The Long Chase for the President’s Spouse – Chapter 98: Zhang Heng’s Odd Behavior
Quality Checker: Tezuka
“What happened to Zhang Heng?”
It had been days since Zhang Heng and Gu Zhun last had lunch together. Additionally, every time Gu Zhun tried to find out where he had been or what he had done, he was answered with nothing more than a dismissive wave and an indifferent look from Zhang Heng. He was nothing like his usual eager self; his cold detachment made him seem like a complete stranger.
What’s wrong? What happened to you?
Despite trying to immerse himself in work, Gu Zhun could not help but steal surreptitious looks at Zhang Heng, whose face remained just as impassive as it was when he returned from lunch break. Gu Zhun had never been as anxious and fearful as he was now… Had Zhang Heng stopped loving him? Why was the change so sudden? Surely there was an explanation for this? What could possibly be the cause…?
Filled with dread and unease, Gu Zhun brought his chain of thought to an abrupt stop. He did not dare to continue with his speculations; any further doubt seemed like an insult to the love Zhang Heng had shown him for the past seven years. But was it right for him to leave things as they were? Wasn’t there anything that he could do?
In the past, Zhang Heng was always sensitive to his moods and took the initiative every time to provide him with emotional support. What should he do now that Zhang Heng might be leaving him? How should he react?
I don’t know.
The situation continued for nearly a week. On most days, Zhang Heng would busy himself with work and only returned late at night to crash directly in bed from exhaustion. Like a forlorn wife, Gu Zhun would stay up in their empty room on every one of those lonely nights to wait for him. But not once was he able to voice his doubts and fears to Zhang Heng.
What if Zhang Heng no longer cared about him? What if Zhang Heng had gotten tired of him, and he had become nothing but a bore to Zhang Heng? Yet, if he had indeed become a burden, wouldn’t his questions irritate Zhang Heng further? How would Zhang Heng react then? Would he become even more loathsome to Zhang Heng?
He really needed to stay calm and think this through carefully… But his forcibly suppressed fears began to take a visible toll on him.
When Ma ShangQian ran into Gu Zhun along the corridor one day, he was immediately struck by the unhappiness in Gu Zhun’s face. In stark contrast to the joyful contentment exuded by the newly-wed Ma ShangQian, Gu Zhun seemed gaunt with misery, the corners of his eyes drooping lifelessly.
“Is everything alright?” he asked. “You have been looking really down these couple of days… What happened?”
“N… nothing… I mean, everything’s fine…” Gu Zhun replied with a forced smile.
Despite his best efforts, Gu Zhun failed to fool Ma ShangQian. Firstly, his smiles were so rare that any of his attempts at smiling was enough cause for concern. Secondly, Ma ShangQian had thoroughly familiarized himself with Gu Zhun’s mannerisms during his ‘infatuation’ with him: he had observed Gu Zhun closely enough to become attuned to the latter’s feelings.
“Stop lying,” Ma ShangQian said sternly. When it became clear that Gu Zhun had no intention to come clean, Ma ShangQian grabbed the documents in Gu Zhun’s arms and shoved them at a passing colleague. “Wang! Do me a favor and pass these to your department head on Gu Zhun’s behalf!” he instructed hurriedly before dragging Gu Zhun away to the restaurant opposite their company.
Gu Zhun simply drifted along with his head down, lost in his own tangled thoughts.
“Don’t hold back. I’m here to listen. Tell me everything on your mind and let me offer you some guidance for once,” Ma ShangQian assured him after settling him down in a seat. When Gu Zhun looked up in response, Ma ShangQian was met with the unexpected sight of redness and quivering tears in his eyes.
“Zhang Heng… has been acting strange these few weeks. He hasn’t said much to me, and he wouldn’t answer my questions… so I have stopped trying. Every night, he comes home really late… and he wakes up early every morning… He doesn’t even speak much to me at work…”
Ma ShangQian listened quietly.
“Has he stopped loving me? Does this mean that he no longer has any feelings for me? Perhaps… perhaps he’s tired of me. Maybe my passivity has worn out his patience entirely…”
Pointing to his own heart, Ma ShangQian finally replied, “Have you taken any time to listen to your heart?”
“My heart?” Gu Zhun asked in confusion.
“Yes. Ask yourself if you love Zhang Heng. Follow your heart. If you truly love him, that’s the only answer you need. Nothing else matters.”
“But… what if he doesn’t love me anymore? What should I do then?”
“You may be my senior at work but you still have much to learn when it comes to love,” Ma ShangQian said with a sigh. “If you are sure that you love him, you must never let go. Regardless of the outcome, give it everything you’ve got so that you may live without regret for the rest of your life. All that matters in love is that you try your best, so I really think that you should talk things out with Zhang Heng.”
“Mm… I see.”
Gu Zhun parted ways with Ma ShangQian and left the restaurant deep in thought. When the work day ended, he called Zhang Heng immediately on the phone. Once again, Zhang Heng had left early and Gu Zhun was all alone in their office.
