The Long Chase for the President’s Spouse – Chapter 73: Life on the Road (1)
Quality Check: Tezuka
First Published on Chaleuria
Chapter 73: Life on the Road (1)
On their flight back to China, Zhang Heng watched as Gu Zhun slept soundly in his seat. His eyes were unfocused as he wondered to himself —— Are we finally together now?
Zhang Heng still found it difficult to believe that Gu Zhun was willing to return with him and meet with his own parents. Unaware that Gu Zhun was already awake and simply resting with his eyes closed, Zhang Heng leaned in to whisper in his ear, “Do you like me?”
He began to pull away immediately after asking the question. Although Zhang Heng did not mind being seen by other people, he knew that Gu Zhun cared a lot about others’ perception of them. But Gu Zhun stopped him by suddenly grabbing his hand and replying faintly, “Yes, I like you…”
“Oh, you like me… I like you too…” Zhang Heng was dazed by Gu Zhun’s sudden admission. He could hardly believe that Gu Zhun was capable of saying such sweet, endearing words. Was this really the Gu Zhun that he knew?
“Are you serious… about what you just said?”
“I’m very serious.”
Zhang Heng turned to face the back of the seat before him, carefully avoiding Gu Zhun’s eyes. Despite the calm look on his face, his heart was bursting with happiness like an erupting volcano. His mind became consumed with celebratory images of a fairy-tale wedding filled with roses and flying doves.
After landing, Zhang Heng sent Gu Zhun home and accompanied him back to the apartment. When they opened the door, they immediately saw that Gu Li was completely absorbed in a romantic TV drama.
“Sis, I’m home,” Gu Zhun said as he stepped through the doorway.
“Mm welcome…” She turned her attention back to the TV immediately after briefly acknowledging Gu Zhun’s greeting, a silly grin on her face.
After depositing Gu Zhun’s luggage in the middle of the living room, Zhang Heng walked behind Gu Li’s couch to take a look at what she was watching – a standard romance involving a heterosexual couple. He was surprised that she was not watching a BL drama instead. But what surprised him even more was the fact that she seemed completely unaffected by Gu Zhun’s disappearance.
“Sis, how come you don’t seem bothered at all by the fact that Gu Zhun’s been gone for days?” Gu Zhun bowed his head at Zhang Heng’s words, embarrassed by how reckless he had been when he ran away from home because of his love troubles.
“Eh? Didn’t the two of you elope? Why should I stop you? I have better things to think about, such as my own marriage prospects…” Gu Li replied nonchalantly, scratching her foot.
The first part of her response caught Zhang Heng’s attention. He felt the need to correct her misconception about their relationship. “We did not elope. I’m still courting him!”
“Well, it seems you’ve really gone the distance to court my baby brother, huh?” she replied in amusement before making a funny face at him. Zhang Heng withered instantly under her laughing gaze and left immediately after saying his goodbyes. Gu Zhun and Zhang Heng would rest for a day before going to visit Gu Zhun’s father. Meanwhile, Gu Zhun began repacking his luggage and prepared himself emotionally for their trip the next day.
When Gu Li heard that Gu Zhun was leaving again, she commented lightly, “Eloping again?”
“We aren’t eloping! We have never done such a thing before either!”
As he rearranged his belongings in his suitcase, Gu Zhun added, “I’m going to see that man. Would you like me to pass him a message?”
Drama continued to unfold on TV as the two leads got into a heated argument. Gu Li looked down in silence, not knowing what to say. She knew that Gu Zhun was referring to their father. Although she had told Zhang Heng that she no longer cared about him, the truth could not be more different. No matter how much she denied it, she still cared about him, and she still wanted to talk to him…
Gu Zhun continued with his packing. After struggling with the idea for a while, Gu Li got up to speak to Gu Zhun.
In truth, Gu Li loved her parents beyond a doubt, but the divorce shocked her as much as it did Gu Zhun. She did not understand why it happened. Hadn’t they made it through eighteen years of marriage together? Weren’t they bound by the product of their love – their two children?
Couldn’t they have resolved the problem together as a family? What kind of difficulty could it have been?
Was it the poverty in which they lived?
But they had already lived through eighteen years of poverty, and their savings had begun to grow after Gu Zhun was born. Life was slowly getting better. Their parents’ sudden divorce did not make sense at all.
Gu Li hated how adults always kept the truth from their children; they never seemed to understand that children were sensitive enough to know when they were being lied to.
Yet, even now, Gu Li’s dreams at night were still filled with memories of her parents. She would dream about their family outings, and how her father used to rush to her parent-teacher meetings despite the long distance from their home…
Every moment was a precious memory to Gu Li, but her memories were broken now, like bubbles that had burst and disappeared.
If she had a choice, she would rather not remember the past. Every recollection hurt. It was like tearing off a newly-formed scab every time, breaking open healing wounds again and again, each time more painful than the last.
