Translated by Zellyfish of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
At six in the morning, they set off from the safe house to Laem Chabang Port.
Chen Boqiao took the initiative to carry the suitcase and went downstairs with Zhang Jue.
When he reached the entrance of the safehouse, Zhang Jue took a glance back.
Chen Boqiao was standing half a flight of stairs above and walking down while carrying a large suitcase by the handle at its side casually as if it was a briefcase. Zhang Jue gave him an unkempt disguise, with a big beard and a shirt and trousers that could cover the scars all over his body. He wore an electronic watch on his wrist and he seemed to blend in with the overall vibe of the cabin of the cruise. Seeing Zhang Jue turn back, he naturally smiled at Zhang Jue.
Zhang Jue was still motionless when he got down, so he walked to the car first and opened the rear door.
The sky above the small house and brick buildings were still swatches of gray to the west, but there were yellows and oranges slowly rising in the east, like a few strokes of acrylic painted over Chinese ink.
Standing under the bright colors, Chen Boqiao’s figure was tall, with wide shoulders and long legs. He bent over and placed the suitcase in the back seat. With a push of his hand, he closed the door cleanly, and called Zhang Jue over. “Stop spacing out, come here.” Then he sat in the passenger seat.
Zhang Jue walked over slowly, got in the car, fastened his seat belt, and shifted the gear.
During the first half an hour, they were both listening to the morning news, and there was almost no conversation between them.
The cool breeze snuck through in between the narrow gaps of the windows, and there was the refreshing smell of Bangkok in the car. They drove southeast along the narrow road into the morning light and tropical atmosphere.
They’ve stayed in Bangkok for eight long and eventful days since the freighter was infiltrated. So much has happened that they feel like they had been together for eight years, and yet, the time flew by like it was eight minutes. Zhang Jue had yet to form the muscle memory of the best way to hold hands with Chen Boqiao, but his head was like a hidden camera, and Chen Boqiao was clearly photographed in every frame.
When he said “Let’s try”, when he held the Erawan Buddha offerings purchased by Zhang Jue, when he stood in front of the wall of plushies with great interest, and when he had sex in the bathroom while holding Zhang Jue. The young, handsome and easygoing man who sat in the driver’s seat in the evening breeze because Zhang Jue was too nervous to drive.
The sky gradually turned brighter, and the morning news was about to come to an end.
“The weather in Bangkok will continue to be sunny to overcast. A magnitude 13 typhoon landed on the Main Island and turned to the north of the Asian continent. The TIS has managed to be spared. Chen Boqiao of the Asian League has yet to be arrested and brought to justice. Thanks for tuning in. Goodbye.”
After the ending music of the show, they turned onto a larger highway. Along the long road that followed, there was something that made Zhang Jue feel more embarrassed.
Almost all the billboards along the road were advertisements for the hospital where Zhang Jue had been treated. The name of the hospital was the same as before, but now with the prefix of a certain corporation of the Asian Leagues.
When Zhang Jue was familiarising himself with the route the day before yesterday, he took a drive around the area to find the best route. The billboards advertising this hospital were also lining both sides of other roads.
But the embarrassment was only reserved to Zhang Jue. Even if Chen Boqiao asked, he probably wouldn’t probe him seriously. After all, he was very polite and not too curious.
Zhang Jue drove forward in silence. Chen Boqiao first adjusted his seat and leaned back to rest. After a while, Chen Boqiao suddenly sat up a little and seemed to start to scrutinize the billboards outside. Zhang Jue noticed, and began to feel uneasy.
When driving onto a bridge, Chen Boqiao suddenly said, “The hospital on the billboards sounds very familiar.” Zhang Jue didn’t know what to reply, and Chen Boqiao asked, “Have you been there before?”
Zhang Jue’s heart skipped a beat, but he maintained a calm demeanor, “Yeah.”
“What does this hospital do?” Chen Boqiao lay down again, and his voice rang from slightly behind Zhang Jue.
Chen Boqiao’s tone made Zhang Jue feel that he had just seen the advertisement and was making small talk. Zhang Jue relaxed a little and simply said, “It’s a psychiatry hospital, mainly focusing on patented physical therapy.”
Chen Boqiao paused for two seconds, commenting, “The concept is very new.” He read the words on the billboard out loud “Forget your trauma and return to your life”. Then he smiled and called Zhang Jue’s name, “Zhang Jue?”
