Chu Wanning has suffered many indignities in his life.
This one is not the most painful. It may also not be the most egregious. Initially, he didn’t even see it as that bad. But it is definitely somewhere along the lines of being the worst.
The spell had taken him by surprise.
A village situated along the route of their travels had been trying to fend off a flesh-eating monster in the woods. The monster terrorized them constantly, demanding either blood or a third of the entire village’s crops. For a village that grew food to live, not merely to sell, this had been making it hard to survive. So they found two travelling cultivators that had been trying to find if the fish up river were fatter, and roped them in to helping.
The monster had turned out to be a rather crafty demon, one that didn’t actually devour flesh but put on enough spells and theatrical illusions to make them seem like they were larger and more ferocious than they actually were.
The imp had put up a good fight and predictably had gone berserk near the end. Before its head was swiftly removed by Jiangui, it had shot a spell towards Mo Ran. Chu Wanning had thrown himself in front of Mo Ran, trying to deflect it, but it managed to pierce through the barrier he had hastily thrown up.
He is not quite sure what happened after because he had immediately blacked out. Chu Wanning remembers waking up feeling significantly smaller and strangely pliable. And very bristly. It had taken him a moment to realize that the colours in his vision were strange, not as vividly differentiable as they normally are. It had also taken him a moment to realize he was being held up by his armpits by Mo Ran, who was giving him a bewildered look.
Chu Wanning had opened his mouth to ask what exactly happened, but the soft and gentle sound that came out instead took him by surprise.
A tender little meow, kitten-like in nature, spilled from him.
After Chu Wanning realizes what exactly he had become, he had thrashed about in a fit of rage. Mo Ran had tried to calm him down, had called out his name but Chu Wanning was too angry at the situation. Eventually Mo Ran just shifted a hand to the nape of Chu Wanning’s neck and held onto him like a belligerent kitten. Chu Wanning had grumpily given up on thrashing about, and had gotten rewarded by Mo Ran bringing him close and settling him against his broad chest.
He could hear Mo Ran’s nervous heartbeat, belying the calm and playful demeanour he was putting on.
“At least you're a cute kitty,” Mo Ran had tried to joke after the initial shock had worn off, earning a swipe to his face in return. Chu Wanning hasn’t actually extended his claws out, but it left a tiny scratch across that beautiful face of his anyways.
Mo Ran had simply kissed his furry little forehead and hummed in thought. Chu Wanning’s clothes had thankfully been spared so Mo Ran had meticulously folded them and stored them away in his qiankun pouch. He procured a small wicker basket and placed Chu Wanning in it, before hitching it on his side like he was some kind of village girl.
Mo Ran had searched the entire area till the early evening, but could not find any hints for an antidote on the forest floor, nor on the imp’s corpse. He had tried a few spells, a few curse breakers, had fed Chu Wanning some of his own spiritual energy, but nothing worked.
The villagers unfortunately could not point him to any solution either, extremely apologetic. Mo Ran had waved them off and had decided to set out, Chu Wanning in tow. There was no answer in the village or in the forest, so they might as well check in the nearest town.
So here he is. Sitting in a small basket that has been lovingly lined with one of Mo Ran’s softer shirts. The scent of it is heightened and it would comfort Chu Wanning if he wasn’t still wildly upset over the fact that he had been turned into a cat.
He’s been trying to circulate energy through his meridians, trying to muster up enough power to somehow will his body into changing back. Nothing works. Even worse, Chu Wanning finds himself slowly being lulled to sleep by the gentle rocking motions of the basket and the cool breeze of dusk.
Ah, well. It’s not like he can do anything else. He curls up his body as small as he can and nestles further into Mo Ran’s shirt, slowly dozing off.
They sleep under the stars that night, just more than halfway to another town. Mo Ran finds a tree to lean against, and sets a protective barrier around them. They haven’t encountered many troubles on this little wayward adventure across the countryside they’ve taken, save for the problem at hand, but he still likes to take precautions where he can.
Chu Wanning curls up against Mo Ran’s chest and the heartbeat thrumming underneath calms him. Mo Ran strokes his head gently, scratching in between his eyes. Chu Wanning yawns and lazily curls his tail. Without realizing it till it happens, he feels his chest reverberate with a deep purr.
Once he starts, he can’t stop. Mo Ran’s fingers just feel so good, so soothing as they scritch idly across his fur. Even if Chu Wanning wanted to, he won’t be able to cease the purring, not unless Mo Ran ceases the petting. And Mo Ran likes to spoil Chu Wanning no matter what form he is in; Chu Wanning feels some of the agitation of the day melt away as Mo Ran pets him.
“Should I change what I call you?” Mo Ran asks, more to himself than to Chu Wanning. “While you’re a cat still. You need something cute, like Chu-Chu or Ningning…”
Chu Wanning lazily bats at Mo Ran’s face in return and Mo Ran lets out a short laugh. He pets Chu Wanning’s head again and leans in, placing a placating kiss on top.
“If you’re stuck like this, I’ll have to turn into a cat too,” Mo Ran murmurs as he dozes off, the two of them nestled at the foot of an old peach tree as the night sky stretches endlessly over them.
Chu Wanning sleeps and sleeps and sleeps throughout the day. He can’t help it. It’s all this body seems to want to do. Occasionally, Mo Ran will wake him up when he takes a break, feeding some fish or bread to Chu Wanning as they bask in the sun.
Now that the panic has worn down, Chu Wanning doesn’t feel too slighted. It isn’t the worst thing that has happened to him. It isn’t the stickiest situation they’ve found themselves in.
They had not set out with a purpose during their travels this time; they just wanted to stretch their legs and travel through a part of the country they would be less well-known in. If he has to spend a portion of it as a scrawny white cat with ears and paws that look a little too big on him, so be it.
The basket rocks Chu Wanning to sleep as Mo Ran continues his trek, and he doesn’t wake up till they’re arriving at a small but vibrant town. It’s close to dusk and the streets are coming alive with light and music and people spilling out to enjoy the pleasant summer evening. Mo Ran wanders, keeping a protective hand over Chu Wanning’s basket.
