Translated by Zellyfish of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Editors: kai and Kiramekineko
The porridge had gone cold, but Zhang Jue drank it anyway while Chen Boqiao sat there and said nothing.
When Zhang Jue put down the bowl, Chen Boqiao broke the silence, “I’ll get more.”
Zhang Jue looked at the empty bowl and had no appetite, so he shook his head and refused, “I can’t eat anymore.”
“One bowl is too little,” Chen Boqiao was suddenly very nice. He looked at Zhang Jue gently and picked up the bowl. “You’ve been asleep all day.”
However, Zhang Jue did not want to eat. After he refused the offer again, Chen Boqiao did not force him. He just told him “I’ll make more when you want to eat”, tidied up the table, and took everything to the kitchen to wash.
The sound of running water in the kitchen continued. From Zhang Jue’s perspective, he could see Chen Boqiao’s back and his elbows moving slightly. He didn’t expect Chen Boqiao to know how to wash the dishes. Then he thought about how Chen Boqiao had been in the army for so long that there was probably nothing he could not do.
Zhang Jue watched for a while and remembered that when he returned to the safe house yesterday he promised that he would not smoke in the future, but he was in a very bad mood, so he got up and rummaged in the house for a long time until he found cigarettes and matches from the bottom of the luggage bag. He went to the balcony.
When he walked onto the balcony, Chen Boqiao had just washed all the dishes and gotten out. Zhang Jue saw Chen Boqiao stop and look in his direction, but Chen Boqiao didn’t call him out, so he pretended not to see. He hurriedly opened the glass door to the balcony, and then gently closed it again.
The balcony of the safe house was small and simple. It was only painted with a layer of rough gray cement on the outside of the bricks. The height of the outer edge was a little above the waist of Zhang Jue. Standing and looking out from the balcony, one could see a large patch of Bangkok’s architecture.
Zhang Jue had checked the weather yesterday. It was supposed to be cloudy with some rain today. He stood on the balcony and stayed quiet for a few seconds. Sure enough, there was a very fine drizzle on his face.
The air was humid and sultry, and the blue-gray fog was mixed with rain, rolling over the scattered buildings and temples in the distance.
Zhang Jue lit the cigarette with a match, took a drag, and swished the match until it went out. He allowed the tar and nicotine to circulate into his lungs as he stared at the city in the rain absently.
He had slept for nine hours, but he did not sleep well. He kept dreaming about vague feelings he could not picture. He still felt tired after waking up. There were countless things in his head that flashed across, and those things eventually pointed to one person: Chen Boqiao.
They had a kiss when both of them were sober. He was in the rain and let out a puff of smoke, thinking slowly that he should be happy now.
After Zhang Jue had smoked a whole cigarette, he put out the cigarette butt on the limestone table on the balcony and lined it up beside the match that had just been burned. His brain was still hesitating about whether it was time to enter the house and stop smoking. But his hand was very loyal to his desire and flicked the lid of the cigarette case open with the tip of his thumb, and drew out another cigarette.
This time, Zhang Jue only took two puffs, because the door opened behind him and he jerked around reflexively. When he saw Chen Boqiao, he quickly put out the cigarette and hid it behind him.
Chen Boqiao placed his hands on the door frame, lowered his eyes to look at Zhang Jue expressionlessly for a while and said, “Didn’t you say you won’t smoke anymore?”
Zhang Jue kept quiet. The rain seemed to be getting a little heavier, and Zhang Jue felt that his hair and clothes were damp, but Chen Boqiao was blocking the way in, and Zhang Jue couldn’t go inside.
“Take it out,” Chen Boqiao commanded. “Open your palm.” He was giving a command, but his tone and expression were not strong, but rather calm.
Zhang Jue obeyed and raised his left hand and spread it out to Chen Boqiao, showing him a box of matches in his palm.
“Right hand,” Chen Boqiao said.
Zhang Jue opened out his right hand and a broken cigarette was lying in his palm.
“I’ll stop after I finish this pack.” Zhang Jue explained in vain.
Chen Boqiao took a step forward and walked onto the balcony. The originally narrow space became more packed. Zhang Jue gave way to the side, and Chen Boqiao stood very close to Zhang Jue. He looked down into Zhang Jue’s eyes and asked, “Did I worsen your mood?”
“I’m sorry,” he apologized naturally and so sincerely that it was as if there was no one more apologetic than him in the whole city of Bangkok.
When he did not get an answer, Chen Boqiao added, “I won’t do it next time.”
Zhang Jue placed the matches and cigarettes he was holding on the limestone table, and then said, “No, it has nothing to do with you.”
Chen Boqiao didn’t say anything, and he did not indicate whether he believed Zhang Jue.
He lowered his head and saw Zhang Jue’s remaining half of a pack of cigarettes on the limestone slab. He picked it up and weighed it in his hands, opened the box, and took one out. He imitated Zhang Jue and held it between his index and middle fingers. He asked without raising his head, “Is smoking that interesting?”
Zhang Jue wanted to take the cigarette between Chen Boqiao’s fingers because he knew Chen Boqiao actually hated this stuff, but it would be too strange, so he just shook his head and told Chen Boqiao, “It’s not very interesting.”
“Then why do you like it so much?” Chen Boqiao retorted, looking up at Zhang Jue.
Zhang Jue looked at Chen Boqiao’s hand, and said dully “I wouldn’t think so much if I had something to do.”
“Let me try then.” Chen Boqiao put the cigarette to his lips, and said to Zhang Jue, “Help me light it?”
