Breakfast at the Xue house was gloomy.
“I’m going to school now!” Xue Meng announced as he headed out the door. Anything to get away from the gloomy atmosphere that was hanging around their dining table.
Mo Ran didn’t say anything and continued to moodily poke at his food.
‘Hey, A-ran. What’s wrong?” Xue Zhengyong asked, very worried for his usually happy and energetic nephew.
“It’s nothing,” Mo Ran hadn’t told his uncle about the whole Chu Wanning incident. The two were, well, close to being friends and Mo Ran didn’t want Xue Zhengyong to be angry at him.
“A-ran, you’ve skipped school for a week already. I think that…” Xue Zhenyong trailed off.
Seeing as how her husband didn’t have the guts to speak his mind, Madam Wang stepped in. “What your uncle is trying to say is that he wishes for you to return to school,” She softly said but her words left no room for argument.
Mo Ran wanted to throw a fit, begging them to let him stay at home for a bit longer, but they had already done so much for him. So he reluctantly nodded his head.
When Mo Ran stepped into his classroom, the first thing he saw was a crowd of girls surrounding Mei Hanxue.
All the girls turned their heads when they heard Mo Ran step in and many of them glanced between the two boys as if wondering who to fawn over.
But unlike most days, the look on many girls’ faces was full of worry and panic. Many were talking to each other with hushed whispers.
“What’s going on?” Mo Ran jokingly asked.
Mei Hanxue gave him a serious stare. “Xue Meng went to the hospital.”
Mo Ran’s eyes widened. “The hospital?! What happened?!”
“Then why is he in the hospital?!”
“As the vice-president, he was in charge of sending a student who had gotten injured to the hospital?”
Mo Ran couldn’t hear the shouts of doctors and nurses, telling him to slow down. They were all drowned out by the white noise in his head. All he could hear was the thumping of his pounding heart.
Mo Ran opened the door with such strength, it could’ve broken. His eyes widened and tears started to fill the corner of his eyes.
Chu Wanning was there, lying on the hospital bed. His uniform was bloody. His eyes were closed. He would’ve looked like he was dead if it wasn’t for the scrunched up expression he wore as if he was in pain. No. He is in pain.
Xue Meng was already sitting by Chu Wanning’s side, crying his eyes out.
“Xue Meng…” Mo Ran quietly said, not in a mood to call Xue Meng by his nickname. “What happened?”
Xue Meng started to sob even louder. “It...it was a c-car accident,” Xue Meng said with a hitched breath as he tried to wipe away his tears.
That morning, Xue Meng had made his way to school when he saw Chu Wanning on the other side of the road, waiting for the light to turn green.
Maybe it was just his imagination, but Chu Wanning’s expression seemed blank almost as if he was in a daze.
Xue Meng was about to call out to Chu Wanning when his eyes widened. Chu Wanning was walking in the middle of the road without looking!
Xue Meng couldn't even clearly remember what happened after that. He just remembered that there was a lot of blood, a lot of screaming. Girls panicking and whispering how it looked like suicide. That was stupid. Chu Wanning would never do something like that, but Xue Meng couldn't think straight. The only way he even managed to get Chu Wanning to the hospital was after Mei Hanxue had called the ambulance and pushed Xue Meng into the vehicle next as medics placed Chu Wanning on the stretcher, saying it was his job as vice-president.
As Mo Ran stood by Chu Wanning’s side, thoughts started to flood his mind. What if Chu Wanning never woke up? He never got a chance to explain himself, never got a chance to properly apologize.
“Sorry sir, but visiting hours are over,” A nurse gently said as she shook Mo Ran by the shoulder, waking him up. Mo Ran had skipped school, staying by Chu Wanning’s side the whole time, even after Xue Meng returned to school. Shi Mei had visited after school was over but quickly left after he and Mo Ran got into a small argument.
“No, I’m staying here,” Mo Ran stubbornly said.
“Sir, you have to leave,” The nurse sighed.
“No! I’m staying!” Mo Ran angrily shouted, shooting up from his seat.
“Sir, please be quiet. You will disturb the patient,” The nurse said. Her patience was running out.
Mo Ran was about to scream when he heard a soft groan up from behind him. He turned around to see Chu Wanning lifted his head slightly, trying to sit up.
“You’re being too loud,” Chu Wanning sighed.
“Wanning,” Mo Ran said with such relief, his eyes lighting up.
“I will go get the doctor,” The nurse sighed.
“Thank god you're okay,” Mo Ran said, his eyes watering. “I was so worried-
“What are you doing here?” Chu Wanning interrupted.
Mo Ran blinked twice. “What?”
“Just get out of here,” Chu Wanning said with an icy voice. If he wasn’t in so much pain right now he would’ve slapped Mo Ran already.
“No,” Mo Ran suddenly said. “You have to listen to me,”
“I don’t have to listen to anything you say!” Chu Wanning shouted but lightly groaned in pain.
“Just lie down,” Mo Ran said, his voice becoming softer as he placed his hand on the back of Chu Wanning’s head.
“Don’t touch me,” Chu Wanning muttered, but he didn’t, or couldn’t slap Mo Ran’s hand away.
“Wanning, please listen to me,” Mo Ran said, his voice becoming quieter and quieter. “You don’t have to forgive me. Just... listen to what I have to say,”
“It’s not like I have a choice,” Chu Wanning sighed.