Before they had reached the town, Mo Ran had tried a few more incantations. But aside from Chu Wanning glowing orange for a few moments, there was no change to him. Even though a whole day had passed since the caster died, the spell still held.
Again, in the grand scheme of things, it’s possibly not the worst situation that they’ve been in. Chu Wanning is sure that eventually, they’ll come to a solution. Part of him still wants to panic, but his body seems to be slave to feline instincts. And it doesn’t seem that he’s picked up the instincts of a stray or a feral cat. No, Chu Wanning feels like a lazy house cat, lounging as his master carries him around.
They are strangers to the town, so they get a little more attention than most. It’s hard not to notice a tall, handsome cultivator carting around a small basket with a kitten. A few excitable children spill out from their schoolyard and circle around them and try to peer into the basket. Mo Ran raises the basket out of their reach to protect Chu Wanning, but Chu Wanning’s ears perk up when he hears one of them ask if they can give the cat a treat.
Chu Wanning sticks his head out of the basket to look down in interest and Mo Ran catches the movement. He huffs a short laugh before he lowers the basket. Immediately the kids are clamouring around him, and Chu Wanning accepts the small pastry being fed to him. The children all take turns petting him and sneaking him treats and Chu Wanning figures he might as well enjoy the curse in whichever way he can.
Eventually they disperse, and Mo Ran casts a look down at Chu Wanning.
“Shizun is more cunning than he lets on,” Mo Ran says, amused. Chu Wanning lolls onto his side lazily as Mo Ran tickles him under his chin, and thinks this isn’t entirely the most awful. He feels a lot more physically relaxed than before and worst comes to worst maybe they can devise some sort of pill again to bring him temporarily into a human form while they figure out how to reverse the curse.
However, in all this languid energy, there’s one thing Chu Wanning doesn’t account for.
While roaming towards the local inn, Mo Ran decides to buy some food from a stall. He buys some skewered chicken and puts it in the basket; Chu Wanning nibbles on it happily. He’s so engrossed by the food that he doesn’t catch the words of the stall owner till she gives a robust laugh that’s raspy and golden.
“Why is big brother worrying? If he would like to try the octopus, this one would be more than happy to sneak him some for free,” the vendor says, her voice syrupy enough that Chu Wanning’s ears flit towards the sound.
“It’s okay,” Mo Ran says, voice warm as he looks around. “I’m not that indecisive.”
“You don’t like my food?” The vendor returns, and Chu Wanning can practically hear the pout in her words. He sticks his head up just in time to see her bat her eyelashes at Mo Ran. She’s a gorgeous girl, with sharp eyes, a plush mouth set on a round, smiling face.
Chu Wanning feels his hackles rise. Moreso when the set of her mouth turns sly.
It is not an emotion new to Chu Wanning. Broad shoulders, sure hands, sun-kissed skin and a brilliant smile bracketed by two dimples— who would not openly stare at a man like that?
But the indignity of having to watch helplessly as a vendor flirts with Mo Ran, of not being able to do anything as she shamelessly ignores his deflection, his hands waving as she puts hers on her hips and pouts again.
“It’s not every day such a handsome brother comes to try this one’s food,” the girl says, her voice filled with fake hurt in a way that makes Chu Wanning want to thrash around even more.
It’s too much.
Jealousy freshly kindled within him, and fully aware that he has no face to lose as a cat, Chu Wanning swallows his pride and does the first thing that comes to mind. He meows.
He tries to interrupt the conversation with it but it comes out as a sweet and soft thing, too quiet to be noticed. So he tries again, but the girl lets out another laugh at the same time, drowning him out completely. He feels his tail start to stick up along with his agitation.
The girl passes a stick of fried octopus to Mo Ran with a wink, saying in a dramatic whisper not to tell her father.
...Can cats scream? Now would be a great chance to try.
Chu Wanning inhales and with all his might, he bellows. It comes as a loud meow that startles both people, and Mo Ran looks down at him. Chu Wanning meows again, standing up on wobbly legs as he tries to command Mo Ran’s attention.
“Does didi want more chicken?” The girl asks, peering over the stall counter and into the basket. “Or would he like to try some fish?”
The offer is kind and innocent but Chu Wanning still gives an aggrieved meow. Whose little brother was he!
“He’s a rather cranky fellow,” Mo Ran says fondly and reaches to scratch the top of Chu Wanning’s head. Chu Wanning swats at him and Mo Ran lets out a laugh that has the girl’s eyes going even brighter. “I think he’s upset we haven’t found a place to rest for the night. He’s probably very tired.”
Mo Ran takes his leave, politely rejecting the girl one last time. He steps back out into the bustling streets and Chu Wanning huffs in satisfaction. But he quickly realizes something.
Without Chu Wanning’s stoic, icy presence beside him, people are a lot more open about flirting with Mo Ran. They try when Chu Wanning is around too, albeit in a more subtle way. But now that he’s a cat and he’s unable to loom threateningly by Mo Ran’s side, they’re absolutely shameless.
They pass a well decorated home and some youths try to sidle up to Mo Ran and pawn off some wedding sweets. They also try to convince him to join the festivities with a tug on his sleeve and a hand on his elbow and this time, Chu Wanning only has to hiss to divert attention. He knows Mo Ran is attractive, but do they have to act this way!
Even the innkeeper flirts with Mo Ran! One would think that this town is devoid of beauties, the way they beam up at Mo Ran.
Though Mo Ran is exceptionally handsome. Chu Wanning cannot blame people for having eyes. And without Chu Wanning beside him to act as a dour eclipse to his brilliance, Mo Ran shines brighter than most. The thought makes Chu Wanning feel more gloomy.
That night, Mo Ran tries to set Chu Wanning on his chest again to sleep. Chu Wanning slinks off the bed and into the basket, where he curls into a small ball, feeling a drop of sadness yet again.
