The Long Chase for the President’s Spouse – Chapter 63: It’s the Manga’s Fault
Quality Check: Tezuka
First Published on Chaleuria
Chapter 63: It’s the Manga’s Fault
Gu Zhun was not sure how he could repay Zhang Heng for his favour, but Zhang Heng told him not to worry about it. They could save the discussion for another day, he said. Since it was impossible to guess what Zhang Heng had in mind, Gu Zhun decided to let it go and went home happily with the books.
Although his enthusiasm made it seem as if Gu Zhun had a great passion for manga, the truth was quite different. In reality, he was only interested in this series. It was not the art style that attracted him; what really appealed to him was the delicate sensitivity with which the artist explored the characters’ psychology, and the careful details with which she created the world in the story.
He liked the process through which the protagonists’ relationship developed. They met as boys and fell for each other. Then, they drifted apart and lost contact for years. After reuniting unexpectedly, they worked through their misgivings and traumatic pasts before finally getting together.
The books were now covered in a layer of dust because he didn’t have time to read them. Troubled by complications in his own relationship, Gu Zhun decided to spend the night reading the series. After cleaning off the dust, he delved into the pages of the first volume.
The series began with the younger protagonist’s chance encounter with his charismatic senior in the library. Smitten at first sight, he began visiting the library every day to borrow the books that his senior had read. His senior finally noticed him one day. Unable to hold in his feelings any longer, he confessed to his senior in public.
After such a confession, there was no way the senior was going to let his adorable junior go — not when he was so endearingly straight forward, and so charmingly prone to blushing. He responded in the form of a kiss, stolen behind curtains in the empty library after school, leaving the younger boy breathless and giddy.
Ever since then, they would always walk home from school together. Whenever the older boy went to the library, the younger boy would sit by his side and quietly observe his senior’s face as he waited for the last bell of the day. Then, they would leave the school together, their long shadows entwined in the warm glow of the setting sun.
“They used to like each other…”
One day, the senior invited his junior to his home. The younger boy was overwhelmed with excitement at such an invitation – He would be completely surrounded by his presence! They would be all alone in a private space!
The younger boy agreed to the invitation with trepidation.
Naturally, as they settled down in bed together, they were both ready to take their relationship to the next level. But the junior’s heart was completely crushed when his senior broke into an unexpected chuckle. Thinking that he was being mocked for his ignorance and unquestioning devotion, he gave his senior a hard shove and ran away.
The senior was left in bewilderment.
They broke off all contact after that. The senior tried looking for his junior by his name, only to realise that it was an alias; the younger boy seemed to have disappeared off the face of the Earth.
This was a huge blow to the senior. Sinking into the depths of despair, he even gave up on his university entrance examinations. With the help of his friends, he eventually managed to pull himself together over time and become a renowned manga editor.
A few years later, they reunited as adults. The junior left his job to join the company that his senior was working for and unwittingly became an editor-in-training under his senior’s charge.
He did not recognise his senior at the beginning; he was merely troubled by the chief editor’s persistent “harassment,” which entailed…
“This… this… Zhang Heng did this as well…” The unexpected embraces, the sudden kisses, the constant attempts at physical contact – it was no wonder that he found the story familiar.
One day, the junior finally had enough – Why do you keep bothering me like this?
“Because I like you. I have liked you for a very long time; have you forgotten?”
The junior began to recall how “terrorised” – no, smitten – he used to be in the past.
“This part is really similar too…” Gu Zhun muttered to himself as he read. Zhang Heng also confessed his feelings soon after Gu Zhun started his job. Like the senior, Zhang Heng professed to have been in love with him for a long time, since seven years ago.
As Gu Zhun continued reading, he began to realise that this series was much more helpful to him than any examination guide had ever been. It was as if the series was customised to fit his every need! Examination guides did not always have targeted practices for Gu Zhun’s weaknesses. Furthermore, their explanations were often too generic to help Gu Zhun understand a topic fully. To be fair, it was understandable for these gaps to exist in examination guides: questions that stumped an elite student like Gu Zhun were definitely too hard for the average student.Therefore, they were omitted so that the publications could appeal more to the weaker students.
Previously, the junior had rejected his senior in the belief that the older boy was simply toying with him. Now, he pushed his senior away again. “I will never like you anyway!” he asserted.
In return, his senior declared resolutely, “I will make you fall in love with me again.”
Thus, the senior began his siege on his junior’s heart. As he guided the younger man on his journey as an editor, he began his long march to the younger man’s heart.
