Chapter 57: What Happened to My Image?
It was already late in the night when the trio touched down in China. The next day would be the first day of work after the festival. A good rest was sorely needed right now, or else they would really be in a pickle if the President fell asleep tomorrow at the staff briefing for the new year!
Zhang Heng was worried, and Ye Ruixi also shared his worries. Wen Yihong angrily smacked their heads. “Go to sleep early!”
“Yes sir!” The two of them yielded to his authority and got into the waiting taxis before waving their goodbyes. Wen Yihong would be driving home since his car was parked in the parking lot.
After he got home, Zhang Heng showered impatiently before he unlocked his phone with irrepressible excitement to send out a late-night message—
[Gu Zhun, I’m back!]
Zheng Heng imagined with anticipation a starry-eyed response from Gu Zhun– “What did you bring back for me, darling?”
Unfortunately, Gu Zhun had gone to bed at eight. He knew that he would be very busy the next day running errands for the President. He had no doubts regarding Zhang Heng’s competency, and he knew that Zhang Heng could easily handle these typical beginning-of-year reports and meetings. However, he was very clear that this was not the case for the employees. All workers suffered from their own brand of withdrawal symptoms every time the holidays came to an end. Since every team’s efficiency was ultimately decided by the efficiency of its slowest member, tough times lay ahead when work resumed the next day.
Gu Zhun only saw the message the following day when he turned his phone on in the morning. As he rushed towards the crowded morning bus, he typed and sent a simple reply: “Okay.”
Zhang Heng woke up at the sound of the alarm. He struggled against the fog of drowsiness in his head to get out of bed and freshen himself up. When Zhang Heng checked his phone after breakfast, he saw Gu Zhun’s message – [Okay.]
Dear God! He didn’t reply with just a monosyllabic “Oh”!
Seven years ago, “Oh” was definitely Gu Zhun’s favorite phrase when speaking to him.
For instance, seven years ago in junior high, he tried to persuade Gu Zhun to work on a group project with him. They were on their way to the canteen when Zhang Heng spoke up, “Our teacher told us to form groups for the science research project.”
“…” Wasn’t this usually the time for questions such as, “Really? Have you already formed a group? What shall our research topic be? How do you feel about such and such a topic?”
But all Gu Zhun had for him was a single monosyllabic answer, simple and harsh.
“So do you intend to form a group with me?”
Don’t just “I suppose” me, big shot! Do you realize how anxious and lost I am?!
As it was hard to figure out the thoughts of an elite student, Zhang Heng asked for further clarification. Since a question was asked clearly, the answer was also clearly given.
“Since this project requires teamwork, the class should have already been divided into groups. The fact that you are asking me shows that you have yet to find a group. That is the case for me as well. This is the reason you have come to speak to me. Hence, I conclude that it is already predetermined that I should form a team with you, and there is no need to waste time on any further discussion. As for the research topic and method, it will not be an issue for me to manage them by myself. You have forced me to waste twenty minutes of my time on this conversation.”
“….” I’m sorry!
Zhang Heng was awed by elite student Gu Zhun’s absolute lack of EQ.
Inwardly, Zhang Heng was completely crushed. He had not looked for Gu Zhun because he was unable to find a group. Zhang Heng had simply wanted to spend more time with Gu Zhun, but Gu Zhun did not understand his intentions at all.
There were simply too many instances like this to keep count.
Another instance was when he tried asking Gu Zhun to have lunch with him in the canteen.
“Let’s have some fried noodles.”
“Oh.” It was nothing more than a faint, noncommittal monosyllable. Most people would have said “yes” but Gu Zhun was not one of them.
A tinge of annoyance flared up within Zhang Heng. Even though they often agreed to go to the canteen together, Zhang Heng was almost always the only one standing in the long queues, paying for two servings, and enduring the stares of the people around him. Even Fatty seemed to commiserate with him, his glances filled with pity. He could have lived this down, but Gu Zhun showed absolutely no sign of appreciation despite all that he had gone through.
Well, anyone would have been annoyed had they been in his shoes.
Hence, Zhang Heng stopped with a frown. “Can’t you give me a different reply? How about ‘thank you’…” He lowered his head as he spoke, as if he had suffered a great wrong.
