Translated by zellyfish of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
The deputy chief of the crew named Zonra did not arrive as scheduled.
He was supposed to arrive at the safe house at 7 o’clock in the evening and take the two of them to the port to board the ship.
Seven o’clock arrived and passed. Zhang Jue did not want to waste any time. He carefully checked the surveillance system near the safe house, and found no trace of the vehicle coming to pick them up. He confirmed that there was no traffic jam on the route from the port to the safe house. Then, he used the communicator to call Zonra.
No one answered his first call, and he re-dialed after a while. The phone was turned off. The freighter was scheduled to depart at 9:30, and time was running out swiftly.
Zhang Jue contemplated his options for a moment, and stood up with the car key. He said to Chen Boqiao, “I’ll go to the port and see what’s going on.”
“Let’s go together,” Chen Boqiao said calmly, and pointed to his face again, “No one can recognize me in the disguise anyway.”
Zhang Jue was worried about Chen Boqiao staying in the safe house alone, so he agreed. They went downstairs together, got into the car, and drove towards Bangkok Port.
On the way to the port, Chen Boqiao magically whisked out a pair of sunglasses that he kept from the previous car they took, put them on, and asked Zhang Jue, “Does it make me look more like a fugitive?”
His eyes looked at Zhang Jue through the dark brown sunglasses, neither asking nor joking. He was very close to Zhang Jue. The thin knitted sweater Zhang Jue bought from the second-hand market suddenly felt soft like cashmere, and looked expensive when he wore it.
After dinner, Zhang Jue took an hour and a half to help Chen Boqiao change his look according to the method he had practiced in advance. First, he modified Chen Boqiao’s eye shape with invisible tape, and then applied bionic skin to Chen Boqiao’s face to raise his cheekbones. He carefully glued on the facial hair, covering a lot of Chen Boqiao’s face, and finally put a wig on Chen Boqiao to make him look like Shen Yuhua’s passport photo.
Chen Boqiao sat on the sofa and let Zhang Jue finish his work, then he went to the bathroom to look in the mirror, and walked back to the living room to praise Zhang Jue. Even though the praise was not completely serious, Zhang Jue could not help but feel lightheaded, as if all the nights he spent alone learning to paste the bionic skin on plaster models had been nothing to him.
It took only ten minutes to drive from the safe house to the port.
Zhang Jue’s jeep had a port pass. They entered the port gate, passed through containers one by one according to the signs, and approached the freighter they had originally planned to take.
Zhang Jue stopped at a place where the freighter could be clearly seen. They got out of the car and inspected the situation on the freighter docked in the port more than 100 meters away.
The freighter was still getting its last shipment, and the glow of dusk slanted ashore, allowing the shadow of the containers to cover Zhang Jue and Chen Boqiao.
“Are we still going?” Chen Boqiao asked Zhang Jue.
The wind between the containers was so strong that Zhang Jue’s hair was all messed up. Zhang Jue stared intently at the freighter and raised his hand to put a few strands of hair on his cheeks behind, before saying, “According to the plan, Zonra and his crew should have been escorting us up.”
Although these freighters also carried passengers, they were all regular passengers and familiar faces to the crew. If they hastily boarded the boat without Zonra’s assistance, they would attract too much unwanted attention. Zhang Jue took out the communicator and called Zonra one last time, but the other man could not be contacted.
The crew was loading the last shipment onto the freighter, and the passage would soon be closed.
Zhang Jue did not want to put themselves in danger, and since he had a complete and reliable backup plan, he put down the communicator and made a decision, “Let’s not board the ship tonight.”
Chen Boqiao did not object. He asked Zhang Jue, “Then are we going back now?”
Zhang Jue nodded, then shook his head “We’re not going back to the current safe house, let’s go get the keys and stay in another house.”
Zhang Jue had prepared three safe houses in Bangkok to deal with different situations. The key to the safe house in the second backup plan was stored in advance in the safe of a private bank in the city.
He drove Chen Boqiao to the bank and told Chen Boqiao, “I’ll get the key, wait for me in the car.”
“Zhang Jue,” Chen Boqiao stopped Zhang Jue and said, “I want to contact Pei Shu. I have something to discuss with him.”
Chen Boqiao was frank and honest, so even though he didn’t say what “something” was, Zhang Jue could hardly refuse his request. Zhang Jue looked down at his communicator and said hesitantly, “You can’t use my device.” Chen Boqiao smiled and pointed to a grocery store at the corner of the street. Zhang Jue’s eyes followed Chen Boqiao. There he found a simple counter selling mobile phones at the front of the store.
“Okay then,” Zhang Jue double checked that Chen Boqiao’s disguise did not show any signs of deterioration, and then gave Chen Boqiao his wallet and car keys, and said, “You can go buy it yourself, but don’t go too far.”
Then, he got out of the car and walked towards the bank across the road to collect the keys.
Zhang Jue showed the manager the credentials he had prepared beforehand, went downstairs to the safe and picked up the keys. As he returned to the car, he saw that Chen Boqiao had not returned yet.
It was completely dark now, the neon shop signs and small colored lights on the street were all lit, and the night breeze was slow and comfortable, and there was aroma of food in the air.
