After He Gu asked his question, there was a long pause before he heard Feng Zheng take a deep breath and say in a choked voice, “I tried… but what could I have possibly said?”
He Gu’s heart clenched for a second. At that moment, there was nothing he could say in return.
Indeed, what could Feng Zheng have possibly said?
“Back then, I already knew what kind of person Song Juhan was. I didn’t want you to get hurt… but you were so obsessed with him, so I couldn’t say anything. I thought that even if I didn’t say it, you guys would break up really fast anyways. I never expected that when I came back after six years, you two would still be together, and that you would still have such strong feelings for him. Many times I’ve regretted not telling you back then, but now…” Feng Zheng’s voice trembled as he continued, “Now… there was no way I could’ve said anything.”
He Gu didn’t know whether he should blame Feng Zheng or not. To be honest, what was the point in blaming him anyway? Nothing would change now. So He Gu took a deep breath and said in a low voice, “I understand.”
“He Gu, I’m sorry. I’m really so sorry. There wasn’t a single day I didn’t regret it. I know I should’ve told you back then, and I’m sorry my momentary mistake has caused you so much unnecessary pain.” Feng Zheng’s voice was filled with guilt and sadness.
“You don’t have to apologize. You have no obligation to tell me anything.”
“He Gu… If you guys have finally ended it for good, why don’t you just forget about Song Juhan. Forget about him and start a new life.”
He Gu’s eyes stared vacantly ahead as he said in a mechanical voice, “I once thought that Song Juhan couldn’t possibly feel anything for anyone, so even if he didn’t have feelings for me, it was to be expected. It turns out I was wrong from the very beginning.” At this point, He Gu couldn’t even bring himself to feel any jealousy towards Feng Zheng. He knew his current predicament was entirely his own fault and no one else’s.
“You’re not wrong. Song Juhan doesn’t have feelings for anyone, and he never had feelings for me, either. Back then, we were so young, and we thought our mutual favorable feelings for each other could turn into something more. At that age, we were afraid to express an interest toward the opposite sex, so we turned that curiousity to the same sex instead. With a light-hearted and playful attitude, we thought we could be together. But you know what both our personalities were like. We might have worked as friends, but in terms of a romantic relationship we were unwilling to lose to the other. In the end, our feelings morphed into resentment and hatred.”
“I don’t want to know about any of that.”
“No, let me finish. Since everything’s already out in the open, just let me say this once and for all… At least that way you can thoroughly give up and move on.”
He Gu closed his eyes, tightened his fist, and acquiesced.
Feng Zheng let out a sigh of relief. “We grew up as family friends, so even after we broke up, we would always see each other. On the surface we could still pass as friends, but deep down we had both changed. Whoever I got close to, he would do anything to sabotage it. Likewise, whatever he had, I wanted it too. At that time, we were both trying to come out on top, and just wanted to steal each other’s limelight. A few years later, he moved abroad, and by the time he came back I thought we had both grown up… I thought he had matured, but the moment I saw the way he was looking at you, I started to worry again.”
He Gu revealed a bitter smile.
“When I found out about you two, I went looking for him and we ended up in a huge fight.” Feng Zheng gritted his teeth and continued, “I asked him why he was being such a jerk, and he said he just wanted to see what kind of a man someone like me could’ve possibly fallen for. He said you…” Feng Zheng breathed deeply before fiercely gritting out, “He said you were nothing special.”
He Gu wasn’t sure how he managed to endure listening to Feng Zheng until the very end. It must have been because all the blood in his heart had already dried up completely, and there was simply nothing else he could lose at this point.
If he thought about it from Song Juhan’s perspective, of course he was “nothing special.”
All these years, He Gu had been looking at him with eyes filled with longing and adoration. With just a little smile or a simple word from Song Juhan, his heart would race and his face would blush uncontrollably. Even without much effort from Song Juhan, He Gu would easily give himself up to him every time. The He Gu from back then was basically walking around with a sign on his forehead saying “please f*ck me.”