Mo Ran sits up and walks over to the basket, looking down at Chu Wanning’s form. He buries his fingers in his fur and rubs them in circles, the feeling of it lulling Chu Wanning. Chu Wanning thinks he hears an “ I miss you ” from Mo Ran, but he falls asleep too fast.
In the middle of the night he wakes up, restless. Chu Wanning forgets why he went to sleep annoyed, and crawls out of his basket. He hops onto the bed and sees Mo Ran sleeping, face more pinched than normal. Chu Wanning curls around his head, nestling his head against Mo Ran’s hair. He has the urge to nibble at it, just a little, and feels Mo Ran shift underneath him.
“ Wanning …” Mo Ran murmurs in his sleep, and Chu Wanning feels a little more content.
Taxian Jun is not happy that he has to spend his time with Chu Wanning with his shizun turned into a cat.
Mo Ran leaves a note for himself, clearly instructing him to be gentle with the cat and what he’s done so far to look for a cure. Taxian Jun would have much rather spent the day tumbling around with Chu Wanning but instead, it looks like he has to grudgingly fix whatever mistake Mo-zongshi is clearly at fault for.
Nonetheless, Taxian Jun complies. He too tries to manipulate his spiritual energy, tries a few incantations that don’t work out. He grows frustrated and this time, one of the spells he tries makes Chu Wanning glow a bright purple. Chu Wanning lets out an alarmed string of meow s at this, and the other man abruptly stops.
He throws a hood up and forgoes their basket in favour of tucking Chu Wanning into the front of his shirt, like a swaddled baby. Chu Wanning finds himself purring involuntarily at the closeness of this; he can’t help it. He was nervous for Taxian Jun, worried the man would bully him in this state. But Mo Ran is Mo Ran, and even like this he is eager to find a solution.
People remember him, and are surprised to see him a lot more sullen and demanding in the daylight. Taxian Jun manages to get the name of a local cultivator that has set up shop in town and wastes no time going there. With this spell being stubborn and Chu Wanning unable to do anything in this form, they need all the help they can get, even if it’s from a cultivator who has maybe half the power that they do.
The cultivator’s parlour is decently sized, dressed in deep greens and dark wood. The receptionist is a rather fair man with a pointed and sculpted face whose eyes brighten when he sees the two of them. Specifically, when he looks at Mo Ran. It’s clear that he likes what he sees as his voice takes a saccharine turn.
Chu Wanning thinks that at least with Taxian Jun, he will brush them off. But a smile uncurls across Mo Ran’s face and being inexperienced, the receptionist doesn’t see the ill intent radiating off of it. He flushes instead, and tells Mo Ran that while the cultivator isn’t taking any appointments today, he’ll see if he can squeeze them in.
Without thinking, Chu Wanning lets out another hiss that catches Mo Ran by surprise. He looks down at him with a frown before it clicks, and a smug look uncurls across his face. He pets Chu Wanning’s head appreciatively, before smiling extra sweet at the receptionist who leads them to the private room of the cultivator.
Of course, the meeting ends as all meetings with Taxian Jun do when he doesn’t get his way. With the cultivator pinned by his neck against the walk as he tearfully admits that they have no insight into the cat situation, but that they’re also not actually a cultivator but just a hack who’s temporarily in town to take advantage of the people. Taxian Jun doesn’t hang the cultivator out of the windows by his toes like he threatens to, but he comes close.
They leave the place wrecked with empty hands, and Taxian Jun in a gloomy mood. He buys ingredients at a local apothecary and threatens the owner at knife point to give him a concoction that will change Chu Wanning back to normal. The owner instead gives him a book of potions, and Taxian Jun makes the owner brew a few.
None of them work, and Chu Wanning thinks that Taxian Jun is ready to murder the owner. Chu Wanning meows insistently till Taxian Jun reluctantly lets the owner go. A majority of the day has passed by for this venture and when Taxian Jun steps back out onto the street, the sun is yet again setting.
Taxian Jun looks down at the cat swaddled against him. Chu Wanning looks back up with large and dark eyes, twitching his nose.
“I have you at my mercy,” Taxian Jun informs Chu Wanning, and Chu Wanning blinks. “This Venerable One yet again has the mighty Yuheng Elder at his complete mercy.”
Chu Wanning grows apprehensive for a moment, slowly feeling the fur on his back rise. But it turns out that what Taxian Jun means is that instead of being beholden to any task, he retreats back to the inn room for the day, buying some fish along the way for Chu Wanning. Chu Wanning is surprised, thinking if anyone were to be ardent about finding a cure, it would be Taxian Jun. And if not that, he would want to tease and bully Chu Wanning in this state.
Yet Taxian Jun seems to be okay with simply reclining against the bed, stroking Chu Wanning’s head as he lets him curl up on his chest.
“Tell Mo-zongshi that he better fix you by the next time I’m back,” Taxian Jun tells him in a matter of fact way. “Or else this Venerable One will be very angry.”
Chu Wanning pushes one paw into his man’s chest, then the other. He repeats the motion, kneading into the broad chest and purring as his head continues to get scritched. Taxian Jun dozes off, his brow relaxing as he slips into an uncharacteristically deep sleep.
The sight of it makes Chu Wanning’s heart ache. He misses being human, misses being able to take his love in his hands and scold him and kiss him and keep him close. He misses lounging with Mo Ran’s head in his lap, misses the way Mo Ran will gently press his lips to the back of his hand or the inside of his wrist, the way he’ll push aside Chu Wanning’s hair to sneak small kisses against his neck.
Chu Wanning misses it more so now that he has to watch others covet Mo Ran. Mo Ran has sworn himself to be Chu Wanning’s and Chu Wanning knows it’s selfish to hide such a beauty away from the world.
But he can’t help it. A weaker man would have completely succumbed already, and it’s only through sheer will that he has been able to keep his face for so long.
That, and there’s not much he can do as a cat.
