The Long Chase for the President’s Spouse – Chapter 69: I’m Always by Your Side
Quality Check: Tezuka
First Published on Chaleuria
Chapter 69: I’m Always by Your Side
“I’ve always been at your side,” Zhang Heng said. Had he been younger, he might have been surprised by Gu Zhun’s tears. But he remained unfazed now as he lifted Gu Zhun’s head and commanded, “Look me in the eye, Gu Zhun.”
Although Gu Zhun often defied Zhang Heng’s demands out of pride, he could not help but follow his command this time. He raised his gaze to meet Zhang Heng’s.
“Are you finally willing to look at me now?” Zhang Heng asked coldly. Stunned by the stern expression on Zhang Heng’s face, Gu Zhun was at a loss for words. Zhang Heng seemed like a completely different person and Gu Zhun did not know how to react.
“Talk to me! Tell me if you are worried about the imbalances in our relationship! Tell me if you are scared of being hurt!” Zhang Heng was near hysterical as he continued shouting, “Why do you always keep your feelings hidden? What if they get too much for you to bear? Do you know how worried I am?”
Zhang Heng rushed forward and crushed Gu Zhun to his chest.
Zhang Heng buried his face in the crook of Gu Zhun’s neck and asked quietly, “Do you know… why I fell for you seven years ago?”
“It’s because my heart would ache whenever I saw how lonely you were. You were always alone, regardless of whether it was between classes, during mealtimes, or after being roughed up by the school bullies… Watching you always hurt so much.”
Initially, he assumed that he was simply sympathizing with Gu Zhun, but things began to change after he grabbed Gu Zhun by the groin for the first time. He had only wanted to make fun of Gu Zhun, but the touch awakened new unfamiliar desires within him and the lingering sensation in his fingers left him in a daze for the entire class afterwards.
Ever since then, Zhang Heng found himself subconsciously searching for Gu Zhun all the time. Once Gu Zhun was found, he would put on a cheerful air and make his way into Gu Zhun’s lonely bubble to banter with him. But no matter how much Zhang Heng played the fool, Gu Zhun’s gaze never fell on him. In all of these one-sided interactions, Gu Zhun never acknowledged the company that Zhang Heng offered him.
Love grew with time, and before Zhang Heng realized it, he was no longer able to take his eyes off Gu Zhun. Once, during an exam, Zhang Heng stared at the back of Gu Zhun’s head for so long that the invigilator was convinced that he was trying to look at Gu Zhun’s answers. He could never look away from Gu Zhun until one day, Gu Zhun began to glow in his eyes. It was as if Gu Zhun was enveloped in a dazzling halo of the most brilliant light…
Perhaps this was how it felt to be truly smitten with someone…
Listening to Zhang Heng’s confession now, Gu Zhun found it hard to believe what he was hearing. He struggled to make sense of how Zhang Heng’s feelings for him grew and transformed over time from sympathy to love.
“If that’s the case, why didn’t you… tell me… seven years ago…?” Gu Zhun asked, stumbling over his words as he kept his head down. This was not the first time Zhang Heng confessed his feelings, but this confession felt completely different from his previous ones.
The first time Zhang Heng confessed in the hotspring it had felt more like a prank or a greeting from a long-lost friend.
The second time he confessed was in front of the oden stall outside their hotel in Japan. He told Gu Zhun that he had been in love with him for a long time and declared that he would continue loving him in the future. In spite of himself, Gu Zhun was moved and agreed to try to develop their relationship further.
Now, in his fourth confession, Zhang Heng was telling him that he had fallen in love with him seven years ago…
Zhang Heng looked down as he struggled to answer Gu Zhun’s question. Eventually, he said hesitantly, “Because… I didn’t think I was good enough for you.”
Why would you think that? Gu Zhun was perplexed. Zhang Heng was accomplished despite his youth. Although he could not have become president at such a young age without his family’s help, he would have lost his position if he hadn’t shown himself to be the outstanding leader that he truly was. There was no doubt that Zhang Heng was highly capable.
Zhang Heng slowly released his hold on Gu Zhun. He walked to the doorway and – after giving the voyeuristic store manager an unceremonious kick – ordered him to make a reservation for two at a nearby restaurant. He and Gu Zhun were going to have dinner together.
“Eh? Are you sure that Gu Zhun will agree to dine with you? I wouldn’t keep my hopes up if I were you… You are too full of yourself,” the store manager quipped.
Zhang Heng replied coldly, “Don’t you know when to shut up? Have you forgotten about who’s going to be financing your business in the future?”
“Of course not! I’ll… I’ll get to it immediately! Leave it to me!” The store manager got to his feet and immediately disappeared down the hallway.