When a new volume of the manga edited by the junior was released, the senior used the occasion as an excuse to hold a celebration at his place.
Since the senior had been working for years, it was natural for him to own the place and live by himself, which also meant that they would be the only ones in the apartment…
The junior refused at first. However, he eventually gave in and went along to the private celebration – like a lamb to the slaughter.
The junior got drunk very quickly, being in a good mood. He began complaining about work and the senior. The senior tried to stop him from drinking by taking his beer away. The junior resisted and knocked the can over, spilling beer all over the floor.
As the junior tried to resume drinking, the senior continued trying to stop him. All of a sudden, the junior slapped his hand away. “Mind your own business!”
A long rambling rant followed: “What are you trying to do, meddling with my feelings when you’re still together with your senior? You can’t keep toying with me like this! Haven’t you had enough fun in the past? I hate you! I can’t control my heart when you’re near! I can’t help but give in to you!”
At the end of the long outburst, the senior pulled the junior into his arms quietly. He carried the unconscious junior to his bed before whispering in his ear, “You seem to like me a lot more than you realise.”
Skipping over the details of their night together, the next panel in the manga marked the beginning of the next day. The first volume drew to a close soon after that. Gu Zhun promptly started on the second volume.
After the unmentionable events of the previous night, the junior began avoiding the senior at work. As the senior continued searching for the junior, the plot took a turn and introduced the second pairing in the story.
However, Gu Zhun was more concerned about the protagonists.
His thoughts began to wander again.
“… the junior hid from the senior…”
Actually, wouldn’t things be fine again if he hid from Zhang Heng? Time heals all wounds; if he kept himself out of Zhang Heng’s sight for long enough, would Zhang Heng forget about him? Given time, would Zhang Heng realise that he was simply toying with Gu Zhun and using him as a means to deflect Xu YaLe’s advances?
Furthermore, it would be in Zhang Heng’s best interest for Gu Zhun to leave. It was unfair for Zhang Heng to love him so much when he was incapable of returning that love wholeheartedly. Their love was unequal, and unequal love could never stand the test of time. This was why compatibility was so important in relationships.
Furthermore, the Zhang family was way out of his league. His own family was neither powerful nor rich. He did not know how businesses worked and he had landed his job in the company completely by chance. If he had chosen a job according to his major, he would have gotten into teaching or public service at best, or become a clerk at worst.
“…” Having made up his mind, Gu Zhun began writing. Now that his decision was made, he would be thorough in his actions.
This time, he would break things off completely with Zhang Heng.
Dragging out this relationship will be bad for everyone. I’m a bore and I’m incapable of expressing my feelings openly … but I can’t change myself or get over my own misgivings.
All relationships come to an end. Everything is destroyed when relationships end, human spirit and material possessions alike.
It would be so painful…
I don’t want to see you in pain.
When Gu Li woke up the next day, Gu Zhun was not preparing breakfast in the kitchen. Thinking that he might have slept through his alarm because of his exhausting night, she went into his room to wake him up.
“Hey Gu Zhun! Rise and shine!”
However, there was no reply. When Gu Li took a closer look, she realised that the bed was empty except for the neatly folded blanket in a corner; Gu Zhun was nowhere to be found.
The sheets were cold to the touch. When could he have left? It’s only seven o’clock now…
Gu Zhun had left at four. He left the apartment very quietly and carried his luggage in his hands so that he would not disturb his sleeping neighbours.
He took a cab to the airport to catch the earliest flight. He had booked the ticket in the spur of the moment and this flight was the only option he had.
After checking in at the airport, he waited until it was boarding time. He did not feel hungry even though he had not eaten breakfast. Gu ZHun ignored the growling in his stomach as he stared blankly into space. Back in his school days, it was this ability to tune out all sensory distractions that enabled him to focus on his work even in the noisiest places.
Gu Zhun was very extraordinary indeed.
When it was time to board the flight, he collected his thoughts and made his way to the boarding gate. He got onto the plane without any hassle. Everything was going smoothly.
The last time he took a plane, Zhang Heng was with him and they were bound for Japan.
He was still headed to Japan this time but he was alone now – same destination, different feelings, different people.
This time, Zhang Heng wasn’t around to tease him with a ridiculous eye mask.
Gu Zhun fell asleep very quickly. He did not get much sleep the night before since he stayed up to read his manga and left at four o’clock in the morning. As flight attendants often left sleeping passengers undisturbed (lest they create trouble for being awakened in an untimely fashion), Gu Zhun missed the food cart and landed in Japan on an empty stomach.