In reality, Gu Zhun had been absorbed in solving a physics problem and simply wanted Zhang Heng to get going. At any rate, wasn’t it already obvious that he would eat whatever it was that Zhang Heng wanted to eat?
Gu Zhun reached over to cup Zhang Heng’s face with his hands, lifting it to meet his eyes—
“I’m sorry, I don’t know what to say. In the future, don’t ask me what I want to eat. I will have whatever you are having.”
Then he released Zhang Heng’s face and returned to his calculations.
Standing behind Gu Zhun, Zhang Heng was almost moved to tears— Was this what the proverb “the wife shall sing to her husband’s tune” meant?
However, Gu Zhun meant nothing of the sort. He simply thought that it was far too much trouble to respond properly to every one of Zhang Heng’s future queries. It was much easier just to go with the flow. Studying was much more important.
If Zhang Heng had known what Gu Zhun was really thinking, perhaps he would have cried himself to death.
Well, what was in the past was in the past. In this present moment, Gu Zhun had already arrived at the company and tidied up the office so that his boss could return to a refreshing environment.
However, his boss was not like most bosses; his demands were very simple. All he ever asked for was to see Gu Zhun in person and be told, “Welcome back.” He would even be happy to give Gu Zhun a raise for that.
Indeed, President Zhang was a boss without a backbone.
Soon, Zhang Heng entered through the doorway with several bags in his hands. “Happy New Year!”
“…” Gu Zhun continued his task of tidying the folders, but he looked up after some thought to reply, “The same to you.”
Given how long it had been since he last saw Gu Zhun, Zhang Heng was naturally unaffected by the coldness in Gu Zhun’s response. He made his way to Gu Zhun’s side, twirling and turning with his bags, and asked with a playful expression, “Darling, won’t you look at what I got for my sister?”
Gu Zhun glanced briefly at the bags’ contents: brands he didn’t recognize, packaging in mostly pinks and pastel blues– these were probably cosmetics or ladies’ luxury goods.
Gu Zhun slapped Zhang Heng’s face away, using force to push him away and put some distance between them.
“It’s work hours now, Boss. It will be bad if others see us like this.”
“Why would it be bad?” Zhang Heng stared at Gu Zhun innocently with big fluttering eyes.
“Well, because–” Because others would gossip about us being together of course…
The sentence remained incomplete as a blush spread across Gu Zhun’s face. He kept his head down and continued fiddling with the folders.
Now, Zhang Heng was almost over the moon with joy. Wasn’t this clearly an overreaction? His shy reluctance to explain himself could only stem from an implicit acknowledgment from the heart that they were truly together as a couple.
Wasn’t that so?
Zhang Heng put the bags down and explained, “These are cosmetics for big sister Gu Li, as well as some trendy dresses that I got the store attendants to pick out. They are New Year presents from me.”
“Thank you.” Gu Zhun picked up the bags, intending to take them home with him after work. However, Zhang Heng stopped him, “I couldn’t possibly let you carry so much by yourself, especially when you have to fight for space in a crowded bus! I’ll give you a lift home after work.”
“By the way, don’t you want to know what I got for you?”
Gu Zhun resolutely gave up the guessing game. He looked straight at Zhang Heng and signaled for him to reveal the answer directly.
Zhang Heng sighed as he lamented losing the joy he could have gotten from the small surprise. However, when he saw how willing Gu Zhun was to cooperate with his revelation, he immediately closed in on Gu Zhun’s face without ceremony and pressed their lips together.
“Nngh –” Gu Zhun’s voice trembled as he felt the intrusion of Zhang Heng’s tongue. And during work hours too!
Gu Zhun held onto Zhang Heng’s shoulders as Zhang Heng held him by the waist, slowly easing him backward onto the table top before pressing down on his body completely, their bodies flush against each other.
“Oh… ngh…” The soft moans sent a jolt down every nerve in Zhang Heng’s body and he intensified his assault. The hand on the waist began wandering greedily along Gu Zhun’s back, its caresses gentle, and its movement light.
Gu Zhun had to muster all his strength to push Zhang Heng away, “No….”
“You promised me that you would try,” Zhang Heng said before kissing him again.
