drawing. He went to the shop early one weekend morning. When he got there, the store wasn’t even open yet. The little girl he had seen before was the first to arrive. She saw him and greeted him, saying good morning.
Xiao Ke said, “I’m looking for Zhou Zui.”
“But he probably can’t come this morning. The customer won’t be here till afternoon, so he most likely won’t get here that early either. Do you have business with him? Should I call him for you?” The little girl poured him a cup of water, then pulled out her phone and made to call.
Xiao Ke stopped her. “There’s no need for that. I don’t have anything today, so I’ll just wait for him.”
“That’s fine. You can sit here or inside to wait. I’ll find some magazines for you.”
That day, Xiao Ke really did sit in the store waiting for Zhou Zui for several hours. He got there at around nine; Zhou Zui arrived at around two in the afternoon. Xiao Ke had spent the whole time sitting in the front, watching the little girl give other people manicures. They looked really good, but she always smiled and said they were free.
Xiao Ke asked her why she wasn’t charging. The little girl said she was still in the practicing phase, so didn’t want to ask for payment. Besides, this was Big Boss’s tattoo parlor. It was very famous, so if she received money for her manicures, that would somewhat be cheating the Big Boss.
Xiao Ke asked her, “Is Big Boss Zhou Zui?”
“How come you all call him that?” Xiao Ke laughed and inquired. “It’s pretty funny.”
The little girl smiled too. “In the beginning we were just going with whatever Lu Xiaobei said. Later on, we got used to it. He’s too cool. Boss, Teacher, Zhou Ge, they all don’t feel right.”
Xiao Ke made a noise of acknowledgment.
The little girl tidied up her manicure kit and put it under the counter. She grinned and asked Xiao Ke, “Don’t you get this feeling of a jianghu swordsman from him?”
Xiao Ke nodded. “I do.”
Afterwards, two other boys came in. They were also tattoo artists who worked here and both had customers, so went off to do their own things. One of them was very talkative. He butt in every time Xiao Ke said anything.
The morning passed amidst their conversations. At lunch, Xiao Ke ordered a lavish meal and ate with them. Lu Xiaobei was in the habit of saying things as they were. After eating, he squatted on the chair and told Xiao Ke, “Ge, you don’t have a chance.”
Xiao Ke cocked an eyebrow and looked at him. “Why’s that?”
Lu Xiaobei shook his head. “Stop wasting your time, ge. You really don’t have a chance.”
Xiao Ke asked him, “He already likes someone?”
Lu Xiaobei neither admitted nor denied it. He jumped off his chair to continue playing his game.
Zhou Zui walked in at two with his customer. The customer was a regular. When he saw Xiao Ke, he asked, “When did you get here?”
The little girl said, “Even before me. He was already here before we even opened. I told him I would call you, but he said there was no need for that.”
Zhou Zui told the customer, “Wait for a moment, please.”
He gestured at Xiao Ke. The two of them walked through the little door and towards the art room. He asked Xiao Ke what kind of drawing he wanted.
Xiao Ke said, “Any as long as you drew it. Something a little gentler. That monkey was too fierce.”
Zhou Zui had him choose one himself. Xiao Ke’s attention was immediately caught by an oil painting. The colors in the painting were somewhat dull; the principle shade was grey. The image it captured was that of a lake with wild grass and shrubbery surrounding it. It was dilapidated and desolate.
“Is this okay?”
Zhou Zui took it off and handed it to him. “Take it.”
Xiao Ke left after he got his painting. The little girl said Zhou Zui might not even be able to finish this job by sundown, so there was no need for Xiao Ke to keep waiting.
On the way home, Xiao Ke kept mulling over what Lu Xiaobei had said. He had been so confident that Xiao Ke wouldn’t have a chance.
No chance? That was pretty insulting. Xiao Ke laughed. But if he really chickened out and admitted defeat, that wouldn’t be him anymore.
There’s this tattoo studio in Beijing that has lots of really cool tattoo artists who do tattoos in a more traditional Chinese style that I imagine Zhou Zui’s art would look like? Here’s their instagram if you want to check it out.
Currently very seriously considering how I can go to Beijing and get a tattoo from one of them ASAP LOL