But she could not bear to watch her baby brother suffer anymore. He had confined and isolated himself emotionally for years before meeting Zhang Heng. Now that he was finally opening up under Zhang Heng’s influence and taking the first step out of the psychological prison he had constructed for himself, she could not bring herself to do anything that would hinder his journey to recovery.
She would give him a hand and help him escape from the shadow of the past as fast as possible. Standing before him, Gu Li said, “I don’t really have much to say to him. Just tell him that his daughter still loves him, but he needs to explain himself to his son, who has been suffering all these years.”
Gu Zhun replied after a short pause, “… I understand.” At the sight of the placid expression on his face, Gu Li felt a sense of comfort and relief wash over her. She began to smile.
It seems that I really need to thank Zhang Heng properly for this…
The next day, Zhang Heng arrived early in the morning in an RV. When Gu Li saw the large vehicle as she followed Gu Zhun down the stairs, she could not help but put in a gibe, “Didn’t you say that you weren’t eloping? What’s this RV for? Looks like you’re all set for a life on the road, aren’t you?”
Zhang Heng raised his hands in defeat as he tried to defend his innocence. “Sis, please go easy on me! I swear that I’m just trying to make sure that Gu Zhun gets some proper rest along the way. It’s a long journey after all, and it may be tough on Gu Zhun.”
Gu Li pulled Zhang Heng aside and asked in a lowered voice, “Where are you taking him, exactly? This isn’t a kidnapping, is it? How much leave did you apply for Gu Zhun? Did you apply for paid leave, by the way?”
Zhang Heng’s head spun from the onslaught of questions. He decided to start with the questions that stood out the most: “I’m definitely not trying to kidnap Gu Zhun, but if you keep acting this way, I can’t promise that I won’t try to elope with him. I’m the president, so I can take as much leave as I want. And since I’ll be looking after Gu Zhun from now on, he won’t need paid leave anymore.”
… Fine, rich guy. You win.
After leaving singleton Gu Li in the dust with his declarations of affection and wealth, Zhang Heng finally began his road trip with Gu Zhun.
Gu Zhun’s father was still living in his hometown, in the vicinity of his ancestral house. When they were younger, Gu Zhun’s family used to live in a tiny rented garage; the ancestral house was as good as abandoned.
“How did you find him?” Gu Zhun asked.
Zhang Heng blinked and made a funny face as he replied, “I only employ elites; my staff are very capable.”
“I see…” So, he abused his power as president for this.
The journey was rough and filled with challenges. Apart from their daily struggle to keep motion sickness at bay, they also had to deal with unexpected situations of all kinds: accidents and traffic jams on the highway, convenience stores that only sold instant noodles, deserted roads with no toilets along the roadside…
Under the influence of Murphy’s Law, they often found themselves caught in situations they dreaded the most. Such an instance occurred as they were traveling along a deserted country road one night. The road was unlit. They could not see anyone else on the road, and there were no signs of human habitation ahead or behind them.
Having consumed too much water and food with high water content at the previous rest area, Gu Zhun began to feel the need to use a toilet quite urgently. “I need to go to the toilet,” he said flatly.
His sudden declaration in the silent car surprised Zhang Heng. Somewhat disturbed by Gu Zhun’s uncharacteristically crude utterance, he asked, “Is everything okay?”
Gu Zhun frowned and glared daggers at Zhang Heng. He was not in the mood for banter. The call of nature, as the expression suggested, was a natural need felt by everyone regardless of how refined they were. Gu Zhun did not feel the need to explain himself any further.
“But there are no toilets here… and it’s not really safe to just relieve yourself by the roadside…” Zhang Heng slowed down the car to look for a suitable spot for Gu Zhun. Meanwhile, Gu Zhun was becoming increasingly desperate as he knew that he could not hold himself in for much longer. Worried about wetting himself, his mind began to consider the prospect of having to change in front of Zhang Heng if he did. The double embarrassment was too much for him to bear.
“Just pull over anywhere. You can watch over me while I relieve myself,” Gu Zhun suggested urgently.
Zhang Heng almost spit out the water he had just drunk at the suggestion. Was Gu Zhun openly inviting him to watch? Did he realize the implications of what he was saying?
In accordance with Gu Zhun’s wishes, Zhang Heng pulled over at a random spot by the roadside. After Gu Zhun got out of the car, Zhang Heng left the headlights on and locked up the vehicle. He followed Gu Zhun and handed him an empty bottle. When Gu Zhun was about to pull down his pants, he suddenly felt a familiar gaze. It was the same gaze that followed his every movement and swept all over his body whenever he changed into his trunks for swimming classes in junior high…
Gu Zhun stopped his movement immediately. His hands rested on the waistband of his pants as he stared at Zhang Heng, who was also staring back at him. As the staring match dragged on, the mood became increasingly awkward.