Song Juhan must’ve looked at him with such disdain and irreverence as He Gu embarrassingly threw himself at him. He must’ve thought Feng Zheng’s taste in men was laughable, and felt arrogantly proud at the power of his own charm. The mere thought made He Gu shiver all over.
If He Gu didn’t even take himself seriously, how could someone like Song Juhan take him seriously?
The whole situation was too sickening. Even He Gu felt like he was looking down upon himself.
Ten long years of secretly being in love with him, and six years of staying by his side—all that time was handed over to a man that not only played him, but also looked down on him. In the end, his life only amounted to a joke. It was utterly laughable and tragic.
This wake up call really hit home.
Feng Zheng tried to persuade him as he sincerely said, “He Gu, Song Juhan was never a good person. You’re still young, so it’s good that you’ve finally seen his true colors. Now that you have, it’s not too late to go and live your own life.”
Absentmindedly, He Gu answered, “En.”
After a moment’s hesitation, Feng Zheng asked, “So can you… can you forgive me?”
He Gu was silent for a while. “You did nothing wrong. But since I did once treat you as my friend, I can’t forgive you.” With that, He Gu hung up the call.
It no longer mattered whether He Gu found out or not—everything was out in the open now. He was finally forced to face the embarrassing relationship he had with Song Juhan and to have every little detail revealed under the sun, allowing everyone to see the bloody state of his heart. Only then would he no longer be able to make excuses for himself, to cover up more mistakes, or to find ways of forgiving his own actions in the last six years.
Perfect, just perfect.
Perhaps the only way to survive is to first go through hell1置之死地而后生 – This idiom comes from Sunzi’s The Art of War. It means “only when one is placed on a field of death, will they fight to live.”.
As he had told Chen Shan, He Gu returned to work the next day. Oddly, the second he walked into the office, all heads turned to stare at him.
He Gu calmly asked, “What’s wrong? Does my complexion look that bad?”
After a moment, a dajie from the administrative department answered, “It does look quite bad, Chief He. Your body is your most important capital investment after all.”
“Oh, thank you. I’ll pay more attention to it.”
“Umm, Chief He,” the administrative dajie wanted to say something else but stopped halfway.
Chen Shan tried desperately to signal her with her eyes, but the dajie seemed to ignore her warning as her curiosity got the better of her. “Chief He, Song Juhan was on the news recently because of a fight. We were just looking at the photos and noticed that one of the faces looks awfully like you.”
He Gu’s expression didn’t give away a single thing as he said, “Really? How similar is it?”
The dajie quickly pulled out a newspaper article from behind her as He Gu glanced at it, “En, it does look a bit similar.”
One of the other colleagues let out a sigh of relief. “Chen-jie, I told you it couldn’t possibly be Chief He. How could Chief He know Song Juhan and Zhuang Jieyu?”
Chen Shan stole a quick glance at He Gu. Even if no one else knew, she had clearly seen Zhuang Jieyu at He Gu’s home with her own two eyes.
He Gu answered expressionlessly, “Hurry and go back to work now. If I see you all gossiping again during work hours, I will have to punish you next time.”
Everyone backed away.
“Chen Shan, you come in,” said He Gu before walking into his office.
Chen Shan followed him in and closed the door behind her. In a quiet voice she asked, “Chief He, are you okay?”
“I’m a lot better.” He Gu turned on his computer as he massaged his temples. “My mind has been a little fuzzy lately. Can you just summarize the main points and the progress from the last few days for me, and be more specific.”
“That’s not what I was talking about, Chief He. I was asking…” Chen Shan paused for a second before she cautiously asked again, “Are you… are you really okay?”
He Gu was stunned as he stared at Chen Shan for a moment. “Yes, the person that was fighting with Song Juhan that day was me. Thank you for keeping it a secret for me. You really are a reliable colleague and friend.”
