Translated by zellyfish of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
The next day, Zhang Jue’s parents accompanied them to the airport. After they got out of the car at the terminal, his father shook hands with Chen Boqiao and left with his mother.
Before the plane touched down, Chen Boqiao had a phone call with his assistant who was waiting at the airport. The situation in the arrival terminal was not good—the exit from the VIP vehicle lane was surrounded by reporters and photographers, so there would likely be a jam when they tried to leave.
Zhang Jue did not understand fully when he watched Chen Boqiao give instructions through the phone. Only when they alighted from the plane and were driving out in their car did he finally realize how much the media in the Asian League loved Chen Boqiao.
Outside the tinted glass of the vehicle, a mob of reporters gathered, trying to peek at their position in the car so as to gather some ‘evidence’ on the relationship between Chen Boqiao and his fiance.
Once they got out from the exit and onto the highway, the road cleared.
The capital of the Asian League had lower latitude than the NIR, and higher temperatures all year round. On that day, it was overcast.
The car drove for two hours, all the way from the airport to Chen Boqiao’s mansion.
“My father used to stay here,” Chen Boqiao told Zhang Jue. “I seldom went home during my service in the military, and I didn’t have my own place. My stepmother moved out a while ago, so I live here now. If you think it’s too big, we can change to somewhere else.”
Zhang Jue told him it was fine, and Chen Boqiao chuckled. He said that he didn’t like having too many people in his house, so he had gotten some of the house staff to go to another residence, and that Zhang Jue should call him if he gets lost inside.
Zhang Jue didn’t take it seriously at first.
He went to his room and took a nap after washing up to adjust to jet lag, while Chen Boqiao went to a meeting he had to attend. After he woke up, Zhang Jue walked out and got distracted by the paintings on the walls, and after a while he actually got lost. He could not find another soul even after searching, so he could only call Chen Boqiao, embarrassed.
Chen Boqiao picked it up and laughed at him, then told Zhang Jue that he was sending someone to look for him.
Before long, Zhang Jue got a call from the butler. He asked Zhang Jue for his location and came to guide him. Zhang Jue stood by the wall and watched the butler rush over, and suddenly wondered why Chen Boqiao did not give him the butler’s number to begin with.
After a while, Chen Boqiao returned home. He brought Zhang Jue around to familiarize him with the surroundings after dinner, then the two went back to their room.
As Zhang Jue’s health got better, the wedding date was finally set for the end of April.
He had picked out the wedding guest list together with Chen Boqiao and added on some of the guests his parents had told him he needed to invite. They spent an afternoon handwriting the invitations.
Chen Boqiao glanced at his watch when his assistant took the invitations out to be delivered. He asked if Zhang Jue would like to go out somewhere with him.
Zhang Jue agreed, so Chen Boqiao brought him to the garage and picked a vintage convertible that had been part of Chen Zhaoyan’s collection.
The antique vehicle was a foggy blue. Its paint was still glossy, the engine was not too loud. They drove out from Chen Boqiao’s house, past the rolling pastures and wild flowers blooming in early spring, and out onto the main road.
It was six o’clock in the evening, and the sky was a purplish-pink. They drove along a high wall, swiftly through the shadows of trees, through the remnants of the sunset. A dim crescent moon was half hidden in the clouds. The radio in the car started with music, but transitioned into tabloid news.
The radio host with a sweet voice announced, “I’m sure we are all very interested in today’s topic: ever since Zhaohua Energy had announced Colonel Chen’s upcoming wedding, we’ve all been speculating on what his partner would be like. Now, our segment will release an exclusive scoop. The only son of the NIR minister of foreign affairs—”
Zhang Jue was rather curious about the “exclusive scoop” the radio station claimed to have, but before he could hear his own name, Chen Boqiao raised a hand to switch the audio output to play music from the CD player.
There wasn’t a disc in the player, and the car became silent.
Chen Boqiao did not say a word. Zhang Jue found it amusing. He looked at Chen Boqiao, who looked as if he did not have a care in the world, with his hands on the steering wheel, and asked, “You don’t like the news?”
Chen Boqiao glanced at him quickly, “It’s too noisy.”
