Translated by zellyfish of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
On the sixtieth day of the truce between the Asian League and North Mongolia, the New Independent Republic president announced his plan to gradually retreat the support troops from the Mongolian borders during a regular news conference. At the following North America Summit, the acting head of state of the Asian League was seen together with the NIR president, holding the first talks in years in the capitol in North America.
Ever since the NIR had extended humanitarian aid to North Mongolia nearly seven years ago, the Asian League had severed most diplomatic relations with the New Independent Republic, and now there were signs that the ice was thawing.
At first, political leaders and media outlets everywhere were not too surprised, since four years after the complete cut off of trade between the two countries, the New Independent Republic had started to retreat their ally troops and cut down on the aid, sending signals for peace to the Asian League.
Furthermore, two weeks ago there was an insider who had predicted the NIR’s plan to retreat troops and hold the summit.
What had really sparked the speculations was the rumor that had gotten out after the summit: a modern day diplomatic marriage was about to happen between these two states.
The New Independent Republic used to be the Asian League’s biggest dependent country overseas, and more than twenty years ago, the NIR had voted to gain independence. After a brief period of severed ties, they had returned to friendly diplomatic relations and maintained it henceforth. Following the last NIR president’s orders to provide aid to North Mongolia during his term, the relationship between the two countries had taken a turn for the worse again.
Several Asian League corporations, headed by Zhaohua Energy, had released emergency statements and moved business operations in the NIR to other neighboring countries.
The rumor claimed that the marriage would be between an heir of an Asian League plutocrat and a son of a high-ranking official in the New Independent Republic.
Some nosy onlookers had made a table of all unmarried Asian League corporate heirs, except that of Zhaohua Energy, matched with every child of established NIR officials, with a compatibility index noted at the side.
The people of the two countries made wild speculations based on the table, until trusted sources had revealed exclusive information that a Zhaohua business jet had successfully requested for the first direct flight route from Asian League to New Independent Republic in years on Wednesday, people turned their shocked gaze to the Ground Troops Colonel who was only halfway through his retirement process with the military, the heir of Zhaohua Corporation, Chen Boqiao.
Twenty-four hours later, a photo that had been published in the North American news last month brought the son of the NIR’s Foreign affairs minister, Zhang Jue, into the view of the people.
It was a photo of Chen Boqiao attending a charity banquet in North America.
In the photo were the family of the host and Chen Boqiao, as well as a delicately attractive young man.
The young man was wearing a black suit, and had fair skin and a comely appearance, with his hair draped over his shoulders, curling towards the end. He was a little shorter than Chen Boqiao, but of a much slimmer build.
Strictly speaking, the two’s standing positions were not indicative of any intimacy, but when the host of the banquet was interviewed, he said that Chen Boqiao and Zhang Jue had been schoolmates for many years and had an exceptional bond, and that it was Chen Boqiao who had asked Zhang Jue to take the picture with him.
After the interview with the Zhu family was publicized, some alumni of Roche in Chen Boqiao’s year had questioned the credibility of this claim, even posting the graduation photo on social media. In the photo, Chen Boqiao was right in the middle while Zhang Jue was off at the far side, with a long distance between the two. It was unclear if they were close.
As the debate escalated, Zhaohua Energy had announced that it was, in fact, Zhang Jue that Chen Boqiao would be marrying.
The confirmation had been sudden and commentators declared that the photo and Chen Boqiao’s invitation to Zhang Jue was the first signal of thawing relations between the Asian League and New Independent Republic. And this mysterious political marriage was the NIR acting head of state’s way of offering to reconcile.
Many Asian League citizens were indignant at Chen Boqiao sacrificing himself for a marriage for the diplomatic relations of the League, while his intentions in agreeing to such a marriage sparked much debate.
Some speculated that this was Chen Boqiao’s way of compromising with the government to let him retire from the military in a fuss free way, or perhaps a show of good faith. But there are also those who believe that Chen Boqiao was someone who was using any method to get a leg up in his future political career.
Whatever reason it may be, the name of Zhang Jue was on every nation’s news overnight.
Everyone discussed and speculated about why Zhang Jue was chosen, researching his family history and past, and came to a unified conclusion: this son of a minister was as uncomplicated as a sheet of paper.
Though within the NIR, some people privately expressed confusion that no media outlet in the NIR or in the Asian League had ever looked into the failed engagement in Zhang Jue’s past, but these people chose not to keep quiet unanimously.