Having made sure that they were truly alone, Zhang Heng returned to Gu Zhun’s side and began slowly, “Do you remember how things used to be seven years ago? You were the cream of the crop while I was one of the worst students in the school. We were completely incompatible; being near you would only have made my inferiority more glaring. I couldn’t answer any of your questions and you couldn’t understand me either… We were like two parallel lines that would never meet.”
Zhang Heng settled down on the tatami mat and poured himself some tea. “Why don’t you sit down too?” he said quietly.
Gu Zhun sat down obediently.
Zhang Heng continued, “Sometimes, I would fantasize about becoming an elite student and imagine myself solving all the physics and chemistry questions easily. Even the most difficult Math Olympiad problems would be a piece of cake for me. I would overtake you as the top student in class and you would come to me for help when you encountered difficulties in your studies…”
He was frequently distracted in class by such fantasies. His teachers often assumed that there was nothing but filth in his mind and reprimanded him accordingly. In reality, the teachers could not be more wrong about the subject of his daydreams: his fantasies of excelling at his studies reflected the highest aspirations a student could ever have.
Despite his fantasies, Zhang Heng had a long way to go before he could even be considered a competent student. Hence, he began using his failing studies as an excuse to get close to Gu Zhun.
‘How do I solve this problem?’ became his most frequently used opening line.
In his imagination, Gu Zhun would first respond by chiding him – You’re really dumb, aren’t you? – before patiently showing him how to solve the problem, explaining each step in detail as he scribbled away in Zhang Heng’s books.
The reality, however, was quite different. Contrary to Zhang Heng’s imagination, Gu Zhun never spoke to him; instead, he would pick up his pen quietly and begin writing down the solution promptly without a word. His solutions were always so detailed and self-explanatory that anyone could have understood them fully at a glance, leaving Zhang Heng with no room for further questions.
Thus, his plans to strike up conversations with Gu Zhun failed miserably and Gu Zhun’s reticence became increasingly hard for Zhang Heng to bear. Even his teachers seemed to be conspiring against him by always calling on him for responses in class instead of Gu Zhun.
Eventually, Zhang Heng came up with a new plan: if he performed better than Gu Zhun academically, Gu Zhun would come to him with questions instead! He began devoting all of his energy to improving his studies, determined to fulfill his newfound ambition. However, the cruel reality was that his abilities fell terribly short of his goal. If Gu Zhun had not agreed to tutor him on the weekends, it would not have been possible for him to make any improvement at all in his last year in junior high.
“I once dreamed of becoming a top student so that you would speak to me voluntarily by approaching me with questions… but that was completely beyond my abilities.” Zhang Heng broke off and sipped on his tea. Gu Zhun began to recall his memories of the past.
It was true that Zhang Heng used to prod him in the back to get him to turn around and answer his questions on various subjects. Once, he even approached Gu Zhun with a geography question despite having topped the class in the subject before.
Zhang Heng continued, “Do you know why I left without a word on the day of our junior high graduation ceremony?”
“You went abroad.”
“Mm. Why do you think I did that? I was so in love with you… wouldn’t it have made more sense for me to stay? Conventionally speaking, wouldn’t I have won you over if I had persevered in my pursuit?” Zhang Heng asked.
Gu Zhun did not respond since he did not know the answer either. Would things really be any different if Zhang Heng had remained in the country and gone to the same high school with him? Would spending their days together and listening to Zhang Heng confess his feelings over and over again make him willing to accept Zhang Heng?
Gu Zhun did not know the answer to any of these questions.
“Didn’t you leave because you didn’t like me anymore?”
Zhang Heng let out an exasperated sigh. “You’re so dense it’s driving me crazy… Gu Zhun, can’t you see that I decided to study abroad because I was afraid that I wasn’t good enough for you?”
Gu Zhun looked at Zhang Heng blankly.
Zhang Heng broke into a chuckle and reached out to pinch Gu Zhun’s cheeks lightly. “It’s been so long since I last saw this expression… You used to have this look of confusion all the time when I clowned around…”
Indeed, Gu Zhun was often helplessly confused by Zhang Heng’s constant presence. He did not understand why the other boy would want to spend so much time by his side…
It made sense now: Zhang Heng was already in love with him back then.
He finally knew the reason why Zhang Heng was nowhere to be found on their graduation day, when he tried looking for him to continue their usual discussions about NBA basketball, computer games and manga.
Zhang Heng loved him and was doing his best to make himself worthy by studying abroad…
“You’ve succeeded,” Gu Zhun replied with a faint smile. “It seems that you really meant it when you said that you loved me.”
“Of course I did,” Zhang Heng replied as he stood up and reached out his arms to pull Gu Zhun to his feet. “Shall we take a walk? You haven’t been out much, have you? Was it that you couldn’t bear going out because you missed me?”
Zhang Heng smiled expectantly as he waited for a response.
“Of… of course not…” Gu Zhun stuttered as his face reddened uncontrollably.
However, no amount of denial could hide Gu Zhun’s true feelings anymore.