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A fake relationship

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Chu Wanning, a senior in his last year of high school. He was the kind of person who got straight ‘A’s every time, but never bragged about it. He had a nice face, sharp features, not necessarily kind-looking, but he did look elegant. It suited him. Whenever someone asked to copy homework from Chu Wanning they would earn a glare and then a three worded answer. Do it yourself. So obviously, most people didn’t like him. 

Mo Ran knew all this. Everyone did. It wasn't any secret. Mo Ran was the absolute opposite of Chu Wanning. He constantly flunked his tests, never gave in homework, was constantly flirting around (with both guys and girls). Mo Ran could never stand people like Chu Wanning. The type who was a stickler for the rules, uptight and rigid. That was why he had so easily agreed to this whole thing when Shi Mei brought it up.

“I’ll pay you money if you date Chu Wanning,” Shi Mei smiled, waving paper money in his hand.

“Oh?” Mo Ran asked, raising an eyebrow. A grin appeared on his face. Mo Ran used to see Shi Mei as this pure angel, too pure for this world, yet recently Shi mei’s been getting bolder. Willing to finally smoke with him, skip classes, although throwing rocks at people’s windows was out of the question. He didn’t want to hurt anybody. And now look at this. He’s even willing to play a prank on Chu Wanning, a pretty cruel one at that. 

Mo Ran was so excited by the whole idea he didn’t even question why Shi Mei suddenly wanted to do this. Plus there was money too. Who wouldn’t want money?

“How long do I have to do this?” Mo Ran asked.

“Until I say so,” Shi Mei answered. “I’ll pay for any gifts you buy him. Just capture his heart,”

Mo Ran wasn’t just excited about the whole thing just because he likes to stir up trouble. It was also because it was Chu waning. Imagine making a dent in the guy. A cold, emotionless person. This was going to be interesting.

Despite being one grade younger, Mo Ran had classes with Chu Wanning. That was because the last two grades of high school were put together. 

Mo Ran was thinking about all the things he could do to capture Chu Wanning’s heart and he suddenly stopped in his tracks. Chu Wanning has to first accept his confession. 

Mo Ran was pretty confident when it came to confessions. He has never been rejected once, not that he was the one confessing most of the time, but the point was he was confident about this whole thing.

Mo Ran knew that confessing out of the blue wasn’t a good idea. He was probably a complete stranger to Chu Wanning. So he decided to do a series of things for at least a week before confessing.

The first day Mo Ran put a letter in Chu wan Ning’s locker. Mo Ran wondered if he should write a long or a short letter but he was worried that his terrible English writing skills would show if he wrote too long of a letter so he stuck to a short one. In the end, he got Shi Mei to help him write it.

Mo Ran watched from afar as Chu Wanning opened his locker. 

Chu Wanning has just been getting his books for the day when he noticed a light pink envelope. He frowned and he reached out for it. He very neatly tore it open and took out the folded piece of paper. The edges were decorated with very simple and cute pink lines. 

Mo Ran had got some of his female classmates to help him design it. They hadn’t even asked him what it was for. 

Chu Wanning eyebrows seemed to scrunch up even further.

Mo Ran knew exactly what the letter read.

“I’ve been looking at you for so long. When will you pay attention to me? I like you the best.” MR

That was all but Mo Ran felt that it was better than writing some cheesy long letter.

Chu Wanning stared at it for a few solid seconds and Mo Ran thought it as a good sign but suddenly Chu Wanning crumpled the paper and threw it away into a nearby bin.

How cold! How could he just throw away a love letter like that?! So cruel.

But Mo Ran wasn’t going to give up like that. He knew this was going to be hard. The second day he left chocolates in Chu Wanning’s locker. It was heart-shaped chocolate in a heart-shaped container decorated with a golden ribbon. Mo Ran had added a small pink heart-shaped post-it note on top that was signed, ‘MR’'.

Mo Ran felt that it was quite clever. While it was his initials, it could also just stand for the word, ‘mister’. And even if Chu Wanning did assume that it was someone initial he was sure there were many other people with the same initials as him.

That morning, Mo Ran once again watched as Chu Wanning found the chocolate. This time Chu Wanning took it out, getting a closer look at it. He started to walk to the nearby bin and was about to chuck it in but he then hesitated. He ended up shoving back into his locker. 

At least he didn’t throw it out, Mo Ran thought. An improvement, right?

The third day Mo Ran got an osmanthus cake and placed it in Chu Wanning’s locker slightly later than usual but still in the morning. He wasn’t sure how long a cake could stay in a locker, so he wanted Chu Wanning to find it as quickly as possible. Luckily, the osmanthus cake was only in there for a few minutes before Chu Wanning found it.

Mo Ran had already cut the osmanthus cake into tiny pieces. Chu Wanning took one piece. He then glanced around, as if trying to see if anyone was watching him. Once He determined there was no one he quickly popped one small piece into his mouth.

Mo Ran grinned. 

On the fourth day, Mo Ran didn't just want to leave things in the locker. He wanted to change things up a bit. So he came even earlier than usual, hoping there was no one around. He stepped into the classroom with a bouquet of Haitang flowers and left them on Chu Wanning’s desk. Mo Ran didn’t want anyone to be there because he didn’t want rumors going around about him liking Chu Wanning. At least not yet. He wanted to surprise Chu Wanning. 

Chu Wanning opened his locker to find there was nothing inside it. Chu Wanning felt slightly relieved but disappointed at the same time. He didn’t feel like dwelling on it.

He walked into his classroom and saw a bouquet resting on a random desk. He found it quite romantic until he saw that it was his desk. Chu Wanning didn’t know what to do with it. To throw away fresh flowers seemed like a waste, but he didn’t want to accept it. There was already another student in the room, Mo Ran. He didn’t want Mo Ran to get the wrong impression that Chu Wanning was easily wooed over by some flowers so Chu Wanning threw them into the bin. But he did pluck off one flower before doing so and secretly placed it in his pocket. 

Mo Ran watched as Chu Wanning walked out of the room. Mo Ran grabbed the bouquet out of the bin. Such a waste. Maybe he would give them to Mei Hanxue who could then give them to Xue Meng. 

Mo Ran wasn’t sure whether Chu Wanning hated flowers or just didn't want to take it because Mo Ran was in the room. 

The fifth day was the most extreme. On Fridays, Chu Wanning would arrive at school slightly later than his usual time. Usually, on Fridays, he had no classes that required a textbook but he decided to check his locker. Just in case. There was nothing. Chu Wanning brushed away whatever he was feeling and quickly walked to his classroom only to find people crowding around his desk. 

“That’s my desk,” Chu Wanning coldly said, glaring at his classmates who were blocking his way. 

They immediately started to make way and Chu Wanning saw a pile of chocolates on his table, along with another bouquet of Haitang flowers and a pink envelope. As Chu Wanning wondered what to do with all this, Mo Ran was sitting at his desk, cursing his luck. He didn’t expect Chu Wanning to come to class later than usual. He was worried that Chu Wanning’s pride wouldn’t allow him to read the letter. Chu Wanning could throw away the chocolate and flowers but not the letter. He had to read the letter.

Chu Wanning stood up and grabbed the flowers and chocolate in hand. He was about to walk over to the bin when suddenly the teacher came in.

“Everyone, take a seat,”

The bin was on the complete opposite side of the classroom and Chu Wanning disliked not listening to the teacher so he could only sit down and shove the gifts into his bag. 

As Chu Wanning was taking notes in his notebook, his head looking down, he felt something gently bump into his forehead. He looked up to see a small paper aeroplane on his desk. He looked around, but he couldn’t see anybody that looked like they had thrown it. Luckily the teacher was facing the whiteboard and hadn’t seen the aeroplane. 

Chu Wanning was about to pass it off as a stupid prank when he noticed that the paper said, “Read me,”

Chu Wanning frowned. He looked up, making sure the teacher wasn’t looking, and unfolded the small paper aeroplane.

“Read the envelope that came along with the chocolate and flowers,”

Chu Wanning kept his face indifferent and crumpled up the piece of paper and shoved it into his bag. He would read the envelope later. The person who sent the flower and chocolate...they were in this class? Who was it? Chu Wanning looked around but wanted to continue to pay attention to class so he stopped. 

Class ended. Students ran out of the classroom the moment the bell rang. Chu Wanning finally opened up the envelope.

“Please come to the back of the school after school,” The letter read. Chu Wanning didn’t know what to do. The way the envelope and letter were decorated and with all the chocolate and flowers, it was obvious this was a concession. Except, whether it was the real deal or a just a prank he wasn’t sure. 

School already ended and Mo Ran was sitting at a bench behind the school. Minutes had already passed but there was no sign of Chu Wanning. 

What if he doesn't come? Mo Ran thought. Suddenly a thought passed through his head. He had forgotten something very important. What if Chu Wanning wasn’t into guys…? Mo Ran groaned. What was he going to do now?! He hadn’t thought about this at all! He had been taking it for granted until now. He liked guys, Xue Meng claimed to not like guys but come on, he had Mei Hanxue. Who was he fooling? As for Shi Mei, he wasn’t exactly sure, but he was sure Shi Mei liked guys too. 

Mo Ran slapped himself in the face. If Chu Wanning didn’t like guys he was making a fool of himself right now. Why had Shi Mei even asked him to do this? Why couldn't he ask some girl to do this? But before Mo Ran could freak out even more and run away Chu Wanning appeared.

“You’re here!” Mo Ran happily said. It just kind of blurted out. 

Chu Wanning frowned. “Are you the one who sent me the letter?” He asked.

“Yes,” Mo Ran grinned.

“What do you want?” Chu Wanning asked.

He’s straight to the point , Mo Ran though. “I really like you,” Mo Ran grinned, letting his dimples show. “Will you go out with me,”

“No,” Chu Wanning abruptly said. 

Mo Ran didn’t expect it to be easy but he didn’t expect to be so brutally shot down. This was hurting his pride. “Why not?” He pouted.

Chu Wanning narrowed his eyes. “You’re being suspicious,”

“Huh? How?” 

“What would someone like you like me?”

“Someone like me?” Mo Ran innocently asked. “What do you mean?”

“You know what I mean,” Chu Wanning snapped. “Someone popular, good at sports and...good looking,” the last word was so forcefully spat out it looked like it took all of Chu Wanning’s will to say it. He turned his head away.

“You think I’m good looking?” Mo Ran grinned, bringing his hand to his chin.

“Forget what I said,” Chu Wanning snapped.

“Then why won’t you date me?” Mo Ran asked.

“What?”

“You said it yourself. I’m good looking and popular. Aren’t I the perfect boyfriend?”

Chu Wanning looked at him like he was an idiot. “That also means you have a reputation to maintain. You don’t want to be seen with me,”

Mo Ran chuckled. “If that’s what you're worried about you shouldn't be. I don’t have a good reputation. Everyone already knows I’m a troublemaker,”

“Just…” Mo Ran continued, bringing out his puppy eyes. “Give me a try, alright?” He asked.

Chu Wanning was silent for a few seconds before answering. “Alright,”

Mo Ran eyes brightened up. “Really?!”

Chu Wanning just slightly nodded but for a person who didn’t talk a lot, it was more than enough. There were a few more awkward moments of silence before Chu Wanning spoke up. “Does that make us…?” He trailed off.

“A couple?” Mo Ran offered. Chu Wanning nodded. Mo Ran grinned. “I guess,”

“You know…” Mo Ran said. “I thought you weren’t going to come,” He admitted. That was the truth. 

“I was with a teacher,” Chu Wanning said.

The reason Chu Wanning was late was because he couldn’t make up his mind on whether to go or not. Chu Wanning knew that he was unlikeable, what were the chances of someone truly liking him. Close to zero. Chu Wanning assumed it was a prank but at the same time what if it wasn’t. A part of him was uselessly hopeful. Chu Wanning just wanted to go home but he found himself stuck to a spot, unable to move. 

A teacher spotted Chu Wanning and asked if he could help him grab a few boxes from the teacher office and bring them to the science lab. As Chu Wanning stepped into the teacher office he could hear two teachers talking to each other.

“I saw Mo Ran sitting outside. He looked pretty nervous, muttering something to himself,”

“Really? Didn’t think he could be nervous about anything,”

“I asked him if he was waiting for someone and I could tell them but Mo Ran just shook his head.”

“A girlfriend?” 

“No idea. Who knows what that boy is up to.”

“Trouble, that’s what it is.”

