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of snowballs and secret meetings

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Mo Ran gives the contents of his satchel one last look before he leaves his room through the window.

A scarf for a more convincing disguise? Check. The jade pendant in the shape of a haitang blossom that he picked up from the local artisan a few hours back? Check. Milk candies and all the other types of sweet finger food that he can fit inside the satchel? Check. A vial of oil? Triple check.

With a smile on his face and trepidation in his chest, Mo Ran jumps down from his window and lands on the soft foliage that was totally not intentionally placed right below his window for ease of landing. After dusting his robes off, he skillfully sneaks around the surrounding guards and makes his way to the building adjacent to the palace.

It’s not the first time that Mo Ran has done this, oh no, he’s done this too many times now that he can sneak out undetected with his eyes closed. Though, that may be a little bit of an exaggeration, but the point still stands. His feet easily carry him to the back portion of the building, where a lone window stays lit and open, almost beckoning him to climb inside.

And of course, who is Mo Ran to say no?

Not when he knows the owner of this room very, very well. Knows who he is and where he stands in Mo Ran’s life, knows the shape of his body all to well thanks to countless nights just stroking the planes of a strong back and a delicate waist, knows the sounds that he makes when he is teased to the point of breaking, the bitten gasps when he comes undone in Mo Ran’s arms—

Before Mo Ran gets sidetracked from thinking about increasingly scandalous things, he shakes himself off and bends down to gather a pile of snow in his hands.

The light inside the window is faint—Mo Ran can guess that there’s only one lit candle in the room—but Mo Ran is not one to be deterred, he had promised to come here, and he must waste no time else he’s going to get caught by the guards on patrol.

So, he braces himself, bends his right arm and his back to find the perfect aim, and throws the snowball.

...Straight inside the dimly lit window.

Mo Ran hears a resounding ‘oomph’ above him, loud and clear in the stillness of the snowy night. He cringes inwardly and prepares for a beating as he strains his neck to look at the room’s occupant who may or may not have been hit by the frosty projectile.

Lo and behold, someone peers down at him from the window that Mo Ran threw the snowball in, and Mo Ran would have swooned and dramatically call out to him like a protagonist in a very cheesy romantic play if not for the fact that the man’s face is of a dusty pink with pinpricks of snow still clinging pitifully on his hair and is currently giving him the sharpest glare known to man.

“W-Wanning, I didn’t know that the window was open all the way through, I promise…”

“Is that so?” Chu Wanning harrumphs, with all the composure and elegance of a man whose lashes are still dusting off several bits of snow with every blink.

“Yes, this disciple is offering his deepest apologies…” Mo Ran is really unaware that the glass partition that Chu Wanning usually puts up is not there anymore, hence his confidence to just chuck a snowball on it thinking that he would hit glass instead of one perpetually angry face. “Can I come up? I’m starting to get a little cold here…”

Chu Wanning scowls at him for a few more minutes while Mo Ran just hopelessly smiles and hopes for the best. After deeming his kind-of-punishment enough,—since Mo Ran actually let out a couple of tiny shivers in the past two minutes—Chu Wanning ultimately relents and throws the thick piece of rope that Mo Ran routinely uses to climb in and out of his room.

“Thank you.” Mo Ran leans in as soon as he’s on eye level with Chu Wanning, but the latter takes a step back and frowns at him some more. Mo Ran pouts and quickly jumps above the window’s threshold until his snow-trodden boots meet solid ground once more. “Awe, come on, baobei, not even a kiss?”

“You threw a snowball at my face.”

“I didn’t know that you opened the glass panel, I swear!” Mo Ran immediately counters, dramatically flailing his hands for a more convincing effect. That didn’t seem to phase Chu Wanning, though, who just continues to look at him with burning phoenix eyes and a blotched face. “Wanning… Baobei, believe me when I say I would never hurt you on purpose.”

“I was not hurt, it’s just—” The blush on Chu Wanning’s face is quickly turning into a deeper shade of red, and Mo Ran suspects that it’s not just because of the freezing temperature of the snowball anymore. He could practically see the snow melt on the surface of his skin from how hot it is. “Nevermind. We won’t talk about this incident anymore.”

Mo Ran, ever the diligent student (in his own humble opinion), immediately complies, even doing an overzealous salute to prove his sincerity. “Of course, Yuheng Guoshi.”

Chu Wanning stutters in a failed attempt at reprimanding his disciple. Cheeks still pink and glare darker than ever, he grabs Mo Ran by the arm and all but shoves him further inside the room so he can close the window pane. “I thought I told you to not call me that.”