Afraid that Zhang Heng would hang up on him, Gu Zhun overcame his usual hesitancy and blurted out hurriedly, “Zhang Heng, we need to talk! I feel so empty and lonely without you these days. I miss your hugs and kisses! If you still love me, meet me at the amusement park!”
Contrary to his expectations, instead of hanging up, Zhang Heng responded with a counter-proposal, “No. Meet me at Plaza X instead.”
This time, Zhang Heng hung up resolutely. Acting on reflex, Gu Zhun hailed a cab immediately and made his way to Plaza X. In the car, Gu Zhun finally began to make sense of Zhang Heng’s instruction. Clearly, the counter-proposal meant that Zhang Heng would definitely meet him, but… why did he feel like he had little say and choice in this entire course of events?
“Zero-One-Zero-One, are you there? Target sighted! I repeat, target sighted!” Ye Ruixi whispered excitedly into his walkie-talkie as Gu Zhun’s cab drew up by the curb.
“Silly-Idiot, are you dumb? Stop stating the obvious. It’s already shown on the plaza screen!”
As Ye RuiXi and Wen YiHong continued with their silly espionage role-play from the sides of the plaza square, Gu Zhun was making his way to the fountain at the centre of the plaza.
Where were the middle-aged aunties who usually gathered for line-dance sessions in the evening? Where did all the shoppers go? Wasn’t the plaza usually bustling with life at this hour of the day?
Gu Zhun wondered briefly about the emptiness of the square though he did not think too much of it. After all, it was natural for people to choose the comfort of their homes at the end of a long work day. Waiting by the fountain, he began looking around for Zhang Heng instead. But Zhang Heng was nowhere to be seen. “Maybe he has decided not to show up after all? Is it possible…?” As the wait dragged on, Gu Zhun became less and less sure of his deduction. He began to wither at the thought that Zhang Heng might have lost all feelings for him.
Serves me right; it’s my fault that I’m so cold and detached. Why couldn’t I have taken more initiative? I was the one who made him feel insecure all the time…
Suddenly, music began to play, cutting through the fog of negativity in Gu Zhun’s mind. The people scattered across different parts of the square started moving in unison towards the centre. Illuminated by the light from their handphone screens, they began to sing:
Hiroi uchuu no kazu aru hitotsu1
(In this vast universe)
Hundreds of voices united as one and washed over Gu Zhun as the crowd slowly formed a circle around him. “What… what’s going on?”
Aoi Chikyuu no hiroi sekai de chiisana koi no omoi wa todoku
(In the vast world on this blue planet, my small feelings of love reach out)
Riding on the tireless wave of voices, countless sakura petals began to fall gently from the sky like the most delicate of snowflakes touched with the barest hint of a blush. One by one, they drifted softly to the ground.
Through the speakers around the square, an unfamiliar voice began to speak, “Dear Mr. Gu Zhun, I have a letter here for you. You may not want to hear its contents because you are probably still angry about the writer’s intentional neglect in the past few weeks. Nevertheless, I will read out the letter for you, because it contains the writer’s truest feelings and these are feelings in which I truly believe as well.
“‘Gu Zhun, how are you? Hahahaha… Well, this is probably my first letter to you. Naturally, the childish love poems I wrote in the past don’t count, since you only read them because I told you that I wanted to send them to the school Literary Newsletter for publication… Hahaha, are you recalling those poems right now? Hahahaha….’
“Well, the amount of laughter in this letter is making me feel a little awkward but I will strive to be as faithful to the language as possible,” the speaker clarified briefly, eliciting a chortle from Gu Zhun in response. Unbeknownst to Gu Zhun, however, a camera was following his every move closely.
Distracted by the speaker, he was entirely oblivious to the fact that his reactions were being streamed live on the huge plaza screen above him, against the chorus of voices that continued singing in the background. Every one of his expressions was crystal clear to everyone gathered in the plaza.
The speaker turned his attention back to the letter, “‘Please forgive me for turning around to talk to you all the time back then. It might have been nothing but a huge annoyance to you, and you might have thought I was wasting my time looking for all kinds of excuses to strike up a conversation with you instead of pretty girls in the school… because you might have never known that I was already in love with you.
“‘Back then, I was a coward. I was too afraid to confess the truth. Every kiss, every touch, every attempt to hold your hand had to be wrapped cautiously under layers of pretence and false nonchalance. I was scared that you would leave me immediately if I told you how I felt… If telling the truth meant losing you forever, I would rather take my secret with me to the grave.’”
Gu Zhun trembled helplessly as memory after memory began to surface in his mind. Seven years ago, Zhang Heng was a hopeless student who slept through all his classes and copied his work from others all the time. But he only ever got into fights because of Gu Zhun, and he flirted with no one but Gu Zhun…
I know, Zhang Heng. I’ve always known…
- Lyrics taken from Chiisana Koi no Uta by Mongol800