Chu Wanning flushed at the ears when he found himself eavesdropping for slightly too long and hastily left the room. As he made his way to the science lab, he wondered. Was Mo Ran waiting for him? If Chu Wanning wasn’t holding boxes right now, he would’ve slapped himself for thinking such a thing, but he couldn’t push away the thought. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to just check. He would leave the school out of the back entrance anyway. He would just pass by and quickly check. 

Chu Wanning headed to the back of the school. He was just going to quickly walk by but was immediately stopped by Mo Ran. He didn’t expect that Mo Ran was waiting for him. Mo Ran out of all people. He then remembered how he had thrown out the flowers when Mo Ran was right there. He started to feel guilty but said nothing. Maybe it wasn’t even Mo Ran. Turned out it was.

 ”You actually got him to accept?” Shi Mei asked with surprised eyes after Mo Ran had told him what happened the next day as they were hanging out.

“Hey,” Mo Ran pouted. “Why would you ask me to do this if you doubted me?”

Shi Mei just shook his head and laughed. “Sorry, I just didn’t expect him to accept that easily,”

“You're paying for all those chocolate and flowers, right?” Mo Ran.

Shi Mei nodded his head.

“Hey,” Mo Ran said.

“Yes?”

“Did you know that Chu Wanning likes guys?”

“Yup,” Shi Mei answered.

“Huh, alright then,” Mo Ran answered. He didn’t ask any more than that. "Also, are we going to tell Xue Meng about this whole prank?"

Shi Mei gave him a look like Are you seriously asking that? 

They both knew that Xue Meng was completely respected Chu Wanning. If they found out they were playing such a cruel prank on him, he would definitely go complaining about it to his dad, the principal of the school. 

"So I guess not," Mo Ran grinned. 

"Have you already thought of a place for your first date?" Shi Mei asked as he sipped on his coffee. 

"Yup," Mo Ran grinned. He brought all his dates to the same place for a first date every time. It wasn't going to be anything impressive, but he had to admit, He was slightly excited. He was dating Chu Wanning. Chu Wanning. The ice king. The guy who just sent cold glares to everyone.

"I'll pick you up at 11:00 tomorrow," Mo Ran texted right when he got home. Mo Ran was surprised when Chu Wanning had offered to change contacts. He didn't even think Chu Wanning even had a phone. They weren't allowed to use phones on schools grounds, so of course, Chu Wanning never brought it out. 

"Okay," Chu Wanning replied, almost immediate. 

The next day, Mo Ran stood outside Chu Wanning's house, checking his reflection in the window. He combed his hair back and straightened his shirt. He heard the door click open. Mo Ran could hear himself swallow as Chu Wanning stepped out...

Mo Ran doesn't think he will be able to survive the whole day.

 

 

Chapter Text

Mo Ran swallowed as he watched Chu Wanning step out of his house. In casual clothes. Chu Wanning in casual clothes. Mo ran never thought he would ever see the pristine and elegant Chu Wanning step out of his house in...this.

It was a simple white shirt, off-white blue long pants topped with a white jacket. Mo Ran was sure he had never seen someone who looked so good in white.

“You look great,” Mo Ran grinned. Just treat this as a normal date .

Chu Wanning stared at him as if he was trying to determine whether Mo Ran was lying. “You too.” He quietly said after a while.

The two of them walked along the road for a few minutes before Chu wanning spoke up. “Where are we going?”

“It’s a secret!”

Chu wanning frown but he didn’t continue to question.

Another few more minutes and Mo ran places his hand on Chu Wanning’s shoulder to stop him, only to earn a glare. 

“We’re here!”

“...A zoo?”

“Yup!” Mo Ran always brought his partners here for a first date. “Man, I’m starving. Let’s get something to eat first,”

Chu wanning nodded and followed Mo Ran who now knew this place like the back of his hand.

“Welcome,” a voice said as Mo Ran and Chu wanning opened the door causing the bells to jingle.

“A table for two, please,” Mo Ran smiled.

“Right this way,” the waiter gestures, showing them a small table next to the window. 

“They sell the best food here,” Mo Ran said as he picked up a menu. “The spicy crab is the best.” 

Chu wanning just nodded and continued to go along with whatever Mo ran ordered.

Many minutes later the food came. Had Mo Ran come by himself he would’ve immediately dived into his food, gobbling up every dish but since he had company he showed some restraint. 

As Mo Ran was eating the spicy crab he heard Chu wanning speak.

“You like spicy food?” 

No ran swallowed his food. “Yup! Probably runs in the family.”

Chu wanning again just nodded. Mo Ran wondered if Chu Wanning ever got a headache from nodding his head too much. Mo Ran kept on eating. He looked up to recommend another spicy food to Chu Wanning when he saw the older boy desperately gulping down water, his face flushed red and tears watering at the corner of his eyes.

“Can you not eat...spicy food?” Mo Ran asked, slowly placing down his cutleries.

Chu wanning hands fidgeted a bit on his cup of water as if embarrassed by this fact. 

Mo Ran raised his hand to order a drink. Soon a sweet soybean drink arrived. Chu wanning grabbed it, still trying to show restraint and composure but he practically gulped it in one go.

“...I’m sorry.” Chu wanning quietly apologised.

“It’s fine!” Mo Ran frantically said, waving his hand. “I should’ve asked you if you could eat it.” Mo Ran had just assumed that Chu wanning nodding meant that he could eat whatever Mo ran ordered. Mo Ran suddenly felt as if he had found out one of Chu Wanning’s weaknesses...

“I’ll order something else. Do you have something you want?”

“No. It’s alright. I’m full,” Chu wanning said, wiping his mouth was the corner of a napkin.

Mo Ran wasn’t sure to believe him. But before he could insist, dessert arrived. A plate that contained six tang yuans neatly lined up.

Chu wanning, who claimed to be full, didn’t hesitate in eating the dessert.

“Do you like sweet things?” Mo Ran asked and he also chewed on a tang yuan, remembering the time Chu wanning had eaten the osmanthus cake he had given him.

Chu wanning ignored him. What was this guy's deal? Ignoring him every time he didn’t want to answer a question. 

Soon the bill arrived and Mo Ran brought out his money but so did Chu Wanning. 

“I’ll pay this time,” Mo Ran insisted.

But this time instead of staying compliant and just nodding his head, Chu Wanning argued about paying the bill.

“You can pay next time,” Mo Ran sighed, patting Chu Wanning’s hand which had been resting on the table. 

Chu wanning immediately pulled back his hand and Mo ran beat him in paying the bill

The two of them continued to roam around the zoo. Mo Ran didn’t know a lot of animals. He just liked to look at them. When he was younger, he and his mother could only wonder what it would be like to go to a zoo. When his uncle adopted him, he visited it for the first time. That was the best day of his life.

Mo Ran turned his head to see Chu Wanning staring at the animals. It was hard to tell but Mo Ran swore that he saw a hint of amazement and curiosity in Chu Wanning’s eyes.

“Never been to a zoo before?” Mo Ran joked.

“No,” 

“Seriously?!”

Chu wanning turned to face Mo Ran but turned away just as quickly. “My parents are never at home and they don’t like it when I go to new places by myself.”

“Can’t you just go with a friend then?” Mo Ran asked.

Chu Wanning shot him a glare. “I forgot I’m with ‘Mr Popular’,” Chu Wanning sneered.

The two of them were silent as awkwardness filled the air. They made their way towards the aquarium when they saw a familiar face.

“Mo ran?” A voice called out.

“Shi Mei?” Mo Ran asked. 

“What are you doing here?” Shi Mei asks. Before Mo Ran can answer, Shi Mei is turning to face Chu Wanning. “Hello, Shizun,” Shi Mei politely greets. 

“Good afternoon, Shi Mingjing,” Chu Wanning says. He then steps away from Mo Ran, creating a distance between them. 

“Shizun?” Mo Ran asks, raising an eyebrow at the title. 

“He’s my tutor,” Shi Mei explains. “He helps me with my tests, homework and such,” Mo Ran eyes widened. Chu wanning. Helping people. What? Then a question flashed through his mind. Shi mei already knew Chu Wanning on a personal level. Why would he ask Mo Ran to do this to him? Wasn’t that a bit too cruel?

“What are you two doing together?” Shi Mei asked. 

“On a date,” Mo Ran grins, grabbing Chu Wanning's hand, only for the latter to yank it out of the former’s grip. Mo Ran doesn't even understand why Shi Mei was asking this. Shi Mei should already know or at least be able to guess. Shi mei raises an eyebrow when Chu Waning steps away even further from Mo Ran. 

“We just happened to meet,” Chu Wanning coughs in his hand, the tip of his ear red. Obviously lying. He’s a terrible liar but Mo Ran doesn’t point that out. 

“Well, I’ll leave you two alone,” Shi Mei smiled and walked away. Mo Ran wondered if Shi Mei was here by coincidence or he had followed them somehow. Who even knew what that guy was thinking anymore. 

“Why are you standing so far away from me?” Mo Ran laughed. 

“I just don’t want anyone to know that we’re together yet,” Chu Waning said. 

Well, too late for that. Shi Mei already knew. “Is this still about my reputation?” Mo Ran asked, cocking up an eyebrow. Before Chu Wanning could answer, they heard a sob coming from a bench near them. There were three girls. Two of them obviously ganging up on the third one, who was much smaller and younger. 

“Picking on someone like that,” Mo Ran said with distaste. Unfortunately, while Mo Ran disliked when others were being bullied or picked on, he couldn't help but turn a blind eye, just like everyone else. When he was younger and poor, richer kids would pick on him. But he never earned the sympathy of other kids or adults, they would just shoot him looks of pity and then turn away. That all stopped when his rich uncle adopted him. That was how much money mattered in this world. 

“Sorry, could you hold my wallet?” Mo Ran handed his wallet to Chu Wanning as he bent down to tie his shoelace. 

“Could you go get ice cream while I go to the bathroom?” Chu Wanning asked once Mo Ran stood up. 

“Sure,” Mo Ran happily replied. Finally. Chu Wanning finally asked for something. He was starting to feel bad that he was the one dragging the other around.

Mo Ran was halfway to the ice cream van when he realised he had left his wallet with Chu Wanning. Mo Ran made his way back, thinking that he would have to wait for Chu Wanning to come back from the bathroom when he saw Chu Wanning instead standing in front of the bullied young girl and scolding the other two, well more like glaring at them.

His angry glare should’ve made any children cry, but the two girls looked like they were at least 16. They didn’t cry but they did quickly scurry off. The younger girl, maybe around 10, thanked Chu Waning and wanted to give him a pack of candy she had just bought, but instead, Chu Wanning pushed it back into the girl's small hand.

Mo ran could see Chu Wanning’s cold eyes soften when he spoke to the little girl. Mo Ran quietly stood there, with an amused smile on his face as he watched Chu Wanning say anything and let the girl do all the talking and thanking. The girl finally ran off, thanking Chu waning one last time and the older man looked up. He saw Mo Ran just standing there with a smirk and his face slightly paled. 

“Did you seriously chase me off to get ice cream because you didn’t want me to see you helping the little girl?” Mo Ran asked with a grin.

 “How is that any of your business?” Chu wanning snapped.

In the end, the date ended on quite an abrupt note when Chu Wanning’s thin face couldn’t handle any more of Mo Ran’s teasing and he demanded that the day be over. Mo Ran still took the chance to walk him home, at least Chu Wanning didn’t complain about that. That night Mo Ran laid in bed thinking about how he had seen and learnt things about Chu Wanning that very little people knew. He felt kind of lucky thinking about it. This was actually more fun than he thought. 

 

Chapter Text

Mo Ran needed to clarify something. To himself. He did not like Chu Wanning. Not at all. In fact, he would dare go as far as to say that he hated him. He hated how Chu Wanning acted so cold to him, how he never put himself first, how he could never speak up to defend himself…

But there were also times Mo Ran couldn’t deny Chu Wanning was a good person. How he stood up for that bullied girl, how he didn’t tell Mo Ran he couldn’t take spicy food so that Mo Ran could enjoy eating. 

Mo Ran always either liked someone or disliked someone. It was one or the other but when it came to Chu Wanning, Mo Ran couldn't get his thoughts straight and the truth was, he really couldn't be bothered. He never tried to use more brain cells than he could afford. 