Zhang Jue stood there for a few seconds, then walked slowly towards the grocery store. He went up the steps to take a look inside, and saw Chen Boqiao still inside.
Chen Boqiao sat on a chair against the wall in the small shop, chatting casually with an Omega employee in the shop, looking at the TV screen hanging on the wall of the grocery store.
Chen Boqiao was not surprised to see Zhang Jue come in. He waved the phone in his hand and gestured to Zhang Jue, “You’re done?”
The omega employee saw Zhang Jue and smiled at him.
Putting aside the discomfort he felt at the smile, he asked Chen Boqiao, “Yes, what about you?”
Chen Boqiao shook his head slightly and pointed his chin to the TV screen on the opposite wall.
Zhang Jue looked at it and saw that the international channel on the screen was broadcasting a piece of breaking news. A cargo ship in Bangkok Port was detained by the police for suspected possession of drugs, and it was to be kept in the depths of the port’s dock for a week-long inspection, its departure was postponed.
A picture of the side of the ship was shown on screen. It was the one they were going to board. Then, the camera cut to a shot of the crew members squatting in a row. One of the crew members had a large thorn flower tattooed on his arm. Zhang Jue recognized this tattoo. It was Zonra.
But he did not comment, and only after the news was over, he asked Chen Boqiao, “Can we go now?”
Chen Boqiao stood up and nodded to him.
The Omega employee said goodbye to Chen Boqiao in unfluent English, and asked him to come back later.
After getting in the car, Chen Boqiao did not make a move to contact Pei Shu, and Zhang Jue did not ask.
Zhang Jue was thinking about whether the cargo ship being found to be smuggling drugs was related to Chen Boqiao’s planned boarding.
He needed a source of information.
“Tomorrow I’ll go to find someone,” Zhang Jue told Chen Boqiao, “He can help us contact another ship. We will definitely be able to set off this week. Don’t worry.”
Zhang Jue seemed to be reassuring Chen Boqiao, but he was actually comforting himself.
His plan was disrupted, and there was no more of his medication left, and the series of accidents made him anxious.
“Well,” Chen Boqiao patted him on the shoulder and said, “I’m not in a hurry.”
It was ten o’clock when they reached the place to sleep at night. The room in the new safehouse was smaller than what Zhang Jue could see from its blueprints, with only one bedroom and a small living room.
Zhang Jue had planned to give the bedroom to Chen Boqiao and sleep on the sofa by himself but Chen Boqiao caught him before he could get away and said, “Let’s sleep together, the sofa is quite narrow, you won’t be able to sleep.”
Chen Boqiao was very determined, so Zhang Jue could only find another set of bedding and set it beside the bed.
After washing up first, Zhang Jue lay down on the bed, feeling very nervous. He took up a small part of the bed, and his icy hands and feet were hidden in the quilt.
Not long after, Chen Boqiao also came out of the shower. Zhang Jue closed his eyes, pretending to be asleep. He felt the other side of the mattress sinking, Chen Boqiao seemed to have settled on the bed, and he dimmed the bedside lamp.
Zhang Jue’s black hair was spread out on the pillow and his face was pressed against a few tufts. It was actually a little uncomfortable, but he and Chen Boqiao were lying together and so he did not dare to move too much. He made a mental note to find time to get a haircut.
Suddenly, Zhang Jue felt that his hair had been moved. There was a slight touch for a few seconds, before disappearing quickly. As Zhang Jue breathed a sigh of relief, suddenly someone touched his head and stroked his hair.
“Your hair is really soft.” Chen Boqiao whispered.
Zhang Jue froze immediately, his hands folded on his abdomen, panicking about Chen Boqiao finding out that he was not asleep, so he tried to even his breathing.
“Like the cat.” Chen Boqiao said again. He moved his hand away and no longer touched Zhang Jue, but Zhang Jue’s heartbeat was like a drumroll, and it almost jumped out of his throat.
Zhang Jue sometimes hated being so stupid. A smarter and more charming person might have pretended that he just woke up and said something romantic or flirtatious to Chen Boqiao naturally, right?
After a few seconds, Chen Boqiao said, “Just kidding.”
Zhang Jue’s face became flushed. Without waiting for Zhang Jue’s reaction, Chen Boqiao said “I know you’re awake.” Zhang Jue opened his eyes and saw Chen Boqiao sitting on the bed neatly dressed, looking at him.
Chen Boqiao asked Zhang Jue, “I just said your hair is soft, what are you so happy about?”
Chen Boqiao’s expression was as serene as usual, his eyes were gentle and kind. Zhang Jue had dreamed about Chen Boqiao many times before, and every time he woke up, he would be happy, sitting for a long time to recall his dreams.
But at this moment, Zhang Jue realised that he was as boring in his dreams as in reality. No matter how he dreamed, he couldn’t dream of even half of Chen Boqiao’s good qualities.
It didn’t matter in the end, though. No matter how good Chen Boqiao was, he’d never be his. Whether he was near or far, kind or tough, it had nothing to do with Zhang Jue. But Zhang Jue didn’t need anything more. He was content with staring from afar.