Translated by zellyfish of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Chen Boqiao’s cologne had covered the scent of his pheromones completely.
After the handshake with Zhang Jue, Chen Boqiao casually introduced Zhang Jue to Ms. Zhu, maintaining a distance from her. “This is Zhang Jue.”
Ms. Zhu looked confused, but did not ask anything, and simply smiled and nodded at him.
“……Boqiao.” Zhu Hongru came over with Mrs. Zhu from a distance away, and asked enthusiastically, “Reminiscing with an old classmate?” After he got closer, he said, “This afternoon I was just asking Jue, how was your relationship back in school.”
Zhang Jue felt Chen Boqiao’s eyes on him, and he carefully made eye contact with him.
Chen Boqiao’s eyes had a smile in them, as he casually asked Zhang Jue, “Is that so? What did you say?”
Zhang Jue remembered how his mother had said that they were “not too close”, and did not know how to answer, so he stared at Chen Boqiao. “I…” He hesitated, and did not continue.
Chen Boqiao did not continue asking. He gazed at him for a few seconds, as if he was lost in thought. When he figured out what he wanted to say, he was interrupted by Zhu Hongru.
“Oh, Jue is too shy.” Zhu Hongru did not let Zhang Jue feel awkward, and smoothly joined the conversation. “He just said you were schoolmates, and he wouldn’t tell us anything more!”
Just then, a reporter walked over and politely asked to take a picture of Chen Boqiao and Zhu Hongru for the news report.
Chen Boqiao agreed easily, but he suddenly looked towards Zhang Jue. “Why don’t we take it together? Schoolmate?”
Zhu Hongru was a little surprised, but immediately got his family and Zhang Jue to stand on either side of Chen Boqiao as he laughed heartily, “How about like this?”
The reporter gave way to the photographer, who was holding the camera. The photographer tried to take some pictures, then gestured at his assistant in the distance.
“The lighting isn’t strong enough.” The photographer explained, “We’re getting a reflector now.”
As the procurement and adjustment of the reflector needed some time, Mr. and Mrs. Zhu started chatting with Chen Boqiao.
Zhang Jue stood beside Chen Boqiao, feeling very nervous. As a foreign diplomat, his father was not supposed to be seen taking pictures with Chen Boqiao in the current circumstances, so he simply watched over Zhang Jue with his mother a few paces away. The colorful fairy lights shone and sparkled on the grass. Zhang Jue could not make out his parent’s expressions, and had looked down to rest his eyes for a bit, when he felt a touch on the back of his hand.
He shifted his gaze and looked to his side, and once again, Chen Boqiao’s hand “accidentally” brushed against his.
Zhang Jue looked away, biting his lips, his face feeling hot all of a sudden.
After the assistant had finished moving the reflector about, he looked at them and then briefly spoke to the photographer before walking towards them. “Mister, your hair…” he began, reaching out his hand to touch Zhang Jue’s hair.
Zhang Jue was about to move away when suddenly, Chen Boqiao, who was speaking to Mr Zhu, raised his hand to block the assistant’s move. Zhang Jue turned to him. There was no particular emotion on Chen Boqiao’s face as he firmly grasped the person’s arm, quickly letting it go after.
He told the assistant, “No need.”
“We’ll take it like this.” Chen Boqiao smiled gently at the person. “Thank you.”
The assistant looked startled, and returned back to the photographer’s side after quickly apologizing to Zhang Jue.
The atmosphere felt strange after that, but it quickly dissipated.
Soon, the photographer was done with the pictures, and as the charity auction was about to start, Zhang Jue walked back to where his parents were.
Mrs. Zhu was a very sociable person, and the attending guests were all elites from the various sectors. As such, the items up for auction were valuable to begin with.
Chen Boqiao had donated a set of antique ceramics from the Sevres province that had been bid for enthusiastically by the guests. It fetched the highest price out of all of the items, more than two-fold of the final price of the second place item.
Zhang Jue did feel tempted to bid, but he felt embarrassed since Chen Boqiao was there, so he nipped that thought in the bud.
In the end, a North American businessman got to bring the porcelain home. Mrs. Zhu joked that Chen Boqiao should make a speech, and he did not fight it, chuckling as he went up to the podium. He received a slip of paper with the businessman’s name on it, and thanked him for his contributions to saving endangered animals. He left the stage to thundering applause.