On the morning of the third day as a feline, Chu Wanning feels tetchy.
Even Mo Ran is on the edge. He’s glad his darker half did not do as much damage but he’s also kind of upset that as Taxian Jun, he wasn’t able to threaten a solution out of someone.
“I think we need to move on to the nearest city,” Mo Ran tells Chu Wanning and Chu Wanning gives him an indifferent look.
On the inside though, he’s definitely thrown for a world of chaos. He’s found himself more and more distracted by small objects, more prone to pouncing when he sees an insect. He finds himself cleaning his paws with his tongue without thinking, some sort of feline instinct starting to unfurl within him.
It scares him, especially if this means that his human instincts will start to ebb away.
They’ve given up on looking for any sort of magical antidote on foot, so Mo Ran chooses to travel by sword instead. Chu Wanning sleeps in his basket, blanket thrown over to protect him from the wind as Mo Ran takes them just outside the nearest city. The plan is to hunt for a library or a school or anywhere with an extensive set of books that will allow them to find a cure.
It doesn’t take long. Mostly because a lot of people seem more than eager to help out Mo Ran, and Chu Wanning has constantly been making aggrieved sounds to prevent anyone from getting too close to his man. At one point Mo Ran asks him if he’s got a stomach ache, blissfully unaware of the mental journey Chu Wanning goes on every time he smiles at someone else.
Chu Wanning decides to turn his nose up and respond with silence.
They eventually find a school to take a look at him. Mo Ran uses a false name and tells them his love got turned into a cat; it does not look like anyone here immediately recognizes him, which is good for some reasons. One of them being that no one else needs to know that the mighty Beidou Immortal has been turned into cats.
However, there are some disadvantages as well.
The master takes the basket from Chu Wanning as the disciples titter around Mo Ran, batting their eyelashes. As soon as the master uncovers the basket, the disciples catch sight and quickly flock to Chu Wanning instead, cooing over him with wide eyes. It makes Chu Wanning feel slightly better.
Only for a short time. As soon as the master picks Chu Wanning to inspect him closely (lifting him up again by his armpits— so undignified!), the students’ attention drifts instead to the handsome rogue cultivator. Chu Wanning can hear them fawn over Mo Ran, asking him for some stories and if they can see his palms and complimenting the fact that he just looks like a knowledgeable gege.
Mo Ran leverages this attention and a little bit of gold to get a place to stay during the night. A pair of handsome twins come to assist them in settling in, and Chu Wanning bitterly wonders why it's this time that all the beautiful people have decided to come out of the woodwork. If his ego upon seeing his own reflection had been low, being a cat has completely destroyed it.
“Shifu told us to give you this,” one of the siblings says, holding out a small jar. “He says it’s mixed with the blood of a local water demon and hawthorn. It should peel back the effects.”
“Many thanks,” Mo Ran says and Chu Wanning doesn’t miss the way the disciple’s hand lingers as Mo Ran tries to take the pot.
The action annoys Chu Wanning as much as the paste in the pot does, and the paste of the pot is vexing. Chu Wanning sniffs it beforehand, seeing if his heightened smell will pick out any poison. He tastes it, and recoils. It is maybe the most vile thing Chu Wanning has ever tasted in his life, and he laps it grudgingly from Mo Ran’s fingers.
They wait for a few minutes, and nothing happens save for the bitter flavour lingering in Chu Wanning’s mouth. One of the twins offers Chu Wanning an osmanthus jelly, and the other some water. It washes away the taste but the memory of it will long linger in Chu Wanning’s mind.
The three of them try to channel their spiritual energy into Chu Wanning, and Chu Wanning manages to levitate off the ground to a knee-height. It makes him feel queasy and they let him down as soon as he starts whining in protest.
“It has been a long day for you,” one of the twins say sweetly after Chu Wanning is back in Mo Ran’s arms, mood sour. “Perhaps you would like to join us for some wine? Our peach wine is especially good this time of the year.”
“We don’t often allow visitors in,” The other sibling says. “Shifu must have found you very interesting if he even allowed you to stay.”
It’s because almost no one is immune to Mo Ran’s honeyed tongue and charming looks. Chu Wanning himself has fallen prey to it repeatedly, in ways more physical than others.
“You are very kind,” Mo Ran says. “Can I bring my Ningning as well?”
Chu Wanning rankles, wanting desperately to sink his claws into Mo Ran’s cheek as punishment. For the nickname or for entertaining the thought of having a drink with people who are clearly interested in him, Chu Wanning does not know. Probably both.
He wriggles out of Mo Ran’s grasp and hops down, slinking across the room. Pointedly, Chu Wanning jumps onto the small desk then onto a window sill, ignoring the room at large.
“Looks like your friend doesn’t want to come,” one of the siblings says and Chu Wanning lets out a soft hiss.
A friend! A friend! Even after Mo Ran had told them that this was his cultivation partner turned into a cat! Chu Wanning feels extremely affronted, and Mo Ran undoubtedly picks up on that mood.
“Ah, I would not want to impose,” he rejects politely. “It has been quite an arduous journey.”
“Our company is quite good,” one of the brothers say in a lilting voice. Chu Wanning doesn’t know who speaks, but he feels a sort of an angry heat ignite in his heart at the sound of the flirting.
These idiots! These absolute idiots! Will Tianwen listen to its master, even when Chu Wanning is in this state?!
“I will see you in the morning,” Mo Ran says a little more firmly and thankfully, the brothers get the hint.
But it’s too late. Chu Wanning’s already sour mood has darkened too much.
The night is still early, so Mo Ran decides to take a bath. It takes him a few minutes to haul enough water to fill in the wooden tub in the room, and Chu Wanning moves to the ledge of the window near the tub.
He watches as Mo Ran strips, quickly and methodically. The lamp light of the room casts a golden glow across his tanned skin and throws his muscles into relief. They flex as he shifts, his chest seeming even broader once he peels off his shirt. He steps out of his pants, his legs long and muscular as always, and Chu Wanning watches longingly as the man turns away to find a jar of rice water for his hair.