“Gu Zhun!” Back in the Zhang Corporation building, Zhang Heng stepped into his office with two bags of freshly-made meat buns. He planned to have breakfast with Gu Zhun but the other man was not in the office yet.
At first, Zhang Heng was surprised at Gu Zhun’s uncharacteristic absence but did not think much about the rare occurrence that he had arrived before Gu Zhun.
However, Gu Zhun was still nowhere in sight when the clock struck nine.
“Could he have fallen sick? Is he running a fever?” As Zhang Heng became increasingly anxious, the worst possible scenarios began flashing through his mind. He almost called the police, even.
Luckily, Ma ShangQian walked by and noticed how high-strung Zhang Heng was. When he saw that Gu Zhun was absent, he understood the reason for Zhang Heng’s anxiety. He suggested, “Why don’t you give his family a call to see if anything is wrong?”
“That’s right!” Zhang Heng snatched the phone and called Gu Li immediately.
“Sis, is Gu Zhun sick? He hasn’t come to work today…”
“He’s not. In fact, he left really early today; I thought that some urgent matter might have cropped up at work…”
“…” At this point, both of them finally understood what was going on.
Gu Zhun had gone missing!
If he wasn’t at home or at work, where could a homebody who didn’t have much of a social circle like Gu Zhun go?
Could he have been kidnapped? But Zhang Heng could not imagine how Gu Zhun’s modest background could have motivated anyone to commit such a crime… Perhaps it was driven by lust instead!
Zhang Heng was very sure that this was the case; Gu Zhun was so adorable that no one could ever resist his charm!
Ma ShangQian promptly put an end to such delusional thoughts. “No. Your personal preference does not speak for everyone else.”
“Tsk. Didn’t you use to claim that you liked Gu Zhun?”
“That’s because…” Not knowing how to refute Zhang Heng, Ma ShangQian fell silent and left in a huff.
Immediately, Xu YaLe’s voice echoed down the corridor, “I’ll beat up anyone who dares to bully my man!”
Gu Li called moments after Ma ShangQian left the office.
“Sis!” Zhang Heng was near tears at this point.
Gu Li interrupted before Zhang Heng broke down, “Don’t cry! I just found a note in his room.” She proceeded to read it out loud——
[Sis, I will be leaving home for a while.]
[Don’t worry about me; I will look after myself.]
“He ran away from home? Sis, have you been hoarding all the food and leaving him to starve?”
Zhang Heng knew that Gu Li loved to eat and had a huge appetite. However, whenever Gu Zhun went shopping for groceries, he would buy food that was just enough for two people. Furthermore, Gu Zhun was excellent at cooking. It was entirely possible that Gu Li, being the greedy eater that she was, would eat more than her share…
“Of course not! I may be a glutton but there is definitely enough food at home!”
Zhang Heng hung up and sat down quietly.
Outside the office, the staff began to wonder if their president was preparing himself for something big. Although the president was usually amiable in his daily interactions and the way he ran the company, he was also capable of acting quickly and ruthlessly when he needed to.
Picking up the phone again, he called the receptionist and gave his order, “XiaoLi, I’m calling a meeting with HR and Logistics.”
“Got it. I will let them know right away.”
The two departments gathered quickly in response to the president’s command. They waited in the meeting room for further instructions.
Zhang Heng was alone when he entered the room. No one accompanied him, not even his assistant Gu Zhun. He was empty-handed too.
What he wanted them to do required no paperwork.
“I want you to stop everything you are working on right now; your departments aren’t working on anything important anyway – especially HR! From now on, you are to devote all your resources and manpower to finding Gu Zhun!”
“…” The room was silent as everyone struggled to process what they had just been told to do. Had they really been summoned to search for a missing person? Even though they were not the top-performing departments in the company, it was too much for the president to treat them in this way… just for the sake of his own assistant.
Furthermore, wasn’t it possible that his disappearance was simply a case of unannounced resignation? Perhaps he had wanted to resign but was unable to submit a letter of resignation for some reason or other, choosing instead to disappear from the company and forgo his salary for the month.
Zhang Heng took in the expressionless faces around the room. It was so quiet that he could hear the ticking of the clock on the wall. They were wasting his time!
“Find him in two days and all of you will get a raise this month!”
“Yes sir!” Money was indeed the best incentive; the room was suddenly abuzz with eager promises to fulfill the president’s demand.
The meeting ended in less than five minutes. Now, alone in the empty room, Zhang Heng clenched his fists against the tabletop.
Gu Zhun, where are you? Are you hiding from me? How could you have left without a word…