Amongst all the fanfare, on the bright sunny morning of the seventeenth of March, a jet with the Zhaohua logo had taken off from the Asian League capital airport.
Yu An was the reporter from AL international news department who would be following Chen Boqiao as he went to the New Independent Republic to settle some wedding details.
When he was notified by his editor, he almost thought he was dreaming. This was the opportunity of a lifetime that every young reporter in the Asian League was vying for. Yu An had done his preparation for this trip, but the more he researched into the matter, the less he understood why Chen Boqiao would choose Zhang Jue as his marriage candidate.
Before Chen Zhaoyan had passed, Chen Boqiao had very occasionally been seen with suitable Omegas in public on what appeared to be blind dates, but nothing followed after them.
In Yu An’s eyes, Chen Boqiao was not someone who would agree to a marriage as a condition to retire from the military.
On the morning of the seventeenth, Yu An and the photographer arrived at the departure terminal of the capital airport.
The terminal was not big, and after they had passed the security and check in, Chen Boqiao’s assistant was waiting on the other side to bring them into the Zhaohua Energy reserved Lounge.
This was the first time Yu An had seen Chen Boqiao in person.
Chen Boqiao was on a sofa that was near the lounge’s TV screen, in a well tailored suit. When he saw Yu An come in, he nodded with a smile.
Yu An looked at him and resisted the urge to share a glance with his photographer.
After long hours of flying, they finally landed in the New Independent Republic airport and went straight to the hotel they planned to stay at.
The NIR finance minister had come to personally welcome Chen Boqiao, and made the whole affair seem like a diplomatic meeting.
For some reason, Zhang Jue was in a soft-looking turtleneck sweater, his hair loosely draped behind his neck, sitting quietly beside his parents.
He did not speak much the entire time, listening to Chen Boqiao handle the conversations with ease, settling the details about the wedding and the administrative details on the Omega’s documentation.
Finally, Zhang Fu suggested that they take a short break.
Zhang Jue looked fatigued and leaned close to Zhang Fu to say something. Zhang Fu nodded and Zhang Jue stood up to walk outside.
Yu An was at the side organizing his notes, when he noticed Chen Boqiao’s eyes following the movement of the door. A few seconds later, Chen Boqiao had stood up as well, walking out as he buttoned the second button on his lapel.
“They’re both outside now,” The photographer whispered to Yu An, “Did Colonel Chen go to warn him?”
The photographer was a Beta who loved gossip, and he had his own theories about the nature of the marriage. He lowered his voice to avoid detection, but did a decent imitation, “I’m marrying you, but it doesn’t mean I love you. This is just a temporary step so I can get what I want.”
“I’m going out to take a breather,” Yu An put his notes down and told the photographer, who winked at him knowingly.
Yu An pushed open the door of the meeting room and ambled along the corridor. He tried to guess where the two would be and went near the marble spiral staircase between the main buildings of the hotel.
Zhang Jue and Chen Boqiao were there, speaking face to face with some distance between them, and it looked just like what the photo of the banquet had suggested—they did not look like they had known each other for very long.
Yu An couldn’t help but recall the photographer’s theory and wondered if he should be staying there if they were about to say something private.
Before he could make up his mind, he saw Zhang Jue slowly and hesitantly lean towards Chen Boqiao, who raised his arm slightly.
For a brief second, Yu An thought Chen Boqiao was going to push Zhang Jue away.
But Chen Boqiao just pulled Zhang Jue towards him and asked if he had missed him.
In the sparkling sun of an early spring, between the shadows of the large metal bars on the floor length windows, the man leaned down and captured Zhang Jue’s lips with his.
Chen Boqiao was not urgent in his kiss, but his hand had a tight grip on Zhang Jue’s waist, pressing Zhang Jue against himself, not letting Zhang Jue back away.
Yu An realized that he had seen something he was not supposed to see, and as he wanted to leave, Chen Boqiao suddenly looked up and his gaze pierced through Yu An from across the room, his face expressionless. The arm he’d placed on Zhang Jue’s back shifted, and Yu An could see the scar between his thumb and index finger, and the small crease on Zhang Jue’s sweater.
When Chen Boqiao moved, Zhang Jue opened his eyes to look at Chen Boqiao trustingly, his jaw and neck a beautiful smooth line, and his lips parted to ask Chen Boqiao what the matter was.
Chen Boqiao neither replied, nor looked at Yu An again. He pressed his lips against Zhang Jue’s again and kissed him without any regard, like any regular couple.