The scratch marks Chu Wanning had left on his back last time they had slept together have faded, and Chu Wanning realizes with a pang how long it has been since he’s been able to hold Mo Ran. It stings more in this form, knowing that there’s not much he can do to remedy this situation.
He watches balefully as Mo Ran kicks away the rest of his clothes and steps into the tub of water.
“Would you like to wash too?” Mo Ran asks, and Chu Wanning turns his head away. He is definitely in a mood, after days of being a cat, being deprived, and having to see people flirt with what’s his.
When Chu Wanning looks back, Mo Ran is already submerged in the tub, reclining against the wood as he idly runs his hand through the water. Like this, he looks a little more relaxed, a little more tired.
“You look upset,” Mo Ran tells him, splashing around the water a little. “I can tell, even when you are like this. Maybe moreso, your ears really give it away.”
Well, who wouldn’t be upset? Chu Wanning has been a cat for three whole days while beauties paraded in front of his man. And he can’t even speak!
Chu Wanning opts to look out the window instead, into the moonlit garden outside of their home for the night. The night sky is especially bright today, casting a soft and ethereal glow over the grass and foliage. The sight is slightly soothing and a small mouse scurrying across a rock path distracts him.
“Baobei…” Mo Ran calls to him and Chu Wanning fights the instinct to immediately turn around. “Will you not pay attention to me?”
If Chu Wanning looks at Mo Ran right now, he’ll feel more mourning in his heart over the situation, so he continues to look away. He can practically hear Mo Ran pouting behind his back.
“Shizun,” Mo Ran complains. “This one will do anything to turn you back. If that does not work, I will keep my promise and turn into a cat myself.”
At this point, Chu Wanning does wish that Mo Ran would turn into a cat alongside him, just so that he could be safe from wandering eyes. Mo Ran’s voice sounds bereft enough to satisfy Chu Wanning so slowly, he stands up.
It wasn’t hard to learn how to move in this body; it requires a lot of the same grace that Chu Wanning carries with himself as a human. But he’s still careful as he jumps from the window ledge to a table just a short distance away. From there, he makes the shorter leap onto the table placed right behind Mo Ran’s tub.
“Ah…” Mo Ran tilts his head back to look at Chu Wanning. “I miss you, Wanning. I miss talking to you.”
Chu Wanning feels warm at that, so he makes a slightly more daring pounce to the thick rim of the tub. He’s able to balance himself on the wood, albeit barely. Mo Ran watches with some amusement as Chu Wanning slowly puts one paw in front of the other, intently making his way closer to Mo Ran.
Mo Ran sighs, and gives Chu Wanning a dimpled smile. It’s one of his more private ones, one that does a lot to assuage Chu Wanning. “I wish you were able to scold me.”
Chu Wanning is close enough that he tries to reach out and bat at Mo Ran’s face, just playfully. However he vastly overestimates his abilities and for a moment, teeters dangerously on the side of the tub.
He tries to put his paw down in time but it’s too late— he slips, and goes tumbling into the tub. He lets out a surprised screech that cuts out as soon as his body plunges into the water. He hears Mo Ran call to him but suddenly, there’s a great plume of smoke around him.
His body feels painful for a moment, like it’s being tugged in all sorts of directions. Chu Wanning reaches out for any solid thing to gain his bearings and curls his fingers around the wooden edges of the tub. His body feels like it’s flush with heat and he tries to rise out of the water and onto his knees, the tub a mess of his and Mo Ran’s limbs.
And then he realizes that he has fingers and knees that bend the right way again, and his eyes widen in surprise.
Mo Ran stares back with an equally shocked look.
Chu Wanning feels his ears twitch towards the sound, and grips the tub tighter. He looks to the side and his hands— they’re human again, albeit with long claw-like nails instead of the neatly trimmed ones that he normally keeps. Chu Wanning raises a hand to feel his face, and feels no fur. His features feel human. He looks down and— the rest of his body appears to be human too.
“Shizun, can you speak?” Mo Ran asks, his voice sounding far away. “You’ve got ears…”
Before Chu Wanning can ask what he means, Mo Ran is reaching for the top of his head. Chu Wanning feels pressure and reaches up as well, brushing over soft wet fur. He realizes he has cat-ears and realizes that when Mo Ran scratches them gently, his neck starts to burn. The area feels sensitive, and something rumbles deep within Chu Wanning’s chest.
There’s a soft swish and thump and Chu Wanning looks behind him to see he still has a tail too, white and long and proportional to his human size. He lets it curl, watching in fascination for a moment till he realizes where he is.
Before Chu Wanning can leap out of the tub and find something to cover himself up with, Mo Ran reaches for his tail with a trance-like focus. He finds the base of it and strokes, running calloused fingers over the fur.
If the ears were sensitive, they are nothing compared to how his tail feels.
“Mo Weiyu!” Chu Wanning exclaims, voice cracking, and Mo Ran strokes again, harder this time. Chu Wanning’s body twitches and shudders and falls forward, landing against Mo Ran’s firm torso as water splashes around them.
The heat of their chests pressed together after so long sends an indescribable feeling shooting down till the tip of Chu Wanning’s toes. He tries to push off but a strong forearm slides around his waist and pins him along the hard line of Mo Ran’s body.
“So you can speak,” Mo Ran breathes, eyes seemingly fixated on the cat ears. Chu Wanning can feel his cheeks go steadily ruddy under the attention. “How are you feeling?”
“I— let me go,” Chu Wanning says. “It’s too hot.”
“What’s too hot?” Mo Ran asks, not obeying Chu Wanning’s command. He sounds like he is in a daze and Chu Wanning knows that if he properly looks at Mo Ran, he’ll be in one too.
Mo Ran’s hand slides down his back once again to fiddle with his tail, and Chu Wanning bites his lower lip. He furrows his brow and feels the vibrant flush on his face creep down to his chest. Mo Ran presses down with his fingers and Chu Wanning can’t help but let out a soft and keening sound.