One more thing Mo Ran had to get off his chest. How was it that Chu Wanning always managed to smell like Haitang flowers. Was that perfume? Chu Wanning wears perfume? Seriously, no matter the time of day, Chu Wanning always smelled great. Maybe it was genetics...damn, Mo Ran seriously has to find out what secret Chu Wanning has to smell so good.

Ignoring that, Mo Ran decided to focus on more important things. Like their dates. The first date...well it could’ve gone better from Mo Ran’s point of view, but then again it could’ve been worse. At least Chu Wanning decided to tolerate him and was willing to go on the second and third date after that. 

The second time they had gone to an ice-skating rink, to Mo Ran’s disappointment, Chu Wanning could skate perfectly fine without his help. He had been hoping like his previous girlfriends and boyfriends, Chu Wanning wouldn’t be able to know how to skate and could lean to Mo Ran for help.

Chu Wanning looked incredibly graceful when ice skating, to a point where Mo Ran could only watch him with awe. When he noticed other men staring at Chu Wanning, Mo Ran quickly ushered him out of there. 

The third date they had gone to a cinema. The movie...he had chosen a random one. He hadn’t focused on it because he was more interested in trying to hold Chu Wanning's hand but failed every time. Chu Wanning would always shoot him a glare and snatch his hand back.

Luckily Mo Ran did get one chance on that date to do something romantic. The cinema was freezing and Chu Wanning had brought a jacket with him, but it didn’t cover his legs. 

It didn’t take long for Mo Ran to notice that Chu Wanning was shivering a few minutes into the movie. So he removed his jacket and placed it in Chu Wanning’s lap. Chu Wanning didn’t complain. 

The fourth date they had simply gone out for lunch. Mo Ran and wanted to make up for the time he had just ordered spicy food during their first date. 

Even if Chu Wanning hadn’t directly said it, he was sure that Chu Wanning likes sweet food. Every time they passed by a shop that sold cake or any kind of dessert, underneath that cold gaze, he would see a slight shimmer in Chu Wanning's eyes.

 It was cute. Mo Ran slapped his face. What was he thinking? He didn’t have feelings for Chu Wanning. He was just playing around for the money.

Mo Ran was already sitting down, waiting for Chu Wanning to arrive. The bell on the door jingled and Mo Ran spotted Chu Wanning stepping through the door, looking as elegant as ever.

Chu Wanning was looking around but he couldn’t spot Mo Ran as he was seated in the very corner of the restaurant.

“Wanning!” Mo Ran called out.

Chu Wanning whipped his head and started to make his way to the table.

“When did I give you permission to call me that?” Chu Wanning asked as he took a seat.

“Don’t be so cold,” Mo Ran laughed. “You can call me Mo Ran instead of Mo Weiyu, alright?”

Chu Wanning just gave him a look and went back to looking at his menu.

“Just don’t call me that in front of other people,” Chu Wanning suddenly said.

Mo Ran just grinned and nodded his head. 

This time Mo Ran had chosen a mix of spicy and sweet foods. Half of the table was filled with a burning red colour of food while the other side was filled with bland-looking food. Mo Ran could only grin about their contrast in tastes. 

“How is it?” Mo ran asked.

“Don’t talk with your mouth full,” Chu Wanning scolded. 

Sometimes, Mo Ran felt like he was meeting with a teacher instead of his ‘boyfriend’. Thinking about the teachers...his mind trailed off to the conversation he and Shi Mei had a conversation a few days ago.

“How did you get him to be your tutor?” Mo Ran asked Shi Mei.

“He’s my neighbour,” Shi Mei casually replied. “Our parents happen to know each other. I asked him to tutor me and he agreed,”

“That easily?!” Mo Ran asked.

“You should get him to tutor you too. I could ask him for you,” Shi Mei kindly offered.

“I don’t know...I’m already taking up so much of this time with all this fake dating thing, I don’t want to bother him for another hour,”

“Going soft?” Shi Mei asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Heck no! I just don’t want to be around him for any longer,” Mo Ran protested. 

“Going to this tutor session will bring you guys even closer. The faster you capture his heart, the faster you can break up with him,”

In the end, Mo Ran never gave an actual answer as the bell rang and they went to their classes. 

“Mo Ran?”

Mo Ran shook his head as Chu Wanning’s voice brought him back to the present.,

“What?” Mo Ran asked.

“I was talking about how Shi Mingjing was telling me that you wanted me to tutor you,” Chu Wanning said.

“He did?” Mo Ran asked, surprised.

Chu Wanning frowned. “Did he lie to me about that?” He asked, suspicious as he saw how surprised Mo Ran was. 

“No, no, no,” Mo Ran frantically said, waving his arms. Even though Shi Mei was playing this prank on Chu Wanning, he still didn’t want the older man to think badly of Shi Mei. They were still good friends. “I was just surprised that he actually asked you,”

Chu Wanning nodded. “Are you free on Friday? You can do your classes with Shi Mingjing,” 

“Yup. Sounds great. So what time?”

“Straight after school. You can stay as long as you need to,”

“So we-” Mo Ran moved his head as the waiter placed the plates of food onto their table. “So we go to your house together?”

Chu Wanning frowned again. “No. It’s Shi Mingjing’s house,”

“Oh. Why not yours?”

This time Chu Wanning ignored him but Mo Ran let it pass as he admired how Chu Wanning’s cold eyes gleamed a bit as he stared at the food, but immediately returned to his trademark stoicism

Despite being a cold and unfriendly guy, Chu Wanning was quite predictable. He was picky and would always eat his favourite food first. It had been a month since they started dating and Mo Ran had already found out quite a few interesting facts about Chu Wanning. Mo Ran felt that if people just tried harder to get closer to Chu Wanning they would find that he wasn’t as unfriendly as everybody thought.

Lunch ended on a good note, Chu Wanning looking partially satisfied. Mo Ran was getting better at reading his facial expression, or at least his body language. 

Friday quickly came, the day of Mo Ran’s first tutoring session with Chu Wanning. He and Shi Mei had decided to take the bus together to go to his house. As for Chu Wanning, he refused to take any public transport, surrounded by so many people and instead called a taxi. 

“So, how is it going with Shizun?” Shi Mei asked. It didn’t escape Mo Ran how Shi Mei called Chu Wanning ‘shizun’ ever since he found out they had been teachers and students.  

“Pretty good,” Mo Ran said, leaning back into his seat. “Kind of hard to tell whether he actually likes me or not, though,” 

Shi Mei didn’t say anything and just sweetly smiled, giving Mo Ran an encouraging nod. It was that kind of face that made Mo Ran think of Shi Mei as an angel. 

As Mo Ran stepped out of the bus, which conveniently stopped right outside Shi Mei’s house. He looked around.

“Where’s Wanning?” Mo Ran asked. “He took a taxi. Shouldn’t he be here before us?”

“First name basis now?” Shi Mei asked with a smile.

“Yup. That’s a good sign right?” Mo Ran asked. He hadn’t meant to say Chu Wanning’s name so casually in front of Shi Mei, but he liked the way it rolled off his tongue.

“Shizun’s probably already inside the house,” Shi Mei said, walking towards the door.

“He has the key?!”

“Of course. We’ve known each other since we are children. He knows my house well and my parents too. He’s trustworthy,”

Mo Ran was starting to feel that Shi Mei was on a way more personal level with Chu Wanning than he was. Shi Mei should’ve done this prank by himself. He’s sure it would’ve worked out great. 

“Have you ever been to his house?” Mo Ran asked.

“Yes, but only quite recently. He doesn't like others going to his house,”

But he let you , Mo Ran thought. He then violently shook his head. He wasn’t jealous. He didn’t have feelings for Chu Wanning. How could he be jealous?

“Shizun,” Shi Mei politely greeted, opening his door.

Chu Wanning was sitting at the table, his hands in his lap with all the materials already laid out. 

Shi Mei took a seat and gestured for Mo Ran to sit next to him. 

“What subject do you want to focus on today?” Chu Wanning asked, directing his attention to Shi Mei first.

“I need help with my computer science homework corrections,”

“Alright. Bring it out.” He then turned to Mo Ran. “What subject do you want to focus on?”

“Uhh….” Mo Ran never studied and didn't mind flunking his test. His uncle paid it no mind and just kept encouraging him to do better next time. It never got better. “I don’t know...math maybe?”

“Alright.” Chu Wanning dug through his bag and brought out a thin worksheet. “Fill this out,” 

“Huh? Right now? Aren’t you going to teach me how to do it?”

Chu Wanning stared at him. “I’m testing what level you're at,”

“Oh. Okay then,” Mo Ran said. He picked up the paper and was about to start to write when he realized he didn’t have any stationery with him. “Do you have a pencil I can use?”

Chu Wanning frowned. “Don’t you bring your stationery to school?”

Mo Ran nervously laughed. “No,”

Chu Wanning just sighed and handed him one out of his many spares. Why does one person need so many pencils? Mo Ran did not understand. 

“I just need help with this question,” Mo Ran heard Shi Mei say as he tried to focus on his math problem. “It’s asking the hexadecimal for pure red and I put FF but my teacher said it’s wrong,”

“Because you forgot to put the hexadecimal for green and blue,”

“But pure red has no green or blue,” Shi Mei tilted his head.

“You still have them down. So you would write FF and then zeroes for green and blue,” Chu Wanning explained. 

“Ohhhh,” Shi Mei nodded, immediately scribbling the answer down. 

As Shi Mei continued to look through his homework, Chu Wanning glanced at Mo Ran who had not written a single thing.

“You take computer science as your subject?” Mo Ran asked.

“No. I only take economics and engineering,” 

Mo Ran was already aware that Chu Wanning took engineering as his subject. They both did and were in the same class. “Then why do you know about computer science?”

“Stop asking me questions and pay attention to your work,” Chu Wanning scolded.

“I am paying attention! I just really don’t know how to do these questions,”

“...This is a grade 8 test.” (Mo Ran is in grade 11)

“Well, I’m just not that good at math! Secondary math is hard alright!” Mo Ran protested.

Chu Wanning sighed but he picked up a pencil and started to patiently explain to Mo ran the math behind each question. 

Mo Ran was slightly impressed. He didn’t think Chu Wanning would be so patient. Mo Ran had long given up on going to any tuition. All his teachers had lost their temper with him, saying he was beyond hope and it would be impossible for him to understand anything. 

Suddenly there was a knock on the door.

“I’ll get it,” Shi Mei said, standing up.

“Shizun! Sorry, I’m late,” Xue Meng apologized as Shi Mei opened up the door for me. “I had to stay behind and talk with a teacher-” He cut himself off. “You?! What are you doing here?” He angrily asked, pointing at Mo Ran.

“Mengmeng?” Mo Ran asked.

“Don’t call me that!” Xue Meng shouted. “S-shizun! Your tutoring this dumb dog?!” Xue meng asked, still pointing his finger at Mo Ran.

“Who’s a dumb dog?!” Mo Ran angrily asked, shooting up from his seat. “Why are you even here? Shouldn’t you be on a date with Mei Hanxue?”

“Who wants to go on a date with that idiot?!” Xue Meng asked, his face already flustered. 

“Mo Ran, focus on your work and Xue Meng, stop shouting,”

“Mo Ran was shouting too,” Xue Meng grumbled but Chu Wanning just shot him a glare.

“Just sit down,” Chu Wanning said, pulling open a seat next to himself.

“Alright,” Xue Meng said, quickly calming down, obediently listening to Chu Wanning.

“What subject do you want to focus on?” 

“Science,”

“You were doing plant nutrition, correct?” 

“Yes, Shizun,”

Mo Ran could not believe that even Xue Meng was here. So Shi Mei and Xue Meng had been getting help all this time by the best student in the class and they didn’t even tell him! Wow. 

Seeing Mo Ran’s frustrated and annoyed expression, Chu Wanning asked, “Do you still not understand?”

“Oh. No! I understand now. you’re a really good teacher.”Mo Ran grinned, giving him a childish smile. 

Xie Meng was the first to leave. Chu Wanning has suggested that Xue Meng and Mo Ran leave together since they lived with each other but Xue Meng only shot Mo Ran a nasty look while the latter politely refused. 

It was already 7:00. Chu Wanning lived right next door so he didn’t have to worry about the time but Mo Ran did. He was waiting for Xue zhengyong, his uncle, to call him and pick him up. He wanted to tell his uncle to come as late as possible so he could spend more time at Shi Mei’s house but Chu Wanning had very clearly not allowed any use of phones. Turned out it was no exception for his boyfriend. 