Chen Shan nodded her head vigorously, “Don’t worry, Chief He. I will definitely keep your secret for you. Although I don’t know how you two met or what caused the conflict, I trust my understanding of Chief He’s character. It must have been Song Juhan’s problem, and I’m not saying this because I’m biased, but I know the people of the entertainment industry have never been decent people. There’s always been a lot of gossip about him. Thank goodness your relationship with Zhuang Jieyu hasn’t been affected by this.”
He Gu was too lazy to explain himself. “En. Since this incident has nothing to do with my work, just treat it as if it never happened.”
“Yes, of course.”
Chen Shan summarized what happened in the past few days when he was away as He Gu quickly noted down the important points. For the first time, he felt how his emotional instability could affect his IQ. He wondered when he would step out from this muddled state of mind and get better.
Chen Shan left after she finished reporting about the project progress. He Gu tried earnestly to focus on the project information at hand, but he kept getting distracted.
Just as he started to focus again, his phone began to ring. He Gu picked up his phone and saw that it was a call from Gu Qingpei.
He Gu anticipated that Gu Qingpei must’ve also seen the news articles. Even if the photo was blurry, it wouldn’t be able to fool those who were close to him. Besides, Gu Qingpei already knew about his relationship with Song Juhan. He Gu wanted to avoid this conversation, but in the end, he still answered the phone, “Hello, Chief Gu.”
“He Gu, are you okay?”
“I’m fine.” In order to avoid unnecessary chit-chat, He Gu got straight to the point, “Song Juhan and I have separated.”
Gu Qingpei took a long breath before he asked, “Is it because of Zhuang Jieyu?”
“And what about Feng Zheng?”
He Gu froze for a moment. “How do you know about Feng Zheng?”
“Yuan Yang told me about it.”
Gu Qingpei coughed. “He’s working as my assistant-slash-driver right now.”
“Oh.” He Gu suddenly remembered something. When he was on that video call with Gu Qingpei, the “driver” that stormed in sounded exactly like Yuan Yang’s voice. What exactly was happening between them? That day, they seemed completely incompatible and at each other’s throats, but now they seem to have reconciled again…
Seeing as He Gu didn’t want to say more, Gu Qingpei didn’t probe further, and instead said, “He Gu, if you ever want someone to talk to, I am always here to listen.”
“Maybe later. Right now I want to… I just want to finish my work at hand and then take a long vacation.”
“Of course. You really do need a long vacation. If you need anything, do let me know.” Gu Qingpei was silent for a moment before he added, “He Gu, I know you must feel awful right now. But believe me, one day when you look back, you will realize this was a good thing. It is never too late to leave someone that isn’t right for you and return to the correct path.”
He Gu sighed, “Thank you.”
After he hung up, He Gu was left in a daze for a long while before he was able to focus on work again. He needed to distract himself with work so that he wouldn’t keep thinking about Song Juhan every minute and every second.
When he got home that night, He Gu found Zhuang Jieyu and Xiao Song waiting for him at his door. The atmosphere between the two seemed a little off, as if swords were drawn and a battle was about to ensue.
He Gu frowned. “What are you guys doing here?”
“Of course I’m here to take care of you.” Zhuang Jieyu answered matter-of-factly.
On the other hand, Xiao Song stuttered, “He Gu-ge, I’m… I’m here to see you. I was afraid…”
“Xiao Song.” He Gu cut him off. “I know what you’re here for, and I really don’t want to listen to any of it. You should leave.”
“Ge, it really isn’t…” Xiao Song looked as if he was on the verge of tears.
“I really don’t want to hear it. It doesn’t matter what you want to say.”
Zhuang Jieyu glared at him. “See, you heard him. He doesn’t want to hear it. Plus, he’s not feeling well right now. Can you stop annoying him?”
Xiao Song angrily bit back, “Who are you to interfere in He Gu-ge and Song Juhan’s relationship?!”
“Hey! Aren’t you also interfering?”