The make out session left Gu Zhun’s face flushed, his body trembling uncontrollably as the tip of Zhang Heng’s tongue found his sweet spot. At the same time, Zhang Heng’s hand roved tirelessly over Gu Zhun’s back, his touches tingling like tiny shocks of electricity.
About five minutes later, Zhang Heng’s tongue finally backed out, a little tired from the exchange, though his lips continued to press hard against Gu Zhun’s, unwilling to part. Gu Zhun used this opportunity to push him away, heaving heavily as he lay face-down on the desk with his back to the ceiling.
Zhang Heng lay atop Gu Zhun and muttered in his ear, “Don’t you want this?”
Well, he did agree on their trip to Japan to try things out with Zhang Heng, but there hadn’t been much change in their interaction since then, and they behaved pretty much the same way they used to.
Zhang Heng had always been the one to take the initiative to “try things”. On the other hand, Gu Zhun would only initiate on rare occasions.
“It’s not that I don’t want this. It’s just that…” Gu Zhun kept his head down. He was finally willing to speak honestly from his heart as he used to, seven years ago, “I’m just shy….”
“Hahaha…. ” Although he seldom laughed out loud, Zhang Heng still struggled to keep his mouth shut and suppress his laughter in case he ended up shocking everyone on the same floor, destroying his own image as an overbearing and aloof President.
Soon, the day drew to a close.
“Come on, I’ll send you home.” Zhang Heng picked up all the bags in a show of gallantry.
Inside the car, Gu Zhun looked ahead as Zhang Heng drove towards his home.
“Gu Zhun, tell me honestly. Do you also expect material gestures from me?” Zhang Heng could not help but ask. Ever since the kiss, unless it was during work-related conversations, Gu Zhun avoided eye contact with him for the entire day. When there was no work to be done, he would look for excuses to go to the break room or get up to use the toilet… This made Zhang Heng so nervous that he stupidly blurted out, “Are you suffering from kidney deficiency? To guarantee our mutual happiness, drink some Shenbao1.”
(Gu Zhun: Readers will smash you to death with Zongheng2 coins for that.)
“Material things easily disappear in ten years or so. There isn’t really a point to having them, so I might as well not ask and save the space that would otherwise be wasted on storing them.” Gu Zhun’s attitude was just as cold and indifferent as his tone.
Zhang Heng pulled over by the roadside and turned to look at Gu Zhun. There was no sadness in his eyes, only indifference; it was as if he had simply made a neutral comment, without anger and discontent, and without any intent to praise. He was simply stating a matter of course, as if it had nothing to do with him– no, in his eyes, it really didn’t have anything to do with him.
“Gu Zhun, don’t worry. I have been in love with you for seven years. Whether it is seven years from now, or a hundred, I will continue loving you. Everything I possess is yours.” Zhang Heng pulled Gu Zhun towards himself and dropped a kiss on Gu Zhun’s forehead.
Gu Zhun smiled, looking somewhat resigned and incredulous. He was reluctant to believe blindly.
“Don’t you believe in me?”
Gu Zhun shook his head and replied, “No, it’s not that. My parents taught me that the deeper I love, the deeper I would be hurt. I am afraid of getting hurt, and I am also afraid of hurting you because I am unable to let go of my misgivings to love you back equally. I’m sorry, Zhang Heng.”
Zhang Heng started up the car again. He continued driving for a long time before finally declaring, “I will wait for you, and I will keep watching over you.”
The car soon reached Gu Zhun’s apartment building. Zhang Heng followed Gu Zhun upstairs to pass the presents to Gu Li.
Gu Li patted Zhang Heng’s shoulder in approval, hinting that she was counting on him to continue with such bribery in future.
With clothes and beauty products of such high quality, I will be able to recover from my breakup and embrace a new relationship in no time!
“Sis, you must have a more discerning eye this time.”
“Of course. I will look for someone just like Zhang Heng: a loyal puppy and a ball of warmth, all in one loving package!”
This left Zhang Heng feeling somewhat awkward and exasperated – Hadn’t my image always been that of an overbearing, aloof President?
1.\tShenbao: an over-the-counter supplement made from traditional Chinese medicine to improve kidney and sexual functions
2.\tZongheng: the online platform on which TLCPS is originally posted; Zongheng coins are the currency that readers use on the platform