Zhang Jue watched from a distance, as he usually did.
The North American capital and the New Independent Republic were in different timezones, and Zhang Jue had been easily fatigued since the surgery. After Chen Boqiao’s donation had been auctioned off, he felt sleepy.
After sitting still for a while, he couldn’t help but yawn. His mother noticed and asked, “Do you want to go back to rest first?”
Zhang Jue nodded dizzily.
His father placed a hand on his mother and said, “I’ll go with him.” He explained the situation to Zhu Hongru, and then left the venue with Zhang Jue in tow. The two wordlessly entered the hotel.
After accompanying Zhang Jue back to his room, his father did not leave immediately. He closed the door behind him, and motioned for Zhang Jue to sit down.
Zhang Jue sat on the sofa by the window. His father sat down by the coffee table, quietly looking at him.
“Zhang Jue.” His father’s expression looked strained, and he said seriously, “We need to talk.”
Zhang Jue was tired and didn’t understand. “Talk about what?”
“Chen Boqiao,” His father said.
Zhang Jue’s sleepiness instantly vanished. He nervously looked at his father, waiting for his next words.
After a while, his father asked, “Did you remove your alpha glands for him?”
There was no anger in his father’s words, as if he just wanted an answer from Zhang Jue.
They made eye contact, and Zhang Jue admitted, “Yes.”
He knew that even if he denied it, his father would not argue with him, but he did not want to lie anymore.
“Does he know?”
Zhang Jue thought about it, “Probably, but we never discussed it.”
After the confession, both father and son seemed more relaxed. They silently sat across from each other, not knowing what to say.
His father contemplated it for a while, and removed his glasses to place them on the coffee table. He breathed quietly as he watched the spectacularly luxurious scene on the lawn from the window.
They did not watch for long, but Zhang Jue felt like it lasted an eternity.
After what he felt like must have been a century, his father spoke, pulling him from his dazed and guilt-ridden state. He said, “I think… forget him.”
Zhang Jue felt startled, and he heard his father ask, “Must it be him? How about someone else?”
Zhang Jue raised his head to look at his father, and he wanted to explain that Chen Boqiao was good to him; neither dashing his every hope, nor as out of his league as everyone thought.
He was raised on trust-fund money, love, and freedom. He did not have much ambition, and lived in a carefree way. The only thing he had wanted and actively pursued for himself was Chen Boqiao.
Even though he would probably not end up getting a clear response or any promises, he didn’t really mind.
But his parents cared about it, and they could not accept that.
“I just thought, ” Zhang Jue started slowly and quietly. “Maybe……”
“…It’s not very realistic,” His father gently interrupted him.
Zhang Jue stared into his father’s eyes, and for a moment he could not understand. He slowly blinked.
“You with Chen Boqiao, is it possible?” his father asked calmly, as if discussing a diplomatic issue.
Zhang Jue felt himself choking up, his healing wound throbbing in pain, like a tiny heart beating along the stitches and his scarring tissue, wanting to burst free.
Perhaps because his father thought Zhang Jue looked too pitiful, he did not continue. After a few minutes, he stood up. “I’m going back to the venue for your mother, rest well.”
He left, closing the door for Zhang Jue.
Zhang Jue sat absently for a while, and his phone buzzed again. He checked it and found two messages from Chen Boqiao. One was “Are you tired?”, the other was asking where his room was.
He stared at them and chose not to reply, placing his phone to the side as he went to shower.
Zhang Jue put his clothing into the laundry basket, and for the first time in a long while, he scrutinized his bare upper body in the mirror.
He ran his fingers across his cheeks, collar bones, and his ribcage. He put the waterproof bandaid on his wound and then let his hair down, before walking into the shower cubicle and closing the door behind him.
Warm water gushed out from the round shower head overhead, like a tropical afternoon rainstorm; soaking his hair and wetting his skin, while flowing across his body.
He thoroughly cleaned himself and finally came out of the shower, drying his hair after putting on a bathrobe.
The phone screen was lit. There was a missed call from Chen Boqiao.
Zhang Jue was going to call him back, but Chen Boqiao was faster to call him again. He picked up this time.
“I was just showering.” Zhang Jue asked him, “What’s wrong?”
Chen Boqiao didn’t speak.
Zhang Jue waited for a few seconds. He was about to ask Chen Boqiao again, when the doorbell rang.
Chen Boqiao finally said, “Open the door.”