Translated by zellyfish of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
The doctors had suggested Zhang Jue only be discharged once his status was completely stable, so he stayed in the hospital for another few weeks.
During that time, most nights his mother would stay in the other bedroom of the special care ward room he was in, and his father would come to visit him whenever he wasn’t away on business.
Chen Boqiao’s call schedule also settled into a regular one as Zhang Jue slowly recovered and spent more time awake. It was usually at nine P.M., and was sometimes a long chat, but others were just short updates—but it happened every day.
Chen Boqiao told Zhang Jue about his planned retirement from the military due to his familial circumstances two days before any media caught wind of it.
Compared to the strong reaction from the Asian League citizens and the news outlets, Chen Boqiao seemed very calm.
He told Zhang Jue that he had already applied for his retirement from the army and would be taking care of some important matters in his father’s corporation, and that once everything settled down, he might participate in the election. As Chen Boqiao’s circumstances were unique, he did not need to return to the military, but due to his status of colonel, his retirement application would take up to half a year. His overseas travels during that time still needed to be reported to his superiors, so he would not be meeting Zhang Jue easily.
Zhang Jue found it reasonable and did not have any opinions.
The night of his discharge, as the doctor who was helping Zhang Jue change the medicine went out of the door, the phone placed on the bed started vibrating.
Even though he’d had some painkillers, the back of Zhang Jue’s neck still felt a stinging sensation, and the tightness of the skin under the medical bandages felt uncomfortable. He was sitting cross-legged on the bed and was going to pick up the call, but as his finger almost tapped on the pick-up button, he that Chen Boqiao had started a video call.
Zhang Jue panicked and did not know what to do.
He wanted to see Chen Boqiao, but did not want him to see him in his miserable state, so he hesitantly held the phone, unsure of what to do. Before he could come to a decision, he had accidentally pressed on the button for hanging up, and stopped Chen Boqiao’s call.
Before he could dial back, Chen Boqiao had called again, this time a normal voice call.
Zhang Jue picked up and the first thing Chen Boqiao said was, “You’re hanging up my calls now?”
“No, it was an accident,” Zhang Jue tried to explain.
“Is that so?” Chen Boqiao told him neutrally, “I almost thought it was because you didn’t want me to see you.”
Before Zhang Jue could speak, Chen Boqiao asked, “I thought yesterday you said you were getting your bandages removed, I’m still not allowed to see it?”
“It was only the outer layer around the neck that was removed,” Zhang Jue said, and could not help but gingerly raise his hand to touch the thick layer of gauze over the back of his neck. “There’s still gauze on it,” He told Chen Boqiao. “You’d be able to see it from the front,”
More than ten years ago, he’d had the alpha glands implanted via an incision in his scalp, and there was no obvious scar. However, this time, in order to prevent any damage to the omega glands near it, the surgeons had to remove the alpha glands from the site itself. The doctors had tactfully warned Zhang Jue that the surgery could leave a scar, and so if Zhang Jue needed it, they could recommend cosmetic surgeons for the scar removal.
Zhang Jue had never cared about things like this before, but this time he had kept the contact information of the cosmetic surgeon.
Chen Boqiao sensed his reluctance and did not push Zhang Jue. He changed the topic and asked Zhang Jue to send over his health report before his discharge so the medical professional who had worked on the τ-differentiation agent project that he had gotten his secretary to contact could take a look and make sure everything was going well.
Zhang Jue had just agreed when the door was opened by his mother.
His mother was holding a thermometer, and seeing Zhang Jue on the call, she asked, “Is it Jiaxi?”
Zhang Jue neither confirmed nor denied that, so his mother had automatically assumed it was Ai Jiaxi. She sat down by Zhang Jue’s bed and said, “I’m just gonna take your temperature, you can just continue with your call,” as she placed the thermometer against Zhang Jue’s forehead and pressed the button.
Since the afternoon, Zhang Jue had developed a low fever. The doctor said that it was a normal symptom of the changing pheromones so they did not need to worry.
However, Zhang Jue’s mother was not completely assured and walked in with the thermometer every now and then to monitor his temperature.
The thermometer lit up and it read 37.9 degrees. Zhang Jue’s mother sighed in worry, “The fever isn’t going down,” and as she placed the back of her hand on his forehead, “Your face feels hot too.”
Zhang Jue quietly looked at his mother and said honestly, “The face is because the heating is too high in the room,”
“It’s not that high,” his mother said.
“I thought Jiaxi had just come over in the day, you guys are still calling now?” She looked at Zhang Jue’s hand that was holding the phone, closed the thermometer and nagged at him, “Sleep early.” She dimmed the bedside lamp and left.
