You will be alone always and then you will die
- Richard Siken
Sometimes, he doesn’t even know why he does it. Why he did any of it. How they got to this place, why it was so important, why he hates everything so much. Once, he was just a boy. A boy who wanted the love of his shizun. A boy who just wanted to be wanted. Now, he sits atop a throne of blood and bone and calls himself emperor and leaves suffering and ruin everywhere he goes.
No one ever wanted him.
Now, they have no choice.
: : :
Sometimes, nothing makes sense except the screams of men as he rips the air from their lungs, makes their blood boil in their veins. Sometimes, the only thing that gives Mo Ran clarity is the way that they look at him before they die: You are evil. You have always been evil. You will always be evil. Rot in hell, Mo Weiyu. It’s what you deserve.
Sometimes, Mo Ran sits in the bloody carnage of his own making and laughs.
Until he screams.
: : :
“I hate everything about you, Chu Wanning.”
Why didn’t you want me?
“You disgust me so much.”
Why wasn’t I enough?
“I’m going to make you pay for what you did.”
Will you ever forgive me?
: : :
In the middle of battle, surrounded by screams and flames, Mo Ran feels like a god. The people throw themselves at his feet and beg for his mercy. There are small sects, so afraid of the fearsome Taxian-Jun coming for them next, that they come to him first. They bend the knee and kiss his ring and vow to serve under him. They bow to him reverently and call him your highness and show him more respect than anyone in this life ever has. They don’t love him, they don’t actually care about him, but it’s enough.
Sometimes, it’s enough to just pretend.
: : :
He realizes that he’s losing his mind one day in the middle of dinner. Chu Wanning, his shizun, is knelt at his feet. There’s an iron collar around his neck and a leash chaining him to the ground and Mo Ran is feeding him grapes, peeling each of them immaculately before pushing it into Chu Wanning’s reluctant mouth. He knows he’s losing his mind because he looks at Wanning’s mouth, stained with the juice from the grapes, and asks him why he’s still here.
Chu Wanning only looks up at him, confusion knitting his brows together. Or maybe it’s pity. Maybe it’s neither of those things. Maybe Wanning has lost his mind too.
“Mo Ran,” he says.
He never calls him Taxian-Jun, only Mo-Ran. As if that’s still how he sees him, just a stupid little boy he never wanted, a worthless reject. When Mo Ran is defiling and degrading him, laughing at how pathetic and disgusting and weak he is, Chu Wanning will sometimes call him Mo Weiyu, an undercurrent of disappointment and pity in his tone that only makes Mo Ran more vicious. But never Taxian-Jun. Never that.
“I can’t leave.”
Mo Ran just stares at him for a moment, then stands up and flips the table in front of them over in a blind rage.
“No,” he leans into Chu Wanning's face and screams. “You can’t.”
: : :
Hell is too cold, Chu Wanning.
: : :
There are times Mo Ran doesn't remember at all. He walks into Wushan Palace, feral and wide-eyed, hair matted to the side of his face with blood that's not his own, and he doesn't know how he got there. Doesn't know whose blood it is. Doesn't know where he is.
Doesn't even really know who he is.
But he knows Wanning.
Mo Ran crumbles to the floor when he finds him and when he wraps his arms around Wanning's waist and presses his face into his stomach, he feels smaller somehow, like he doesn't fit in his own body. Like maybe this isn't his body at all. Maybe those aren't his hands shaking. Maybe that's not his skin covered in blood, maybe -
He feels Wanning's fingers comb through his blood soaked hair, softly shushing him, and Mo Ran thinks he'd rather have his core shattered than this. Wanning's tenderness doesn't just shatter him.
It breaks him.
He sobs into Chu Wanning’s robes like a child, clutching the material in his fists as he shakes and trembles, his body wracked by feelings he thought he killed and buried like so many others.
I'm sorry, he wants to say. Shizun, I'm sorry I was bad.
But he doesn't.
He doesn't, because he's afraid that Chu Wanning will do the thing that Mo Ran fears most in the world. More than the armies at his door, more than the hell that awaits him. More than anything, Mo Ran is terrified that Chu Wanning will forgive him.
: : :
Wanning dies in his arms and for a moment, Mo Ran is at peace with it. Wanning is gone.
Shi Mei is gone.
His uncle and aunt are gone.
He is alone.
He is alone, finally, and for a moment, it settles the wild, angry beast inside of him. For once, everything makes sense. He has a clarity he hasn't had in years.
“I'm alone,” Mo Ran says outloud and the words feel like nothing on his tongue. Like ash that dissolves in the wind.
He holds Wanning in his arms, wipes the blood from the corner of his mouth and murmurs, “Shizun, I'm sorry.”
Because now he can. Because Wanning will never be able to say, “It's okay. I forgive you.”
: : :
I want you to rot with me.
: : :
Xue Meng asks him why he chose the most painful way to kill himself and Mo Ran just smiles.
“I guess I was just bored.”
Moments before death takes him, Mo Ran crawls across Red Lotus Pavilion and curls around Chu Wanning’s body. He still looks as beautiful as the first day Mo Ran met him.
“Shizun,” he whimpers, the pain twisting inside of him like a hot knife, the poison eating away at the very core of him until it feels like there’s nothing left.
Please don’t throw me way.
I don’t want to be the emperor anymore.
Mo Ran whimpers, a single tear rolling down his cheek as death takes him.
“Shizun. I'm sorry.”