Xiao Song’s face flushed bright red as he turned to He Gu and said anxiously, “He Gu-ge, you don’t have to believe me, but I’m honestly not here to persuade you to reconcile with Han-ge. I really am worried about you, and I just wanted to come see how you were doing… These past few days, Han-ge has also been in quite a bad state. It’s all my fault. If it wasn’t for my rotten idea, you guys wouldn’t have run into each other that day. I feel so bad about it…”
“It has nothing to do with you.” He Gu opened the door without looking at him and said, “But you should leave now.”
Xiao Song nervously raised his voice, “He Gu-ge! At least believe me when I say this—Han-ge cares about you, he really does care about you. Even if you aren’t with Han-ge anymore, you are still my ‘ge.’ Please feel better soon!”
He Gu’s chest clenched in pain. He didn’t say anything. All he wanted at that moment was to get rid of anything and everything related to Song Juhan. He wanted to isolate himself from it, to shut the door and get it all out of his sight.
“Hey, hey, hey.” Zhuang Jieyu used his foot to hold the door open before forcefully squeezing himself in behind He Gu. He then turned around and gave Xiao Song a harsh glare as he slammed the door in his face.
He Gu put down his work bag and glanced at Zhuang Jieyu. “Are you going to just stay here for good? Don’t you have anything else to do?”
“What’s wrong with me staying here? I’m so adorable and humorous, isn’t it nice when I make you laugh?” Zhuang Jieyu said with a wide smile as he tried to influence He Gu’s negative emotions with his own cheerfulness. He Gu had been acting like a walking corpse for the last few days, and it was making Zhuang Jieyu anxious.
“Did your agency give you a hard time?” He Gu asked as he took off his coat.
Zhuang Jieyu froze for a second before his eyes turned gloomy. “They’re all talk. Plus, I’m too lazy to care right now. In any case, at least I managed to get famous for a while there. As long as the Song father-son duo don’t hold me accountable for this, the agency will continue to support me. But if they do, then I’ll be shelved2雪藏 – lit. to be covered and hidden by snow. This is used to describe celebrities that are spurned and hidden away by their agency, and are no longer allowed to attend events or public appearances..” He shrugged, then added, “I’ve gotten over it now. This won’t be the end of me anyway. I’ll just see how it goes…”
“En. If you have so much free time, you should study a bit more. You can’t just rely on your face for the rest of your life.”
“I hate studying. Also, I’ve never been smart anyways. It seems all the nutrients went to my face instead.” Zhuang Jieyu grabbed He Gu’s shoulders and shook him gently as he said like a spoiled child, “He-shushu, are you going to teach me how to study?”
He Gu said, “You should go to university.”
Zhuang Jieyu paled as if he had seen a ghost. “Hell no.”
“Then what can you do?”
“I… Maybe I’ll just start that Taobao shop instead.”
He Gu shook his head.
“I’ll go make dinner!” Zhuang Jieyu rolled up his sleeves and said, “You can rest first. Let me show you just how virtuous3贤慧 – a wise and kind “wife.” A woman that is perfect in her traditional roles I can be.”
He Gu changed his clothes and sat down on the sofa to rest for a bit. Although he wasn’t physically tired, his mental state was completely worn out. His mind felt dizzy and drowsy as if he had no energy at all.
Picking up the remote control, He Gu turned on the television, wanting to watch the evening news. Unexpectedly, the channel was still set on the entertainment channel he had last watched, and was currently showing the latest scandal on Song Juhan. He was suspected of fighting at a restaurant due to a jealous lover’s affair. This time, the news spread too fast. Even with Song He’s far-reaching influence, he couldn’t always control everything.
For a long while, He Gu stared numbly at Song Juhan’s photo on the television screen before he switched to the news channel.
It was almost impossible to erase all the traces of that person from his life—he was everywhere no matter where he looked.
He Gu just wanted to wipe his memories completely.
Proofread by Lizonka and Ess