After the door was closed, Chen Boqiao was quiet for a few seconds and then asked Zhang Jue, “You’re having a fever?”
“It’s just a low fever,” Zhang Jue informed him. “The doctor said it’s because of the pheromones, and it should be gone in the next two days.”
“A low fever is still a fever,” Chen Boqiao slowly pointed out.
Zhang Jue lay on his bed wordlessly, and did not argue with him.
He looked at his bony hand and the section of his forearm that was exposed from the hospital gown. He turned off all the lights in the room. Zhang Jue was lanky to begin with, and he became even more thin after the surgery. He dared not look at himself in the mirror when he took his shower, and he could tell that he lacked appeal just with the accidental glance in the mirror. After he turned off the lights, he went back into his bed and curled up on his side. He positioned the phone next to his ear as he stared out the window.
He thought with some relief, at least Chen Boqiao could not see him now.
Sometimes he felt that the time he and Chen Boqiao spent together in the Thai Independent State was just yesterday, but sometimes it felt like a dream.
As Zhang Jue closed his eyes to prepare for the anaesthetics for the surgery, the last thing he thought about was the sex they’d had in the safehouse on a certain day.
The sun had slipped through the slit in the curtains, revealing all the dust and particles floating in the air. Nearing dusk, the sun was no longer so bright. It was more like a velvety shine, like the whimsical flares one might see in a sweet dream.
They’d been making love on the third floor, but the glass window had terrible sound insulation. They’d heard the bicycles and pedestrians on the street, the nearby residents laughing and chatting in Thai, as well as the clear sound of bells on the bicycles and mopeds.
Chen Boqiao’s sweat slicked skin had been against Zhang Jue, and he could smell the pine and sea salt, the room incense, and the smell of himself. It had been sex with a nostalgic tinge, filled with abandon.
Unlike the bustling streets of the Thai Independent State, the place Zhang Jue was born in was much more modern. From the 21st floor of the hospital ward, he could see the night view of the southern half of the capital city, the constant flow of traffic, and the myriad of lights from homes and office buildings
In order not to miss out on anything Chen Boqiao said, Zhang Jue closed his eyes and quietly listened.
Chen Boqiao heard someone call his name so he excused himself to softly tell them something, then came back and said Zhang Jue’s name.
Zhang Jue replied with a soft nasal noise, and asked him what was happening.
Chen Boqiao suddenly paused. After a short while, he said, “Next week…” Another pause, then he continued, “Next week I’ll be going to Zhaohua’s North American branch. I’ll be staying for four days, but I can’t come to the New Independent Republic, since Zhaohua’s NIR businesses have all gone to North America.”
Zhang Jue’s eyes flew open, and he felt a stinging sensation on his neck at the sudden movement. He stopped himself from wincing and grabbed the railings on his bed. The only thing he could think about was that Chen Boqiao was going to be in North America.
“I—” He wanted to say that he could go to North America quickly to meet him, but then he remembered the various restrictions his parents had implemented on him recently. He hesitated as he told Chen Boqiao, “Next week I’m still staying with my parents, they probably won’t let me go.”
“I’m not asking you to come,” Chen Boqiao sounded pleasantly exasperated, his tone almost telling Zhang Jue that he was overthinking things. “You just had surgery, so don’t run around,” he said. I’m telling you my itinerary so you know where I am.”
Zhang Jue was dumbfounded, and he said blankly, “Oh, I see.”
He heard Chen Boqiao clear his throat, and in a softer voice than usual, he asked, “Zhang Jue, do you miss me?”
Even though they couldn’t see each other’s face, Zhang Jue still felt embarrassed. He pursed his lips and replied, “Yes.”
“Is that so,”Chen Boqiao said, a smile in his voice.
Zhang Jue started to feel that the heating in his room was too high, and he sat up again, clutching the phone in his hand. He lowered his eyes, and almost imperceptibly made an affirmative noise, before saying, “I wish I could see you now.”
Zhang Jue was not good with words, and he didn’t have anything sweet and romantic to say. Yet, he still wanted Chen Boqiao to know.
Chen Boqiao chuckled, it was light, but Zhang Jue heard him.
“It’s just one month,” Chen Boqiao said. “I thought I told you to wait for me.”
Chen Boqiao’s voice was low and gentle, and even someone like Zhang Jue who wanted to stop fantasizing about him, was hopelessly in love again.
Zhang Jue told him, “Sorry.” Then he remembered that he had recently found out that Chen Boqiao did not like it when he apologised, but he could not rescind his words now.
“It’s fine.” Chen Boqiao didn’t bring the apology up, but simply said, “I miss you too.”