Suddenly Mo Ran’s phone started to ring. “It’s uncle,” Mo Ran announced.

“Pick it up,” Chu Wanning nodded.

“Hello?”

“Ran-er? Could you pass the phone to Yuheng?”

It took Mo Ran a while to figure out who he was talking about. “Uncle’s asking for you,” Mo Ran said, passing the phone to Chu Wanning.

“Hello?” Chu Wanning asked.

“Yuheng!” Xue zhengyong happily said. 

“Good afternoon, Mr Xue,” Chu Wanning greeted.

“Xue Meng was just telling me how you're tutoring Ran-er now. I really can’t thank you enough,”

“It’s nothing,”

“If you ever need anything, just tell me, alright? No need to be shy,” Xue Zhengyong laughed. He really didn’t act like a principal. 

“Mn,” Chu Wanning nodded then passed the phone back to Mo Ran.

“Well, I’ll be at there in around 6 minutes,” 

“Okay,”

Beep. The call ended.

Soon Xue Zhengyong’s car was outside waiting for Mo Ran.

“So, we’re still having our date for tomorrow?” Mo Ran asked right before leaving.

“Date?” Shi Mei asked.

Oh right. Shi Mei was pretending not to know about this whole thing.

Chu Wanning gave him a deathly glare while coldly saying. “I have no recollection of this date , but if you are referring to another tutor session I am free tomorrow,”

“Great,” Mo Ran smiled, going along with it, even though Chu Wanning was still a terrible liar. “See you tomorrow,”

“I should get going too,” Chu wanning announced when Mo Ran left.

“Shizun,” Shi Mei said, giving him a sweet smile. “Can’t you stay for a bit longer?”

“Is there something you still don’t get?” Chu Wanning frowned.

“No, I just mean stay over as a friend, or a neighbour. We can just watch tv or play games,”

“I don’t know…” Chu Wanning said, averting his gaze.

“Ah, I forget. We’re not little kids anymore,” Shi Mei sighed with a pitiful look in his eyes. “I guess you have better things to do,”

“...No, I can stay,” 

Shi Mei looked up. “Really?” With stars shining in his eyes. “I’ll get some popcorn and we can watch a movie,”

“Mn,”

“Wanning, do you prefer coke or sprite?” Shi Mei asked from the kitchen.

“Water is fine,”

It didn’t escape Chu Wanning how Shi Mei has called him ‘Wanning’ now they were alone, but he was too tired to care and it wasn’t anything new. They’ve known each other since they were children.

Chu Wanning made his way to the sofa which was seated right in front of the large tv screen. All the lights were turned off and the air conditioner was blasted on, making him feel like he was at the cinema. His mind trailed off to that date he had with Mo Ran…

“Must we turn on the aircon?” Chu Wanning asked, already shivering. “It’s so cold,”

“Don’t worry,” Shi Mei smiled as he brought one big blanket. He crawled up onto the sofa, placing himself right next to Chu wanning, who had already tucked his legs in from the cold. 

Shi Mei threw the blanket over the two of them.

“Better?” Shi Mei asked.

Chu Wanning nodded. Well, he’d rather not be in such close contact to Shi Mei, but if he moved any further away, the blanket wouldn’t be able to cover him and it wasn’t like the sofa had much space left, anyway. 

Halfway into the movie, Chu Wanning started to feel his eyelids start to get heavier. He wasn’t sure when, but he felt Shi Mei’s legs brush against his, his arms start to wrap themselves around Chu Wanning’s shoulder. The older boy was half-asleep at this point, not even sure if this was truly happening, so he ignored it. 

Calming music started to play as the credits appeared on the screen. Shi Mei turned the tv off and turned to the see to see that Chu Wanning had completely fallen asleep, his head rolled onto the armrest of the sofa. 

Shi Mei leaned over slightly, staring at Chu Wanning’s face. With his eyes closed, he looked much less intimidating but his sharp features were still visible. He was curled up as if he didn’t want to take up space on the sofa and his face was scrunched up like he was having a nightmare but would relax from time to time. 

It was such a defenceless look for a man who was always so cold.

Shi Mei brought his hand to Chu Wanning’s face and tucked a stray strand of hair behind the other man’s ear.

“Wanning, wake up,” Shi Mei softly said, gently shaking Chu Wanning by the shoulder.

Chu Wanning groggily woke up. 

“It’s late. You should get back home,”

Shi Mei walked Chu Wanning to his door as he still seemed to be half asleep.

“Good night Wanning,” Shi Mei smiled.

“Good night Shi Mingjing,”

Shi Mei simply waved as his heart clenched at the formal name. 

 

Chapter Text

“So you and Xue Meng have been studying under Chu Wanning all this time, but you didn’t bother to tell me?” Mo Ran asked, slightly annoyed. 

“A-ran…” Shi Mei softly said. “It’s just that we knew how much you hate Chu Wanning and we didn’t think you would want to join,”

“I never said I wanted to join. I’m just upset that you two didn’t tell me that you were getting help from the student president. I thought that guy didn’t help anyone,” Mo Ran pouted.

“Stop being so a baby,” Xue Meng rolled his eyes. “Why are you even studying under him now? You still hate him,”

“Hmph,”

It was no secret that Mo Ran was constantly complaining about Chu Wanning, even before this whole dating thing. When Mo Ran first met Chu Wanning, he really couldn’t stand him. Such an upright and righteous person. Someone who was constantly following the rules. 

Mo Ran was constantly in detention because of Chu Wanning. As the student president, Chu Wanning was allowed to give detention to students if he ever saw them misbehaving which is something Mo Ran did a lot.

Now that Mo Ran thought about it, he always thought Chu Wanning despised him, glaring at him, sneering at him, but when he asked him out, he had agreed...well not easily...but easier than Mo Ran had thought.

One thing Mo Ran found out about Chu Wanning, which he found slightly amusing, was that Chu Wanning was afraid of roller coasters and mostly because he was afraid of heights. 

When Mo Ran even slightly suggested going to walk on the sky bridge, Chu Wanning immediately shot down the idea and gave him a death glare. If looks could kill, Mo Ran would be dead by now. 

One of their dates they had gone to an amusement park, and mind you, this was before Mo Ran knew that Chu Wanning was scared of roller coasters, so in the end, they really couldn’t do anything at the amusement park.

Although Chu Wanning didn’t directly say it, he was feeling guilty for ruining this whole thing so he told Mo Ran,

“If there’s anything else you want to do, I’ll do it,” 

Mo Ran raised an eyebrow and the corner of his mouth curled upwards. “Anything?”

Oh no.

In the end, it really wasn’t as bad as Chu Wanning thought it was going to be. It was just a simple game of truth or dare and Mo Ran even agreed to only taking questions from an app he got on his phone to make sure he couldn’t specifically ask Chu Wanning any embarrassing questions that would be too personal.

“When was your first kiss?” Mo Ran asked as he read off his phone.

“Never had one,” Chu Wanning easily answered. That he wasn’t ashamed of. In fact, he was proud that he wasn’t one of those kids in high school who were constantly messing around. 

Mo Ran, on the other hand, was not surprised that Chu Wanning never kissed someone. Someone as upright as Chu Wanning? First, who would ever want to kiss him? And second, even if someone did Chu Wanning would reject them without mercy. 

“Have you ever fallen in love with someone but never told them?” Chu Wanning asked. This was a stupid question, Chu Wanning thought. This was Mo Ran. Who in their right mind would reject him? He was...perfect. He could get anyone he wanted.

“Yes,” Mo Ran answered.

Chu Wanning’s head shot up. “Oh...who was it?” He asked. He could only imagine who that person could be. It was probably someone like Shi Mei...someone who was kind, selfless, beautiful and had a good temper...perfect.

“Well, I’m not sure if this counts but when my parents passed away I was down in the dumps,” Mo Ran laughed like it was an embarrassing memory. “I was really upset and uncle even told me I didn’t have to go to school for a few days if I didn’t want to…

“But I did,” Mo Ran continued. “Because during that time, I kept receiving gifts in my locker, sometimes on my desk. And it wasn’t like one of those confession things. It was just post-it notes with simple inspirational quotes on them. It was a small gesture but they made my day. There was always a new one every single day. They stopped after a while though. The person never gave me a hint of who they were, no initial, no sign, nothing. It was like an angel was looking over me,”

“Did you ever find out who it was?” Chu Wanning asked. Mo Ran was too lost in his memory to see that Chu Wanning’s face that paled slightly. 

“No. But I did catch Shi Mei once, placing it on my desk. I did think it was him for a few days but he told me that it wasn’t from him. It was someone else who had told him to place it there. No matter how much I pushed him, he never told me who it was all from,”

“...If...if Shi Mingjing had been the one writing those, would you have fallen in love with him?” Chu Wanning quietly asked.

“Probably, yeah. I mean Shi Mei’s already insanely pretty with a kind smile and pretty blossom eyes, if it had been him, I would’ve fallen head over heels for him,” Mo Ran smiled. Suddenly Mo Ran remembered that he was meant to like Chu Wanning. “Not that I like him! I like you the most!” He hurriedly covered up. 

Chu Wanning didn’t say anything. “What would you do if you found out who was writing the post-it notes? Would you dump me?” Chu Wanning asked. He wanted to make it seem like a serious and intimidating question but it wasn’t working with how he kept avoiding eye-contact.

“God no, Wanning. I’m head over heels for you,” Mo Ran lied. 

“Mn,” Chu Waning simply replied.

For the next few minutes, it was slightly awkward. 

“Sorry, please excuse me,” Chu Wanning said as he headed to the bathroom. Many minutes passed before he came out.

“I got a phone call. Something came up. I must be going now,” Chu Wanning said.

“Oh, what happened?” Mo Ran worriedly asked.

“It’s nothing important,” Chu Wanning said, waving his hand.

Yup. Definitely a lie. 

“Want to go on a date next week?” Mo Ran asked.

“I don’t know,” Chu Wanning answered. He was to walk away when he turned back to face Mo Ran. “It was probably Shi Mingjing,”

“Huh?”

“The post-it note. Shi Mingjing probably wrote them. He was probably just too selfless to tell you.”

“Oh. I suppose your right.” Mo Ran said. “But it wouldn’t matter anyway. Cuz I like you the most,” Mo Ran quickly added. 

“Goodbye,” Chu Wanning said, quickly walking away. 

Mo Ran paid for the food afterwards, the one rare time he remembered to bring his wallet. 

When Mo Ran got back to him he immediately buried his face into his pillow.

“Ughhhh,” He groaned. He definitely messed up. 

The next day Shi Mei was a victim to Mo Ran’s whining. 

“I messed up!”

“What happened?” Shi Mei worriedly asked. 

“I ended up telling Chu Wanning about the whole post-it note thing,” Mo Ran groaned, pressing his cheek against his desk. It was first thing in the morning so there was no one else in the room. 

“What happened then?”

“Well, I might have accidentally blurted out that I would’ve liked whoever it was from but after that, I quickly added that I liked him the most,”

“That doesn't seem so bad,”

“It is bad! After that, he went to the bathroom and came back to tell me he had to go because of some phone call!”

“Maybe he really did have to go,”

Mo Ran lifted his head. “Are you serious? This is Chu Wanning? Even a little kid could tell when that guy was lying. Actually, it’s not even about lying! It’s awkward between us and then he goes to the bathroom then he says he has to go. I messed up!”

“It shouldn’t be that bad. Just give it a few days. Shizun doesn’t hold grudges if that’s what you’re worried about,” Shi Mei softly said, his peach blossom eyes practically shining with kindness, the complete opposite of Chu Wanning.

“I just want to die right now,” Mo Ran sighed.

“If you want to die, then just do it. You’re doing this world a favour,” Xue Meng suddenly said, running into the room. He was all sweaty and he kept glancing over his shoulder like he was being chased.

“Mengmeng! H-how much of that did you heae?” 

Xue Meng just frowned in confusion. “What? I just heard that part you want to die.”

“Vice president Xue, why do you look like someone is chasing you?” Shi Mei asked.

“Mei Hanxue won’t leave me alone. Every time I come to school, he’s outside waiting for me, always trying to pull some prank or make fun of me. I had to come to school extra early today to make sure I don’t bump into him. I saw him just now and ran away. I think I’m safe now,”

Xue Meng then turned back to Mo Ran. “So why are you making a fuss so early in the morning?”

“I messed up,” Mo Ran groaned as he gripped at his hair.