Mustering the expression that he learned could make Chu Wanning melt before him in a heartbeat, one that’s not unlike an overgrown puppy begging for attention, Mo Ran bites back. “But Yuheng Guoshi is my superior, and thus has to be respected accordingly. As a person born from royalty, I must be on my best behavior at all times.” If Chu Wanning was hearing this in a whole ‘nother setting, like one where he has to show off the product of his teaching to Mo Ran's parents,—the King and Queen—he probably would have patted him on the head and complimented his articulate words that he did not just pull out of his ass.

“You didn’t seem to ‘respect me accordingly’ when you decided to throw a snowball on my window.”

Mo Ran sighs. Well, Chu Wanning asked for this.

“Baobei…” There it is, the one pet name that Chu Wanning says he hates hearing from Mo Ran but secretly smiles at the mention of it whenever he thinks that Mo Ran is not looking. “I already said I’m sorry, come on.” A slight tug on Chu Wanning’s waist, then a kiss to his damp cheek. Just a little more and the great Yuheng Guoshi will give in. “How about this: I’ll tell the exact time that I’ll visit so that you can release the rope a few minutes beforehand. No more snowballs aimed at your window, I promise.”

“I’m not angry about the damned snowball.” The frown on Chu Wanning’s face is back, but he’s also making no effort to release himself from the onslaught of loud, wet kisses from his sticky disciple. “I was just worried that you’ll get caught with how much commotion you cause everytime.”

“Hey, that’s not true!”

Chu Wanning gives him a look that says ‘oh is it?’ and, well—in Mo Ran’s defense, accidents can and do happen! Sometimes multiple times in a row!

Oh gods, he remembers that one time when it was the night before Chu Wanning’s birthday and Mo Ran, stupid, smitten Mo Ran, decides that he’ll raid his Chu Wanning’s room without warning him beforehand as a surprise. He was still fairly new to the whole sneaking out the palace grounds to rendezvous with his mentor thing, so climbing through the window was not something that he would have thought of back then.

Instead, Mo Ran was tiptoeing on the back entrance of the building Chu Wanning is in, still in the process of memorizing the routes and patterns of the palace guards. The plan was to sneak through the back door, then the kitchen, then the two flights of stairs leading to Chu Wanning’s room. Easy peasy.

But theories that sound too easy often end up in a huge disaster. Before he knew it, Mo Ran almost got caught by one of the lingering cooks in the pantry area, and he had to hide amongst the produce in order to not get seen. Now, he would have been alright, but that’s where his second mistake comes in: he forgot to change out of his princely clothes in his excitement to greet Chu Wanning a happy birthday. The combined sensation of his robes’ fabric and the rough texture of various root crops and vegetables made him itch like crazy, and satiating this itch made him tumble down the crate he was hiding in and cause a bigger mess than what he initially intended.

Fortunately, Chu Wanning came to his rescue, and Mo Ran vows to just sneak through the window from then on. And that was that.

So, yeah. Mo Ran’s escapades aren’t always successful, per se, but he’s trying. And he’s getting better everyday.

That’s what he told Chu Wanning, who just scoffs and smacks him on the arm. “This better be the last time that you’ll cause a ruckus, or I’m forbidding you from entering my room ever again.”

Mo Ran smirks. Chu Wanning narrows his eyes at him. “And miss out on this?”

Before Chu Wanning can retort, Mo Ran dives in and captures his lips in a sweet kiss.

It’s equal parts hot and clumsy, which is just what Mo Ran expects from Chu Wanning. He knows that his baobei is still slowly learning about the wonders of love and affection, which in Mo Ran’s opinion is just the world being cruel and unfair towards Chu Wanning, who had to manage being alone for such a long time.

But not anymore. Mo Ran tries to convey his thoughts with each movement of his lips. You have me now, Wanning. And I will make up for all those years and more.

“Open your mouth, baobei.” Mo Ran whispers against spit-slicked lips, and Chu Wanning wordlessly obeys. All for Mo Ran to savor and take.

Somehow, they manage to make it on Chu Wanning’s bed by pure muscle memory, and now Mo Ran is enthusiastically pressing his mentor down while he attacks his pale and perfect neck with bites and kisses. Oh, and half of their clothes are also gone. Huh.

In their innumerable nights together, Mo Ran quickly learned how addicting Chu Wanning’s skin can be. He has always been entranced by it; how in the rare times that he had seen it in his youthful days, the light would always hit the jadelike surface just right that it almost looks like it’s sparkling, how good it smells and how decadent it tastes, much like the finest desserts that Mo Ran always gifts him. Sometimes, he wonders if Chu Wanning somehow absorbs and emanates the taste and smell of perfectly spun sugar and the ripest of honeys.

