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Through The Gaps

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It has been several years, Mo Ran thought.

A long time had already passed, yet why? Why was that day in the Public Library so unforgettable?

Mo Ran was in 9th grade, and he had to visit the Public Library to borrow a good book to read. Reading wasn’t his favourite hobby, but when he picked up a book and read in silence, everything turned serene. It felt like he was in his own world where negativity doesn’t exist. As he was browsing through the literary section, a book managed to catch his eyes. Of course, he reached out to get it, and so he pulled the book. Unconsciously, he peered through the gaps made by the missing books. He could see the back of the head of a man wearing a white polo, and black trousers. Mo Ran squinted, and he could not see any wrinkles on the man’s clothes. They looked expensive, too.

Mo Ran smiled bitterly. He only had the chance to wear expensive clothes and the like when his uncle and aunt took him home.

Mo Ran removed his eyes from the man, and turned them onto the cover of the book in his arms. The book was a collection of Chinese folklore stories. He decided that the book was alright. Before he walked away, however, he once again peered through the bookshelves. His gut tells him that he had to, else he will miss a life-changing moment.

And so, Mo Ran wanted to thank the Heavens for telling him to do so.

Through the gaps, he saw the most beautiful pair of phoenix eyes. The man was holding a book, his beautiful pair of eyes pinned on the object, his face peaceful and tranquil. His face was illuminated beautifully by the golden light of the afternoon sunlight. His nose was tall, the bridge of his nose straight but gentle. His red thin lips were parted slightly in concentration.

Mo Ran gulped in a lungful of dusty air, which made him cough violently.

The man whipped his head to the source of sound, and he saw Mo Ran through the gaps. Mo Ran’s purplish eyes met Chu Wanning’s dark eyes. Mo Ran’s breath hitched, his entire body was frozen. Mo Ran’s pupils dilated as he felt his soul being searched thoroughly by those pair of sharp phoenix eyes.

He felt a strange sensation in his chest.

Butterflies were flying rapidly in his stomach, and he was melting on the spot. He could not breathe.

Mo Ran’s legs were trembling, and he felt like he was drowning when he looked longer in those eyes. He had to escape, or he will die.

The man was already about to walk over to Mo Ran, but the latter was already gone. Chu Wanning stood there, frozen—his phoenix eyes wide in shock. His heart was thumping hard. Chu Wanning pursed his thin lips together, the space between his eyebrows creasing.

He was still staring at the empty space through the bookshelves—where that boy stood and watched him.

“Wanning,” a calm voice sounded behind him.

18-year-old Chu Wanning quickly shoved back the book in his hands to the bookshelf. He turned around and bowed respectfully. “Foster Father,” he greeted.

“We’re going home, right at this instance,” Huai Zui ordered in a stern tone. Chu Wanning’s head stayed down despite his desire to cling onto his Foster Father, and tell him that they should stay longer. Chu Wanning repressed his urge to lash at his Foster Father with a deep frown. He answered through clenched teeth, “This child understands.”

That was what happened that day. Mo Ran formed a habit where he would always visit the Public Library, the same time of that encounter, and at the exact same spot. He would always pull out that same book, and peer through the gaps—hoping to see those pair of phoenix eyes once again, but all his attempts were in vain. The habit went on until the present.

Mo Ran sighed silently as he caressed the worn out cover of the book the bookkeeper decided to give him when they received a new copy of the same book. The ritual never broke even after the bookkeeper told him to stop wearing down the new damn book.

Mo Ran reclined on his chair, arching his back to stretch the stiffened muscles. He was in his studio all day, doing art stuff and barely coming out.

He considered the possibility that the man might’ve been just a tourist, and he would never come back in the same place ever again. But this was the city. Since that encounter was so long ago, he also considered the possibility that the man might not be even in this world anymore. But he quickly discarded the thought, because his guts tell him that the man was still alive and kicking, and he trusted his guts more than anything else. His gut was the main reason that encounter was made possible.

“I can’t believe you’re still pining over that stranger,” Xue Meng sneered behind him.

Mo Ran ignored him, his eyes still lingering on the yellowed pages of the book. Mo Ran wasn’t the least bit offended whenever his brother picks on him about this. Well, at first he was, but then he realised that his obsession was also ridiculous as a year passed without encountering the man again. But a small string of hope still remains, and he continued to helplessly hold onto that string.

Something tells him that he will be able to see those pair of out of this world phoenix eyes again. His lips would always curl up in a smile of anticipation whenever the euphoria arises.

Xue Meng couldn’t help but shiver when he saw the look on Mo Ran’s face. Xue Meng’s eyes went to the paper on the table beside Mo Ran’s arm. It was a sketch of a man reading a book, it was still unfinished, but the upper half of the face of the man was already finished and coloured. Xue Meng took notice of how much detail was put in the man’s eyes, and even if the whole drawing was finished, the first thing that will catch a person’s attention would still be those pair of phoenix eyes.

How mesmerising.

Ever since Mo Ran graduated from college with a degree in Fine Arts, this man had been the only person Mo Ran was willing to draw. Mo Ran’s studio was filled with sketches of this man. Xue Meng could somehow understand his obsession. The man was indeed unforgettable.

“Have you heard him speak?” Xue Meng asked out of a sudden.