“That’s nothing new,”

Mo Ran just shot Xue Meng a pouty look. “I told my boyfriend about the post-it note incident,”

Xue Meng wasn’t even surprised that Mo Ran had a new boyfriend. There was once where Mo Ran had four different girlfriends in a month. 

“What did you do?”

Mo Ran explained everything, excluding the part where Chu Wanning was his boyfriend. 

“I don’t get it. What’s the big deal?”

“He hasn’t been replying to my text or anything. I’m just worried that he hates me now,”

“I still don’t get it,” Xue Meng said with a dumb look on his face. “You already said you like him, why would he be angry,”

“I don’t know! I just don't like how he’s ignoring me now!” That was the truth. Being ignored by Chu Wanning made Mo Ran upset. It wasn’t because if Chu Wanning dumped him, the prank would fail, it was...Mo Ran didn’t know. It just frustrated him when he thought about Chu Wanning ignoring him. 

Chu Wanning was avoiding Mo Ran. Not like the two talked in school, but whenever Mo Ran saw Chu Wanning the halls, the older man would turn around and walk away from Mo Ran. 

During lunch, Mo Ran was heading to the canteen when he saw a boy standing next to Chu Wanning, showing him a timetable. It must’ve been a new student. No other student would be crazy enough to approach Chu Wanning. There were always new students like that, who wanted to talk to Chu Wanning. 

The first advice a student would hear when they came to Sisheng high school was to avoid Chu Wanning. Of course, new students would also hear about how cold and ruthless he was, but failed to take it seriously. They would approach him just to see if he lived up to the rumours.

Of course, this boy could just be simply asking Chu Wanning for directions to his class without any ulterior motive but it still left a sour taste in Mo Ran’s mouth. He didn’t like how the boy was standing so close to Chu Wanning. 

Before he knew, his feet were moving by themselves. Moving in the direction of Chu Wanning. 

Without any warning, he grabbed Chu Wanning by the hand and tried to drag him away. Of course, that didn’t work.

“Mo Wei Yu! What do you think you’re doing?” Chu Wanning angrily asked, yanking his hand out of Mo Ran’s grip.

Mo Ran didn’t want to cause a commotion, especially no in school, but suddenly it felt like he had no control over his own body.

“You’ve been ignoring me and I don’t like it!” Mo Ran blurted out. His tone came out as frustrated and annoyed. Maybe even slightly threatening. Thank god all the other students were at the canteen already or Mo Ran might as well start to dig his grave right now. “You can’t ignore me like this!”

Chu Wanning looked shocked. And not in a good way. His jaw clenched and his fingers curled up into a fist. “What I do is none of your business! Scram!”

Somehow that day, Shi Mei managed to become victim to Mo Ran’s complaining and groaning for the second time that day.

Xue Meng usually ate lunch with them, but before Mo Ran arrived, Mei Hanxue had dragged him away. 

“I totally went TaXian Jun on him,” Mo Ran groaned, not even in a mood to eat food.

Mo Ran's mood tends to change very easily, especially when he is in a relationship with someone. Usually, he was good at hiding it, but Mo Ran was naturally possessive. He hated it when people didn’t pay attention to him, hated it when his belongings were taken from him. As a joke, Shi Mei, Xue Meng had called his ‘other’ personality, TaXian Jun. 

“A-ran. Just apologize to Shizun. He’ll forgive you,”

“How can I face him? I messed up!” Mo Ran usually had a thick face but when it came to Chu Wanning, Mo Ran didn’t know why but he hated messing up and making a fool of himself in front of the older man. 

Shi Mei just softly sighed. “You have to apologize to Shizun. Not for the sake of the dare. Shizun may not look like it with how cold he is, but he has feelings too. You need to apologize to him,”

“I will, I will.”

Right after school, Mo Ran rushed back home and immediately pulled out his phone. 

“Please pick up. Please pick up,” Mo Ran nervously bit his fingernail, holding his phone to his ear as he paced around the room.

“Hello?” A voice said on the other side of the phone.

“Wanning!” Mo Ran said, relieved.

“Mo Ran…”

“Hey, I just wanted to apologize earlier today. That was uncool of me. Could you forgive me?” Had they been speaking face to face, Mo Ran would’ve pulled out his puppy eyes.

“It’s alright,”

“Also...about the previous date when I brought up the post-it note, please don’t be mad at me. I only have feelings for you. I wouldn’t like anyone else, even if they were the one who wrote it-”

“Mo Ran, I’m not angry about that,” Chu Wanning interrupted.

“You’re not?”

“No.”

“But you’ve been ignoring my texts and avoiding me at school,”

Chu Wanning was quiet for a few seconds as if he was trying to think of an excuse. “I can’t tell you,” He finally said.

“You can’t tell me?” Mo Ran asked, raising an eyebrow.

“No,” Chu Wanning firmly said.

Mo Ran and didn't understand but he simply chuckled. As long as Chu Wanning wasn’t upset at him. 

“So can we go on a date next weekend?” Mo Ran asked

“Actually, is this Thursday alright?”

“Thursday...Yup, that’s okay,” Mo Ran grinned.

“Goodbye,” Chu Wanning said, hanging up. 

On Thursday, Mo Ran was in for a surprise. This time Mo Ran had suggested they go bowling and then grab lunch afterwards, to which Chu Wanning agreed to. 

Mo Ran got there slightly earlier than their agreed time. He decided to practice a bit before Chu Wanning arrived.

Mo Ran had already practised for a few minutes when Chu Wanning arrived. 

“Good afternoon,” Chu Wanning greeted.

“Wanning is polite as ever,” Mo Ran grinned. “Do you know how to bowl?”

“No,”

“Then I’ll teach you,” Finally , Mo Ran thought. He finally got a chance to teach Chu Wanning something. 

After Chu Wanning got a pair of shoes, Mo Ran instructed him to grab a bowling pin. 

“Here, just put your thumb here, your middle finger here and ring finger here.” Mo Ran said. He placed his hands over Chu Wanning as he guided him on how to properly swing his arm and how he should step as he rolled the ball. 

There was probably more physical contact than there needed to be. Chu Wanning pushed him away the first few times but eventually gave up. 

It didn't escape Mo Ran how Chu Wanning’s ear turned slightly red whenever Mo Ran’s breath would sometimes come too near his ear.  

“Y-you’re too close,” Chu Wanning muttered.

“Is Wanning embarrassed?” Mo Ran asked with an innocent smile.

Chu Wanning didn’t say anything. 

Eventually, Chu Wanning got the hang of it, but of course, Mo Ran won in the end. 

“Let’s get lunch now,” Mo Ran smiled. As they left, he then noticed that Chu Wanning was carrying a nice paper bag but he didn’t ask about it.

“I heard the dessert here is great,” Mo Ran smiled. They had just finished their main course and ordered dessert. 

“Mo Ran, actually I have something to give you,”

“Give me?” Mo Ran asked. 

Chu Wanning lifted the paper bag and handed it to Mo Ran. “Happy birthday, Mo Ran,”

Mo Ran's eyes widened in surprise. “T-this is for me?”

Chu Wanning nodded and shoved it into his hand, his ears completely red. 

“I...I was avoiding you because I was worried that I might accidentally give something away.”

“How did you know it’s my birthday?” Mo Ran hadn’t told Chu Wanning his birthday because he just saw this as a fake relationship. There was no need for Chu Wanning to spend money on him.

“Shi Mingjing told me. He told me when we had our date last time. I immediately left after that because I knew I’d you asked me what the call was about I wouldn’t be able to tell a good lie.”

“Can I open it now?” Mo Ran asked.

Chu Wanning seemed to hesitate. “Do whatever you want,” He murmured.

“Then I’ll open it now,” Mo Ran grinned. He slowly reached into the bag and removed a nicely wrapped gift. Mo Ran always just ripped the paper up without care but since he was unwrapping this in front of Chu Wanning, he wanted to do it carefully.

Once he neatly unwrapped it, there was a box inside. He then unboxed his present and carefully took it out. It was an incense holder and sticks.

“They’re lavender scented,” Chu Wanning said. 

Mo Ran blinked a few times. The incense burner was a nice gradient lavender colour, with the design of lavenders on them. 

“If Wanning got me a Haitang scent then whenever I use it it would remind me of you,” Mo Ran grinned.

Chu Wanning’s ears turned even redder. 

Internally, Mo Ran was glad Chu Wanning didn’t get him a Haitang scene if they even had one. He didn’t need a reminder to make himself feel guilty. 

Mo Ran flinched at his thought. Huh? Guilty? When did he start feeling guilty about this whole thing? He started this whole thing because he hated him, so why was he feeling this way…

“Mo Ran?” Chu wanning asked. Underneath that cold tone, there was a hint of concern. “Is it not a good gift?”

“No! It’s an amazing gift,” When he saw that Chu Wanning didn’t look convinced he softly added. “It really is, Wanning. I love it,”

Mo Ran didn’t want to go home just yet so he suggested that they go for a walk, especially after all the food they ate.

It was quiet as the two of them walked. 

“Hey, let’s go to that bridge,” Mo Ran said, pointing to a bridge that was right ahead of them. 

As the two of them got closer they noticed there was another couple beneath the bridge. Since it was dark it was hard to tell what they were doing. Hugging?

When they finally got close enough to see what the couple was doing, Chu Wanning turned bright red. “Shameless!” He spat out. He immediately turned around, averting his eyes from the young couple making out.

“What? Never seen anyone kiss?” Mo Ran teased.

“It is not appropriate to show such affection in public,” Chu Wanning scornfully said. 

Chu Wanning hurriedly walked off in the other direction.

“Wanning! Wait for me!” Mo Ran called out.

Chu Wanning’s ears were burning red, covering half his face with his hand. Suddenly his brain froze when...Mo Ran leaned in. 

Chu Wanning could feel a pair of lips on his cheek. He immediately flinched and backed away. The redness was starting to spread to his neck. 

“Y-you! Shameless!”

“It’s my birthday. Indulge me a bit, won’t you?” Mo Ran smiled, his dimples showing. 

Chu Wanning could hear himself swallow. 

“How about we hold hands for a bit?” Mo Ran suggested as he extended his arm.

“No!” Chu Wanning shouted, slapping his hands away.

Mo Ran pouted his lips out and looked at Wanning with the most pitiful eyes he had ever. 

T-this boy! The nerve!

Chu Wanning quickly calmed down, his face turning stoic again as he sped walked away, but he didn’t realise how his right arm and right leg were moving at the same time. 

Mo Ran easily caught up to him in a couple of strides with his long legs. The two of them didn’t say anything. 

Maybe I pushed him too far, Mo Ran thought. But that thought was immediately tossed out the window when he felt a warmth press against the palm of his hand. He looked down to see a small pale hand pressing against his own. He looked up to see Chu Wanning's face facing away, but his ears and neck were scarlet. 

“Wanning’s so cute when he’s embarrassed,” Mo Ran teased, but part of it was genuine as well.

“Who’s embarrassed?!” Chu Wanning shouted, but he didn’t turn around. He continued to look away. 

Mo Ran didn’t say anything and gave Chu Wanning’s hand a gentle squeeze. 

This was nice.

 

Chapter Text

 Mo Ran felt conflicted and that itself was a terrible feeling. The reason he was feeling so conflicted was because Mo Ran realised that he couldn't stop thinking about Chu Wanning. Whether he was thinking about how guilty he was feeling or even worse...how he kept remembering how they held hands. 

Mo Ran didn’t blush easily with his tan skin but at this rate he felt like he could, thinking about how Chu Wanning became so flustered when they held hands. 

He wanted to talk to someone about it but he couldn’t. The only other person who knew about this fake date was Shi Mei and Mo Ran really didn’t want to tell Shi Mei about how he was feeling.

Mo Ran hated the feeling of not wanting or not being able to talk to Shi Mei. He told Shi Mei everything . Shi Mei was his best friend! Yet he had no idea what Shi Mei was thinking nowadays, why he made him do this dare, why he’s pretending not to know about it. 

And what was even worse, or at least Mo Ran thought it was, was that he was worried about Chu Wanning. Worried. He hated the guy, maybe respected but worried about him? What was happening?! 

Mo Ran was worried about Chu Wanning due to an incident that happened a few days ago.

Mo Ran scanned the crowd until he recognized a familiar, cold and unfriendly face. “Wanning!” Mo Ran called out, raising his voice, making it audible over the chattering of the crowd. Chu Wanning’s ears turned slightly red as some strangers turned to face MoRan, wondering where the shouting was coming from. The older boy quickly made his way to Mo Ran. 