They continued driving forward, across the wide bridge over the ocean. The light dancing off the glistening surface of the sea was dazzling between the shadows of the suspension cables and the metal rails.
Chen Boqiao stopped at the entrance of an old neighborhood, and pointed to the antique shop on the corner of the street, “Help me get a vinyl record?”
Zhang Jue obediently got out and went into the shop.
The antique store had a wall displaying old vinyl records. Zhang Jue saw that some were singers who were very popular when he was a student, and he perused them and picked a few.
When he was preparing to pay, his phone started buzzing. It was a call from Harrison.
Zhang Jue put the records back down on the wooden shelves and answered his phone.
“I just got the invitation,” Harrison said. “Congrats.”
Dusk was nearing, and the antique shop finally switched the lights on, but there were only a few hanging light bulbs swaying from the ceiling that gave off a dim light.
“Yesterday, the kid who you tipped was just asking me about you.” Harrison was poking fun at Zhang Jue again. “I think he misses you, since he hasn’t had such a generous customer in ages.”
Zhang Jue looked at the shelf and picked up another record. Holding it in his hand, he rebuked, “Oh, what should I do?” Then he joked, “Maybe you can give me his credit card number?”
Harrison laughed for a while before commenting to Zhang Jue, “You sure are in a great mood today!”
They settled on a time for their next hiking trip and ended the call.
Zhang Jue paid for the records and left with a paper bag of vinyl in tow, only to find that there was no one in the convertible.
There weren’t many people walking around, nor were there many shops. Further down the street there was a large pet hospital, its sign a neon board buzzing in cartoonish characters.
Zhang Jue looked up at it for a while, when he heard someone calling him from behind.
When he turned back, Chen Boqiao had a glossy-furred TIS cat in his hand.
“Say hi to your owner.” Chen Boqiao raised his hand higher, and An Qi cooperatively meowed at him.
He passed the cat to Zhang Jue, who scrambled to hold it.
An Qi had gained some weight, and was a heavy lump of soft fur in his hands. Beneath its fur was the warmth of a small animal, like a slippery handful of warmed sand that threatened to fall through his fingers.
Chen Boqiao saw that he was struggling and gave him a hand. He laughed. “Mr. Zhang Jue, can’t even hold his own cat.”
Chen Boqiao and his convertible were both pretty conspicuous, and soon some passersby had recognised him and slowed their steps while turning their heads to look.
Chen Boqiao did not care. He put the cat on the passenger seat, and encircled Zhang Jue in front of him with one hand on the car window. He looked down and took out a velvet box, which opened to reveal a platinum ring.
“I’ve got the cat for you.” Chen Boqiao looked Zhang Jue in the eye, and even someone as dense as Zhang Jue could sense Chen Boqiao’s nervousness and missing composure. “Will you marry me?”
Zhang Jue saw in his peripheral vision that a passerby had taken a phone out to take a picture. Chen Boqiao did not wait for an answer. He put the ring on Zhang Jue’s finger.
At sunset, the street lamps lit up the long, narrow street.
They drove on the endless road, the convertible glimmering in the setting sun, like a canoe cutting across the Roche summer campus’ clear, green waters.
Chen Boqiao lifted up his hand that was resting on the gear lever, opening it to Zhang Jue. His hand was wide, and calluses kissed his fingertips.
“No hand-holding today?” he asked Zhang Jue.
Zhang Jue laughed and placed his hand on Chen Boqiao’s palm.
That night, Zhang Jue learned all about the capital of the Asian League. He familiarized himself with all the places that don’t appear on the map. Memories without Chen Boqiao were overwritten by memories with him.
The Zhang Jue who had looked for his crush on the side of the grassy patches in Roche secretly… The Zhang Jue who had held his medical card tightly in his hand as he waited in line at the hospital… The Zhang Jue who was struggling to write Chen Boqiao’s name on the blessing lanterns. They were all stored with great care.
They were stored in a soft, safe, and comfortable room that could melt away the pain and the years between them.
They stopped at the Zhaohua Energy Building and took the lift up to the restaurant on the top floor. Their plan for their honeymoon was simple: they were going back to visit their alma mater.
Just like Chen Boqiao had promised, if he could pick, they’ll have both.