“Maybe the brothers’ magic did work,” Mo Ran murmurs, using his free hand to run his thumb over the seam of Chu Wanning’s mouth. He pushes his upper lip and runs a rough thumb over the point of Chu Wanning’s teeth.
They’re more pointed than normal and at the mention of the two handsome brothers, something flashes across Chu Wanning’s face. He bites down, hard enough to have Mo Ran yanking his hand back.
“Ow,” Mo Ran helps, withdrawing his hand as Chu Wanning gives him a sullen look.
“Do not mention them,” Chu Wanning says sourly as his brain yells at him to stop, to not come off as so immature. In his defence, it has been a very long three days without any way for him to vent any of his frustrations and annoyances. “Do not mention anyone else right now, Mo Ran. I have had to tolerate it enough.”
Mo Ran stares at him for a moment and Chu Wanning hates that he can tell when it clicks into place for the other man.
“Wanning,” he says in a low, hoarse voice. “Wanning, come here.”
“No,” Chu Wanning says but lets himself get drawn in anyways. Mo Ran buries his fingers in his hair and Chu Wanning thinks he’s going to get pulled in for a kiss.
But Mo Ran stops him when he’s a hair’s width away, close enough that Chu Wanning can feel his warm breath. He makes a small and desperate sound without thinking, and Mo Ran inhales.
“This one missed his Wanning,” Mo Ran says. “If it is alright, he would like to show how much.”
Now that Chu Wanning has reverted almost back to normal, he knows they should focus on getting rid of the last vestiges of the curse. It would be prudent to do it now, while they’re part way there.
There is undeniably a fire burning within him too, curling around his core and spreading through his blood. He has had to sit without a word for days, has had to sit and watch Mo Ran without being able to do anything. It had not been the first time that he’d seen people chase after Mo Ran, but it was the first time he had a claim on the man and yet had not been able to do anything.
Chu Wanning wants so much, and he wants it badly. Maybe this surge of possessiveness too is feline in nature, though Chu Wanning knows he would be lying to himself if he said so.
They linger there for a moment, impossibly close and barely touching.
Finally, Chu Wanning replies.
“Do not do things half-heartedly.”
The ordeal has left Chu Wanning with his senses heightened. He’s brought to realize just how much as Mo Ran pins him to the bed, teeth grazing the corded muscle of his shoulder as he works Chu Wanning open with his fingers. Chu Wanning has his feet planted against the mattress, arching up as much as he can into Mo Ran’s touch, biting his lower lip in an effort to keep quiet.
It’s a combination of the amount of time he’s spent deprived of Mo Ran’s touch, and the way that even Mo Ran’s breath ignites a trail of fire when he whispers against Chu Wanning’s ears. Chu Wanning has been panting, trying his best not to dig his claws too deep into Mo Ran’s shoulders, but it really is too overwhelming.
The heat he feels is like no other. It’s a desperate and needy thing that is rapidly turning him into liquid light as Mo Ran bites down, worrying a mark into Chu Wanning’s pale skin. It joins the trail of them he’s made across Chu Wanning’s chest and on the inside of his thighs.
Chu Wanning makes a noise at the bite and Mo Ran is quick to descend upon him with a fierce kiss. It is no less ferocious than the first one they had shared, after days of being deprived. Mo Ran had pressed their mouths together so hard Chu Wanning thought he was trying to steal his breath; this time, he knows Mo Ran is trying to devour him.
Mo Ran’s other hand creeps across Chu Wanning’s lower back, and grips onto the base of his tail. Chu Wanning gasps against his mouth and Mo Ran uses the opportunity to slide his tongue even further into Chu Wanning’s mouth, tasting as much as he can.
They had kissed first in the tub, and the wet slide of their bodies together had Chu Wanning’s head spinning. It was only after a threatening creak against one of the walls of the tub that they decided maybe the bed was the better way to go. Not that they’re above breaking furniture, but they take their clarity where they can get it.
Mo Ran sinks the weight of his broad body onto Chu Wanning’s, letting his torso rub against where Chu Wanning is hard and leaking. Chu Wanning twitches his hips to chase the friction just as Mo Ran crooks his fingers in a certain way, and he lets out a loud whine into Mo Ran’s mouth. Mo Ran eats the sound up and bites Chu Wanning’s lower lip, before repeating the motion with his fingers.
It’s too much.
Chu Wanning feels overstimulated already, like every nerve of his is on fire. Each touch leaves an imprint on him and Chu Wanning can only cling, not even in enough of a mind to stage his usual complaints. He rolls his hips hard against Mo Ran’s fingers, feeling desperation barrelling through him like a lit firework. Mo Ran lets go of his tail long enough to stroke his front and break off his kiss.
“Baobei, baobei…” Mo Ran half hums as he looks down at Chu Wanning’s dishevelled state.
Mo Ran strokes Chu Wanning faster and Chu Wanning arches off the bed. He’s close; he can feel his whole body curling with the force of it, his shoulders shuddering as he throws his head back.
“Mo Ran, Mo Ran— ah, ah, I— Mo Weiyu!!”
The last words are yelped out in indignant surprise as Mo Ran suddenly grips Chu Wanning’s base, cutting him off so sharply that the air is punched out of Chu Wanning’s lungs.
His ears flatten back and he hisses at Mo Ran, digging his claws in without thinking. Chu Wanning’s tail whips forward and wraps itself around Mo Ran’s wrist, tugging insistently. Mo Ran laughs, and presses a kiss to Chu Wanning’s forehead.
“Not till I’m in you,” Mo Ran says, voice low and sweet like hot honey. “I missed your body too much to let you go this easily, kitten.”
“Why are you talking so much,” Chu Wanning snaps, barely ashamed of how petulant he sounds and blushing furiously at the pet name. Mo Ran’s smile grows wider. “If you’re going to do it, just do it!”