Mo Ran shook his head. Xue Meng grimaced. “What if that man is foul-mouthed?”

The smile still lingered on Mo Ran’s face. “I’m sure they’re not.”

Xue Meng later found out that winning an argument with this cousin of his who has a pea-sized brain is nearly impossible. Especially when it’s about that man.
Xue Meng decided to leave Mo Ran’s studio.

Chu Wanning, the mysterious man with the phoenix eyes, however, was pretty much in the same situation as Mo Ran. After all, who would be able to forget a face like Mo Ran’s?

Especially those pair of black eyes with their unique purple tinge. That boy, Chu Wanning was immediately attracted to him. It’s been several years, but he still couldn’t get over those pair of purplish eyes. How Chu Wanning would love to see them up close.

Despite his running thoughts, Chu Wanning’s face remained stoic, cold, and unapproachable. He couldn’t do much about it, the sharpness on his face is impossible to soften. It was an insecurity he always tried to hide. He was the ugliest person to ever exist, but no one dared voice out. It’s okay, though. He was destined to forever stay alone.

Chu Wanning exhaled lightly. He wanted to immediately get out of this hellhole—his office. He’s the president of an investment company, and he still had to approve so much papers.

Chu Wanning bit his lip as he stared at the stack of paper on his desk, then his eyes went to the wall clock in his office. It was already 20:00.

His hand hesitantly reached towards his desktop’s mouse. His hands, as swift as lightning quickly entered his fake info to log into his fake account he used to follow one artist. As expected, the artist did post, but not an artwork. It was a notice from the artist that his followers reached his goal, and he wanted to do a little surprise.
No, it wasn’t another artwork.

It said they will be doing a face reveal, just wait for a few minutes.

Chu Wanning usually didn’t care about these type of things. Just as he was about to close the window in disappointment, the tab refreshed by itself.
He frowned.

Above the artist’s previous notice, a forehead of a man was posted. Out of curiosity, Chu Wanning clicked on the picture to view it fully.

It took a few seconds before the picture was loaded in high-definition, as if it was meant to tease him. His chest tightened in anticipation, and when it was done loading, he was met by a beautiful pair of black irises with a tinge of purple in them.

Chu Wanning’s mouth hung open, his phoenix eyes widened in shock. The only thing that could be heard in his office was the quick and unsteady rhythm of his heart. Chu Wanning gasped as he clutched at his chest. It was getting hard and harder to breathe as seconds passed by, and a lump was forming in his throat.
He quickly reached for the cup of cold and stale tea on his desk and gulped it down as he continued to deny the face on his desktop’s screen. “Impossible…” Chu Wanning managed to gasp out.

Chu Wanning held the mouse again and read the caption.

Some of you may already know, but my real name is Mo Ran. I just graduated last year from – University. I’m 23 this year, and my sexuality? That’s a private matter~ Perhaps if you reach my secret goal, I’ll reveal my sexual preference, hm? How does that sound?

Chu Wanning scrolled down to read the comments.

Ah, so handsome, I think I’m pregnant.

Handsome *insert heart eyes emoticon*

Artist is male?!

Those eyes tho, so pretty <3

Chu Wanning had no control over his hands, and they immediately went to dm Mo Ran.

He didn’t think of how he should compose his message, and his and quickly typed and sent:
A City, Public Library, 16:53, Literary Section, tomorrow

Chu Wanning wasn’t expecting much when he sent the dm. Hundreds of people message Mo Ran everyday. Chu Wanning bit his lower lip as he held the same book he held back then. He ditched his work just for this day. But he couldn’t chicken out now, could he?

Only ten minutes away from schedule.

Chu Wanning still remembered when he was 18, the first and brief time he spent here was blissful. Those were the days that his actions were still monitored strictly by his Foster Father, but today, now that Huai Zui has passed away, no one restricted him anymore. He didn’t have to beg to be able to spend time outside, he is now his own person. No more suppressing emotions, and acting tough all the time.

Chu Wanning pursed his lips together.

He wasn’t glad that Huai Zui died. He couldn’t explain how he felt towards his Foster Father’s death. He doesn’t want to think about it.
Chu Wanning felt even more restless as he started regretting his decision.

He should’ve stayed in the office. No way will that man even remember him, much less travel to the Public Library to fulfil his ridiculous request. How stupid and naïve of him. He should leave before he makes a joke out of himself.

But his feet stayed rooted on the spot.

Chu Wanning huffed and puffed in uncertainty.

Minutes have passed, but Chu Wanning remained unmoved.

He was too busy fiddling with the book in his hands that he failed to notice the rustling of books from the other side. Through the gaps, black-purplish eyes watched him.

Mo Ran put back the book to the bookshelf, the smile on his face looked like he just won lottery. It was exactly the same several years ago. Mo Ran walked to the other side of the bookshelf, and he stood in front of Chu Wanning, but the latter failed to notice his presence.

Mo Ran lightly called ‘hey’, but Chu Wanning was too preoccupied by the book to even notice.

Mo Ran pouted, but tugged at the man’s sleeves. “Pay attention to me, won’t you?”

Chu Wanning slowly looked up. As realisation dawned on him, and as his phoenix eyes widen more and more, Mo Ran said with a goofy smile, “Your eyes are beautiful.”