“Good afternoon-” Chu Waning was interrupted by a small series of coughs but Mo Ran didn't ask him if he was alright. He had just assumed something got accidentally stuck in his throat. The two of them headed to an aquarium but Mo Ran requested they grab something small to bite first. Both of them already had lunch prior to this but Mo Ran had gotten hungrier faster than he thought. 

Since he had already eaten lunch, Mo Ran simply ordered a small dessert. Mo Ran immediately divided into it without giving it a second thought. He was half-way done when he realised Chu Waning hadn't ordered anything for himself and was just staring at a painting on the wall. 

“Do you want some?” Mo Ran asked.

“No, it’s alright,” Chu Wanning quickly said.

Mo Ran raised an eyebrow. Chu Wanning never refused dessert. “Well, more for me than,” Mo Ran joked. 

As he continued to eat, he could hear Chu Wanning continue to lightly cough. Mo Ran paid it no attention as his mind wandered off.

“It’s winter now,” Shi Mei smiled as he sat down next to Mo Ran.

“What about it?” Mo Ran asked.

“Shizun doesn't do well with the cold,”

“And?”

“You have to make sure he doesn’t push himself. Whenever Shizun gets a cold he never tells anyone and doesn’t properly rest. Once he came to school, burning up and the teachers had to beg him to go back home. If you go on a date with him and he’s coughing, you need to make sure he’s alright,”

As Mo Ran’s mind snapped back to the present, Chu Wanning’s muffled coughing suddenly became much more audible. Suddenly Mo Ran’s eyes widened. 

It was winter right now. Chu Wanning was coughing and he didn’t want dessert.

Oh no. 

Mo Ran lifted his head to see Chu Wanning having a coughing fit, covering his mouth with a napkin trying to muffle the sound.

“Wanning? Are you alright?” Mo Ran worriedly asked.

“Yes,” Chu Wanning coughed out. 

“Are you sure? You keep coughing,”

“It’s nothing,”

Mo Ran worriedly leaned over the table and placed his hand on Chu Wanning’s forehand. Chu Wanning flinched back from the contact but Mo Ran just had to simply brush against his forehead to feel how hot it was.

“You’re burning!” Mo Ran exclaimed, immediately taking back his hand like he had been burned. “We have to get you back home!”

“It’s nothing. It happens every time the weather gets a bit cold,”

“You should’ve told me you were sick!” Mo Ran protested. 

“I didn’t want to ruin the date,”

“My god, Wanning! You’re not ruining anything!” Mo Ran said as he quickly asked for the bill. “Come on, let’s quickly get you home,”

Chu Wanning stumbled as Mo Ran pushed him into bed and had to messily push away all the tools that were on his bed. 

“Mo ran...this is too much. I’m alright,” Chu Wanning grumbled as Mo Ran pulled the covers over Chu Wanning. 

“You’re burning up right now and your voice is hoarse,” Mo Ran said, raising an eyebrow. “Where are your parents?” 

“Overseas,”

“Then I’ll go get medicine. Where do you keep your medicine?”

“...”

“Wanning? I asked where your medicine is,” Mo Ran said thinking that the sick patient didn’t hear him. 

“I don’t have any,”

“None? But if you get sick every time it becomes cold, surely you have some,”

“Well, I don’t have any,” Chu Wanning snapped.

“I-i’ll go buy some then,”

“Mo Ran. I’ll just sleep it off. It’s nothing,”

Mo Ran was about to protest and when there was a knock at the door.

“Who is that?” Mo Ran asked.

“Don’t know,” Chu Wanning said as he turned on his side, curling up in a ball like a kitten

“I’ll go get it,”

Mo Ran rushed downstairs. He had been so busy trying to figure out which room was Chu Wanning’s room and carrying him up the stairs he hadn’t realised how messy the living room was. There was broken glass everywhere, books lying around, empty plates and cups lying on the table, dirty clothes lying all over the furniture and tools and machinery everywhere. He would have to ask if he could clean this up later. God, how did Chu Wanning managed to always smell like Haitang flowers when he lived in this mess?

Mo Ran rushed to the door and the knocking persisted. He opened the door to be met with a surprise.

“A-Ran?!”

“Shi Mei?!”

“What are you doing here?” Shi Mei asked. 

“Chu Wanning fell sick so I’m taking care of him,”

“Oh...I see,” Shi Mei sweetly smiled.

“Um, what are you doing here?”

“I brought Shizun some medicine,” Shi Mei held up a plastic bag.

“I’ll give it to him,” Mo Ran said as he reached out for the bag.

“It’s alright,” Shi Mei gently said as he casually walked past Mo Ran, pulling the plastic bag away from Mo Ran’s grasp. 

It didn’t escape Mo Ran how Shi Mei perfectly knew where Chu Wanning’s room was. 

“Shizun?” Shi Mei asked, knocking on the door which was already wide open.

Chu Wanning didn’t reply. The two younger boys walked over to see the Chu Wanning had fallen asleep.

“I’ll leave the medicine here then.” Shi Mei smiled as he placed the plastic bag on the nightstand. “You might also want this,” Shi Mei said as he handed Mo Ran another plastic bag.

“Candy?” Mo Ran asked, peering inside.

“Just feed him the medicine and you’ll understand,”

Mo Ran just shrugged his shoulders. “Okay then,”

Shi Mei quickly left and Chu Wanning almost immediately stirred awake. 

“Is Shi Mingjing gone?” Chu Wanning asked, slowly opened his eyes.

“You were awake the whole time?!” Mo Ran asked. 

Chu Wanning didn’t say anything.

“Well, Shi Mei told me to feed you medicine,” Mo Ran said as he took out the bottle of medicine from the plastic bottle. 

“You’re mistaken,” Chu Wanning said as he closed his eyes once more.

“Uhhh, no I’m not. I’m pretty sure he said to feed you medicine,”

“You must’ve misheard him,”

“What are you talking about? Just take your medicine,” Mo Ran said as he poured it into a plastic spoon that came with the plastic bag. He held it up to Chu Wanning’s mouth but the latter turned his head away.

“I don’t need it,” Chu Wanning stubbornly said.,

“Yes, you do,” Mo Ran urged, pressing it closer to the older boy’s lips.

“No, I don’t-” 

Mo Ran took the chance to shove the spoon down Chu Wanning’s spoon. It did not go well. Chu Wanning ended up spitting over half it’s content.

“Bitter…” Chu Wanning weakly said. 

Chu Wanning didn’t like bitter stuff. Oh. That must’ve been what the candy was for.

“If you finish it, I’ll give you some candy,” Mo Ran teased.

Chu Wanning glared at him. “Mo Weiyu. I am not a child,”

“Someone you can’t even finish their medicine is definitely a child,” Mo Ran sighed as he was already holding another spoon up to Chu Wanning’s lips.

Chu Wanning glared at Mo Ran. In the end Mo Ran ended up having to shove almost every single spoonful of medicine down Chu Wanning’s throat. It was such a tiring job that MoRan was practically dead at the end of it. 

Who knew Chu Wanning could be so childish?! His parents must’ve spoiled him too much as a child!

Mo Ran took out a small candy from the other plastic bag and held up to Chu Wanning’s lip. 

This time Chu Wanning was very willing and slowly parted his lips. 

Mo Ran gulped. If he didn't know Chu Wanning, he might’ve thought that he was being purposely seductive. The way he had his lips parted and his eyes were covered by a thin layer of fog. 

Mo Ran pushed the candy past Chu Wanning’s lips. Mo Ran was sure it wasn't actually visible but he was pretty sure that he was blushing right now. 

The ticket to the aquarium may have gone to waste but Mo Ran definitely got something much better. He got to see Chu Wanning looking so childish and... defenceless.

God, he might actually fall in love with Chu Wanning at this rate…

 

Chapter Text

Spending all this time with Chu Wanning made Mo Ran forget that it was all fake. 

Mo Ran knew that this whole thing was just a prank set up by Shi Mei, but whenever Mo Ran saw Chu Wanning, he always pushed that thought into the corner of his mind, thinking that if he ignored it, then this could be real. 

But it wasn’t real.

Mo Ran knew that one day Shi Mei was going to tell him to break up with Chu Wanning. Mo Ran didn’t want to think about it. Mo Ran thought as long as he continued to pretend that this was real that day would never come...until it finally did come. 

Mo Ran was cooking lunch for himself and was about to eat when his phone started to ring.

“Hello?”

“A-ran?” Shi Mei asked on the other side of the phone.

“Hi, Shi Mei,” Mo Ran grinned.

“Is Shizun with you right now?” Shi Mei asked.

“No. Why?”

“Good. Because on your next date you have to break up with him-”

Mo Ran didn’t hear the rest of Shi Mei’s words. His phone slipped out of his grip and clattered to the floor.

“A-Ran? A-ran, are you alright?” Shi Mei asked when Mo Ran didn’t reply. 

With a trembling hand, Mo Ran bent down to pick up the phone. It’s alright, he already knew exactly what he wanted to say. “No,” Mo Ran firmly said.

“Sorry, what?” Shi Mei asked, sounding genuinely confused.

“I don’t want to break up with Wanning,”

“Have you forgotten how this thing started?”

“I know that I’m just dating Chu Wanning for money but I don’t want to do it anymore.”

“Why not?”

“Because I actually like him. I don’t want to do this for the money. I want to come clean. I’m not going to break up with him.” Mo Ran confessed

“Alright then.”

What? That was it? Shi Mei had been paying for all the gifts that Mo Ran had given to Chu Wanning and he was alright with it? “That’s it?” Mo Ran asked.

“Yes. If you like Shizun then you should tell him,” Shi Mei said. Mo Ran could imagine Shi Mei smiling that angel smile he always wore.

“Thank you so much! You're the best!”

Shi Mei hung up first and Mo Ran let out the loudest sigh of relief. He didn't expect it to go that well. It looked like he had been worried for nothing. But that wasn’t the hardest part. He still had to confess everything to Chu Wanning. Mo Ran quickly grabbed his phone and texted Chu Wanning.

“Are you free tomorrow?”

Chu Wanning almost immediately replied.

“Tomorrow is a school day,”

“It’s alright. We can go after school,”

“I have an extracurricular activity.”

“Alright then. We can go another day,’

Mo Ran didn’t have the patience to wait another day. He knew what he would do. He would wait for Chu Wanning to finish his activity and surprise him.

---

If someone had told Mo Ran, when the school year began, that he'd be dating Chu Wanning and that he'd actually find himself enjoying himself, well. He wouldn't have believed it. Him and that cold bastard? Impossible! And anyone would agree. The two of them got along as well as a cat and a dog.

But that was then. This was now. And, right now, Mo Ran was carrying a box of seasonally limited pastries from a nearby bakery and some flowers he'd plucked from someone's garden on the way over.

Mo Ran had taken a quick trip off campus to buy everything. He walked to the door to the room he knew Chu Wanning would be. Everyone should have left by now but Chu Wanning always liked to stay longer than everyone else to do extra work. 

He could see, the moment he stepped in, that Chu Wanning wasn’t in a good mood just from the tense set of his shoulders. He should start by offering the sweets then.

"Wanning." He sweetly said, thinking he surprised the older boy but suddenly Chu Wanning slammed his phone against the table. 

Mo Ran visibly flinched by the sudden gesture. 

"Get out." The reply was sharp but before Mo Ran could say something. Chu Wanning turned around and the words died on Mo Ran’s tongue.

Chu Wanning's expression was as stoic as usual, but his eyes were red like he'd been-

The flower stems were almost crushed by his bruising grip as he stalked over. "Who was it? Tell me their name, I'll-"

That was when Chu Wanning slapped him. He lashed out, "Is this funny to you?"

"What?" He said. He didn’t have any hands to put over his stinging cheek, because they were full of things he knew Chu Wanning would like and things that reminded Mo Ran of this person who...hadn't been as stoic or angry around him. Like a stray cat that had learned to let down its defences to curl up and learn to trust.

“What’s wrong?” Mo Ran tried again, trying to smile and lighten up the mood. 

“Don’t act like you don’t know,” Chu Wanning coldly said. 

Mo Ran paled. I-it had been so long since Chu Wanning had talked to him with such an unfriendly and cold tone. 

“Wanning, I really don’t know what you’re talking about,” Mo Ran pleaded. He wanted to console Wanning by placing a hand on his back or shoulder but he had no hands free. 