It appears that Mo Ran too is in a certain type of mood, because he kneels on his knees and reaches for Chu Wanning’s hips. Chu Wanning has learned to read the kind of intent that glimmers in Mo Ran’s eyes, and knows the light in it right now is too mischevious.
He knows that look, knows that if he lets Mo Ran hitch him up, he’ll tease himself into Chu Wanning ever so slowly and only move properly once Chu Wanning shamefully begs for it. Chu Wanning gives into this more often than not but right now, there’s a primal desire that’s etching itself onto his bones the longer it goes ignored.
Using his strength, Chu Wanning bends back his leg and plants a foot on Mo Ran’s chest. Before Mo Ran registers what’s happening, Chu Wanning pushes off of him, sliding out of his grip.
“Wanning—” Mo Ran starts but cuts himself off when Chu Wanning gracefully rolls himself onto his belly.
He rolls his shoulders back before reaching out in front with his hands, gripping the sheets. Chu Wanning doesn’t wait for Mo Ran; he lifts his hips up, pulling his knees under him as much as he can.
Chu Wanning looks over his shoulder at Mo Ran, whose mouth is parted, and snakes his tail around Mo Ran’s thigh. The thing is still cursed, but Chu Wanning is determined to make use of it while he has it.
For emphasis, Chu Wanning pushes his torso back just enough to make the arch in his back deep and enticing. It burns his face to present himself like this, but Chu Wanning feels that the lust boiling within him will consume him if he doesn’t act. So he swallows his pride, raises an eyebrow and tugs on Mo Ran’s thigh with his tail.
“What did I say?” Chu Wanning scolds. “You do not do things half-heartedly.”
He drops his head between his shoulders and thinks for a moment, Mo Ran will try to one-up him. But Mo Ran is a simple man with simple needs after all, so Chu Wanning hears an extremely affected exhale before Mo Ran is slotting his large paws against the crook of Chu Wannin’s hips and tugging.
Already slicked up, Mo Ran pushes in with little ceremony, going slow enough to not hurt Chu Wanning, but in a manner that’s clearly thrumming with impatience. He rocks back and forth, dripping more oil onto where they’re joined, and the two men let out twin groans once Mo Ran is fully seated.
Chu Wanning uncurls his tail and lets his ears loll forward as his body rapidly adjusts to having all of Mo Ran in him. Mo Ran grabs the tail and wrangles it back, squeezing it at the base as it automatically wraps up his arm. The act sends sparks up Chu Wanning’s spine and he moans, trying to bury it in the sheets.
“Wanning…” Mo Ran breathes, and he hasn’t leaned over to press his front against Chu Wanning’s back. Instead, when Chu Wanning sneaks a glance over his shoulder again, Mo Ran is still on his knees with a heavy look of lust on his face. “You will truly make me lose control of myself.”
“Good,” Chu Wanning huffs but before he can say anything, Mo Ran is pulling out halfway. The drag of it alone makes Chu Wanning lose his train of thought. It makes him choke on nothing; Mo Ran is so large and Chu Wanning can take him a million times, but he’ll still feel so full.
Then Mo Ran thrusts, seating himself all the way in in one go. He repeats it once, then twice, then a third time, each faster and rougher than the last. And he sets his rhythm from there, fucking forward into Chu Wanning at an increasingly rapid pace.
Mo Ran lets go of Chu Wanning’s tail to slot his hand in the junction of his thighs and hips again and uses his hold to move Chu Wanning’s body, making sure he snaps his hips forward with enough power to leave red marks on the back of Chu Wanning’s legs. Mo Ran always man-handles Chu Wanning into this pose when he’s feeling extra amorous; to have Chu Wanning present himself like this to him has driven him completely wild.
“Wanning,” Mo Ran half-moans as Chu Wanning tries to rock back against him. But Mo Ran has taken too much control and is making their bodies collide at the fervent pace he needs. “Ah, good— ah, good kitten—”
Chu Wanning was the one turned into an animal, but Mo Ran is the one who moves with a beast-like ferocity. Mo Ran uses him without a second thought, fucking him with a single minded focus. The grip on his hips is so hard he can feel it down till his bones as he cries out into the night.
“Do— oh, do not call me that— ahhh!” Chu Wanning’s words come out as a scramble, his mind too busy swimming in the deep haze of pleasure they’ve sunken into. His body feels like lightning is coursing through it, like it’s not quite his.
That earns him an especially hard thrust, one that has his body shifting forward and flattening out. He feels Mo Ran snake an arm around his chest and lean down, the heat of his body searing against Chu Wanning’s. Mo Ran drapes his body over Chu Wanning’s and hastily makes sure Chu Wanning’s tail isn’t painfully bent before he shoves his cleaner fingers into Chu Wanning’s mouth.
Obediently, Chu Wanning sucks, closing his eyes as Mo Ran starts to fuck him again.
This way, he feels like he’s going to melt into Mo Ran’s body. Mo Ran works at a bruising pace, swearing as he mouths at the crook of Chu Wanning’s neck and shoulders. Chu Wanning is completely pinned and unable to move; he sucks on Mo Ran’s fingers harder, and Mo Ran rewards him enough to have the low bedframe knocking against the wall of their quarters.
Mo Ran tilts his hips to change the angle just a little, and Chu Wanning can feel tears prickle in the corner of his eyes. He loses his mind completely as Mo Ran continues and continues to hit him in the right spot. Mo Ran goes so hard that Chu Wanning has to choke back a sob as an honest tear crawls down the side of his face.
The friction from where he’s trapped between his own body and the silky sheets drives Chu Wanning insane. There’s a rumble from deep within his chest that makes him make a strange sound and he realizes he’s purring again without a thought, body too overtaken by pleasure.
He’s coming close, so dangerously close and his whole body feels drawn like a bow. His thighs are trembling under the powerful movements of Mo Ran’s, and he scrunches his eyes shut. He’s approaching so fast that Chu Wanning can’t tell if he’s close or not through the tumbling emotions and the fact that Mo Ran has him completely engulfed under his presence.