“It’s true. I just dated you for money. And I’m not going to blame it on anyone. One day the person just approached me and told me that if I went out with you, got you to fall in love with me, break your heart, he would pay me money,”
Mo Ran ignored him. “At first, I didn’t really like you. You were always so cold to me, I thought you hated me. But gradually, I realized that you weren’t the cold, distant person everyone thought you were. I...I eventually started to like you. And then you held my hand at that time in the park, I fell in love with you,”
“Mo Ran…” Chu Wanning quietly said as if he was holding back a sob.
“I swear I was going to tell you everything. I got a call from the person, telling me to break up with you and I told them no. I told them that I wasn't going to break up with you. I promised that I was going to tell you the truth,” Mo Ran paused and then bitterly laughed. “I didn’t expect them to already be a step ahead of me and record our conversation. You have every right to be angry, to be mad at me, to not forgive me... I just wanted you to know the truth.”
“The truth is that I love you, Chu Wanning,” Mo Ran smiled as tears started to build up at the corner of his eyes.
“Mo Ran... I,” Chu Wanning swallowed. “I don’t blame you. I’m cold, unlikable, unfriendly. I know that many people don’t like me, despise me,”
Mo Ran felt his heart tighten. “Wanning,” he said, gripping Chu Wanning’s hand. “Don’t say that about yourself. Many people like you, Xue Meng, Shi Mei... me,”
Hearing Mo Ran mention Shi Mei, Chu Wanning felt his heart sink. “I believe you,” Chu Wanning said after a moment of silence.
“You said that it was Shi Mei, who paid you money, didn’t you?”
“I-I did, yes,”
Chu Wanning swallowed again and took a deep breath. “A few days ago, Shi Mei confessed that he liked me.”
Mo Ran’s eyes widened. “He did?”
“I never thought much of it, but Shi Mei never liked it whenever I talked about you,”
“You talked about me?”
Chu Wanning blushed. “I...I always liked you,” His voice was so quiet it could’ve been a whisper but Mo Ran heard it.
“You... you did?”
Chu Wanning pursed his lips and nodded. He then slowly pushed himself up to get a better look at Mo Ran. “W-when you confessed to me, I was beyond ecstatic. I guess I should’ve known it was a prank,” He said, his eyelashes dropping down. “I suppose it’s true. That the best dreams are rarely real. Although in this case, it wasn’t a dream which is why I...I tried to cling onto it for so long,”
But Mo Ran didn’t hear the last part. “W-Wanning, s-say that again,” Mo Ran stuttered.
Chu Wanning frowned. “Say what?”
“T-that part about the dream,”
“The best dreams are rarely real?”
Mo Ran eyes widened. It was the same quote that year ago when someone had let it post-it notes everywhere for him to find. One of them read, “The best dreams are rarely real,”. Unlike most of the other quotes, this one wasn’t necessarily uplifting, but it was Mo Ran’s favourite. It helped him believe that the pain that he was feeling was because he was alive, he was living. It helped him face the fact his parents were dead, but it was part of reality. Because in life, nothing was perfect.
“Post-it notes,” Mo Ran muttered.
“You were the one who wrote me those post-it notes,” Mo Ran said. It was a big jump. Maybe it was just a common saying.
Chu Wanning's eyes widened by a fraction. “H-how did you know?” But when he saw the surprised look on Mo Ran’s face he realised that Mo Ran didn’t know either and was simply guessing.
“I-it really was you,”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” chu Wanning said, his voice becoming cold. Even after being exposed, he still tried to save his face.
Mo Ran chuckled. “What are you lying to me for?”
“I...I just heard from the principal that your parents had passed away and I could see you weren’t your normal cheerful self, but I was too embarrassed to approach you.”
Mo Ran was over the moon when he finally realised he had found out after all this time, who had been lifting his spirits when he was in the down. But then felt himself plummet back to earth. In the end, the person who had looked after him from afar, he had hurt.
“Why are you crying?” Chu Wanning asked with shock as tears started to pour down MoRan cheeks.
“H-how can you ever forgive me?” Mo Ran sobbed, burying his face into the bedsheets. “I hurt you even when you helped me. I hurt you.
Chu Wanning Just sighed and stroked Mo Ran’s hair. “I forgive you,”
“I don’t understand. How can you believe me?”
Chu Wanning then sighed. “It... it was a few days ago. I was at Shi Mingjing’s house,”
Mo Ran immediately felt jealousy flare in his heart, but he let Chu Wanning continue.
“I...i hadn’t planned to but I was on his phone and I found the recording. I found the entire recording of your conversation. He had edited it. That’s why I know you’re telling the truth. But I guess... I just wasn’t sure. I couldn't believe it. At least not before hearing it from you in person first,”
“T-then what will you do with Shi Mei?”
“I suppose I will have to sever my relationship with him,”
No words were spoken and it was still tense between the two, but Mo Ran’s thick face easily broke it.
“Do you still like me?” Mo Ran blurted out. Chu Wanning may have forgiven him, but if he didn’t like Mo Ran anymore, he understood.
Chu Wanning turned red. “Y-you expect me to answer such a question?”
“It’s okay if you don’t. I understand,” Mo Ran smiled.
Chu Wanning didn’t say anything and Mo Ran could feel his heart sink, but he couldn't; force Chu Wanning to like him.
Suddenly he felt a hand squeeze his own. He looked up to see Chu Wanning, his face turned away, but his ears burning red. Mo Ran couldn't’ stop grinning from ear to ear. Chu Wanning may not have said anything, but this was enough.
“I like you,” Mo Ran childish grinned as he gently grasped Chu Wanning’s chin and pressed his lips against his.
Mo Ran could feel Chu Wanning smile.
“I like you too,”