Zhang Jue’s hand touched the matchbox and retracted again.
“Chen Boqiao,” Zhang Jue called him.
This might be the first time Zhang Jue did not follow Chen Boqiao’s instructions, but he didn’t want Chen Boqiao to regret anything, so he said persuasively, “If you don’t want to do something, don’t do it.”
Chen Boqiao contemplated Zhang Jue, and then returned the cigarette in his hand to Zhang Jue. Zhang Jue took it, and Chen Boqiao asked Zhang Jue to smoke it for him.
“You don’t even like the smell of cigarettes,” Zhang Jue said in a low voice, looking at the cigarette paper that had been dampened by the rain.
Chen Boqiao didn’t say a word as he lit a match, so Zhang Jue had no choice but to lean over for the flame. He lowered his head and took a drag, and he and Chen Boqiao were separated by a curl of smoke.
One was the tall, handsome, and brilliant Asian League officer, Major Chen; the other was Zhang Jue, who was in poor health and had bad habits.
Colonel Chen was a looming figure amidst the rain and smoke, and Zhang Jue seemed to have been emboldened by the nicotine in his body or the smoke obscuring their vision. He called Chen Boqiao’s name and Chen Boqiao patiently responded as usual. He raised his head, looked into Chen Boqiao’s eyes, and asked, “What kind of person do you like?”
Chen Boqiao did not evade Zhang Jue’s eyes. He thought about it and answered, “I haven’t thought about it yet.” Then he asked Zhang Jue, “What do you think?”
Zhang Jue would not know the answer to a question that even the person concerned couldn’t answer. However, Zhang Jue had imagined the kind of person that would receive blessings with Chen Boqiao on their wedding, so he vaguely said, “They’d probably be amazing. They’d be worthy of you if they chose to be with you.”
“Really?” Chen Boqiao smiled, and turned his head and looked into the distance. Zhang Jue followed his gaze and looked far away at the horizon formed by the gray building and the cloudy sky, as well as the rain clouds of different shades above them.
Chen Boqiao put his hand on the limestone slab on the balcony and teased Zhang Jue, saying, “You sure know a lot.”
The two were silent for a while and Chen Boqiao said again, “I really don’t know, I never had time to think about it.”
Zhang Jue turned to look at Chen Boqiao’s profile, letting half of the cigarette burn in his hand without taking a single drag. The real Chen Boqiao that was standing next to Zhang Jue was more perfect than all the photos of him that Zhang Jue had seen.
He was like a gentle wax figure without flaws.
Maybe it was because he felt that he would never have the opportunity to chat with Chen Boqiao so intimately in the future, or maybe just because he wanted to strike up a conversation with Chen Boqiao, Zhang Jue tried very hard to extend the conversation, “Why don’t you think of something now?”
Chen Boqiao glanced at Zhang Jue with a smile and asked jokingly, “What are you planning to do?” The expression in his eyes seemed to ask if Zhang Jue would try to become whatever he said he liked.
Zhang Jue immediately clarified, “That’s not what I mean.”
“Well,” Chen Boqiao mused as he took the cigarette away from Zhang Jue’s hand with a smile. “Zhang Jue, the cigarette is about to burn your hand.”
Zhang Jue’s face was a little hot, but he couldn’t remove his eyes from Chen Boqiao’s face. Since Chen Boqiao always seemed to be amused by Zhang Jue’s dumbfounded demeanor, he voiced back, “That’s not what I mean either.”
Zhang Jue did not know what to say, and Chen Boqiao asked him again, “Then what do you think are qualities of someone worthy of me? What is considered ‘being with me’?”
Zhang Jue looked at Chen Boqiao, thought for a few seconds, and announced, “They would be as perfect as you.”
Chen Boqiao chuckled again, nodded slightly, and asked Zhang Jue, “What else?”
Zhang Jue went on to say, “A smart and beautiful Omega.”
“You will like them very much.”
“Go on dates with them many times.”
He spoke intermittently, and there was no logic at all in the sentences. Chen Boqiao seemed curious, so Zhang Jue said whatever he thought of.
Zhang Jue found that he didn’t feel a lot of pain when he said these words. He felt that he couldn’t stop himself anymore, as if he was going to reveal to Chen Boqiao all the thoughts he had had before. He used to feel upset when he thought about it, but now that he was talking about it, he could only feel calm.
Of course, he wanted to be a person like that. He wanted to at least be considered eligible to participate in Chen Boqiao’s selection of a significant other. How could he not? He wanted it so fervently that he was going crazy, but there was no way, because he was just Zhang Jue.
“Zhang Jue.” Chen Boqiao shook his hand in front of Zhang Jue, and Zhang Jue realized that he had gotten distracted.
“You have higher expectations for me than my parents,” Chen Boqiao said. He got closer to Zhang Jue, leaned down slightly, and held Zhang Jue’s shoulder.
Zhang Jue’s shoulders sank. Seeing Chen Boqiao approaching, Zhang Jue closed his eyes. However, Chen Boqiao just touched their foreheads together lightly. But in the split second when Zhang Jue closed his eyes, he really thought that Chen Boqiao would kiss him.
Zhang Jue opened his eyes, and Chen Boqiao’s face moved back a little, but his hands were still on Zhang Jue’s shoulders.
“Come with me to see the Erawan Buddha tomorrow,” Chen Boqiao said. “There are a few days left before we board the boat, let’s take a tour of Bangkok.”