It takes one raspy whisper of Chu Wanning’s name for him to blank out, for him to get spots in his vision with how hard he screws his eyes shut. It takes that one whisper for Chu Wanning to tear into the sheets with his claws.
Chu Wanning yowls around Mo Ran’s fingers as he comes, feeling himself ruin the sheets underneath. It’s unlike anything in recent memory and for a moment, Chu Wanning feels like the body is not his. He’s instead floating in some liminal space, deep in a pool of pleasure from where no one can retrieve him.
Mo Ran fucks him through it, fucks him like he’s trying to send Chu Wanning through the mattress. Chu Wanning lets out soft mewling sounds as Mo Ran chases his own end rather fiercely. The thrusts turn quicker and more shallow, and when Mo Ran finally comes he bites down into Chu Wanning’s shoulder.
Chu Wanning can feel a mess being made in him. Mo Ran gives a few more shallow thrusts as he rides out their end, determined to make sure that Chu Wanning gets every last drop. When Mo Ran slows down to a halt, Chu Wanning hears a slew of curses fall from his mouth. It quickly turns into half-slurred praises for Chu Wanning’s beauty as Mo Ran slumps forward, sinking the rest of his weight onto the body below him.
They lay there for a moment, catching their breath. Mo Ran pulls his fingers out of Chu Wanning’s mouth and Chu Wanning soothes the abuse that he put them through with small licks. Mo Ran in turn kisses him on the shoulder, on his jaw, on top of his head behind one of his fluffy white ears.
Chu Wanning is oversensitive, yet there’s a strange instinct in him that makes him want to wrap his tail around Mo Ran’s thigh again and keep him close.
Mo Ran makes an amused, breathless sound as he doesn’t even bother pulling out, and Chu Wanning realizes his tail had acted before he could think further. He realizes too that he’s not completely satisfied, that his thighs are shaking and his heart is pounding and his body does not want to let Mo Ran go.
Chu Wanning turns his head so that he can face Mo Ran and Mo Ran instantly descends upon him with a soft and slow kiss. Chu Wanning likes it, but he needs more. As much as his body aches, he knows this is not enough.
He nips Mo Ran’s bottom lip in hopes that he’ll get the hint. With the way Mo Ran pushes back with equal strength, with the way Mo Ran still feels half-hard inside him, with the way that he cards his fingers through Chu Wanning’s hair and tugs— Chu Wanning is confident that he does.
Chu Wanning’s nails have returned normal by the morning, but Mo Ran keeps the deep scratches they made all over his body. He looks at them with great fascination, and only allows Chu Wanning to apply salve to them if he does it while sitting in Mo Ran’s lap.
Shortly after they had woken, there had been a soft knock on the door. Instead of a gaggle of disciples though, it was a servant bringing some porridge and two marked bottles of ointment. Chu Wanning sheepishly wondered how much sound travelled, because he doesn’t remember being able to stay too quiet at any point.
It was truly shameless, the way he acted. And he’s not quite sure what got into him. At one point last night, he was desperate enough to pin Mo Ran’s hands above his head and ride him hard, knees bruising against the floor because they had long fallen off the bed.
The sudden memory of it makes him feel flustered, and he tries to push off Mo Ran’s lap after setting down the salve. With no effort, Mo Ran keeps him there, with a lazy hand turned firm against his hip.
“Where is Shizun running off to?” Mo Ran asks, and Chu Wanning feels his ears twitch. Chu Wanning catches the way that Mo Ran’s eyes snap to them.
Mo Ran had a very strong fascination with his ears and tail, pawing and playing and petting them all through the night. Chu Wanning had caught a glimpse of himself in the morning in a bronze mirror, and thought he looked kind of strange, but every time he gave a lazy swish of his tail, Mo Ran openly stared.
It also might be because Chu Wanning has wrapped himself up in Mo Ran’s shirt, too lazy to retrieve his own clothes.
It could very well be a combination of all these things.
“I think it’s the water,” Chu Wanning says, like it had not been obvious from the night before.
“Ok,” Mo Ran says, drawing Chu Wanning closer. He presses a kiss to the base of one of Chu Wanning’s ears, and Chu Wanning’s tail curls a little. “Should we try another bath again?”
“Yes,” Chu Wanning says, and a thought comes across his mind. He tries to bat it away but it’s persistent, as persistent as the large hand crawling up the hem of his shirt, reaching for his thigh. “Wait.”
Chu Wanning mumbles something, looking away from Mo Ran. Despite all that they’ve done within the past few hours alone, he can’t help but hide his words.
“I didn’t hear you properly,” Mo Ran says, words pressed against Chu Wanning’s hair.
“I said,” Chu Wanning finds himself swallowing his pride yet again. This is not something he would normally do, but Chu Wanning has a need to apply a balm over his own feelings. “Do you like this form?”
He feels the moment Mo Ran’s breath hitches and his body goes tense. The hand underneath his robe squeezes, pressing against bruises that are already tender from the night before.
“Shizun…” Mo Ran sounds the way he does whenever Chu Wanning presents him with any sort of gift. The amount of want in his voice makes Chu Wanning shudder in an especially good way, knowing it’s for him.
“I won’t do this again,” Chu Wanning says, more to the wall over Mo Ran’s shoulder than the man himself. “So if you do… this one will allow you to take advantage one more time.”
The sheets billow around them as Mo Ran drops them back onto the bed. Chu Wanning doesn’t even have a moment to tell Mo Ran that they should take it slow, that they should keep it quiet because they’re still guests where they’re staying. Mo Ran isn’t listening and clearly doesn’t plan to, more eager on manhandling Chu Wanning out of his shirt and palming at his tail again.
They really should be focused on finishing the course of Chu Wanning’s recovery, but he can’t help but feel a little smug at this. He can make up for all the days he wasn’t able to lay claim on Mo Ran the way he needs to.
It may be extremely undignified, but it is not the worst. Chu Wanning thinks he’ll live.