Something cold settled in his stomach when Chu Wanning, took one look at the gifts in his hand, snorted with derision. "Did you buy those with the money they paid you to date me with?"

“What?”

Chu Wanning didn’t say anything as he slowly picked up his phone. 

“I’m just dating Chu Wanning for money,” A recording said on his phone. It was Mo Ran’s voice. 

Mo Ran’s eyes widened. W-what? Had someone sent that recording to him. When had they even recorded him saying that? 

Chu Wanning stared at Mo Ran as if studying his expression.

“So it’s true,” Chu Wanning angrily said, his eyes glued to the floor and his fists coiled so tightly that his knuckles were turning white and his nails were digging into his palm. 

He looked like he was seconds from throwing punches and...he probably was. Because Chu Wanning had always covered any and all feelings with anger. Especially embarrassment...especially hurt.

Had Mo Ran ever seen Chu Wanning cry? Up until a few months ago, when this whole thing had started, he hadn't thought this senior was capable of such human emotions. He thought he had a heart made of stone. 

But that wasn't true. After getting to know him better, he realised Chu Wanning wasn’t the cold person everyone thought he was. In fact, he was the opposite, this person had too much of a glass heart.

And Mo Ran...may have just broken it. He gently placed the flowers onto the nearest work table, freeing up a hand to reach out to...he wasn't sure what but there had to be something he could do. It couldn't be too late-

Chu Wanning slapped his hand away, his expression dropping a few degrees closer to freezing. "Get out."

"Let me explain-”

"I said, get out!" Chu Wanning hit him again, but it wasn't that that stopped him. It was that brief flash of hurt that was quickly covered up. As if he had been terribly wronged but wouldn't say it.

His heart shattered. He had been prepared to confess to Chu Wanning his true feelings but suddenly it was like he had been hit with the stone-cold realization. Why he had been paying so much attention to this person, why he had been putting so much time and effort into this farce. Why he wanted to wipe that look from this person's face.

Why his heart had raced when they had been "dating", and when Chu Wanning had initiated it first and held his hand, his blushing face turned away.

Shit. He'd screwed up.

Mo Ran opened his mouth but then Chu Wanning pushed past him hard enough that he knocked against the edge of a table, dropping the box of pastries. He reached out but his fingertips only barely brushed against Chu Wanning's elbow, nowhere near enough to hold onto anything.

"Wait!" Mo Ran called out.

But Chu Wanning had already slammed the door shut.

Chapter Text

Chu Wanning was sitting on, not his own sofa, but on Shi Mei’s sofa. He had his knees tucked to his chest and his head buried in his arms. 

“Wanning,” Shi Mei worriedly said, gently rubbing his back.

Chu Wanning didn’t say anything.

“Are you going to tell me what’s wrong?”

Chu Wanning shook his head. The only other person Chu Wanning had ever lowered his guard, besides Mo Ran, was Shi Mei.

After Chu Wanning had stormed out of the school, it had started to drizzle, then suddenly it rained cats and dogs. 

Shi Mei had also been in school and when he spotted Chu Wanning just standing in the rain, he immediately rushed towards him and guided Chu Wanning back home while holding an umbrella over his head.

With all the rain pouring it was hard to tell that water pouring down Chu Wanning’s face was tears but Shi Mei could clearly see his red-rimmed eyes. But Chu Wanning refused to tell him anything and was quiet the entire way back home. 

When they got back, Shi Mei offered Chu Wanning to come into his house while he made the older boy hot chocolate.

“Wanning, you can talk to me about anything,” Shi Mei kindly said as he continued to console Chu Wanning.

Suddenly the phone on the table started to vibrate. It was Chu Wanning’s phone but he obviously had no intention of picking up so Shi Mei did instead.

“A-ran is calling,” Shi Mei said as he glanced at the caller-ID on the phone. 

“I don’t want to talk to him,” Chu Wanning angrily said. “Ignore it,”

Shi Mei pressed the red button, declining the call. Chu Wanning couldn't see, with his head buried in his arms, Shi Mei secretly smiling to himself.

“Did something happen with A-ran?” Shi Mei worriedly asked, putting back on that facade of his. 

“Mo Ran” Chu Wanning choked out. “Mo Weiyu,” He corrected himself. “We two were d-dating,”

“Really?” Shi Mei asked, pretending to sound surprised. 

“It was fake. Someone was paying him money to date me,” Chu Wanning tried to keep his breathing levelled, his voice calm but he could feel himself choking back a sob. 

“I’m so stupid,” Chu Wanning continued. “Why did I think someone would actually like me? Especially someone like Mo Weiyu,”

“Wanning…” Shi Mei sadly said. “Don’t say that. You’re a kind and beautiful person,”

“I’m not,” Chu Wanning said, his voice reduced to almost a whimper. 

Shi Mei didn’t say anything and just rubbed Chu Wanning’s back. “Then Wanning should find someone who actually likes him,”

“No such person exists,”

“There is,” Shi Mei firmly said.

Chu Wanning let out a short mocking laugh. “How would you know?”

“I just do,” 

God. Mo Ran didn’t know what to do. He had to explain to Chu Wanning everything. He still wanted to at least confess his true feelings even if Chu Wanning rejected him. He needed him to know what his feelings were genuine now.

But Chu Wanning wouldn’t answer his calls. He blocked him and completely ignored him in school, acting like he was a ghost. Simply walking past him like he didn’t even exist.

“Chu Wanning!” Mo Ran exclaimed, grabbing Chu Wanning by the arm as the older boy once walked past him in the corridor.

The bold action made the other students murmur, some praying for Mo Ran’s life.

“Let me explain!” Mo Ran pleaded.

Chu Wanning just shot him a glare and yanked his arm out of Mo Ran’s grip.

Mo Ran could feel his heart sink to his stomach. That glare. It wasn't the glare that Chu Wanning gave him whenever he was embarrassed. It was that same cold glare that he gave everyone else, he gave strangers. To him, Mo Ran was no one now. 

“There is nothing to explain,” Chu Wanning calmly said. “Go to detention for raising your voice in the corridor,” Chu Wanning walked away while Mo Ran could only stand there, unable to do anything. 

Suddenly Mo Ran saw Shi Mei walking out of his classroom. Without a second thought, he grabbed Shi Mei by the arm and pulled him into an empty classroom. 

“A-ran? What’s wrong?” Shi Mei asked, tilting his head.

“The recording! You were the one who sent that to Chu Wanning, weren’t you?!” Mo Ran angrily asked. 

“Yes, I was,” Shi Mei cooly answered.

“Why would you do that?!” 

Shi Mei took a seat. “A-ran, do you know why I even asked to do this prank in the first place?”

No. He didn’t.

“Everyone knows you hate Chu Wanning. Or at least you did. Yet, did you know? He had feelings for you,”

What? What was Shi Mei talking about? He? Chu Wanning had feelings for him? Before this whole thing even started? 

“Think about it. I get you two together then you break his heart. There’s no way he’ll like you after that,”

“Why...why do you want him to hate me?”

Shi Mei stared at Mo Ran. Mo Ran could feel himself tremble. Shi Mei was sitting down right now yet he felt like he was being looked down upon. That feeling, he had felt it so many times, but never with Shi Mei. Yet now his best friend was looking at him like he was worthless. 

Shi Mei finally stood up, “I was always there for him when his parents weren’t. I was the one who took care of him when he fell sick. I was the one who was there whenever he hurt himself. I was the one who was always there. Yet you were the one he liked,” Shi Mei said. His voice was calm but Mo Ran could hear the pure resentment in his tone.

“I can give Wanning more than you ever can,”

“Y-you're sick!” Mo Ran exclaimed. “You’re going to break his heart just so he’ll fall in love with you?!”

“It’s better than liking a dog like you,” Shi Mei said. Those were words Mo Ran expected to hear come out of his cousin’s mouth, not his best friend!

The reason Shi Mei had done all this was exactly as Mo Ran had said. Heartbroken by Mo Ran, Chu Wanning, no matter how stoic and cold he may seem, he would eventually break and when he did, Shi Mei would be there. 

All Shi Mei had to do was push him off the edge. 

Shi Mei had to pretend that he didn’t know about their relationship. Chu Wanning was smart. If Shi Mei had admitted to knowing about their relationship, Chu Wanning would be able to easily guess or at least be suspicious of Shi Mei being behind this whole thing. 

“Then I’ll tell Wanning everything!” Mo Ran angrily said, clenching his fists at the side.

Shi Mei snickered. “What reason would he have to believe you. Go ahead and try. He won’t believe you,”

Mo Ran stormed out the classroom with anger. It was lunch right now. Chu Wanning ate lunch alone. In the student council room. 

Mo Ran pushed the door open with such force, it could’ve broken. 

Chu Wanning who was in the middle of the lunch was surprised, but he didn’t let it show. He turned to see who it was making such a  ruckus and would have to be sent to detention when he saw who it was.

“Mo Weiyu! Get out of here,” Chu Wanning shouted, shooting up from his seat and slamming his hands on the table. 

“You have to listen to me!” Mo Ran exclaimed, blocking the door, making sure Chu Wanning couldn’t run away.

“I have no obligation to listen to you!” 

“It was Shi Mei that started all this! He was the one who told me to do this! At first, I did it for the money but along the way, I realised how-”

“Mo Weiyu!” Chu Wanning shouted, cutting Mo Ran off. “Stop making up nonsense! Blaming Shi Mingjing? How low have you gone?!”

“I’m not lying!” 

Chu Wanning clenched his jaw. “Do you take me for a fool?” He then scoffed. “Shi Mingjing warned me that you might start saying nonsense but to think that you actually had to gall blame Shi Mingjing!” 

“It’s the truth! You have to believe me!”

“Why should I believe you?” Chu Wanning snapped. “Everything before this had been a lie! Your confession, your gifts, our dates!”

“It wasn’t all a lie!” Mo Ran said, tears already forming in his eyes, his hands over his chest, feeling like his heart was being crushed right now. “Over time I started to-”

But once again Chu Wanning cut him off. Not with words but with a slap. 

“Mo Weiyu,” Chu Wanning said. He was no longer shouting but his voice was laced with such anger, it was suffocating. “Everything that comes out of your mouth is a lie after a lie. Do not talk to me,” He shoved Mo Ran out of the way and stormed out.

“Wanning! Wait!” Mo Ran called out but Chu Wanning was already gone. 

Before Mo Ran could go and chase Chu Wanning, he heard a voice behind him.

“I told you. He won’t believe you.” Shi Mei said with a wolfish grin.

“What do you know?” Mo Ran reaches into his front pocket where his phone was. He tried to very discreetly open the recording app.

“I don’t understand. Why do you want to hurt Wanning?”

Shi Mei just laughed. “A-ran, I know what you’re trying to do.” His face darkened. “I’m not going to fall for that,”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Mo Ran tried.

Suddenly Shi Mei’s dark and cubbing face was immediately replaced with an innocent and angel-like expression. “A-ran! How could you say something like that? I would never hurt Shizun,”

Mo Ran was speechless. What was going on?

“Mo WeiYu!” An angry voice snapped. “What do you think you’re doing to Shi Mingjing?”

Mo Ran spun around with an expression full of hurt “Wanning! This isn’t what it looks like,”

Chu Wanning had simply wanted to come back to the classroom to grab his textbook which he had forgot, only to see Shi Mei looking hurt, telling Mo Ran that he would never hurt...him. Something about it made Chu Wanning feel appreciated or cared for. 

“It looked like you were trying to interrogate Shi Mingjing,” Chu Wanning coldly said as he grabbed Shi Mei by the hand and dragged him away.

Chu Wanning hated physical contact, he would never grab someone’s hand like that, of course, unless it was Shi Mei.

Mo Ran’s heart fueled with jealousy. But he couldn’t say anything. Chu Wanning, even if he did have feelings for him before, Mo Ran already ruined it. 

Everything they had was gone. 

Chapter Text

It was true that Shi Mei was the one who told Mo Ran to date Chu Wanning, but whenever he saw the two of them together, he couldn’t help but feel jealous.

It wasn’t very long ago when Shi Mei had gotten this idea. It happened less than a year ago. 

“Wanning...do you like A-ran?” Shi Mei asked on a Sunday afternoon when Shi Mei’s parents had left for the day and asked Chu Wanning to accompany their son.