“Mo Ran…” Chu Wanning lets out a melodious squeak when Mo Ran’s curious mouth reaches one of his nipples, sucking and licking and biting like a depraved man. “N-not too hard.”

Mo Ran licks the abused bud in a silent apology and sheepishly looks up. “Sorry. Got carried away.”

But immediately after saying that, Mo Ran leans down for the other nipple and gives it the same rough treatment. This time, Chu Wanning produced a sound akin to a yelp and trembled so hard that he hit Mo Ran’s nose with the expanse of his chest. Chu Wanning abruptly sits up to check on him with panic and embarrassment written on his face.

“I’m okay, I’m okay.” Mo Ran assures. “I've been hit worse and you know that.” He grins up at Chu Wanning, memories of a twelve-year-old Mo Ran running away from his mentor’s fearsome golden whip suddenly springing at the forefront of his mind.

Chu Wanning, however, was not entirely happy with the implication of Mo Ran’s words. He’s frowning now, brilliant eyes turning a little softer in what Mo Ran deduces as concern.

“Nevermind that,” He says instead, pushing Chu Wanning back down on the soft mattress. Mo Ran hovers above him like a wolf about to eat its prey after being starved for months, the only difference is that the prey is actually more than willing to be devoured. “Let me pleasure you, Wanning.”

Well, Mo Ran thinks rather triumphantly. At least the vial of oil will be put into good use.

Chu Wanning, for all his ‘cold and lofty appearance’ as what the townspeople say, hates winter. He says the cold can be unbearable at some times, and he easily catches a cold if he stays outside for too long.

Cold is something that has followed Chu Wanning all his life, but now he has Mo Ran to chase it away.

“Oh, I forgot to give something to you.” Mo Ran woefully untangles himself from Chu Wanning, who humphs questioningly in return. “Stay here, baobei. I’ll be back soon.”

He makes his way over to the sad pile of forgotten clothes and digs for his satchel. When he finds what he’s looking for, he turns around just in time to catch Chu Wanning avert his eyes from his figure. Mo Ran smirks like a child who was granted access to a room full of treats. “Like what you see?”

Naturally, Chu Wanning doesn’t answer. But Mo Ran can see the telltale signs of an incoming blush creeping through the edges of Chu Wanning’s ears. Cute.

“Just hurry over here. I’m cold.”

Mo Ran makes sure to sway his hips in an extremely exaggerated manner in hopes to see that lovely blush spread wider once more.

When he reunites with Chu Wanning on the bed, he places the satchel on his lap and sticks his hand inside, reaching for the jade pendant that he so carefully wrapped in scented paper. Chu Wanning follows his hand as it slips out to reveal the mysterious gift. When Mo Ran gently unwraps it, he can hear Chu Wanning gasp.

“This…” Dammit, Mo Weiyu, this is not the time to get tongue-tied! “I know you told me not to give you expensive gifts anymore, but—this is not expensive at all, I promise! It just… It just reminded me of you and thought that this would look good against your skin and—”

“Mo Ran.” Comes Chu Wanning’s mellow voice. Grounding him. Filling him with so much love and fondness that Mo Ran thinks he’s going to drown in it, and, honestly, he wouldn’t mind. “I like it.”

“You—you do?”

“No,” Mo Ran’s eyebrows furrow in confusion, but Chu Wanning only smiles at him and continues. “I love it.”

Later, when dawn comes and sunlight starts to roll along the grassy plains that wrap around the palace, Mo Ran would kiss a sleeping Chu Wanning on his cheek, careful not to wake him up. He would smile at how Chu Wanning held tightly on the pendant that Mo Ran gave him even in his sleep and tucks the blankets up to his shoulders, whispering a quiet ‘good morning’ as he steps through the window and slides down the rope.

A few years later than that, Mo Ran would find himself crushed under the pressure of bearing an heir for their kingdom, but Mo Ran has only ever wanted Chu Wanning. So they run away. Mo Ran has always been a feisty kid, they should be used to it by now. Many trials that would test the strength of their devotion will come, but they’re strong. Chu Wanning and Mo Ran are anything but weak.

Much, much later, Chu Wanning and Mo Ran would return to the palace, but not for Mo Ran to rule, no. Mo Ran would apologize for fleeing without a word, but ultimately says that a lifetime of ruling is not for him. He had found serenity in Chu Wanning’s side, and a quiet serenity is so much better than the lavish chaos that the kingdom has to offer.

And here, in their little hut that resides on a peaceful mountaintop, Chu Wanning and Mo Ran find their solace in each other’s warmth.