Chen Boqiao asked, “What trauma have you forgotten?” Chen Boqiao said it with a smile, as if he was just asking a question as a joke. His tone was gentle, which made Zhang Jue feel safe and let his guard down.
“It’s just about the surgery,” Zhang Jue gripped the steering wheel tightly and looked forward. “Gland surgery.”
Chen Boqiao gave a “Hm” and said calmly, “It’s probably better to forget these things.” Then suddenly he asked, “But it’s useless?”
“Yes,” Zhang Jue remembered that he had said that to Ai Jiaxi, and Chen Boqiao most likely also remembered it. He admitted, “It’s useless.”
“Oh.” Chen Boqiao paused and asked, “How many times did you do it?”
Zhang Jue turned around according to the navigation’s instructions and quickly estimated the number of times that would be a normal amount for him to say. He then told Chen Boqiao, “One course of treatment in half a year, seven times per course.”
Zhang Jue heard the sound of the seat shifting again. Chen Boqiao straightened the back of the chair and sat side by side with him. Zhang Jue could see him in the corner of his eye. Although the car he drove was spacious, the distance between the seats was not that far.
Chen Boqiao turned his head and stared at Zhang Jue. He reached out and touched the back of Zhang Jue’s hand which was holding the gear lever, and pinched Zhang Jue’s wrist.
“Seven times in half a year, aren’t you tired?” Chen Boqiao said.
Chen Boqiao’s hands were not delicate, and the calluses from holding a gun rubbed against Zhang Jue’s skin. He didn’t use any force and rubbed it very lightly.
Zhang Jue’s voice became smaller, and he said quietly and quickly, “It’s not that bad, I’m fine.”
Chen Boqiao still clasped his wrist in his hand, touching his fingertips. Zhang Jue released the gear lever and let Chen Boqiao hold his hand.
The sky was completely bright now, just like the day they drove from the small town to Bangkok. The sun was high and the wind was warm. Chen Boqiao closed the window and turned on the air conditioner.
He didn’t ask Zhang Jue if it hurt like Ai Jiaxi did before he started the next topic, which made Zhang Jue feel a little more relaxed. Chen Boqiao said that the opening of the gene lock would be complicated. After talking about some procedural details, Zhang Jue heard half of it and missed half of it. Finally, he heard what Chen Boqiao said at the end. Chen Boqiao said, “I may not be able to help you open it for a bit, but I will do it as soon as possible.”
Chen Boqiao’s words were sometimes too implicit, and needed to be contemplated before one understood, but Zhang Jue understood immediately this time.
Zhang Jue felt that the sun after sunrise was too dazzling, and the road to Laem Chabang Port was too far, so he asked Chen Boqiao to pass him the sunglasses.
Chen Boqiao looked at him from the side and said, “They’re a bit big for you.” After that, he pinched the sunglasses with his fingertips and helped Zhang Jue push them up. Chen Boqiao’s fingers brushed against Zhang Jue’s cheeks, and the warmth lingered on Zhang Jue’s chin and lip.
Zhang Jue felt that Chen Boqiao was touching him like he was an obedient cat, but also that it might be something more than that.
Chen Boqiao withdrew his hand shortly afterward, and he said to Zhang Jue, “After boarding the ship, I will tell you the plan.”
Zhang Jue nodded and drove forward wordlessly. Bidding farewell to Bangkok was like saying goodbye to Chen Boqiao. The rational side of him knows that it will happen sooner or later, but the emotional side was still disgracefully clinging on.
The port was getting closer and he could hear the sound of the ship’s whistle. He drove into the parking lot and got out of the car with Chen Boqiao.
Before entering the boarding hall, Chen Boqiao put his suitcase on the ground, grabbed his hand, took off his sunglasses, and kissed him. Chen Boqiao clasped Zhang Jue’s chin, so even if Zhang Jue wanted to avoid him, he couldn’t.
The kiss lasted a long time, and it felt like Chen Boqiao was pacifying him. Chen Boqiao moved away from him, as if he wanted to say something. This was the first time Zhang Jue saw Chen Boqiao hesitating.
After a few seconds, Chen Boqiao said to Zhang Jue, “Don’t be upset.”
Zhang Jue nodded, and Chen Boqiao stopped saying anything else, lifted the suitcase again, and walked into the hall with him.