Chu wanning, who had been sitting at the dining table with a cup of hot chocolate in hand, almost choked on his drink. If it wasn’t for his constant faked calmness, he would’ve spit his drink out.

Instead, he forced himself to swallow it and calmly said, “What makes you say that?”

“Well, you constantly steal glances at him and you're always checking with his teachers, making sure he’s okay, especially after his parents passed away,”

Any normal person wouldn’t have noticed this. No one bothered or were too scared to stare at Chu wanning for too long. But not Shi Mei. 

While Chu wanning was smart, he could also be oblivious. He never noticed when Shi Mei would stare at him, especially in class. He didn’t know the reason that Shi Mei had wanted to take economics, so they could be in the same class. 

“I am simply worried about him as a classmate. As the student council president, it is my job to make sure that all students wellbeing are okay,”

“And that includes stealing glances at him?”

Chu Wanning’s ears tinted red and his grip on the mug tightened.

“I...it doesn’t matter. He won’t like me back anyway,”

Chu Wanning was too busy staring at his cup trying to calm his blushing face that he failed to notice the way that Shi Mei tightly gripped the armrest. 

“What do you like about him?” Shi Mei asked with that familiar gentle tone that everyone recognised.

“H-he’s nice…” Chu Wanning started. “He’s always helping people when their not looking,”

So are you, Shi Mei thought. But when he continued to think about how Chu Wanning said that Mo Ran wouldn’t like him back, he couldn’t help but wallow at the thought of how that was true. 

Almost everyone in school knew that Mo Ran didn’t like Chu Wanning. The two of them were polar opposites. Chu Wanning is the mature school president while Mo Ran was the infamous trouble maker. 

Shi Mei’s face darkened at the thought. What was so good about Mo Ran? Chu Wanning was wasting his time liking someone like that. That’s when the idea popped into Shi Mei’s head. If he had a way to prove to Chu Wanning that Mo Ran was just some worthless dog, not deserving of his love, then maybe Shi Mei would have a shot. He just had to get Mo Ran out of the picture.

Getting Mo Ran to agree was the easy part, but he didn't expect them to grow so close. He had followed them a few times on many of their dates. He didn’t have to snoop around to find out where they were going, Mo Ran very willingly gave that information.

Once Shi Mei had caught them in a park, it was already quite late and Chu Wanning reached out to grab Mo Ran’s hand. While Chu Wanning’s red face practically glowed in the dark, if he looked close enough, he could see a faint blush on Mo Ran’s tanned skin.

Shi Mei knew he had to end their relationship before Mo Ran exposed everything. He called him and wasn’t surprised that Mo Ran wasn’t willing. Unfortunately for Mo Ran, Shi Mei had already planned in advance and recorded their entire conversation. Edited it and simply sent the part where Mo Ran would look guilty to Chu Wanning. 

After that Shi Mei immediately told Chu Wanning about Mo Ran suddenly going crazy and blaming everything on him. Chu Wanning bought it. Shi Mei truly loved Chu Wanning, but sometimes he felt like that older boy was a bit too naive and trusting for his own good. 

Right now, Chu Wanning was sitting on his sofa, watching a movie next to Shi Mei. Chu Wanning refused to talk about how upset he was and instead covered it up with anger, lashing out whenever Shi Mei brought it up.

Shi Mei didn’t partially mind. Chu Wanning would get over it. While Shi Mei had planned this whole thing, he still had a heart. He did feel sorry for Chu Wanning, being so upset about how his relationship with Mo Ran was all fake but it was for the best. Besides, even though Mo Ran did eventually have feelings for Chu Wanning, Shi Mei’s seen how easily Mo Ran moved on from his previous boyfriends. 

Shi Mei was protecting Chu Wanning.

“Is there a certain movie you want to watch?” Shi Mei gently asked. Lately, the two of them have been hanging out at Shi Mei’s house watching movies with both of their parents out of town. 

Shi Mei was grateful for it. After Chu Wanning and Mo Ran had started dating, Chu Wanning never had any time for him. Now that Mo Ran was out of the picture, Shi Mei had Chu Wanning all for himself. 

“Anything,” Chu Wanning mumbled.

Shi Mei clicked through, only to hear Chu Wanning constantly repeating ‘no’s.

“Wanning, you can’t say ‘anything’ and then say ‘no’ to everything afterwards,” Shi Mei laughed.

“Just...not romance. Anything else is alright,” Chu Wanning grumbled.

“Mn, alright,”

They finally settled for a fantasy movie. No drama, no romance, just enjoyable fighting scenes. 

Unlike last time, Chu Wanning seemed interested in the movie and didn’t fall asleep. He kept his eyes on the screen the whole time until the credit. Shi Mei turned the screen off and stood up.

“Do you want anything to drink?” Shi Mei asked.

“Ice water,” 

Shi Mei gave him a quick smile before going to grab a cup of ice water. He came back and handed it to Chu Wanning.

Chu Wanning quietly thanked him and took a sip, but when he lowered his cup he realised Shi Mei was standing right in front of him, staring straight at him.

“What are you looking at?” Chu Wanning frowned.

“I was just thinking about how pretty Wanning was,” Shi Mei softly smiled as he leaned forward and brushed a stray strand of hair away from Chu Wanning's face, purposely brushing against his ear along the way. Shi Mei internally grinned at the way it turned red. 

“W-what are you talking about?” Chu Wanning said with a hint of annoyance but also embarrassment. 

“It’s true. Wanning is so kind. It’s just that no one else ever sees it,” Shi Mei said, his voice becoming quieter. His eyelids drooped down, but not completely closed. He then placed his hand on Chu Wanning’s knees and traced his leg to his thigh.

Chu Wanning didn’t say anything but he shifted himself backwards, only to realise that he couldn’t. The backrest was blocking him. Shi Mei had him cornered. 

Chu Wanning didn't want to slap Shi Mie’s hand away. To him, Shi Mei was still his...friend and was kind enough to stay with him even when he lost his temper all those times. He didn’t want to mess up. He didn’t want to break the friendship they had.

Shi Mei didn’t say anything anymore and instead placed his right hand on the backrest, next to Chu wanning while his left hand continued to gently rub against Chu Wanning’s thigh. His face leaned closer until Chu Wanning could feel Shi Mei’s breath on his ear, causing him to turn red.

“Wanning’s ear is so red. Are you embarrassed?”

Of course, he was but he didn’t say anything. Instead, he tightly shut his eyes and just wanted to shrink back. He was being uncharacteristically quiet, not slapping or chasing Shi Mei away.

Shi Mei just grinned at the way Chu Wanning’s eyes were so lightly screwed shut. His eyes travelled to his mouth. It was slightly parted. Likely unintentional but Chu Wanning had no idea how seductive he was being right now.

Before Shi Mei knew it, he found his mouth touching Chu Wanning’s.

 

Chapter Text

Chu Wanning didn’t know what was happening. One minute he’s watching a movie and another minute Shi Mei’s kissing...him. 

Before Shi Mei had a chance to deepen it, Chu Wanning pushed him away quite violently by the chest, causing Shi Mei to tumble back quite a bit.

Chu Wanning was about to apologize but felt his face heat up as he remembered the kiss. He unconsciously touched his lip and his face burned red, glowing in the darkness.

“Did...I go too far?” Shi Mei worriedly asked.

“I-i’m sorry,” Chu Wanning blurted out.

“No! Wanning has nothing to apologize for. I...I was the one who made the advance,”

There was an awkward moment of silence before Chu Wanning broke it. 

“Why did you kiss me?”

“Isn’t it obvious?”

It wasn’t. Not to Chu Wanning. W-why would someone as beautiful, as kind as Shi Mei kiss him. It couldn’t be because he liked him…

“What if I said it because I liked you?” Shi Mei softly asked.

Chu Wanning froze. His back hunched up like he was trying to curl on himself and disappear. “I...I don’t know. I just really don’t want to be with anyone.” Especially after what happened with Mo Ran. That part was left unsaid but Shi Mei seemed to get it.

“I understand,” Shi Mei gently smiled. “Wanning needs time,”

The next few days were awkward between them. It didn’t help that they were having a one week holiday and the two of them were always at home, constantly bumping into each other whenever they went out to buy or eat something.

One day, Chu Wanning was sitting at home. He was working on one of his school projects. He stood up, going to the kitchen to grab a drink, when he heard something clatter to the floor.

He looked down to see a red raindrop shaped necklace on the floor. Chu Wanning picked it up and tightly gripped it, almost like he wanted to crush it but didn’t have the heart to do so.

The necklace had been a present amp Ran had given to him…

“Can I kiss you?” Mo Ran blurted out one day when they were eating lunch at Mo Ran’s house.

“Y-you!” Chu Wanning stuttered, at a loss for words.

Even for someone with a thick face like Mo Ran that was too direct!

There was a moment of silence for the two of them.

“Yes.” Chu wanning said. It was so quiet it could’ve been a whisper. His face was burning red.

“Hm?” Mo Ran asked, not catching what Chu Wanning said.

“I said yes to your previous Question.” Chu Wanning mumbled.

It took a moment for Mo Ran to get before his eyes widened. 

“R-really?” 

“I already, yes , didn't I?” Chu wanning snapped, but Mo Ran knew he was just covering his embarrassment with anger. 

The kiss was sweet and short but too Chu Wanning it was nothing.

“Was that your first kiss?” Mo Ran joked.

“No,” Chu wanning said with a serious tone. 

“Huh?” 

“Of course it was, you idiot!” Chu Wanning angrily said and then his eyelashes fluttered before saying, “no one’s ever liked me that way, so…”

Suddenly Mo Ran’d heart tightened. He...he had taken Chu Wanning’s first kiss. Mo Ran was happy that he was the first but he didn’t stand the fact that their relationship was still fake. 

“Here,” Mo Ran said as he took out a small box out of his pocket and handed it to Chu Wanning.

“What is this?” Chu Wanning asked.

“Open it,”

“Why are you giving me this?” Chu Wanning couldn’t remember any special date that was occuring. Today should be a normal day. Then again, it could be his birthday. Chu Wanning always forgets this birthday. To him it wasn't anything important so he never made a point to celebrate it.

“No reason. I just thought right now might be a good time to give this.”

Chu Wanning raised an eyebrow but he took the box and opened it.

Inside was a beautiful necklace with a bright red raindrop shape gem on it.

“It’s beautiful…” Chu wanning said, almost in awe. 

“I’ll help you out,” Mo Ran smiled as he gently took the necklace out of Chu Wanning's hands. Chu wanning turned around and lifted his hair, allowing Mo Ran to place the necklace on.

“Now we have matching ones,” Mo Ran grinned as he took a matching one from under his shirts

Chu wanning turned even redder and had to turn his head away.

Chu wanning carelessly threw the necklace into the table. There was no point dwelling on the past.

Maybe he’ll return to Mo Ran. After all, it was such a waste of money to throw it away.

No. He didn’t want to see Mo Ran no matter what. Maybe he could get Shi Mei to give it to Mo Ran. 

Shi Mei was doing his homework when he heard a knock on his door. He opened it to see Chu Wanning standing there.

“Wanning...do you want to come inside?” Shi Mei kindly offered but Chu Wanning shook his head.

“No. I was just hoping you would give this back to Mo Ran for me,” Chu Wanning said as he shoved the necklace into Shi Mei hands.

Shi Mei recognized it. He and Mo Ran had gone shopping when Mo Ran spotted it and immediately wanted to buy it for Chu Wanning. That was the first gift that Mo Ran had bought for Chu wanning with his own money. That was when Shi Mei saw that Mo Ran’s feelings were growing.

“Wanning should give it back to him,” Shi Mei smiles. “I’m afraid if I see A-Ran right now, he might accuse me of lying.”

Chu Wanning has thought of that but he had been selfishly hoping that Shi Mei would still go.

Shi Mei wasn’t truly worried about being accused of lying. He just wanted to see the look of anguish on Mo Ran’s face when Chu Wanning gave the necklace back to him. Maybe Mo Ran would finally understand that Chu Wanning wanted nothing to do with him.

In the end, Chu Wanning couldn't give it back. He tried to convince himself he just didn’t want to see Mo Ran but the truth was that he wanted to hold onto a part of a memory of when he and Mo Ran were together.

That night Chu Wanning could only go to sleep, listening to crows caw…

 

Chapter Text

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?!”

“Nothing,”

“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?”

“Which student?”

“Chu Wanning.”

***

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,”

“Stop talking,”

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 do?”

“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.

“What?”

“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,”